November 23, 2014 I am on my way to Salt Lake City to celebrate my daughter’s 30th birthday. I am with my youngest “child,” Ethan, who will be eighteen in January. Ethan’s older brother will be 28 one week before him. It is just Ethan and I journeying to spend time with my daughter, her partner and their adopted seventeen-year-old daughter. We will be there for five days and it will take us two days driving one way and the same back to do this journey.
I found us an off-the-beaten-path place to stay. It was about ½ an hour from Interstate I-80 East, between Loveloc and Winnemucca in Nevada. This is about the half-way spot on the long two-day drive. Despite my best efforts, we arrived in the dark, because even if you leave Humboldt County at 7:00 a.m. and just drive all day, in the winter the sun sets at 4:30 p.m. We did stop for lunch, but otherwise we drove solidly.
So we got here around 5:30 p.m. I had printed out directions and spoken with the proprietor many times, because there is no cell-phone service or gps that works for parts of the drive out here. I still did manage to get us here. The trusty odometer on the car worked, and we turned off I-80 East and drove the seventeen miles on a paved empty road into the Nevada night. We turned right at the road that was exactly where it was supposed to be, once we hit that seventeen mile mark. It was a well-graded gravel road. We drove three more miles and sure enough, there was the sign for the Old Pioneer Garden Inn on our left.
The first sound I heard upon getting out of the car was that of the goats bleating and greeting. I love that sound. There is something so goofy and friendly about it. I also know it means goat cheese and goat milk, which are certainly favorites of mine. David, our host, pulled up in his truck, when we arrived and said I should follow him to our cabin. We pulled into a lovely wooden cabin. It was 37° outside, but David had turned on the heat in the cabin, so it was nice and warm. He showed us around our old pioneer-style rustic cabin and told us breakfast would be at 8:30 a.m. at the main house where he had met us.
So, my boy and I settled in and went to bed pretty early, since we were tired and even though there was WiFi access, it was slow, which was fine. We have been listening to an excellent book on tape, at the suggestion of my son; the Brother’s K by David James Duncan. I listened to a little more of it, snuggled under my warm down comforter and handmade quilt and then went to sleep.
Now, the best part, was waking up in the wee hours of the night, something I do all the time, wrapping up in my wool scarf and walking out the front door to a crystal clear sky of stars that looked so bright and so close it was hard to believe they really were millions of miles/light years away.
Crisp, cold and stunning, stunned again and again by the beauty of this universe I live in. My sense of loneliness and also belonging deeply intertwine when I am alone in nature. The only sounds being goats or water running over stream, the only light–star-shine, the only distraction from encountering wonder and Holiness–my own mind and thoughts. This is what I long for, crave and need. As I approach the time when I will have retreat, the hunger for these qualities is growing exponentially. It is as if the spaces between my cells and the distance between the stars are all in collusion with one another and in communication of some sort. If I can just get still enough, quiet enough and away from all the other wonderful distracting and important things in my life, some vital and true song and story is embedded there for me.
I could do my retreat here, perhaps, or someplace like this, off the beaten path, that’s what I’m looking for. I’m also looking at a monastery in Ireland that has hermitage cabins I have been granted permission to stay in. I’m still searching and asking folks to help me find a home or homes to plant my hungry soul for several months of solitary contemplation and writing and praying.
If you know of somewhere, high, dry or wet, wildish and isolated, that’s the place for me. I am hoping to only have to change locales three to four times over the course of a year. Four months in one place or three at a time seems ideal to me and will allow for me to not be in a fierce winter climate while I am isolated, which definitely does not appeal to me. This is not about being an endurance naturalist. I need electricity, warm water, a stove, a river or stream or some other form of living water nearby and quiet.
I am looking forward to my time alone with the goats, stars and river sounds, and trying mightily to manage the next seven months of my life before then with some semblance of grace instead of irritation or frustration. I am already on my way out the door. This is perhaps difficult for those that are used to my being so fully in the door and in their kitchens, homes and business.
This journey outward and away to go inward has begun and I am slowly disengaging from responding or getting involved in all the myriad situations and stories of those around me.
It feels good and right for me, even as I worry and fret just a little, about how it feels for those I love and who love me. This need though, is not a mild wish or dream on my part, it is pretty much the loudest sound inside of me, besides the beating of my heart.