The Road, Let’s Travel

by Jennifer on March 24, 2009

To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you – however long, but it stretches and waits for you.

— Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

It’s no secret that I love a good road trip. Or even a bad one, really, since I’m not sure I can remember a road trip that was all bad. And that includes the one where an the kids and I got stuck in an ice storm in Amarillo and came close to spendig the night on the floor of a hotel conference room.

Though the closure of I-40 meant that we missed out on seeing my cousin and her family (and we missed a few nailbiting rounds of Ticket to Ride, a favorite board game) in Albuquerque, the forced detour ended up sending us on a beautiful drive through the mountains in southern New Mexico. A winding U.S. 82 took us to the mountaintop town of Cloudcroft, where I fell hard for its scuffed-up charm and the smell of woodsmoke in the air.

(P.S. Everyone needs a story that starts with “This one time when I got stuck in Amarillo…” You just do.)

To keep a log of favorite roads, I created a page, The Road, Let’s Travel, where you can find a list of routes I’ve explored and loved or that I want to drive. I would love it if you would play along.

If there’s a drive you think is spectacular or even just kind of nice for a Sunday afternoon, drop me a line and I’ll add it to the list. Long road trips or day trips, through mountains or across a northern prairie — all scenic drives are welcome to apply. You can email me through the Contact page, or leave a comment.



An hour ago

by Jennifer on April 8, 2016

An hour ago, this is how it was.

I reach the top of the one hill where the view opens wide and vast to the edges of the valley. On any day, it’s something to see, but this morning there’s a rare desert fog, a gray-blue-silver fog stretching loose-limbed and moody between the darker grays of the mountains. This drift of fog follows the river. A person could find a way through the canyon by it and maybe someone has. I would.

I don’t know the state of things before I reached this view, if this fog was pulled over the river by one blue heron or all of them, by a murmuration of starlings or one quiet word. By a wild horse, or by nothing. Who can say.

My thoughts keep time by drifts of cloud and light. My daughter could name all the sorts of clouds, and she would, even as she felt the spirit of them somehow threading her soul together. My son would look, too, and feel it as something true and stay quiet. That’s how they are different. Each of them like me and not, in ways.

I think of how life speeds up and hardly slows down anymore and how it all, in the end, comes to not much and how it all adds up to everything. This soundtrack of these middle years that takes over when I forget to change the station to something better and less solemn. (Life is more clever and interesting and stubborn and so much more of a prankster than just that.)

Four Peaks looks larger and prouder than yesterday through the magnifying glass of these low clouds or whatever magic takes hold on a day like this, these tricks of light that have their way and make me think on things that pull at my weaker seams.

I reach back into the past, spin the world like a merry-go-round, backwards. Half of me laughs at the speed of it, and the rest begs for me to stop. When I do, I pick up one or two things I shouldn’t have left behind and let loose of a few things that were never mine. The world spins forward again and the fog is nothing more than air and science and weather.

But, still, this feeling. It’s not everything, but it’s something. Today, just a day, but one whole, ripe, sweet, warm, willful day. It might rain, they say, and we need it.

We hope for what we need and for some of what we want, and so I leave the fog to the river and get on with that.

An hour ago, this is how it was.



by Jennifer on September 23, 2011

{I wrote this just over two years ago and came across it again just now. Sometimes words can come back to haunt you, but sometimes they circle back around just when you need them.}

tunnelThe bedroom. Four o’clock sunlight reaches through the blinds and slants like cursive across the wall. I could see it if I open my eyes.

I lie there, two fists full of blanket tucked under my chin, holding on to these cotton fibers like they’re the only true thing I know. As though what I need is balled up inside, and if I let go I’ll lose it all for good.

As if I haven’t already.

It doesn’t matter what that thing is, not really, or how recent or far off the afternoon. Every one of us has lain there on that bed, alone. Sure that we should have seen it coming. Or worse, we actually did.

At that thought, I hold tighter to the blanket, as though I’m five and scared of the dark, back before I knew that the people in those other  rooms must have held tight to their own covers. Enough disappointment, enough lost things, for everyone.

And the one thing we all know (even if the thought is just a small stone that rolls about in the bottom of the soul) is that  it’s impossible to see the light at the end of a tunnel if that tunnel is curved. If there’s no straight shot from the entrance to the way out.

So you think, just goes to show you. It was always going to end up this way. Should have known better. How do I go toward something I can’t even see?

But, where’s the choice? So you hold your breath and listen. Open your eyes wide and strain to see in the dark. Feel your way onward by inches, only sure of the last step you took. Pinning every hope on the next step.

And so, forward.

But first, there’s that space under the blanket, and thank god for that. Except sooner or later (sometimes much later) you  realize that you’re no safer there than anywhere else. Turns out, a blanket doesn’t make a very good shield. And when the moment comes –  a meal to prepare, or kids to pick up from school – there’s nothing to do but to fold up that blanket  and put it back on the shelf.

To open your hands and let go of whatever you held on to so tightly. To trust the wind that carries away those wishes, and know that you might not get all the things you hope for, or enough of them, but there is something up ahead, waiting. And that you might just find it framed in the arc of the tunnel exit and bathed in sunlight. All the the good things that drew you forward all along, the other souls, the peace,  the version of you that you can finally let yourself see, the way others have all this time.

And you’ll think just goes to show you

Even if you can’t finish the sentence, and you’re not sure how soon you’ll be able to. You know the answer is out there. You realize, in the light, that you can believe that much. Or you will, any day now.

You’ll let yourself believe that one day the answer will come to rest like a leaf inside you, next to the stone. And that each of them (at last) will weigh the same as the other.



by Jennifer on May 5, 2011

Like my friend Emily who writes about her own poignant reasons here (go, read, I’ll wait), I won’t be posting a photo of my mother on Facebook this week, as so many of my friends have done in honor of Mother’s Day.

It’s a complicated holiday for me, as it always, ever was. If you don’t know the story of the women who shaped my early years, you can find some essential parts of it here.

As I watched the photos appear, I couldn’t help noting that some of the mothers whose photos my friends and family have posted are of women who were kind to me when I was a child. A favorite aunt, especially so. (To see her face, though she is gone now and I miss her deeply, is a sweet reminder of that.) So even though there’s an ache, an empty room, in my early years where a good enough mother should have been, it’s not altogether unpleasant to watch as others post their photos. A lovely gesture, where it’s deserved.

And there’s this: I’ve been lucky (so very), since my college years, to have someone in my life who has been a wonderful, loving mother and cheerleader to me. She makes up for that early lack, and I’m so grateful for her (and for her husband, who is another father to me).

But if I posted the face of the mother who gave birth to me, or the stepmother who followed soon after, a picture would be just a picture. A face smiling for the camera, a curtain across the stage. The play going on, unseen, behind it.

And a thousand words, not even close to enough.


The violets

March 27, 2011

Yesterday when I heard there was snowfall in the forecast for the night, I looked out the back door at the mess of daffodils against the back fence, worried that the snow would kill the last of them before I was ready for them to go. Then I noticed a patch of purple flowers in […]

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February 15, 2011

With a bit of effort, I nudge open the windows. It’s one of those days in February when the air feels more warm than cold, when the same 50 degrees that feels chilly in September feels downright tropical two thirds of the way into a long winter. The sills hold tight to their seal the […]

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January 10, 2011

So life still has a few surprises. A few months ago, we thought we were moving back to Arizona. We were all ready for that, except that the things that needed to happen first didn’t. Which doesn’t mean I’m not happy with the way things turned out, because (oh, yes) I am. Instead: We’re settling […]

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November 23, 2010

Silver bowls sit beside each place at the table. They are old – that much I know. Monogrammed, too, and I somehow divine that they’re meant for soup. A detail that makes no sense, but then what do I know about old, fine things? Edith Wharton, I am not. Nothing on the table matches anything else. […]

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Happiness and a day with rain

November 16, 2010

If you asked what I think about happiness, I would have to say that it’s never been my natural default setting. That’s probably true for most of us, though I can only speak for myself and say that my hard-wiring and experiences have made it hard to cross the room from shadow to light and […]

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The Lazarus post

November 14, 2010

For fun this weekend, I broke  my blog (making it disappear is no parlor trick and is about as frightening as it sounds), but thanks to the wonderful support staff at my web host, Site5,* it came back to life and everything is up and running again. And they’re all on my list of people to […]

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Notes on a napkin

November 13, 2010

I love the idea of handwritten posts, mostly for the purity of pen to paper and no backspace key. (If you go to flickr and do a search, there are lots of them.) These are just some lines I scribbled on a napkin at Panera this morning. There’s nothing to them, really, just a seed of something that blew past when I picked up […]

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