Onward from Texas, Captain Kiwi hails. After a brief detour in Austin, North calls forth with the naive hope of cooler temperatures and greener pastures. The limits of Dallas spread out toward us like feeler vines, and as the sun set and the vines wrapped around and around us the city grew. Before we knew it we were in the chokehold of metropolitan traffic and the heat of Texas spring. Spring, a laughable thought. There was nothing Springy about the tight grip the heat, cars, sweat and fatigue had on us as we passed through downtown. On any other day we would be making camp, hoisting the poptop and rearranging bags below. But the North, and the prospect of simply leaving this giant state was too much temptation. We met Jamie’s old friend, Susan, for dinner, a brief and pleasant respite from traveling. And then we drove on.
We drove on and Eliot cried. Night had already fallen. It was too much for his little body, the sitting, the heat, the monotony. We pulled off and found an empty parking lot. What came next was the type of memory one hopes to hold tight for the future when anxiety and doubt settle in one’s heart. We poured out of the van and let the cooler air refresh us. The open space and soft parking lot lights let us feel vulnerable and comfortable and alone. At first Jamie was just trying to make Eliot laugh, jumping up, kicking a water bottle across the asphalt, but then we were all in on it. We were running in circles around each other, screaming at the tops of our lungs, kicking trash like soccer balls to each other. There was a shopping cart corral, empty. A little too empty. We ran to it and slid through the poles, climbed to the top and jumped off. All the while Eliot laughed until he was hoarse. He did his best to follow suit, ducking around signs and kicking his little feet. At some point Jamie and I realized we weren’t just doing it to make him laugh anymore. It was just us, the three of us, and we were finally there, present together, alone but together and alive. We crawled back into the car, tired but refreshed and drove on.
Oklahoma introduced itself to us with moonlit Indian casinos and billboards pleading for motorists to consider adopting a Choctaw child. We found a truckstop behind a gas station casino and pulled in at the end of a long row of diesel rigs, generators humming in the dusty lot. It had been a long day.
We left our friends Chris and Danielle this morning.
Our hearts hurt a bit because it’ll be a long time until we see them again. But our hearts are full, thankful for the love and hospitality we were shown and for the gift of time spent with such good people. The beauty of the countryside has seeped into our veins. Fireflies. Open fields with horses and cattle grazing. Chickens. A vegetable garden.
Something about all of that really called out to us this past week.
We miss it already.
Home sweet home
Eli loved the garden
Eli made a friend
Somewhere between Flagstaff and Gallup the desert exhales and stretches its red rocky arms. The cracks in its skin sprout life and the plateaus rise up, carrying with them the scrub brush and cacti with red prickly fruit. The sky sinks down onto the highway and clouds come in close for a better look. There is music in the landscape. Harmonies are sung between the rusted talus slopes and the dry riverbeds. Splintering signs with peeling paint point to adobe and teepee storefronts hocking foreign kitsch alongside native art. The warm air of evening slips through the vents and the cabin fills with desert breath.
Our son might be asleep, he might be studying how the young rabbit says good night to the comb and brush, he might be watching rocks blur pass the window to disappear behind him. The memory of the Grand Canyon, Cañon as Muir writes it, is recent but not fresh in our mind as everything that comes from the horizon presses against it to make room for itself. The queue of foreign voices sinks back with childhood birthday parties and college papers, the hazy sunset drive along the rim falls behind swimming lessons and a cat adoption. Radio silence is only replaced by the gentle white roar of wind curling around the sharp corners of the Volkswagen. There comes a point when music can add nothing further to an experience that is in itself already whole. And the horizon grows and grows.
The Grand Canyon- Mather Point
The Grand Canyon
Eli hiking the rim trail
Good reads for the road
The Petrified Forest
New Mexico KOA
New Mexico KOA camp site
Villanueva State Park, NM
Villanueva State Park camp site
Bottomless Lakes State Park, NM
What will it mean 10 years from now that we are taking this step? Will it be anything to speak of, a catalyst or turning point in our young family’s experience, or just another pleasant memory? I think we’ll be stepping out the door and putting our feet to the pedal with no answers in our mind. We should know better than to expect answers from the road itself, but the road nonetheless is where we will be from this point on.
We leave as equipped as we can be, with the tools and provisions necessary to weather the obvious and the grace of God to endure the obscure that lies hidden ahead. We’ve sat and organized, packed and planned, but at a point we’ve had to stand up and dust off, let the current carry us from here. Our son, we hope, will, himself, carry some imprint of this experience on his spirit through his years.
We’ve been biding our time until departure. Wednesday morning with the sunrise we head east.