Little do us travelers know, people who stay in one place find other ways to stay in motion.
FISH GUTS, Montana- “Did you ever think that we’d all be together again sitting on a boat in the middle of a lake in Montana?” my cousin Stephanie asked.
I live a life where unexpected encounters and situations are more or less routine but I still had to respond with a definitive no.
No, I didn’t think I would ever be in Montana visiting my sister who is having a wedding reception after eloping in Vegas sitting on a boat with my cousin Stephanie and other members of my family.
I never even thought my sister would ever leave Western New York.
I haven’t talked with my cousin Stephanie in many years. I guess I forgot to invite her to my wedding in 2009. It was unintentional but she noticed. She mentioned it, in fact. But I guess she got me back by not inviting me to her wedding last year.
We were floating in a boat talking about this stuff. Our kids were bobbing around in the waves. I had to explain to my sister why letting them jump off a bridge was a bad idea. I felt as if I was reconnecting on many levels.
Weddings serve a function. They’re only about the couple being we’d in a cursory sense. They’re more about the family unit — or units — coming together and reestablishing connections. Societies need these rituals in order to hold together. Otherwise we’re all just a bunch of individuals floating around all alone who think we’re depressed because we have chemical imbalances …
You travel and you see the importance of social ritual and then you go back home to find that nobody cares about it anymore. They use their critical thinking skills — why do we need to do that? — they try to be progressive, and they find themselves without the core necessities that a human needs to be happy.
Humans are pack animals and the pack needs to be drawn together on a regular basis in order to stay intact.
My pack hasn’t been pulled together in nearly a decade, and this thing my sister was doing in Montana was the closest that I was going to get.
My sister was there, my cousin was there, my aunt was there … it doesn’t sound like much but for my pack this was big.
My sister’s life makes mine seem well-ordered and calm. She cultivates the drama, boy. She loves it.
You go out to the dive bar with her and she has mysterious women pulling her aside delivering cryptic messages (“he doesn’t really care about you”). She goes home and her husband speeds off in his truck drunk in the middle of the night. Her kids get the cops called on them for rummaging in a construction site. She quits her job. Her husband almost gets fired. Every morning that you wake up out there you ask, “What’s next?”
The life of the sedentary is often crazier than the life of a traveler. When things get a little too weird for the traveler all they have to do is leave — push the reset button and start everything all over again in the next town. The sedentary don’t have that luxury: they have to wake up in the morning and deal with it.
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