Driving to Maine: Day 3

I awoke again garbled and confused. The Subway wrapper lay in a crumpled heap by the bed, but three of the desert-themed beers remained in the fridge. I felt happy about that, and resolved to leave them for the kind housekeeper if she wanted them. Blech.

After finishing my tea, I entered the cavernous maw of the windowless, fluorescent-lit handicapped bathroom to take a shower. The sprayer was at chest height, just in front of a wide bench. As I turned on the water, the showerhead clattered to the floor, and it hurt my back again to pick it up. I grimly noted the irony of feeling superior to the dank, extra-large bathroom as an able-bodied person while simultaneously considering the idea of using the bench while I shaved my legs to keep my hip from hurting. I ignored the idea and soldiered on.

As I realized I was feeling a bit depressed and just as exhausted as the day before, I heard (thought?) the words, “You’ll feel better when you get out of here.” So I picked up my pace, got dressed, and packed up the Mini. And I did feel better walking out of there!

 Seriously. Not kidding.

Seriously. Not kidding.

Today I intended to get to Sedona, Arizona, where my friends Daniel Posney and Cara Marie were waiting for me. It was only 172 miles from Kingman, and after my long drive the day before, I felt confident it would be an easy day. I’d been in the town 30 years earlier, on my first break in the school schedule when I worked for a year at the Midland School in Los Olivos. I remembered a long road down into green canyons, tourist shops, and incredibly red rocks.

I fueled up the Mini in Flagstaff, which I remembered as a wintry, windy, saloon-y kind of town those decades ago, but which now seemed to be a much bigger, residential-feeling place with green squares and attractive shops. I got on 17 South and headed down the 30-mile, winding road toward Sedona. I actually enjoyed the crawling pace of all the tourists streaming down, since if the road had been clear I would’ve felt compelled to make the most of the Mini’s uncanny corning skill. So I took my time and wound down the road with everyone else, glad for the slow pace that let me look around.

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Slowly the red rock canyons and spires opened out into a low-built town surrounded with even bigger monoliths, huge boulders poised impossibly on each other. Whiskered ravens, who seemed to have been flying along with and above me since I’d left California, wove through the trees, croaking, investigating, and playing. The line of cars I was part of inched through the top part of the town, tourists walking among the traffic, pointing here and there, and eating dripping ice creams cones in the heat. Both sides of the street were lined with shops advertising Native American jewelry, chakra alignments, aura photography, and vortex tours in pink Jeeps.

I continued to follow my phone’s directions to the restaurant where my friends and I were meeting for dinner, emerging from the tourist area into the west end of town where most of Sedona’s residents live and work. The streets were clean and wide, and I began to feel the different, calmer energy that so many visitors come to experience. I found the place and walked in to see my beaming friend Daniel Posney, whom I hadn’t seen in 6 years, and Cara Marie Petrone, whom I’d only met online, waiting for me. They both gave me huge, welcoming hugs and I felt myself relax like I’d finally reached some kind of finish line. Although I expected nothing from them and was merely looking forward to time spent with old friends, I had the distinct sensation of throwing myself into their arms as a drowning person would reach out for a rescuer.

 Daniel in the process of making a didgeridoo from scratch.

Daniel in the process of making a didgeridoo from scratch.

We ate and talked and I remembered the easy, relaxed companionship Daniel and I had enjoyed when we met as residents of an intentional community called Sunburst in California. I’d missed his humor and irreverence, and realized how very long it had been since I’d had this kind of deep but easy exchange with anyone. Cara Marie was just as beautiful, soulful, and bright as I’d thought she would be, and I liked her immediately.

Just before we left the restaurant, Cara Marie told me that she and Dan had “a little spiritual boot camp” planned for me in whatever time I had to spend with them. I felt simultaneously aghast and overwhelmed by the love and support I felt from these lovely friends. Both are highly skilled and well-regarded spiritual practitioners, beloved and respected in a town filled with spiritual therapists of all sorts. I wondered to myself if I could afford their prices, but they made clear that my sessions with them would be strictly gifts and freely given. My sense of gratitude and bewilderment (“What have I done to be so lucky!?”) became stronger, and I resolved to release the resistance I’ve had for so long to allowing myself to be loved and supported. They described their gifts, training, and experience and how they wanted to help me. It did seem as though they really knew exactly what I needed to heal and evolve at this major turning point in my life.

 Cara Marie Petrone meditating, or trying to, in the hills overlooking Sedona.

Cara Marie Petrone meditating, or trying to, in the hills overlooking Sedona.

After dinner, Daniel took me to a nearby spa with a saltwater jacuzzi and pool. I felt some of the road buzz quieting down, although my hip was killing me and the pain in my low back had gotten worse. After a while, he drove me back to the place he was housesitting for a few nights. As the sun began to set we drove up a canyon that led to a neighborhood of lovely adobe homes that sat among native vegetation, boulders, river rocks, and pines. We stopped at a dark green home at the base of a towering red cliff face, which turned out to be Thunder Mountain. We walked in the front door, beautiful odors of incense, wood, and imported Asian textiles greeting us. And there in the spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows loomed the majestic crest, on fire with the last rays of sun. I couldn’t believe that this iconic spot, famous from Walt Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” cartoon with Mickey Mouse and inspiration to countless artists of all types, was in the backyard! I immediately went out back to look. After the Motel 6s and the frantic move and drive out of California, this colossal natural beauty felt so refreshing to my sun- and stress-blasted eyes. I found my breath again.

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Daniel and I talked a little more, catching up, but as it got dark I found myself hiding yawns and feeling more and more sleepy. I thought it was odd and put it down to traveling tiredness, but then realized that this was the first night in many months that I wasn’t drinking red wine or beer. Normally I would have started “relaxing” with a drink around 7, finally making myself some dinner around midnight and then crashing in bed to watch a show or two. I mentioned my sleepiness to Daniel, who said, “Hmmm, feels kinda natural, doesn’t it?” I laughed and thought, yeah, it really does. It felt good to wander off to my guestroom at about 10, read for a bit (ah, reading!), and go to sleep. The room’s screened door stood open to the few city lights below, and the stars were the brightest I’d seen since being in Sierras years before.