Yesterday we laid plastic on the dirt floor in the garage of my little home in Santa Fe. Covered it with sheet linoleum & lined the wall with palettes in wait for the movers. The house is a huge step back from what I’ve had the past decades. I refuse to say ‘step down’ when I’m thrilled to have it, but it does feel humbling at times. At other times I think how lucky I am it’s been stripped & painted clean, has wood floors, new tile and sinks, baseboard radiators, a room where I can host writers, a garage, + views of the mountains. And it feels good. A Happy House, as my landlord’s mother used to call it.
A week ago I sat in the sun for 20 min. while the movers loaded the van. I did not plan, strategize, or try to figure a thing out. I didn’t like how they dismantled my very expensive sleep number bed and stuffed it in wardrobes, but it was done. I asked they seal the openings despite their assurance there was no dust in the van.
The day before that I’d had what can only be called a physical breakdown. With packing left to do, I couldn’t get up from the sofa. It was more than fatigue. My body simply couldn’t move. I thought about slaves in the fields, how they must’ve felt this exact way, but they got up, kept moving because their lives depended on it. And I thought about concentration camp inmates. About refugees traveling oceans & long roads across countries. All of them pushing ahead when their bodies say No. I thought of when I rose at 4am, returned home at 11pm while in school so to meet both my scholastic and social activist goals. All of us, lives depending on it. And I couldn’t move. 8pm I recovered, packed ‘til midnight.
We had a last meal in St. Pete at my favorite restaurant (La Vie, Vietnamese fusion.) Thuy, the gorgeous and brilliant owner came by, gave me a hug. “When you come back. . .’ she said. I shook my head No. I’d been a regular at the eatery. One of her first customers when she opened her day spa. She’s opening a third restaurant now. “I wish you were here to still give us love,” she said. I got love back is what I told her. Then I left Florida.
Florida seemed to cling tight as we drove out. We crept in congestion, a 30 min. drive taking 1.25 hr. Then again for miles on a crowded road accommodating a closed highway’s traffic. I thought about a gal’s exclamation how sad I was leaving. ‘Took us 20 yrs. to get here,’ she said, ‘We love it. We’re not leaving.’
All of us have a place (or places) that zing us, whether it’s the road or a spot on the map. I know when it’s time to leave a place because I don’t notice the beauty of it anymore. I felt an energetic pop when we crossed the border line.
Art drove me to Santa Fe. The few times I took the wheel, I didn’t last much more than 2 hrs. I’ve driven coast to coast alone, twice. Driven alone for days across the west and up the coast of California more than once. They were adventures. This wasn’t. This was a run for my life. And I couldn’t have done it alone as I’d planned. Art saved me is the way I see it. ‘It’s okay,’ he said. ‘I can drive.’
One of the most stunning features of a winter drive across country is the silhouettes of trees. They look like people – tribes, soldiers, women, men, all sorts. With personalities. Their branches thick, thin, twisted, gnarled, stretching, swooping. Sometimes so very graceful, sometimes angular like an abstract modern dancer, sometimes straight & purposeful. Several mornings we headed out in fog. The trees particularly gorgeous shrouded in milky soup, green grass or black fields at their feet. I thought if ever I was a photographer, I’d travel and take pictures of trees in winter. I never got a good picture.
I saw the most supernaturally bright green grass in Mississippi. Field upon field of it. Carpets that sometimes had cows. Fog and gray winter trees making it more starkly vibrant. Mississippi also has lots of big crosses.
Mobile, Alabama felt like a city from a Philip K. Dick novel. Especially in the tunnel that drops steeply down under the very wide Mobile River. Like being inside a giant worm in that tunnel. I’d like to go back.
The stretch Denton to Amarillo, Texas on hwy 287 is 300+ miles of peace. Flat, quiet, achingly beautiful. Small towns that seem to be going to ghost every once in a while. In Childress we stopped at a locally owned quick stop. The kind with paper boats of crusty fried chicken pieces, long fat greasy hotdogs on a stick, and fried Mexican snacks in a glass case. Muddy trucks in the parking lot and women with small kids in tow. The bathroom’s rough, Art said. I’ve been in bad ones, just let there be toilet paper, I thought.
But it was sparkly squeaky clean! So clean that a clean paper towel on the floor looked like a desecration. I grabbed another towel to lift it to the trash can. When I came out Art was contemplating what to get from the case. ‘That was the cleanest bathroom. I really appreciate that,’ I told the man at the counter. He beamed, pointed to a young gal behind him. ‘Thank You!’ she said. ‘I work on that every day.’ So much pride. I told her if we win the lottery, I’m coming back to share it with her. And I meant it. As we drove off, I kept thinking how my best friend in high school lived in Childress the last time I talked to her.
I learned there really was/is a falls on the Wichita River. Was, as in the natural falls washed out in a flood in the 1800s. Is, as in the falls were reconstructed further up the river, abeit with pristine landscaping unlike anything that would’ve been there before. I wanted to see those falls. A weak attempt to recover some adventure. But we drove on after circling the pot-holed road in the park where they are. We’d missed the tiny print on the phone that said we had to walk a mile in, and Santa Fe was one night away.
I’ll leave you with magic. I got an email from a writer I met in Canada last fall. He has lots of personal cache to market his historical novel beyond Cape Cod where he lives. He didn’t ask, but I spent time giving him tips & illuminating his options. I wanted him to succeed. He has a vision and a passion. His email blew me away:
I have been re-working my second novel, another work of historical fiction set on Cape Cod. I have been going back and forth on which point of view of use. . .Then last night I had a dream in which a guy who I have never seen before came up to me and told me, ‘Ask Heloise.’ That was it: just a guy walking up and giving me that advice, but I took it as a nudge to get in touch with you and get your advice on this point of view question!
A guy he didn’t know in his dream sent him to me. This is the work that I love. And someone in dreamtime help spread the message.
And this. . .
Second day of the drive, feeling really blue and wanted something to help me feel better, I immediately pulled up behind this van. I followed that happy face for miles, didn’t pass on purpose. You can’t see it well, but in the window there’s a little plush happy face with a cowboy hat cocked on its ‘head.’ It constantly rocked back & forth. I said Thank You when I finally passed, not feeling blue anymore.
A week ago was a million years of a journey to here. I’m starting a new & different life. My husband will go to NC for work. It’s good, but sad. My book’s out March 14, day before the Ides of March. I made video about it. My first one. I’m told there will be more. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, I’m told. Same with life, isn’t it?
Another small journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
Tell me. . .what journeys have you taken lately?
I’ll tell you a secret. . .a million miles may start with the first step, but we never make it alone.