Next week's trip doesn't take me far from home, but it's in a very different place: different responsibilities, duties, and social surroundings; different things to see and think about; different priorities and different needs; and perhaps - just like any trip for someone who loves traveling - the deeper hope is that I won't be the same person coming back as I was when I left.
It's too bad I couldn't bring my camera on my Maryland trip, for Irene's wedding. I marveled at a tiny spit of sand beach in Betterton, on an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. The sand was so golden as to be almost orange. I didn't try the water, since I found it uncomfortably cool; but it was dark blue, and clean and fresh-looking. Nights were kind of cold. My cousin Ivan, who lives in Ithaca, had a different perspective: he found it to be like reliving the end of a summer that had already passed away at home.
Still, most of the leaves hadn't turned. A giant black walnut tree in the side yard of the farmhouse had lost its foliage, and was in the process of losing its fruit, at no small hazard to anyone who happened to be standing underneath. The walnuts look almost exactly like tennis balls - about the same size, perfectly round, and bright yellow. But they're solid, and hit the ground loudly enough to be heard anywhere in the house.
It's no longer summer here. The afternoons are comfortable, and the mornings are even a little chilly, especially if it's overcast. There's rain sometimes. And when the sky is clear, it's that particular shade of crisp, empty, sharp-edged blue that manages somehow to look more melancholy than clouds and darkness ever do.
Next week's trip takes us all around central Texas - quite the nicest part of the state, naturally enough, in my opinion. There will be caverns, trees, lakes, cities, museums, wineries, breweries, shops, historic buildings, modern edifices, and more. I'm glad to go. There are so many things right in arm's reach of me here, in Austin, that I've never seen.
And maybe the someone who comes back will be a little better.