I am not sure why it is, but to plan a trip brings me about as much joy as it does to actually go on a trip. It's been this way since my earliest memories, one of which is sitting in the front seat with my parents, map in hand, directing them to stay on this road, turn right here, or watch for this sign. What was I -- six or seven? I could barely read.
Road maps actually do make for some great reading and imagining. Take California, for instance. Tonight I have the Rand McNally 2006 Road Atlas open, the oversize one (affectionately known as simply "RM"). It's 138 pages of possibilities and dreams. As I pore over it places come alive in my mind, almost like that magic book Lucy found in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader: a spell to make hidden things visible. Indeed.
Ah, Northern California, the end of Jack Kerouac's wanderings, a place of dreamers, idealists, loners, expatriates, cowboys (believe it or not), and beauty, created beauty. Put your finger down anywhere on the page and hidden places begin to come into view.
Rahnersville, Hydesville, McCann, Garbersville, Laytonsville. Who was Layton or Garber for that matter? Were they 49s who came West to make a fortune and, finding none, put down roots and became town founders? I don't have a good feeling about Hyde. He probably killed a man, or more than one man, and now lives on in infamy. Most of these are small towns, down a faint line of a road, what RM calls "unimproved," and that makes me wonder why the town didn't amount to more. And is there any doubt who owns "Potter's Valley?" That, I confess, I have an ill feeling about too, but maybe I'm just thinking of that greedy, conniving, cheatin' old man Potter in "It's A Wonderful Life." I guess there are upstanding Potters around. Why, indeed, I knew a judge named Potter. Oh yeah. He was known as the "Hanging Judge." So much for good Potters.
And what's the story behind Susansville and Janesville, not 10 miles apart? Estranged sisters? Loving wives? Town matrons or benefactors? Or was it "Honey, I'm naming the town after you?" Lots of possibilities here. And frankly, I don't know what to think of the Town of "Hooker." A brothel? Or just (sorry Hooker family), just an unfortunate surname? And what about Denny, a near no-place at the dead end of 12 miles of, yes, "unimproved" road? Poor Denny, exiled like Ishmael, out there, alone. Or Denny, the loner, the self-made man, going it alone until he got a town named after him?
Some places suggest events -- like Burnt Ranch. Or they suggest the character of the town, like Whiskeytown. (Hmmm. . . not far from Hooker it is.) Or perhaps the general outlook of a folk, like Happy Camp or simply Day. The latter falls off the tongue well: "It's a good day in Day today." I could not find a corresponding "Night" though.
In the midst of these rather comm names, some uppity Southern Californians or East Coast folks plunked down names that they stole from elsewhere -- Nice (France), Lucerne (Switzerland), Capetown (South Africa). Those names do nothing for me and denote a lack of imagination in my book. And what, pray tell, are they doing in the backwoods of Northern California?
There are stories written all over this one page of RM. I feel the pull to go, to see for myself what the names are all about. And why is that? Why is it so captivating? Why do we have, as Joni Mitchell said, such an "urge for going?"
Part of it, I think, is that we are, as Scripture tells us, exiles, nomads, strangers, and sojourners on this earth. Since leaving the settled peace of the Garden we have been on the move, looking for something, for Home, for what lies over the next hill, around the next corner, to see if something better is out there. Jesus said to "Go," as in "Go into all the world. . . .," and we've all been going ever since, for all kinds of reasons, good and bad. His command had a goal, a reason for our going, and that was to "make disciples," to live coram deo, love coram deo, and enjoy what He has made and get to know it, coram deo.
Yes, I'm restless. I acknowledge that I have found my real place, my Home, with Christ, and yet I see it only partially now, so still I wander. Yes, I know things, but I want to know more, to walk all over the book of this world, the one He made, to watch Him make hidden things visible to me, little by little, through a glass darkly now, a little clearer tomorrow, and the next day. I don't want to take anything for granted, leave any rock unturned, miss anything He puts in front of me.
At the end of the going, when I reach the ocean, when I go as far as I can go, I want to know why I'll say Eureka! just like that 49er who reached the sea and cried "Eureka!." Why did he do that? Bottom line, I want my own town, named after me, but I'll get much better than that. One day I'll inherit it all. That's what the Man said.
Now, like RM says right there on the cover: "Get Rolling!" I gotta get going.