I am in the midst of a version of the American Dream – taking to the open road with only a vague plan of our next destination.
I count myself fortunate to be tagging along with seasoned hikers, particularly since my companions are startlingly observant. There is a constant refrain “Did you see that? What’s that smell? Here, feel this!” And usually followed by an explanation of what my senses are experiencing… Or admitting that they have no idea what it is either (“But isn’t it cool?!”) I don’t think I’ve been this excited about nature since Mr. O’Brien’s eighth grade science class. The scents of unfamiliar plants, the smooth deep red bark, the solidified lava flow forming the rocks we clambered over, dust devils, sun dogs, an owl’s call, deer scat, bobcat prints. I see. I feel.
We’re driving through the desert now, pondering which crops surround us. A few days ago my feet were drenched in the salt water of the Pacific, and hours later shaded by the redwoods in John Muir woods (San Francisco has a lot of micro climates).
I hiked in Pinnacles National Park and saw the rare Condor bird fly within twenty feet of me. I stood on mountains and crawled through caves. I feel my body adjusting, stretching muscles and learning to survive on road food. It’s not easy. I broke down in tears at the top of a mountain, my stomach revolting and head aching. T once more was a hero as tears fell unbidden and I expressed my fears of not being able to keep up for the rest of the trip, telling me I had done a great job and we’d made great time – and then picking up my pack and carrying it for me as we continued the loop, making sure I was going at a slow enough pace for my quesy stomach, offering his hand to help me through tricky parts of the path.
I’m grateful to be watching the world pass by from the back seat of A’s car, listening to the conversation flow easily and watching the world pass me by.
May’s feels like part of the abstract. I was standing on the lawn at the benefit concert when the email came that I’d passed my practical exam – over halfway done to being a level 1 certified barista.
I’m fighting a level of fear. The fear of not being able to keep up on these hikes and ruining the experience for T and A. Yet the idea of leaving this? Hopping a flight in Las Vegas and going back to Iowa? That scares me too.
Iowa isn’t home any more. I’ve always had a reason to go home. After high school I hadn’t seen my family in a year. During college I had to finish my degree. After graduation I had May’s. But now? I have a smattering of friends, but it’s a transient town.
No roots. So yes, I’m wandering like a tumbleweed on someone else’s itinerary. The place I once loved now repels me.
So I fight onward. Lost, confused, determined, and free.
After all, I’m 23. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do now?