Why does the return drive always feel longer than the way there? Our drive to Idaho a week ago was 10 1/2 hours, and yet it felt shorter than yesterday’s drive from Utah back to Boulder, which was 6 or so. But the roads were twisty and turn-y. Our dear friend Grace was driving so Maya and I kept switching spots, sharing the backseat where the view was obstructed, making for a queasier ride.
And still, it was absolutely stunning. Driving along the Colorado River for hours, the red rocks rising and falling mirrored on the green surface of the water. We were mesmerized. There was a ghost town trying to make a comeback. There were sudden oases of emerald fields with signs signaling an open range. The mountains were sometimes so immense they seemed to be leaning in to listen to our singing. Occasionally, I felt claustrophobic, fearful of the falling rock signposts and the irrational thought that a boulder would pierce the window or abruptly slam onto the road in front of us.
Then Colorado itself nearly waving, welcoming us back, lush, dotted with pine trees, the river rolling and boiling with rapids, ski resorts where lifts hung silently waiting for winter. We stopped briefly for a slice of pizza in Copper Mountain and I was startled by the handful of people milling about for some sort of summer festival. Humans seemed strange and foreign after hours and hours of scenery and nature. Maya requested a turnoff onto Route 6, an alternate route into Boulder with jaw-dropping views of the river as we snaked in and out of tunnels, the mountains nearly consuming us.
Boulder. Grandbabies. Sweet voices welcoming Nana and her friends home. Hours later I drifted up to the bedroom, still slightly rocking the way you might when you land back on shore after a day of fishing on open water. My feet planted firmly, but my head trying to catch up to the here and now.
. . . . .
It feels odd to be back in “civilization” after a landscape where nature has ruled supreme for millions of years. At any point on a trail I stopped, I felt my own smallness - my insignificance, really - in proximity and context to the landscape around me. It is an oddly welcome feeling, a sensation of relief and respite, as if the big important task of being human moving around in a world of other humans is lifted briefly off the shoulders. I know it’s all an illusion - I mean, nature is ALWAYS ruling supreme (Hurricane Dorian being a most recent, and stark reminder) - and this idea of any “big, important task” is also an illusion. We are always layering our experience with commentary.
For me, one of the sweet rewards of lifting out of the routine of what “home” was is reconfiguring, and perhaps even reinventing, what the notion of my “work” is, the non-linearity of how and where and why I engage with what I engage in. There has been a wonderfully open space to simply look, and there have been so many visual feasts to dive into - the Teton Mountains between Wyoming and Idaho, the impossible-seeming balancing acts inside of Arches National Park , the jaw-dropping vistas of Canyonlands, the lush bends of the Colorado River. I wrote to someone the other day that my eyes felt so happy, and I see how that happiness has moved southward and outward through the rest of my body. I am slowing down, breathing more deeply, letting small troubles roll off me, and digging in instead to the delight and joy of what I’m looking at - the literal panoramas opening in front of me.
It’s not that I’m immune or uninterested in the harder stuff, but I see life as a kind of see that needs weight on either end to keep it at a more manageable equilibrium, and in some ways this feels like part of my “work” now - to bear witness to the beauty around me, and to share it. To include it in the mulchy mix that is the devastation of a hurricane and the constant Twitter match of politics, and the additional upsets of our world. It is also so turbulent, an almost constant engine of turbulence. We can’t stop it, but we can remember that there are also other places we can point our attention. And this is where I’m pointing my attention now..
We are still a bit up-in-the-air for our next week or so, contemplating maps and mileages for our route to Wisconsin, where we will REALLY slow down for a bit when we hand the keys to the car and caravan to our friend Steph and hop on our tandem for an 18-day adventure with our musician friend Peter. I’m eager for smaller roads and smaller towns, for farmstands with handwritten signs, for the sound of feet making their rotations around a wheel, for late-summer creatures chirping themselves to sleep.