Amy says . . . Guardian Angels are everywhere on this trip. Stacey asked us to write a poem about them in Creston. She was a guardian angel who brought us a glass of water with two straws and a kick-ass frozen Chai drink that would raise the bar on Chai forever.
Ann and her mother, Diane, were our guardian angels last night in Des Moines, swooping in to the library and taking us out to dinner. Making us laugh so hard at their family history - their shared memories. Wiping away some of the grit from the road. Sipping cocktails with us. Making us feel at home.
Sarah in Creston. Her hilarious stories of moving from California to a small Iowa town to be a reporter are Pulitzer Prize-worthy. Her effusive joy and her instinctual celebration of the life she is creating was infectious. She was a guardian angel.
Brian and Jean who shared their stunning home, thier children, their family, their animals - their dedication to this land and their deep roots and honoring it all. Guardian angels.
Mayor Warren Woods and his dedication to keeping the arts alive in Creston. Carl and Jan and their encyclopedic knowledge of art and sculpture and food and the history of Iowa and craft beer and birds.
Blake and the spray paint art he creates in what little “free time” he can carve out. Stencils that took 2 people and 18 hours to cut out. Paintings that should be hanging on gallery walls.
The words “stay gold.”
The owners of The Northside Cafe in Winterset and their commitment to beautifully crafted, delicious food. The waitress who kept my old fashioned cherry coke refilled with extra cherries every time. The wilted kale quesadilla.
Kimberly was a guardian angel. The smile on her face when we showed up to build her Little Free Library in Indianola. The picnic on her front lawn. Her pride in her son. His ninja shoes. Her pride in the home she has created. Her pride in her friendships. The camera her friend used and the way she layed on the ground to take photographs. The bright-colored balloon welcome.
The red-wing blackbirds diving at our helmets and chirping close to our ears. The rolling hills. The careful drivers who slow down and give us the lane. The sips of cold water. The sips of whiskey. The feathers we picked up on the side of the road. The store owners. The woman in the dress shop. The questions. The answers. The words we’ve been given.
Maya Rachel Stein.
All of it, all of them, guardian angels.
Brian’s fried eggs. Toasted bagels and cold orange juice. How much easier the ride was, after this. The stretch of Route 169 toward Winterset. Twenty-some miles in a peaceful silence. How the uphills fasten us together. The way we count pedals until the crest.
The Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa. A sweet town square. Stef’s wisdom about lunch. The Northside Café and grilled chicken quesadillas with chipotle salsa. How much I’ve been appreciating lettuce. Picturesque movie theatres. Antique stores on every corner. A tidy town that knows what it wants.
Arrival at Kimberly’s and the little tent of refreshments. Sliced vegetables, lemonade “with real sugar,” she says. Ripe strawberries and green grapes. Fresh bakery cookies. A friend who spontaneously came to help. Pouring over library instructions, Max walking to the hardware store to get wood glue. The front lawn spilling with sun. The quilt spread on the grass. The little piles of wood. How nice it was to be off-stage for a moment, get down to the business of building. The sweet and easy communion. The simple satisfaction. How fast we worked, without the feeling of hurry. Kimberly’s porch swing, the blue of the dining room, a sunflower sprouting unabashedly against the house.
The twenty-minute car ride to Des Moines. Directions to the East Village. Easy parking. A blimp in the sky. The shiny capitol building. Riverside cyclists. A bike store that made our jaws drop. Amy and her nostalgia. The search for the right dress. Finding it. Owls in a shoe store. An Americano I savored for blocks. Street art. Pianos with invitations. Oxymorons for signs.
Grocery carts and the cheeky security guard. Kathy and her ebullience. A library like I’ve never seen. The pull-down screen and wireless microphone. A room that made me feel grown up. Ann and her mother and the fancy dinner at Centro. A gin gimlet that loosened the screws in the right way. Remembering Jamie and summer camp and being 19 again. The perfect temperature. Reliving the trip. Fourteen more days. How good it felt to laugh like that.