Idle theory bus: “Do I have a home? It’s hard to say”

Home is a tough word for me. It connotes permanence. Stability. Home is the place to which you will always return.

Do I have a home? It’s hard to say.

I live in a 1976 bus named Sunshine with my boyfriend James. We sleep near serrated edges of young mountain ranges. We bathe in trickles of cold desert rivers.

Every day is new.

It was winter 2012 when we took off. We had a little saved cash and a dream as fuzzy as a low-light selfie in the bathroom mirror.

Before I left, life was the Scantron booklet of a test I never wanted to take. I was serving truffle fries in an upscale wine bar. Every night I drowned my boredom in leftover bottles of Pouilly Fuisse.

James’ dream career as a videographer was flourishing from infancy. On film, he captured independent surf culture near one of the best breaks in California. He left reluctantly, watching the glamour and salt water stickiness slip from his grasp.

“Societal dropouts,” our friends and family accused. What could we say? They were correct.

Me? I had nothing to leave behind but my books and a collection of scarves from Goodwill; a few careers I had never begun and a red cast iron pan.

In October we got rid of our stuff. Quit our jobs and left.

“Societal dropouts,” our friends and family accused. What could we say? They were correct.

We were jaded on strip malls and weddings. A university education had reduced us to minds. Our brains wondered about the tissues that contained them. We never used our hands. Where were our bodies? What were our bodies?

Out here among the mountain hemlocks and red rock canyons, in places that you can only walk to, we find pieces of ourselves. They are in the shakes and shivers of late winter snowstorms. Others fall with the spring rain, which we drink up like the purple lupine that carpets the mountain meadows. We’re happy in the places where we run and lounge without clothing, free and exposed under a pale blue sky.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in the natural world. Everything is as it should be. The debris of society follows us into the wild, reminding us that everything can be beautiful. Pieces of trash glitter in the desert like rare foreign treasure. Planes offer occasional breaks in stiff and unbending silence.

I like tramping around. I like that no one knows my name. There are full days sometimes when James and I don’t exchange a word.

The road is our home, I guess, but that’s so trite to say. I’m not saying it in, like, a slouching on the side of an old brick building kind of way. Not in a papa was a rolling stone, got a cigarette kind of way either. I just mean that it feels good to move around, to admit that nothing really matters too much in this great slapstick comedy of life.

I like tramping around. I like that no one knows my name. There are full days sometimes when James and I don’t exchange a word. Those days it’s like we’re pre-civilization, like we invented our own automobile and Coleman cookstove and drew these topography maps. It’s like we’re Adam and Eve, unclothed and imperfect after the fall, only we never have to leave Eden until we’re out of gas.

Out here, time passes like liquid. Moments change shape and form constantly. Hours drip from our temples quick as sweat sometimes. Minutes seep into our pores, moisturizing us with a deep understanding. We know things now. Things that only silence can tell.

We don’t know All. Not yet. We try to sit and understand, but understanding comes only in sudden, fleeting flashes, hot to the touch. So why, that eternal question of why are we out here, we don’t know yet. We just know that we are.

I took a picture once, with a disposable 35mm Kodak single flash camera. It was of a great big canyon in Arizona, a place we couldn’t seem to leave. After the photo was developed, I taped an empty thought bubble above the landscape but couldn’t think of anything for it to say. I wanted it to be art. I wanted to give it meaning.

In frustration, I mailed the photo to my parents’ house and completely forgot about it. I was on a farm in the Sierra Nevada when my father sent it back to me unannounced. I stared at it for a long time, remembering that place, my intent.

The picture tells the story of a couple of kids looking to the wild for answers, while all the time putting words in its mouth. The earth doesn’t have words. And neither do I, quite, for what I’ve experienced.

That’s all right. Pictures might equal a thousand, but words are cheap. Experiences transcend. I learned that, from the Arizona canyon and also from my disposable camera. Everything is at the same time bad and good.

We live in a tangible world of wordless truth. That’s something I know. We all must find our bodies out among the rocks and plants and animals that we’re made of. I’m convinced of that. It’s the only way we can know the meaning of home.

Words by Rachel Goldfarb