This past week I traveled to a spot on our planet that I had never visited before. I joined a dear friend in Moab, Utah. I have written before on how taking a trip shifts my consciousness and re-boots my emotional self. This trip was no different. What WAS different has everything to do with the “where” of this trip. The “who” and the “how” also played roles, but the true transformation came about because of the “where”.
I remember taking my first journalism writing class where I was taught the “five W’s”: who, what, where, when, and how. This structural format lends itself to succinct writing for the author and predictable reading for the reader. The older I get, the more I appreciate this kind of intrinsic structure and the more I seem to benefit when I am able to tap into one. In trying to capture the impact of this trip, I am finding the five W’s are very useful.
My fellow traveler was a college classmate with whom I have a shared history of 48 years. This binds both of us to a time when we were exploring who we were becoming, lo those many decades ago, to the wise, productive, and engaged women we have become. This is a very enriching and supportive friendship that I value. We are now both what are known as “young-old”, a term that can be most confusing and seemingly misleading. My friend and I both agreed that we may look “older” on the outside, but we feel and act much younger than our chronological years in spite of arthritis, chronic health conditions, and (me) a new hip.
The “doing” of this trip consisted of driving through some extraordinarily beautiful country, eating at roadside spots, deciding which sightseeing was worthy of our time, grabbing local food at restaurants and grocery stores, and purchasing trinkets and memorabilia, spending time reminiscing, and watching local TV. All of which resulted in some rich encounters with fellow travelers, wildlife and locals, not to mention capturing this vast and inspiring land on our smart phones. I needed to road-test my new hip, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to go for a reasonably short plane ride, spend time in a car, and take short walks putting the hip to the test.
Since my friend lives in New York State and was coming to Salt Lake City for business, we decided to meet in SLC and just explore the surrounding area. I had friends who had recently gone to Moab, so I suggested we go take a look and see what we could see. I really had no sense of where this was, and didn’t appreciate the vastness of the state of Utah until we started the four-hour drive from Salt Lake City.
Utah is one of those western states that has seemingly straight borders but is actually made up of physical features that rise over a mile in the sky in the various mountain ranges, to almost a mile into the ground in the canyon lands and salt flats. When on the ground, the vastness of uninterrupted views is breathtaking. When in the air, the patterns of road and town are remarkably geometric.
On the surface, the dates were dictated because of my friend’s business obligations. Both of us had the flexibility of taking time from our responsibilities. Turned out that this is also a great time, weather-wise, to be in southeastern Utah – a weather window of relative beneficent temperatures and low precipitation. Our time in Utah brought snow to the elevated peaks of the Wasatch and La Sal mountains, and warm and sunny days to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
Honestly, we both just needed a break. I needed some respite from recovering from my hip surgery and from what has sadly become known as “fire season” in my northern California home. My friend decided to extend her stay and just enjoy a bit of relaxation after working hard at her conference.
OBSERVATIONS (Not one of the “W’s”)
- I am more anxious about getting to the airport than I am about flying. I just hate being late! And I hate having to rely on others to get me where I want to go. I did enjoy the convenience of having airline/airport staff take me by wheelchair from curbside to loading gate. I like having people act kindly toward me since I am using a cane. I tend to milk that.
- New places stimulate me in unexpected ways. Somehow my senses are heightened: things taste different (especially water!), things smell different (juniper is my new favorite!), light and shadows invite me to see things in new ways. This trip reminded me how important it is for me to take body lotion. The low humidity and high altitude really dried my skin and lips out.
- I have lots of judgments about people who travel. I am particularly irked by folks who are speaking loudly while on their cell phones and don’t seem to be aware that they are actually shouting. I am also irked by folks who leave their garbage behind instead of putting it in the bins provided. I am also incredibly curious about these people. I wonder what their hopes and dreams are and if they are happy or experiencing challenges. Salt Lake City is home to happy Mormons. There is a very different feel to this airport than San Francisco.
- Coming home is always enjoyable. I experience familiar landmarks with changed eyes, seeing them in a new way that is comforting. Coming home to my own shower and bed is always a joy.
This trip challenged me to use my new hip and put it to the test. The hip did really well. I need some encouragement to trust more and challenge myself to do more.
I was brought to tears on more than one occasion when I realized the following: I am truly insignificant in the vastness of time and universal change, yet I am an intrinsic part of that vastness and change. This insight into the gift of belonging while being impermanent gave me relief from the self-imposed gerbil-wheel of work and achievement I find myself mindlessly engaged with.
I understood, in I way I have never grasped before, the depth and meaning of the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony:
Walking in Beauty: Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony
In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again
Hózhóogo naasháa doo Shitsijí’ hózhóogo naasháa doo Shikéédéé hózhóogo naasháa doo Shideigi hózhóogo naasháa doo T’áá altso shinaagóó hózhóogo naasháa doo Hózhó náhásdlíí’ Hózhó náhásdlíí’ Hózhó náhásdlíí’ Hózhó náhásdlíí’
Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful…
There are certain people who are excellent travel companions. Anne, you are one of them!
I am already planning my next trip!