Still, I feared that my reflexive tendency toward flight might somehow backfire in my current circumstances. I couldn't even be sure that my trusted traveling muse would pull me from my current chasm of the soul. I certainly couldn't predict what the wild and unfamiliar might do for my two kids in their shell-shocked state. In setting out on this journey, I knew my children and I would encounter both fear and amazement, the inevitable result of exchanging quotidian sureties and the comforts of routine for bumpy bus rides and motorcycle taxi rides and elephant-back rides and the incessant buzzing of mosquitoes in gecko-squawking tropical nights.
What I didn't know was what kind of inner journey we would all take. Here on the Sekonyer River, Kolya had descended into a withdrawn, contentious teen funk. Zoe had entered her own Heart of Darkness territory, portentous and terrifying. For her, this part of the trip was an odyssey to the archetypes of fear, to a motherless land of poisonous snakes and voracious jungle animals that make little girls disappear without a burp.
Instead of liberating ourselves from the daily reminders of our losses, I wondered, would we all come unmoored completely in these unfamiliar and fearsome settings? Was I being selfish beyond all measure? Had I already pushed the kids too far?
That night, after Zoe had finally been coaxed to sleep by the houseboat's lapping lullaby, I worried about the kids' ability to cope with the stress of such an unfamiliar place. No matter how much grown-ups extol kids' adaptability when we change their routines to accommodate our jobs or our upwardly mobile dreams or our divorces, children are the most reactionary of all creatures. If I so much as cut up Kolya's French toast horizontally rather than diagonally when he was four, he would wail as if I had knocked him off his booster. Even entering his teens, he'd eat the same bowl of cereal every morning, spend every afternoon learning to kick-flip his skateboard, pass every weekend evening with as many friends as could gather in front of a Sony Playstation.
I knew this, knew that molding this routine--the Cheerios mornings, the Friday night popcorn and videos at home, the bedtimes and reading times and Saturday morning chores--was all-important as the three of us rearranged our lives. Traipsing around the world, then, where the unfamiliar became commonplace, suddenly seemed like folly rather than the dazzling idea I had imagined.
Here we were in Borneo, where we had come to see the orangutans of Tanjung Puting National Park, two months into our five-month around-the-world odyssey. I had constructed only the basic thread of an itinerary, which was to take the kids to visit a few of the planet's great ecological wonders that were in danger of disappearing as the consequence of human development. Already the three of us had completed a five-day "walkabout" on an Australian rainforest island, shooed five-foot-long lace monitor lizards away from our tent site, spotted several rare and endangered cassowary birds, scuba dived and snorkeled off the Great Barrier Reef, and climbed the highest mountain in Bali, among other adventures. There were months yet to come, however, including more jungle treks in Vietnam and Nepal, surreal border crossings into Cambodia, and, although we didn't know it yet, the even more surreal events of September 11, 2001, still two weeks away, that changed the tenor of the whole world.
As with any relationship that falls apart, in a marriage it's almost impossible to point to a moment where the unraveling began, which thread caught on which nail and hooked the fabric, so that the next tug and the tug after continued until the inevitable disintegration. So many marriages fail, but they all seem to fail for different reasons--a particular combination of childhood wounds, grown-up disappointments, and maybe even karmic predisposition, unique to each couple.
Copyright 2003 by Daniel Glick. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher PublicAffairs.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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