Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Portable Self

Fairhope Sunset, photo by Susan Stein

I first realized how portable my life is on 9/11/01. I was visiting friends in Los Angeles when the twin towers came down and a certain level of panic and disbelief swept the nation--what would happen next, and where?

It seemed to us all that after New York City, the next target would likely be Los Angeles. I said at the time, "That was their best shot--but it probably wasn't their only shot." Scheduled to fly back to southern Alabama on 9/13 I quickly cashed in my plane ticket--airports felt dangerous, and flights were being cancelled right and left--and grabbed a cross-country bus. I packed my small bag with enough things to get me through a three-day bus ride and checked my big bag all the way back home.

This was the first time I felt I had my life together in a little cocoon that I could take with me everywhere. It was before I even had a laptop, but when I pull my cocoon together now it is just me, a small bag of essentials, my laptop and a kindle stocked with books I can't wait to read. I have a cell phone now, and that goes in my handbag, along with some fruit and a bag of trail mix that I put together from health-food-store nuts and raisins. With this I'm home wherever I am, Fairhope included. With this month in a moderate climate, I keep up with New Paltz, Rosendale, and Kingston through the Internet, the television, and phone calls from my daughter.

I brought some work to do. This morning I'll read a script a filmmaker in High Falls asked me to read for suggestions on how to make the female characters more sympathetic. (I like that assignment.) I'm going to the library later to see what books I can find about 19th century women's rights advocates, in research for a project that might become a book or books in the future. I've got a dozen of my books in a carton in my car to sell or give away on demand. There is more call for them here than in New Paltz, for sure. In New Paltz, by the way, you can order either or both on amazon).

Does everybody carry his life around this way? To some degree, I'm certain he or she does in this century, this point in history. It may not be as conscious, or contrived, in other lives, but in mine it's become a deliberate effort, even when going as close as the post office. I ask myself what portion of my portable self will I need on this trip? This comes from a lifetime of bringing wrong items and leaving behind right ones. But the principle is the same. 

I've got my foot in both worlds, a life in both places, and a self that I take with me everywhere. Don't you?


  1. I don't, but it's a seductive description of personal liberty. Some of us can really appreciate the vicarious opportunity you provide! Nice piece.

  2. Nice. I've kept a 'bug-out' bag for some-time.

  3. Any minute you can split. Right?

  4. Not my plan--but you can take it that way.

  5. A simplified life is a much easier life. Keeping too much "stuff" is just adding anchors. I admire your success in being portable. I'm still working on it.

  6. My kit would have to include at least one cat, so that complicates things a bit. Home is wherever Tom and the cats are, so if he also includes one cat in his kit and we travel together, we're set. But I certainly endorse the idea of traveling light.

  7. A "bug-out bag"--Love that!

    I used to say when heading out on a trip (esp with our children): If we don't have it, we don't need it.
    Course that wasn't always true...but mostly.