traveling west

by rebecca on November 15, 2010

Post image for traveling west

          I feel like a cattail that’s gone to seed and my altared space today is where I’m planting myself. Have you ever felt you’re reseeding yourself? Like you’re not so much becoming someone altogether new, but really and truly growing into yourself? That’s how I feel these days. And it sounds a little corny when I write it like that. I guess I’m corny.

           I just took a drive across Colorado, Utah and Arizona. Big states. I was amazed at the ether I felt from all that space and driving through it instead of flying helped me to soak it up.

          I am drawn to rocks. This driving trip was a mini-Mecca for a rock worshipper like me. Monument Valley alone holds a temple of rocks towering up out of the earth. Not to mention Moab and Kayenta.

          I was alone in the car. My ipod kept me company until it broke and then I had hours and hours of silence or the sound of the rain on the streets and windows to keep me company.

          It’s amazing how much there is inside one little girl’s head. It feels so good to let it out and have a look or leave it on the pavement behind me. I drink the independence of my own schedule. I stop when I want to stop. I choose my own drink and eat my own food. While I love my kids and husband dearly, without them to accommodate I love finding out what I love too.

          I love to linger and double back. I am such a tigger in life, always bouncing with energy. This slow lingering energy surprises me. I retrace my steps on my hike or on the drive when something catches my eye. I get out and walk around in the places that beckon.

          The wind was blowing something fierce. Tumbleweeds were something I studied in elementary school. I’d heard how they could do damage to cows by blowing smack into one, but they seemed so tame every time I’d seen them blowing about. On this drive, however, a giant one rolled across the highway and I had no time to brake or swerve. I had to hit it and the racket it made was deafening. It sent a chill up my arms. I felt the reverberation all the way through the car. On the plus side, it felt like barreling through a fear and coming out on the other side in one piece.

          My eye catches these roadside altars. As I drove on in silence I said a little prayer for the people who are maintaining this one with such grace. Is this a mother who lost her child? All of us drive by. The world goes on and, maybe, someone glances at the spot where life forever changed for someone else. I’m not making a judgment about how I should have noticed sooner or how my life should be something different because life here has changed for this family. I have a ridiculously happy life and I build altars to that every day that no one ever sees. I’m just noticing someone else’s altar I suppose.

          I adore the juxtapositions held by the west. This lonely mural in the middle of these towering rocks offered a place where horses gathered on this cloudy afternoon. The muted colors of the weather, the paint and the sandstone combined and the melancholy dug its way deep within. The horses’ journeys felt as vast as my mood and the clouds. We were all one.

          I love this photo; the line of cars in my mirror and the rocks out my window. It feels as haunting and as breath-taking as that moment. I was alone but not. The rocks were hugging me. The cars behind me seemed to all be having a shared experience. We were fellow vagabonds, gazing at the miracle of the West.

          A river and rocks together: is there a better pairing in all the universe?

          I feel the rush of independence as all this western space creeps in and recalibrates by blood. I am juiced. I am settled. I feel well planted. I will travel alone again.



          Have you ever traveled alone? What do you find that surprises you? Do you enjoy driving in the rain? Are you a rock and tree person or do you prefer the sites of skyscrapers and the bustle of people? What is your ether?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

TheKitchenWitch November 15, 2010 at 8:20 am

Hey Tigger,

The next time you are in Colorado, swing by Chez TKW. She mades good cocktails.



rebecca November 15, 2010 at 10:18 am


Eeyore? For real? Just so ya know, I love that guy. Thistles and all.


Eva @ EvaEvolving November 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Ohh, what I wouldn’t give to have been a passenger with you! I’ve never spent much time in that part of the country, and it is definitely near the top of my list.

I’ve had a “craving” lately to go on a road trip, and we’re making some plans that I hope will come together soon. You’re absolutely right, there’s something spiritual about traveling, about seeing the wonders of nature, and especially about being alone. I’ve rarely traveled alone, except when it really mattered. Last year I drove alone to my hometown to visit my Grandpa before he passed away, and that was very meaningful for me. I was thankful I could have the time alone instead of bringing my husband along.

Thank you for these pictures – you made my day!


Steve November 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Thanks for the invitation to read this post. I love the roadside altars.
Our lives all change in different places. To recognize & acknowledge where someone else’s is ‘altared’ is exactly what they asked for – simply an acknowledgement.

Thank you for seeing. As for my ether, now that is an entirely fascinating question . . . .



rebecca November 16, 2010 at 5:57 am


Perhaps there is a roadtrip in our future! Wouldn’t that be a hoot!

I am sorry about the loss of your grandfather. I wonder why it was so meaningful to have that time alone particularly then? It sounds like he was a pivotal person in your life. One thing that’s really cool about you and your husband is how very much you include extended family into your cozy lives. That must be a foundational part of what makes you so introspective and intimate-able.


rebecca November 16, 2010 at 6:11 am


Thanks for verifying that “simply an acknowledgement” is what they’re after. You’re right; our lives change in different places. The best tribute I can offer is to see their offering and truly live into my own change. I know you are aspiring to do the same. That, in itself, is ether. I must remember this when I get self conscious about how deliriously happy I am.


SuziCate November 16, 2010 at 7:48 am

I love this post…I just got home from being out west. It was a truly soul invigoating experience. The mountains are so magnificent, I seemed so small and insignificant in the big scheme of life.


rebecca November 16, 2010 at 8:01 am


I know I drew inspiration for this post from you. Reading you has given me permission to simply notice where I travel…daily, weekly and in the grandest scheme of things. I love to meander through your writings and photos seeing life from your vantage point. It grows me. So, I tried it on. Thank you for your honest living on the page and bringing such sincerity to every bike ride, hike and written word.


Yvette Francino November 18, 2010 at 8:44 am

I don’t normally like to travel alone… on a road trip or in life. But this post reminded me of how much introspection and learning we can do about ourselves and the world around us when we drink it in, instead of fighting it by feeling sorry for ourselves because we are alone. Celebrating aloneness rather than whining about loneliness… if we could only learn to celebrate and appreciate whatever our day brings us, we could be so much happier.

I especially like your words of respect for the roadside altar. As someone who lost a brother in a car accident, I recognize the difference between people who honor that loss and those who think nothing of it. In fact, I think I will blog myself today about honoring grief.


rebecca November 18, 2010 at 11:05 am


Your reply to this is so timely and touching. That I could inspire you to write something is…well…beyond cool. I am captured by the beauty in this photo. I have always been taken with roadside altars and I just recently began taking photos of them. I’m preparing a piece about them.


rebecca November 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm


Well, the Miracles just don’t stop in my life of late. When I began my blog, some time ago, this post was probably the reason. But it’s taken me this long to have the courage to write it. I’ve gotten elbowed out of so many faith institutions (or maybe I backed myself out…I’m rewondering about this story of late). Anyhow, I’ve lost many, many friends. I’ve known how deeply you feel about God, and I worried that you, too, would back away after reading this.

I think there are more people than I realize who have been hurt by religion while still longing for prayer and for God.


SuziCate November 22, 2010 at 11:45 am

I meant to tell you that Monument Valley and some place with arches are on the agenda for our next trip…am going to get excited once we start planning it.


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