March 5 and 6, 2019
We left Mojave on March 5thand drove to Flagstaff; Then on the 6thwe drove to Santa Fe, then on the 7thwe drove to Denver.
On the 6th, we loaded our car, got gas, and pulled out of Flagstaff, AZ. A slight drizzle had fallen on the snowy roadsides, but the sky was clearing and the sun was out. Flagstaff’s elevation is 6,909 feet above sea level. So chilly, but now we headed out toward a lower elevation and flat desert on I40 East. The surrounding mountains were fabulous colors in the morning light. The variations of the strata flowed from subtle mauve to rich clay red to purple. The desert floor was sage with bushy yellow clover or mustard scattered in clumps. I felt like I could drive forever under the rolling cumulus, so brilliant white against an ever-lifting blue. As we crossed over into New Mexico the gas stations had enormous stores filled with First Nation turquoise jewelry, woven rugs, hand made moccasins and a zillion other unique items. I thought of buying my mom some cozy lined moccasins, but getting the right size seemed too tricky. Luckily we were on a tight schedule to arrive at Santa Fe, so I couldn’t drool over the earrings too long. We sped through Albuquerque and arrived at The Sage Inn in Santa Fe just in time to have a bite at Annapurna’s World Vegetarian restaurant. We didn’t have much time to see the sites as we were pretty tired from driving and the last leg of our Poets on the Road by car would need us up and out early in the morning to arrive in Denver to thank and take over from my Mom’s caretaker, Jacki, as she was needing to return to Truckee CA, where she lives. (MO)
As the altitude started increasing, I started feeling a lack of oxygen. I should have started taking chlorophyll and electrolytes the week before leaving the Bay area. We drove through the mountains and across the flat desert in Arizona, the altitude almost always between 4 and 5000 feet. For two nights I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t breathe. In my sleepless state, I kept going back to Brenda Hillman’s poems. Suddenly I realized what I needed to do with the project I am working on about my mother: stand in places where Ferne Hostetter stood or lived in her photographs, and write prose poems. These will be the glue that will hold the project together. (That means more journeys to Detroit.) Sleeplessness pays off sometimes when new ideas surface.
Finally in Santa Fe at over 7000 feet, I coaxed myself into sleeping by propping myself up on pillows, taking all my herbs, and remedies and reminding myself that one always sleeps with shallow breathing. Instead of giving in to panic, I practiced breathing with a shallow breath and long exhales. Hurray, I fell asleep and in the morning, I was rested enough to drive. I am very thankful that Maureen did a lot more than half of our driving from Mojave to Denver. (BH)
We packed our car for the last time in the parking lot of the Sage Inn. It seemed amazing to think this was it. A day of driving and we’d be in Denver. As I partook of the excellent breakfast in the Sage Inn the weather report cautioned a day of high hazardous winds. As we drove the wind did indeed pick up. I love to drive, but it took concentration to keep the Honda Fit on the road. A truck pulling a trailer pulled over on the shoulder after bouncing around for several miles ahead of us. The big rigs swayed back and forth as the wind took them. By the time we arrived at Raton Pass I was a little concerned about navigating the curves at 7,000 and some feet elevation in such fierce gusts. But luck was with us. The wind was quieted some by the pass range, which was a little buffer against it. Also the pass, which can be a tower of violent weather and low visibility, was sunny! with only scattered snow bits in shaded places. It was the nicest trip through that pass I’ve ever driven. When we stopped for gas at Trinidad just on the other side of the pass, we got out of the car and almost blew away. The winds followed us to Colorado Springs and then let up slowly. Then traffic began stopping and we saw smoke and that something was burning up ahead. As a highway patrol fellow directed our lane of traffic, we were suddenly right beside a car wildly on fire. I had my camera out, but when confronted by the inferno engulfing the car and starting the ditch grass on fire, I completely forgot about taking a photo. All I could think of was it might explode any second. With the burning car receding in the side mirror, we both hoped the occupants had gotten out safely. (MO)
What do I remember from the trip? As I was dozing off in the car I took a few photos. The endless mounds of brown hills. Flat land with a dust storm. Wild winds as I ran to a restroom in Arizona; it seemed as if I might blow away or the car door might be ripped off. I hardly remember all the motel rooms we have stayed in, one night after another, beds that hundreds and hundreds of others have slept in. I always wondered, as I wrapped myself in my sheet, how that energy passes between us, from one to the next stranger. (BH)
In Santa Fe, I remembered 13 years ago living just outside of town in Tesuque. I wrote Thirty Miles to Rosebud while living in a barely heated adobe house in the winter. I remember making a quilt while I was there and I sewed it together (on my sewing machine), squares and rectangles of different colors and shapes. It was kind of ragged looking; I always lacked precision in sewing. Later I gave the quilt to my daughter and then it disappeared, probably into the rag heap. While I lived there, I remember a frozen shoulder and driving my car with my arm in a sling in order to shop. I didn’t know anyone. Well, there was a young African American artist who lived across the way and she shopped for me (she worked at Trader Joes). What an idea to move across country at 57 without knowing a soul. Once I went outside the house (it was on a compound) and there was a bear going through the garbage cans. Not enough time to visit Tesuque, but always enough time for memories. On the road the next morning to Denver. 7 hours and 400 miles. (BH)
March 7-8, 2019
We arrived in Denver in the thick of rush hour, but got off on a couple of less traveled roads I knew since I live here, and arrived at my back gate. I was really happy to see that gate. As we got close we had phoned my Mom’s caretaker, Jacki, to meet us outside and take our photo as we stepped out of our car on the Poets on the Road final major driving stop. Then lots of hugs and happiness to see Jacki and my mom, who has been counting the days to my coming home.
We arrived yesterday at Maureen’s little bungalow in Denver. Small rooms, lots of photos of family and art, pots and pans, stuffed chairs, a big dining room table and a small study with a desk and as many books as can fit in the room, floor to ceiling everywhere. Maureen’s mother is 96 years old and she wears jeans and a scull cap and leads the way as we go for a walk in the park. I love it when she reaches out with her hands to hold mine. How lucky it is to have a mother for almost your whole life, especially a mother like Maureen’s: De is sweet and tough, and like Maureen, tending toward the affirmative. (BH)
Total miles that we travelled together in Barbara’s 2007 Honda Fit: 5547 miles.
If it were not for Jacki Brennan who stayed with Maureen’s mom and Sarah Morton who subletted Barbara’s apartment, this trip never would have happened. Thanks to both of you.
Our final wrap-up reading together on this trip will be on Tuesday, March 19th, 7:30 pm at the Mercury Cafe. We’ll be reading with Crisosto Apache for “F Bomb Series” The Mercury Cafe is at 2199 California Street in Denver.