I wasn’t 10 minutes into the park when I felt the overwhelming need to remove my bra. It wasn’t the right kind of bra for such an adventure. It was a polite society bra, the kind you wear to the grocery store, to dinner, to work, to anywhere but the wild. It wasn’t a bra I could sweat in, and, given my arrival into the desert, it was time to sweat.
I drove almost 1,000 miles, starting in Los Angelos and driving across California, through the bottom corner of Nevada and the top corner of Arizona, up and into southern Utah, to Zion, to Bryce, to Capitol Reef and then up, up, up to northern Utah, almost all the way to Idaho. Alone in the car for that many miles, I played the same 13 songs on a loop, mostly Lord Huron, Manchester Orchestra, Joni Mitchell and Nathaniel Rateliff. I listened to just three podcast episodes and the radio only when my rental’s bluetooth refused to recognize me or my phone. I thought a lot, mostly about love, a little about loneliness.
It’s October, but this morning I ran in 100 percent humidity, so everything is a lie, I guess, but here’s a few things making life a little less miserable.
I spent a decent amount of my youth on a farm and even did some 4H things for a bit and so I love a fair, any fair, especially a big fair like the State Fair of Virginia. I love fair food, I love the colors and the people watching, I love the 1,000-pound pumpkins, but most of all, I love the critters. I love the horses and the cows and the pigeons and the pigs and, more than anything else, I love the ducks.
I spent the drive there pushing away the weight of it, singing with the windows down. It was day one of a five-day getaway and I was reveling in it, that good vibe sensation of free, open days spread out in front of me. I let it creep in as I got closer. I stopped pushing, opened the door to it and let the thought of it, the heft of it, sit with me as I drove. I didn’t try to shape it or guide it, I didn’t fight it, I just let it in and let it be. And then I was there, at the Flight 93 National Memorial in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, where, on Sept. 11, 2001, a hijacked Boeing 757 carrying seven crew members, 33 passengers and four terrorists crashed into a field as part of a multi-pronged attack on the United States.
On the way there, I thought about blood. Blood and how I really should have refreshed my Civil War memory bank before embarking on a long weekend of Civil War battlefield immersion. Blood though, was the thing I remembered about Antietam. It’s what stuck out in my mind, the tiny piece of information I picked up some time in high school and managed to hold onto until now. I couldn’t remember the exact date, couldn’t remember which generals led the Union or Confederate troops, wasn’t even 100 percent sure which year the battle took place, but Antietam, my memory told me, was bloody.
I’m so good at reading books in the winter. Then, spring turns into summer and it gets too hot to sit outside and read in the evenings, social obligations pop up, my work hours lengthen and flex and books that should take a few days to devour take longer and longer, full weeks, even. So, I’ve been in a reading rut. I’ve read some lovely things, especially lately, but this second reading report includes a lot of books I didn’t love or even like, a few I slogged through just so I could mark them as finished and at least one I loved until the end when nothing was settled and I threw the book across the room in a fit of disappointed rage.
This week, y’all. It has not been kind. Here’s a few things that have made this miserable week survivable:
Earlier this year, a brewery opened less than a mile from my house and I was instantly enamored. It’s my new favorite place and I’m there almost every weekend, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends, but always with a book. Their beer is funky and wild, and their small batch offerings are ever-changing.
Upon receiving my cousin’s wedding invitation, I turned into a cartoon villain. Fingers and brows tented, I smirked. “Excellent,” I said. With that invitation, I had reason to go to Maine, the only state east of the Mississippi River I’d never set foot in and home to Acadia National Park, an almost 50,000-acre wonderland of rugged and rocky Atlantic coastline, woodlands, lakes and ponds. Excellent, indeed.
I had no choice but to move my windshield wiper selector switch to rampage level. The rain was coming down in king-sized sheets and as much as I hate the crazed swish of wiper blades moving at top speed, I was driving on unfamiliar back roads and needed all the help I could get. I was going camping and as my phone pinged with increasingly dramatic weather alerts, I cursed, felt the whisper of anxiety catch in my chest and started laughing. It was going to rain for as long as it was going to rain and no amount of angsty nail-biting was going to change that.
There’s a lot I find appealing about lighthouses. I like that they exist to guide us through troubled waters, the way they serve as bright beacons of assurance in the midst of a mess. I like their history, the stories of harrowing rescues and narrow escapes from catastrophe, stories of vanished lighthouse-keepers or vivid tales of bravery and independent existences. I like how they all have their own identities, their own stories. They’re all different, all built for some specific sea obstacle in varying sizes, shapes and shades.