Departure was a thrilling feeling: I cranked up Spotify, The Meters rockin’ the funk, shifted the Tiguan to sport mode, and merged gracefully onto the Beltway.
Then I came to a halt.
I sat, I inched, stuck in typical Washington mid-day, any time of day, post-pandemic traffic.
That’s okay, I told myself, gripping the steering wheel. I've got time. An entire year!
Certainly, the reality of my new, free life would take time to sink it. And how free was I, really, if I could get all wrapped around the axle about a little traffic?
I shifted in my seat, took a few cleansing breaths, and let my sore body sink into the leatherette upholstery. It was a good kind of accomplished sore. That morning I'd packed, lifted and lugged my final loads -- the move, after 8 months of work, was done. Gazing in the rear view, I could see there weren’t too many belongings blocking my view – my contour neck pillow, a box of files and books, a suitcase of clothes and cooler of food. I hadn’t packed too much, had I?
I’d held a little final departure ceremony with my friends Michelle and Michael, burning my box full of transition worries accumulated since January 1, 2021 in their fire pit. Reading a few aloud, I could chuckle at the consternation, repetition, question marks and exclamations.
I lit the match and How am I gonna get all this done!?! went up in flames.
The latched wood box, now empty, sat on the seat beside me. My father had given it to me years ago when I was a terrible teen and he was a terribly sad alcoholic dad. I had few mementos of my father; somehow this one was coming with me. Maybe I would use it to store my hopes!
First hope: that the traffic would let up so I could get movin’.
But alas, I inched along. I switched to classical to calm my antsy nerves and was bathing in Beethoven when I glanced down at my lap only to discover the fattest of daddy cicadas staring up at me through bulging orange eyes. I gasped.
Was this another animal omen, like the turkey? Like the hawk?
One eye on the road, I reached with my right hand for the napkin on the passenger seat, opened the driver’s window with my left, and with one smooth swiping motion, enclosed that bugger in my palm and released him and the napkin into the air.
Heart thumping, I exhaled a snicker. Maybe his hopes were for #simplicityandfreedom too. But he needed to stay with his brood and fulfill his procreative duty.
Me, on the other hand, a lucky human well past the procreation stage, I was headed on a wild adventure.
Through a harrowing car carrier tractor trailer accident at the Philly junction that stopped all movement for an hour and left the highway littered like a tornado zone – through a series of pounding thunderstorms – through the dark mountains, over a wide river – at 9 pm, I finally arrived at my destination, Rhinecliff, NY.
I stepped out of the Tiguan onto firm, if not slick, ground. The air was cool and still, the sky black; a train horn tooted in the near distance.
I was two days and 4 hours late. But my hostess was waiting. She opened her picket gate and invited me into her farmhouse kitchen where she served me asparagus soup and scrambled eggs made with dill and French goat cheese.
Seated at her table, I had that sudden sense that I’d made it. I’d made it out of DC alive.
The food tasted heavenly. I poured us each a glass of red wine.“Oh la la, the goats are French?” I chuckled awkwardly, high on travel adrenaline and giddy with exhaustion. So excited, relieved, grateful, throughout the meal I couldn’t stop chattering, as the ex-Buddhist nun sat and watched and listened.
An ample and radiant woman in flowing linen and snow-white cropped hair, she smiled and said little. But as I got up to my place, thanking her profusely for such a bounty, she pronounced: “I don’t see you going back there, to DC, to your house.” She gazed through squinty blue eyes. “Sometimes I read things, people, energy. Hope you don’t mind my saying so.”
I cocked my head; maybe I shrugged. I wasn’t surprised; or I was too tired to process the information she’d delivered.
I was definitely too tired to unpack my SUV loaded with with my traveling life. Instead, I retreated straight to my little Airbnb room and climbed into bed.
“I made it,” I whispered into the quiet night, noticing the absence of the cicadas’ resounding song. I’d made it this far anyway – to this secluded hamlet on the mighty Hudson - Leg 1 in this daddy-long-legged adventure.
I shut my eyes and imagined the river - my hostess aid it was just two blocks away. I would go right down to see it in the morning - and that thought got my adrenaline excitement going all over again.
Instead of counting sheep, I found myself counting every piece of furniture from which I’d divested – and got up to 16 before I feel fast asleep.