Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ten days later...what I've learned

I'm back from vacation and it's weird and wonderful all at the same time. I am both comforted and confused by the smell and feel of home after having been gone for days on end. There is even a little grief that comes upon the returning...the end of time set apart and away, contrasted with the realization that life continued on, even in your absence. The sun rose and set, rain fell, people went to work, time marched on...almost as if you being there mattered not. Humbling, it is.

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.


  1. Oh Holly. There was a little something missing here while you were away. Just as the vast expanse leaves you feeling small so your words do me -- in the best way. The world is a more beautiful place because you're in it.

  2. Beautiful! Reminded me of our own family vacations to Colorado when I was a kid (from Topeka).

  3. My goodness, Eyvonne, thank you. I missed thinking out loud in this space but I do believe I am better for having just been quiet. Thank you for joining me here with your words and love.

  4. Shawn, I will most definitely have to return more often. It had been sixteen years since I last visited and that was entirely too long.

  5. Oh the places you've been and seen and crafted into prose. I can't wait to read more of what's marinating in your poet's breath that's longing to skip down all tiptoey on paper into poetic telling of discovery.

  6. Glorious. You took me with you, friend, with these images and words. Thank you. (Sorry about the breakdown - but gotta LOVE that boy of yours. :>)

  7. I love the way you weave words together.
    Beautiful again.
    Thank you

  8. Thank you for always encouraging me, Elizabeth. I love that you are here.

  9. Diana,
    Yes, that boy is something else, I tell ya. God knows what we need. Thank you for your kind words.

  10. This is Beauty! You wrote it out so beautifully and those images ... o, girl!

  11. Thank you, Idelette. And the pictures, they don't even do the experience a lick of justice...had to be there.

  12. What a wonderful adventure. And a wonderful way to express that adventure.

  13. What a beautiful journey for you and for those of us reading your palatable prose, witnessing the glory of our Creator in those photos. You do inspire.

  14. HE inspires. Always.