“Gandalf: Well, all good stories deserve embellishment.
You’ll have a tale or two to tell of your own when you come back.
Bilbo Baggins: … Can you promise that I will come back?
Gandalf: No. And if you do… you will not be the same.”
You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but my friends are dangerous.
In this one little conversation with my friend MT, I experienced an epiphany that changed the way I view my world. (Or at least explained what I’ve been doing since Greg died).
In another conversation with my friend RN, I decided I needed to do just what she did just before the first anniversary of her husband’s passing – take my daughter and head off on a Big Trip.
And then there’s my friend SM, who sent me a proposed itinerary and links to train schedules in Europe.
I don’t even use the train in Perth. Then she had me actually booking my flights to London, Northern Italy and Geneva. I find I’m going to somewhere called Bellagio. There’s cobbled streets and wonderful lakes, she says. I’m not actually sure how I’ll get there from Como. Or where Como even is, but apparently I’m taking a train there from Milan.
I’ve never been to Italy. Really, I’ve never travelled in Europe – one night in Athens with Greg a hundred years ago doesn’t really count. As far as I’m concerned, Como is the suburb down the road in South Perth, and Geneva sounds like someone else’s travel destination. For that matter, telling people I’m taking my daughter to Europe and we’ll be in London, Northern Italy and Switzerland really sounds like someone else’s life, someone awesome and sophisticated and … well, just someone else.
I have to stop myself from breaking out into “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music” as I contemplate the snow capped mountains we will be seeing. And I have to stop myself from worrying as I realise I’m completely unprepared for this trip. There just hasn’t been the usual requisite worry time 🙂
But now, on the eve of departure, my mind wanders over questions like, ‘Where the heck is Qatar?’ (we’re flying Qatar Air and stopping there on the way); ‘Do they even have gluten free pasta in Italy?’ (I’ve been gluten intolerant for over 20 years); If we manage to actually find our way to Bellagio, will we be seen forlornly dragging our suitcases over the picturesque-but-possibly-annoying-to-walk-on cobbled streets, looking for a villa I hired over the internet that no one’s heard of?
And will we survive the trip, mother and daughter, friendship intact, despite my snoring, age-related vagueness and mild short term memory disorder?
I catch myself. A surge of Curiosity replaces all the unanswerable questions. I tell my students to do this when they are about to create their first paintings.
So I whisper, “Malini, approach this journey with curiosity and an open heart. Who knows where it will take you?”
My daughter and I are going to commemorate the first anniversary of Greg’s passing by immersing ourselves in Beauty. Pursuing Awe. Experiencing Wonder. Despite the many exquisitely beautiful places at home in Australia that we are yet to discover, we chose to do this in Europe because of three conversations I had with my Dangerous Friends. So we’re about to sit in aeroplanes for what will feel like interminably long, claustrophobic, cramped, sleepless hours, as we fly from one side of the world to the other.
I hear you groan. Yes, I’m deeply aware of the privilege of choosing to sit in a plane, to fly across the planet, just to experience the wonder of travel. And if I lose some sleep or get lost in Italy or find myself on the wrong platform in Milan, well, millions of people would love to have those particular problems. Then there’s the saying that sits on my wall, “Travel Often. Getting Lost will help you find yourself.“ And I’m all about that quest.
Also … I just remembered that I happen to like airline food.
I mean, isn’t there something magical about actually eating hot food served in tiny square containers, in a giant metal flying machine (that shouldn’t really be able to be fly at all, let alone move extremely fast) … and doing this 30,000 feet above the earth?
Greg often used to quote these words of Bilbo Baggins from The Lord of The Rings.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.”
I think he’s whispering them to me right now, over and over, in my heart.
Mary and I — we’re off on Another Adventure …