we just got back on monday from 12 days on the road. 12 good days. great days in fact, except for the squabbling that naturally ensues when 4 people travel 2500+ miles in a dodge Neon. i won't really talk about the "padiddle" game either (and no we don't play the racey version), which in our family inevitably devolves into heated and loud arguments over who saw the car first and whether it really did have a headlight out or not, whether the slap was wiped off properly and fast enough, etc. you get the idea. it's a good way to stay awake after the first 400 miles though! but i digress ...
this trip was planned around visiting my aunt and uncle in Raleigh, a visit we'd promised to make back in february at my grambie's funeral. there were many reasons to do so, including some health-related prompts, and so once we finally got a reliable vehicle (long story that involved 7 tows and the worst lemon Jeep I've ever laid eyes on) we took the first break michael had from work and started plotting. we invited ourselves to a friend's place in VA, a wedding in Chicago, and worked in a visit to a possible caretaking job in NC too. i was really looking forward to spending the time together, as we've had very little of it in the last couple of months, and road trips seem to be one of the best ways i've found to get a good dose of it.
we started off with a drive down to the Delmarva peninsula, ending up at the house of michael's old studiomate and friend from the early bklyn years. roland has an oyster farm on the bay side, and his wife's family runs a clam farm on the ocean side. we got the grand tour of the oyster operations (who knew they grew from seed, and in bags?) and ate an obscene and utterly delicious number of clams for dinner. fresh seafood is right on the top of my last meal list. filthy from wading in the backwaters of Chesapeake bay, we headed on to Raleigh ...
... where these two were waiting with open arms. welcomed, fed, talked, museumed, senate and house toured, festivaled, talked, puzzled, swam, talked, cousined, ice creamed, and then talked some more. i couldn't get enough. i love family, and my aunt is a delightful mix of Grambie and her more analytical and business-savvy father. i relate to both sides of that mix, as well as to issues that come from having stepped out of the church/meeting we were both raised in. i found myself nodding an awful lot, and crystallizing in my head some of the things that i like to do (as i recognized them in her). seeing groups of people as giant puzzles that can be fit together, sensing who is likely to do what, why some butt heads and others shy away, where the communication blocks are, and what needs to be said to break the conversation open or tip the scales. probably the piece of me most responsible for getting me into life coaching. she's done amazing things with those skills, and many more, and it was delightful to see how she's tempered grandpa's savvy with grambie's heart, and made it into something so effective and appealing at the same time. gold in my book.
we also got to spend time with a couple of my cousins in the area, one with 3 gorgeous girls and one planning a wedding in the spring. grambie memories were plentiful, time snatched to talk between school activities, and bedtimes and homework shoved back as far as possible. delicious.
next stop was one of the most gorgeous corners of the country we've seen to date. up in the mountains of NC, just below the TN line, lives the aunt of a dear friend from way back. she's got some property on the side of a mountain, and it's getting to be a bit more than she can keep up with. we'd talked about perhaps moving there to pitch in with chores, so stopped for a meal, a tour, a chat, and a night on the mountain. it was beautiful, appealing, perfect, and simply not for us.
i felt badly that i couldn't have said that before we visited, but it took sitting down over dinner with our delightful hostess to fully realize that we couldn't do what she needed without letting go of our dreams of land and building our own cob/stone home with the big kitchen table, endless coffee pots, scattered books, stretching conversations, bottles of wine, and piles of visitors. (oh, and a motley crop of treehouses). that dream that we've been talking about for years, and started moving towards last fall. that dream that still seems daunting, but more possible because we're already out in the woods, staring at more than 6 stars at a time, and learning to build things. to envision things too, like what that curve of land really ought to become, and how it all fits together with what's already there. stonework. teamwork. it feels like the pieces we need are starting to come to the surface.
which is why it should come as no surprise that when we pulled away from that beautiful spot, my mind promptly started wandering in a totally different direction. one that we've tossed around flippantly for years, but i never took seriously. ahem, to be truthful, my husband talked seriously about it and i never really considered it. too impractical, flighty, crazy. lets get a camper and wander around north america for a year! visit lots of people we know, meet new people, see the country, and take an epic road trip. homeschooling on the road.
i grew up with a lot of travel. road trips in this country, and wandering all over rural south and central america. trips that stretched my ideas of home, family, normality, and boundaries. learning that lots of people live lots of different ways, and that it's all cool. interesting. fascinating actually. i wanted that for my kids too, but didn't see any way to make it happen financially. so we moved to nyc for my husband's art, and figured that the kids would get a good dose of cultural differences that way. they did, in spades, and it was good. very good.
what they've not gotten though, in all their cultural marinating, is a good idea of the enormity of this country. they've never been west of the mississippi in any meaningful way, so have no idea of how big the rockies really are, how sunny/wet/sandy the west coast is, the epicness of the plains, and all the ways you can pronounce crayon and refer to you all. they have much to learn, and many more people to meet. so do we, so i'll come back to that idea in a minute. next stop (after a brief and lovely lunch with keren and bobby) ... chicago!
Rose was getting hitched to her love Paul, and after waiting till age 66 to do it we couldn't pass up a chance to celebrate with her. a more thrilled bride i have never seen, and she radiated love, happiness, and a wee bit of glee.
she also radiated something else, which i couldn't put my finger on until the reception. the guest list was made up of church folks, ex-church folks, friends, family, and neighbors. being that i'm of the ex-church category, i was prepared to feel a bit on the "outside" of things by the people i use to worship with. something i've gotten used to since i left 7 years ago, and something i thought didn't bug me anymore. i've no regrets over leaving the church, but never stopped loving the people i left. it was delightful to see people i haven't run into in decades (who left before i did) and find that they're just the same. some even looking younger :).
so what did rose radiate that permeated the room? whatever it was, whatever you want to call it, she made the lines invisible. the lines that most everyone in the church can see, that still seem to matter, that say who's in and who's out, who's more right and less right. those lines that i've felt drawn around me for the last 7 years (actually forever, just that my "side" has switched), especially any time i'm in a gathering that mixes up the innies and the outies. it's always irked me. made me feel either special or judged.
rose has never seen those lines, and that simple fact made them disappear on her day. it affected me to the point that i burst into tears trying to tell her what she'd done. as i struggled with finding the words, choking on "feeling outside", she assured me that i wasn't. yes, i know that it's about who i am before god and not anyone else, circles be damned. but my heart still sees them, trips over them, hates them. rose did a beautiful thing. a perfect thing. and something that i wish could be plugged into the matrix and propagated. but i'll settle for a rose-perfect day for now.
seeing the crowd at her wedding, and the evidence of open wounds and sore hearts, did absolutely nothing to dampen the idea that maybe we should take off in the spring and trot around the country. visiting. ignoring lines. fixing stuff. building stuff. meeting new people. gathering ideas. digging up old roots and finding new ones. maybe tripping over the right place to build, and finding hands to help with it. it's the first thing that's felt right in awhile, and my heart feels like it's waking up. seeing the next step, and already obsessing about it. planning it, imagining it, and realizing that it's about getting going, but not really knowing where or how. seeing what came of a structured 12-day jaunt, that was infinitely larger than i expected, gives me a wee taste of what it means to stay hungry, stay foolish in practice. makes me want more.