One of my goals for 2015 is to spend more time writing. Therefore I started the 52 Weeks Project, a project in which I post one short piece I have recently written every Wednesday in 2015.
Last week we filled our car with a few things—a bag of clothes, some food, a couple of pillows, toothbrushes. We loaded our pups into the back seat and drove straight to the Arizona desert. We had first dreamt of a desert road trip nearly a year ago now, but plans changed as they so often do, and we pushed the idea into the unforeseeable future. Last week we sat talking about our pushed-aside plans. I got out the calendar and poured over our upcoming year, carefully filled with our work and obligations. I searched for a blank space wide enough for a road trip, but couldn’t find one. And I realized that this month, right now, would be one of our last shots to hit the road and explore this year. Our decision to leave just a few days later churned my stomach, but if there’s one piece of advice that’s never lead me astray, it is this:
Do it now.
Our first night we stayed in Flagstaff, where a cold and sharp winter wind whipped at our skin as we explored downtown. We ate barbecue, ducked into a sweets shop, and sprinted to a nearby coffee shop to get out of the frigid evening air. Inside, we sipped on hot cocoa and admired pottery made by local artists—black and white and red bowls, miniature teacups.
The next morning we wended our way into New Mexico, where my jaw hung open as we drove past row after row of incredible mesas, red-rocked and flat. They rose out of the distance like proud statues presiding over the desert. The mesas were sun-faded, burnt red, with hints of pink and orange woven throughout the rock. That evening after checking into our hotel in Santa Fe, a barista at a local bookstore provided us with restaurant suggestions. We found delicious “Christmas-style” enchiladas (with spicy red & green chili sauce) at her favorite restaurant, and were served warm and fluffy, pillow-like sopapillas with local honey for dessert.
During our stay we perused shops filled with Native-American made goods—wool rugs in intricate patterns, woven blankets, jewelry. I bought a thin turquoise ring from a Native-American man with kind eyes and a soft face. I could have spent all day in the Georgia O’Keefe museum, admiring every brush stroke on each canvas, every desert landscape, every perfect petal. One evening we raced up the hill towards higher ground for the best view, and watched as the setting sun turned the mountains pink-purple-gray in one direction, and silhouetted them black against an orange sliver of sky in the other. I’ve never seen more gorgeous sunsets than the ones that grazed the desert mountains.
On the final and warmest day of our trip, we drove through miles of pine trees and finally parked alongside the craggy cliffs of the Grand Canyon, where it opened deep and wide below our feet.
Do it now has become a personal mantra of sorts. Have I ever leapt too soon, not fully prepared, by following this advice? Of course. But mostly I’ve learned that fear, so often, is merely a signpost that you are walking the right path. And sometimes that path will lead you to magnificent mesas in the desert, brilliant skies, wondrous canyons.