road trip

Leaving Colorado Part 5: Homecoming

Leaving Walla Walla  Photo from wikimedia.org

Leaving Walla Walla
Photo from wikimedia.org

The last leg of our journey should have been easy. After two long days of solo driving, the trip from Walla Walla to Olympia—five hours on a good day—was a route I’d traveled at least a dozen times before. The distance was finite, reasonable—there would be no pushing on another hundred miles while the baby screamed. I wasn’t searching for the next hotel, I was aiming straight for home. It was waiting for us. It would be there.

And so we spent a lazy morning with our Walla Walla friends: eating breakfast, lingering over coffee, playing on the playground. I told myself that the late start would serve us all, that my children would be compliant passengers after their car-free morning. Maybe—I dared to think it—we would make it all the way there without stopping.

I loaded the kids in their seats and the dogs in their spots for our final departure at one, just as the sun was reaching its highest point in the sky. It was September, and the morning had been cool enough, and so I hadn’t thought about my broken air conditioning, or how it feels to drive through shade-less Walla Walla. And before we’d even past the city limits, just as the baby had fallen asleep, I noted orange cones down the middle of the road, and an endless backup of cars. Our black Honda, crawling along on the asphalt, became an oven. Thirty minutes later, when the traffic finally cleared, we had traveled less than five miles.

The four-year-old whined that he was “sweaty”.

The baby, who should have slept a full three hours, woke up and added his voice to the chorus of cranky.

The dogs panted, and shifted, and acted generally good-natured because that is what dogs are good for.

I drove for an hour and then stopped for Slurpees. Sugar cheered both of my children. I assumed that the worst was behind us.

Loose-Gravel-Trs-067

We were about halfway there when I started winding up the mountain road, and passed a sign that said Caution: Loose Gravel. I’d seen these signs before on bigger highways and wondered why they even bothered with the warning. The roads were always fine, it seemed to me, just an extra chip of gravel here and there. My bigger problem was the sun, which was no longer hot, but was blindingly bright when it cut through the shade of the mountain. I wore sunglasses and pulled down the visor, but the brightness still shocked me at every turn.

And then I hit the gravel. The brightness filled with thin white dust and now I really could not see. I slowed the car to twenty miles an hour. I could see about five feet in front of me, but not beyond. It was like driving in a blizzard. A sunny September blizzard. My four-year-old complained that he was bored, and that he wanted a snack. “I can’t see right now!” I told him, my voice tight with fear. “No, I said I want a snack!” he protested. I kept telling myself to just keep driving, to stay slow, to keep looking those five feet ahead. I kept telling myself we were safe even though it seemed we were in danger. The baby cried weakly and then quit, like he didn’t want to commit.

The dust blizzard continued for longer than I ever would have imagined. Occasionally, I’d drive through some shade and see just a little bit better and think: this isn’t so bad, and then the sun would blast out my vision once more. I kept thinking: how much of this road did they pave, as I rounded another mountain turn. Two miles? Five miles? Twenty? In the end, it felt like twenty though it can’t have been much more than five.

Dinner break at the top of the mountain.

Dinner break at the top of the mountain.

It was nearly ten at night when we finally arrived in Olympia. Both of my kids were awake. After the dust blizzard and a stop for dinner, the baby had cried for nearly an hour, slept for twenty minutes, and then woke up to resume his screaming. Now, as the car pulled to a stop, he took a staggered breath and quieted.

As I parked the car, my phone rang. It was an old friend. “You home yet?” she asked. “You need anything?”

“I could use a beer,” I told her.

Within ten minutes she delivered. She brought another friend and together they passed around the baby and chatted up the four-year-old as I wandered from room to room with my open beer. In a daze, I laid out suitcases, fed dogs, put sheets on the bed, engaged in the chores of home. Because that’s where I was.

There was something empty about it. The place seemed to echo. We’d abandoned it all summer after all. But still, it was comforting.

Home is the place with the scratches in the floors, the smell you recognize, where even an unmade bed, an empty refrigerator bring ease. Home is the place where your friends come to deliver you a beer just because you need one.

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Is my Desperation Showing?

Front Seat Selfie

Front Seat Selfie

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I’m in the seating area of the natural foods store in Sand Point Idaho, but I’m not sitting down. Stump, my one-year-old, has just thrown a slice of strawberry and three melon cubes on the floor and now he’s trying to launch himself out of his high chair. He’s needed a nap since two hours ago. I let him down and he starts running towards the main shopping area. He’s wearing a diaper, a t-shirt, and shoes with no socks. When I pick him up, he arches his back with super baby strength and screams No!

 Smoke, my five-year-old, is pecking at his string cheese and the six-dollar fresh fruit box I bought him. He looks off into space, tuning out the world, a skill he’s been cultivating since Stump was born.

Across from our table, a blond woman in her forties watches us as she tries to enjoy her lunch. “Let me know if I can help you,” she says.

Outside, it’s at least 90 degrees and my partner Kellie is forty-five miles away in Nowhere, Idaho (okay, it’s actually called Oldtown), waiting for the mechanic to fix her goof from earlier this morning.

Here’s how it went down:

1. At precisely 10 am, as planned, we left our friends’ house at the lake. We had four hours of driving ahead of us and we wanted to maximize Stump’s naptime. Our two friends and their two nephews would follow behind us. We were so organized. We had done all of our packing the night before, and spent the morning enjoying the lake. All we had to do was top of the gas tank in Kellie’s monster diesel truck.

2. While Kellie topped off the tank, I went inside to buy an iced tea. When I returned to the truck, she was in the middle of calling her dad. As it rang, she looked at me. “I fucked up,” she said. After leaving her father a voice mail, Kellie explained that the fuel hoses had been tangled, and she had accidentally topped her diesel tank off with regular fuel. She had already added twelve gallons when she looked down and noticed the pump handle was black, not green. “I am such a fuck-up,” she concluded.

3. Upon hearing the news, my first instinct was to minimize the problem. Three-quarters of our fuel was still diesel, right? Couldn’t we keep going and maybe the engine would run a little rough? Nope. A quick look at our smart phones and return call from her dad yielded consistent advice that we would risk ruining the engine that way. Well, then couldn’t we drive it a few blocks to the nearest mechanic and have them drain the tank and we’d be good to go in about an hour? Nope. Driving it even a few blocks would be risky, and no one could commit to finishing the job that day. If we could get it back tomorrow, we’d be lucky.

4. As we waited for the tow truck to arrive, we had to make some decisions quickly. Would we continue our trip to Montana or stay by the lake one more night? What would we do with all of our stuff—our cooler, our bags, our car seats? Would we rent a car, or pray that against all odds Kellie’s truck would be ready by evening?

By this time, our friends and their nephews had joined us. We needed their help, but we didn’t want to spoil their day, to trap them in our limbo. The nearest rental agency was forty-five miles away. There was also a problem of space: They had one free spot in their car. There was space for two riders in the tow truck. There were four of us. After some frantic discussion we made a plan. Kellie and Harlan would ride in the tow truck and wait at the mechanic’s, while Stump and I would overcrowd their sedan. Once we rented a car in Sand Point, our friends could reclaim their seats and continue on to Montana.

5. The rental car turned out to be unnecessary. By the time I had hauled a screaming Stump the forty-five miles back to Oldtown, Kellie’s fuel line was being drained, and the mechanic could now promise that her truck would be ready by the end of the day. I tried not to feel stupid and I tried not to worry that I’d have to pay the full $100 for the two-day rental I’d requested.

Instead, I tried to Make The Most Of It. For the third time that day, I’d drive the forty-five miles between Sand Point and Oldtown, this time with two kids in the back. While Kellie waited in the blazing sun, I could at least make use of my rental investment by getting the kids out of the heat and feeding them something besides the snacks that we’d been keeping in the truck for five days. Destination: Winter Ridge Natural Foods. By now, I’ve learned to depend on natural foods stores (in Idaho, no less) as a kind of respite for weary moms.

And now, here I am, chasing my toddler back and forth between the two rows of tables. I need coffee, and there’s an espresso bar just twenty feet from the seating area. I let Stump climb on a chair so that I can lean in and talk to Smoke. I touch his shoulder to get his attention. “I’m going to go buy a coffee drink right over there,” I say, pointing. But he doesn’t track my finger. He’s pretending to listen, but he’s still in outer space. Stump is climbing off the chair, but if I go now, I know what will happen. Smoke will return to earth in the moment I leave the area and wonder where I am. He’ll look around and begin to cry. He’ll holler “Mommy Where Are You?” tears streaming down his face. A shopper will call CPS. Hoping to avoid all this, I wrangle Stump and begin to repeat myself, but the lady eating lunch intervenes. “I’ll watch him,” she offers.

I’m grateful for her offer, but I’m also not sure if she’s acting out of genuine sympathy for me, or if she thinks I’m incompetent. And as I’m walking to the espresso bar, diapered baby on my hip, it hits me:

No one knows the reason for this spectacle, my unruly half-dressed baby, my unkempt hair, my checked-out son. No one knows about the days of traveling, the truck in the shop, the split second decisions, the chaos of it all. Instead, for all they know, this is just how I roll. For all they know, on grocery day I slap a diaper on the baby, let him run amok, and draw everyone in range into our family drama.

A half hour later, hot and weary but caffeinated, I’ll return the car and pay $50, just one of the day’s expenses. Underneath the blazing son, we’ll take our places and hit the road, the wind in our hair, finally.

Leaving Colorado Part 4: “All Your Friends are Here”

Image Courtesy of Berkly Illustration https://www.etsy.com/shop/berkleyillustration

Image Courtesy of Berkley Illustration
https://www.etsy.com/shop/berkleyillustration

On the way to Colorado, we had been a caravan, a family of travelers. My partner Kellie drove a Budget truck stuffed with barn wood and boxes. The truck pulled our little along Honda behind it on a rickety car trailer. The kids and I followed behind in Kellie’s diesel pickup. Because I’m too timid to drive either of these rigs, we’d drafted two friends, Dee and Heidi, to help us with the driving.

By ten in the morning, as we crossed the line from Oregon to Idaho, the day had already warmed to 104 degrees, and the road was even hotter. The air conditioning in the truck was broken. Dee drove the pickup with the windows down, the hot air whipping our hair in all directions. It was too loud to talk, so we kept our eyes on the road ahead, trying to make it till evening, praying the kids would keep their cool. But eight miles into Idaho, Dee and I watched as one of the car trailer’s tires exploded and fell to pieces on the highway.

Our caravan pulled to the breakdown lane. As we stood on sand and asphalt, vehicles whizzing by at momentous speeds, we instantly began to melt. The baby screamed. I hunkered down with the cell phone, navigating the maze of numbers to connect with roadside assistance. Forty minutes, they told us. No guarantees.

Dee decided to wait with Kellie in the heat while Heidi took over the pickup, ready to drive me and the kids somewhere cooler. “I know where the Whole Foods in Boise is,” she offered.

Boise Whole Foods would become the only thing I’d see of Idaho both coming and going. It was where I was headed now, day two of my journey with two boys and two dogs in a tiny, stinky Honda.

This time, there was no emergency. Or, to put it another way, we’d become accustomed to a constant state of emergency, the car too hot, the endless road, the baby always on the verge of meltdown.

But Boise Whole Foods was everything I needed. It was vast and air-conditioned. They had vegetables there. By God, I wanted a fancy salad and I was willing to pay thirteen dollars for it.

But more importantly, Boise Whole Foods featured something so practical it was nearly miraculous: a nursing lounge for mothers. It had a door that locked, a sink, a changing table, an outlet where I could plug in my phone. It featured a comfortable chair where I could nurse the baby, along with toys and books to distract my older son while I sat and nursed. To top it all off, its walls featured a series of prints by Berkley Illustration titled “All Your Friends Are Here.”

Image Courtesy of Berkly Illustration https://www.etsy.com/shop/berkleyillustration

Image Courtesy of Berkley Illustration
https://www.etsy.com/shop/berkleyillustration

Strangely, the appeal of the mothers’ lounge was that it was populated by these illustrations, and No One Else. I locked the door. I nursed. I charged my phone. I splashed water on my face. No one knocked. No one sized me up and shouted “Got your hands full there”—the line that was inevitably uttered at every rest stop.

I nursed the baby with my feet up, as my older son and I discussed which of the prints we each loved the most, and which one I should order at Christmas for Mommy Kellie, who was by now 700 miles away. We might have spent twenty minutes in the mothers’ lounge, but it was restorative in the same way that catnaps are restorative. We returned to the car, disoriented, groggy, but refreshed.

Image Courtesy of Berkley Illustration https://www.etsy.com/shop/berkleyillustration

Image Courtesy of Berkley Illustration
https://www.etsy.com/shop/berkleyillustration

*Thanks to Berkley Illustration for permission to use these images.

Leaving Colorado Part 3: Long Stretch of Nothing

I should have stayed in Brigham City. From what I saw, it was a friendly little place. I sat with my kids at a Panda Express watching my baby throw noodles on the floor while my four-year-old reclined on the booth. It was six p.m. and we’d been on the road since four in the morning. I had traveled 450 miles with two kids and two dogs. A rational mom would have called it a day.

But I didn’t want to spend the night in Utah. This was an ungrateful attitude considering the events of earlier that morning, but Utah had always ranked high on my list of Places that Gays Should Avoid. It was kind of a silly fear, I reasoned with myself. It’s not like I was wearing a t-shirt that said “DYKE”. Without my partner at my side, I looked like any other run-down parent. But I couldn’t get past my uneasiness.

I should buy this hat to wear when I'm traveling.  source: http://www.zazzle.com

I should buy this hat to wear when I’m traveling.
source: http://www.zazzle.com

Besides, the sun was still high and Idaho was only sixty miles away. Driving on was a commitment though; from the TripAdvisor map, it looked like we’d have to drive deep into Idaho before finding a sure place to spend the night. I bought myself an iced tea and loaded everyone back into the Honda. The dogs, who up until this point had reliably ignored the snack box, had finished the last of my chips and left the car smelling like a fart.

By the time we reached the freeway, the baby was already crying. A summer of long car trips had trained me to recognize the cry of no return. He wasn’t tired, he wasn’t hungry, he was pissed. The nearest listed motel was in Burley. I watched the road signs, translating miles into minutes: 120 minutes of crying, 112 minutes of crying. I prayed for a better option.

dogs

As we approached Snowville, the last town in Utah, the baby still screamed and my fuel tank had fallen to E. Though the road had been quiet, the gas station was full of travelers. Just a few feet beyond was the town’s one motel, set behind a lot full of dying weeds. I nearly cried with relief when the clerk told me she had a room. The baby, red-faced, snotty, teary, nuzzled into my shoulder as I paid.

The moment we settled into the room, fear kicked in. Who did I think I was anyhow, traveling alone with two young kids? What if someone climbed in through the window while we slept? What if the motel owner was a psycho and let himself in with a key? What if my fear kept me up all night and tomorrow I’d fall asleep at the wheel? What if I never made it out of Utah?

But then I remembered: the dogs. Until now, I had seen them as two more beings who took up room, requiring care and food and space. But now they were protectors who would bark like crazy the moment they sensed a hand on the other side of the doorknob. Oh how I loved them for that.

I slept soundly for six hours, which was all I really needed. When I woke up, I poured warm tap water over two green tea bags in a Styrofoam cup and let the dogs out to pee in the brisk morning air. Then I loaded my tribe into the car, and left Utah, kind Utah, behind me. There was just enough light in the sky to make out the shape of the mountains, and also the glow of a few remaining stars.

Introducing Stump and Smoke

Smoke and Stump circa 2013

Smoke and Stump circa 2013

“Did you know we chose a donor?” I asked our friend Dee. Kellie was driving, Dee was riding shotgun, and I was in the cramped backseat of our truck. I had scooched to the middle and leaned forward between them so that we could talk over the roar of the diesel engine. We were headed to our cabin in northern Washington. At this point in the journey, the sun was high, we’d all finished our coffee, and we were driving up a mountain.

“Finally,” Dee said.

Earlier that week, Kellie and I had finally decided on two potential donors from a catalogue of hundreds. I filled Dee in on our choices. Our top pick was a guy who was listed as six foot two, athletic, a native Canadian of Ukrainian descent. It was hard to explain why we had chosen him. We had looked at endless questionnaires, the answers hand-written, and it seemed that, more than any particular answer, the handwriting itself told a story. Overly neat handwriting made me suspicious, like the donor had something to hide. I took comfort in handwriting that was legible, but hurried.

“So you’re going with the Ukrainian Canadian?” Dee clarified. She thought that was funny, and she made up a song, envisioning him as a bearded lumberjack. In a low voice, she sang, “The Ukrainian Canadian came through for us today!” The tune was catchy. Soon we were all singing it as we crested the mountain pass.

“Say goodbye to your dreams of having a girl,” she warned Kellie. From the beginning, Kellie had clung to an idea that she’d make a better parent to a girl than she would to a boy. “You’re going to have two burly sons, and everyone’s going to call them Smoke and Stump.” We laughed some more and, strangely, I could picture it: two little boys in denim and striped shirts, running around with dirt on their knees. Maybe it was the mountain landscape we were passing through, but I imagined us living in a Podunk town where they’d spend their days building forts out of fallen branches and learning to chop firewood.

Kellie laughed along. The idea of Stump and Smoke seemed to make her more comfortable with the idea of having a boy or two—so comfortable that she advocated for actually naming our kids Smoke and Stump. “You’re not serious,” I said. But she was.

We joked about Stump and Smoke for months, but in the end we all but forgot. The Ukrainian Canadian didn’t come through for us after all, and after two years of trying to conceive and failing, no one was making jokes about the names of our future babies. So it wasn’t until last week, when brooding over what pseudonyms I should give my children for this blog, that it hit me—we have two boys! We have our Stump and Smoke! Dee’s joke had been prophecy.

It’s clear to me who’s who. Smoke is my older son, my five-year-old. He is wily and elusive, in many places at once. He may look as if he’s sitting at the kitchen table, but in reality he is spread throughout the universe, entertaining multiple daydreams. Any discipline tactics I attempt can and will be used against me. The other day he warned me “Mommy, you better hand me that milkshake by the time I count to five.”

No fence can stand in Smoke's way.

No fence can stand in Smoke’s way.

And Stump suits my one-year-old, with his brute strength, my baby who, as I’ve mentioned before, I once caught hanging from the counter ledge like an action hero. Currently, Stump likes to pull large stones from the birdbath and hurl them like shot puts. He thinks it’s hilarious to pinch my bare skin with his determined little fingers and hear me cry in pain.

Stump is so hearty, he eats mustard greens for breakfast.

Stump is so hardy, he eats mustard greens for breakfast.

Kellie may once have dreamed of a daughter, but we are pleased with Stump and Smoke, our family of two women completed by two boys. Dee must have known they were our destiny, and she prepared us for it in her way, by inviting us to laugh at sperm and strength and boy-ness.

Leaving Colorado Part 2: Strangers in Utah

[You can read Part 1 here.]

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It was 8:20 in the morning when I crossed the border into Utah. The sun was a cool yellow, and both of my sons—the baby and the four-year-old—were awake again, and both were whining. My two dogs had settled for the most part, but every once in a while the older one stood up on the passenger’s seat, turned a circle, and then settled back in the exact same spot just to remind me that he was there.

The desert stretched on either side of me. I floored the gas and held my breath, trying to will my little Honda up yet another mountain. As the road began to level, I spotted what I’d been wishing for: a quiet spot marked “View Area” with a small trail and a bathroom.

The parking lot was empty. As we pulled in for the first stop on our long journey home, I hoped we’d be alone. I was afraid that someone might ask me for a cigarette, or a dollar, and tell me his whole life story, or ask me for mine, or that some old lady would let a terrier hop out of her back seat. In this latter scenario, my own dogs would go ballistic, causing me to fall on top of my baby as they bolted for the highway; meanwhile my four-year-old would walk off a nearby cliff. I didn’t want that.

But somehow I managed to unload all the living beings from the car without incident. We walked together, the dogs pulling only a little, the morning air cool but not cold. Maybe we could do this after all.

From the view area, we looked over hills and blue sky. Another car pulled into the lot. A couple emerged, both of them round and middle aged. I held my breath, waiting to see if they had a dog.

“Got your hands full there,” the man called out to me. His wife was rifling through a cooler. Just as we reached our own car, she extended an arm in my direction, offering a zip-lock bag of peeled, hard-boiled eggs. “Will you take these?” she asked. “My sister-in-law packed too much food.”

“That’s really nice,” I said. The bag was ice cold.

I meant it. I hadn’t seen a restaurant in many miles. For breakfast, I had planned to keep passing crackers into little hands.

“Can I have one?” my son asked, and I was happy to hand him one, so that the lady would know I wasn’t planning to toss them out the window later. My son took a bite and the dogs crowded him. He held the egg above his head like a treat and laughed, taunting them. The dogs wagged their tails and panted. This was a problem we’d been working on all summer.

“Stop that!” I commanded, but it had no effect. The couple drove off.

Another car, a silver convertible, pulled in beside us. The driver was tall with a shiny bald head and a short beard. No dog, just clean leather seats. He was about to see me lose it with my son. I grabbed the egg from his hands, split it in half and gave one half to each of the dogs.

My son wailed. “But I’m so so hungry!”

“And I’m so so angry that you don’t ever listen and you always tease the dogs.”

I wondered what the bald man thought of us. I could feel him a few feet behind me. When I turned around, he had his wallet out. Oh shit, I thought. He’s going to try to give me money. And in one long second, I weighed my options. I could turn him down, say “Oh, that’s all right,” as I instinctively do so often when friends offer help. If I did that, an awkward battle might ensue, or perhaps he’d turn his eyes back to his wallet as he returned the money. Instead, I decided I would take it.

“Put this in your gas tank,” he told me, handing me a folded-up bill. “You’ve got a ways to go.”

I thanked him, stuffed the bill in my pocket, and clipped my kids into their car seats. I handed my son another egg, my own generosity restored. Once settled in the driver’s seat, I pulled out the bill. There were two, actually. He had given me forty dollars.

I’ve since told this story to friends and they’ve all said the same thing: “He must have thought you were a battered wife.”

I had the same thought initially. But upon reflection, I’m pretty sure that he was just a guy with money in his wallet, and money in the bank, who saw a frazzled parent and decided the transaction would bring us both joy. He did it not because he thought he had to, but because he could.

So many times since that day, I’ve remembered that moment, before he had even offered the money, when I decided to receive it. I remind myself what that felt like, saying yes to someone’s kindness.

About an hour after I accepted the money, I pulled into a gas station and filled my tank. It came to $39.84.

Images: http://travellogs.us/

Leaving Colorado (Part 1)

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I left Colorado at four in the morning, when the sky was still starry and dark. I left in a ’93 Civic that I’d loaded with boxes of toys and clothes the night before. I had carefully attached two dog leads to the passenger’s seat. I wanted to be prepared.

Ten weeks earlier, we’d caravanned to Colorado from Washington. The idea was to spend a summer in wilderness, to see if that was where we were Meant To Be, but I still didn’t know. I only knew this: a) wilderness problems were different than city problems and b) in the city I had a job.

And so, I was about to return to that job with both dogs and both sons, while my partner stayed behind, attending to commitments. I dreaded the journey. To be responsible for four living things while driving across four western states struck me as only barely possible. I knew we’d make it home in the same way that, during childbirth, I knew that my sons would make it out of my body alive.

In the morning I loaded the dogs. Also, I loaded my sons who still slept, but who woke at the morning air. I kissed my partner goodbye and drove down the mountain over rocks and bumps and ruts. My sons were awake.

The idea had been that both boys would sleep soundly for hours as I drove. But now the baby was screaming and my older son was already demanding snacks. The dogs refused to settle; they turned in their spots obsessively, unhappy with the space I’d allotted them. We had twenty-one hours to go.

I could not hear my music through the screaming, but I tried. I tried to relax, but I couldn’t see. The night was so dark. Even with my brights on, I leaned forward towards the windshield, trying to see where I was going. Each time I approached a corner, I imagined swerving to avoid a bear.

That baby, he wasn’t going to sleep. My older son quietly placed his hands over his ears.  It was quarter to five and still pitch black when I pulled into the empty parking lot of a grocery store—the one we’d been shopping at all summer long. There were lights on inside, a delivery truck outside, a man emptying palettes of bread. He didn’t seem to see me, though I felt conspicuous, a small car alone in a big lot.  I rearranged some bags so that I could sit next to the screaming baby’s car seat. The dogs rearranged themselves too. I leaned over the baby and pulled out my left breast. He drank. He quieted.  He slept. I put my breast away. After returning to the driver’s seat, I drove on.

From there, the roads widened. The edge of the sky grew light. I listened to music. In the rearview mirror, I watched my older son fall asleep.

A hawk flew alongside me for a spell. Ahead of me were yellow hills and a pinkening sky, but behind me were the mountains I was leaving. The end-of-summer sun rose above them turning the clouds crazy shades of orange. I was heading towards Utah, but Colorado, behind me, knew how to put on a show. I wanted—I needed a photograph. I could not safely take one.

It occurred to me that everything good—my sons, my dogs, my partner, the mountains—everything good was behind me, visible mostly through the slice of view afforded by the rearview window, some of it not visible at all.