Correspondence & Beryl Markham


I wrote an e-mail to an old friend today and decided to share part of it as a blog post:

If I could afford it, I’d buy some sort of rustic vehicle that could house two dogs and me for a year or so, dump most of my belongings at Goodwill, and drive across America, stopping and talking to people as I went. I’d visit every state. I’d take countless photographs. And I’d write about it, in the (possibly vain) hope that people might be interested in reading it. 

And then I’d go to Paris. And do the same thing. 

And then Ireland. And Scotland. And New Zealand. And the Czech Republic. And Kenya. And South Africa. And Zanzibar. And any place. Any place other than where I am. 

But I can’t. Well, maybe. I should think about it. Maybe there’s a way. I could sell everything I own instead of dumping it at Goodwill. I could trade in my car (though I’m not sure it’s worth much.) Maybe I could get creative. 

I’m observing a weekend of radio silence. Starting when I go to work this evening at 5, I’m placing my phone in airplane mode and I’m spending the weekend (the time that I’m not working, which isn’t all that much, really) reading and writing and not talking to anyone. And not web surfing or scrolling through social media. 

That was the e-mail. I am indeed – shortly after posting this – taking a 48-or-so-hour hiatus from the Internet.

I’ve been reading a memoir written by a mid-20th-century pilot named Beryl Markham. I’m now rereading I because once wasn’t enough. But I took these things away from the first reading:

1) A cowardly life is not a well-lived one, and I must be braver if I’m going to look back on my life without regret in the future.

2) I wish we all still wrote letters. I hate e-mail, and I hate texting even more. Texting in particular has made me weaker, more concerned with instant gratification and a general pest to those I love.

3) There is no substitute for elegant prose.

4) It’s possible to love both another human being and one’s independence, but I think we’ve made it very hard.

5) Beryl was always alone. I’d rather not do any of the above adventures alone, but the only person I’ve ever met who is worthy of all that isn’t entirely available. So maybe I’ll just have to suck it up. See #1.

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