Sunday, April 25, 2010

Write of Passage - Day 10

August 11, 2009: St. Anthony, Idaho--Western Entrance of Yellowstone National Park

(80 miles).......8:00 AM--10:00-ish AM.

"To text or not to text.......this seems to be our biggest issue, our most challenging roadblock." ~excerpt from Jolene's journal,
Tuesday night, August 11, 2009.

Cote and I got moving a little slow this morning, but once we hit the road, our path was clear and traffic was light. We had smooth sailing for about the first 45 minutes. That's when the blowout hit, and I'm not talking about car tires. (Although, I guess there's a blessing in that statement somewhere, isn't there?).
It all started when Cote's cell phone buzzed around 9:00 AM, and her fingers began to fly across the tiny number pad with speed and precision. I was still a bit miffed from the night before, when Cote fell into a self-induced coma over her laptop screen while in our motel room. Hearing the click, click, clicking sound now again, this time within the small confines of our vehicle, had me teetering on the edge of the black hole that spanned the distance between our perspectives of today's readily available techno-communication. I somehow managed to tamp down my temper, (although I did tighten my grip on the steering wheel), and count to ten. Then I asked a couple of light and leading questions, hoping to spark a face to face conversation with my daughter......
"Something up?"
"No, not really. Just Liz."
(Silence. Minutes pass. Nothing, except for that incessant clicking sound. This time I count to 498, then try to light the flame of conversation again.....)
"Everything alright?"
"Huh? Oh......yeah......fine."
(Clicking continues. Verbal silence resumes. The idea of more counting bursts into flames as my temper flares red-hot.)
What happened next is actually a blur. How the argument began, what exact words were used, I don't recall. All I remember is Cote and I going from zero to sixty in about 2.2 seconds. I snapped, she snapped. She yelled, and I bellowed. It got ugly, as we each unleashed our pent-up cell-phone fury. We held our ground, giving as good as we got, with neither one of us gaining an inch of battlefield. I couldn't understand how Cote's attention could be so focused on something happening at 9:00 in the morning back home when we were just about to cross the threshold into one of the greatest national parks ever, and she couldn't understand why I wouldn't just tell her what's on my mind instead of expecting her to read it.
Less than 10 miles from the gate, Cote abruptly ended her side of the argument by firing a final, "Whatever!" across the front seat. It hit me square in the chest and stunned my heart. But I quickly camouflaged any emotion, and....being the "adult" that I so clearly am....I fired my own "Whatever" back at her. Immediately the air between us became stagnant, stifling. Our car transformed into a silent coffin, as those two words nailed the lid shut on our sympathy, they ended our ability to empathize. We were completely closed each other, and to any
flicker of forgiveness.
That's when the western gate of Yellowstone came into view.
No oohing and ahhing escaped from either of us, as I pulled up to the ranger booth to pay for our day's pass. I had to wonder what the park attendant was thinking when I lowered my window, and the only emotion that rolled out from inside our vehicle was a cold wave of indifference. There was no excitement in my voice, no giddiness from my companion. I simply dumped my money in his hand, and while he printed out our receipt, Cote kept her face plastered solidly against the passenger side window. Neither of us gave any indication we were even the slightest bit interested in what we were about to see.
As I drove through the entryway, my eyes flicked across a sign that stated the park's lodging was completely full for the night, including all camp sites. "So what?," I thought. This wouldn't affect us. Yesterday Cote and I had decided we would only spend the day here in Yellowstone. Our plan was to see three main attractions......Old Faithful, Artist Point, and Mt.Washburn. We would stay as long as it took to see them, and then leave the massive park through the north gate to find a place to sleep. Good thing all this had been agreed upon 24 hours earlier, otherwise I may have had to break the stubborn air of silence lying between us now. Asking Cote what she wanted to see first would have given the impression my resolve was wavering, that I was willing to span the bridge of forgiveness. No way was I going to let that happen.
Instead, I calmly spread the park map out in front of me and found the road that would take us to Old Faithful. A mile or so into Yellowstone, the atmosphere between us remained cold and unforgiving. It took some dogged determination, but it was obvious we were both adamant about not letting the beauty of the landscape warm our hearts, or melt the frozen glacier that had slid into the front seat between us. We drove further in, looking at everything, but not truly seeing anything.
Around the next bend, traffic came to a deafening stop.
The long line of cars ahead of us, could only mean one thing. There was a sighting animal of some kind. A bird, a bison, an elk, or maybe a moose. Something had caught everyone's attention and had traffic inching forward at a snail's pace. People somewhere, possibly miles ahead, were taking pictures or trying to pull over to the side of the road. I knew all of this was happening, but Cote didn't. I could tell by her growing irritation, her slight frustrating shifts in body position. She didn't understand what the hold up was all about. And I, sure as shooting, wasn't going to say a word.

Silence had to be maintained.....solid and stubborn.
Finally, a bald eagle came into view. High up in a leafless tree, perched in perfect form, on open display for all to see. A symbol of freedom, a contrast of black and white against a cloudless sky of blue. The bird was beautiful. With his breast puffed out, his eagle eyes scanning, he appeared present in the moment, his heart full and open to all that he was taking in. At the risk of sounding corny, it was almost as if he was determined not let anything taint the beauty he was fortunate enough to be a part of. The irony of the moment was not lost on me.
We finally broke free of the traffic jam, (after one more wildlife sighting.....this time a couple of young elk grazing along the roadside), but Cote and I were still stuck in a quagmire of silence. It was obvious we weren't enjoying ourselves.....we even refused to take any more pictures, less we might give the impression of a "happy-go-forward" attitude. At the next intersection we turned right, losing a good chunk of fellow travelers who chose to go left. We continued our trek towards Old Faithful, but I was hating every minute. I couldn't believe Cote and I had both stuck to our guns for this long. It was terrible....every agonizing, stone-cold second. Every passing mile was one more lost forever. But how were we supposed to get back on track? How we were to find the road leading us back to mother and daughter?
That's when it hit me. I was the one in the driver's seat. I held the key, if you will. With a turn of the steering wheel, a push of the brake, I could put a stop to our madness......a stop to the miserable miles passing us by. I saw a sign for an upcoming "mini-geyser." Not the grand Old Faithful, but a much smaller preview to the main event. I pulled into the parking lot, and circled all the way around until I found an open spot. People were filing out of their cars, making their way down a wooden boardwalk, to the hot spring just out of view. Cote and I remained locked inside our car. I didn't even bother turning off the ignition.
I turned to my daughter, and calmly began to speak.....from my heart and from my perspective, from the highest hopes I had had for us, to the dashing disappointments that had displaced us. Cote was just as ready as I was....ready to speak and ready to receive, ready to reveal and ready to reason. We never left the car. The same small space that had been our coffin, now felt as wide open as Yellowstone itself. We bridged the gap that separated us, and found healing and forgiveness waiting patiently on the other side. We saw each other's rights, and we accepted our own wrongs. We discovered that in being human, we were destined to make mistakes. And in the end, we discovered two words more powerful than the "whatever's" we threw at each other earlier.....the heartfelt words, "I'm sorry."
I put the car into gear and began to back up.
"What are you doing? Aren't we going to go see Old Faithful?"
"Yeah, but this isn't it. This is just a little hot spring. Old Faithful's farther down the road."
"Oh....I thought we were here, that the little puff of smoke over there was it."
" ain't seen nothing yet......."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Write of Passage - Day 9

August 10, 2009: Willamette Pass, Oregon--St. Anthony, Idaho (686 miles)

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.~Eleanor Roosevelt

Cote and I stepped into a world of shock this morning--a cold snap, registering 38 bone-chilling degrees!! What the heck? Wasn't this still August? Had we somehow slept for over a month, and bypassed the rest of summer? When we opened our motel door, frigid air hit us like an arctic blast! It was so cold in fact, that we ran to the car, threw in our bags, and shivered as we slid across our cold leather seats. I turned the key and cranked the heat. It was 7:15 a.m. Our teeth chattered like wind-up toys, as we pulled out of the motel's driveway and headed east. All I could think about was how thankful I was this temperature had held off for one more day. Otherwise, we would have woken up as frozen icicles suspended from the branches of a 256 foot tree.
Cote and I spent today driving, logging almost 700 miles. We were both rested from yesterday's laid-back afternoon and last night's full 8 hours of sleep. My mind was rested too. I didn't tell Cote about this, but I had a moment of "quiet panic" around 7:00 p.m. last night. As I sat journaling our experience of sleeping in trees, it hit me just how far away from home we truly were. The Willamette Pass Inn sits 3000 miles due west of Deerfield, Michigan. We were two women, traveling cross country, alone in a car. The responsibility of all this knocked me down for a moment last night. My mind suddenly began to rifle through a long list of "what-if's." What if one of us got sick? Or became hurt? What if our car broke down?.......We blew a tire?......Or our engine overheated? What if something like this happened while we were driving a long stretch of back road, stuck inside some cellular dead zone? Last night, sitting in our quiet motel so far away from home, I felt the full weight of all these what-if's. There was so much that could go many bad things that could happen.......What if?....What if?.... What if???
But then I grabbed hold of myself, and started to remember all the good stuff instead. I let my mind sift back through all the miles Cote and I had already covered together, how incredible the journey had been so far. I took a deep breath and reminded myself how much my daughter and I had already taken on, how much we had overcome, and all that we had yet to discover.....about the world, and ourselves. We were in the middle of her rite of passage. It was OK for either one of us to get scared. For without fear, we wouldn't grow. Without fear, we wouldn't realize we have the courage to push past how far we
think we can go, to find a world blooming with unimaginable beauty and possibility.
So, today we drove. And drove. I packed my fears in the traveling case of my mind, and stowed them securely with the rest of our baggage. I wanted to bring them along, so as to be mindful and cautious when a situation warranted it. But I was down-right determined not to give them the driver's seat.
Conversation was light today. Cote and I relaxed into the ride, as we headed towards Yellowstone. This was to be our next major destination, our next natural wonder to explore. It was too far away to drive in just one day, but we pushed ourselves to get as close as we could. We made it to St. Anthony, Idaho, before pulling over for the night. We were still about 80 miles from the western entrance of the national park, but this was the last town on the map before the final stretch to the gate and we were too tired to drive further and too worried we wouldn't find a place to stay. Cote and I could easily finish up the drive tomorrow morning, and then spend the rest of the day playing inside Yellowstone.
I did have one somewhat "light-bulbish" moment today, while driving along a quiet stretch of Highway 20. I realized Cote and I had not really hugged each other over the past several days. It was weird, but I think because we were together 24/7, we had somehow overlooked this simple form of affection for each other. Our lifestyle right now wasn't like a typical day back home.....where we could go an entire 8-10 hours and not see each other due to work and school. By the end of the night, it was natural for us to hug each other and say "I missed you." But in traveling together, and being each other's only companion, this simple mother-daughter ritual had been subconsciously replaced by a heaping helping of constant togetherness.
"You know what? I haven't hugged you for days."
"You're right. You haven't."
"Isn't that weird? I think because we've been together so much, we haven't thought about it. We talk, we hike, we climb, we drive. And then at the end of the day, we say goodnight and fall asleep in our own beds without having to leave the room. I just realized how much I miss hugging you, Cote. So tonight, I'm going to give you the biggest hug ever."
"Ok. And then when you're done, I'm going to give you one."
We kept our promises and shared those hugs. I wish I could say this is where
our day ended, with such a beautiful mother-daughter moment. But I can't. As our evening wore on, Cote turned to her facebooking and texting.......this time to the point of falling into a coma-like trance. Ok, maybe that's a bit harsh, but it's true. She was so engrossed in her online conversations, that she was completely oblivious to my silent yet growing irritation. (C'mon! I shouldn't really have to TELL her how I feel, right? I mean, I'm only sitting 3 feet away. Shouldn't she be able to READ my mind??!!). I fell asleep slightly agitated and annoyed tonight in our little motel room in St. Anthony.
Little did I know, it was only the beginning of our biggest blow out yet......

Powerful Words

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable. ~Kahlil Gibran