Wednesday, March 3, 2010
For My Father
Morning in Arizona,
driving east through the desert.
Sun in my eyes,
ocotillo and saguaro flashing by
at 70 miles per hour–
I’d love to stop and wander
away from the highway,
lose myself in the distant mountains,
sleep on the ground
with the howl of the coyote as a serenade,
eat out of my sierra cup,
watch the hawks hunt.
But I can’t–not this time.
Not with my children in the back seat,
my husband next to me,
driving east through the Arizona desert
to obligations, schedules,
to my father.
What’s that smell, my daughter asks.
Creosote says my husband,
and I am distracted again–
the smell makes my mind wander
out into the sagebrush.
The last time we came this way
we stopped at dawn out here,
patches of fog revealing pink and purple skies–
this time just clear skies
and haze along the horizon.
And I’m reminded again that my father,
who used to share my love of wilderness,
awaits us 2 days away–to the east.
15 years ago, Daddy and I were two wanderers,
searching for some meaning.
He’d gone through years of pain, anger,
and I was looking for a direction to take.
We’d sit at our campfire and compare notes–
lessons he’d learned,
people he’d hurt,
burdens he continued to shoulder.
I’d listen, and wonder
how much of my dad was in me–
how many of those lessons I’d learn,
how many people I’d hurt,
how many burdens I’d bear.
Kindred spirits I think we were.
We’d hoist our backpacks and climb higher–
as if to rise above the pain and anger
we were trying to leave behind.
Back in Arizona,
my husband points out the fog in the distance,
jagged peaks jutting upwards above it,
and I hear Daddy’s voice,
showing me the summit of Windom Peak
above the clouds.
Oh, we wanted to climb that one,
but 4 heart attacks had slowed him down a little,
and we settled for upper Chicago Basin:
another campfire, conversation,
with the gentle roar of Needle Creek
to lull us to sleep.
I think it helped us–our time together, that is.
I learned that
a father and daughter could be friends–
that we each had something to give
to each other
that sustained us for the next 15 years–
and here I am,
driving east through the Arizona desert,
to see the man I was born loving.
Tomorrow night, Dad.
Put the logs in the fireplace,
and we’ll compare notes again.
It’s been a great 15 years.
I have so much to tell you.
I wrote this in 1995, long before blogs and the widespread use of the internet for personal things like this. I credit my father for passing on to me his wanderlust - and boy, did he have a wanderlust. He was never content to stay in one place for long, and as I get closer and closer to being able to LEAVE, I realize how much like him I am. I miss you, Dad. We should have traveled together even more than we did.