Former Love NOLA columnist Brett Will Taylor left New Orleans in November, 2013 for an indefinite road trip across the western United States. We’ve asked him to check-in periodically with stories from his journey. He’s calling the new column The Diving Board Chronicles. Today’s a primer on some of the whys, wheres and hows of his trip. Check back here Monday for his first report.
“You’re doing what? To where? For how long?”
That’s the response I’ve gotten from a slew of people who know me (and more than a few who don’t) when I tell them I’ve left New Orleans to take a road trip for who knows how long to who knows where. While there are some people for whom that bit of information suffices (at last count, the number was 3 … and ½), most folks find that in the illusion of today’s well-planned, tightly-controlled, decidedly un-certain world, a bit more information is needed. So, here you go.
The intent. To explore the western United States for maybe three months, most likely four. Or more. Without any list of predetermined stops and not a clue as to the final destination. Just a road trip to wherever the road takes me. I may stay in some places for awhile, others may be just a drive-by. I won’t know ‘til I get there and, maybe, not even then.
The why. Emerson re-minds us that “all life is an experiment.” Sometimes, to really test whatever hypotheses you carry, you have to get out of the laboratory you know into one you don’t. So, that’s one “why.” Another is that I’m at a juncture in my life where I’m not quite sure where I’m supposed to be, but I know it’s not where I was. My writing also is at a crossroads.
Those are good “official whys” that satisfy many enquirers and spark more than a little curiosity. But the real “why”? Because the land called me. Western land. And the spirits that live within it. I don’t have a clue why. But, I’ve learned over the years, that when land or spirits call, you go. Because they’re older and wiser than you. They know a lot more, too.
The outcome. “But how do you know this is what you’re supposed to do?,” more than one person has asked me. The beauty, the wonder, the gift is that I don’t. That’s the nature of adventure. Of change. Of experimentation. It may work out. It may not. Is that more than a little unsettling? Sure. But the alternative is to live your life only in that which you know. And that, well that just sounds like such a waste.
The name. My previous column, Love NOLA, offered weekly observations on life as a newcomer in the world’s most glorious circus. Diving Board Chronicles will be a less frequent check-in from the road. Stories about adventures taken and discoveries made within and without. Why Diving Board Chronicles? The name is a tribute to Fear of the Unknown. And a certain little boy. As child, I’d never dive off the high dive. I have horrible eyesight and, back then, there were no contacts that came even close to correcting my vision. So, I had to take off my glasses whenever I went swimming in our community pool at Dallas’s McCree Park. I did OK when I was in the shallow end, hugging the wall and touching the bottom of the pool. But the high dive? Forget it. To jump without glasses meant I couldn’t see where I was going.
And I wasn’t about to do that. Not yet.
Brett Will Taylor is a Southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie. The Diving Board Chronicles are Will’s occasional check-ins and observations from his indefinite road trip to indeterminate places west. Follow him @bwtshaman.