BOOK TOUR JOURNAL 4
A PEARL IN THE STORM
To Drink from the Silver Cup is about a journey—an inner journey, although it also passes through physical places: the Navajo Nation, the Midwestern Bible Belt, forests and farm country of Sweden, California Dreamin', New Zealand, and more. Now, as I set out to bring this book to readers, I have embarked upon a physical journey.
Books have a way of falling into my hands at the most suspiciously opportune moments. My first trip in Anna’s Bookmobile—the name I’ve given to my compact cargo van and home—was from Albuquerque to the mountain cabin where I’ve been sequestered for about two weeks at this writing. The second trip was back into Albuquerque for a dental appointment, and it was then that my friend Paula passed A Pearl in the Storm on to me. I’d known about Tori Murden McClure’s account as the first woman and first American to row solo across the Atlantic. When I heard about it, I thought it would be an interesting read and then forgot about it.
A few afternoons ago, while thunder rumbled across meadow and forest outside the cabin, I started reading. The first chapter, besides describing McClure’s initial strokes on the water, details the construction of her vessel and the food, clothing, and books (!) she packed within a premium of space.
I couldn’t help thinking of my approaching journey and the road vessel that will be my home. I’m not setting out to do anything heroic, no notable firsts. However, after setting out in my van for the first time, and even more so the second time, and as I imagine future forays into urban areas, some trepidation does assail me. I am, for the first time in my life, except for U-Haul vans, driving a vehicle that has no rear windows. I am utterly dependent for my safety and the safety of others on side-view mirrors and a back-up camera that functions only when the vehicle is in reverse. It makes me nervous. Stomach-knotting nervous on major highways and in cities.
And…I am a sixty-eight-year-old woman. I didn’t really think much about this factor until other people said things like, “I’m worried about you going on the road alone.” “Are you going to have a gun with you?” At the latter, my jaw dropped. Me with a gun? “I’ll think about pepper spray,” I said. But I’ve always believed that an attitude of openness, friendliness, and belonging, combined with a reasonable amount of prudence, have been my strength in situations that might be considered dangerous. Example: In the 70s I flew to Brooklyn for the funeral of my then partner’s father. My first day there, I offered to walk to the drugstore to pick up a prescription for my mother-in-law. In a mostly black neighborhood, I was an oddity, maybe seen as a mark. On the way back to the house, a man about my age caught up to walk next to me. “Would you like to buy some reds? Yellows? Uppers? Downers?” I just said, “No thank you,” not with any energy on it, and we started a congenial conversation about where I was from and why I was there, what New Mexico was like, what he liked about Brooklyn. Our chat lasted for a couple of blocks, and we said goodbye and went our separate ways. Would it have turned out differently if I had acted frightened, put-off, or indignant? We wouldn’t have had the conversation, I guess. I wouldn’t have the story, or it wouldn’t be this story. Does being silver-haired and short and female make me more vulnerable now than when I was thirty?
There is one way that I am more vulnerable because of my age, but it has nothing to do with external danger. My last trip reminded me that I have to be much more faithful about stopping, getting out and moving my body much more often than I did even on my last road trip. After three hours of driving my less good knee has complained bitterly for several days about being basically in one position for that amount of time. So more opportunities to see the sights close up, to relax and appreciate that my body still works pretty well.
McClure’s catalog of the items that she’d packed into her rowboat for survival made me think about what I’m trying to fit into my van. I haven’t intended to build anything inside—no counter with sink and stove, no built-in bed. I wanted to keep things simple, using mostly things I already had—a cot under which I could store things I wouldn’t use regularly, a small cooler, a food bin for cups of dried soups, crackers, granola, nuts and seeds, an extra duffel for winter clothes, my winter comforter, a collapsible chair, a tarp to clamp to over the top of the rear doors when I want to be outside during rain or overbearing sun, the all-important porta-potty. I ordered a few things—an inverter for charging my laptop, a hotpot that heats water using the cigarette lighter, a water container with spigot, some carabiners. Oh—and two magnetic signs reading, “Anna’s Bookmobile.”
I thought after all the specs and measurements I’d taken, there would be some floor space, but that may not be the case. I didn’t take into account the space that the books—the whole reason for this journey—would take. I may have to get a roof rack installed. It’s all part of the adventure.
With the fears and anxiety that creep in, with the wish that I could do all of this on back roads and in small towns, I appreciate McClure’s response to an interviewer who persisted in asking her, “Why?” Her answer: “The pathway to enlightenment is through the room with a thousand demons.” My book was definitely about an inner journey. But this outer expedition, bringing my book to the world? It’s bound to be more inner traveling as well. And A Pearl in the Storm is the first book that was sent to accompany me.
McClure’s epigraph to Part I, “The Journey Out:”
Let Us Have Faith
Security is mostly a superstition.
It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change and
behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~ Helen Keller
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