In about three weeks we will be off on a trip, chasing our tenth solar eclipse off the west coast of Africa. Three weeks—time to make the packing list.
Of course, at our house we have everything around us which we need, as well as many things we don’t need, I am afraid, in the manner of many modern Americans. But when we go on a trip, thousands of miles and many cultures away from our house, we must choose carefully what to bring.
I think of it, rather narrowly, as running the videotape [old technology!] of the trip in my mind’s eye. I picture us at the airport, checking in and “going through security.” I picture us crammed into the plane for hours on end. I picture the arrival in a new and strange place. I picture us on the ship we’ll board, and the little beds in the cabin, and the Captain’s Cocktail Party (for there always is one), and the wet zodiac landings, and the heat, and the visits to mosques. I picture Eclipse Day and our technical needs for that great event.
I play these images slowly, watching virtually for occasions where some item will be needed, and I add that item to my packing list.
I always bring some comfort items: a small pillow from my home bed, a little jar of peanut butter and maybe one of instant coffee. A cellphone so as to be able to hear the beloved voices left behind. Because even though I yearn for, even lust for! travel, I also need connection to my home place, a connection which though it will be greatly attenuated, there on the west coast of Africa, I desire to hold fast. So that I know where I am at home in the world, where my home place is.
I wonder about our forebears. When they went abroad from their home place, the familiar cave and hearth, did they bring comfort items with them? They had no videotape to run, I mean, what would they have known about what lay ahead of them? Were they so fearless, or so trusting, that they needed no comforts from home?