Prompt 209. Yearning for More
& a prompt on youthful adventure by Garth Brown
A few nights ago, one of those auto-curated photo montages popped up on my phone—a collection from the fall of 2015, when I was just setting out on my road trip. The timing was interesting, because fall is my favorite season and has always inspired in me a yearning for adventure, be it camping or a road trip up to Vermont, and between the onset of autumn and those photos, that old yearning reared its head. I was also reminded of how lost and in-between I felt then—how raw and peeled open and uncertain—and struck by the thought: I feel like I’m in that exact place again.
That feels so strange to say, since so much has changed in the last seven years. Back then, I had endless yearnings: to find love, to have a home of my own, to write a book, to establish a career. Miraculously, I have found all those things, but I’m still yearning. It’s different now, in that it’s not specific things, just the word: more. That’s the bittersweetness of being granted your wishes, then facing the prospect of losing them. I love my life—my family, my husband, my sweet new dog, my friends, my home, my garden, my work, and this beloved community—and I want to be able to enjoy that life, today and tomorrow and for many years to come.
But with this illness and all the treatment side effects, I can’t rely on my body from hour to hour, much less day to day or week to week, which makes planning or making commitments so difficult. It’s strange to have a sense of urgency to make and do and see, but to also have a body that often just can’t. It’s a particular kind of entrapment.
So here at the beginning of fall, instead of embarking on some grand adventure, I’m rejoicing in the moments where I can enjoy a small one. One day last week, while out at my farmhouse, I woke up feeling… well, feeling like I hadn’t just consumed a dose of rat poison. I have two electric bikes, and that afternoon, my friend Kristen and I hopped on and started speeding down the winding country roads, past babbling brooks, under covered bridges, up into the hills. After awhile, we stopped at a plant nursery with a little outdoor bar and lounge and had cocktails—something I hadn’t done in a very long time. By the time we left, the sun was setting, and I felt almost giddy. That afternoon, I’d had more.
For today’s prompt, we have a meditation on youthful adventure and that yearning to see the world, and how sometimes it’s so different than we expect. It’s by the writer and farmer Garth Brown, and it’s absolutely gorgeous—so please read on!
Hitting the metaphorical road,
Some Items of Note—
In case you missed the latest installment of Dear Susu, my advice column for paid subscribers, I answered a question from “A Concerned Dad,” who wonders how to deal with his son’s resistance to unsolicited advice. You can read it and submit your own question here!
We’re a month into Threads, our new community space for the Isolation Journals, and we’ve started a Friday tradition: a collective gratitude list of small joys that’s become the best part of our week. I hope you’ll get the app and join us!
Prompt 209. No Reason to Stay by Garth Brown
A busy shift spent over three deep fryers coats hair and skin and clothes with an invisible film of grease. If beer-battered cod features prominently on the menu, the smell of fries will be tinged by a persistent dockside aroma. No one enjoys smelling like a day-old takeout bag washed up on a beach, but the real hazard is the way the scalding oil splashes up when a novice clumsily drops in a chunk of battered fish.
“Fryer bite,” said Chris from over at the salad station when he saw the rising blister on the back of my hand. It was my second week as a line cook at Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse. Under the stress particular to a no-stakes job, I was still moving faster than I needed to, as if something weightier than the dining pleasure of a four-top from Dubuque depended on my ability to stay ahead of the burgers coming off the grill.
I slapped a bandage on the burn and kept working while Chris hummed along to “Cherish.” He had perpetually bloodshot eyes, a goatee, six kids, and a conviction that effective contraception didn’t exist. Somehow he managed to stay ahead of the lunch rush despite his crouching down and peering past his tickets into the dining room, where a dozen Madonnas on a dozen televisions cavorted in the surf.
This was the day’s final cruise ship. Each brought a surge of tourists precisely ten minutes after docking, and I had four baskets of fries bubbling away before any of them had a table. They looked happy, with dissipated smiles from a vacation going as planned, though I didn’t understand why they would trade snow crab and Bloody Marys and the vastness of Alaska as a backdrop for the dim confines of Humpy’s.
Of course, I was every bit as much a tourist, having driven to Anchorage on a whim, arriving after endless days on the ALCAN highway. I had no reason to be there and no reason to stay. In the great tradition of painfully naive young men, my journey had been propelled by an inchoate desire for an experience of such purity that it would delineate everything that had come before from everything that would come after.
Instead, I spent my days frying up frozen corn dogs and miniature crab cakes, and what little I learned came from watching: watching a landlord’s tricks for chiseling free a security deposit, watching the way a two-liter bottle filled with gasoline, when aimed at a fire and jumped on, explodes and turns the jumper’s legs into a torch, watching the way a few bad choices will circumscribe a life.
Toward the end, the only daylight I saw was on my fifteen-minute break. I’d put on my coat and hat and take a mug of weak coffee out back and watch it steam up into the pale sky. I only worked at Humpy’s for six months, but the scar on the back of my hand took years to fade.
Your prompt for the week:
Chronicle your first attempt at growing up—at wrenching yourself free from the familiar and throwing yourself into something new. Write about what you expected, and how that matched or mismatched with reality.
Garth Brown lives on a farm in central New York alongside cows, sheep, pigs, a dog named Oban, three cats, and his family. Most weeks he writes about a problem with the food system, the chemistry of spontaneous hay fires, or whatever else catches his interest. He has contributed to Front Porch Republic, Mother Earth News, and the New Farmers Almanac.