Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wanderlust or Bust

Last week, I had plans to travel to Austin, Texas for an annual mini-reunion with friends from a 2011 Fulbright-Hays trip to Morocco and Tunisia. Since we spent six rather intense weeks together on that trip, we are now bonded for life. Seeing them is one of the highlights of the year for me. Living on a graduate student teaching assistantship stipend significantly reduces the amount of disposable income I have, so buying an expensive plane ticket was not feasible. Instead, I used miles from American Airlines, which cost me only $10 and the inconvenience of having 2 layovers.

Somewhere over the Midwest
I used my time to start reading a book recommended by my advisor, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000) by Rebecca Solnit. I recently made the relationship that walking provides me with a clarity of thought to reflect upon my work, research, and life. While walking, I am often able to make relational connections between seemingly disparate elements. I problem solve better. I vow to follow a plan of action in meeting goals and making ideas happen. I think productively. I notice the subtle nuances of the world around me. I find my place in that world. I reflect on scholarship and theorize about everything I see (though sometimes that can be overwhelming). I feel. I exist. I am. Solnit quotes Rousseau, "There is something about walking which stimulates and enlivens my thoughts. When I stay in one place I can hardly think at all..." (p. 19). Ironically, I read this book about walking on the plane, a space that greatly restricts mobility. As I continue reading, I make a vow to walk everyday then to write my thoughts upon my return, a vow I also made a month ago when walking about 2 miles from my hotel to a conference presentation at U of I.

Agora (2006) by Magdalena Abakanowicz in Chicago's Grant Park
My last layover before I land in Austin is at Chicago's O'Hare airport. Being from the Chicago suburbs, I have flown out of O'Hare dozens of times but seldom have I had to make connecting flights here. It was a dark and stormy night.... More and more flights were becoming delayed or canceled at an alarming rate. Will my 8:40 pm, now 10:30 pm, now 11 pm departure to Austin actually happen? Will I be one of the lucky ones to get out of O'Hare? Nope. Not going to happen. My flight on Wednesday was canceled. The following evening, when my flight to Austin was rescheduled, it was once again canceled due to bad weather. After waiting in line for over an hour, I was told the earliest I could get to Austin was on Saturday. And my return flight was for 6 am Sunday morning. So, I decided to abandon my desire of going to Austin to see my friends. Feeling defeated, I rebooked my flight to go back to Pennsylvania, with the earliest departure on Saturday morning.
The liminal space between terminals 2 and 3 at O'Hare became a makeshift shelter
for hundreds of people stranded by storms and canceled flights on June 18, 2014.
Luckily, I have family in the Chicago area and had places to stay. I spent the day on Thursday with my parents and had lunch with my cousin. Friday was spent with my husband's family, taking the blue line L to the Field Museum then walking along the lakeshore with my sister-in-law and going to my niece's dance performance later that evening. While it wasn't Austin, it proved to be a wonderfully unexpected impromptu visit with family. I even got a little bit of walking in, with my parents at Cantigny park in Wheaton and with my sister-in-law from the L station to the museum and back. I wanted to ground myself in place by walking and experiencing the place I was temporarily stranded in to become more than what Solnit describes as a "parcel in transit" (p. 28).

Panoramic of Chicago, to Lake Shore Drive and Buckingham Fountain on the left to Lake Michigan on the right.

My original intention of this blog was to reflect on readings from Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus biweekly in association with the reading group during the school year, but that goal went unrealized. Instead, I want to continue the conversation of rhizomes and wanderings, but from reflections from walking, wandering and wanderlust.

My trip to Austin was a bust, but I found other things to soak in instead. I also have a quick overnight "make-up" trip to New York City planned for next week where I plan to do a lot of walking.

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