Thoughtful eloquence from Sarah:
For the first time in a month, I slept in my own bed, cuddled up to my cat and dog, showered in my own shower, brushed my teeth in my own sink, drank coffee in my own kitchen, and used my own toilet. It was quite refreshing!
And you might be wanting to ask, so I’ll tell you. Yes, yes—it’s a strange adjustment now to be back. I already feel like I’m ready for the Next Big Thing. I’m waiting for something to happen or I’m waiting for our next adventure. I’m terribly, immovably sad that it’s all over, and now all we have are the memories (which, honestly, aren’t too shabby). In the past four weeks, I had gotten used to waking up with the sun, looking over at Bryan as he blinked awake in our tent, taking that first breath of fresh air as we drank our coffee overlooking placid mountain lakes, steep red canyons, and morning light filtering through the world’s forests. It’s hard to bring myself back to the reality I knew before these moments, before I knew something like this was possible.
While we were on the road, we often talked and daydreamed about what life would be like in the various places. We’d repeat the phrase “We live here!” (a phrase our dog Kitty says to us all the time to remind us that she lives in our house). We’d look at the local high schools as we drove by and think, “What if Bryan taught here?” And I’d imagine working at the various national parks (what if I were giving this tree talk about tannins at Muir Woods instead of Ranger Daniel?). It was fun to think about who we were when we met, who we are now, and who we might become.
Before we left on our trip, my sister-in-law Emily asked what I was most looking forward to about the trip. I said I was most looking forward to being with Bryan for a full month without interruptions like household chores, work, and other life things. Bryan and I met while we were in college, arguably the most fun time of your life because your only responsibilities are to yourself as a student, to your fellow classmates and teachers as a member of university life, and to your part-time job that paid just enough for rent, bowling, car insurance, and cheap bars. We spent our first eight years pursuing our undergraduate and graduate degrees, so we were accustomed to spending summers together. I was looking forward to recapturing that feeling, seizing another summer with Bryan. And, boy howdy, we did just that.
Which is why is has been a difficult readjustment to “normal” life. We woke up. Bryan’s watching sports on our TV. We’re having coffee. I’m doing laundry and cleaning the house. Kitty goes out, takes a nap. John Denver begs for food, takes a nap. We will probably go out to eat together later. Then we’ll both go back to work tomorrow. We’ll come home, have dinner, watch Netflix, and see each other for about four hours before we go to bed to wake up and repeat. Ho hum.
Yet, there’s another thing. While we were on the road, I learned I would be part of the Carnegie Center’s Kentucky Great Writers series, which is, as they say, achievement unlocked. I have been able to achieve many dreams as a writer: an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, artist-in-residence for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, collaborative artist residency with my sister through the Spring Creek Project at Oregon State University, my first book of poetry with Airlie Press, and so much more. Before we left, Bryan learned he’d been selected for two new classes he’d wanted to teach at his school. He brings with him a communications and English background from Eastern Kentucky University (where we met), and he’s an excellent writer in his own regard, so this will be a great fit for him. He’s also been voted by South Oldham High School students as a Most Influential Teacher two out of the six years he’s taught high school, teaches two AP courses, sponsors the academic team, student newspaper, and gay-straight alliance, and serves as English department manager. And these are just to name a few.
This is all to say that after I shed a few tears in the shower this morning over the end of our trip, I also sat down next to Bryan to share coffee. There isn’t an “other” reality in which we travel vs. the one in which we live together in our house. This is our home, which we built together during these past ten years of marriage and fourteen years of being together. We are blessed enough to have made choices along the way, chosen and supported each other in those choices, and had the support of friends and family to be living lives together doing what we love—and loving each other.
There are many things we didn’t get to see on our trip, and we’ve already begun dreaming about our next big trip. For instance, I was really looking forward to seeing pitchblack nights gazing at the Milky Way in dark sky parks, but the waxing, full, and waning moon during our four weeks had other plans. The feeling of slight disappointment abated, though, when I saw Yosemite Valley awash in full-moon light and watched a glowing gibbous rise above a Grand Canyon sunset. I’m grateful for colleagues, friends, and family who made this journey—all of it—possible, and I look forward to where we go next, even if it is just The Post, which is our favorite place in the city, because we’ll be having dinner with each other and with friends.
Thanks for reading!
Bryan’s less eloquent take:
In some ways, it feels disappointing to be back at home. The sense that the trip is now in the past, only existing in our memories and thousands of images and hours of video, is a bit sad. Planning this trip took us over a year, and we spent the better part of the last six months in edgy anticipation. But the trip’s ending allows for some reflection on the experience, and I’ll take a few minutes to consider everything that we did over the past month.
I am amazed at the diversity of the American landscape and the people we encountered along the way. Not only do Americans come in so many different languages, religions, and skin colors, people from all over the world come to the United States to see our beautiful public lands. I was so impressed with the number of languages I heard in every single national park we visited. These places are assets to the people of our planet, not just citizens of our country. People travel the world to see the cliffs of Yosemite, the massive expanse of the Grand Canyon, the waves of the Pacific at Point Reyes, the craggy peaks of the Rockies, and the savage wasteland of Death Valley. The public lands we visited are the most amazing places I have ever seen. Our world would be a greatly diminished place if these places were spoiled by further development. It does wonders for a person’s soul to be surrounded by such masterworks of nature.
I would recommend every couple to do something like this. For weeks, it was just us and a big, weird, unknown territory. It was the perfect way to celebrate the past 14 years of being together. We slept outside many nights, saw the bright lights of a desert sky and the flashing bright spots of Las Vegas, watched sunsets at beaches and canyons (Grand and otherwise), hiked miles into wilderness, drove dramatic scenic roads through glacial valleys, climbed to the top of waterfalls, communed with the world’s oldest, tallest, and biggest trees, dipped our toes in the Pacific and swam in the Atlantic, and generally had the best time ever. And Sarah did 99.9% of the driving. I think I moved the car once.