I’ve been meaning for over a month now to write about Vietnam, but every time I sit down to do so the words slip away. Maybe I need time to digest, I told myself. The trip needs to coalesce, to firm up.

But it never did. When I think on Vietnam, all I see are fragments, moments.

Maybe that’s because of the force of nature that is Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City — a never-stopping sea of people and scooters and red flags and little plastic stools on sidewalks. …

Four years ago for our honeymoon, we traveled to the Grand Teton National Park. I fell in love with the Tetons immediately, head over heels. Teeth rising straight out of the earth, fierce and abrupt, like a hand simply slipped underneath and pushed. Yet the Tetons were familiar in their own way–like how a child would draw mountains. Flat land, series of triangles, nothing in between.

Last week I attended a talk by Daniel Handler at Hugo House. Handler was witty and intelligent and generous (and the topic, “bewilderment,” fascinating). During the Q&A, someone asked how many drafts he typically writes. If memory serves, he said three or four. What stuck out was his quip about second drafts:

You think, I’m just going to fix this crown molding. And then you step back and realize you have to burn the house down. — Daniel Handler

I laughed at the truth of those words; simultaneously, I wanted to cry and rage and despair at the truth of…

Walking through the labyrinthine streets of the Plaka neighborhood in Athens, you don’t have to know that people have walked here for 7,000 years — you can feel it. Cobblestones worn by millennia of footsteps, the smell of roasting meat, the hot fecund air sticking to your neck. That citadel looming above the city, the Acropolis, icon of Western civilization that millions flock to every year — that was once new. The people who lived here watched that being built.

Empty your heart of its mortal dream. -William Butler Yeats

Have you heard of “thin places”? It’s originally a Celtic term — the idea that some places on earth are “thin” and therefore closer to “the other side,” whatever that might be.

Ireland is one of those places. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s a difficult feeling to describe — it’s like you want to enter it, but there’s no “it” to enter. A line I wrote in my travel journal sums it up: “I want to walk away into the mist and leave everything worldly behind.” …

Get Lost

Sometimes you take a wrong turn and find yourself on a gravel road in an unknown mountain pass with no AC.

Mount Adams vuew from Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington

Like last year and the year before, we knew we wanted to head east — out to the desert, where muted rainbow hues splash the landscape and molasses-thick air slows down everything. Painted Hills, our final destination. One thing we knew — we damn sure weren’t taking I-5, the boringest stretch of highway in the entire country. Only problem — the GPS disagreed. It was determined to route us down 5. So we got creative. We forced the route…

What once would induce boredom brings on something new and foreign; you become unfocused.

Like any born-and-bred American, road trips are in my DNA. Growing up, they were an integral part of family vacations. We never did any truly epic routes — the longest was Seattle to Santa Monica, with a $20 bribe on the line if my sister and I refrained from asking “Are we there yet?” — but there were numerous shorter trips. Bellingham, Oregon, Idaho. The Pacific Northwest was well-explored from the confines of an ‘89 Honda Civic.

My parents were pros: a white plastic bucket sat…

This is what happens when you travel to a yurt in the desert and read Barry Lopez.

Drive east on highway 90, past suburbia and floating bridges until you hit the top, the mountain pass with the ski resort to the north and the long lake to your south. Everything looks the same for a while, until suddenly the trees stop. One second they’re there, the next, they’re not. You’ve left one Washington and entered another — the alien half, the desert half.

The Columbia river gorge at George, Washington. Photo by LD Oxford.

Time in the desert slows. Your walking is different, your breath is different — languid, pronounced. Not labored, just more aware. …

You can’t say no to The Bartender.

“Can I help you?”

“Oh, we were hoping to get a drink at the bar, but it looks like it’s full?”

“One moment.”

The bar was incredibly inviting — hexagonal tile on the floors, dark wood at the bar and dark leather on the booths. Huge mirrors reflecting the electric light. A necessity in Stockholm in January, when the sun sets at 3:30pm and there are only 6 hours of daylight. …

L.D. Oxford

Writer seeks inspiration and procrastination. Find more at ldoxford.com

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