Baby's first ant bite: "I got a BOO-BOO!"

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to get out from behind the computer and visit dimensions of the world that don’t depend on high-speed internet.  I decided the other day, after more than a week of being mostly inside due to most un-Springlike weather, that it was time to get our TV-wrecked, Vitamin-D-deficient hides the heck outside.

When I suggested we go hiking and take some pictures, the Toddler was all business.  She wanted to know where her backpack was, could we see the animals, and hiking, yay!

Of course, you know the dinosaurs were down for a road trip.  (They’re always down for a road trip.)  So I assigned the Toddler to dinosaur-wrangling duty, packed up the car, and pointed the whole circus towards the mountains.

What a relief!  Even though it was kind of a bad day pollution-wise — everything hazy and cast like a reddish ’70s Polaroid — with the windows down and the music up, it felt like we were riding into Summer on sun-glossed ribbons of asphalt.

I didn’t have too much of a plan, just to head to higher ground where we could walk around and possibly — but hopefully not — pick up ticks, poke around the dirt, and see a bunch of trees.  So I took my usual route through the countryside, up into the hills.  And as always, the higher our elevation, the better I felt.

It’s been a funky last week or so, just bad attitude, frustrations with time constraints, the wretched kitchen that repeatedly refuses to clean itself…but as I drove, I could feel all of that junk just fall away.

A friend recently posted a quote by Natalie Goldberg on Facebook:  “Stress is basically a disconnection from the Earth, a forgetting of breath.  Nothing is that important.  Just lie down.”

Well, I’ve been following this advice recently.  Literally.  To the T.  And it’s good advice.  But the problem with lying down is nothing happens.  On the one hand, no one gets in trouble, yelled at, or unhappily surprised…but on the other hand, nothing is happening (which, incidentally, is incredibly boring to toddlers).  You’re really just bent over from the cramps and taking a little rest.  That’s cool.

But it’s the idea that stress is a disconnection from the Earth, I think, that resonates the most with me.  Because every time I take this drive, I feel something internal and important reconnecting with Something Big and Powerful and All-Encompassing.  Everything is possible and amazing and incredible and exciting.  The future stretches ahead of us like the road.  I can’t explain the phenomenon any better than this, I’m afraid.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  But I know it’s real.

What I find most incredible though — and for which I am genuinely grateful — is that somehow, in all my blundering through life, between living in different countries, taking different jobs, pursuing different endeavors, I have somehow landed here, exactly where I am supposed to be.  And so a couple of years ago, when I took up Sunday driving with the little one, I finally discovered this road I keep following that leads me always into the Land of the Sun — for truly, the light is different up there.  There is something about this road, this trip, that renews me.  Maybe it’s the light.

Or maybe it’s just the journey.

I realize now I need the travels in my life.  I need the routes.  I need to get to know places.  I need to discover their stories.  When I take a drive up to the mountains, I’m truly a Sunday driver.  I’m not in a hurry.  Sorry to all you crazy in-a-hurry-wish-I-was-dead-so-I-wouldn’t-be-in-your-goddamn-way drivers.  Used to be one of you guys, so I understand…which is why I’m all for pulling over and getting out of people’s goddamn ways.

But let me show you the difference between driving somewhere and Sunday-driving somewhere.

Driving Somewhere:

Take Greenspot Road east, catch Old Mill Creek Road going up, hang a right a mile past where the old barn used to stand, then a left on…ZZZZ…. You get the picture.

Sunday-Driving Somewhere (fiction-writer style):

South of Greenspot, where it cuts through a weird hinterlands of scrubby desert, there is a plethora of great places to bury bodies…if that’s something you might be looking for.  And not far from the iron one-lane bridge is where I once buried a scarecrow.

There’s a wicked curve right before the fresh egg stand marked by a cross that always has flowers hanging from it.  I recently read a description online about the ghost that haunts this road.  It was pretty accurate.  I’ve seen that guy.  He stands at the right side of the road not far from that cross, facing eastbound traffic at night.  He just stands there.  You don’t see him until your headlights hit him and your heart drops into your gut.  And he just keeps on staring.  Never even flinches.  True story.

Past that, there’s the long palm-lined lane that runs through the orange orchards where a freshly-killed coyote once turned its murky eyes towards a protagonist of mine and warned her of storms to come.  I wish I could have saved her.  Also a true story.

Right before you hit Old Mill, there’s an old house with a chain-link fence, outboard engines perched along the railing like little whirlybirds.  Besides the giant Statue of Liberty and Paul Bunyan, there is a giant rooster.  In one story I dreamed that at night, after Everything Falls Apart, the rooster pulls his feet free from cement shoes and stalks across the desert to find out what happened to all the cars.

All of this is within 15 minutes from the house.  I haven’t even gotten to the scenic loop that winds through the apple farms (where there’s an old witch’s house that overlooks the farms, hanging on the edge of a cliff that marks the boundary between our world and the Sky), or the bit of road with deadly cliffs on both sides (where a character of mine once lost control of his car when a jet black deer ran in front of him), or that big buttery spread of land coming down from the Banning side of the mountains that’s so vast the cows look like smudge marks and we look like horizon to them.

Our destination is somewhere in the middle of the apple farms where there is a nature conservancy and the danger of being attacked by wildlife.  It is here where I found a leprechaun for a story, and so I am fond of the place.

When the Toddler and I finally park and plunge into the woods with camera equipment, dinosaurs, and provisions, I can feel the Earth warm and vibrating beneath my feet, my face tickled by tiny breezes from bugs winding energetic circles about us.  I can tell that the Toddler feels it too, this goodness, this reconnection with the Earth.  I can tell because she always runs through the grass instead of along the path…and that makes me incredibly proud.

This was a few days ago.  After several days in a row of driving and visiting petting zoos, feeding “bambis,” and watching clouds skid across the sky in Banning, we finally made it to Sunday, a day of rest.  A chance to get caught up.

But today the clouds were super-fluffy and the sky was exceptionally blue.  And sometime in the afternoon, the Toddler looked up at me and said, “Bye-bye?”  That’s when it finally hit me.  We’ve got Spring Fever, and we’ve got it bad.

Ah, what the hell, I thought.  The laundry can wait one more day.  And so it did.

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