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Home Planet

Posts tagged: San Francisco

Little Souvenirs

Preparing to take a taxi to the Brussels airport, I’ve removed everything from my suitcase and spread it across the bed in my hotel room and I am, one by one, refolding and repacking each piece. Looking at the things I’ve gathered, even though I was trying to be prudent and to remember the charges the airlines level against heavy bags, I realize again how difficult it is for those of us who are susceptible to the romance of ordinary objects. Much more than the expensive souvenirs, we know the little things carry with them the most evocative memories of the places we explore.

Other cities and other countries haunt my house.  I can pull a book of matches out of a drawer in my kitchen and be instantly transported back to a cafe in a faraway place; strong coffee, conversation and an unfamiliar view through the window. Matchbooks are not so common these days and most I find were brought home years ago, but I occasionally still run across one and a tiny flame from Prague or Pennsylvania, will light the barbecue on my very American patio.

I frequently, if I like the scent, slip hotels soaps into my luggage between sweaters or folded pajamas to keep them fresh. When I unpack at home the fragrant soaps go into the linen closet. Again, when I least expect it, I’ll come across a bit of Paris or Brussels or Zurich or San Francisco tucked between pillowcases or folded into sheets.

At each museum I visit I purchase a postcard of the painting or sculpture I loved the most and the cards become bookmarks in whatever book I was reading on the plane or are slipped into travel guides. Some escape the pins on the cork board behind my desk and turn up when furniture is rearranged.

A bottle of wine, wrapped and slipped into a boot in my suitcase, is opened later bringing with it a reminder of a special meal or a special moment in Tuscany. Or Napa.

Now, after a week traveling across Belgium, my bags are full of such odds and ends. The silk scarves I collect as I go, gifts and souvenirs for my family, maps, travel guides and destination pamphlets picked up along the way are added to a few favorite hotel lotions and soaps. Finally, when it is all done I pull out the practical gift given to me last Christmas by my youngest daughter and prepare for the worst. Slipping the portable travel scale over the handle of my luggage I lift it, biting my lip as the numbers flash and then finally stop. Good news. For all my worrying, I am a pound or two under the limit.

That means there is just enough room for the big box of Belgian chocolate.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Taking the Bay View

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

A bridge is more than a way to physically cross from one side to another. Many are works of art, sculptures of steel and wire. And the image of a bridge is a good metaphor for change, for leaving one state and entering another.

As someone crossing into new territory, bridges have been on my mind a lot lately especially as I sit down to write my next Home Planet column. So when I was looking at photos to post on my CAMera travel blog, I came across this image of the Oakland Bay Bridge. It was taken at the end of a June weekend spent exploring San Francisco, on the evening before I was to fly back home.

Like most everyone who flirts with the City by the Bay, I'd fallen under it's spell.

Although I love to travel, I'm willingly grounded for the next few months. My suitcase is in the closet and my passport is put away until spring or even summer. My next big adventure is closer to home, but that doesn't stop me from daydreaming. But I'll write more about that later.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane. Follow her on Twitter at @CAMillsap

Golden Gates

   The tall, cathedral-like arches of the Golden Gate Bridge loomed ahead as I followed the line of cars in front of me. The day was overcast and traffic was shrouded in fog, draped in the mist blowing in from the bay.

    I was a rolling island. All around me a sea of people were buckled into cars and walking on the sidewalks at the sides of the bridge, but alone in the car, behind the wheel, I was singularly solitary. And that was fine by me. 

    There is something about traveling alone that centers the psyche and opens the imagination. It is a rare pleasure.

    There are no distractions; no music, no television, no idle chatter. There is no worry about housework or making dinner or folding laundry. It is a chance to leave behind the matters that worry and distract us.

    For those of us who have spent years, happy years, at the beck and call of a busy family, the idea that we are free to board a plane or a train, that we can slip behind the wheel of a car and simply move away from it all, is exhilarating. The freedom goes to your head when you least expect it.  It’s not that we want to run away forever. It’s just that time away can be good medicine. The luxury of listening to our own minds refreshes and renews us.

    I love my family. I love my home. I like being with the people who mean the most to me. But now and then, when I can arrange it, I take off on my own. No spas. No workshops. No schedule. Just a dot on the map; a plane, train or automobile, and a place to breathe in the peace and quiet.

    On the surface, age has its cruelties. Gravity takes a toll. The years are etched into our faces. We become invisible, overshadowed by the young and beautiful. We learn to find our way without any of the tricks and trappings we relied on when we were just starting out.

    But, as one eventually discovers, time bring its own grace. We discover that on the inside we are always young. We are still who we always have been. And the fine sense of adventure that comes with any journey is evergreen.  

    Travel is the bridge between who we are, who we have been, and the person we want to be. A trip to a new place spans the the years, drawing out memories of where we’ve been and dreams of where we long to go. Each experience is, when you think about it, sweetened by the knowledge that time moves quickly and years have the stronger wings. Fly now, something inside us whispers.

   Passing over the San Francisco Bay and back onto solid ground, I looked back at the Golden Gate in my rearview mirror, at the perfect metaphor for what I was experiencing.

    I know a time will come when I’m bound to my home, or some place meant to be my home, and my wings will be clipped forever.

    Until then, for as long as possible, my life will be a road from here to there.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

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Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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