Where Soul Meets BodyChristchurch, Spring 2012
I’m long overdue for a new post. In the midst of temporarily memorizing a lot of facts about Antarctica’s political history and the names and dates of famous works in Western Art History, I found a free week for one last long road trip throughout the South Island (mostly to revisit some favorite spots). Long drives, long runs, long hikes… you know what that means: lots of long-winded thoughts to share. The first half of this was not written on my laptop, but rather the miniscule keyboard on my iPod touch- there is only so much you can do to occupy your mind when it can’t find sleep while you’re crammed between two of you friends in a freezing cold camper-van (June here is the equivalent of a New York December).
I’ve toned down my chilly, sleepless thoughts a bit, but courtesy of the iPod, here they are: This past week, like every other I’ve spent in this country, has simultaneously gone by way too fast and way too slow. Don’t get me wrong; it has been nothing short of incredible. I’ve spent days in truly pristine surroundings, interacted with people from all over the world, forced my legs to carry me up mountains I never thought I’d ascend, and dragged myself out of a warm sleeping bag enough times to see more spectacular sunrises than I can keep track of. But scattered in-between all those pieces of heaven have been days spent without an ounce of much-needed alone time or personal space, a lot of rough nights, a few too many dark drives without a destination in mind, and enough of that nagging question of where reality is and why I don’t seem to be in it.
We all have a list of defining songs that are linked to critical moments in our lives, and one of mine is “Soul Meets Body” by Death Cab for Cutie. This song has been on every road trip and running playlist, one or two video blogs, and it is the song I listened to constantly last fall when I wanted to be anywhere besides where I was. One of my favorite lines goes “In my head, there’s a Greyhound Station, where I send my thoughts to far off destinations so they may have a chance of finding a place where they’re far more suited than here.”
If I could possibly reduce everything I’ve learned from my travels here to one concept, it would be something like this: Everywhere you go, and everyone you meet, becomes a part of you in some way. But with the blessing of having so many people and places that have become a significant part of your happiness and your identity comes the burden of balancing those pieces. These are exciting times in which a lack of major commitments allows for travel and independence, but with it comes the challenge of building new relationships that you know you’re going to have to sever in some way when you move on to the next new thing. How many times can you start over in a fresh place before you forget where it is that you truly belong? How much time do you invest in relationships that are oceans away when the people next to you in a crowded car have become equally important in different ways? I think the answer is in the title of one of my favorite songs.
The opening line of “Soul Meets Body” is simply “I want to live where soul meets body.” I used to interpret “where” as a specific physical place, mostly because at the time I had one in mind. But over my time here I’ve realized that you can get away from “reality” to put your thoughts in context, but in the end, reality is nothing more or less than where your feet are.
Throughout all my travels in New Zealand, I’ve made a conscious effort to take time to myself on every trip, and those moments have proven to be some of the most valuable. On this past trip it came in the form of breaking away from my friends to trail run seven miles of the Abel Tasman before turning back to meet up with them and walk back to the never-ending golden beach that was our destination. It was partly during this run that I realized that “where” isn’t a physical place that provides all the answers; it is the ability to walk around with your head and your heart in the same place as your body. Those moments, when all those things are in the same place, are the moments of bliss that make life meaningful. And you don’t have to worry about all the other people and all the other places, because they are already with you by default.
So I think that may be the main thing that I’ve taken away from this whole experience. Another artist I’ve come to value, Meg Hutchinson, has a song called “Travel In” whose chorus goes “I’ve learned the oneness of alone, I’ve learned to call this motion home.” When you choose to live a life where your mailing address consistently changes every four-five months and your bed during the week is five hours away from your bed on the weekends, motion certainly does become home. So it is easy to become torn, and it’s even okay to be torn sometimes because it means that you have things worth getting hurt for. But it takes effort to live where soul meets body, and that is what counts.
Of the 18 weekends I’ve been in New Zealand, a grand total of 3 of them have been spent in Christchurch (one for a day hike, one to volunteer for earthquake cleanup, and one to run a half marathon). When we were driving back from the last trip, we were talking about our routines here that we wanted to be sure to do one last time, and I realized that most of my time spent in this city has revolved around getting out of it. I’m a weary traveler, and that is why I am completely content with declaring the official end to travel in New Zealand. The past few days here I’ve spent embracing the city, running through sides streets I’ve never been down, and visiting coffee shops I’ve never given time to before. There are ten more days to be present here, to take it in for everything that its worth, and that is what I intend to do.
There will be at least two more blogs, including the final video blog that has been a working progress for weeks now. I will say this again several more times before the last post, but every one of you who has been reading this and sharing your thoughts, comments, and support, it means more than you know. Thank you for your time, cheers. -J
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