Monday, September 3, 2012

The Long and Sometimes Rocky Journey

by Joan 

Last week I climbed a mountain, came face-to-face with a mountain goat, stood in four states at once and looked for non-tattooed bodies on Laguna Beach.  

At the end of a too-brief summer, after our son returned to the empty nest and juggled friends, an internship and his guitar, we set off at midnight on a cross-country trek to deliver him and his car to a sophomore year in California. For a week on the road, we enjoyed a last bit of family time, a bittersweet step closer to his future.

New Mexico, photo by Rick Mora

He shared the driving, his play list and fears of the upcoming semester. My husband and he discussed photography, the stock market and music. With me it was literature and life and the art of capturing an extraordinary cloud. 

As we drove, formations erupted like galactic sandcastles across the New Mexico desert. Scenes appeared before us, shocking and stunningly beautiful.

Zion National Park, photo by Rick Mora

In Zion National Park, a goat greeted us, flaunting her ridged horns. We hiked two miles to see emerald pools, climbing over hunks of shucked-off sandstone and dodging lizards and over-fed squirrels. For someone who’s not in great physical shape, there were times I wanted to give up. But I put one tired foot in front of the other and climbed.

Mountain goat at Zion National Park, photo by Rick Mora

The guys laughed at me when I stood on the four-corners’ landmark and dropped to a pushup position to straddle Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, but I didn’t care. Sometimes life calls for silly.

Four Corners Monument, photo by Rick Mora

Laguna Beach, photo by Rick Mora

On the last relaxing few days, I went from sand to ocean and back again, and wondered when we became a society of inked bodies. Are tattoos a fad, like bellbottoms and blue eye shadow?

Over the course of a week, I went up, down and sideways. Writing my current manuscript over the past three (or was it four?) years has taken me on a similarly winding journey. There were rocky trails and tricky dips, times I felt I might never reach the top. Some chapters flowed out of me, smoothly, like my steps across a level path. I had rare moments of clarity when the words flowed to the page as imagined.

During my many revision sessions, I stumbled upon creature-like scenes that worked so well in my mind, but stared me down, daring me to come closer and threatening to run away if I flinched. I scanned painted-on adjectives, cleaning until I was left with untarnished words. I straddled the stories of my four main characters, trying to link them forever by the beams of a stone church. Finishing it left me exhilarated, exhausted, bittersweet and hopeful for its future.

Dropping our son at his off-campus apartment was no less heartbreaking than leaving him for his freshman year. But our stories are linked by a journey through life, and no amount of distance can break that. 


  1. All these kids going off to college, all these grand adventures! Love it!

  2. Thanks Julie! I'm sure you can relate to the letting go part!


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