O’er the Hills and Far Away.

Sketches of Indigenous Hieroglyphs

I’ve drawn a few sinister duck glyphs, maybe a jaguar head or two. Some of the glyphs are a combination of an animal head and the emerging face of a human coming forth from it. I keep going back to the profile of the sinister duck. For some reason I can get my calligraphy pen to follow the curve of the beak fairly close. It’s the eye that is always the tricky part. It has to be large enough to reveal a face that is peering. A look one is not accustomed to seeing in a duck and thus gives it a sinister glare. Of course it is most likely the image of a predatory bird of some sort. What with a wicked beak like that. But I like to think of it as a sinister duck. One of the glyphs has an image of an angry mouse. As if Jerry has had enough of Tom’s predatory shenanigans and is devising a fate beyond the resurrection of the animator’s pen. These are just little exercises in ancient script, copying hieroglyphs from a land I will soon visit. It’s all part of my mental and spiritual preparation for my future journey.

Almost all country has evidence of ancient people. Years ago I walked a dune transact down in the lower eastern corner of California with a small group of biologist who were doing research in the area. On the western side of the dunes I saw all these bits of pottery that were scattered over the sand.

“Oh that’s just bits of archaeology from the Cahuilla people that lived along the shore of the ancient lake that produced these sands,” the biologist said matter of factly. I was astounded. I always thought archaeological evidence like that had to be uncovered with brushes and delicate tools carefully knocking away the dirt from the living history.

“The dunes move about and cover it up. It stays pretty well preserved in the dry sand and eventually is exposed in the constantly moving dunes,” she went on.

Even back in the Midwest where I come from you can see evidence of pre-Columbian peoples and history. The evidence is not always obvious and you have to know what you are looking for. Still places like the Serpent Mound and Mound City in Ohio or Cahokia in Illinois are big and obvious in the open air. For me the Serpent Mound is an especially spiritual place. I was there once on a cold, snowless January day early in the morning and not a soul around to distract my contemplation of what it all meant. It’s at the top of a hill that overlooks the surrounding farmlands. But the place I will be going to soon, has the kind of ancient history writ bold on the landscape. The kind of ruins you only see in a few places on the planet. The so-called wonders of the world. I’ve got stacks of books about the people and the land. And even longer lists of titles I probably won’t get to before I go.

A couple years ago around Christmas I surprised my folks with a couple of nights stay on Santa Catalina Island. They knew I was taking them somewhere but I didn’t let on until we were pulling into the parking structure in Long Beach and all the signs directed potential passengers to the dock for the Catalina Express. They were delighted, but then on the passage across the channel as my dad sipped his complimentary scotch, he asked where we were staying in Avalon.

“It’s a surprise,” I said.

“Oh come on! Half the fun of going to a place is the anticipation of the places you will stay and see,” he exclaimed.

Preparing for a journey to an exotic place is even more so. There’s the reading of the guidebooks of course. I lean toward the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet type books where they bring up tips on hitchhiking. Not that I’m going to do that, but these books are more geared to the adventurous type. I like to include myself with travelers who tolerate a little discomfort along with the serendipitous surprise of discovery. There’s the attempt at learning the language. And there’s not only the lingua franca of the country but the indigenous language that is also spoken. There are the reservations you need to make. The itinerary of what you need to see and what you can skip. There’s the whole question of whether you should limit your excursions to a smaller area and take more time to really experience where you are. Or whether you should extend your road trips to include those must see sites, towns and cities that you may never have a chance to see again. There’s the food, and the issue of drinkable water. There are the diseases to watch out for and the awareness of theft. What do you wear so as not to be an obvious tourist? Do you bring fancy gear like a camera, which might be worth as much as many people in the country you will visit make in a year. The list goes on. Probably the planning will occur up to the last minute. I know the reading will.

The lure of the place and my journey has even captured the imagination of my music muse. I’m now writing a song about the place and I’ve never even been there. I guess it is also a song about preparing to go. Of a longing to visit another place entirely. When I can find away to record these numbers simply without all the rigamarole of recording gear and many layered recording software, I’d like to present them here and thus fully round out what it means to be a song traveler.

I just got back from a domestic journey. It was a wilderness jaunt that I may explore in my next blog entry. I live in the western United States and wilderness is only a few minutes away from where I live. Just to be in such landscapes is a marvel in itself.

So what do you do to prepare for an exotic journey? What does it do creatively for you? What do you read and think about? I’m finding increasingly as I get older that I find more satisfaction in a journey then I do in acquiring things. I’ll take a stack of books on a wondrous place and use my savings to spend a modest length of time in that place, over a giant flat screen TV and home entertainment system, todas las veces.

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