What a Wanderer Lacks

In one of Thomas Wolfe’s stories (“The Lost Boy”) a man in St. Louis calls to mind how far he is from his home on the East Coast and thinks, “Oh God! but it’s a big country!” Reading that, it occurred to me that I’ve never thought that–even though I’m sitting on a train literally on the opposite side of the Earth from my home–never thought, “Oh God! but it’s a big world!” except that I followed it immediately with, “and I’ve seen so little of it!” Maybe that’s what makes me a wanderer, not something I have, but something I lack: a sense of distance in the negative–so that I never saw a road but I felt a need to find out where it goes, never saw a valley without wanting to sit under those trees and hear the dirt of that path crunching under my shoes–like Tennyson’s Ulysses, eyes always entranced by that “untravell’d world” forever fading before me and leading me further and further into distances I have yet to know.

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