Coming Home to Rain and Beauty

After driving 4,652 miles in the past three weeks, through six states, plus presenting at two writing conferences, and spending time in three national parks, two national wildlife refuges, and I forget how many state parks and natural areas, and hunkering down for two very productive writing days in a little town within sight of the Pacific Ocean, I am home again.

(The photo above is a line of cottonwood trees golden with autumn along a wash in the sagebrush desert northeast of Moab, Utah. The brilliance of their leaves in the gray day caught my eye and reminded me of how much I treasure my time on this glorious planet.)

Along the way, I visited friends, had the gift of a long lunchtime conversation with the writer Barry Lopez, and spent a few wonderful days with the Washington contingent of the Tweit family. I camped out under some of the starriest skies I’ve ever seen, with the Milky Way a brilliant river running from horizon to horizon, and stayed in a few sketchy motels, a resort at an eerily green golf course in the high desert (a conference hotel), a cozy motel where the booming waves of the not-so-Pacific-Ocean lulled me to sleep, plus spent a night at a grand and historic hotel on the rim of Crater Lake.

The beach at Yachats, Oregon, below my motel. 

I talked about writing, and place, and the unraveling–and restoration–of this earth and we humans; I ate impromptu picnics as I drove, savored delicious meals at the homes of friends and family, and relished dinner at an Italian bistro with my brother and sister-in-law before they took me to “Recent Tragic Events,” a play very much worth seeing, as my belated birthday present. 

I heard sandhill cranes call as they migrated overhead, ducks chuckling as they settled down at night, trains passing, waves crashing, and the hum of Red’s tires on the road over the howling of the wind. I smelled rain-wet sagebrush, briny ocean breezes, dead fish on the shore, diesel exhaust, fried clams, roasting coffee, and damp evergreen forests.

The forest at Cape Perpetua Natural Area, on the central Oregon Coast.

I walked along the Snake River, crunched over the cracked mud of dry Malheur Lake, strolled the jagged rim of Crater Lake, hiked the soft duff under whitebark pines on the Pacific Crest Trail, trotted on sand packed firm by the waves on the beach at Yachats, toured the flowers of my sister-in-law’s garden, and watched the muddy Colorado River slip past massive red sandstone cliffs…

The Colorado River just north and east of Moab, Utah, near Arches National Park.

Tonight, I sit at the kitchen island in my cozy house with the welcome sound of a fall rain pattering on the roof, a blessing after eight weeks with nary a drop falling from the sky. The cheerful flames of a fire in my little gas stove warm the house and my spirits. 

Tonight, “home” is one of the sweetest words in the English language. A word that sounds as comforting as it feels to be here.

I’m eating a bowl of soup from Ploughboy Local Market, enriched by tomatoes and broccoli just harvested from my front-deck garden, and pondering all I saw and experienced and felt in my days on the road.

I did a lot of listening while I drove. For the first thousand miles or so, I listened with music in the background, a random selection from my iPhone that I boosts my mood through the long miles. For the next three-and-a-half thousand miles, I eschewed even that favored music and listened within, following the tracings of thoughts, intuitions, and feelings.

Sunset over the Klamath Valley from Crater Lake Lodge

There’s a lot going on inside me. I’m 59 years old, a widow nearly four years now, and I am still learning who I am and what I want to be when I grow up. The thinking time in all those miles, the being away from my usual routine, resulted in a new understanding of my mission in life. And some ideas about furthering that mission that may be wild or may be brilliant–sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference!–which I’ll be writing about in coming weeks. 

When I arrived home, I found a gift, a painting by Catalina Garretón, an artist and textile designer who stayed at Treehouse on a Terraphlia Residency while I was away.


Catalina’s painting of “hózhó,”  an interpretation as exquisite as an oriental screen or a glimmering tapestry. 

As I look at her canvas with its images of mountains and leaves from the cottonwood tree outside the studio window (the tree for which Treehouse is named) and the colors of earth and sky and sagebrush desert, colors echoed on the walls of my house, I think again of how lucky I am to simply be able to take part in this life, to “walk the skin of this earth,” as Richard used to say.

And how much I want my days on this planet to reflect that kind of beauty in Catalina’s painting, beauty in the sense of the Navajo word “hózhó,” which means a state of being in life. “Hózhó” also means harmony, balance, and wholeness. 

Whatever is ahead in my life, I am determined to walk it in beauty, with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand. And to use my time to heal this earth and we humans, wherever and however I can. 

Bless you all for walking with me.