I’ve been out of the proverbial loop for the last month, and a bit fuzzy-headed for several months, so I wanted to take the opportunity to reconnect here and fill you in on some details. To that end, today’s post will be much in the same style as the last several — for those of you who’ve been enjoying the more personal updates. Then in the following few posts, I’m going to return to the “(Back to) the Basics” series that I started last Spring with a few more topics in that vein.
To make the rather long and graphic story short(er) — I got a pretty serious bacterial infection at the beginning of Summer. I absolutely hate to admit it, but at this point I am blaming my own “Church of the Holy Gulf Beach” for the demonic possession that plagued me since our wonderful family trip to the beach with my parents in June. We have been going to the Gulf Coast of Alabama and/or Florida nearly every Summer for the last decade, being hosted at various delicious portions of the continuous, pristine, sugar-sand beaches by Nana and Grandpa George; and it has been one of my family’s very favorite things of Summer — something to which the girls begin looking forward sometime each Winter and then continuously until June. And I have always always thought of it as a superlatively healthy event for all of us. We eat amazing food, we relax and play hard, we sun and swim, we talk and laugh, and generally have a stupendous time together. And to be sure, we enjoyed every minute of our adventures at Gulf Shores this year.
It was on the long set of flights home that I fully realized that something was seriously not right. And in the days that followed I found out just how “not right” they were… I don’t want to go into the details (and, honestly, this is the first time I have really communicated about it outside my immediate family), but I contracted a nasty topical Staph infection. And it completely beat me to a pulp.
Again, sparing you the details, I spent the entire Summer nursing my health along — some days barely able to get out of bed for more than a couple of hours to work or be with my family, barely able to move around, or sit still, or rest. All the while, I , of course, had a distinct and fully palpable perception of the mysterious and alien responses to the illness that my body was showing; and over time, I recognized that energetically and emotionally I was feeling like almost all that I was capable of doing was to focus on healing; but throughout the Summer, I had little to no self-awareness concerning the effect that the illness was having on my mental processing, my actual thoughts, and even my ability to think them. All Summer and into Autumn, I bumbled dazedly along, trying one health regime after another to finally rid myself of the illness, learning everything I could absorb about gut flora, the immune system, blood purifying, and bacterial pathogens, and tried my best not to just crumple into a heap of self-pity. And poor Natalie had another (big, sad, helpless) kid to tend more than she had a partner with whom to tend the kids…
Then at the very end of September, as per some previously made and may I say hasty arrangements, I flew down South on a bizarrely engineered red-eye flight series that had me in Las Vegas in the middle of the night, and snoozing on the floor of the Houston airport from 5:00-10:00 am before my last flight to Biloxi, Mississippi. I had planned with some high school friends (some of whom I had not seen in 20 years) to have our own reunion, since most of us had skipped our respective high school reunions.
As part of the trip, I arranged to meet up with my parents and spend some time with them the week before the reunion. We went from Biloxi to New Orleans for a weekend of both the very poshest hotel and dining experiences, and the quintessentially base Bourbon St. experience as well… Then we drove over to their home near Mobile, Alabama for a few days of puttzing around together — I did some landscaping and “deckscaping” work for them, we made some awesome meals and “chillaxed” together, I collected some old stuff from their attic, and burned music compilations for later enjoyment. My parents had kindly decided to give our family their lovely little 2003 Subaru Forester, so I loaded it up with the stuff from the attic, the clothes I had with me, some accoutrements I had mailed myself from Montana (e.g. the sleeping bag I use), and two bikes my parents weren’t using, and drove it all back from my parents’ home to mine, by way of the reunion in my old hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. (See how this all fits in with the title theme?)
Some of the reunion people gathered at this fountain in downtown Montgomery where we all used to go as teens for some photos right before the main event.
I sat in this tree almost once a week most of my senior year of high school year. Even hung out here for hours with friends a few times… Nearly forgot that.
I did forget that most of the sidewalks downtown in Montgomery look like this. Mile after mile, I have tread over these shapes — always of varying, almost patterned, shades of grey — hypnotizing myself into discerning made-up rhythms in the passing array. When I first got out of the car and saw this particular stretch, I instantly had the memory of them visually, but I also instantly had a visio-auditory memory of my foot kicking one pebble after another along the sidewalk and hearing the varied tones they make as the stones roll from one hexagon to another. I was moved to try that again after so long and such a clear and visceral memory, and sure enough, it was like a stone-age marimba, plunking down the street as the pebble skittered away from my foot.
All in all it was quite an amazing trip, and I could easily spend a whole post on just the above events, but for the time being, I’d rather skip any further details and continue with the larger story at hand… So — I had flown the most-bizarre-itinerary-ever to visit my folks, spent the week with them, gone to Montgomery, attended the reunion weekend, and then shot out of the Southeast like a flaming rocket, driving 14 hours straight to get back out West — and all still in the remnants of the bacterial haze of the Summer. I made it from Montgomery to the middle of New Mexico in about a day, and landed temporarily at Natalie’s Grandma’s summer farm-home on the outskirts of the teeny township of Villa Nueva.
Our family visited there in the summer of 2011 and fell hard for the place, so I was happy to revisit. And though I was very thankful for the offer of a place to stay, it was most lovely to feel that I was perhaps helping Great Grandma Alice a bit by checking up on things.
It was while I was there, standing under this apple tree looking up, and picking so many apples that my arms ached from reaching and my calves burned from standing tippy-toed, that I noticed a shift. As I was collecting the most beautiful ruby apples I have ever witnessed from the most loaded tree I have ever known, I caught myself pausing for a moment, distracted by the cobalt shards of sky framed in the branches above me. And quite suddenly, as though I was remembering something I’d been meaning to recall for some time but had only just succeeded, I noticed how clearly I could think. And then that noticing, itself, seemed uncannily self-aware. And moment after moment, as if I were coming out the side of a white-out blizzard into uncluttered sunlight, I kept feeling more tangible to myself, and kept thinking these beautiful, clear, fully-conscious thoughts.
I was imbued with so much more of my normal (I-didn’t-even-know-it-was-missing) faculty that I felt super-powered, ultra-alive, enlightened. I was so present and available to my experience that I actually didn’t know what to do with myself. So over the next 40 minutes, I just kept picking more and more apples — I picked more apples than any one human could normally pick in a few hours. Then I carried the bags of apples up to the house, grabbed some water and a towel, jumped into the car and drove through Las Vegas, New Mexico, to Montezuma Hot Springs for a religious soaking experience.
That night, when I returned to the farm, I built a fire in the screened-in porch fireplace, and sat by it for quite awhile, eating a huge salad, writing postcards, giving thanks, and listening to the local bear foraging around and cracking branches in effort to collect his own apples from the still heavily-laden tree. I was glad I had seen his scat around and even saw himfrom across the arroyo that morning, so that I knew to leave some low apples for him (and also knew not to go wandering down by the tree at night!). I kept the fire high until bed time, kept giving thanks until I fell asleep, and kept feeling more and more myself with every hour that passed.The next day, I left Villa Nueva with some unwept tears, felt the urge to promise the farm that I’d be back, and wished the bear a happy winter. I had had some intention of doing some sight-seeing on my way home from there, but as I pulled away from the farm (and the most tangible link to Natalie that I’d been near in 10 days) I began to feel an overwhelming urge to just get home. I began replanning my route as I drove, calculating how quickly I could make it back to my sweet family.
I spent that night in the Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northern New Mexico. I had gotten such a late start because I had been so loathe to leave the farm, and hadn’t gotten as far as I would have liked, but also really wanted to see Chaco, so I grabbed one of the bikes from the back of the car, and headed up the park road as fast as I could ride. I made it to two of the roadside viewing areas before the sun set, and then continued the rest of my 9 mile ride back to camp feeling somewhat torn between my increasing drive to just get home, and my staunch desire to steep in the magic and history of Chaco. I made a teeny fire in the campsite firepit, ate another giant salad and some little sweet peppers that I roasted over the fire, and took heart. Then I went to bed (i.e. to the sleeping bag in the back of the Subaru) early, and got up at the crack of dawn to quickly tour some more of the park. I went by bike again and made like some sort of peak-fiend trying to “bag” as much the park as I could before I felt compelled to race away.
This is the largest ruin in Chaco — one that had been developed, occupied, and maintained over 400 years! See the people on the far left middle of the frame for size reference.
Pueblo Bonito is also one of the few areas you can actually walk (and crawl!) through. Of course, when it was occupied, there would have been a ceiling/floor where the two big logs are sticking out above, so the people living there wouldn’t have gotten this view, but still I enjoyed the sense of being in the same space, walking in their footsteps…
Though not pictured to feature the nests here, I loved this little spot where the cliff swallows (I think?) had made their clay homes in this artisan-decorated neighborhood…
In the end, I blew off the rest of any sight-seeing I had had in mind, drove 13 hours across New Mexico, through the corner of Colorado, and up the length of Utah; slept 4 hours outside the Box Elder State Park near Brigham City, and then got up and drove 5 more hours to make it home. With every mile and hour that passed I felt closer to myself, more in touch with who I am and intend to be, and more alive with the desire to rejoin my family and get back to living our blesséd life together. And because I had come out of the foggy blizzard of Summer, I was suddenly clear about ideas Natalie and I had been working on together for some time, and energized to make some bold moves toward our mutual bliss. I’d come back to me and I was ready to be back home.
This was the welcome I got from the trees outside our house (and all around Missoula) when I pulled up that afternoon. These leaves were green when I left two weeks earlier.
and our first heavy snow fell.
There’s a sharper, clearer quality to everything now. A bright luminescence to life here. Home is where it’s at. And I feel so so glad to finally be here again.