I live nine miles from my job at a nature preserve. In order to get to that preserve, I pass by or through (depending on the route and how you count) at least seven other gardens, preserves or historic parks, run by a town, a county, the feds or private, non-profit entity. One of them is Jockey Hollow, a national Historical Park where, among its many claims to fame, a bunch of Washington’s soldiers spent one damn cold winter. There’s an entrance to it at the end of a road that’s a block from my house. The road through the park takes me on what I like to imagine is a more direct route to my job–it’s probably not more direct, since it’s a park road and I can only drive 20 miles an hour in there–but lately I’ve been driving through it every day.
This morning, as I pulled into the park, I decided I wanted to actually be in the heavy mist left over from the morning’s rain. I found a loop trail, one I figured would take me about a half hour. I had originally thought I’d get to work early, then I decided people don’t like change, so why create undue distress?
It was short, easy trail, until I had to cross the stream.
Then I had to cross the stream again…
My feet were wet for the rest of the day. My hair was damp when I arrived at work. I thought all day about people who tell me they’re sure New Jersey’s prettier than they’ve been told.
Yup, I’m sure it is.
I had a habit in high school that whenever a conversation got too rowdy and chaotic, I’d just get up and leave. Too much noise, too many ideas. It was a lot of fun for a while, but I’d always wind up watching more than talking. It was tiring, all that energy in one place. Eventually, I’d decide no one was paying attention to whether I was there or not, so I’d go do something else. I never went far–I’m kind of chicken when it comes to really taking off–it was just an attempt at balance, getting my mind to stop buzzing before I headed back into it all over again. It was probably rude, but it was high school–everything was rude.
One of hallmarks of this wandering off is that I don’t usually tell people where I’m going. It’s not that I’m cagey, it’s that at the moment I decide it’s time to go, I’m usually so overcooked that I can’t decide on a destination. That said, it’s me being cagey, too. Just leave me alone for a while; I always come back.
I was setting up my new fancy phone yesterday and every time I got on a website it would ask me if I wanted it to know where I was (in whatever the fancy phone lingo is for that). The answer is, No, dammit. Now, don’t get me wrong: I want this phone. I’m sick of getting lost at 9pm with a cranky kid in the backseat with no useful map (among the dozens in the passenger side door). That’s the first of many reasons, and the rest are pretty silly, like having the app for finding which constellation you’re standing under at that intersection in Peapack New Jersey. I’m not so sure I want to be able to see my email or check a calendar wherever I am. Also, there’s a phrase people keep using as if it’s a good thing, and they don’t seem to realize it terrifies me: “everything in one place.” That’s horrible. If I wanted everything in one place I’d have one friend, no car, no junk drawer.
It’s confusing. I’m tired of being lost in the electronic sense, but never feel lost enough in a more human sense anymore. (There are plenty of times I’m lost, believe me, just not in a good way.) I’ve resisted the whole movement to a snazzy phone for exactly this reason. I know I can leave the damn thing home, but it’s still somewhere, all my email and maps and Scrabble games. Of course, this isn’t the sum total of who I am–I’m not having an identity crisis. Also, trust me, I’ll find a way to disappear when I need to. It’s just…strange. Someone always knows how to find me, and while part of me finds that comforting (especially after news of earthquakes), another part of me wants you to close your eyes and count to ten before you come looking for me. No, make it twenty.