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Escape routes (10/05/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Everywhere I go, there I am!

Reality is a middle-class, American wife pushing buttons all over her ultra-convenient home. Reality is an old woman, bent and richly tanned beneath the brim of a straw hat, laboring in the rice paddies elsewhere. Realities can reveal gross injustices.

Israeli author David Grossman has used his writing to shed light on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He writes, “At an age when parents in other parts of the world are telling their children the facts of life, we have to deal with the facts of death.”

Reality is confusing. Is it like “yours,” “mine,” and “ours?” I looked up antonyms for reality, and now I get it – kinda. Antonyms reveal what reality isn’t: a lie, myth, misrepresentation, pretense, and a chimera, (that I had to look up.) It means delusion, fantasy, daydream, ignis fatuus. What? (None of my reference books gave me that one.)

A word person, I go on searches like that all the time. It keeps my mind off the important stuff, you know - reality.

Let’s say you allow yourself to escape the politics, crimes, natural disasters, and any other disturbing realities, and slip into a serene state of mind for a brief time. Say a sense of adventure, no, wanderlust (which means vagabondage) ushers your mind and body along for the ride, to a space apart from the world spinning out of control. I did it on a whim, one day late in September, as I discovered that date on my calendar was bare!

It was an autumn-fresh, orange and gold - painted morning as I gathered up my ratty corduroy jacket, camera, pen and tablet, and a thermos of Earl Grey and ran away (which means the heck with lunch and laundry can wait!) Oops! I noticed the van was “on empty.” Okay, so I filled the tank without the usual choice words under my breath about the price, and took off to scan the countryside.

I usually head south to ancient, weather-ridged bluffs of Pilot Mound and Busksnort’s little waterfalls, then onward to the steep, rocky, dusty road where Eagle Bluff spreads its welcome mat at the crest of the hill. There, all I could muster was the brief stroll to the breathtaking lookout to peer through a dizzying, cascading ceiling of treetops that drop to the wending Root River. Though I’ve been there often, every visit is new.

Since arthritic hindrances, and other miscellaneous complaints, are a reality, all I could do was sit on a cement step and daydream about all the places I’ve hiked in the past. So close and yet so far from a rocky, downhill trek to the shiitake mushrooming area. Then there are the rows of splintery benches and a fire pit where students and other groups gather for ceremonies in the forest.

I daydreamed about the deer that had crossed my shadow just breaths away and distant, spirited voices echoing through the trees. Beneath mossy trunks I once knelt to admire the most beautiful maidenhair fern I had seen anywhere. (I didn’t know its name until I looked it up when I got home.) Daydreaming is an escape route from reality. I did it!

One world temporarily exchanged for another space, at will, my visitation that autumn day was likely the bend in the blacktopped, yellow-lined, county road that will eventually be blanketed by tire tracks through a sheet of virgin snow. (This is merely pretense.) Winter never fails to catch me off-guard. I’m usually grasping onto scant remains of autumn.

“Stop the world and let me off” is not an option. Don’t get bitter! Get away! Go on a sabbatical! (Checking my dictionary, sabbatical is a leave from work, especially a paid leave of absence granted, as to a professor, for rest, study, etc.) Me on a sabbatical is definitely a misrepresentation! I was probably experiencing an “ignis fatuus.”

A reality check puts our many blessings here in America in perspective.

Janet Burns has lived in Lewiston all her life. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.  


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