I hear the low rumble of trucks on the freeway from my porch, back home from my 8,600 mile odyssey. What just last night felt like a predator, the rattle and whirr of tractor trailer rigs, crowding me closer, closer and closer with each mile nearer home, now seems a seductress calling from a distance.
It’s like a pack of cigarettes in the dresser drawer, a bottle of booze in the cupboard, it is simply, there. Get in the car and just drive away, drive to the next town, the next motel, the next deserted stretch of highway, where your faithful dog waits patiently, no matter how long the photo takes.
How many places did we stop? How many vistas shared, we two?
I understand why people become gypsies. Life on the road is simple: move, eat, sleep, move, eat, sleep. Back to reality, with all its tangential threads, is proving to be its own challenge after eight weeks on the road. I knew this when I was out there, I knew what I’d be coming back to. I was awakened by a bill collector this morning. Welcome home.
I need to take deep breaths, one after another. Remember the sunsets.
Like monitoring the trip meter on a dark highway, driving beyond sunset, beyond fatigue, too many stops to take photos, I’d watch the miles click by, bringing me closer to the next stop, the next damn hamburger, the next bed.
I now measure my progress, one weed at a time, one creditor at a time, cleaning one kitchen appliance at a time.
To say that I am grateful to be home though, is like saying the Grand Canyon is big. Of course I am. Hugging Seannie and Lauren and that giant ball of mischievous fur, called Louie, I was never so grateful to see two humans and a dog in my life.
I was back, I’d made it! Eight weeks and 8,600 miles after I backed out the driveway full of fear and doubt, I had driven from the Midwest, to the east coast all the way to San Francisco and back again, by myself, with just my dog. Just my sweet, darling Libby, who wasn’t nearly as emotional as I was at the sight of our little house on Grant Road. But then, she wasn’t as emotional as I’d been about any number of events on this trip. She reacted to familiar turf with moderate enthusiasm, sniffing all the old familiar places. She wagged her tail at Sean, but she didn’t jump on him, Sean, her savior! The boy who chose her, over all the other puppies at the shelter. She was somewhat dismissive of Louie, as if to say, “are you still here?” and then trotted in the house like she owns the joint. You see what I mean.
And while I am still seeing thousands of images in my mind, and thunder last night made me think of the motel maid's cart, it’s as if Libby’s wiped her doggie memory clean. In just one day, she no longer springs to her feet when I jiggle the car keys. She no longer stands by the door, fearful I’ll take off without her.
I captured this photo in Lake Tahoe and it nearly broke my heart. From New York to California, she did this every time I started loading the car. She’d stand by the door, worried, heart racing, riveted gaze on my every move, afraid I would leave her.
As if I ever could. She was my rock, my bed buddy, my muse, my witness, my confessor and accomplice, my golden guardian and my friend. So how to prove my love? How could I ever convince her that I could not abandon her.
I come in the door and get down on the floor and whisper in her ear.
“I will never leave you.”
“I will never leave you.”
“I will never leave you.”
Oh that we humans should be so fortunate to have such ironclad assurance, patting us on the head, scouting up ahead, around the bend, tucking us in at night, raising us up into a bosom of protection.
Ah, but we do. And it is God. This is the God which, if we are open to the bending, will forge us into our better selves. This is the God who speaks to us through the tired lips of the dying and the wind through mountain pines, the God who appears to us in sun drenched boys on desert highways and freckled-faced girls who hand us coffee through the window, the God who stirs our soul at the wonder of creation and sends us one of his best to ride along with us - to witness, to heal and humor us, asking little in return.
Libby trusts me. She trusts me implicitly, without question or reservation, motive or malice. I am her God. I am her guardian.
Just as I am my own. Eight weeks, eighty-six hundred miles and I am still with me. I am the faithful guardian on this one life. My life. There is no one alive better qualified to watch over me than me. Lucky is the little girl who is now in the loving hands of the woman I’ve become.
I am still with me.
Through abandonment, betrayal, loss and pain, I am still with me, the same little girl who rode out far from the farm house, still I ride unworried, alone. We come in alone, we go out alone. We have these blessed companions, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, friends and dogs, of course dogs, but through it all, we journey alone.
Yet, we are bound together. Whether through blood, by choice or chance, for a lifetime or a minute, we’re like traffic on the highway, pulsing blue spheres on the GPS of time. We merge, with a “come on” nod from the driver who lets us in their lane for awhile; their path, their journey, their family, their life, until such time our paths diverge and we’re traveling solo, seeking our own true north.
How fortunate are those who find and follow.
Led my love, self-love, brotherly love, maternal, passionate and puppy. Love is all that matters. Love knows no boundaries. It transcends all race, gender, geography, station in life and species. Love is what we’re sent here for, or more importantly, the courage to love, the willingness to face your fear, to turn the key and start your engine.