Fare forward, traveller

I’m not convinced that travel necessarily ‘broadens the mind’, although I do believe that not travelling probably makes for a much-narrowed perspective on the lives of others. But as Horace (in verse translation) said, “they change their climes/and not their minds/who haste across the sea”: travel alone isn’t enough to effect alteration or extension of perception and thought.

But of course, travelling is a fascinating experience itself and as we are presently driving down through France on our way to Italy I’m also presently intrigued by this state of suspension; the apparent absence of attachment that I think Eliot is talking about in this part of “The Dry Salvages”.

“Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbour
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.”

There’s certainly a sense in which contemplation of the past and the future seem suspended together in equal balance, and seem simultaneously distant, when you undertake long journeys. (This is probably not unrelated to the ease of driving on French motorways: you put your car into cruise control and don’t have to re-adjust it for hours. But it’s more than that, too.)

I’ve always found walking – in Regent’s Park in London, along the sea cliff on Waiheke, and along the Atlantic boulevard in Key West: all comparatively short journeys of course – to be a good source of reconsideration of anything I’m writing. The physical movement of brisk walking seems to encourage interesting solutions to writing problems to float into my mind, perhaps because if your body’s busy your mind can move into another gear. It feels, when it’s working well, as though some sort of otherwise quiet creative energy has space to breathe. And on this long car journey I think that the suspension of identity – which is one way of expressing something which seems (to me) to be related to Eliot’s poem – is also apparent.

Maybe it’s just that there are fewer practical distractions than usual? Or maybe it’s a form of fugue state, whatever that exactly is – but having now read the Wikipedia entry on ‘fugue state’ maybe I ought to find another alternative: fugue state not only doesn’t sound any fun at all but it’s also apparently a great deal more extreme than what I’m trying to discuss: “Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity. After recovery from fugue, previous memories usually return intact, but there is complete amnesia for the fugue episode.”

Anyway. It’s a lovely experience and we’ll be in Italy tomorrow, god willing and the creek don’t rise.

4 Responses to “Fare forward, traveller”

  1. Frances Thomas Says:

    Hope you have a wonderful time

  2. Jim Hoekema Says:

    Being in Italy sounds much better than the Fugue State – in fact, considerably better than New Jersey for that matter. Have a lovely time!

  3. admin Says:

    Thanks, both of you – & you’re right about a Fugue State, Jim, which now I know what it’s meant to mean sounds truly alarming! Tonight we’re in Chambery which is hot hot hot … despite being on the edge of the Alps.

  4. Pat Buoncristiani Says:

    …and we shall be in Italy at the start of October. A week in Lucca visiting family and a week in Verona. Our first book will be out in March and I am trying my hand at some short stories. The words have an unobliging tendency to flow when I am grilling a steak, making a bed or trying to sleep, but rarely when my fingers are poised over the keys. Rats.

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