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Wanderlust

20 June 2012

This blog took an unintended vacation. End-of-term grading, a two-week visit by my parents, most of the country on strike, and the sun came out – and stayed out all night! And it felt good to not think and just be. So that is what I did.

Sindbad the Sailor set out from his home of Baghdad, “the Abobe of Peace,” because of the words of a poet:

A man must labor hard to scale the heights,

And to seek greatness must spend sleepless nights,

And to find pearls must plunge into the sea

And so attains good fortune and eminent be.

[. . . ]

On his first voyage Sindbad witnesses horses leaping from the sea, finds a fish four-hundred feet long, meets a generous king, and attains great wealth before heading back to the port town of Basra and then on to Baghdad. At home  he visits with his family and friends for a short time before the tug of wanderlust yanks on his shirt again.

“I lived a most enjoyable life of unalloyed pleasure until it occurred to me one day to travel abroad, and I felt a longing for trading, seeing other countries and islands, and making a profit.” So begins Sindbad’s second voyage.

The wonders and adventures increase as the story moves along, each journey taking Sindbad to what he believes will be his death, only to end in miraculous rescue. He escapes cannibals and man-eating apes, is trapped in a valley of snakes so large they can eat elephants, becomes enslaved by the Old Man of the Sea, and is ship-wrecked – he is always ship-wrecked. And desolate. And crying out to God.

Sindbad always returns safely home, but he always wants to leave home again. This sailor doesn’t suffer homesickness, but awaysickness. Before his third voyage Sindbad confesses his addiction: “I lived in Baghdad for some time, in prosperity and peace and happiness, until my soul began to long for travel and sightseeing and commerce and profit, and the soul is naturally prone to evil.”

Sindbad blames his evil soul for his ache to be away, and his returns home become nothing more than the impetus to send him off again. Home, away, home, away, home, away, each place defining the other, until one day he decides he has had enough. Sindbad vows to God that he will never travel again by land or sea.

Were the twenty-seven years Sindbad spent on his seventh and final voyage too long? Had his soul simply grown too tired to lure him into adventure again?

“How much toil and trouble I endured in the beginning!” Sindbad tells his porter before beginning his storytelling. Even so, he is quick to add: “Each voyage is a wonderful tale . . .”

Here’s to a life of wonderful tales, of being awaysick, and of always finding your way home when you need to.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 June 2012 14:14

    As I am about to embark on yet another adventure, I appreciate these words. A trusted advisor recently asked me when I might be settling down. I replied, “Maybe 40…” Well, as I have just celebrated my 40th birthday and show no signs of settling, I will say “Maybe 45…” I do believe that I am just one of those “grass is greener” kind of people. When I am in one situation, I want another and so on… Maybe I will reach a day when the soul gets tired and allows me to rest. (I must admit that I hope it’s not soon…)

  2. Teresa Owens permalink
    20 June 2012 17:56

    Well, thanks Jena! I was really missing your blog. From the desert, the grass ALWAYS looks greener on any side of the fence….and now that I’m 50, I am truly beginning to understand that we must cultivate that lush, cool, green space in our own minds and increase the joy of being there by fertilizing it with memories of the rich experiences we have from our forays out into the world. Like the title of that book, “Wherever you go, there you are!”, I am finding the sheer challenge and hidden joys of finding peace wherever I happen to be at any given moment. Heavy on the challenge. Miss you!

  3. 20 June 2012 21:09

    I feel the awaysickness always pulling me somewhere and I think I need to travel just to be sure I know where home really is. There are always nagging doubts until I satisfy the lure of other places.

  4. 20 June 2012 21:10

    P.S., as long as we are confessing, I am 60.

  5. 25 June 2012 03:42

    Haha, you guys make me laugh:) From a girl just out of high school, yes I have wanderlust! My biggest complaint is that wherever it’s really just like home. The people have the same basic needs, they’ve all been through hardship and have scars to show it, and they all work REALLY hard. Granted, the scenery it always different as you travel from jungle to desert and inland to coastland; but, people are people wherever you go.

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