THE STACKS Travel Diary

Miles to Go

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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some birthday cake
for a forest-loving poet.
** Linger to ponder what makes us want to travel.
** Savor a last ½ cup considering some surprising ties between Paris and Baltimore!
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First Sip:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood…

– from The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Slice of Cake:

6 Things I learned this week about Robert Frost:

#1 He was born in San Francisco.

#2 Though associated with rural living, he grew up in cities:
San Francisco (until age 11) then Lawrence, Massachusetts.

#3 He published his first poem in his high school’s magazine.

#4 His jobs included teaching, delivering newspapers, and working at a carbon-arc lamp factory. But he didn’t like these jobs; he wanted to write poetry.

#5 He sold his first poem at age 20.
The title? “My Butterfly. An Elegy”

#6 Over his lifetime, Frost was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry four times.

** Happy 145th Birthday **
Robert Frost

– born March 26, 1874
in San Francisco, California

Linger Awhile:

assorted photographs collected by Claribel and Etta Cone
during their worldwide travels.
Collection displayed at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

…And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

– Ibid.

I’ve been thinking this week about the decision to travel.
The reasons we go. The reasons we don’t go.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned and re-learned over and over again:
There is nothing easier to find than a reason not to travel.
To go means pushing past the thousand reasons not to go.
To go means to go regardless.

When I was in high school, a friend and I talked about going to Europe.
We made serious plans.

At this point in my life, I had never:
a) flown on an airplane.
b) been east of L.A.

We didn’t go.

In college, another friend and I talked about going to Europe. And we made very serious plans.
But we didn’t go, either.

Mostly because of money.

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them
really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.

– Ibid.

Traveling: What stops us

Here are some of the huger road blocks:

#1 Money.

#2 Experience.

#3 Courage.

#4 Time Off.

#5 Companions.

#6 Health Concerns.

#7 Safety Concerns.

#8 Activation Energy.

That last one is a chemistry term. It’s defined as the amount of energy required for molecules to begin a chemical reaction. I’m extending the definition to include the amount of energy it takes to begin to turn Someday into Now.
Yes, now.

I finally got a passport and left North America for the first time 30 years ago.
I was 27. Since then I’ve been to 18 countries on 5 continents.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing
how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

– Ibid.

Traveling: What urges us on

I love that I’ve been to 18 countries, and there’s a lot more I want to see.
But why do I love it? Thinking it over, I came up with 4 reasons.

1. Adventure

The sign that something’s wrong with you is
when you sit quietly at home wishing you were
out having lots of adventure.

– Thornton Wilder

2. A Break from the Everyday

I thought I would sail about a little and
see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have
of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.
Whenever I find myself
growing grim about the mouth;
whenever it is a damp
drizzly November
in my soul…whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me,
that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent
me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically
knocking people’s hats off—then,
I account it high time
to get to sea as soon as I can.

from the first chapter of Moby Dick
by Herman Melville

3. Connections

The first step to connection is departure.

– from an airline safety video I saw
coming back from California after Thanksgiving

(Connections are my favorite thing about travel. More about that below.)

4. Appreciation for the Everyday

After traveling,
after being with family in California and Michigan,
after a month of summer and other people’s houses,
I sit here in my house on a winter’s morning
and let normal life slowly right itself.

I take the phone off the hook because I can’t bear
the thought of faking a normal converstation with anyone.
(Though I will go check to see if B called.)

My daugher and I, in our pjs, are lying on the futon
Artemis Fowl outloud.

I remember that there’s a book discussion night coming up, wonder about buying the book,
then remember that Janet-next-door said she’d have a
copy of the book for me.

I go look for a long-sleeve something to put on—
And look! here’s a turtleneck shirt, and here’s a
wool cardigan, right here in the closet.
Fancy that.

I open a drawer next to my bed, and there’s a
good book to read—right where I wanted it.
Convenient place, this home is.

And tomorrow with kids in school and B at work,
I get the house to myself.

– from my journal
20 July 2003
Christchuch, New Zealand

“Half-Cup More”

This month (just coincidentally) I was in Paris for a week, home for a week, then
in Baltimore for 5 days. And I was surprised by how how many Paris-Baltimore connections I found.

in the Baltimore Museum of Art
(photo by Patricia)
in the gardens of Musée Rodin, Paris
(photo by Prof B)

I was very happy to meet up with my sister Patricia in Baltimore.

Patricia in the park outside the museum

Together we visited the beautiful Baltimore Museum of Art, where we learned about two other art-loving sisters, Etta and Dr Claribel Cone.

Claribel Cone, Gertrude Stein, and Etta Cone
in Fiesole, Italy – June 1903

The Cone sisters were lifelong Baltimore residents and regularly hosted local artists. One evening an 18-year-old Gertrude Stein showed up. She had recently moved to Baltimore after the death of her parents. Stein became a regular visitor and a good friend of Etta and Claribel. Later, Stein would emulate the Cone sisters’ Saturday evening salons at her own home in Paris.

The Cone Sisters were the most important source of early-20th century French artworks in America—including the largest public holding of works by their friend Henri Matisse. They also collected American, African, Middle Eastern, and Asian art.

The Cone sisters traveled to Europe and beyond almost yearly from 1901 until Claribel’s death in 1929. Etta continued traveling and collecting art for another 20 years. After her death in 1949, the Cone Collection was donated to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Here’s to sisters, to art,
to traveling & to coming home again —

Take-Away Box

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– from The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

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© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

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