A Travelogue from May 2021
Hello from Wyoming! I'm writing to you from a roadside motel that has seen better days, my laptop propped up on my knees, my hair still damp from a shower, my eyes and heart full of all that I've been enjoying. The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective seven days after the second dose, and pretty much the second we felt safe enough to travel, Patrick and I packed our backpacks, rented a car, and blew out of Seattle so fast that the Space Needle was left spinning in our wake.
Where do you want to go? Patrick asked.
Anywhere but here, I replied.
I've been missing my mother. We went to see her! Afterward, we headed east over a mountain pass and through rural Oregon. We needed to pin a spot on the map, a direction to aim towards, and we chose Colorado. Along the way, we let our curiosity and serendipity guide us. We marveled at the beautiful rock formations at Arches National park. And we clambered up the soft sand at Sand Dunes National Park at twilight. There's so much I've forgotten. Ordinary things. Like tiny soaps in hotel rooms. (so cute!) Quirky roadside attractions. How good it feels to zoom down a lonely highway with the radio turned up. The unmitigated pleasure of observing the world not through a smartphone screen but through your own five senses!
Speaking of senses, I learned that resting atop a sand dune is a good way to get sandblasted in the eyes! Oops!
I'll confess to trepidation about leaving my pandemic bubble. Our first indoor restaurant meal was nerve-racking! But on the whole we've felt quite safe on the road. Hotels and motels have been spotless. Fellow travelers have been courteous almost everywhere we've gone. We're still avoiding crowds, and we're still keeping our distance as much as possible. I know that 95% effectiveness is incredible. Still, I find myself easing back into the world, listening to my gut when it says "go ahead" or "no thanks." It's a process.
We've seen hikers in muddy boots, cars overflowing with kids and enthusiastic dogs, old men in folding chairs waving at traffic, and nomadic hippies bragging about their mushroom hunting skills. Park rangers are thrilled to be giving talks again! Tiny mountain towns are building patio seating for the upcoming summer rush. Nearly every small restaurant and shop has a Help Wanted sign posted. The wheels of commerce are spinning up, and all the doors are flinging themselves open. I sense the delight at strangers seeing each other's faces and smiles.
The pandemic is winding down.
Filling the Creative Well
In her seminal book The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron talks about creativity as a well that requires replenishment. And it's true! For more than a year, I relied upon my memory and imagination to help me tell stories, and during the long and lonely pandemic I had very few opportunities to restock my well. What inspires and sustains me? So many things. New sights and sounds. The ability to talk to strangers or even eavesdrop on public conversations. Observation skills. So much of my inspiration is sensory and experiential. I suppose that's why I took my well-crafted plans for the month of May and chucked them over my shoulder. When I set a deadline, even for myself, I tend to get cranky when I don't meet it.
I'm not feeling cranky this time! I'm a good 3-4 weeks behind schedule right now, and I'm not even mad. Why would I be? I'm taking to the road like a thirsty plot of soil takes to the rain. This road trip is fun. Yes, we're having a good time! But it's more than that. I'm filling that well, using my senses, and keeping track of all that delights me:
- An antelope (Pronghorn)
- A real cowboy in Durango
- A nine-foot tall pink metal flamingo
- A van painted with bright yellow sunflowers called the "Van Go"
- A carpet store called "Totally Floored"
- Huge solar arrays in the desert
- A roadside "portal to another dimension" with UFO/alien statues (Admission fee: $5 per car)
- Spooky blue mist
- Beautiful evergreen forests and frosty mountain peaks
- A famous haunted hotel (more on this later)
- So much lightning!
The list goes on and on.
Whether you're a writer or not, you might be craving some new sights and sounds. We all need inspiration! My advice is this: when you're ready, and not before, sit quietly and listen to what your heart wants. Maybe it's a weekend roadtrip, or time with a friend you've been missing, or an experience that you've been putting off for too long. The world is coming back to life! And I bet there's something grand, right around the corner, waiting for you.