My shoulders dropped below my ears for the first time in weeks on the first day of this trip, a couple of Wednesdays ago, on the highway outside of Ladysmith, Virginia. I started to smell the pine about 20 miles beyond that, so it made sense in retrospect. The pine point on I-95 South has always signaled vacation to my brain, or at the very least getting all the way out of the Washington area, which tends to make me breathe better.
My head still wasn't right, though, not for miles and miles and states and miles. It's got so much to burn off right now. What else makes you pick up and leave but too much, even if it's too much of too little.
On my way to Santa Fe, I wasn't sure this plan was working. I was tired and frustrated, triggered by a door closing the wrong way, antsy. I thought I wanted to go home, although I knew that wasn't the deal. I just didn't want to feel like this, anywhere.
Then I got here.
Somewhere in the space between Friday and Saturday, I felt things lightening. The turn of the month, the blue moon, exhaustion, boredom, dehydration, listening to some guy who sang beautifully (and oddly like Tracy Chapman, which was fun) -- I don't know what it was.
(Yes, everyone took one. No, I cannot take a moon picture to save my life. This is for the STORY.)
And then yesterday I drove here.
Ghost Ranch was gorgeous and compelling. Every mile that twisted up on 25 North beyond where I'd intended to drive was different. The roadside memorials reminded me to keep my eyes on the traffic, but it was difficult not to gawk at every new shade of orange and brown and white painted, yes, it does look like it, onto the sides of mountains, at the greens and yellows all around. I can understand why an artist would want to become a part of this landscape, although the courage to try to interpret it is beyond me. Whatever Georgia O'Keeffe had, I'd like some in a bottle, please. My words have been flailing around in my head for almost 24 hours.
When I left I intended to turn left to go back to the city. I turned right, and got this.
Echo Amphitheater pops up out of nowhere on the road beyond Abiquiu. Better pictures are on my big camera (which is going to explode if I don't dump that card soon. I can't even imagine what going through that mess is going to be like.) This guy took a good one if you want to see the whole thing. It's a natural echo chamber carved out of sandstone cliffs. When I got up the stairs at the end where you have a 360-degree view of the whole thing, a very smart-sounding geologically-aware guy was explaining how it all happened to his friend.
Then they left, and I broke down. I was alone in this place I had no idea existed until five minutes before, in a new state, in a logjam in many ways of my own making. The quiet out there is such that your ears turn inside out hearing nothing, even your own brain whirring. I looked up to the sky in what my religious background only permits me to describe as supplication, and I said, "Help."
If you want to feel tiny, say that there. If you want to hear your voice say what it really needs to say, go to a place like that alone and speak. Weird things come out, too, but that's okay. Better there than in someone else's ear.
I do believe in God, I think. I'm not sure what it is, but I like to think that something works for good, even with all of the shitty and terrible things that happen every day. Without hope, which, for me, resides in a sense of everything being tied together somehow on a level I can't see or understand, there isn't any point. I haven't stopped to think about any of this in a long time, but I think the trick is not to think so hard, maybe.
My eyes settled on this small outcropping at the way, way top, with green growing out of it. It reminded me of an altar.
At the risk of sounding as woo-woo (and at the same time, incorrigibly culturally Catholic) as I'm feeling at the moment, I left everything up there, all the garbage that I'm tired of, bad feelings and pointless worry, this horrible space I've been in again of beating back reality with my mind. I'm just done. I can't do it anymore. All the things people say about letting go and ceding control are correct. It's so hard sometimes when I'm caught up in the fray, I don't even see it happening until it's too late, but it is very important, because days are rushing by regardless.
This has been a rough stretch. I'll take relief where I can get it.
I don't know how all of these pieces will reintegrate (Woo-woo. See? And I bought sage yesterday, too. Good God.) And I'm not stupid enough to think that some personal ritual in the middle of somewhere will keep me from backsliding. But at least I have a tag for it now, a place where it was recognized, a before and after. Those are always useful.
I feel pretty sure that the winds that blow in a place that has been an execution site (I'm glad I didn't know that when I was there. Ignorance for the historical win.) can take care of some negative energy that a random person had to leave behind.
I drove almost 3,000 miles to give up, and to figure out why I'd done this in the first place. Sometimes the answers are very slow to unfold, and I've always worked harder than I need to on simple things, but I did not approve my wiring. I just have to work with it now. Some days, like yesterday, it seems like it might even be doable.
I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do. -- Georgia O'Keeffe