I have just returned from driving to the Tucson Festival of Books and the associated master workshop in poetry. Three thousand miles. Eight days of driving. Three days of Tucson, Arizona. I know. That’s nuts. I wanted an adventure. I got one. I wanted to see the territory between here and there, not just fly over it. I have seen it.
I’m flailing in an avalanche of receipts, dirty clothes, unmowed lawns, uncleaned rooms, undone chores, books, written notes, typed notes, recorded notes, and memories I don’t want to lose as I sink into the overflow.
I want to hold on to that first sight of desert cactus, the winter-green hills of California where the cattle grazed, the llama watching freeway traffic, the woman at the Canyonville, Oregon gas station who was eating German chocolate cake at 8 a.m. and who called me “Sweetie,” the new writer friends with whom I ate, drank, laughed, and learned, the big hugs from cousins Adrienne and John in Tucson, the excitement when I found the street in Burbank, California, where my late husband Fred grew up, watching the cowfolk in Coalinga, the quirky antique shop at Chiriaco Summit, the incredible banana chocolate chip muffin from Mimi’s in Casa Grande, eating Denny’s chocolate lava cake and talking to my dad while sitting by the pool on a warm night in Blythe, California on my birthday. And so much more.
I don’t need to hold on to the traffic in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Stockton; the rain, wind, snow, and fog; the disappointment of the Royal Sun Best Western Hotel in Tucson and the hurt in my feet when the walk to the book festival proved far longer than these old feet could handle in tennis shoes; the really terrible shrimp-bacon-creamed avocado flatbread I ate for dinner one night; the Mexican restaurant run by Chinese people; the tight schedule that made it impossible to turn off I-5 to visit my father or my brother or my cousins; having to leave Annie in “doggie jail,” or the worrisome amount of money I spent. Nope. Let those go.
The Tucson Festival of Books was huge and amazing. I entered a raffle and won a $50 Amazon gift certificate. I bought a few books. I used up two pens and wore out the batteries on my voice recorder. The poetry workshop blew my mind.
Was it worth it? I won’t be driving that far on such a tight schedule again. Having to go 400 miles a day in order to arrive at the festival on time and get home in time to play the piano for Saturday Mass took some of the joy out of it. Much better to take time to explore the side roads, see the family, and sit still for a while.
Annie is overjoyed to have me home. My bed feels so much better than every other bed I slept in. The pellet stove is still a pain. The trees look the same. Everything looks the same, but I’m not the same. I think that’s a good thing.
Last night on the phone, my dad, who is 95, asked how old I was. When I told him, he exclaimed, “66! How the hell did you get to be so old?” He counseled that the way to stay healthy into old age is to keep active. If you sit in a chair and do nothing, you die. I agree. Where shall I go next?