I’m feeling it.
I’m pacing the cage. I’m going stir crazy. Life has become a Supermax prison cell, and my insides are churning at the thought of freedom, of escape.
The sensation usually sets in with the seasons. Spring comes, and I long for the woods – a lakeside respite. Summer arrives, the beach whispers to me, “Wade in the foam.” Fall settles, and my mind begins wandering the mountain paths.
It’s not that I’ve always been a wanderer. Truth be told, I’m a bit of a homebody. I prefer a quiet drink with a friend from a shared bottle of scotch or bourbon to a rowdy club or bar. I’d rather sear my own steak and eat at my own dining room table than have one brought to me at a steakhouse. Hell, I even prefer watching Braves games from my couch than from the stands.
Still, when my news feed on Facebook begins to fill with sunny pictures of vacations and escapes, I find myself pulling harder against my harness, gnawing at my leash.
Once, I had a simple, inexpensive solution: a tent, a bag, and a buddy. Park the car by the road, lock it, grab some gear out of the back and head down into the woods across from my grandparents’ house. We’d camp beside the creek, sitting in comfortable folding chairs, smoking pipes and cigars and talking until God-knows when. The cops were called a few times, but we were on our own private property, doing nothing illegal, and they were on their way without much hassle.
Now, saddled with working 50-plus hours a week and the responsibilities of keeping up a home, I once more yearn for the utilitarian confines of the tent. I’m Thoreau in Manhattan. I need an escape.
Some of this wanderlust, too, stems from the almost two years of struggle that we’ve endured as my wife finished her master’s in nursing. Now a nurse practitioner in a clinic with normal 9-to-5 hours and every weekend off (as opposed to every other), I’m damn well ready to make use of this sudden dearth of leisure time.
Other people work hard and go play at a lake. Why can’t I? Other people are going to the beach. Why can’t I? Other people are driving up to stay overnight in the mountains. Why can’t I?
The answer had been school, work, child. Now she’s done, and I’m ready to run. I’m itching to make it happen, to put the pieces in place. Like Andy Dufresne chipping away at the walls of Shawshank, I’m ready to begin squirrelling away the methods of my freedom. Order a tent (my old one still smells of four men and desert from our 2004 cross-country jaunt). Get a sleeping bag. Buy a pair of comfortable hiking shoes, maybe some jeans for the first time since high school. Chip at the walls with a small rock hammer, haul the debris out to the exercise yard in one’s pants. Agitate.
I’m ready to toss some stuff in the back of the ManVan and head for the hills. The leash won’t hold forever. I can’t keep pacing like this, watching the weekends erode away. I am acutely aware that life has an end. I’ve seen it happen a few times. You got to get in your laughs while you can. Get up, get done what has to get done, and get out. I’ve been patient. I’ve bided my time, plowed my rows and then some. I’s ready fuh some fun, ‘es suh.
Meanwhile, the e-mails from TripAdvisor keep popping up on my phone. Just today, one arrived with the subject line, “Great long weekend getaways.” Yeah, that’s the stuff. That’s what I’m talking about: nothing fancy, nothing contrived. Just an excuse to do something besides the laundry and the vacuuming. An out. An escape.
A few things have been scheduled. We’ve picked out a tent. We’re going to Sevierville, Tenn., next month. Great Smoky Mountains, maybe a nice little hike, something outside the cabin. Maybe see Cades Cove. Never been there before. I’ve heard it’s nice. And maybe a camping trip next month, too, if we can get our gear ordered and together.
The challenge: waiting until it’s time. And keeping the wheels spinning thereafter.
I gotta’ go. Who’s with me?