Learning What I Didn't Know I Wanted to Know

Blue highwaysOne startling recognition of being 39 is that when my parents were my age I was a senior in High School. I remember my dad around that time reading and recommending the book Blue Highways. I took him up on his offer and entered into William Least Heat-Moon's chronicle of three months traveling the back roads of America. 38 years old, and adrift in life, he christened his van, Ghost Dancer, and proceeded to discover his voice amidst two calendar cafe's and back road strangers.

Toward the end of the book he observes;

I can't say, over the miles, that I had learned what I had wanted to know because I hadn't known what I wanted to know. But I did learn what I didn't know I wanted to know.

That resonates with me as I think back on our year. We didn't have a list of discoveries we expected to make. In the midst of feeling adrift in mindless consumption, we charted a course off the beaten path and have learned mostly what we didn't know we wanted to know; how to make butter, the ease of walking to school and work, the surprising sweetness of mashed rutabagas, how to make a flamingo pinata, the harsh reality of an epic hail storm, the ability to get by, how to cut up a whole chicken, what it's like when all your socks have a hole in them...

That book and quote have also got me wondering if this whole experiment has something to do with being a 39 year old guy. Maybe my 39 year old dad handed me the book about a 38 year old wanderer, as if to say, you'll be in your late 30's some day too. All I have to say is if the most rebellious thing I do in mid-life is take a Master Food Preserver Class, I think I'm doing OK.