We have some catching up to do from the past few days; a few of the campgrounds we've been staying that have had spotty wifi, so we've leaned heavily on our Instagram feed (@thecreativitycaravan) to share our journey visually. But here is the post following our Chicago and Madison stops.
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I can see, already, how hard it will be to write about this trip. And I mean write about it beyond the daily movings and doings, the “how” and the “why” in addition to the “what” and the “when” and the “who.” We’ve mapped our tour with such specific dates and locations, but of course beyond that lie the unmappable things, the moments that come at us unexpectedly, the interactions with the people we meet, the brief windows that intimate the larger human experience in all of its awe and wonder and depth and grief and glory. That kind of writing takes time, and that time needs metabolizing in the way that our fast drives and whirlwind events can’t quite offer. We do our best, I think, with the resources we have in the moment. And right now, at this late hour in a campground in the middle of Minnesota, I’m thinking in snippets. Like the three diagonal parking spaces we took up outside Catalyst Ranch in Chicago, and the hot and humid lobby we moved the workshop to so that there wouldn’t be much distance to walk between the caravan and the workshop. Seeing Danielle sitting with Amy and knowing that the heat and humidity couldn’t make a dent in the joy of this reunion. Seeing Michelle again and her amazing kids, and the book Eliza wrote and read out loud. Dishes of candy and the relief of ice-cold water. The pure sunshine beam that is Kathleen, and how that beam stayed so bright all evening. How glad and grateful I am for connections across the wires that stay connected. The drive to Johnsburg and a late dinner of quinoa and quesadillas and sweet, sweet sleep. Watching Travis dive from the dock the next morning. The second cup of coffee. Arriving in Madison and making circles around the library. Laura bounding out of the side doors. The Bubbler Room. A rolling cart. How easily everything unfolded. All the seats filled. Bo and Bob and Terri and Steve at Union Terrace. Pitchers of New Glarus. The longest, most perfect sunset. And this morning and afternoon, driving back along the old route. Baby goats and prairie dogs and a wooden statue of Bigfoot on Route 14. Late lunch in Viroqua. A salad of greens and smoked trout and goat cheese. The peppery, tart dressing. The largest chocolate chip cookie. A drowsy drive through the first half of Minnesota. More roadside attractions. Frankenstein in Janesville. A water tower topped by an otherworldly ear of corn. The first mosquito bites. A campfire made from wet wood. Dreaming of the Badlands, of Rushmore, of all that is stretching in the miles ahead, and the ones after.
Chicago: This is not about the heat and humidity. This is not about the nerve-wracking drive into downtown Chicago. This is not about the parking mishap or so many people wearing headphones and the way they rushed past us, barely glancing, on their way to the train after a long day at work or to a nearby restaurant to meet friends. This is not about the empty sidewalks after rush hour or the disappointment that threatened to mount.
This is about the blue sky over the city. This is about the colorful walls and kitchy style of Catalyst Ranch, the way Eva greeted us with a hug on that same sidewalk out front and the accommodating way her staff moved tables and chairs and printed signs and helped us manage the evening. This is about the two young men walking by who did stop to ogle the caravan and told us about their name tag project, a way to break the barriers between people and start deepening the conversation from the first hello. This is about our collective daydream to travel together someday like gypsies with a train of creatives each with a brilliant idea to make the world a better place. This is about Kathleen and her effervescent personality. Her delight in the small things. Her sassiness, which was exactly as I imagined it would be when we finally met in real time. This is about Danielle taking the train after a long day, tossing her cowboy boots in a corner and standing in the doorway of the caravan in her bare feet exuberantly telling passersby they shouldn’t miss the Tiny Book Show, how exactly right it was to have her next to me. This is about standing at the kitchen counter in Johnsburg at almost 11 PM laughing and eating quinoa and black bean quesadillas, drinking the coldest bottles of beer. This is about the sun rising above the bay the next morning. This is about standing at the edge of the dock with Travis and leaping into summertime. This is about the sheer joy of handstands in the water and the promise of a brand-new day.
Madison: When we make prototype tiny books as we're teaching, I never write anything in them - too little time at each workshop for content-building between the lessons. But I imagine my pages filled with haikus, like Gabriele is doing with all her tiny books in Germany. These are the poems I would have filled my books with in Madison this week. . . .
filling his suitcases with
Drinking in summer
while chords of happy birthday
rise from a dark dock.
Anais and I
riveted to our gardens
willing them to bloom.