There's a feeling I get,
When I look to The West,
And my spirit is crying for leaving ...
— Led Zeppelin, 'Stairway to Heaven', 1971

Looking Beyond Portsmouth

As the Winter of 1987 moved into Spring I was thinking forward to the coming Summer with some uncertainty. The Summer of '86 had been a response to the learning of the winter before and I knew that I could not live on that forever. I had gone through a deep transformation and had spent several seasons getting accustomed to that transformation, but it was a year since I had emerged from that process. For the coming season to be meaningful it had to stand on its own and take me somewhere new — that had been the whole point of stopping and reflecting.

Restlessness in Paradise

Portsmouth continued to provide connections to many interesting people and opportunities, and I could see myself making a life there as the place continued to appeal to me in so many ways. But as much as I loved the place and my life there I was getting restless. It wasn't that Portsmouth was too small, it was that the world was too big. As much as I was enjoying focusing on what was in front of me I also noticed how interested I was in talking to anyone who had just come back from a journey or was about to depart on one. I felt their excitement and wanted to share in it.

I didn't jump to any conclusions about this. Staying true to the process that had seen me through my first winter in Portsmouth I spent time reflecting on what I felt within and what I really wanted. I was careful to follow each train of thought one step at a time and watch out for thoughts of what I 'should' do. I stared over many cups of coffee while the place in front of me floated next to the promise of places unseen in my mind. I tried multiple approaches to the question, but they always ended up at the same place.

I'd gone north to New England, I'd gone east to Ireland, I'd gone deep within — it was time to Go West.

The Prodigal Dream

Part of me wondered why I still felt the need to beat that dead horse and head Out West. I had numerous friends ask me the same question, suggesting I go back to Europe or back to school. There was something in this journey that called to me though. I had met too many people who insisted that whatever valley or burg they happened to fall out of the womb was the best place on Earth. There is a lot to be said for the continuity of living where you were born, but since I had left that place behind it did not make sense to me to settle in the first place that I liked. How could I say this was the best place for me when I had not seen any others? If I went around the world and then returned to Portsmouth and settled down then I could do so secure in the knowledge that I was in the best place for me. If I ended up somewhere else, then it would only be because that place was better for me. I would be better off either way.

Merging the Selves

Looking back I can also see a synthesis happening between the two visions I had of myself; one settled and the other in motion. I was on a journey, but that journey was to find a place to no longer be on a journey: a home. The settled self would give control over to The Wanderer. The Wanderer would go out and find a home for the Homebody. It was a compromise between opposites to find place in the middle.