August, is that you again?
Seven years ago on August 2, Magellan and I launched Latitude 65.
For 362 Sundays around 6 a.m., we press a few buttons and MailChimp announces, “aand it’s out there.”
Out there hoping some of you will open the link, others will serendipitously stumble upon a story, a few of you will be inspired to comment, or search out a place, a person, a thing.
Whether a blog will resonate with you, dear readers, is still a mystery to us.
Why is Buddha’s Hand, a story about a weird citrus, consistently been among our 10 most-read? I’m guessing a lot of people trying to get a hand on spiritual guidance are darn mad when they discover the path leads not to inner peace but to a cookie recipe.
My theory for the continued popularity of On the Trail of the Golden Spruce is that Grant Hadwin is still alive and impulsively wants to make corrections to our story.
The oddest thing happened this month. In one day more than 3,000 people (and since then another 300) clicked onto The “Inyo” of the Yuhodoh Hike on Japan’s Mount Tsurugi. Yes, it coincided with the death of Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, but we can find no connection between the man and the mountain.
Yet sometimes I can’t stop myself from writing about an esoteric experience that has the appeal of cold mashed potatoes to anyone else. Like the story of Cora Sandel to which one person responded. BARRY, thank you dear cousin for always commenting.
But where were you for “Yamas!” Greek Ruins in Sicily’s Agrigento: Part 1? Which received zero comments. As did Part 2, even though Lonely Planet rates Agrigento’s ruins among “Sicily’s Unmissable Places to Visit.”
“How do you remember all the stuff you write about?” friends ask.
I consult my dairy. Ask Magellan what stands out for him. See where research leads me. Sometimes I start with a direction in mind, but often the story turns down an unmarked road. Then it’s reread, rewrite and repeat x 20, until the story’s not too bumpy, “plot-holed” or twisted, until it’s going somewhere with enough careening energy that a reader might want to travel along without the fear of being car-sick.
“You always seem to have a good time. That’s impossible from my experience,” a friend once commented.
Is it because both Magellan and I were both born under the sign of Virgo?
Virgo is an earth sign historically represented by the goddess of wheat and agriculture (Saskatchewan!), an association that speaks to Virgo’s deep-rooted presence in the material world (spending too much money on travel?). Virgos are logical, practical, and systematic in their approach to life (ever seen one of our travel itineraries?) …They’re hyper-aware of every detail (we’ll need 22 days in Iceland). Virgo is governed by Mercury, the messenger planet of communication (see my past)…A Virgo deals with information like a computer (Magellan wrote the first financial-forecast program using Fortran at Texaco Canada in 1970)… Methodical, committed, and hardworking, they make excellent teachers (see my past), healers, editors (see my past), and musicians (nope; in Grade 3 Magellan was asked to just move his lips and not sing; in my small town teachers needed even the bad voices).
It’s not always a smooth voyage. My navigating can create a turnabout in the road to enjoyment. A hundred metres past an intersection, I’ll say, “You needed to turn back there,” or worse yet, Nav and iPhone are talking at us simultaneously and I disagree with both. Magellan’s patience has saved our marriage about a thousand times with responses like, “Don’t be sorry. You didn’t misdirect us intentionally.”
But would you want to read about those episodes?
Maybe we’ll write about an afternoon searching for Bonavista Coffee, following directions given by an employee who said, “We don’t have an address. Drive up the hill…”
The older I get the more I agree with the author/humanist/great man, George Saunders:
…life is short, and if we don’t learn, by the end, to regard all of this mess with joy, it seems to me we haven’t done our work properly.
When Magellan proposed the idea of Latitude 65, he suggested we think of it as scrapbook for our old age (when we can’t remember if we’ve had lunch, never mind eaten at Etxebarri or Mugaritz) and in the meantime, shared with you.
Seven years on, I’m not so sure.
For me, it’s the present, the process of creating a blogpost, concentrating intensely, reliving travel memories, being so totally absorbed that hours fly by, experiencing the wild joy of being in the groove. (Then realizing the material needs work and beginning the process again.) A prescription for briefly not feeling the mess of the world that works for me.
Writing about topics like ancient art, Altamira, Horseshoe Canyon and especially Covalanas, overwhelms me with gratitude for our good fortune, relived and better understood in attempting to seize and energize the spirit of the experience. Lesley Wheeler, in her new book Poetry’s Possible Worlds, could be describing travel’s possible worlds:
It is overwhelming to imagine ancient artists preparing powdered ochre, reindeer-fat candles, and wooden scaffolding to labor in darkness for the gods, for other people, or for their own joy. They must have studied the caves for a long time as well as the living herds around them, learning animal anatomy not only by hunting, butchering, and eating but by scratching thousands of curves in the sand. Surely only a fraction of these galleries remains. Yet some beautiful art persists. Black aurochs and rusty horses process deep into the limestone. You write and write without knowing if any of it will ever amaze or enlighten anyone, but sometimes unpredictably, it does.
O’Connell, Michael, Editor. Conversations with George Saunders. US: University Press of Mississippi, 2022. “One of America’s most popular and celebrated writers,” George is the author of four short-story collections, a novel and novella, two essay collections and a children’s book. He’s won the big prizes: MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, Pen/Malamud Prize, Man Booker, and has been named as Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Wheeler, Lesley. Poetry’s Possible Worlds.” Minnesota: Tinderbox Editions, 2022. Lesley is the author of five poetry collections and a novel. In this debut of essay collections she examines how “traveling through a poem’s pocket universe can change people for the better.”