In recent years, I've found myself snapping quick self-portraits with my packed bags before I leave on a trip. I'm not sure if it's the idea of capturing the moments BEFORE a life-changing trip that moves me, or the attempt to stop time before it speeds up, but it is like a reflex for me now. I took this one before I left for Italy on Tuesday morning.
After leaving LA, I had a fabulous, easy flight to Philly, then a quick layover and another flight to Rome. Because it's the off season (I mean, really, why would anyone be traveling to Italy when it's cold and rainy???) and we had a ton of airline miles to use, I wrangled my way into getting first class seats for my trip. It wasn't as though the aisles were paved with gold or I felt like a celebrity or anything cuckoo like that, but it was really a wonderful experience, starting with a complimentary glass of champagne as I sat down.
Anyway, I'm telling you this because I was able to take advantage of that part of the journey being an end to itself. I settled into my seat and watched a Glee marathon on my iPhone - seven episodes in a row, nearly a whole day's worth of show tunes and teen drama - happy as a clam. It was sublime. Just that - the ability to be a "captive audience" without distractions or phone or email or kids or anything - was such a gift.
The second picture is from the 4th leg of my planes-trains-automobiles journey toward Cortona, taken as the train sped quickly away from the Roma Termini (main train station in Rome) toward Tuscany. I had suddenly remembered the last time I was at the Roma Termini... I was 17 and going with a school trip from Naples to Paris. We'd changed trains in Rome and, as the train left the station, I was making out with my boyfriend, the steel and chaos and noise of the trains and rails and travelers on the platforms fading rapidly as we raced away from Rome.
I hadn't thought of that day for years, but now I sat on the train as a woman in her late 30s, wondering how life had wedged so much time and distance between that memory and the current scene. I wondered how it was that I could remember so well what it was like to be that girl on that long-ago train, could empathize with her insecurities and desire to be grown up already damn it, and yet be so far from her. I thought of the book "A Wrinkle in Time" and the concept of time as a tesseract, a line that connects point A with point B in a nonlinear fashion; instead of being a long line between the two points, it is like a strand of yarn that dips down in the middle and the ends meet each other, so you don't need to cross the entire strand of time to get from one moment to another. That's what I felt like, sitting on that train listening to Florence & the Machine's "The Dog Days are Over": like I was touching my hand through the window of time to the girl that I was the last time I was here.
Even the first part of my journey illuminated the difference between now and then - the girl who would sometimes dodge the train conductor and get off the train as soon as it stopped rather than buy a cheap ticket and the woman who had enough airline miles to travel first-class and boarded a train with a pre-purchased rail ticket. The dog days are over, indeed... but sometimes they are missed.