Nearly six weeks on the road.
And more than six weeks behind at Tiger’s Eye Press.
Tiger’s Eye Press is truly two women at their computers. It is driven by a love of poetry. And it is often a bumpy process, because both editors have big families and other obligations that can take them away from their computers.
On Dec. 7th, I left Denver for Boston to fulfill one of those obligations. I got home on January 16th.
I have promises to poets that have gone unmet, chapbooks left unfinished, the journal itself stalled, along with my own work. But it has been necessary to hesitate long enough to answer to a sinus infection, and to consider my unusual drive across country to deliver a car, Christmas in Oregon, and then the birth of my grandson in California.
A trip is never what we envision, no matter our planning or dreaming. It is like a relationship, it goes where it wants to go. We do well not interfering with the inexplicable process.
Descending into Boston, the water on both sides of the airplane surprised me. I’d never landed at Logan before. But I thrive near water, and could not wait to see the Atlantic, or my friends who waited for me. A week of touring the area with them, and then their leaving, and me left to drive their car across country. I’d volunteered for the drive, a kind of personal “on the road” experience. But the day they left, a nasty storm cancelled all incoming flights, and JoAn, who had planned to accompany me, had to cancel her trip. It would be a solo drive after all.
The iced sidewalks were daunting, but I live in CO, and a little ice wouldn’t stop me from enjoying my last day in Salem. I was determined to see the Asian exhibits at the local art museum, the PEM. But the fact that I couldn’t maneuver the car out of the parking lot made me forego the museum. Until the snow melted enough to back my car out, I spent my time gathering up my friends’ last stray belongings, gave some away, putting a “free” sign on them, and leaving them in the lobby of their apartment building. I tossed whatever else I couldn’t give away or store in their car, and did my final packing for the road trip from Salem, MA to Denver, CO, and then on to Portland, OR. And later to Sacramento, CA.
What I expected from the drive was:
a crack in the ennui of the past two years.
What I got was two days of wiper fluid being frozen in the lines, having to stop every 50-100 miles to drench the windshield with wiper fluid poured directly from the jug onto the filthy surface. There were times I had to scrunch down while driving to look through the tiny clear triangular space left between the two wipers, and a few others when visibility was zero. When that happened, I held my breath until a semi flew by, sending up sheets of water that cleaned the glass off enough to see again. The weather had turned arctic, there were tolls at most exits, and I had no idea where I was once I left the interstate.
My choice was to keep going or to find a mechanic in a strange town, adding hours, possibly days to my trip. So I kept driving.
On day three, after staying in a hotel that I jokingly considered moving into, I got up my courage and left for the final push to Denver. The temperature in Iowa was warm enough to melt the frozen fluid in the lines, and I filled the reservoir with the precious blue 20 below fluid. I used the washer fluid constantly that day, even though it wasn't snowing, the relief of a clean windshield my new obsession.
The drive to Portland was a caravan, my husband driving our Escape, me driving our friends’ Escape. This leg of the drive was equally harrowing, people hitting black ice and sliding off the freeway, cars in ditches, fog that gave us almost zero visibility, and the surreal but frightening blowing snow, which I'd never experienced before. But still, it was those first two days that stand out in my mind. My choice to keep going, to not lose my composure when I had no idea if my vision would be obscured too long or not, was both necessary and foolhardy.
Was there a right decision?
You could unwind the story back to volunteering to drive someone’s car from point A to point B. In Oregon for Christmas, later in California waiting for my grandson Ryker’s birth, I had little time to consider if the choice was smart or foolish. Now, back at home, sitting at my desk, I sense the changes I envisioned were not about revealed truths or imagined independence, not even about getting my writing mojo back; but instead about learning to trust myself again. I had lost that somewhere, had deferred to others too often, had leaned in too far and let go of my own voice.
So easy to do this without even knowing.
JoAn has been working hard to complete two issues of Tiger's Eye at the same time. I am finally able to settle down enough to assist her, and to finish the projects we owe people. I am once again riding the tiger, holding a grail cup filled with diverse images and emotions. The cup belongs to all of us, but the voice inside is mine.