We sat outside a New York Bagel shop in Sedona, Arizona. She worked her way through an egg and cheese with ketchup and I enjoyed a smear of white fish on a toasted sesame bagel. With the mid-morning sun in Leo and Scorpio, we were two east coast girls, she much more than I, enjoying the warmth caressing our spirits. We were there to heal, as so many people aim to do when they visit this special place. We’d become Thelma and Louise, without the law after us, but the law of nature. We’d driven together from Utah, having enjoyed a whirlwind of creativity, excitement, adventure, gratitude, snow and fabulous free drinks while at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
Let me back up a bit to the beginning.
I’ve been in Arizona since my birthday in November. I mentioned how, after all the other stuff that happened and hadn’t recently, that all I wanted for my birthday was to be with the woman who birthed me. That happened. Mom, now retired, was gracious enough to open her arms and her home to me. Snuggled on the couch under blankies, we binged on Downton Abbey while we drank loads of Yellow Tail. We rose early mornings to the 7 am wake-up bugle from the air force base nearby, signaling our coffee time, which we enjoyed from her collection of vintage china cups while sitting like dusty desert royalty on her back patio. We’d sit and chat about how “Rocky”, her lime tree, just wasn’t coming back from the last frost, or about what plumbing she wanted to fix in the back bathroom, or about the weather. I’d open up sometimes about what I was feeling; she’d ask questions at the right time or remain silent during others, as moms are wont to do. We’d finish our coffee; mom (petite, at a mere 5’1) would run off in her over-sized outside work clothes, hammer in hand, to go and fix something around the house she was still renovating and I would retreat inside to work on my freelance writing gigs, or writing my book or writing something else. It has been this way for several, several weeks, and with this time (and my new therapy sessions!), I have begun to heal and regroup.
Earlier this month, my lovely friend Yvonne invited me to Sundance. This is the golden bugle of the film industry. I’ve always wanted to go, but never had the time or funds to do so. I hemmed and hawed about going because I couldn’t justify spending what little cash I did have on something so…frivolous. It’s not like I “LA” act anymore. Or write scripts anymore. Or anyone knows me anymore. Sundance wasn’t for me anymore. And then one evening Yvonne sent an important text, as wonderfully endearing and wise friends are wont to do. She simply wrote, “You should come.” That prophetic text pole vaulted me over my “anymore’s”. I got my head out of my ass crack (as my friend Nicole likes to say) and I went.
I decided to drive. My college friend Lisa takes road trips in her sleep; I’d never really taken one of this 12-hour magnitude, so I decided it was time. It was time to do something for myself and by myself. Make myself accountable to me. I rented a car. I booked a hotel. My mom packed the car with snacks and OJ and water and dental floss and a Tide Stick (“You never know when you might need a Tide stick!”) and I was off.
My primary destination: The Grand Canyon. In my 47 years, and with family living in Arizona for at least 20 of those years, I’d never been to the big crater in the ground! I wanted to see it, I needed to see it and now was the time.
Since I’ve been in Europe the past three years, AND I no longer have a car, it was a l-u-x-u-r-y to be in a car by myself, floating down the highway with the sunroof open, radio off, and a bag of trail mix to keep me company. Peace, peace and more peace!
I’d wanted to arrive at The GC at sunset. And arrive, I DID! Oh my gosh, you guys, if you haven’t seen this thing, it is beyond breathtaking. It is SCARY! I couldn’t go near the edge like the other tourists. I just knew some rock would rubble, a branch would break and I’d be on the 5 O’clock news with photos taken from my Facebook and IG to commemorate my shortened yet fabulous life (!!!). Couldn’t do it. So I walked along the path for walking, found a bench to sit upon, one planted far from the edge for scardy-cats like me and took it all in. I crossed my legs in Lotus, tucked my feet under me, which were ruggedly outfitted in Timberland boots the lovely Crescent gave me, and I meditated. I spoke to the trees above and the Canyon ahead. I called on the reds and oranges and the blues to come to me, to wrap me in the vastness that was them. I spoke to the open expanse and asked for forgiveness. I asked for humility. I begged for gratitude and filling-upness. I asked not just for a second chance, but a new chance and new experiences and new memories to go along with those accumulated since this past July. And then I asked for permission from this Mother Earth to please accept the spirit of the being that had been a part of me. I felt like she turned her head toward me, smiled slowly and said, “Sure, let me hold onto that for you.” I let her hold on and I let go.
Then, as the sun began to really set and the chill of air became a bit too chilly, I jogged back to the rented Ford Focus and continued on my way. Lighter.
I will offer one caveat: do NOT drive out of the Grand Canyon at night, alone, on your way to Utah. You will find yourself on a very dark, very narrow, very spooky two-way ROAD in the gosh darn FOREST for thirty (or fifty) miles. Yes, you will be amazed at the Holy Cow-ness of the zillion stars in the sky (as the booth girl at the GC entrance told me I would be as she took my $30 to enter), but this awe will not outweigh the fear of being in the dark. Nor will it make the excitement of the three unidentifiable furry creatures that popped out into the road in front of you exciting. It will scare the shit out of you and will go on your personal list of what I will now call “Character Building”.
Howeves, my friends, the ultimate beauty of driving for hours in the dark to the Utah/Arizona border for the first time is the thhh-thhh-thrilll you will get when you wake up to the V-I-E-W of the such-n-such mountains against a nippy January sunrise. God and the Universe are truly amazing and doing a bang-up job out in Monument Valley, I tell you! You’ve never seen such a thing (unless you have).
When I lived in Prague, I was too afraid to book hostels and rent a car in a foreign land and try to travel more by myself. Yes, I made it to Croatia, Germany and the Netherlands — lovely places and proud of myself for doing so — but this trip was also an effort to make up for that limiting fear. (If we’re being honest, I was afraid to go to obscure foreign places because I wasn’t a white girl and I couldn’t bare to walk up to a hostel counter alone and get The Stare or worse. So, there’s that. I’m evolving. I’m trying. I’m countering.)
I drove from Monument Valley towards Park City through truly amazing ringlets and valleys of roads that dipped and wove through wide expanses of mountain-dotted land. Over the Bluetooth car phone, Mom told me many John Wayne films were made in this area. I could see why. I stopped to take a picture, hoping to capture what I was feeling energetically, and came upon a Navajo woman selling jewelry from the side of the road. It was still a bit nippy even at 11 am; she emerged from her warm car as I approached her table of goodies. I just knew I was about to have a indigenously spiritual experience as I perused the handmade earrings, sparkling with Navajo-ness. “Which one do you think is right for me?” I smiled and looked deep into her brown eyes for her inherent guidance. “Um. I don’t know. The malachite is pretty,” she said with a polite hunch. I gave her my $10 to support the life hustle and was on my way.
Three hours later, I pulled into sparkly, sparkly Park City upon which it literally began to snow. Beautiful. I drove up to my girlfriend’s condo, truly elated with myself. She anxiously greeted me in the garage with, “Love you, glad you made it, you’ve got three Uber minutes to change. We gotta go!” I threw on my Sundance gear of Timbs, jeans and a cute sweater and GO we did! We — Yvonne, her awesome husband, and their fab friend and business partner — hit a dinner party for the premier of Night Comes On (DIR: Jordana Spiro), of which she and her husband associate produced via their kick-ass company Lagralane Group, and has since won the NEXT Innovator Award. I sat across from the stunning, young lead actress Dominique Fishback, her hair braided in a foretelling crown magnified by her brilliant smile quite possibly enhanced by my favorite Ruby Woo red. From that moment on, I was their +1, their fourth Musketeer, and was enveloped into the red-hot orb that is the Sundance bubble and never stopped until Tuesday when I had to leave.
I was granted an unexpected gift for the trip back, and this brings me back to the Thelma and Louise beginning. Over breakfast at the condo the day before I was to head back, a friend, Jen, mentioned how she wanted to rent a car and drive from Sundance back to Tucson, with a stop in Sedona. What the What?! (#CelestineProphecy) So, she jumped in the car with me, and we became a team. Both dealing with grief (hers more recent and jagged than mine); both wanting to explore nature’s purpose and add to our life-journey. We laughed, we cried. We experienced. We stopped to take pictures of stray cats and mountains. We stopped to simply marvel. We (I) took crappy video of a HERD of deer that loped across our path at sunset. We stopped and went curbside to break off and smell Desert Sage (we think). We stopped at the Old Fire Station thrift shop. We did the damn thing, together.
It is said that Sedona has some of the strongest vortexes on the planet. It is said to be sacred, spiritual, mysterious, powerful. Jen knew this, I didn’t. I just knew there was a reason why I needed to go to Sundance. A reason why I wanted to reconnect with people who cared strongly for me. A reason why Jen and I were meant to drive. I was being pulled from the womb of my mom’s home toward something bigger. This I knew.
From the bagel patio in one of the most spiritual places on earth, Jen and I drew cards from her Moon Deck to guide us on our way.
She drew this:
I drew this.
Powerful endings to both our beginnings. I truly encourage you to listen to your intuition. I also challenge you to try a trip by yourself, as it is an electric zing for the soul and will get your synapses hummin’. In more ways than one.