I was looking through the photos on my phone, trying to find inspiration. I landed on the section where I had been taking pictures of pages from a book I’d read this fall called Textbook: Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I wanted to find a line that I might use for a golden shovel poem. I found a few candidates, but then I stumbled on a page that I loved, first for its wittiness, but then for how it connected to me.
Amy had this idea that she might turn the phrase “Penny for your Thoughts” on its head (or tail) by thinking of the penny as the canvas upon which you place a tiny thought. Then, it becomes a penny for your thoughts. Get it? Like the penny is the place where you put your thoughts?
Okay, well I liked it.
But then she needed to come up with little thoughts that might fit on a penny. It was one of those little thoughts that made me want to write today.
Her thought: I just learned the German word fernweh, sort of a cousin to wanderlust; it means “far-sickness, an ache for distance.”
You would have to write very small to get that on a penny, but it strikes me as a great thought.
I have fernweh right now. I didn’t always.
I remember long ago, when I spent my first summer away from home. I was 11 years old. I only felt two big moments of homesickness that summer. The first was when I got a bad cold and had to spend the night away from my cabin mates…in the infirmary. I remember the shiny white walls and the shiny grey floors. No other cabins had any paint on the inside. I suppose it was supposed to feel clean. It felt cold. Being sick was never fun, but being sick away from Mom, away from TV, away from ginger ale and cinnamon toast. That was rough.
The second attack of homesickness came on the night after parents visiting day. I had spent the whole day with my parents, my sister, and another family from camp. We went out to lunch. We swam in the motel’s pool. We ate ice cream. We got to take an indoor shower. Then, we all drove back to camp, assembled in the lodge for a big sing-along as the sun set across the lake.
And then they left.
It was like the stomach drop you feel when your speeding car crests a hill and drops suddenly on the other side. The whoosh of solid ground vanishing beneath you. Back in my cabin, we hid our sniffling, and we talked ourselves to sleep. Our counselor didn’t tell us to be quiet.
Now, in 2021, I have a different kind of affliction. I have a raging case of fernweh, or farsickness. No offense, home, but I really need some space.
I want to go far, be far, be away, far away, find space. We have a vacation coming up, and it would be great to get on a plane, and fly to Australia, but we won’t be doing that yet. We do have plans, though. We’re going to get in the car, Nancy, Farley, and I, and we’re going to drive far…to a state that’s on our state’s “okay to visit” list, of course. Perhaps foolishly in this transition season, we’re heading north. It’s not the ideal time to be in the Adirondacks, but it qualifies as far…and away. And it’s my favorite way to be far away. There will not be many people. I hear the snow is gone. My hope is for mountain paths that aren’t too muddy to travel. We’re staying in a cabin that has trails all around it. I want to walk in woods and hear birds chirping about the changes in the air. I want to hear chipmunks chattering about the human intruders. I want to not hear the highway. I want to inhale mountain air. I want to be out of breath. I want to gaze down in awe from a rocky peak. I want to sit by a fire, hold my wife’s hand, and stare up in awe at a starry sky. I’ll still love you, home, but I’ll celebrate how far away an eye can travel.
I have a fernweh that I will nurse for another 12 days, my April Challenge, and then we’re off, far off.