When my mom died, in September of 1971, I quit my job, bought a 21-foot Winnebago motor home, and took off, more running from than running to.
I came across the journal I wrote during my travels, and for no particular reason, felt like sharing it with you. Here are two excerpts:
12-14-71 54th day. Beside the Gulf of Mexico. 12:47 p.m.
Where to start? How to pick up one thought, like one single shell on the beach, and let the others be? Looking out the camper window across the narrow beach dotted with rusting tin cans, un-rusting aluminum cans, plastic bottles, mysterious boards and beams whose past I’ll never know (and they have forgotten), the Gulf goes on about its business with a continuous, eternal “hiss.” And the shells. Millions upon millions of them in any given one-block area, each like a snowflake, completely unique. Of a thousand varieties, and within a narrower spectrum, colors, shapes and intricate configurations. Some are flat and round, like drop cookies. Others are pale and humped, like potato rolls, still others like bagels, smooth and crisp-looking.
Whenever I walk along the beach, I always look straight down at the ground. That way the world unravels much more slowly, but in much greater detail.
Took several long walks along the beach today, collecting shells. Collecting shells must surely be one of the most common and, in the long run, useless hobbies of mankind. They are, indeed beautiful, but there are so many of them I’d have the camper full to the rafters in two days if I tried to keep them all. And then, like the dog that caught the car he was chasing: what do you do with them. They invariably end up in a drawer somewhere and no one can remember exactly where they came from. Neither, I’m sure, do they.
One wonders: does anyone ever turn off the ocean when no one is around to watch? Does the wind carry the waves into shore, or do the waves fan the wind? How many waves have existed since time began?
12-15-71 55th Day. Beside the Gulf of Mexico. 9:08 a.m.
A hearty breakfast (tomato juice, toast and peanut butter, milk, and coffee) followed by chores ( doing dishes) and soon after writing this, a long walk on the beach. I feel rather like Thoreau. The day is overcast and the gulf has pulled back from the shore about 50 feet, apparently to think it over.
The road I’ve taken between Galveston and Port Arthur sees very little traffic, and there is no sizeable human settlement for miles. The result was, last night, one of those totally black nights I used to associate with nights at sea.
Still, from somewhere I can hear a low, regular thrumming sound like a working engine, whose source I can’t identify. Strange, I thought it might be the electric wires running beside the road, but they have a hum of their own which is much more high pitched.
A large flock of black birds has found something fascinating (to them) in the field directly across the road and they are busily moving on the ground as if they thought they were a herd of grazing cows.
The ground is very flat with trees only on the horizon (logical, since trees on a large level plain create a horizon), all tired green mixed with the brown of dead weeds. Here and there, if one looks close, are little clumps of yellow daisies with large button-brown centers.
2:40 p.m. Out walking, collecting shells, washing and soaking them. I must have 300 of them by now. I’m going to experiment with shellacking them and perhaps mounting them in some way. If it can’t be done, I’ll just throw them away. I don’t know what I’ll do with them in the meantime.
I must have walked at least 5 miles along the beaches, and enjoyed every moment of it. Perhaps I can become a beach bum.