In his latest “From the Chapel” blog post, OSV publisher Scott Richert was surprised to…
From the Chapel — July 13: Gradually
“From the Chapel” is a series of short, daily reflections on life and faith in a time of uncertainty. As people across the world cope with the effects of the coronavirus — including the social isolation necessary to combat its spread — these reflections remind us of the hope that lies at the heart of the Gospel.
I’m back on our front porch after a much-needed vacation, camping at Petoskey State Park in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. In these days of social distancing, even the campground, much less Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Gaylord (where we spent a couple of days on Arrowhead Lake before heading home), was more crowded than I would have liked. This was the wrong year, it would seem, to have abandoned the Upper Peninsula, our longtime summer vacation destination.
But abandon it we did, mainly to reduce the length of the drive, which was long enough at six hours up and five back. (We made a slight detour over to Flint on the way up to visit Amy’s father.) When I was younger (so much younger than today), I didn’t blink at driving 12 hours from Washington, D.C. back home to Western Michigan, but at some time over the last 30 years, my body began to feel its age.
One thing hasn’t changed, though, and that’s my preference for traveling on the ground rather than flying. And no, that’s not a comment on air travel in the age of COVID-19, but on the sense of unreality I have always had after entering an airplane in one location and exiting it hundreds or thousands of miles away. I’m not talking about the effects of jet lag (which are bad enough), but the geographical, meteorological, and often cultural (and even civilizational) disconnect between the point of my departure and the point of my arrival. An airplane may seem to have no similarity at all to a transporter out of Star Trek, but the effect can be the same for anyone aware of his surroundings (which, it’s true, is perhaps fewer people today than even 30 years ago).
With driving, the landscape, the weather and even the culture (at least as measured by billboards, architecture and radio broadcasts) change gradually over the course of the drive. On a long trip, you become acclimated to your destination over the course of many hours or even days, instead of being thrown into it all at once. The flora, the fauna, the way the sun strikes the earth; the ground itself, rocky or fertile, well watered with rivers and lakes or sandy or cracked from the sun beating down on clay; the smell of pines and firs replacing the loamy scent of decaying leaves — none of these changes may be obvious to you as they’re happening, but that’s my point. When you arrive at your destination after driving, you’re already there; when you depart from your plane, you still haven’t truly arrived, and not just because you have to work your way through the airport. I may be more tired after a long drive, but I’m also more comfortable in, and thus more ready to engage with, this place than I would have been if I had flown.
This recognition, it seems to me, is relevant to other types of journeys, too. But we’ll save that for tomorrow.
Scott Richert is publisher for OSV.