The strange sensation of arriving at our last week. The inevitable scarcity mindset setting in, how we all seem to be clinging to these moments so fiercely. How even a stroll into a new town renders us silent with reverence. How these last rides on the tandem - on this new-to-us landscape of quick uphills and beautifully long descents - makes us breathless with thanks.
And then, out of the blue, like a lightning flash, these fits of unstoppable giggling. The language we've been inventing between us over the course of this almost-month, the things we've all been noticing and remembering and capturing and re-telling. The beauty of that kind of company. The patience when one of us stops to snap a photo, or another strolls across the street to look at some antiques, or the call to afternoon coffee that seems to arrive simultaneously. The rhythms we have begun to hold so sacred. The shared meals and the funny detours and the specific details of the redheaded boy in Glenwood or the girl who gave us the word "socks" or, the out-of-this-worldness of the Grotto in Dickeyville, Wisconsin.
There is no particular order here, not really, only a tumble of images and sensory memories and rich montages of experience. Potosi and the Brewery Museum and meeting Jeff for our ride into Lancaster and the stunner of Stage Road. The Little Free Library in the corner of a cafe and the best donut I've had in years. Erin's homemade pesto pasta and grilled chicken and the gem of Three Springs Barn and taking the stage for an audience of three. Watching Stef play air fiddle and pretending my thigh was a tambourine. The prairie grasses and wildflowers and another ludicrously beautiful sunset. The big wide shower and scrubbing off and feeling human again. Morning biscuits Jeff made from scratch and the synchronicity of Seward, Nebraska. Leaving on a pitch-perfect day and knowing when to stop riding. Lunch at the Driftless Cafe in Viroqua and soup made from wild rice and beets and fennel. Driving north toward Westby. A series of Scandinavian-themed shops. Watching two girls devour rainbow sherbet and knowing exactly what it tasted like. Cindy Brown and her whole-world smile. How she asked for a hug. How long she had been waiting for us. The beautiful new library and homemade bookmarks and riding into Burgers in the Park. Savannah and her cow outfit. The pastor who captained the grill. Poems, poems, poems and the tears that came from the words "unicorn" and "grandchildren." The world-famous ski jump near our rustic campsite. The good kind of isolation. Crackers and bourbon and blueberries from the Amish fruit stand. The most amazing gift basket. The days, falling open and closed, open and closed, and how we are reaching in with greedy handfuls, trying to grab everything we can.
I want to tell you about Jeff, who rode with us from Potosi to Lancaster, WI, on Wednesday. I want to tell you about the roads with all their ridges, the steep uphill inclines mixed with the exhilerating and terrifying downhills, a sort of metaphor for, well, everything. I want to tell you about Jeff’s passion for music and the way it led him to Three Springs Barn - a collaboration with his wife, Erin. The barn is on their property in the middle of a gorgeous prairie they planted, and in this intimate performance space once a month they host musicians they love and admire. I want to tell you how much I can appreciate a dream coming true.
I want to tell you about their neighbor, Emily and her daughters. How after hours of being shy and playing by themselves while the adults chatted and got to know each other, they suddenly put on a performance in the living room, dancing with their hearts on their tiny sleeves. I want to tell you about Evie falling into her mother’s arms with a sigh afterward, “I love it sooo much.” I want to tell you that I can appreciate how dancing must feel like flying to Evie.
And I want to tell you about the hug we got from Cindy in Westby yesterday. After months of planning for our visit and emails and organizing someone to build the Little Free Library and the invitation to have us at Burgers in the Park last night and riding her bicycle 3 1/2 miles to work so she could ride with us the short distance to the pavillion and the final phone call when we arrived in town this afternoon and then sailed past her window at the library, overshooting the mark a little. When we landed on the sidewalk minutes later I could feel her adreneline rushing, she wanted to show us everything, introduce us to everyone, give us directions, a bottle of cold juice, a map. But something felt like it was missing.
We went to the campground to drop off Maude and came back a half hour later to meet Cindy again for the ride to the park and in the middle of telling us something she stopped and said, “Could I just give you a hug? Would that be alright? We’ve just been planning this visit for so long . . . “ And there, there was the something that had been missing.
I want to tell you I knew exactly how she felt. Sometimes it’s all too much. We are overwhelmed in the absolute best way. Jeff and his antique barn where it must be hard to believe sometimes when his favorite musicians grace the stage with their voices and their instruments and Evie and her dancing and the way her face lit up like the sun, and Cindy and her excitement about our visit and the celebration of Westby’s new Little Free Library. The way sometimes the excitement is so much and the love is so big and the world feels so full and we just want someone to wrap their arms around us and hold us close so that we can feel safe while it goes spinning.