I’m on my way to Florida to visit, experience, photograph, and write about a colony of exotic, feral monkeys on a river in the central part of the state. This is the first part of a project I’ve cooked up involving several trips into nature to find wildlife I’m drawn to see and learn about.

I’m taking my act on the road, in a way. Intentionally, and not just for fun.

We’ve been on the road for half an hour and I feel almost none of the joy or anticipation I usually feel at the beginning of these trips. I try not to chastise myself for how I feel, so I’m just sitting back and noticing it, and letting it be. What I do feel is anxiety. There are probably all sorts of reasons: the holidays were hectic. My son is on a road trip of his own. Pets are with (capable) caretakers. We just dropped Travis’s parents at the airport. It’s rainy and gloomy and foreboding. Money is tight and I’m doing that thing where I panic about it. Everything is morphing and shifting, and I want to cling to the raft. My mind is really good at playing the disaster reel.

Of course, this entire trip is a result of a different kind of anxiety. I spend a lot of time straddling the ridge between two valleys of anxiety. On the one side is the terror of an unlived life, and on the other side is all the fear involved in living the one that’s been calling me: financial insecurity, dangers of highways and weather and wildlife, abject failure, utter destruction. A parade of vague horribles.

What if the house isn’t there when I get back?

What if something happens to me while I’m on the road?

What if everything goes to hell because I went on this trip?

But what if I don’t go? More nights awake at 3 a.m.

So each side is a sheer drop and this ridge has been crumbling for a long time. So this trip is about having picked which valley to swan dive into.

Will I fall on my face? Will I get my ass kicked by a monkey? Will my house be there when I get back? Will the words come like they usually do, or now that I’ve turned my nature travel into something “serious”, will they flee my brain like tiny literary refugees?

Let’s find out.

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