When you drive in perpendicularly to the busy highway after seeing no population for 100 miles, it is gratifying to see people and stores again. You know better of course, but it is enjoyable to put that aside for the moment.
If any place were the modern equivalent of the old stage coach stop, it would be the McDonalds, convenience store, and gas station. Cars drove in and out in a hurry; it was like being back in the "real world." It really is true what they say: 'busy-ness implies purpose in people's lives.'
I sat in my van, soaked up the free Wi-fi, and compared all the different motor vehicles coming in off the highway. Something grabbed my eye as not quite fitting in. It was a half-lab dog, a lactating female mother dog, presumably. She wandered around from the door of the McDonalds to the gasoline pumps, and somehow avoided being run over. Apparently she had experience. She seemed quite professional, friendly, and got attention from the suckers.
But she wasn't scoring much food. All of a sudden the pathos of this hit me: here was the reality of being in "harmony with nature." For a female that means being constantly knocked up, and desperate to feed a new litter of pups. Imagine what sort of condition the pups were in. Nowhere could the Darwinian struggle for existence be more grim for a mother dog and her pups than on an Indian reservation or some other third world country.
So I softened and bought a $1 burger for her. When her vacuum-cleaner tongue touched my hand with the food in it, I was alarmed to see a bloody wound around her neck, as if she had had a biting collar on, and desperately struggled to escape it. (Think of that the next time you are visiting a pile of rocks in a national monument, and the white suburban PC college-educated ranger or volunteer is rattling on about this, that, and the next thing being 'sacred to the Native American.')
But even when a hungry dog's tongue touches your hand, a hand holding Survival itself, you are remarkably separate, as if inhabiting two parallel universes.
In the "Tholian Web" episode in the third season of Star Trek, Spock explains the importance of the "Interphase" in getting the Captain back alive.
Picture it this way, Mr. Chekhov. We exist is a universe which coexists with a multitude of others, in the same physical space. For certain brief periods of time, an area of their space overlaps with an area of ours. That is the time of "interphase", during which we can connect with the universe of the other ship...Silly science? Sure, but that isn't the point. Science fiction provides metaphors and modern myths: it personifies the universal. We can't live without some of that.
A multitude of parallel universes overlapping in physical space, for short periods of time... Doesn't that account for much of the special-ness of travel? Think of some of the semi-classic travel movies: "Stagecoach" (1939) which made Monument Valley and John Wayne a star. Or "Baghdad Cafe." Or any movie on a ship, or at a desert oasis, like "Casablanca." Or the 'being trapped together' type disaster movie.
Of course the metaphor appears profoundly, but less frequently, in non-travel life. Such as just after the dreaded announcement is made at work, and your cubicle-mate is cleaning out his desk, but you aren't. Or a friend's funeral.
The limiting case of the metaphor might be when holding your mother's hand as she lies dying in the intensive care unit of a hospital, the same hospital where you were delivered many years before.
|My dog playing mommie with someone else's Corgi pup, a couple years ago.|