Spinning and Being Spun

What comprises the life ready for death? Surely crumbs and unmatched socks are not mortal sins of commission or omission. But what of a disregarded career interest or the seed of a creative project abandoned without water or light? On one of those points will God note a hole in the universe, however tiny, and thereafter regard me with a tone of disappointment? Have I done the work I was made for?

Appears in Fall 2010 Issue: Making the most of college (fifth annual)
September 1st, 2010

To leave on a trip is a kind of dying. In fact, it may be the closest to death a person can come while still alive and well. The plans for all I will finish before walking out the front door and boarding the plane are sweeping; it is not enough that my suitcase is packed. I habitually regard these moments of leaving as due dates by which time my life will be in order, a goal that is, of course, never met. The life that must be ordered rolls forward quickly in those pre-travel days, and the minute arrives after which nothing more can be done.

More minutes please.

No, the minutes granted must be enough, whether or not they are.

I sit in seat 18C on a morning flight from Minneapolis to Albuquerque. From there I'll take a shuttle van to Santa Fe, this journey's final destination. Ten days away from paid work and at a different kind of work, a graduate school residency, an interlude and expense any financial planner would tell us we could ill afford. My luggage is stowed away in the plane's cargo hold. The packed clothes were washed: one checkmark off my pre-travel to-do list. I sewed three buttons on two blouses and repaired a dropped hem: three more checkmarks. I bought toothpaste and dental floss, granola bars and almonds.

"Just under the wire before I leave, here is the first draft manuscript," I wrote in an e-mail to a client late the night before. "Now to finish packing," the sign-off.

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