May 19, 2017. Rock Springs, Wyoming
As of this writing, I am waiting out a snowstorm in a motel 6 in a small town in western Wyoming. Interstate 80 Eastbound is closed across the entire state of Wyoming due to the blizzard. I did not know they had weather like this in Wyoming in late May, but according to a local I met, snowstorms are common in May and even June.
The ironic part is that I’ve made this drive twice before, once in November and once in January, with clear skies and no weather to speak of. Both times, I breezed right through the state without stopping except for gas, and once, to pick up a hitchhiker who kept me company for the day. (He was very kind, loved Jesus Christ, and turned out to be nearly totally crazy, but in what felt like a harmless way.)
Cait and I encountered snow first on Donner Pass, on our first day of driving. We were skittish and unprepared, driving a moving van on that winding highway in less than ideal conditions, but we persevered, believing the snow would soon be behind us. We made it to Winnemucca, NV where we began our tour of Motel 6s (“The original pet friendly motel”) across the western United States, with our 11-year old tabby cat in tow. The next day took us to Salt Lake City, surely one of my favorite places to visit, due to my love of mountains and salt flats, and a particular fondness I have for the Great Salt Lake.
When I came here the first time and visited the Great Salt Lake, it was weird and desolate with a thick fog hanging over it. From the road, I couldn’t distinguish between salt, snow, sand, and fog. They all blended together in an indistinct white blur. I pulled over at the lake itself, and walked out to the shore where salt flats met the briny lake, where flies buzzed and the air smelled like low tide. There were no other people there besides myself and my travel companion, who was taking a phone call. As I walked along the shore, on the snow-dusted salt crust, I said hello to the lake.
My mom had died only two months earlier and the veils were extra thin for me then. It was not uncommon for me to have full conversations with trees, with ancestors, with deities. Not one-sided conversations either, but actual two-sided conversations, sometimes with words, but often without.
Anyway, I introduced myself to the Great Salt Lake, and I told her how impressed I was with her ancient majesty, with how she had once been a great ocean and was now a mineral-rich, briny lake in the desert.
I felt an immediate sense of being welcomed. It was so palpable, this sense of being welcomed. What followed is hard to explain, but I’ll try: The Great Salt Lake asked me if I wanted to be friends.
No, not in words. I haven’t found that any beings other than humans communicate in words. Think of how dogs welcome their people when they come in the door, and how palpable their happiness is, and how their people feel it. It was kind of like that. I just felt it in my heart, that the lake reached out to me in friendship, and what she wanted was simply that, no strings attached. Also that we were different but kindred somehow, and that a person and a lake could be friends, something I had never thought of before.
Definitely I wanted to be friends with the Great Salt Lake.
So we hung out together for a just a while longer that day, both of us just happy to be together.
It came time for me to leave, but I was back just two months later for another visit, doing the same drive (from Nebraska to California) in reverse. This time, I went to the marina instead of just the shallow, salty shore where I was the first time. The feeling I felt was the same, the joy of being with a friend.
I met an old Native man who lived on his boat there, and he invited me aboard and gave me a cup of Swiss Miss to drink. He loved the lake too, and though he referred to himself as a “crazy old Indian”, he was not crazy. Or we both were, bobbing gently on the salty lake, happy to just sit together.
I wanted to come back again and again. It felt so possible then. Anything felt possible. I was 23 and moving to California. But years passed and I did not visit. I did not think the lake minded much, if at all, but I missed her.
Two days ago I finally made it back for a brief visit. Cait was stressed-out, driving our moving van through salt lake city traffic, gripping the steering wheel with sweaty hands. We had just stopped at a rest stop in Bonneville Salt Flats, where we were surprised by a sudden hail storm, then snow. It had been clear and cold up to then. When we pulled into Great Salt Lake State Park the sky looked like pure fire and brimstone. I could see why this place was settled by a bunch of religious fanatics. There were several wild, dark cloud formations to one side with what looked like snow pouring out of them. It was easy to see where the snow storm started and where it ended. To the other side, there was beautiful blue sky with puffy clouds shot through with streaming sunlight. High in the sky, from one of the storm clouds, what looked like a small funnel cloud slowly swirled.
The water had receded greatly since the last time I was there seven years ago, and the salt flats had spread. There were several small groups of foreign tourists taking photos and walking on the flats, some adventurous souls trekking down to the water, which was far off. There was a large, abandoned building there that looks like a temple of some kind. It loomed over the whole scene ominously.
It was a strange apocolyptic-looking sight, with the storm clouds, the weird sunlight, a Chinese family taking photos and laughing, the seemingly endless salt flats, and the abandoned temple. Snow-capped peaks in the opposite direction.
I was there in a red sundress, rubber flip-flops, and two sweaters, doing my best to keep out the bitter cold and wind, with all my warm clothes packed away and hard to reach in the bowels of the moving van. I was cold and a little nervous about the weather, but oddly I felt a sense of deep peace as soon as my feet touched the salt flats.
I never made it to the water. It was so ominous, I could not bring myself to make the trek down there. But I walked on the flats, feeling happy to be with my friend again, before I got too chilled and went back to the truck. I felt a sense of heavy sadness to be leaving so soon, but almost as soon as i climbed in, there was a clap of thunder, followed by rain and snow in alternation.
An accident on the 15 sent us north of the city where we stayed for the night. The next morning when we headed out, it was clear and beautiful. We drove through country of breathtaking beauty, following a winding river and old railroad tracks nestled between rocky cliffs and grassy hills and lowlands dotted with grazing cattle and horses.
Then the snow started, slowly and dryly at first, and then in earnest. Soon it was nearly a white out, and the 18 wheelers headed from the opposite direction were coated in snow and looked to me like old men walking in cloaks, leaning into a powerful headwind as they made their slow way through the storm.
I was getting continuous text message updates from Whitney about the blizzard in Fort Collins. Somehow I just thought it would clear, and we’d make it through Wyoming that day, but Rock Springs was as far East as we have gotten.
So I’m reflecting on Place, and Weather, and Water, and how some of my dear friends have not been human or animal, but instead have been water sources, trees, and plants. My friendship with the Great Salt Lake opened my awareness to a new kind of friendship. Since then, I have been good friends with a creek, a buckeye tree, and a eucalyptus. Looking back on my life even before then, a certain bush of Red Russian kale was a sweet friend to me one summer (I still feel all warm and fuzzy when I think of that kale bush) and I had what could only be called a crush on a certain lily.
May 28, 2017. Lincoln, Nebraska.
I sobbed in my dream early this morning. My heart felt like it was cracking down the middle.
In my dream I saw a Manzanita with its slender, red branches. I felt how far away I was from any Manzanitas at all, and I felt indescribable sadness at the separation, and how as a human I am mobile or even migratory, but as a tree, a Manzanita spends most or all of her life in one spot. I sobbed and sobbed.
Then, still dreaming, I saw the tall, slender third-growth Redwoods I knew so well in Oakland, and then the beautiful Buckeye with her spreading canopy.
When I woke, my eyes were wet but no tears flowed. I felt a leaden feeling in my chest. Other than a particular Buckeye and a particular Eucalyptus, I hadn’t realized how close I felt to the trees.
I brushed off my dreaming state. There is nothing to be done, I told myself, except to get to know the trees here. Linden is blooming now, and the air is filled with her intoxicating sweetness. I’ll get to know Linden now.
June 26, 2017. Lincoln, Nebraska.
Rain today, and thunder. I remember now how thunderstorms are so common here, but I had forgotten. Nebraska feels like a playground for weather spirits of all kinds. They tear around freely and the weather is always changing.
I’m reflecting that perhaps I have appeared to create a stylish, mobile lifestyle for myself, seeing clients on my laptop from different locations. I want to set the record straight that it isn’t really like that. I see many people online (coaches, consultants, and various people who can work remotely) presenting a sleek image of themselves doing their work from anywhere, and saying how great it is to do so.
The truth is that this journey of moving and re-rooting has been a SHIT TON of work, has been expensive, has involved gas station food and other strange culinary choices, and that when it comes down to it, I really don’t even like to travel. There was one oppressively hot day that I felt the heaviness of all the miles and all the furniture I had moved, and I stayed in bed resting and reading for the entire day.
It isn’t stylish, or picturesque, or sustainable, though parts have been heart-warming, and rich in soul - and staying with my dad for a month had a sweetness to it beyond anything I could have imagined. And most days I still feel sorrow and a stab of longing when I think of the trees, waters, land, and people of California which I left behind.
I’ve been very happy to continue seeing some regular clients during this life transition of mine, but I couldn’t possibly accept a new client until I am rooted again. I don’t have the capacity.
I still have not fully unpacked my apothecary!
We just got the oven working and hot water heater turned on!
I haven't even hooked up internet in our house!
I wander around from room to room, searching for my keys or my glasses, because I don’t yet have a specific place where I keep them and they could be in 17 different spots!
I feel myself rooting slowly, developing new routines, and totally accepting that I might spend an entire day getting one part of one room in our new house put together, functional, looking how I want it to look. (This is progress.) It feels like all the hard work and the sorrow I have felt are an inevitable part of being engaged in life and not skating by on the surface.
I want to be in Place like I am in Time. Fully and totally embedded in this sacred Earth in this holy moment. Sometimes there is sorrow in there, sometimes joy.
Here I am back in my personal homeland.
May I be fully here.
May I be fully here.
*All photos were taken by me on my recent travels