Charlotte Ashlock

The Road Goes Ever On and On

June 15, 2012 My Life 0

I wish I could be a traveling storyteller. For transportation I would have a motorcycle painted with leaves and flowers, but slim & sleek and fast, like the mechanical version of a racing horse. I would wear a battered brown leather jacket, down to my knees, with a faded cloth rose pinned on the lapel. A short golden-brown dress and the wind always in my face & on my hair. I would carry a kindle, a GPS smartphone (for finding my way), a movie camera, and a slim laptop for writing my stories & editing my videos, all carefully padlocked in the secret compartment under the motorcycle seat. Then in the luggage bags of the motorcycle, I would have my clothes (including long rainbow skirts & dangly earrings for my performances) a few necessary toiletries, granola bars, chocolate, a flask of cold green lemony tea, an elegant lightweight dome tent in pale blues, and a compact sleeping bag that smelled of rosemary.

Such possessions would be enough home for me, at least for a year or two. I’d stay at housing co-ops and youth hostels & couch-surf & camp under the stars. My hosts would serve me rice & tofu & fresh vegetables and I’d eat them & feel healthy & clean inside. Or I’d make a campfire and roast bannanas wrapped in bannock dough,and eat them with Nutella. I’d listen to the crackle of the campfire & the music of the crickets & the tinny music from my laptop speakers, small cozy sounds under the immensity of the wild & uncaring sky. I’d have the freedom of going wherever I wanted and doing whatever I wanted.

For money, I’d be living off my savings, or perhaps the advance on a book I’d promised to write of my adventures. But with no rent to pay, and the excellent gas mileage of a motorcycle, my expenses would not be extreme. If I wasn’t staying with any one, I’d shower at gyms and charge my laptop at libraries, prowling among the collection for hidden gems to while away my time, books of fairytales and history to provide inspiration for my storytelling.

My storytelling, although my nominal profession, would be an income supplement rather than my main source of income. I’d set myself up in street corners & subway stations and collect coins and bills in the jaunty pink top hat I would throw out in front of me. Exotic I would look, in my long colored skirt & fimly shawl & earrings, as I regaled the crowds, sometimes eager & listening, sometimes indifferent & bustling by, with tales of my own adventures, and more outlandlish tales, myths and fairytales retold and embellished with the sci-fi landscapes of a probable future.

The pattern of my zig-zagging across the map would be driven by a very particular mission: find examples of sustainable living, of green business, of social entrepreneurship, and video tape them, interview them, hear their story, spread their tale, give hope to a world tired of old & stale ways of living. I’d stop at an Occupy Camp here, an independent bee-keeping business there, and then I’d detour to a firm in Oregon that fabricated and sold eco-dome homes for self-construction. Maybe I’d stop at that combination greenhouse & restaurant staffed by prisoners on parole who rehabilitated themselves by growing local food. Or I’d visit an eccentric scientist designing the perfect earthship dugout using permaculture & old tires.

I’d post youtube videos of everything I saw, and write about them in my journal, collecting notes & impressions for the bigger book that I’d someday write, the book that would make my fortune. Occasionally I’d write a moving short story, like the one about the little girl whose father worked for a mining company & whose brother went to live in a treehouse on the area slated by the mining company for mountaintop removal. I’d make new & wonderful friends, only to leave them the next day and chase after the sunrise, thus maintaining my perfect freedom.

And there we have it– for isn’t a perfect freedom a selfish freedom, ultimately? Shouldn’t I be tied down, part of a web of income, work, relationships, responsibilities– in short, stability? Could I even handle an existence so unsettled, so uncertain? Wouldn’t I get tired of showering in gyms and living on the road, wonder what I was doing among so many strangers, forever a little lost, a little out of place? Or would I carry my own home, my own serenity, so firmly inside my heart, I would never feel out of place?

As Tolkien wrote in the Hobbit,

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

Sometimes I hear the road calling. I wonder if I’ll ever answer. Probably not any time soon. After all, I’ve got to build my home by the sweat of my brow. And maybe, once I’ve built it, some day I’ll go on the road. Then I’ll savor my glorious freedom under the stars until the day my home calls back to me.

 

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