extracting ourselves from Denver proved strangely difficult. Errands and detours kept us close to the city like the tension of separating magnets. But once we reached Crystal Creek, we’d felt an enormous shift and a weight lift. Suddenly we were free to experience whatever we wished, and submit ourselves to nature’s inspiration. A light cleansing rain created a healing, protective sheen I let soak into me for the drive to Aspen, where thunderstorms appear with a moment’s notice, washing tourists out of the trails like ants fleeing from a birthday party cordial spill.
I apologise for my floral prose, I’m writing this blog over a week late in Auckland Airport, because a combination of terrible wi-fi, core-level exhaustion and the wild ways of the universe’s decisions about how our days would fare have kept me firmly in life with no time or vantage point from which to reflect and write about it – I was too busy living it. (author’s note: not posting until nearly two weeks after I got home to Naarm for similar reasons as above)
I suppose that’s the message. As our week progressed visiting geysers and staring agape at elks in Yellowstone National Park, stumbling upon queers whilst staying in a tepe in Kalispell, and swinging off a rope into a swimming hole near our cute little cabin in the upmost corner of Idaho, what I became conscious of is that at some point, I had to take these incredible lessons and observations and apply them into a structure of life. every day here has felt like a week, every hour has been dense with experience and witness. while relatively little time has passed, so much depth has been felt and breadth has been travelled. And Michael and I bob along in wonder at what we’re seeing, and what discussions its prompting, that an eagerness to get back to life and start downloading all this change into our every day routines and relationships has begun to bubble up inside.
“but one day the eagle has to land” Tori sings.
without sightseeing and socialising, our trip became a very different beast where we had space to take on all the question marks that had filtered their way into our minds. What life does await us at home? What will we need to change to accommodate the next creative phase of this trip? This is not a vacation we’re on; this is a massive investment in next chapter of our output as writers. I have a poetry collection to write, and I’ve got to get serious about strengthening my practice so it’s actually viable for me to keep making poetic work. I have several income streams, all of which drain my capacity to give enough to my 9 to 5 which I love, and perhaps I have to re-enter a period of sacrifice. What does that look like?
I’ve always been an all-or-nothing person. I’ve learned it’s a trauma response to distil confusion and overhwelm when making adult decisions as a child. I have to heal this symptom, especially the component of it that requires me to believe one direction is wrong, is reflective of me being a bad or unlovable person who deserves to suffer to succeed. The time ahead is asking me to learn alchemy. More, to trust in the process of finding the best blend of the ingredients I have prepared.
A man named Neil we met at Kalispell in Montana where we stayed in the tepe on a cattle ranch, asked us what our tools for happiness are.
I replied that my happiest life involves me pursuing two emotional forces: fear and passion. I’ve always found that the decision that makes me feel the most afraid, often is leading me toward undeniable fulfilment. Facing down the guardians of the experiences I think will endanger me, has always resulted in the most important points of my story. More recently, being able to name my passion as a consent educator and sexual violence prevention practitioner has delivered me to the right people, opportunities and impacts. All I have ever wanted, is to matter. I believe the measure of a life well-lived is one where you are weaving all your life experiences together to create an indelible mark upon the corner of the world you find yourself in at any given moment. Most crossroads I’ve come across offer at least one path that my fear or my passion draw me toward. Rarely do I find one that activates both emotions.
By the time Michael and I were leaving Moyie Springs, headed to Seattle, we could both identify a need for human touch, for the kinds of processing that can only take place in intimate conversation and objective perspectives. We were even fools enough to voice that ‘Michael’s Walk’ was kind of over, and this last week was for pure enjoyment, not for lesson-learning. Fate was tempted by these remarks, and before week seven was through, would drop a truly explosive force right into my trip, into my life.
I first crossed paths with Aaron digitally when I’d hoped to meet a sexy stranger in Washington DC, but accidentally found one in Washington state. We kept up conversation and flirtation, and over the course of a month we decided why not cross paths in Seattle? I didn’t realise this would mean that he drove three hours and take two days off work (this is super not a thing in America by the way) to spend time with me. In this week between Denver and Seattle, the free time gave space for the connection to deepen and strengthen. Listening to the country songs he’d sent me, I felt my heart start to open. I wasn’t ready for it to do that again. It felt like I’d been given the OK from my doctors but I was cautious to use to limb again for fear of reinjury or scarring or wastage.
Sat in the garden with Dan, our Seattle host, a treasured friend I’d bonded with while he ran weekly Tori Amos Zoom concerts through the pandemic, playing Sheryl Crow and wondering if I was really ready – or indeed if anyone ever is ready for a cute date at an aquarium and all the ‘maybes’ that come with meeting someone new. Have I healed enough? Have I recovered from my last relationship? Is this completely irresponsible? Is it a slap in the face to the care I still feel for my first love?
Meet we did, all the same, in a new dress my friend Yvette had bought me in New York, and what unfolded remains a sacred, private series of memories. Suffice to say the connection remains open, and my yearning to return home shaded with a grey of looking back.
I am committed to authenticity. I am imperfect. I am terrified of how many doors will be closed by this one I’ve found enough passion to warrant keeping open. I will not have my hopeful, romantic, loving spirit be drawn from me. If this trip has taught me anything, it’s that I have a great deal to offer in the simplicity of my being alive, demonstrating what is possible when you are just willing. Let your experiences inform you, that doesn’t mean they have to compromise you.
What seemed like an easy float to the finish has become a burst of starry-eyes and possibility. What I was sure would be a final week of wrapping things up neatly to resume life as planned has become a freefall into the arms and lives of friends, experiencing cities not as we design to tick off, but as is true to those who live there. A week of perhaps the deepest connection to place and people we’ll experience. Bring it fucking on.