Vignettes from the Road
Friday. Trump inauguration. I decide, at the last minute, that it’s very important to watch this moment in history. I sympathize with some of the concerns that brought Trump to power, but I deeply believe that Trump himself is completely incapable of addressing them. His angry, nationalistic inaugural address, speaking of a dystopian America that only he can fix, affirms my worst fears of a demagogue stepping into the most powerful position on Earth and staking out positions that will be very difficult to back away from. I cry.
Saturday. I join my wife and 8000 others in the Women’s March in Asheville. My two daughters march in NYC and San Francisco; our friend Katie marches in Washington. We text photos and impressions back and forth, and the mood is upbeat and positive. Afterwards, we hook up our Airstream trailer and leave for a 3 month cross-country working adventure trip. We spend the night in pouring rain somewhere in rural Alabama.
Sunday. We drive through terrible weather, only finding out that tornadoes touched down only miles from where we were to have spent the previous night until we delayed our departure for 24 hours to join the Women’s March. We monitor Doppler radio and social media as we head southwest, looking under bridges to discern if they are safe places for us and our dogs if a tornado were suddenly to appear. Mid-afternoon, we break free of the deadly storm system into sunshine, and spend the night in Natchez, MS.
Monday. I find a place with good WiFi, overlooking the Mississippi River, for our 4 hour certification course conference call. It is great to hear the work that our students are doing, and the rich coaching they are offering each other as they increase their range in long held ways of being. We hit the road at noon, and later drive around Houston in darkness and traffic at 75 mph with concrete bumpers a few inches from either side of our shiny Airstream, trying to figure out a toll system that we don’t understand but that seems to be snapping photos of our license plates every couple of miles and threatening violation fines. We make it to Austin. We are wiped.
Tuesday. We explore Austin for a while, and finally hold a conference call with my father’s surgeon. He informs us that my Bob’s case is “extreme” and the proposed surgery quite risky. He mostly seems to recommend that we hold off to see if the medications can reduce his risk without surgery. We like him and trust him. We have a family conference call later, and Bob is leaning against the surgery; his three sons and daughters-in-law support this leaning. We will talk again after the surgeon consults with a colleague.
Wednesday. We head back into Austin, and have a delicious lunch at a restaurant recommended by my daughter, Megan. She is a foodie, and any restaurant that meets her standards is likely to be more expensive than our tastes require, but it’s worth it to feel that we’ve shared something, however tenuously. Later, we have another conference with the surgeon, who shares new information that makes the no-surgery decision very clear. We are all relieved that, for the first time in weeks, Bob’s course of action is obvious. He will continue with the current unknown level of risk, thereby avoiding the risky surgery that would probably make him safer, but might also give him a stroke on the operating table. Strange that this comes as a relief, but it feels like the sun has come out after weeks of dark clouds.
We have anticipated, and planned, this adventure for a long time. An experiment in living on the road, perhaps a vain attempt to recover the freedom of our lost youth, but at least an experiment in integrating a number of things that are precious to us. Exploring precious wild places. Meeting new people with very different lives and points of view. Finishing the book that I have been working on for four years. Teaching, coaching, and being with my wife in a new set of circumstances than ever before as we move towards the next phase of our lives.
But, nothing has really gone according to plan. We have not settled into a pattern. We are dealing with tense and unpredictable events, and learning to take them in stride. So far, this has been anything but relaxing. More, it feels like exotic spiritual practice.
We have been practicing not being attached to thinking that last weeks’ inauguration meant the end of civilization as we know it, nor to believing that the Women’s March represents the “end of patriarchy” as some of the placards claimed. We were not really about to die from a tornado that never materialized, nor did the sun coming out mean the end of threats. Bob is free from the risks of the surgery that might have happened tomorrow, and Bob will not live forever. We think we know what will happen tomorrow, but we really have no idea.
I am grateful. And sad. All at once.