"Could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy."
The first thing I read after I put my contacts in. And then coffee downstairs with Chris, and how the morning began with a kind of revelry. Jennifer coming downstairs and then cubes of cantaloupe and maple yoghurt and orange juice. The sendoff and then the bike ride out of Iowa City on Highway 1 and how easy it was to get out into the country again. And the relief. The simple, sweet morning between us, only pockmarked with necessary conversation. The leveling out. The occasional rises and falls and how we made quick work of each. The bright sun and the gift of manageable heat. Meeting Stef at Fuel in Mount Vernon. Bridal cake toppers and vintage harmonicas and an autograph book from the late 1800s. The hammered tin "Welcome" sign done in script that I didn't buy but wished I had. The hop down to Chris's and the way she emerged out of her house, ebullient. The hugs, the smile, the bright joy written all over her face. A VW bus in her side yard. Getting ready for Burning Man. Shared stories about California. Her treehouse. The sound of her dogs and their loyalty. Driving back to Solon for lunch at Big Grove Brewery, and the small clatter of cyclists having lunch next to us. Homemade buttermilk-dill dressing. Hand-cut fries. How they kept refilling the lemonade.
The block party at the bottom of the sledding hill. Duane and his new little library. Setting up and settling in. Tubs of bottled water in ice. Hot dogs and the grills. The table of dessert bars. The guitarist and his intelligence with music, the slowed-down, ambient comfort of strumming. The creative writing professor and her tanka. Chris and the way she handles a crowd, a newspaper reporter, the neighbors. Gus and his sass and his spot-on Jeff Spicoli imitation. The request for signatures. Poetry into the heart of a Sunday afternoon, and then Mojitos and chicken quesadillas at El Sol and a stroll through Cornell College at near-dusk and the gnats getting to us in tiny bites. Knit-bombs on an iron fence. A store with my name all over it. The tiny lights on Chris's library and how easy it was to fall asleep.
The first bald eagle of the trip, swirling overhead in lazy circles as we crossed the Cedar River near Mt. Vernon, Iowa.
Coffee and shopping at Fuel, purchasing gifts and keepsakes. An autograph book filled with signatures from 1876. A harmonica in a blue leather case.
Chris, whom we had been corresponding with for months, running out of her house and down her front steps to greet us with strong hugs when we arrived early on her doorstep. Her Little Free Library aglow with twinkle lights.
The treehouse in her backyard, empty kegs from long-ago teen parties still visible through the windows.
Her dog peeking his head through a framed hole in her fence, barking his welcome, too.
The vintage VW bus in process in the sideyard, being readied for a trip to Burning Man.
A cod sandwich and a cold beer in Solon.
Duane and Jean’s Little Free Library “where the sidewalk ends” - literally the sidewalk mysteriously ends right before their house on 2nd Street - dedication complete with a block party, live music, hot dogs, chocolate cupcakes, and a poetry reading.
Gus, the almost-4th-grader, who sounded like Jeff Spicoli and entertained us with his raised eyebrows and his jokes.
The words “fairy” and “eleven,” “flutter” and grandkids” and “face”.
Duane asking us to autograph the Little Free Library in Sharpie before we left.
Chips and salsa, enchiladas, margaritas.
A walk around town as the sun set. The campus of Cornell College. Beautiful old buildings. Gnats. A tattered memorial under the water tower. Store windows. Crochet squares on a picket fence. A sledding hill in summertime. Shouts of laughter from Vacation Bible School.
An early bedtime.
Coffee and cinnamon bun French toast, bacon. Chris’s nine lives. Stories of complicated marriages and raising kids and what makes us happy and how to stay young at heart. More strong hugs. Another good bye. The road stretches in front of us toward Dyersville. The Field of Dreams is waiting.