My departure from Jacksonville was a strange one indeed. The night before, after having a lovely dinner with one of my dearest friends in the world, I came home and started loading a bunch of last minute stuff in the car. I thought I had closed the door to the house behind me. I really did. But when I looked up it was open and my dogs were nowhere to be found.
I spent the next hour walking the neighborhood in tears, hollering their names. Of course I went to the extreme. What if I couldn’t find them by morning and I had to drive away without them? But then just like that they wandered up to me, looking very perplexed that I was blubbering on the street.
We got back to the house and I guess about two months of accumulated stress and anxiety decided to come out all at once and I just fell to pieces, and finally went to bed utterly drained.
The next morning I packed all the last minute stuff and did all the last minute cleaning, and another dear friend stopped by bearing Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This used to be a strictly Southern thing, so I didn’t have the heart to tell him they have them in Seattle, too. But it was good to see him. He was sick as a dog, and had dragged his wretched self out of bed just to say goodbye one last time. That’s a true friend.
When he left I told him I loved him and he said he loved me too. He said, “You are going to have an amazing life.” I got tears in my eyes.
It’s funny. All my friends seem to fall into two extreme camps. Those who can say I love you back, and those who get uncomfortable by the whole concept and can only respond with a smart aleck retort. (You know who you are.) The thing is, I know they love me. They show me in so many ways. But it would be nice to be told. Ah well.
Anyway, after he left, me and the dogs hit the road. It felt kind of abrupt. After a month of long, drawn out preparations and hurdles and arrangements and stress and anxiety, suddenly, BAM! We were on our way. Just like that.
And as I drove out of Jacksonville, my home for 30 years, I felt oddly indifferent. First of all, there is no “You are now leaving Jacksonville, please come again” sign on the interstate, so I didn’t have a definite dividing line. Second, it’s the people who make the place, and I had been saying good bye to the people for weeks. So the geographical change didn’t have the impact I was expecting.
But I did observe a tradition I always observe when crossing my home state line. I take a deep breath and I blow all my worries and cares and problems over my shoulder. I leave them in Florida. And this time, I also symbolically blew away my bad habits and grudges and things I’d like to get past as well. (Floridians may want to wear a gas mask for about a week, because it could take a while for all that stuff to dissipate.) Crossing into Georgia, I felt rather cleansed. Lighter.
In Georgia I stopped for gas, and a rather rough looking motorcycle gang pulled in behind me. I’ve never had a problem with bikers. They don’t bother me, I don’t bother them. But this time I took my dogs out of the car and was walking them on a patch of grass, and one of the scariest looking guys comes up and says, “Oooh! Can I pet your puppies? Are they friendly?” And we had a nice long chat about his 10 Chihuahuas and about Seattle. As he walked away, awash in tattoos and leather, he wished me a safe journey. It’s funny the people you meet when you travel. (That’s also a reminder about not judging books by their covers.)
So the first leg of my journey was a short one. 245 miles. I’m now safely ensconced at my sister’s house. I wish all the legs were going to be this short. Next stop, Paducah, Kentucky!
Check out Part 2 here!
The clock tower near my sister’s house.
[Image credit: panoramio.com]