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Just Around the Next Bend

Just Around the Next Bend

Nick and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in the summer of 2017. We skipped the Costco Hawaii trip for a venture around Arizona in our 1975 Winnebago trailer that we bought for cash from a guy who replied when asked how sentimental the trailer was to him, “I have no connection. I got this trailer from a guy who owed me money.”

Upon purchasing, the trailer seemed in decent shape, but Nick and I tore it apart anyway and started from the guts to renovate making it clean and cute and operational. June 15th, we set off in our little “Mickey Mouse Trailer”…you know the one that unhitched from Goofy’s car and passed Goofy on the narrow road…yep…that was us.

We stayed at my all-time favorite campground, Cave Springs, set right on Oak Creek just north of Sedona to begin our trip. We then visited Williams, AZ to stay at White Horse Lake and try out our new kayaks and then off to Page, AZ to experience Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, the Glen Canyon Dam and our most exciting adventure would be to kayak into the Antelope Canyon. An experience I will never forget and hope to do many more times in my life.

Summers in AZ get hot. Growing up in IL, I know what humidity is, and can empathize with those of you with sticky summers. But nothing is more awful than 120 degrees with no cloud in sight. Being educators, and that our anniversary is in the month of June, that was the time we had to travel – the AZ summer. We were prepared for hot, but Page, AZ was stifling. One thing we chose not to renovate in the Winnie, nicknamed Cousin Eddie – yep – after the good intentioned yet disastrous cousin of Clark Griswold in the Vacation movies for accurate similarities between the character and trailer, was the air conditioner. Nick promised that, “it’ll be fine.” It was certainly NOT fine in Page, AZ. Our campground was all concrete, although affording us running water and electrical hook ups, had no trees and no reprieve from the constant and consuming sun. One day we went to the visitor’s center of the Dam and laid down on the cushioned seats to take a nap while other visitors walked the mini-museum reading about the Colorado River treading around our sweat ridden bodies.

I had wanted to visit Monument Valley on this trip while we were that far north, but Nick hadn’t been too interested. It was over a two hour drive from Page and for a day trip, didn’t seem worth it to him at the time in the comfort of our home in Gilbert with the air on full blast. So when I suggested it again in the heat of Page, AZ, Nick agreed. The next morning, we woke up early with the sun and heat, popped into our Ford F150 and started the 2 hour trek.

Wow. If you have not visited Monument Valley, please put it on your Bucket List. The landscape is like no other. The beautiful buttes rising up from the red earth are simply breathtaking. No cowboy western movie or photograph can truly highlight the impact these formation have on one’s soul. In our truck, we drove on the rudimentary car trail through all the buttes, stopping at each one to oohh, and awe, and take photos. Each one more marvoulous than the next.

At one butte, there was a horse staged atop a hill and for only a nominal fee, you could hop on the horse to take an iconic picture; something straight out of any 1950s western depicted movie. At another stop, there were local native peoples with jewelry and leather stands selling the most beautiful turquoise items. We took our time going through each butte, walking around, looking into the distance, and just enjoying the day…and the slightly cooler weather.

We were believing that the self-guided tour may almost be complete as we approached the buttes we had first visited by going on this circle tour. One last butte to check out. The sun was getting lower in the sky and we talked about dinner and the drive home. We pulled into the parking area to step out and enjoy the last mount of land and it’s surroundings to take it all in before heading back to Page. The vendor there was beginning to pack up, and so I told Nick I would catch up to him after looking at the remaining jewelry…you know…just to look…not to actually buy anything. So, Nick walked up to the butte while I continued to scour the table of beautiful gems, sterling silver and feather adorned knife sheaths…all things I must own…who doesn’t need a leather, feather adorned knife sheath? Am I right? At some point, I felt in the way as we were literally the last car in sight and the vendors were clearly looking to call it a day as most items were already packed in their van to leave for the night. So, I started up the same way Nick had to join him in taking in the sunset on this final butte.

As I approached, he was not in sight. So I started along the clearly marked path to see if he was just around the bend. I could only see a limited number of feet in front of me on the path as the butte undulated vertically. I enjoyed my walk by myself and was enjoying nature…but I was looking for Nick. I kept walking. And walking. I opened my phone to try to text or call…but…we were literally in the middle of no-where…so that didn’t work. So, I kept walking. I thought, “he wouldn’t go that far ahead of me, would he?” “Was there a different path I missed?” “Nick, I am so mad at you, where are you?”

I walked for a terribly long time. I was sure the vendor had left the parking lot at this time. I thought, without my phone working, what would I do? I thought, “he’s dead.”

Do you do this? Think people are dead or are going to die? I think when my kids get on their bike and come to an intersection they are doomed. No car can be in sight, but my mamma radar goes up and sure enough my imagination always jumps to “they’re dead.” It’s so bad that my kids will say, we will be careful mom, we are not going to die. But anyway, back to the story…

This is not the first time Nick has disappeared on me. Just that trip alone, there were two other incidents. Once on our hike of the West Fork in Sedona and another during our kayaking adventure of Antelope Canyon.

I was so scared. I tried to think, he’s fine…he’s always fine…he is just adventurous and is around the next bend…but each bend I turned, there was NO sight of my husband of ten years.

I started to think…I can’t carry his dead body this far back to the car. Do I leave his dead body there, go to car to get help? What if an animal attacks him? I can’t just stay with him…no one is around anymore to save us or even notice us. I just kept walking – no longer enjoying the scene. No longer aware of the setting sun and the beautiful sunset. Only thinking about my dead spouse.

I finally sat down. I got out my phone. I tried to think, “it will all be ok.” “He’ll come back any minute now.”

But he didn’t. I sat. And sat and sat. And stewed and stewed and stewed.

Then, there he was. I never hated him so much. He came happily around the corner and tried showing me this great photo he took…and now that I knew he wasn’t dead, I was going to kill him.

I pouted the rest of the trip. I refused to take in the beauty of the sky and the landscape. I was angry the whole way back to hot Page. This is me, forced to take a last selfie with Nick, trying to pretend to be happy…I was NOT happy.

Apparently, Albert Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in friendly or hostile universe.”

This has got me thinking about the way I approach things, even daily events like waking up and getting the kids ready for school let alone things like thinking the kids will die while heading to the very safe neighborhood park while wearing helmets, knee pads, and wrist guards….ok, I don’t make them wear all of that but you get the picture of my neurotic mamma mind.

Maybe I view the universe as hostile. Maybe I set myself up for negativity all day because of my entire outlook on life. Maybe my concern about death and worry about safety is because of my preconceived and deeply rooted beliefs. In contrast, maybe Nick has a sense of faith or trust in the universe that allows him to let go and continue around each bend.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think mamma intuition is real and valid. I also think helmets are valid. A woman walking alone to her car at night should always be aware of her surroundings. But maybe I am making life too hard on myself. Maybe I can change my perspective in a very broad manner, a universal manner, and then I can see daily things in a better light?

This week – try to wake up happy that you have been given a new day. Try to enjoy the mess of the morning routine and maybe even see humor in the chaos of combing hair, mismatched clothes, and no socks in the gym shoes of yes, all three kids. Try to consider that work is a friendly place. Consider that you have the capability to handle what will come your way. Let go of negative assumptions and story lines. Instead of predicting hostility, predict happiness or even just contentment. Maybe worry about imagined future hypothetical disasters are truly a waste of energy.

I live a good life. I think it is time to recognize and revel in that fact. To rejoice and breathe in my blessings. And the next time Nick is believed dead, instead know that he will in fact return. Be calm knowing the universe is good and that he is just around the next bend.

Here’s his photo for which took him around bend after bend…he’d say #worthit.

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