In This Issue
an Editorial Note
A Journey of a Thousand Miles . . .
“Having a great time. Wish you were here!”
Whoops! Looks like we got started off on the wrong foot. That’s not at all the sort of journey we have in mind—unless, of course, your goal is to anesthetize the in-laws.
The “journeys” you’re about to embark upon are not mere travelogues but, rather, will often touch upon altered perceptions, new perspectives, a sudden change in self-understanding, or, possibly, the beginning of a new life.
Even as we heed the ancient sage’s counsel, A journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet, all seasoned travelers know that first step can be a bummer.
And so we begin our journey through “Journeys” on the lighter side with four rhymed poems (yes, they still exist!) by Thomas O. Davenport, which he collectively names “The Disgruntled Traveler: An Experiential Quartet”: (1) a long plane trip is likened to the adventures upon the high seas of the famed Odysseus; (2) another plane never gets off the ground; (3) the third poem asks the commuter’s eternal question, “What the hell do you do when running late and stuck in traffic?”; and (4) a final journey requires relentless, nearly superhuman physical exertion, yet goes absolutely nowhere!
Tom’s wry focus on the frustrations of various modes of conveyance is picked up in Marsha Michaels’s “Have Scooter, Will Travel: Journey to Freedom.” But here the frustration begins with that mysterious mode of transport closest to all of us, our own bodies; for Marsha, however, this means the harsh limitations of limbs wearied and constrained by the progressive neurological disease, multiple sclerosis. She tells the story of how she worked up the courage to use a scooter, not simply to ease her burden, but to open up her world.
The inevitable frustrations of our individual journeys can sometimes only be lightened or, in our rougher patches, endured when we travel with a sympathetic partner.
In two short stories, Elinor Gale’s “Evergreen Follies” and Jane Bell Goldstein’s “The Flow,” as the women protagonists struggle with the shape of their lives, the couples grow closer. In Elinor’s tale of a camping trip gone awry (excerpted from her novel, The Emancipation of Emily Rosenbloom, 2019), Will and Emily make a personal connection in spite of their wildly different expectations for a weekend in the New Hampshire woods. In Jane’s story about a quiet day in the life of a couple of empty nesters, the protagonist, Alice, reflects upon the journey of her life. The day begins with quibbling over the right answer to a crossword puzzle clue and ends with a dance between husband and wife, who then settle in to watch a TV show called Fortitude.
The barriers to understanding between a couple seem slight when compared to the opaque boundary between sanity and madness, the common light of day and the dark, isolated and hallucinatory world of the schizophrenic, as we discover in Vivian Imperiale’s poem, “Journeying to a Better Place.” Of her schizophrenic friend, she writes, “I couldn’t let him live alone in his head.”
But we must now radically alter course in our journey through “Journeys,” leaving behind the byways of the human mind’s darkest corridors of despair for the exhilarating vistas of world travel. No doubt about it: OLLI members get around.
“All aboard, all aboard!” shouts the conductor. A motley crew of disheveled travelers grabs their backpacks and rushes to board the Bangkok to Singapore Express. In “Monsoons and Showers,” excerpted from Eyeballing Big Croc: Chasing Dreams Around the World (2018), reviewed in this issue of Vistas & Byways (see “An Intrepid World Traveler,” by Cathy Fiorello), Vivien Zielin captures the camaraderie and chaos of an adventure no bus tour will ever provide.
In “‘Dates’ I Know by Heart,” Tina Martin reminisces about a whirlwind Peace Corps romance. “Tina, you’re the best date I’ve ever had,” Jim tells her. “Dinner in Hawaii, breakfast in Fiji, and lunch in Tonga!” As the time to part arrives, the two embrace, Tina staying on Tongatapu, waves goodbye to Jim as he boards the Just David, carrying him away to the island of Nomuka.
In “Paris: A State of Mind,” the City of Light itself becomes the Eternal Beloved, mysteriously touching the inner core of self. “For me,” Cathy Fiorello confesses, “Paris is not about seeing, it’s about being.”
These stories of world travel are further extended and enhanced by three visual arts exhibits on our theme: Pamela Pitt’s Papua New Guinea Photographs; Hari Huberman’s paintings, The Art of Travel; and Fred Goldman’s A Brief Photographic Travelogue of Some Special Places—each telling a unique story through images.
As we near the end of our survey, we notice that religion has hardly figured in our variegated journeys. Perhaps we see a hint of religious sentiment in Jane Goldstein’s story, “The Flow,” when Alice tries to assuage her melancholy by reciting an old prayer, the Hail Mary. But with Corey Weinstein’s poem, “Rumi’s Yom Kippur,” the religious allusions, beginning with the title, are unmistakable and clearly steeped in the Jewish mysticism of Isaac Luria (16th century).
Corey catapults us into the midst of a caravan of castaways—gambler, thief, rambler, runaway, hooker, anarchist, bagman, refugee, crazy, killer—joined “one ordinary day” on their pilgrimage by a mysterious voice, saying Ours is not a caravan of despair. From among them, She sings, Light is the essential in each of us and We are loved for who we are, not what we do. Could this be the voice of the Shekinah, the Divine Feminine, come on the Day of Atonement to rescue the downtrodden and forgotten?
“One morning Jim Vance woke up in a dream.” So begins Charlene Anderson’s short story, “The Dream within the Dream.” Jim is ordinary to a fault, an Everyman passively meandering through a humdrum life—underemployed, disengaged in a tepid romance, estranged from old friends—and trying to wake up. On a whim, he decides to drive to Death Valley where he begins an uneasy encounter with himself, leading to an emotional revelation that may be the first step of the real journey of his life.
Charlene has also contributed a moving poem, “The Mississippi,” dedicated to her only sibling Gene, who died on 15 February of this year. This meditation, as quiet and unassuming as a slow rolling river, carries her from birth in La Crosse, Wisconsin in a Lutheran Hospital on the banks of the Mississippi, to her westward migration to San Francisco as a young woman, to what she knows will be her final resting place in a Wisconsin cemetery next to her brother and his wife. This is, of course, the journey on the river that we are all embarked upon, the river that will at last, as the poet writes, “claim us, take us and carry us away, downstream, through the Gulf, and out into an endless sea.”
Just up ahead is the terminus of our journey through “Journeys,” the aptly named “Leadville.” No signpost. A mere stone marks the boundary. We enter this “poverty of utopia” [utopia, meaning ‘no place’], as our guide, Steve Surryhne, describes this strange landscape, without expectations. Once again, as with “Rumi’s Yom Kippur” and “The Dream within the Dream,” we are in a desert. Once again, as in “The Mississippi,” the poet is meditating upon time and all things mortal, returning to a “forty-seven year hole in time intervening between then and now, to my lost narrative thread. And one day the thread will be cut, the narrative end, and I, this narrative, beginning and end, this accumulation of experiences will be gone, dropping like a dust-devil when the wind dies.”
We’d like to thank all of our immensely talented contributors to this rich tapestry of journeys, and invite our readers to check out the remaining contents, visual and written, of this 7th issue of Vistas & Byways. We’d also like to welcome five first-time contributors: Tina Martin, Vivien Zielin, Monika Trobits, Joe Catalano and Barbara Post Campbell. We thank all of you for making this publication possible.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INCLUDES FICTION, NONFICTION, POETRY, AND VISUAL ARTS
The Disgruntled Traveler: An Experiential Quartet
by Thomas O. Davenport
a quartet of rhyming, sardonic poems that describe the poet’s frustrations with the vagaries of modern-day travel and modes of conveyance
Journeys to Nowhere
Have Scooter, Will Travel: Journey to Freedom
by Marsha Michaels
a woman with multiple sclerosis trades in her reluctance to give in to her disease for an electric scooter, a decision that changes her life in a positive and profound way
by Elinor Gale
a comedy of errors in which a man surprises his girlfriend with a campout in the woods, after she happily anticipated a trip to a cozy B&B surrounded by flower gardens
by Jane Bell Goldstein
a retired empty-nester retraces her past—from an LSD trip through vivid episodes with family, hummingbirds and ravens—to find her way to live in the present
Journeying to a Better Place
by Vivian Imperiale
a moving poem that shows us how, with bravery and persistence, we can cross borders and communicate with those stranded in the lonely world of schizophrenia
Monsoons and Showers
by Vivien Zielin
on a train from Bangkok to Singapore, a conductor stashes contraband drugs under a passenger’s seat, and a man is left sudsy and waterless in the middle of a shower
“Dates” I Know by Heart
by Tina Martin
a poignant account of a whirlwind romance during Peace Corps training on Hawaii before the would-be lovers have to bid farewell for assignments on separate Pacific islands
Paris: A State of Mind
by Cathy Fiorello
a personal essay that recalls the author’s first visit to Paris and investigates her love of the city as it mysteriously touches her inner core of self
Rumi’s Yom Kippur
by Corey Weinstein
a spiritual poem about a caravan of castaways joined by a mysterious voice, asserting that light is the essence of us all
The Dream within the Dream
by Charlene Anderson
a disquieting story in which a man wakes up in a dream and, in his ensuing struggle to really wake up, discovers he has been asleep his whole life
by Charlene Anderson
a meditation on life along a slow-moving river, and a journey on the river we’re all embarked on that will at last “carry us . . . out into an endless sea.”
by Steve Surryhne
a powerful, meditative poem seeking to create, out of the rubble of the desert, out of “the bones of the past, out of nothing, the poverty of utopia”
Papua New Guinea
by Pamela Pitt
expressive portraits taken when the photographer missed a scheduled tour, and stayed back in a New Guinea “hut” to have the best day she’d “ever had while traveling”
The Art of Travel
by Hari Huberman
an imaginative excursion through the world in watercolor, acrylic, and pen and ink
A Brief Photographic Travelogue of Some Special Places
by Fred Goldman
a lavish photographic tour that traverses the wide world and ends up back home in California, where the photographer concludes it is “perhaps the most scenic of all”
(CLICK GENRE FOR TABLE OF CONTENTS)
Bay Area Stew
A TASTE OF LIFE IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
As you return home from your journey through Journeys and make your way through the rest of the issue, we invite you to take a short side tour through our home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Look for Bay Area Stew selections in all literary genres designated with the following symbol: 🌉