Signs pronouncing that I was passing into new terrain were scattered along the side of the road. It wound down, up, and then down again over forested hills before arriving in style along a majestic curve at cliffs soaring above open ocean. I was ecstatic to once again encounter my dear friend, the Pacific. I offered appropriate greetings.
Later that evening, I arrived in tiny Westport without a place to camp, and I thought I’d try my luck at the general store. I sent an email to the lone Couch Surfing host in town, asking desperately for a last minute place to stay. Minutes later, as if inspired by unfathomable strength, that host – David – coincidentally arrived in the store. I explained my predicament and he shared his – he had a few ducks staying in his guest rooms – but nevertheless he generously offered me space in his home, even electing to sleep on the couch himself. Having colonized his bed, I decided to read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart from cover to cover and fell asleep considering the white man’s burden.
I find it difficult to use language strong enough to express how exquisitely I’ve been helped along this journey. But, on the other hand, I am also affected by the coldness and distance these Americans express towards strangers. It seems to me that there is something profoundly lonely about being American today, so caught up in maintaining an identity in concert with social and economic pressures and accordingly fearful of expressing anything approaching vulnerability. On my walk, I think a lot about how to build trust quickly, but also about how to leave room to maintain my own boundaries. I often feel the weight of emotion hiding behind a particular word or gesture innocently slipped into conversation – both of a stranger and of my own.