Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

road trip

Ol' Man River

Ol’ Man River

We’re on a three-day road trip to Virginia, from Oklahoma (burglars beware: my sister and her two attack hounds are house-sitting!). Which means crossing both Arkansas, and Tennessee. Which means…crossing the Mississippi River!

I adore the Mississippi River — the folk lore, the history, the stories. Mark Twain. Some day, when I grow up ( :) ), I’ll be rich enough to go on a riverboat ride, from the New Orleans delta north as far as I can ride.

In the meantime, I’m settling for quick snapshots from a car window, as we drive over the bridge that’s the boundary between Arkansas and Tennessee.

Road trips are wonderful — even when it pours (it has, for hours, in vertical BUCKETS). Even when much of yesterday’s trip was spent at a standstill, in single lane traffic on a four-lane highway. Even when you’re tired, and you miss the exit for the bathroom…image

They’re still magic. Because there’s this huge green wilderness that’s America, and you’re travelling in this tiny motorised vehicle (compared to the trucks on I40, even a Prius wagon is tiny!). No, it’s not my grandmother’s covered wagon from Kentucky. But it’s all part of that vast American myth, sometimes dark and horrible (slave ships), sometimes adventure on steroids (families in covered wagons, in the 19th century).

Not to mention that there’s that all too rare treasure: time. Time to talk, time to relax, time to figure out the precise image that should live in a tanka you add to a growing collection of road trip poetry.

Yes, this is a trip to see family over the 4th of July, as families all over America are gathering to celebrate. And I love that we’re doing it via a piece of American mythology: the road trip.

mistakes that aren’t bad

via google

via google

Making reservations for hotels while we’re on vacation, I couldn’t get the online form to ‘submit.’ Literally. Try after try, it said I wasn’t finished.  Yes I am! I thought. Dumb computer

But you know what? I’d messed up, and the form was right. I did NOT want to send it in w/ 2 rooms for 1 adult, instead of 1 room for the two of us.

Whether it was dumb luck or divine providence, it made me stop and wonder: how often have what seemed to be mistakes — even minor catastrophes — turned out to be that old blessing in disguise? And how often do I wail for no reason — even refusing to see the good that can come from a ‘mistake.’

It’s like the story Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer told, of a man whose only cow is taken. When an onlooker complains to an angel he’s accompanying (you need to find the story!), the angel replies: We were scheduled to take the wife, but he’s such a good man, we took the cow instead.

via google

via google

That’s not really a mistake, I know. But it’s the same point, at least to me. ‘Bad’ things may actually have good consequences.

All day today, when I stubbed my toe, or had a headache from my eye exam (I sooo hate having my eyes dilated!), or found the shirt I wanted clean for the trip in a messy heap, I thought about this. And you know what?

My day seemed measurably more pleasant. There may well have been angels watching.

packing, getting ready, and what counts as fun

via google

via google

I hate packing. I always forget something, although these days it’s less critical, since I’ll still be in the land of consumer items. When I lived overseas, anything I forgot meant I did without it for months…

And packing reminds me of moving, which used to make me throw up. Really. I would get sick to my stomach every time we had to move. (Often, in case you didn’t know — 14 times before I was 14.)

But I ADORE vacations. I begin anticipating a trip weeks, sometimes months, before we leave. There are guidebooks to buy, and reservations to make. There are lists of what to take, and what to do, and just planning. Which, it turns out, I like.

So, as I procrastinate packing for my upcoming trip to see my sons, DIL, and grandson, I’m wondering: how many things I would thoroughly enjoy are like vacations…? You know: with up-front stuff I don’t like.  The packing part of it.

I think I’m going to be rethinking exercise and lots of other things I would love the results of. Maybe I just need to pack? And make a list…? :)

a single squirrel

hawk with kill2When I took this picture, I was thrilled. Here was a hawk, on our corner, w/ its kill! And a second later, I noticed another hawk — a mature one, sitting atop the fence behind its offspring, watching as the young one tried to figure out how to eat a dead squirrel. How cool!

I confess: I never gave a thought to the squirrel…It’s all about context.

Yesterday, driving somewhere, I swerved to go around a newly dead squirrel in my lane, its creamy belly fur ruffling in the summer breeze. But what almost stopped me wasn’t the  dead squirrel, but its companion on the curb, pacing the cars as they drove past, watching. And no, young squirrel: your companion is not getting up.

So my grief wasn’t for the death — nor is it usually, these days. It’s for those of us abandoned to life, left to remember. Left to grieve, like the uncomprehending squirrel to the side of Riverside Drive, waiting for a small miracle.

Just a single squirrel now. Not part of a family, or a mated pair. Just a living squirrel, watching the wind tousling fur on a dead companion.

And I never even thought about the hawk.

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