February is almost done. The cold still grips us, there is still snow on the ground. Thereās been snow on the ground a long time, unusual for us except in the worst winters.
March marks so many things. The month we get the most daylight back. The vernal equinox. My birthday. And this year, significantly, six months since I took my cross-country trip.
Iāve struggled with what to say to cap off the experience. I wrote a lot on the trip and Iāve already written a lot here. Iām pleased with the way I captured the trip in words and pictures. But I need to wrap up, because there is a lot of other stuff going on in my life.
The last few days of the trip were spent with dear friends in Nashville, Tennessee. I got a few days off of driving, off of touristing. I got to be part of a family again, a joyous experience. My friendsā middle son is my godson, and godmother is a role I take pretty seriously, even though I have no models or experience. (I was christened in my grandmotherās home so that my wheelchair-bound grandfather – who died before I turned two – could be there. My parents werenāt Catholic at the time, so they simply asked my grandparentsā Lutheran minister to do the christening. I donāt have godparents, myself.) To me, it was an invitation to join the family in a formal, recognized way. Visiting with them, with their children, is always an amazing experience. At the end of a long trip away, it was another homecoming.
The last day, I drove from Nashville to home in one day. 13 hours, a speeding ticket in southwestern Virginia, an amazing moon and the emptiest trip down Rt. 66 Iāve ever taken. Leaving home, coming home. Rarely have I felt more grateful, or more blessed, than when I pulled safely into my parking lot and took a picture of my odometer. Over 5500 miles, over two weeks, a lifetime of memories.
Iām going to copy a part of what I wrote in my travel journal on September 17, the day before I made the big drive home. Here is what I wrote then:
One day more!
I kind of canāt believe it. Itās almost done. I look forward to being home, seeing my sweet kitties, all my lovely friends – in a way I even look forward to the resumption of routine. The comforts of home, but in the new light I can see myself surrounded by.
I am a person who needs and loves people. I am a person who needs and loves solitude. I am a person who looks in the mirror and likes who she sees. I am a person who over-plans but still takes joy from small things.
I am petty. I love attention. I am responsible. I am strong about some things and strangely weak about others. I canāt take criticism or compliments very well, but Iām getting better. I can speak. I can write. I can manage expectations.
I can forgive myself (difficult) and others (easier).
I have to touch the hot stove. Several times.
I love and I struggle and I fail and I grow.
I am going home. And I am at home, right now.ā
So may it ever be.
For a few years now Iāve tried to take different looks at love on Valentineās Day. First I looked at how much I loved the holiday when I was a kid, when it was about friendship, philia. Then I wrote about agape. The next year I spent time talking about love of family (storge, to keep with the Greek), and the next year I even managed a sort of love letter to myself. In 2012 I wrote a little musing on the first time anyone told me he loved me, at least insofar as I can remember. Last year I skipped it.
Why did I skip it? I canāt honestly remember. Maybe I felt like Iād said all I could about non-romantic love.
Why, for all this time, did I avoid eros? Romantic or āintimate loveā (thanks, Wikipedia!) seemed overdone at Valentineās Day, itās true. As much as I love the concept of love, itās true that the continual crass commercialization of same, the way it is shoved down our throats every year at this time has often made me feel bitter or sad.
Thereās a lot more to it than that, though. A lot more to why Iāve been bitter and sad. Things Iām only just learning to put into words.
The other week I wrote a little bit about some personal history. Part of the long-ongoing repercussions of that for me personally has been a real fear of intimacy. Combined with some other things that happened to me in my late 20s, I spent several years not merely single but nearly asexual, entirely ignoring that part of my life.
What a horrible, ridiculous disservice I did to myself.
There is not a thing wrong with asexuality as a natural sexual orientation or personal lifestyle choice. But thatās the thing, you see – I didnāt make a conscious choice. I shut down a whole important side of myself out of fear. Fear again! What I have let that take away from me. Letās call it what it is: What I have taken away from myself. I am not an asexual person but I lived that way, unhappily, for years.
But this is not supposed to be a downer of a post! Because, please see above, I used the past tense. Iāve been bitter in the past, and sad. But I do love the concept of love. I love philia, agape, storgeā¦and my goodness, how I do love eros.
Itās been a brilliant few years of change for me, probably since about 2008 or so – perhaps not so coincidentally, the year I started making a concerted effort to make positive Valentineās Day posts. Some of the change has come from inside myself, some from outside. Some of it has hurt like hell, some of it has been amazing and wonderful, sometimes itās even been both those at once.
Like love. Like eros. Like the part of me I hid away.
Now for me, eros still exists primarily as an intellectual exercise and, ah, personal expression shall we say. But owning that again, having that again, reminds me of all that I pushed away for too long. Reminds me of the things I want to change so badly for the kids in my human sexuality class: the way we canāt seem to talk about sex and our bodies without this over-arching sense of shame. The way sex still seems dirty or weird or somehow profane. In fact, I am reminded that I believe quite the opposite. Part of the power of sex is the way it allows us to approach something that is close to divine. Does that sound like an overstatement? I suppose it could. But keep in mind the fact that both the free, joyous, consensual sharing of sexuality and other times we approach the divine put us in touch with things outside the usual experience, outside rational thought, inside ecstatic joy, and beyond the realm of articulation.
So I say letās raise a glass to romance, to eros, heck to every hearts-and-flowers cliche weāve ever rolled our eyes at. Letās embrace the speechless wonder of finding that kind of glory again.
I went for a walk this morning, even though it was six degrees outside and the snow-covered ground was hard frozen and unforgiving. Really unforgiving. With the scarf wrapped around my face to protect it, my glasses fogged up and froze over, and it was hard to see. I tripped over a raised edge on the sidewalk and went sprawling, taking it mostly on the left hip and elbow. My water bottle, mostly empty and the remaining water rapidly turning to slush, jostled out of my hands and lay on the sidewalk.
I sat there for a minute, stunned. āOW!ā I said to the pre-dawn silence of the suburban street. āSeriously, that really hurt,ā I said as I brushed myself off and got up. No one was around to hear me, of course. Which meant no one was around to see my spectacular fall. I was grateful.
Sure, I was grateful no one saw me fail so completely at walking down the sidewalk, a skill I really should have mastered in my 41 years. It was great there was no one around to hear me muttering to myself as I picked up my water bottle and gasped at how cold the drink I took was.
But my gratitude goes farther.
Iāve been scared to fall all my life. I never learned to ride a bicycle, Iāve never been confident at ice skating and only marginally so at roller skating, and the one time I tried skiing it was a disaster. As I walked away from my fall this morning I laughed to myself. āSee?ā I said. āThat wasnāt so bad!ā
There is a value in failing. There is a value in trying things that you are scared to do.
Another reason I was grateful was that I wasnāt scared to be on that walk at all. I could be. For a long time in my life I would have been. When I was ten years old, my mom went for a walk one morning in our calm, peaceful suburban neighborhood. But that day, on that walk, a man attacked her and raped her. At the time I could not imagine what this would be like. I can only remember waking to a house filled with the sound of strangers talking, strangers who were police, who were there for a reason that I did not understand. No one could or would explain to me what happened. I didnāt know what ārapeā meant. I just knew it was bad. I knew it was a thing we couldnāt talk about or say and I knew, somehow, I just couldnāt ask a thing about it.
Of course soon enough I learned what rape meant, at least in terms of definition. It took me longer to learn about what it meant in terms of feeling. Lost feeling, broken feeling, the inability to speak or address anything surrounding that act – its meaning, its consequences, its impact on any of us, most especially my mother.
Her story is not mine to tell and she wouldnāt want me to, but my story is mine to tell. More than one person is harmed when one person is raped. Rape takes away more than health, more than dignity, more than a sense of self, more than you can imagine. Sometimes it takes away words. Sometimes when people start to talk about rape, they are shushed or they are disbelieved or they are not taken seriously, so they stop talking. And then everything shuts down. Every way we can possibly get back what was taken goes away as soon as the words are gone. And the words can take a long, long time to come back.
Every question unanswered. Every fight with my father weighted with unspoken words. Every emotion felt pushed back down. As if feeling the emotion in response was wrong. As if having questions or being scared was wrong. As if anyone, in any way, had done anything wrong at all except the man who raped my mother.
I walked around my freezing-cold hard-ground neighborhood this morning and I fell on my ass. And I laughed. And I didnāt cry, because I have done that. So many times. And it wasnāt even me. But the words were taken away for so long that crying was all I had.
Iāve written before about the opportunity Iāve been given, to teach human sexuality to K-1 children at my church. The class started last week. People have a lot of questions when they hear about starting sex ed so early. The biggest one is āWhy?ā And part of the answer, a big part of the answer, is: to give them the words. To give them the knowledge of who they are, of what they possess, of how to care for and respect and defend every single part of themselves. To allow them to know that no one should be permitted to take that away. And to give them the words to say āNo.ā And āmine.ā And to ask for help, and to feel no shame.
I went back to my travel journal, to see what I wrote about driving from the middle bit of Oklahoma over to Memphis, Tennessee. The answer is: not much.
On that drive, I got very caught up in the audiobook. I was on the fourth book of the Dark Tower series and it was all very exciting. And mainly, I was driving with a goal, not just to be enchanted with what was around me. And the landscape had basically changed back, too – back to something pretty similar to home. I have very few pictures from Oklahoma and none at all from Arkansas. The only stops I made were to eat and fuel up the car and use the bathroom. No sudden need to stop the car to take pictures, no looming other-worldly vistas to take my breath away.
And the more it looked like home, the more I thought of home. Of friends I missed, of my sweet kitties, of my familiar bed and shower and my own kitchen where I could cook whatever I liked, not subject to the whims of road food. Yeah, it was clear: almost time to be done with this particular adventure.
In Memphis, I stayed with my friend Val. I hadnāt seen her in person in years, so we got to spend a lot of time talking and catching up, and it was great! The internet is good for a lot of things, but it doesnāt really replace conversation. With the people we care about who arenāt close by, it does make it much easier to stay in touch, though!
We talked and talked and talked, and then Val and I went out to meet her friend for dinner at Corkyās. I had ribs, which were SO GOOD but holy crap, there was a LOT of food on that plate and I was in no way prepared to finish it. Then we made our way home and talked until something absurd like 1 a.m.
I had waffled on going to church the next morning, since it was Sunday and I had a short drive. But I realized as Val and I were talking that as important as church is to me, there are other things that I am called to do, and talking and tending the friendship felt like the right call. Finally sometime before noon Iād managed to get showered and get the car loaded up again. I said goodbye to Val and headed out.
I was only going as far as Nashville, about 200 miles. Itās a drive Iāve done before, and it was easy. Which was good, because I had cramps like nobodyās business, and as short as the drive was it was probably one of the more miserable driving days I had. I got to the Dugansā in Nashville by mid afternoon, got the tour of the new place, and marveled at how at home I felt. Another home, in a string of welcoming homes, on my way to the home Iāve made. Not a bad way to end this odyssey at all.
I have been keeping a journal more or less consistently since i was eleven years old. Sure, there are some gaps. Sure, the early years are generally laundry lists of crushes and daydreams and pop songs. But it was a constant thing in my life for a long time. For about a decade, though – most of the Aughts – I didnāt really keep a personal journal. I had my LiveJournal, which did function like my old journal a little bit, but then also functioned very differently. It was a social place, where things got planned. I might take time to reflect, but often I didnāt. I did occasionally write locked āprivateā posts visible only to myself, when I was trying to work through things.
At the end of 2009 I started keeping an offline journal again. (I had made sporadic attempts to do that in the past but it had never stuck.) This arose primarily out of dealing with the grief of having lost my father that September. I was in therapy at the time, and I know that writing at home helped me to sort out thoughts to share with my therapist, and let me get a handle on working on my problems/issues/grief by myself. This time, for whatever reason, it stuck. Iāve been fairly consistently writing in my at-home offline journal ever since.
As 2013 was drawing to a close, I took a look at my journal document folders. (I do still like to write longhand journals sometimes – I take them on retreats, and trips, like my road trip this year. But the primary way I do it is electronic.) In 2009, I wrote four journal entries: two in November and two in December. The holidays that first year without Dad were a rocky time, and it was good to be able to write it down. In 2010, I wrote 74 journal entries! In 2010, I also stopped going to therapy, because it had been about a year since Dad died and I was doing pretty well overall. I am sure that resuming my writing habits had something to do with that too. My therapist agreed with my decision. In 2011, I wrote 86 journal entries. Busy year! A lot of things were changing. Looking back now, I can see where some things were interesting precursors of other things to come. I was recovering from a massive, I mean truly gargantuan crush Iād sustained more or less since late 2009. (Woe betide the young man who captures my fancy around a time of loss. My emotions will turn into something resembling a sticky glue-trap.) (As if theyāre very far from that usually, I mean, have you met me?!) (Wait, maybe you havenāt. Despite my rational exterior, I am chock full of simply rampaging emotions, most of the time.) (The rest of the time I am napping, or doing yoga, or once again abusing parentheses.)
After all that trending upward, in 2012 I only wrote 56 journal entries. Without taking the time to re-read all of them, Iām going to chalk that up to becoming a more actively engaged person and citizen. That was the year I volunteered with Marylanders for Marriage Equality, starting in February and lasting through the election in November. That was also the year I joined the Unitarian Universalist church, and we are very invested in the idea of action upholding faith. It was a busy, exciting year and Iām glad I took the time to write as much as I did, even if it wasnāt as much as in years past. Of course across all these years I had this blog also, which wasnāt always a great repository of reflectionā¦but sometimes, it was.
Then, my friends, we come to 2013. What a year, hunh? Let me tell you what a year it was: in 2013 I wrote the heretofore unheard-of number of 104 journal entries. Yes. One hundred and four. From January 3 through December 31, Iād write a journal entry on average about every 3.5 days. In November, even when I was writing a blog post every single day, I still wrote ten journal entries. They werenāt always so evenly spaced, no. I wrote one journal entry each in February and in April. And in July? Dear readers, in July I wrote 23 journal entries. Twenty-three!
What was going ON this year? Well, you know a lot of it. I am thinking and reflecting on pursuing a vocation. I lost my sweet kitty Katie to cancer before she turned four. I planned and went on a 17-day road trip that spanned more than 5500 miles. I wore a bikini for the first time in my life. I trained to teach human sexuality to elementary school aged children. I got very active in my church. I met new friends. I reconnected with old friends. I decided to go back to school. I read Infinite Jest even though it took me like six months.
All that, and more. So much more. Thereās plenty in the offline at-home journal that I wonāt share, because that is the point. If it were all stuff Iād be happy to share, why then I might have just written 104 blog posts! Which I certainly did not do.
Instead of summing up exactly what I did in 2013, then, I can direct you back to the posts I did write. I will finish writing about the trip very soon too. And I will say that I look on increased reflection and time/energy for writing as both a positive and a negative thing. I do sometimes face the very real danger of spending too much time locked up inside my own head. Thatās why it is important to me to stay active and engaged in things other than my own interior life. They are both very important, and I think in 2013 all that writing I did helped me start doing the real work of keeping them in balance. I know itās going to be work that continues for a long time.
What does 2014 hold? I have a few ideas, but I know there will be many surprises. I had some amazing surprises in 2013. I know this year Iāll go back to school, continuing on this journey Iāve started. I know Iāll continue to work on balance, on being the friend/daughter/sister/aunt/loved one that I know I can be. I know Iāll fail some, and succeed some. And most of all, I hope I can be all those things without fear. A big part of what I learned in 2013 is that fear is a dangerous tool when over-used. I will continue to work for a healthy relationship with fear, courage, success, and failure. And each and every one of you. (And you too, parentheses.) (I may love you best of all!) (Okay. Thatās just not true.) (What?! Donāt act shocked! You know the semicolon has been my true love, lo these many years!) (Guys, Iām sorry. This is getting kind of private.) (Boom.)
Something I neglected to mention about the National 9 Inn in Roswell, New Mexico is that it marked my final motel-stay of the trip. I had started out the trip by visiting with friends, then Iād hit the big solo swing. That swing ended with my stay in New Mexico, and as I drove off through the easternmost bit of that state and on into the panhandle of Texas, I drove back into visiting mode.
Iāve written before about my worries about hitting ābeauty fatigue,ā and on the road from New Mexico to Oklahoma, that was starting to happen. For one thing, if you go to Google Maps and ask it to take you from Roswell, NM to Duke, OK, you will note that the route doesnāt go on many highways. Nope, it was all state roads and farm roads marching tidily across vast expanses of Texas ranch land. There werenāt many stops. There wasnāt much to see unless you are really, really into ranches and large industrial farms. Which, Iām gonna confess, Iām not.
There was also the whole not-driving-through-towns thing, that meant very few rest stops. It wasnāt a terribly long drive from New Mexico to the bit of Oklahoma I was aiming for, but there really wasnāt a place to stop for lunch. Or a bathroom break. Finally I told myself the next sign I saw for a town with a population of over 1000, I would take that turn. There werenāt big highway signs advertising gas stations, etc. – because I wasnāt on a highway. But I took the chance that Hart, TX would have a gas station with a bathroom – and it did! There was even a tiny convenience store, so I picked up a snack to go with my trail-mix lunch. Then I pushed on. As I got close to my destination, I texted my friend who was letting me stay with her. She recommended the restaurant in Duke (Yes: there is one. Singular.) and I decided to eat dinner there. Perhaps because Iād subsisted on my own road rations all day, perhaps because I was so close to where the beef was raised, but the fajitas I ate in that restaurant are some of the best I ever had!
Lots of the folks I stayed with on this trip are people I originally met via the internet. I started meeting people from the internet in, oh, about 1993, so this isnāt very unusual by my standards. And itās come to be far less unusual by everyone elseās, so when I tell you that this trip was the first time I met the friend I was staying with in Oklahoma in person, you might not be surprised. She was generous beyond belief, because after she had offered me crash space, some other family plans had come up (kidsā football, a family trip to Dallas the next day for a Rangers game), and she had still given me leave to stay with her. She wasnāt even home when I got there, the key was in a prearranged secret location. I let myself in, wrote in my journal, took a little walk around the neighborhood, and went to bed because she and her family were going to be in pretty late. The next morning, I woke up at 6 a.m. to meet the people I was staying with, for approximately 30 minutes before they headed off for their day trip to Dallas. āHelp yourself to breakfast,ā they said, āand lock the door behind you!ā
What amazing, lovely, generous people. Yes, I was slipping out of the big dramatic scenery, the most awe-inspiring near-alien landscapes, the sweeping mountains and dramatic rock formations. But there are plenty of other things to be awed by in this world, and across this enormous. Friendship, generosity, connection, and a spirit of hospitality. I was still a few days away from being in my home, but I ended my trip staying in a series of warm, welcoming homes, and Iām so grateful.
Next stop: Memphis, Tennessee!
It was Friday, September 13. I woke up at 3 a.m. in the National 9 Inn in Roswell, New Mexico, suddenly overcome by a hunger so profound it would under no circumstances allow me to go back to sleep until I had a handful of trail mix. Fortunately, after that I did manage to fall asleep again, until 7:30 when the alarm went off.
Iād come into Roswell in the dark and rain, and all the aliens on the shop signs and billboards seemed vaguely menacing. When I let myself into the room, the key-card was hinky, and it took a few tries. Then I spent the first half hour re-closing the various end-table drawers until I realized that the whole floor must have been on a slight tilt, or something, and the drawers would slowly, silently re-open after having been shut. The TV remote was quite literally made out of cardboard, a note on same stating it was for āhygiene purposes.ā How hygienic, I wondered, could a remote be? Then it occurred to me to wonder how Unhygienic a remote could be. Then I felt like taking a shower.
When it came to showers, the National 9 Inn in Roswell, New Mexico wins the coveted āBest Water Pressureā award. The shower also had a nice window, all that pebbled glass you canāt actually see through of course, but it meant I got a sunlight-filled shower. If you havenāt had one of those, they are awesome, and you should try to have one as soon as you can.
However, when it came to continental breakfasts, the National 9 Inn in Roswell, New Mexico took the decidedly un-coveted āMost Abysmal āBreakfastā Spreadā award. With a baseball hat jammed over my unruly locks and some pants thrown on over my jammies (read: underwear) and flip-flops on my feet, Iād stumbled over to the lobby. I spent approximately 45 seconds surveying two ancient, scratched-up Rubbermaid containers with cereal in them and the lonely half-loaf of white bread, then I turned heel and went back to my room. I had breakfast biscuits and a banana in there, then I had my sunshiny shower and packed the car.
It was time to go see this UFO museum.
Roswell, of course, has quite a reputation. Since The X-Files is my favorite TV show of all time, of course I couldnāt be in town and not go to the UFO museum. I thought about walking, but it was over two miles, and I didnāt think the motel would like me leaving my car there after I checked out. So I drove, and I went and paid my $5 admission. It was worth every penny. There was a lot of very thorough documentation, in the form of newspaper articles and 40-years-after-the-fact interviews with people who were pre-adolescent at the time of the ācrash.ā Around July 4, 1947, something or other crashed into a field near Roswell. Some odd finagling occurred with the remnants of the crash, and the rumors of a āflying saucerā that had been seen paired up with news of the crash and a conspiracy was born.
Alongside the evidence, however, was plenty of pop culture. āArtistsā interpretationsā of the crash site and the crashed vehicleās inhabitants. Paintings, photos, loving collages all with that familiar big-eyed alien head. There were statues. There were mobiles. There was a penny-squishing machine, so of course I got one of those.
Then, the gift shop. Magnificent! So many postcards! I picked up a dozen or so, and a few other gifts besides, then I finally bid farewell to the museum. I was feeling peckish, and wanted to mail my postcards from Roswell, so I found a nearby cafe. With my coffee and a snack, I sat down to write postcards. Then I asked the GPS where the post office was, so that the postcards would be postmarked Roswell, and I dropped them off.
Onward! Next up, my trip through New Mexico (almost as empty as Western Nebraska), the panhandle of Texas (on no highways through no towns of any real size) and into Oklahoma.
Happy Boxing Day! I hope everyoneās had a lovely holiday, no matter how you celebrated your day off work. If you didnāt get the day off work, thank you for your service at the hours no one else wants to work.
This year I took today and tomorrow off. Usually I donāt have leave left, or more likely I am hoarding it up for something in the new year, so I donāt spend it on just some holiday down-time. However, in the future I hope to have the ability to do this again, because what a tremendous idea. Today had no structure. I took a six-mile walk. To balance that out, I ate a cupcake that felt like it was about half the size of my head.
With all this time, I thought, surely I could write a blog post or two. And I have my trip notebook sitting right here, ready to go. I could just leap right in and tell you about my visit to Roswell, NM and the drive from there to Oklahoma. And soon, I will!
First, though, I wanted to recognize a holiday ritual thatās become very important to me over the years. There have been a number of articles this December about the film Love Actually surrounding the 10th anniversary of its release. There are strong words being tossed around against this movie, and in favor of it. Iām not here to defend it to everyone – it will not be to everyoneās taste. It is super white, middle-class, straight, cisgendered. Parts of it are pretty doofy. Whether you love it or hate it, I wonāt judge you for that.
Instead, Iām here to share why watching this movie every year has become one of my favorite personal Christmas traditions. To the best of my ability to determine (thanks, years of far-too-thorough LiveJournal entries!), Iāve been watching this annually since at least 2006. Seven years is definitely a tradition!
I donāt remember when I first saw this movie. I doubt it was in the theater. But I do remember that I picked up a bargain-bin pan-and-scan DVD copy for $5 at Target one year, since I knew I liked it. And every year for the last seven, Iāve watched it at some point during the Christmas season, sometimes even on the evening of Christmas itself.
My feelings about the movie have changed. I tend to watch it by myself. When I started doing that, it was honestly a chance to have a bit of a pity-party for myself. Christmas can be a delightful and lovely time of year, and I do usually enjoy its many charms. Still, it can be a hard time of the year to be alone. I realize most of that is a societal construct: too many jewelry ads, too many sweetly saccharine finding-love-under-the-mistletoe type made-for-Lifetime-TV movies, etc. (Aching, lonely feelings have been part of Christmas for a while, right? I mean, āThe Gift of the Magi,ā anyone!?) Knowing that intellectually didnāt mean it bugged me any less, so for a few years Love Actually was a way for me to indulge in lonely tears for one night, to keep them at bay during the rest of the season. And it worked, too! Iād sniffle my way through the movie and be cheery the rest of the season.
Over the years, though, my attitude toward the movie has changed. Sure, itās a celebration of a certain kind of romantic love. But itās also ā¦not. The movie is bittersweet and funny and fantastical and rooted. Each story line takes its own way of looking at love, and if they are all white middle-class etc. etc. they are also all a little something different than platitudes might have us expect from a Christmas movie.
Or from love itself. Which I suppose is the point of the movieās multiple viewpoints. Love, it turns out, doesnāt solve your problems. Itās not a magic wand. It doesnāt always lead to happy endings. Itās not always where you expect, or in the form you expect.
But love is always a gift. Love has the capacity to lift us upā¦even if itās to face problems love also created. Love is something to welcome, however bedraggled it looks when it shows up on your doorstep. Love is patient, kindā¦complicated, ridiculousā¦sublime, sorrowful. Itās the highest highs and the lowest lows that life offers us. The highs and the lows can both be gifts, I think. Itās hard to remember that sometimes, in the middle of the low bits especially, but I do think itās true.
I shut myself off from more kinds of love than one for a long time. Those are hard doors to re-open, but Iām trying. Iām trying. This year I invited a friend over to watch the movie with me, and sheād never seen it before. We had a blast watching it, I only cried a little, and she loved the movie. Passing around the joy and the sorrow, realizing it goes a little easier when shared – thereās another lesson from this sweet little film.
Whatever movies you love, or rituals you have at this time of year, I hope you get to share them with someone you love. After all, thatās possible even when youāre alone, too.
On this trip, I had a plan, and I didnāt deviate from it very much. The stop at Arches wasnāt originally in there, but I was always going to be driving right past it, so it wasnāt a big change.
The day I visited the Grand Canyon was a long one, but a good one. As I left the park, I pulled over and texted Keith, my friend Amberās husband who was out on the road (doing a MUCH longer trip than me!) for work – heās a professional freelance photographer. Weād looked at each otherās itineraries before we left and figured if there was ever a time we might cross paths, that time would be in Flagstaff. So I texted him, found he was in a hotel not far from mine, and headed back with promises to call when I got there.
How cool is it that I was able to meet up with a friend while we were both on the road, to have dinner a few thousand miles from home? Very cool! I picked him up and we used Yelp to find a little Mexican place. I donāt remember what I ate, but I remember I had a glass of horchata roughly the size of my head. Iād been hiking around at altitude all day, though, so I had a fierce appetite. I remember all of it was delicious, and a very fun evening. I dropped Keith back at his hotel then went to mine and wrote in my journal, then wrote some postcards.
At last I went to sleep and did not MOVE until 5:45 the next morning. Usually I at least roll over of an evening, but not that night, nope. I was utterly wiped out. However, when I did wake up at 5:45, I was in full-on bright-eyed bushy-tailed mode. And I had it in my head that I wished Iād picked up a specific little trinket for a friend back home at the Grand Canyon the day before. Curious, I went to the window and peeked out – it was dawning clear and gorgeous, cloudless – very different from the day before. My park pass was good for seven days. I decided to go back.
That was probably my biggest deviation-from-plan the whole trip. But I was excited about it. I zipped around, showering and packing the car and getting continental breakfast. My so-solid sleep was bolstering me up. The idea of a full day of sunshine was too. Hooray!
I finished packing the car and drove back up to the Desert View entrance. I feel like I got to know that particular stretch of highway very well! I only went as far as the Watchtower viewpoint, the first big one inside the park that had a gift shop. I took a bunch of pictures and got a few more trinkets, then by 10 a.m. I was on the road.
Next stop: Roswell, NM. This drive, across Arizona and New Mexico, was lovely in parts, but I was definitely on my way out of āSudden, mind-blowing sceneryā land. A lot of the trip was on Route 40, which is not a particularly picturesque highway. But it is a very efficient one.
My extra jaunt up to the park again did make this a 600+ mile day, and I forgot that my clock would jump ahead an hour again when I entered New Mexico and joined the rest of the nation back on Daylight Savings Time. So for the first time the whole trip, I did a chunk of driving at night. It also got rainy by the time I got to Albuquerque, so the dark came on a bit early, too. The last hour or so to Roswell, the final 100-ish miles of the trip, were on a small, unlit, rainy highway in the dark. I was a bit creeped out and very tired and I never got a proper dinner because I didnāt realize how un-populated the last few hours were going to be. I had trail mix and stuff so I was fine, but by the time I got to my motel in Roswell I was just done.
It was probably the biggest dive I stayed in on the trip, but it was still clean and sufficient. I checked in and dragged my stuff and myself inside. I unpacked what I could and made another in-room supper of peanut butter and crackers and fruit. I double-checked the hours of the UFO Museum the next day and went the heck to bed. Up next: reflections on Roswell and the joys of driving across that top bit of Texas on very small roads.
In the week since I wrote my last blog post for November, I havenāt written a thing. Not a blog post, obviously, but not a journal entry at home offline either. I havenāt so much as jotted a few notes in a Google Drive document while at work to spend more time on at home.
Itās a busy time of year, but November did teach me I would like writing to be more of a habit. It doesnāt always have to be for public consumption – the vast majority of what I write isnāt – but it is something I am happier for having done.
Tonight seemed like a good time. Itās snowy and icy outside. Isnāt it strange how snow – like so many things – gets more complicated as we get older? I love snow, I do. But my office never closes for it, so the reality is that I rarely get to sit back and enjoy it as an adult the way I did when I was a kid. Today, it was so brilliant and beautiful to be out in it – but the three (controlled) skids I had to steer into on the way home from church and grocery-shopping convinced me that going out to our book club holiday party was probably not the best idea. Not getting to that celebration makes me so sad! Yet I am happy to be inside, warm, with the dryer going and the oven on for a while, to bake brownies for the shelter dinner on Tuesday night. To enjoy, for one afternoon, the look of snow on the trees outside my windows. This morning, sitting in church during our Christmas music service, I looked out the windows at the snow falling gently and was just delighted. To be inside, warm, while snow is falling is so wonderful, and Iām so lucky to be in this position to enjoy it.
I need to finish writing about the trip, but right now I feel pretty in-the-moment, so I think I will leave my trip notebook where it is for now. Iāll take it out later in the week and take on the next part of the adventure. Right now I will try to just keep breathing in this state of contentment.