My intention was to get home and write Part 5 in reflection of our most recent road trip, including its impact on our artistic collaboration, but mama nature has had another plan.
Our return home to Montana after three weeks on the road was met with a current and moderate threat. An uncontrolled wildfire has been ablaze nearby. The smoke permeates all outdoor activity. Seven homes gone and 17,000 acres burned so far. The mental state of impermanence continuously zaps dendrites in the brain. Welcome to nature.
We emptied and deep cleaned The Goat (our van), then packed it up all over again, in case of a need to evacuate. My toothbrush and medicine sit in a bag by the sink, refusing to be placed in a cabinet.
A normal return’s time of reflection is now muddled with whispers like, that cedar foot locker, a family heirloom of over five generations, does not fit in the van.
I don’t want to take framed photos that we can replace with the digital cloud, but images of my family burning is a bit disturbing. I grabbed just the photos of the dead and wedged them between my better paintings in the Suburu.
Nonetheless, and equally important: We just spent three weeks on the road and witnessed some epic things.
On a primal note
We were able to view 10 National Parks, hiking, biking, and driving around notable phenomena of the preserved natural earth, a lot of deep holes and tall bumps in the end. Much of it was a canvas for the gods. The sky also kicked in some inspiring storms, sunsets and moon rises, on top of summer heat from Yellowstone to Tetons to Salt Lake City, Arches, a jaunt to Paonia, Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, the salt flats and volcanic rock on the way back. We did battle severe winds in a desert drive for a few hours, the only time I heard Bob really curse. The van is tall and narrow; we were blasted repeatedly from yellow line to white line the whole time.
We also got downright filthy. I went five days without a shower at one point. My hair was in an eternal messy bun because long hair is not entirely conducive to van life. Neither is a true keto diet, nor pilates, by the way. I find that ironic.
We laughed a lot. We are hardy midwesterners after all. We clocked gorgeous hours of silence too. We were able to stay in some free “dispersed” campsites of forest land. There were grizzlies in the area. Robin Carey suggests that it is healthy for us to experience our vulnerability in the face of a griz. I thought about that when I forgot my bear spray on a solo morning walk in the Tetons. If the bears don’t get you, the southern heat will. I feel more alive and raw after so much time in all that fresh air. Mission accomplished.
On a civilized note
With idealistic confusion, we reveled in occasional conveniences – loaded up like dominoes in a tarred RV parking lot, where one changes clothes hoping the neighbors won’t look; we used water and electrical hook-ups, a personal internet dish, and even watched a full season of Black Mirror. As is normal with a steady dose of the wild, my mind went largely blank. I also read three books just to stimulate some balance.
Mostly, I felt intolerant of others. Yes, I can get selfish like that, especially when humans arrived in droves for selfies in front of each vista, or if anyone found it necessary to shriek over nothing. I also observed a couple bully-dads bringing their children to tears. Wait, does that fall under civilized? It made me want to get heroic, but that choice does not tend to go my way. Instead, I silently conjured compassion for the angry dads of the world, like some sort of pacifist.
Part 6 will allow a preview of our project.
The rest of the wisdom gleaned from the earth will be shared in photos and words via our collaborative daily meditation book. If the fires here at home should rage any closer, we can go to my friend Molly’s in town for an interim stay. We are heading out in the van again in just a few weeks anyway. It is obvious to me, we are blessed.