And then there is the processing of it all. Perhaps I should just be like other people and let the last ten days be what they were: vacation. But I'm not other people and I write to figure out what I'm thinking and so I need to revisit it all. Again.
Ten days ago I was full to bursting with palpable excitement and energy. I had hopes and expectations of a trip that I portended as significant. Three generations were going to pack themselves up and journey together. This was going to be an adventure, dammit!
And, while there is most definitely a place for hope and anticipation, there is a more pressing need to simply be present and that, my friends was the first thing I learned while away.
Early on, I realized that if I didn't stop thinking about where we were headed and focus on where we actually were, I was going to miss the whole thing.
And the whole thing was as big and wide as the Kansas sky.
I found it in the early morning dark and the sharp smell of strong coffee
in the small towns like Knob Noster and Emma
in the bouncing of my dad's head to the driving rhythm of a Mumford & Sons song as the landscape blurred behind him
in the graceful majesty of miles upon miles of wind turbines, jutting upwards and spinning all pinwheel-like
And when the van decided to simply. stop. going
and we were, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere
when my usual response would most likely have been wailing and gnashing of teeth
my son, August, chose to respond with song. I turned from the symbol of ruin, the broken down van on the side of the road, and found my little boy and his ukelele and the dark ribbon of road, buoying me up with improvised melodies and suddenly we were gypsies and this was just the beginning of one grand adventure
And then someone told me to turn around and look and there was the sun, so heavy with orange and red that she couldn't hold her head up any longer and my cheeks glowed and we were all bathed in glory, swelling and sinking right there in the western sky.
That's how it all started, that very first day.
And it could have soured quickly and spoiled the whole brew but there were prayers being whispered and traveling mercies wrapped us right round and we had to smile at the angels disguised as tow truck drivers and state patrolmen.
I learned, on our second day, that even though I want to see and taste and feel the expanse of it all, my ability to truly capture every moment is determined by how I choose to frame them. I take pictures because the lens closes in on those crazy rugged mountains with their spiky backbones and fuzzy pines and it disciplines me to do the same.
I marveled at how thousands of pounds of rock could balance on its head with grace and gravitas and how maybe the impossible wasn't what I thought it was. That maybe, just maybe, I could dare to stand so boldly with dreams blazing and head tilted up and that what might appear as lunacy to some might be catalyst to another.
I stood small and, seemingly, insignificant before a cascade of rock and ripples and found myself with an incredible urge to scream my presence to all of creation. As if, in failing to do so, I would be swallowed up by the hugeness and forgotten. But then I watched as the clouds played hide and seek with the sun and their shadows covered and uncovered the landscape beneath and I saw that there is a time for everything and everyone and all of it is unceasingly beautiful.
On the days that followed, we hiked among rock and ledge and we held our hands up to receive showers of gilded joy. The aspens shook with glory straight up and their quaking sang with a whispering beauty. As the skies turned to slate and dripped tears and the pines took on a darkness that hushed the hills, the aspens began to glow. The leaves were lit with a fire within and we drank up their light, eyes wide open and brimming. It's true...there's gold in them hills.
And we beheld the miracle that is a mountain pine. Roots held fast to rock, exposed to every extreme of weather, it takes the shape of its life experience. Unshielded, it becomes like clay in the hands of the potter wind and it twists and turns and wreathes upon itself. It would seem that such treatment would leave it maimed and disabled but it rallies, in spite of itself. The result is a gorgeous tableau of lines and curves that speak of both struggle and triumph and the beauty that comes from a life fully submitted and fully grounded.
I suppose the trip was truly epic--there were heroines and deeds of great strength and the muses spoke continually to my poet heart. But I think what I took most from this journey was the richness that comes from time well spent. Time with the people you love so much it aches. Time spent keeping your eyes wide open. Time allowed to unfold with wonder and curiosity. Time on top of time.