Richard and I loved to take road trips. He drove, and I watched the landscape and speculated about the whys of it all: Why a ridge was shaped the way it was, why the lichens on one rock were orange and the other green, why that slope grew forest and that prairie….
Sometimes we talked, sometimes we were silent. Sometimes we drove for hours without stopping; sometimes we stopped to watch birds, look at wildflowers, gawk at a sky-full of stars, or pick up a rock (Richard preferred large rocks the size you could sculpt into basins, tables, sinks, or firepits). Often we wrote and edited haiku in our heads. Always we held hands.
When we moved home to Colorado 15 years ago, we were talking about the trips we had made across the state, and I said, “We’ve laid a lot of threads across this landscape.” Richard loved that metaphor; ever after, anytime we set out on a route we had taken before, he would say, “We’re following familiar threads.”
Over the weekend I followed one of those threads west on US 50 over Monarch Pass, down Tomichi Creek and through Gunnison, along the Gunnison River and then around Blue Mesa Lake with its wide bathtub ring from the drought, and then up and over Blue Mesa Divide, down to follow the Cimarron River, up Cerro Summit and finally down into Montrose, a bustling town on Colorado’s West Slope.
I admired the landscape, silently pondered some “why?” questions, but didn’t stop.
I was eager to get to Montrose in time for a massage with my friend Ginny Anthony, followed by dinner with Ginny and her husband Mark. I made it, the massage was heavenly, and their dog Tyler was delighted to play tug-the-hedgehog. I admired Ginny and Mark’s garden, was treated to a yummy dinner of Nepalese food at Guru’s, and was back in my Subaru before dark, headed for a place to spend the night under the waxing moon.
As I drifted off to sleep I told Richard that I loved him, and that I had traveled one of our threads. I felt good; I slept well.
The next morning’s drive, back over Cerro Summit and Blue Mesa Divide, along shrunken Blue Mesa Lake, and up the Gunnison River Canyon, was lovely. I stopped to shoot photos here and there, amazed at the color in the chokecherry, currant, and serviceberry, a beautiful but eerie drought-induced display a month early.
As I passed through Gunnison, an ambulance screamed past from behind me. I said a quick blessing and hoped all was well. A few miles later, I topped a hill and found a line of vehicles stopped in the highway from both directions. At the bottom of the hill, lights flashed: the ambulance plus a sprinkling of patrol cars. A motorcycle lay on the shoulder near a small car.
I turned off the engine, got out, and joined a small knot of people from the other vehicles. One guy had his binoculars out and said it looked like a head-on between the bike and the car. Just then the ambulance screamed up the hill, headed back to Gunnison. We voiced our hopes that whoever was hurt would be okay, and watched the officers at the bottom of the hill measuring and photographing. The talk turned to distracted drivers and the perils of motorcycles versus cars–several of the stopped vehicles were pulling trailers with dirt bikes or road hogs. Eventually the official vehicles dispersed, we wished each other well, and headed back to our vehicles and drove on.
I saw the landscape through tears the rest of the way home, grieving at it all: Richard gone and me here without him; the motorcyclist in the ambulance, the driver of the car with the bashed in front-end and the responsibility for someone’s life.
None of it made sense, and it likely never will. Life is what life is, and we do our best to live it with love and compassion, thoughtfulness and generosity.
At home I unpacked the car and went outside to water the kitchen garden. And saw that the sacred datura I had planted right outside the bedroom door in Richard’s memory–those huge white trumpets were a favorite of his–was opening its first-ever blossom.
Beauty & death, grief & blooming time…. Emerson had it right:
Our lives are an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn. That there is no end in nature; every end is a beginning.