Journey Through the Desert Pt. 1

{by Daniel}

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.” – Isabelle Eberhardt

Sunday June 4th, 2017. 8am.

I quickly rubbed the sleep from my eyes, headed downstairs and got the coffee going. It was the first day of a long awaited journey southwest and although I hadn’t slept much, I was feeling very much alive. I’d been to the Rockies plenty, driven all the way through them on Interstate 70 a few times… but this time we wouldn’t be stopping for gigs and rundown hotels. This time was different.

I poured a mug full to the brim and found Amy at the door, as focused and determined as I’d ever seen her. It was time, finally. We rounded up the rest of the gear we hadn’t packed the night before, strapped the bikes up and headed west, glad to be going far from this tired old slaughtertown.

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The Plan

While the ultimate mission was to take Bonnie where she had dreamed of going in life, we both needed some true adventure; free from the oppressing nature of a profit-driven society, and timestamps, and bills and the never ending chatter of cell phones. We needed to feel human again, that is, connected to this planet, resonant with its winds. To taste the gritty dirt in our teeth, to roam freely as wild animals do. To follow our hearts and spirits and trust in our innate ability to just be.

We had eight days and roughly 3,000 miles ahead of us.

The first stop was Denver, naturally, to visit our lifelong friend Joel, his wonderful partner Alex, and his little Welsh Terrier, Bradley. Amy whipped up some amazing spaghetti and meatballs that night and we shared all sorts of stories, ideas, business concepts, laughs, you name it. (Visit the Conversations to hear a clip). Joel and Alex are the kind of people you want in your corner. They truly make you feel warm and accepted. While it would’ve been nice to spend another day or two with them, we had a lot of road ahead of us and so we made our way further the next morning.

The drive to Moab, Utah was a shorter one than the day before. We decided it best to take our time getting there so we could set up camp in the evening when it started to cool down a bit. Along the way there are plenty of worthwhile stops.

The Colorado Rockies have always felt like home to me. From the steep, snow-capped peaks, to the rushing rivers of their melt, the whole experience is always liberating. To come from a landscape so manufactured by mankind and to find yourself in a place only a few animals can actually live instantly starts to rewire the brain. It’s refreshing to say the least.

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Stopping for lunch at a small lake just off I-70

Further down the road, we pulled off in the small statutory town of Eagle, Colorado. We got a tour at the Eagle County Historical Society’s museum (ECHS Website) from a lovely older gentleman named Greg who told us the story of how the Ute people found their way into the area and how Eagle got its name. See video for his story:

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Checking out Eagle River

Feeling satisfied with our time in Eagle, we thought it best to get moving again further westward.  In doing a little homework for the trip, I had come across Rifle Falls State Park. It came highly recommended and we still had plenty of time to get to Moab. Sure, getting there would add an extra hour of drive time, but it was 100% worth it.

The park is pretty small (only 0.19km²) but it features a 70ft triple water fall, limestone caves, all manners of wildlife including three species of bats, trails, camping, and even an old brick stage with seating! One trail will lead you right behind the main waterfall and the mist, while a little chilly, is totally refreshing after sitting in the car for hours. Here’s the Wikipedia page if you want to learn more. If you ever get the chance, I definitely recommend making the stop.

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When we got behind the main fall, it was clear to both of us that this was a truly special place. Amy seemed especially moved by its tranquil beauty and felt this was a perfect spot to leave some of Bonnie’s ashes. After a little prep work, she picked a small pool that formed in the soil and gently laid a small amount into it. We carved her mother’s name into the soft, wet ground (it will eventually wash away and we were careful to not leave any permanent markings). We stayed for a moment, calm in knowing that this is a place she would have loved to see.

It was time to go. We got back in the car and headed west again. After stopping in Grand Junction for some provisions, we finished the drive to Moab. Joel and Alex told us of Lone Mesa Campground situated on BLM land and about thirty minutes outside of town. We arrived there shortly after sunset. It was great that we couldn’t see much of anything while driving in because it made for a pleasant surprise when we realized how gorgeous the landscape was the next day.

We got our spot set up quite efficiently, had a fire and some grub, some conversation and shortly made our way to sleep. It had been a busy day, and we had plenty of adventure ahead.

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Lone Mesa Campground outside of Moab, Utah

Ashes to Ashes || The Prologue

{by Amy}

My mother passed on April 27th, 2017. It was perfect outside after days of clouds and rain. Almost as if the sun was released when she was.

I drove up to the hospice house in the morning a little before 10am. Stuart, her husband had called. He thought she was fading. He had been right before, not even a week prior when he thought I had one last chance to speak to a lucid mother. I hadn’t listened then. I listened now.
The day before I had cried in her room. She hadn’t moved for about a day, save for ragged breaths, but as I cried and questioned everything, she stirred. A simple moment. She was trying to comfort me, though she could not.
I left feeling like it was maybe the last time I would see her. I felt it… tomorrow was the day. Thursday, April 27th. Sara, my sister, felt it too. She was getting on a flight the next morning, 6am. We stayed up, probably too late, talking. Sara and my mother always had a rocky relationship- Sara kept her at arms length and Mom tried to claw her way closer, but she didn’t give Sara what she was truly craving; honesty- not a painted up perfect version of a mother, but a human. Sara never begged for this, preferring to stay comfortably distant. Mom never gave her that unspoken thing. Sara had mourned our mother years ago.

Mom had issues. So many that it became confusing what was real and what was part of

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Mom as a little girl with one of her cousins

her delusion. I couldn’t blame her for her psychosis. According to what we were told, she spent her most vulnerable and impressionable childhood years trapped by a sexually abusive relationship. Her father, or her step father, I can never remember which. Either way, it was a father figure who should protect, but instead destroyed. She did what she could; entranced herself in imagination and created guardian selves that she could embrace so that reality was secondary. She was Mom, but she was also Rose, and Bonnie, and Celeste, and others I’m sure I didn’t hear about. I didn’t believe it when I first found out, but I believed it when I met her as Bonnie- a child, shy, giggling, sweet. ‘No one is that good of an actor,’ I thought.

Maybe it was because of the pain she experienced, and how she was not protected that was projected onto me and my sister. She was overly protective of us. We had this dog, Guidian. A border collie, sweet and obedient, if not a little dim. He ran away when we lived on the farm in Iowa. I loved that dog and always held out hope I’d see him bounding over tall grass coming home. I didn’t understand how it was so easy for us to move- how would he find us? Years and years later, Mom let slip that Guidian had in fact run away, but there was no chance he would come home. He had been shot by a farmer who was guarding his cows which the herding dog was attempting to guide.
In trying to protect me from pain, she didn’t tell me the truth…and she deprived me of an essential to growth- understanding grief and loss.
She was loving, to a fault.
I could forgive it. I could forgive it all. How could I not? She was my best friend, my light, the one who taught me that I shone and should not be ashamed of it. She taught me how to love and express myself, my joy.
How could I not love her back?
But I pulled away. I felt frustrated. I grew tired of having to be the adult. I wanted to be the child again. I wanted her to hold me, stroke my cheek, and take care of me. I wonder now if I was just too prideful to allow her to do that.
In so many ways, I did the very same thing that Sara did, even though mine was masked with caring.
And now she’s gone. And all the things that drove me crazy, I crave. I want her to blow up my phone because I’m traveling and she’s worried. I want her to care way too much about minute, mundane details of my life. I am desperate to taste the tang of store bought canned sauce poured over eggplant; the only dish she thought she was decent at making. I thought when I visited her and ranted about my life it was for her, but I didn’t understand how much I did it for myself.
When Mom found out about the cancer, I wasn’t as fazed, not like the first time. The first time, I was petrified, frozen, desperate to cling to her, to see her live. This time, when it had spread and was unbeatable, I was calm; I didn’t think it was real. It wasn’t real last time, so why should this be different? Besides, the doctor said she had a few years…A few years… which I brushed off as an eternity because I was frustrated with her.
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Me and Mom

I am so fiercely sorry for that…and yet as I experience that sorrow, I know what she would say…”It was how you felt, you have nothing to be sorry for.”

There was a day, about a month or so before April 27th. I took her to the post office. I was so annoyed having to drive her somewhere. She had wanted Stuart to come also. For no good reason. Why couldn’t she just do things on her own? Be independent in any way? I parked behind the building, about a block away. The entire walk she struggled. I hardly allowed myself to slow down, to be with her, to see her pain. Instead, all I saw was my own petty annoyances. She was out of breath and hurting, so I had her sit down while I pulled the car around. A twinge of fear and worry struck, but I squashed it. Maybe it was easier to be selfish. Maybe, in a less kinder light, I was simply just selfish with no impressive intention or reason for it. I look back on that day…my opportunity to see a glaringly obvious sign- my mother was dying. Quicker than we thought.
Apparently she had not been going to chemo. The drugs that we picked up at the post office were for a bronchial infection she couldn’t shake. If she could shake it, chemo could start again. If chemo didn’t start again, she would die. She told us none of this.
Sara, always more intuitive than I give her credit for, had an inkling that I did not have. She said to me one day, “I can’t help but feel like if she were dying and things were bad, she still wouldn’t tell us.” I was supposed to be the one who was close to her, the most like her- and yet I knew nothing. In fact, I reassured Sara that I thought she would tell us.
Regret gets me nowhere good, but I suppose it’s just part of the process.
Then again, in protecting me from the truth, she robbed me of the chance to be with her. One I’m not sure I would have even taken.
When I found out she was in the hospital, I shook. My breath was ragged, my skin tingled. I think I believed it then. Walls of denial came crumbling down. At the time, I didn’t have a car. It was totaled after I had been rear ended and sandwiched between two cars the week prior, about 20 blocks from her house. In hindsight, I’ve wondered if that was some sort of message I didn’t let myself receive. Some sort of warning. Daniel dropped everything and came to pick me up, taking me to see her.
In so many ways, that was the moment that changed everything and started this journey I am now on.

Not even a full week later, my mother was gone and everything felt different. It was as if a light sparked, powered by grief, illuminating every inch of my life that was crippling me. I was in a job that filled me with stress, and sadness. I had love for humans that I was too afraid to express. I had numerous friendships that felt hollow and stagnant. I was overflowing with creativity and was numbing it with a daily

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With Mom’s ashes atop the highest point in Mesa Verde National Park

grind that buried every inch of light. And it all seemed so…pointless.

…Grief is an interesting thing.

I know any good psychologist will tell you not to make any big decisions when you’re recovering from a loss, but within two weeks I had shifted almost everything. And I am still grateful that I did.
The day after Mom died, I packed up and went on a trip with my band mates, and fellow local band, Funk Trek. We traveled to Colorado. Only Daniel knew what was going on.
The drive home, I learned that tears were not something you ever ran out of. If there is a need, they will come. I cried in the backseat, letting out so much of my heartache and guilt.
When I had first found out about the cancer, I wanted to take her on a trip. She never really had disposable income to experience life, so I was working on a plan to earn some money. I asked her where she wanted to go, and she said, “The Four Corners,” because it’s a sacred space in Native culture.
It was in the backseat of a van, hiding my tears from a bunch of musicians that Daniel and I decided; I couldn’t take her there in life…but I could take her there in death.