Sunday, January 11, 2009

A winter dream of spring

In the springtime, when the earth awakens and gray gives way to blue, I will head to Minnesota.

I will take a week, and take my time, and meander to the Midwest, to baseball, to a new experience.

When I was younger, my parents dragged us on two two-week vacations. At the time I hated it. I wanted to go to the beach. I wanted to stay home and enjoy the summer. I wanted to be a shiftless teen.

At the end of it we all were tired of each other. But we had also seen quite a lot of our native land. Between those trips, and my own travels, I've been to 45 of the 50 states. This quixotic journey will add two more -- the Land of 1,000 Lakes and to North Dakota. I managed to miss those two along the way.

I will go to Minnesota, to our national game, to the Twin Cities and the Twins. I will stay in cheap hotels, have no need to shave, enjoy the journey, and write about what I see. From there, I hope to return to Little Big Horn, to Custer's Last Stand, to the Big Sky Country, to that still and silent ground. Don't ask me why, but that place haunts me.

I will then travel west, to my last unexplored country from California to the New York islands, then take the leisurely route home. Perhaps I'll go to Iowa, to the Field of Dreams, to Shoeless Joe Jackson and that magical cornfield, and have a catch at twilight.

Those who play it, and those who have lost the childhood wanderlust, insist baseball is just a game. They say it contains nothing metaphorical, nothing metaphysical. But I know better.

Oh, I don't mind the eccentricity of my attachment to it. There are worse things over which to obsess. Besides, at some level, I don't care what you think.

Baseball has always been an escape, my version of an addictive drug, a three and one-half hour foray into sweet surrender. I often combine it with traveling, joining the longstanding American obsession with the open road, the last gasp of Manifest Destiny, or some such thing.

I am more comfortable away from here. I write with more passion, with more clarity, with a renewed sense of purpose. I relax. Clear my mind. Figure out what I need to do. And yet, like this child's game I love so much, I look forward to coming home.

Maybe it is only a passing fancy on a cold, restless winter's night. Or maybe not.

Regardless, it is a pretty thought, something to anticipate, something for which to plan, in the fond expectancy of spring, when the world begins anew.

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