Windshield Time

I spent four hours today staring through a windshield.  I have a friend who travels a lot for work who calls this “windshield time” and I like the phrase.  It’s a contemplative time, but one that allows for multitasking  – namely moving from one point to another while thinking or talking.  Today our point A was Fruita, Colorado – an adorable town on the western edge of the state.  Our point B was Denver.  So our morning was spent traversing the state, quietly, together with Adelaide in the back seat – her eyes fluttering in and out of sleep.  We were all contemplative – Rick was doing some reading for school, Adelaide was dreaming (I imagine)  about the pasture she in which she woke this morning, with purple wildflowers and heavy dew shimmering in the early light of morning.  I was listening to “Going Driftless: An Artist’s Tribute to Greg Brown” and staring out at the buttes and mesas of Western Colorado, to the twang of a slide guitar, contemplating the trajectory of our lives.

Tomorrow I start a job that I am thrilled about.  It is a unique and special opportunity and I’m very thankful that the stars aligned for my resume to fall into the hands of the right person who could offer me a chance to combine my background in natural resources with a stronger communications role and an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of natural resource conflicts.  I am thrilled to begin a new chapter, and to take a slightly different angle to the natural resources issues I have been working on for several years now.  I cannot wait.

That said, it is sad in many ways to bring this past six months of transition to a close.  Since we left our jobs in Brisbane, Rick and I have travelled throughout much of Australia, moved back home to the United States, travelled the country searching for the right place for us to settle long-term, spent time abroad, and after much deliberation, some drama, and a bit of soul-searching we found ourselves right back where our story began in Denver.

After much contemplation, our perfect path was the one of least resistance and the one that led us to unpack our boxes in a peach stucco home flanked by flowering cherry trees in Lincoln Park.  And in settling here, we opened so many new doors – jobs, a home to expand in, and an opportunity to look at each other and be thankful for our many blessings.

So, this morning I was reflecting on everything that brought us to this point, and I won’t lie, I did a bit of happy crying.  As I steered our way back and forth over the frothy brown Colorado River, under the watchful sentinels of the rust-colored buttes, through Glenwood Canyon and on I-70 into the snowcapped peaks of Summit County, the light from the east cast shadows over the dusty slabs of mesa and snowcapped mountains in the distance.  Rick and I reminded ourselves to never become immune to the beauty of this place we live.

So often as I drive I listen to music, really listen, and try to take in a timely message and there were so many today – Greg Brown’s songs are raw and raw was in perfect tune with my heart today.  Raw and joyful.  We are burgeoning into a new phase of life together and so many small changes are happening daily that indicate we are in the right place and doing the right things for ourselves.  This morning we woke in a three person tent in a dewy field with our puppy snuggling between us. We all grinned and murmured in the orange light of sunrise knowing our first night camping back in Colorado (with puppy) was a success. Tomorrow I begin a new job and Rick begins the hunt for teaching roles – a whole new ballgame for him.  Our lives which have felt so in flux are finally setting down roots.

If gratitude ever gets old on this blog I am sorry, but I have never felt more blessed than over the last week.  Thank you for sharing it with me.

 

You can’t go home again

More than anything, I think this road trip is a showcase of how a cross-section of our friends in their late 20’s and early 30’s actually live their lives. It’s fascinating and it’s affirming. Wonderful, even.

This morning I awoke in Salt Lake City on a mattress on the floor of my sister’s house. Her place is amazing.  She has a massive backyard with gardens, a tree house, and fruit trees.  She has the entire upstairs of the house to herself, with walk-in closets, a huge log frame bed, and a jacuzzi.  Right now I am writing this blog while cuddled up with my pj’s on in front of the wood stove with tea and lebkuchen.  Life in Salt Lake is good (current inversion notwithstanding). Yet again, my severe case of “home-envy” (as Rick and I are calling it) has kicked in.

We spent yesterday and the day before in Jackson, Wyoming.  It had been more than ten years since I last visited Jackson, and things definitely were different.  But, I think Rick and I both ranked it high on our lists of places to live.  We visited a friend there and caught up over coffee.  Between hearing about her backcountry skiing, trail running, the amazing gluten-free cafe she likes, and her yoga studio, we were pretty smitten.

The downside to Jackson, and several other places we have explored, is the difficulty of getting home to our families.  Even Salt Lake City or Portland don’t allow us to travel home without a connecting flight, making a trip into a full day of travel.  So, with this in mind I have been examining my attachment to the idea that I can travel home easily.  I have struggled with guilt and a sense of irresponsibility living far from home and from my family.  I don’t particularly want to live in Wisconsin, or Chicago, or the Midwest – but I want to be there for my family.

Over the course of our trip the phrase “you can’t go home” has come up several times. The first was in “Travels with Charley” the Steinbeck book about a cross-country road trip that Rick and I listened to during the first half of our trip. In the book, he travels back to his boyhood home in California and realizes that what he associates as home has changed around him. Home exists only in his memory.  Revisiting the place only serves to deconstruct the idea.

The second was in reference to a seedy bar in Denver called the Rock Bar.  Many of our friends from our time in Denver are now spattered across the country; New York, Chicago, Portland, Salt Lake, Seattle.  So this trip has been revisiting “Denver” in the sense that it’s the last place we all shared together.  As we have traveled, we’ve spent lots of time reminiscing about our lives while in Denver – surely it was kind of a magical time for all of us.  We were young, in transition, unburdened by much responsibility, with good jobs, and altogether very free.  We skied and hiked and went out to the bars.  It was a FUN place to live.  But, we all recognize that the joy of Denver was mostly a product of the coalescence of many factors of our lives there in a specific place and time.  Were we to go back to Denver now, it would prove to be a different place.  This hit home in Portland as we reminisced about our hazy memories in a little place called the Rock Bar.  It closed down a couple years ago – thus concluding a chapter in many of our lives.

You can’t go home again.  I keep reminding myself of this. In both a light-hearted way and a serious way, life as I knew it can’t be recreated.  This is a new chapter and we have to choose what home will be going forward.