The Big Picture

Broad brush stroke impressions of Montana:

  • Big, big sky
  • Cattle (mostly Black Angus)
  • Horses (a whole lot of Quarter Horses)
  • Hay (for the cattle and horses)
  • Corn (for the cattle and horses)
  • Cowboy hats
  • Dogs
  • Pickup trucks
  • White crosses
  • Casinos
  • Trains
  • Super-friendly people
  • Beef (I refer you back to cattle)
  • Old West
  • Mountains, mountains, mountains
  • Rivers
  • Big, big sky

There is so much more, of course. I’m currently sitting in Bozeman’s beautiful two-story library, clean and new and bright and state-of-the-art. Next to the library is a bronze sculpture park, and there is more artwork everywhere around town. Statues of owls and leaping trout. Paintings on junction boxes, some of them featuring horses covered with traditional Native American war horse symbols. There are breweries and musicians, galleries and restaurants, coffee shops and cool green city parks. There is Montana State University.

The city itself is surrounded by vast fields that stretch for miles; the vast fields are bordered by mountains that rise up into the wide sky, which opens to scattered puffs of clouds in the day, rivers of stars at night. 

For obvious reasons, artists, photographers, writers, and poets are all drawn here. The streams and rivers sing. The air glimmers and hums in the bright sunlight. It is a place to stay for a while, which I may do. I feel as if there is something just beyond my ken, more to uncover, my fingers searching for an invisible veil behind which…well, that’s what I’d like to discover. It will require my being still for a time. It will mean sitting with my own stillness, which for all my practicing along my traveling way, continues to be an art form that eludes me.

Yesterday I drove out to Paradise Valley and took the East River Road that follows the Yellowstone River toward the south. I saw three other drivers along the route. I took my time moseying, drinking in the stunning vistas, creeping past enormous ranches and jutting mountains and honey-colored fields dotted with oversized bales of rolled-up hay, and catching glimpses of the translucent pale green river as it wound toward, then away from the road. From a distance it looked lazy and tame.

Later, when I found a place to pull over and walk down to the water, I discovered the Yellowstone River is anything but tame. Along the banks the bright water splashes insistently at round river stones and troubles the trailing willow fronds. Toward the middle of the wide river one sees the fast-moving current, over which white-throated swifts dart and skim, picking off insects.

I can imagine if one were in a canoe or kayak, one would soon be delivered downstream, and paddling back upstream would be an impossibility. These would not be waters in which I would want my swimming capabilities tested. Like everything else out here, there is wildness hidden behind the beauty.

Tonight I am going with friends to the Country Bookshelf (hurray for independent bookstores!) to hear environmental activist Brooke Williams (Terry Tempest Williams’ husband) read from and speak about his latest book, Open Midnight: Where Ancestors and Wilderness Meet. I’m about halfway into the book now. It’s a compelling intertwining of how our ancestors and the natural world around us speak to us, how mysticism is the correct approach to encountering the wilderness both outside and inside ourselves, and how to carry hope for reconnecting to all we’ve lost touch with – the resonance of the very earth and rocks and trees and hills, the signaling of both long-dead and newly-minted stars, the music of our own soaring souls, tugging at the traces of the everyday limitations we too willingly self-apply.

I’m eager to be in Williams’ presence. I’ve been spending a good deal of my time here watching birds, studying insects, examining rocks, gazing over fields, listening to the wind rattle the leaves in the trees – trying to reconnect with my own sense of wonder, which along this journey I’ve begun to misplace, falling back into old patterns of anxiety, worry, fatigue which then lead to “hurry, hurry, hurry and forget the life you are in right now.”

And I’m eager to be in his presence, because I, too, am listening for the ancestors. Before I return to North Carolina, I’ll be making a few final stops. One will be in Louisville, Kentucky where I was born and where grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are buried in their native soil. I think I am ready to hear what they want to tell me.

I might even be ready to hear what they will ask of me.

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Montana and Me

(Saturday) I left Spokane for Loon Lake, driving the 35+ miles up through scrub pines and hills to meet a couple who had moved up to northern Washington from Los Angeles several years ago, friends of my California-based niece. They followed dreams and muses and the allure of living remote, surrounded by nature – deer with their fawns, proud strolling bucks, large coyotes, busy turkeys, and even the occasional majestic mountain lion.

These lovely folks took us in and fed us (Beasley and Connor threatened to move in with them and leave me to my own devices), then we sat visiting like old pals. I was even treated to a Flower Essences experience, which process invited me to work on some of my ongoing issues, like boundary-setting and balance and so forth. Lots to ponder.

They’ve just released a book about their own search for deeper things, The Spirit Factor. Sunday morning after breakfast I hit the road, bound for Montana.

The route took us across the top of the Idaho Panhandle, some of the most gorgeous terrain I’ve seen, with angled mountains thick with dark green pines. We sailed past Coeur d’Alene, ignoring the suggestion of a couple of folks to check it out (alleged to be adorable!), since I was racing to keep us ahead of the return of triple-digit temperatures.

Threading our way up through the mountains, we were suddenly delivered into an area with a wide blue-green lake that seemed to go on and on, graceful curves back in and among the trees. Lake Coeur d’Alene. Stunning and soul-soothing. I slowed down and let the cool colors seep into my hurried brain while traffic whizzed past us.

(Monday, at a Missoula, Montana campground) This morning I am waiting with great anticipation, banking on the 20% chance prediction of precipitation.

I cannot remember the last time I saw rain. Other than the couple of days in early May of spitting snow in Mt. Shasta, I can’t recall any precipitation at all for months. I think the January storm in Florida was the last time.

I can hardly articulate how exciting this possibility is. How the cool that comes ahead of the rain washes me new. How the lusciously seductive perfume of petrichor, the dampened earth releasing her secrets, dizzies my mind.

How the scent of pavement rises up just now, and I am nine again, racing my red bike that I pretended was my horse, Silver, riding ahead of the rising Tennessee storm, dark sky behind me and the wind whipping debris from the road, and I turn right into our driveway and pedal faster up the incline, skidding into our open garage just as the first drops splat on the hot black asphalt.

I love rain. I love the sound it makes on the roof, so much so that a metal roof was a big factor in buying my North Carolina home. So much so that I have an app on my phone that plays a loop of rain pattering down through trees and on windows, and sometimes I fall asleep to this dreamy backdrop.

I love how incoming rain darkens the day, the delicious ominous lowering of clouds, and how every color is enhanced as if the light, rather than leaving instead has found its way inside the trees and grass and flowers, their hues bright and electric against the slate gray skies.

Rain makes me want to brew a cup of tea and read a book. Or perch by a window and yield to the mesmerizing patterns of falling drops. It makes me want to turn on lamps and pull a light wrap around my shoulders.

This morning I am watching Roadcinante’s skylights as I sip my coffee, hoping to see drops on the glass. The smell of prairie grasses come to me on the cool breeze. I watch and wait.

Later, in the middle of walking the dogs, all of a sudden silver marble-sized drops hit the pavement with loud pops, and I turn my face upward, hoping to be drenched. But the clouds pass by so quickly, I am not even dampened. Another dry day.

(Tuesday night, Missoula campground) Today I drove up through the Flathead Indian Reservation to Flathead Lake and a town called Polson, where I stopped at an outlet called Three Dog Down just to see what they had, mostly interested by the name and intrigued by the carving of the three dogs outside.

Two hours later I had in my possession a custom-made feather bed that fits perfectly on top of the memory foam mattress in Roadcinante, a mattress that my back has become increasingly less pleased with. Now, dogs fed and snoring, dinner finished (sautéed Brussel sprouts, home-fried yellow potatoes, Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burger, a Moose Drool brown ale), with evening lowering, I climb into bed and let my body relax into the amazingness of the feather bed and the perfect way it embraces me, and read for a bit, utterly content, head nodding until I finally turn out the light and yield to blessed sleep.

(Wednesday) Bozeman is a mere three-and-a-half hours from Missoula. The journey here is a winding drive along I-90, up and over mountain ranges and down through vast wide plains bordered with sharp high mountains on one side and far in the distance smaller, softer tawny mountains. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a massive glacier would have moved through, carving its way as it pushed aside hills and flattened the earth. One can see how melting glaciers would have sought the downward path, forming streams, then rivers, lakes.

If I squint, I can visualize herds of dinosaurs roaming these plains. Montana weaves a sort of ancient spell; my reptilian brain hearkens back over the eons, transmits the sharp metallic screech of a far-off pterodactyl.

Or maybe it’s just a magpie, calling to its mate.

I’ll be in Bozeman for several days. A couple of MFA writer friends live here, and a high-school pal as well is in nearby Livingston. And I’m eager to explore this area. I’ve been told that the famed Paradise Valley is aptly named, so that scenic drive is on my list. And here in Bozeman there are a noted independent bookstore, breweries, and breathtaking sunsets, so it seems a fine place to land for a bit and gather up my scattered thoughts before I make my way toward Colorado.

I am now around eight weeks from the end of my journey and my return to my mountain home in North Carolina. There’s been an odd shift in momentum that has left me feeling confused and unsettled.

But I’m here now, in the midst of a bright, clear sunny day with time to relax, play, consider. And with this big, big sky above, there is plenty of light to illuminate my wandering and wondering ways.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

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The Round Earth

I am writing from Puyallup, Washington on the Fourth of July. A friend and sorority sister from college days has basically adopted Connor and Beasley and me, bringing us into her lovely home and spoiling us rotten with comfy bed, cold beer, good food, fun company, and much-needed R&R downtime.

I’ll be heading toward Spokane next, paying close attention to the predicted return of triple-digit weather to the Pacific Northwest. We’ll travel early, lay low in the air-conditioned home of a friend there (another pal I met on my sojourn to France in 2015), and wait out the hot weather while catching up on the past two years of our lives. Then, on to Montana.

Since last Friday, I’ve felt a mantle of sadness descend, a slight weight of mist or cloud laid on me. That is the day I received word that the man from whom I bought Roadcinante, the man who babied her, kept her in perfect running condition, who had planned and prepared for the next person to be in a safe and secure and well-maintained vehicle, who passed her along to me with a two-hour tutorial/training session and prayers for my journey, had passed away.

Back in August of last year, when I stepped up and indicated my seriousness in buying his Roadtrek, there began a careful building toward seller/buyer dialogue that then moved toward comfortable acquaintance, first with his daughter who was facilitating the sale, and then via email with Pastor himself, and after a time there were easy conversations as if we’d all known each other for some time.

Then I drove down to Georgia to see the vehicle and test drive it, and met Pastor and his sweet wife and could not but help feel ever more tenderly toward them. And they were parental in their concerns for me when I left to drive back to North Carolina, Pastor and a friend praying over me before I left, for my safe travel home.

I called that evening to say I had made it through a torrential downpour that had blown through the area (Pastor said they were worried about me and relieved to hear I was all right) and to say I would gladly buy his Roadtrek.

Several weeks later, I briefly recorded the day when we finalized the sale and I drove the Roadtrek away.

“I just fetched Roadcinante from Georgia, and we are getting to know each other pretty quickly. Let me tell you a little about her. 

She is fourteen years old. I don’t know how old that is in car years, but her engine is still youthful (53,000 miles). Her body is in excellent shape, so there is no reason to think she hasn’t tens of thousands of miles left, but like the rest of us she is not getting any younger. 

She is skittish about sudden gusts of wind and does not care so much for long hills, and has a wide sort of easy loping gait, giving one the vague sense on the freeway of floating atop a baby roller coaster. She is clean and sleek and utterly self-contained, and other than some mild resentment about the hills she took happily to the open road. We fairly sailed along through Georgia, South Carolina, and on up into North Carolina and atop the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Is it silly of me to think, though, that earlier as I was backing out of the driveway in Georgia, she gave a slight shudder? Might her only other owner have been at the window, pulling back an edge of the filmy curtain with his thin fingers, taking one last look? Might he have blinked hard for the sudden thing in his eye, lowered the curtain, adjusted his oxygen tank, letting his mind hearken back to trips made when he and his wife were younger? When the open road was an invitation and not an impossibility?

I know it was hard for him to let her go. Letting go is hard; I’ve been doing a lot of that myself. Life diminishes us in order to expand us, but it is a hard, sad process, is it not? I often wish there were some other way to grow, to become, that is not so costly, but this is the mystery of the current design. We are whittled down until the very core of us is all that remains, gleaming and essential. 

For that reason, I will not waste one single moment of this gift I’ve been given, moving ever onward. 

Horizons beckon; epiphanies await.”

Per Pastor’s request, I kept in touch via email. From time to time I had a question about the Roadtrek – the electrical system or propane tank – and he always replied within hours. I sent batches of photographs when I had a strong enough wi-fi connection. In March I had this response to a slew of pictures I had sent from my travels through Texas and Arizona:

“Thanks for letting me see what you are seeing right now.
It  is certainly a lot different from Georgia.
I pray that you continue to be safe as you travel, that the Roadtrek will do well,  and that you keep on having interesting experiences.
I’m looking forward to your book.
Blessings,
DMR

A family member expressed this wish: “I hope your road treks are entertaining and fulfilling. But mostly I hope that sometimes you’ll think of the 50,000 plus miles [they] never got to drive as a gift to you and you’ll treasure every one of them.”

I think of those miles every day. I have tried my best to honor the wish to treasure them. But I confess that now upon learning of Pastor’s passing, Roadcinante somehow seems a little emptier and the road a bit lonelier.

Still, horizons continue to beckon, more epiphanies await. And I am and will be ever grateful for this sojourning opportunity afforded me.

As those of you know who have been following along for a while, or who read my essay, “Cooper’s Heart,” I am deeply drawn to the mystery of how we are connected to each other, of the invisible ways our lives and our hearts crisscross and intersect.

I don’t know how or why, but in some inexplicable way through this man – veteran WWII pilot who kept up his flying ways, who also gave a lifetime of service to his ministry and those in need of it – my life has intersected with his family’s, and now we are connected. I think of them as friends. I am heartbroken for them in this loss of their dear husband and father. And I am thinking of them today, when Pastor’s funeral will be taking place.

I ask you to join me in keeping this family, mourning the passing of one so dear to them, in your thoughts. That you would send out your love and light. That we might all pause for a moment, acknowledging the mystery that we are together here on this beautiful blue ball, connected in ways beyond our knowing. That ultimately we have need of each other. That ultimately we have been given to each other.

The prolific 16th century metaphysical poet and Church of England cleric, John Donne, who opined that “any man’s death diminishes me” also dreamt of our triumph over death in his Holy Sonnet 7. I leave you with this as briefly uttered prayer for Pastor and his family. And for us all.

At the round earth’s imagined corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go.

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The Turning

I am writing this post from a small sweet campground just south of Olympia, Washington. Last night I heard coyotes singing, and this morning a rooster shouted insistently to say it was time to get up. Tall cedars and hardwoods keep the campground a cool dark green. I slept well last night and took my time sipping my morning coffee.

It feels good to be still for a bit. The past ten days have been a blur:

  • of traveling in scary heat (107°F) with air-conditioning off to keep Roadcinante from overheating and Connor in the front seat where I could watch his ragged breathing
  • of a soft landing in Mt. Shasta, returning to observe the Summer Solstice and then postponing our departure (more heat, triple digits from Cali up to Oregon) as we waited it out in air-conditioned splendor in a local pet-friendly hotel (an arm and a leg it cost me, and I was glad to pay it)
  • of a respite, when the weather broke, of an evening with friends in Eugene (steak! wine! conversation! laughter! laundry!) where I slept parked in front of their house
  • of the early morning departure and two-and-a-half hour drive to Portland where I:
    • took the dogs to doggy day care
    • drove into downtown Portland and spent a short lifetime looking for parking
    • had a delightful radio interview at KBOO Community Radio with a woman who contacted me way back in March when I was in Texas to schedule the interview (it will air as a podcast some time in August)
    • did a reading from the memoir-in-progress and had lively conversation with a dozen women at Portland Community College Rock Creek Campus
    • picked up dogs from doggy day care
    • took the radio interviewer up on her offer to spend the night parked in her driveway on the other side of the city
    • returned the next day to downtown Portland (rinse, repeat with the parking search) and left dogs in Roadcinante with windows open, fan going, and plenty of water (it was in the mid-sixties and cloudy and cool) and went to Powell’s City of Books (The Largest Independent Bookstore in the World)
      • picture me standing agape in the middle of All. Those. Books. I could have sworn I heard angels singing
    • stopped in and grabbed a sandwich at a two-story Whole Foods and sat with the dogs on a sidewalk bench eating my lunch while they drooled on my leg and the busy city whirled around us (yes, several dog lovers stopped to flap the dogs’ ears and coo over them)
    • found my way to a park so the dogs could piddle and I could look over my new treasure trove of books and “read” (translate: “nap”) in the RV
    • found my way to a dear friend’s house, a woman I met 15 years ago in a writing workshop, fellow writer, sojourner, happy soul, working as a mentor and writing coach, and sat down to a lovely dinner she cooked for us and caught up on the past 15 years
    • slept in Roadcinante parked in front of her house in the flower-drenched old Belmont District beneath lighted sunflowers strung over the street (check out Sunnyside Piazza and the giant sunflower intersection)

Yesterday afternoon, after a delicious food truck lunch with my friend (chicken mole taco with crispy potato shoestrings and avocado and other amazingness) I left Portland and crossed over into Washington, driving the relatively short distance up to this campground. Where I now sit, looking up through the skylight windows at sunlight filtering down through the trees and breathing in the perfume of something in bloom wafting on the cool breeze.

I confess, I am tired. It has been a long haul, these past months – wonderful, challenging, at times scary, at times mind-blowingly awesome. Today I am glad to be still for a while and rest. Because there is work to do.

Roadcinante is in serious need of a cleaning. The dogs probably need a new bed, as this one is soiled with Florida sand, Texas dust, Arizona red dirt, Pacific Ocean salt, and all the fur they have shed along the way.

I am collecting a boxful of stuff to ship back home, lighten my load. (Hot tip: after you have sorted through and weeded out and eliminated and given away, do that at least two more times. Even with all my culling, I still brought along way too much stuff. For real. It’s amazing how little we actually need, which is a topic of discussion for another day.)

In short, this is the turning. This is the point where I gather myself and, after connecting with several more friends, next week turn to face eastward. Where my quest to touch the other shore, to follow the light to where it sets, watching it sink into the west, now shifts to my journey back to the other side of the country, toward the rising sun. Toward home.

I have complicated emotions around this turning. While there is still so much yet to see, people yet to meet or reconnect with, a definite shift is occurring. I’m writing my way through it in my journals and notes, but haven’t yet made sense of it.

Steinbeck observed, “You don’t take a journey; a journey takes you.” Pen to paper, I will watch for revelation in the trails of ink I lay down.

Last week, the day before the Summer Solstice, driving up I-5 in California, I saw Mt. Shasta ahead of me from 110 miles away, still gleaming with snow, emerging on the horizon to stun me again with its grandeur. Hard to keep my eyes on the road. From the CD player Eva Cassidy, dying at the time of her recording, belted out “How Can I Keep From Singing,” and as I looked to my right an enormous field of sunflowers, shockingly bright, stood tall, at attention, with every one of their lovely faces turned eastward, following the sun in its transit toward solar noon.

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Strawberry Fields Forever

Portland area folks, I’ll be doing a reading at Portland Community College Rock Creek Campus on Tuesday, June 27th at 2pm in the Women’s Resource Center. About 25 minutes or so, from the blog and the memoir-in-progress, and then Q & A and some light refreshments! Spread the word! (Many thanks to the faithful reader who is coordinating this event!)

In 1967 my parents brought me with them on my father’s business trip to California. We flew into Los Angeles, where a sick pink-brown haze of smog hung over the city and washed against the surrounding mountains. We were in Los Angeles for three days, then my mother and I took the train up the coast to San Francisco to meet my father, who had flown ahead to attend a meeting.

In the way memory works, I remember bits and pieces about the train trip – that it seemed to take forever, that we wound along the coast, catching spectacular views. I don’t recall coming in to San Francisco, nor do I remember the taxi ride to the Mark Hopkins Hotel at Number One Nob Hill where we were staying.

What I do remember is dancing that night with my father in the splendid lobby of the grand old place.

My father loved to dance, and for a large man (6’3″ and around 220) he was remarkably graceful. When I was small, I would stand on his feet while he danced to the music – we had all the Ray Conniff records of all my parents’ favorites – “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes,” “For All We Know,” “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Earlier that year of our California trip – I was fifteen – my father had taught me how to waltz in the front parlor of our old Ohio farmhouse. We might have danced to “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” but I don’t recall. I caught on quickly, though, and let him lead me in wide swirls around the room, feeling the sweeping joy of the three/four rhythm while the floor creaked softly under our feet.

Now, as my parents and I sat in the small intimate bar at the back of the hotel lobby, where my mother and father nursed their scotch and sodas before we headed out to dinner at Lawry’s Prime Rib, a small three-piece orchestra began playing, and my father asked me to dance. I hesitated, feeling awkward and shy (did I mention I was fifteen?), and then my mother cajoled, saying “Oh, go on, dance with Daddy,” so that I got up and followed him the several feet away from the bar.

An enormous crystal chandelier sent shimmers of light across the polished marble, and the sweet sounds of the music floated after us, but I couldn’t make my feet work, and kept stumbling, my eyes glued to the floor. Finally, I looked up and saw several tables full of people, watching us with smiles on their faces.

My whole body felt wooden, my face burned with embarrassment. “Daddy, I want to sit down,” I remember telling him.

And he said, “All right,” and we walked back to the table where my mother sat waiting. “Why did you stop?” she asked, and I said, “Because I wanted to.” But that wasn’t true. I just couldn’t take all the people watching.

I never told my father that I immediately regretted the decision. I never told him how I’ve kept and tended that precious memory for all these years. I never thanked him for teaching me how to waltz, and for inviting me to dance in the lobby of the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

Last Monday I drove Roadcinante to Daly City, parked, and caught BART into downtown San Francisco. I got off at Montgomery Street and began walking toward Nob Hill. Along the way I stopped at Sam’s Grill for lunch, where a dapper gray-haired Frenchman in a tuxedo brought me some greens topped with crabmeat, shrimp, and a large prawn, all drizzled with a light vinaigrette. After I told him about my trip in 2015 to Sancerre for a language immersion class, he only spoke French to me, causing my heart to thrill but my brain to hurt.

In forty-nine years I had forgotten the steep hike up to the top of Nob Hill. How steep? Two-thirds of the way up, a taxi spun its wheels crazily, trying to get traction, sending smoke from the burning rubber tires and leaving dark stains on the pavement. I watched in horror, feeling the panic leap from the driver over to me, standing there gaping from the sidewalk. Within seconds the tires caught and the vehicle jolted up to the top.

(For the record, I checked, and the grade there is a terrifying 24.8%. But there is a steeper 31.5% grade street that is actually open to vehicles.)

Let me just say, I was not dressed to walk into a place like the Mark Hopkins. My unwashed hair was caught in a tangled scrunchie, I was without a smudge of makeup, and I wore a slouchy sweater over nylon hiking pants and carried my twenty-year-old leather backpack that is scratched and faded.

I took a moment to sit outside and wipe my eyes, thinking of my parents, now gone – my father all those years ago, so elegant in his movements, and my mother, smiling brightly, trim in her wool suit. And trying to remember myself, fifteen and dreaming of how my life might unfold, and thinking how nothing has turned out as I imagined.

And whose life has?

Inside, the lobby seemed smaller, but that is because it actually was. I spoke with a clerk who explained the old bar where my parents had so long ago clinked their glasses before taking the first sip was now a conference room, hidden behind the wall at the back.

I stood, trying to take it in. Sat on a brocaded chair for a moment to gather myself and jot some notes.

I could have ridden the elevator up to the famous Top of the Mark to see the view, but I didn’t. That isn’t what I’d come for.

I walked around, looking at old photographs of the place, turned to the center of the room and whispered, “Thanks, Dad,” and then I walked out the front door and went to stroll around Chinatown.

The next day I was gifted with a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a fun catch-up lunch with a former college student from the campus ministry program in Boone, who now works at the aquarium. After that, I drove to Salinas and the National Steinbeck Center.

And there I met Rocinante, the modest conveyance Steinbeck drove and lived in (off and on) during his Travels With Charley.

Steinbeck’s custom designed camper is as alluring inside as I had imagined. In fact, I got a little excited peeking in there, imagining living in that space, all cozy and happy.

Salinas and the surrounding area is taken up by literally hundreds of thousands of acres of agriculture – staggeringly huge fields full of strawberries. Cabbages, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and groves of avocados and citrus, and plenty of vineyards. And workers everywhere, small communities springing up each day in the fields.

And if you felt a disturbance in the force around 6:00 pm EST on Tuesday, June 13th, it was me driving through Castroville, California. The Artichoke Center of the World, y’all!

Now I’m back in Mt. Shasta for the solstice, then heading on up to Oregon. Happy Summer, everyone!

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