In Praise of Jet Lag

Beth Ann Fennelly in Orion Magazine:

JetHere are some memories I can claim simply because I was in the right place at the wrong time: In Japan, lifting my head from my hammock to see three monks with surfboards run past, tear off their saffron robes, and plunge into the sea. Sleeping on an unfinished roof in a São Paulo favela beneath a sky bewitched and bollocksed — the Southern Cross replacing the Big Dipper, Orion turning a cartwheel — and being awakened by a crowing rooster. All my life, cartoon roosters have crowed at the dawn, and here — here! — for the first time, I hear it, this rooster, this dawn, this girl called me. In Morocco, abandoning my attempt at sleep and making my way to the hotel’s “nonstop gym” — bathroom-sized, just a lone treadmill, occupied by a small boy (the maid’s son?) curled in slumber, sheeted with a hotel towel. How, while I gazed at him, the Muslim call to prayer came from outside, how the boy’s long eyelashes flicked, how I backed out and padded to my room and crawled into my foreign bed, how I slept and slept and slept.

Of course in all these places I eventually adjusted, my body’s rhythms harmonizing again with Mother Nature’s, and I dined at the dinner hour, stayed awake through the concert’s encore. But looking back, those offpeak, offkilter visions are some of my most strongly etched souvenirs. If there were a remedy to dispense with jet lag, would I take it? Sure thing. In the same way that I’d take one that blocked fevers. In the same way I’d have been tempted to frog leap the hardest weeks of pregnancy. But until that elixir is elixired, what can we do but jet and then lag, wait for our demanding body to sync with the lobby clock, sync with the brain it lifts like a flower on its stem. We might as well marvel as we pass through the two-headed doorway, a door through which we must go, both because we have no way around it and because we must keep moving, because if we lean against the doorjamb, we’ll fall asleep.

More here.