We have just finished a quick trip to Arizona--by "quick," I mean that we were there only for a few days, not that the trip itself--that endless airline trek--was quick.
Long ago in grad school, I made a friendship with a woman from England. She returned to England because of the better health care system and her friends and family there. When she returned to England, she was pregnant with her older son. This past Thursday, her younger son got married in Arizona.
Yes, once we went to the weddings of our friends. Now we are going to the weddings of their children. And hanging over me, the knowledge that at some point, it will be funerals that bring us together--and so, for now, I cling to the joyous even more fiercely than I did when we saw our friends get married when we were all in our 20's.
Over a year ago, when my friend told me of the wedding of her son and asked if I could come, I said, "Of course. How often do you get to America?" It did occur to me during our travels that it might have been easier to get to England.
Still, it was a great trip. We went to Flagstaff, and we all gathered at a great place, Arizona Mountain Inn and Cabins. Some of us stayed at the bed and breakfast part of the property, while others shared a large cabin (we had a room in the big cabin). It was wonderful to have space where we could assemble and cook and catch up with each other.
I still woke up early, so I had time to read each morning. I'll likely write a separate post, but the book that has stayed with me longest is Lionel Shriver's The Mandibles: 2029-2047, a chilling, compelling dystopia. I found it so compelling that as I write, I am listening to this podcast where Shriver talks about writing it.
The wedding was beautiful, despite gloomy weather. When my spouse-to-be and I went through the required pre-marital counseling, our pastor told us that during a wedding, everyone sits there, evaluating their own marriages, and through the years, that has been the case for me. I also evaluate the institution of marriage.
But this trip, I was also intrigued by the immigrant/pioneer aspect of marriage--two people set out against enormous odds, often not realizing how great the odds will be, not knowing what they're actually signing up for. My friend's son moved very far away after falling in love with the fierce Arizona landscape. The day before the wedding, I went with a group to a nail parlor run by Vietnamese immigrants who I think were all part of the same family. I thought about all of us, our attempts to reinvent ourselves, the bride, the various family members, several of us at midlife needing some new reinventing.
On Friday, my spouse and I went to the Grand Canyon. We took a train there, which was one of my spouse's activities that he most wanted to do. The Grand Canyon, of course, was spectacular. We splurged on lunch, eating at the Arizona Room, where we had a table at the window. We ate food native to Arizona (chili with bison, tacos with pork and chicken, and a wagyu beef sandwich, along with beer from a local brewery and wine. It was a spectacular meal in every way.
As we sat and ate, my spouse said, "What I'm about to say makes no sense. But in so many ways, being here feels like--"
"Being home again?" He nodded. I was feeling it too.
It's rare that we go to a place and both say, "What would it be like to live here? Maybe we should think about that some more."
Of course, it also makes not much sense to leave one place that's likely to be ravaged by climate change in the form of sea level rise to go to another that will run out of water soon because of climate change.
We arrived on Tuesday, at 6:35 p.m., as the sun was setting. Arizona doesn't spring forward for Daylight Savings Time, so the time change was more disconcerting than it ordinarily would be. We drove from Phoenix to Flagstaff in deep darkness. Yesterday, as we drove back in full daylight, I realized what we had missed.
We knew it would be a short trip. In fact, at one point, we had toyed with the idea of a longer trip, but we decided that because of work demands, we'd put that off. In some ways, I'm glad, since our longer trip would have been partly by motorcycle, and because of a tropical storm in the Pacific, we'd have had miserable weather for riding.
Still, I'd like to get back to go to some of the other national parks and to explore places like Sedona. As we flew over that landscape on our way back, the view was so compelling that I just stared at the window for the first part of plane trip. I would like to explore that land further--with lots of water in my vehicle.
I felt more nervous about this trip than I do about most travels. In part, it was because we were sharing the cabin with people we'd never met (along with good friends), with plans that were a bit nebulous. In part, it was because we were traveling to unknown parts, with lots of connections that could have gone wonky. In part, it's because travelling by plane always makes me anxious these days. In part, the background noise of my life is one of anxiety.
I'm happy to report that I am still able to feel these fears and push through. I know that I will be happy that I did it in the end, and thus, I am able to operate even with fear thrumming a backbeat with my nervous system as instrument. I'm also aware that anyone's travel days may be limited in the future, and thus, we should seize these opportunities as we have them.
And now, for the laundry and the grocery shopping--back to old shoes and porridge, as an old saying goes (for more, see this blog post).