I followed the construction cones that were illuminated from my headlights. A small sign with an arrow “Days Inn” pointed me through a lane lined with orange cones. I pulled into a parking spot in the back corner. Ollie and I had stopped about fifteen miles before, went to the bathroom and had dinner. I turned the engine off and stepped down on the emergency brake. Ollie sits up in the bed and looks sleepily at me. As I walked to the back of the van, I pulled the curtains, clipped them shut and locked the doors. Ollie quickly beds down as he doesn’t sleep while the van is moving. I brush my teeth and climb into bed. I hear the drone of the Arby’s drive through that is behind us and the conversation of two young parents trying to figure out how to get their sleeping child into their hotel room without waking them.
Martin Van Buren and I covered 560 miles today. The day went fast though. All day as I crossed through Minnesota and South Dakota I thought about how fortunate I am to have my community. For the past week I have been visiting my aunt and uncle. Staying in their lovely home and just spending time with them. We walked, napped, played with the dogs in the lake, sat in their welcoming sunroom and simply talked. It was marvelous. One of the main reasons I wanted to take this major life change was to have time with the people that I love. Each time I have visited previously, we had three days or less and each day was jam packed to the point of exhaustion. We didn’t have the time to just settle, sit, enjoy the beauty of everyday life. The gift of time is something I have come to deeply cherish.
However, today I loaded up the van, pulled away from my aunt waving as she sought respite from the hard rains just inside the garage door and and turned left out of the driveway. As I drove away, I began to tear up. My aunt and uncle have agreed to keep my dog Hazel for a few months while I’m away from the van and unable to travel with the dogs. I believe this will be Hazel’s happiest time in her life though as she is in the woods, with another lab, on a lake and with two dog lovers. It’s her dreamland. It couldn’t be a better situation for her and I don’t know how I can repay them.
As I continued down the road, another aunt had returned my call. We visited and she ended the call with “I have clean sheets here for you when ever you’d like.” Later my cousin offers up “if you ever need to talk or get sleepy while you’re on the road— call me up and we’ll chat.” I get a text from yet another aunt prepping for my arrival “Do you eat pork? Or prefer chicken?” who has also read up on the best ways to introduce Ollie to her cats in the next few days. Pictures of Hazel sleeping come through with their agenda for the next day: a walk at 6:45am-7:30am and then an evening swim in the lake. My heart beams.
I can’t help but marvel at my tribe. The love, support and generosity that I have received in this life change has been immense. It solidifies my decision even more so in taking time to be with the people that I love and adore. Taking time to stop and be present. Everyday life gets away from us and our routines and our muscle memory take over and put us on autopilot. But I don’t want that. I have these people in my life that I see sometimes every few years that are so kind, so loving and generous and I want to break the cycle of sparse and frenzied connections. Life is so much more meaningful when shared with your community and that will be my mission.