Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Week 32: Colorado---and home

We've been back in San Francisco for about ten days, getting used to it. It's odd not to be anonymous. It's odd to not be in a little Dawn and Larry bubble. But it's good, too. I appreciate the beauty of California so much, the rolling green hills in the East Bay, the vast stretches of farmland in the Central Valley, the ocean as we drive towards my mom's house, where we are staying for the summer. There's so much about California that I was so used to seeing that I'd stopped really seeing it. And the pace here is so fast, the traffic, the pressures--I'm easily exhausted. I'm an easily exhausted person anyways, which is why having a nice long winter to hole up during fit the pace of me. I found myself missing the snow and the cold and the slow pace of Wisconsin. While friends in Wisconsin, Chicago, and Minnesota were bemoaning another snowfall, I was feeling sad I still couldn't be surrounded by the gentle quiet and stillness that snow offers. Indeed, the last several months have been healing, and a much-needed break and rest from the go-go-go expectations of always-sunny California.

Our return to the City
But before we got here, we had a lovely week in Colorado, visiting friends and family. Albuquerque was a simple pit-stop at a Motel 6 and a minor car repair, then we headed to Colorado, where we drove through Denver at rush hour to stop for a couple of nights with Larry's good friend and former roommate, Melinda.

Random motel where we stopped for lunch one day
Longmont was a beautiful smaller town. When we arrived, it was still warm--I wore a dress for our first night at dinner. Downtown Longmont was really sweet with plenty of cafes and restaurants, music shops, and bicycle stores. It looked like a vital town with deep roots. We loved visiting with Melinda and her four dogs--Mace, Abner, Q-tip, and her foster Bert. We had great conversations about wanderlust, the world of dogs, music, and the wonderful food we were eating. Longmont is definitely a town we could spend more time in. It had a relaxed pace, was beautiful, and Melinda was an awesome host.

Me and Bert (Melinda's foster), afternoon rest
Even though Spring was starting to arrive when we landed there, a storm was rolling in, and in order to make Aspen by the next afternoon before the storm, we woke up super early, loaded the truck, said our goodbyes, and headed out over the rockies. What a beautiful drive. We did manage to miss most of the storm, though there was a bit of snow on our our way to my brother's house.

Driving the Rockies
My brother and his wife Liesa and son Kosma have only recently moved from the Yosemite area to Aspen. It was great to see them and their new world. Aspen's a strange town, a playground for the rich, but also so incredibly beautiful. We caught an afternoon showing at the local cinema of short family-friendly films, which were brilliant. My brother is the Education Director at the Aspen Nature Center and they live on a preserve, so we went on a little tour of the grounds before the storm arrived.

My nephew is obsessed with fishing
That evening, we holed up, ate a terrific home-cooked meal, and played a marathon game of Monopoly.

Marathon Monopoly game
The next day, I was up early, and my nephew flew downstairs to visit with me and we decided to surprise everyone by making pancakes. It was fun to have some stolen time with him. After breakfast, we went on a snowy hike. We just walked out the front door and were near a trail. which is also near many trails as well as downtown.

That night, we played Apples to Apples.

The following day, Arin was back to work and Kosma back to school and Liesa took me to the Aspen Art Museum, which was a manageable space with rotating single-artist shows. The artist was a contemporary New York painter, video, and zine artist, Amy Sillman. I loved her sense of humor and her use of color. We also went to the John Denver gardens, snowed under, but beautiful none the less.

That night, we watched "Frozen," which we all thoroughly enjoyed, and then headed out early the next day. We drove through Utah and Nevada, finding a pit of a pitstop motel in Las Vegas. We reflected on our journey--32 states, nearly 8 months, 15,000 miles. We had so many incredible experiences, got to reunite with wonderful friends and family as well as meet so many interesting and welcoming new friends. We definitely have a new perspective on life since we were able to leave our daily routine. Then, early in the morning, we headed out to California.

California, where gas is a dollar more a gallon than in the rest of the country. California, which is beautiful. California, where we both became baseball fans.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weeks 30 & 31: Chicago, Columbia, Kansas City, Oklahoma, and Texas

Crossing the Mississippi
As you can see by the title of this blog, we covered a lot of ground in the last two weeks. We left Wisconsin's three feet of snow and drove South to spend a quick night in Chicago, where our friends Kendra and Kapil took us to Devon Street for some great Indian food. After a great visit with Kendra and Kapil (and their dog Chester), we left early the next morning and headed to Columbia, Missouri. Larry got to watch opening day of baseball season, and his team, the Giants, with a fellow Giant fan and relocated San Franciscan, Sean, in Columbia. It was an exciting game, and the Giants came back from way behind. After a great breakfast and a quick tour of downtown Columbia, Larry and Sean got caught up and I went to meet a poetry and spiritual mentor, Scott Cairns, for lunch. I hadn't seen Scott since New Year's Day 2005, but his feedback on my poetry has meant a lot to my growth as a poet. More importantly, his book, A Short Trip to the Edge, about his own spiritual journey to Christian Orthodoxy, and his responses to my questions and his faith, finally led me to convert to Christian Orthodoxy in 2010.

New Orthodox Church in Alpine, Texas
It was too short of a visit to Columbia, but we had a lot of ground to cover, so we headed on in the early afternoon, and drove through to Kansas City, to a small town just across the Missouri border, Prairie Village, in Kansas, to visit with my best friend from junior high school, Matthew and his partner, Brian. I hadn't seen Matthew and Brian since around 2000, but we picked up like no time had passed, talking about our work as educators, and theater artists (Matthew's a scenic designer).

After another too-quick visit, we spent the day driving through Kansas and Oklahoma, staying the night in Wichita Falls, Texas.

From Wichita Falls, we drove straight to Alpine, Texas. I'd lived for four years in Marfa, Texas, a town 26 miles from Alpine. My aunt lives in Alpine and I worked and went to school at the state university in Alpine. This was an amazing trip, full of reunions with old friends, family, and a chance to explore the gorgeous high desert landscape.

Results of Puppet-making party in Alpine, Texas with friends Chris and Ellen Ruggia
Even though I left Marfa in 2006, the sky and landscape and quality of friendships have stayed with me. I often write about my time there with great longing and fondness. We hope to come back soon, to spend more time with my beloved friends there.

In the Bluebonnets with friends, Alpine, Texas
Even though we spent a packed six days in West Texas, which included a day trip to Big Bend National Park, the time was too short. However, we are on a mission to get back to San Francisco after this long journey, and had to say our goodbyes. . .
Road to Fort Davis
Alpine Mural
Alpine Mural
Ocotillo in bloom, Big Bend
Yucca, Big Bend
Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend
Big Bend
In the Basin, Big Bend National Park
Window Trail View, Big Bend National Park
Pronghorn on the road from Big Bend to Marathon