This is my final blog post for my Desert Adventures. Here is the promised photo of me, a ‘Certified Massage Therapist intending to be Licensed’ (we practiced announcing this in our final class time together in the room with the green carpet and the anatomy charts curling on the wall)
I was surprised on this day to learn that we would not only be crowned with Dollar Store tiaras, but also kissed on the forehead by our communications and ethics teacher.
I learned that there are many ways to ‘graduate’ and some feel more like a matriculation than others.
I am unsure as to the significance of the kiss, particularly as a way of entering a profession that is so ardently arguing for its professionalism and distance from sexual practice. Granted there was nothing sexual about this forehead peck, but it seemed a strange marker of our transition.
Sofy and Louie celebrated with me in the yard following our graduation ceremony which also included swinging high on a swingset and hula hooping.
Good ole Sofy hung in there through all the massage therapy shenanigans and also became recognized in the Prescott community as the ‘office dog’ at our local kennel RunAmok Unleashed. People would see her at the dog park and recognize her. “She’s so sweet” they would say. She touched a lot of folks out west.
Immediately after graduation, we took off for a week long exploration of New Mexico, a favorite area for both Allen and me. We started off in Santa Fe, where we spent several evenings, caught up with our friends David and Jeannene Wiseman. We took some early morning hikes up into the forest on two days to keep our legs moving.
Waters move fast everywhere it seems. We moved on to Chaco Canyon from santa Fe, and we delivered Jane’s walking stick to the opening of a kiva. On the way there we learned that our air conditioner was not working and were trying on a dirt road in the middle of noplace except history and dinosaur skeletons to remedy that situation. It was a startling yank back to the life we were re-entering — but not for 2 more weeks, I kept thinking.
From here we drove on to Taos, taking the ‘high road’ past Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu (Georgia O’Keefe territory) and stayed in a fabulous place Allen had scoped out for us. We visited the Kit Carson museum and nourished Allen’s appetite for Blood and Thunder. In these interesting days of Arizona politics, we continued to try to grasp the ethos of the culture there. Blood and Thunder tells the story of the Wild West in a way that captures one’s imagination while offering some useful interpretive insights I think. I loved the museum, especially the newspaper article in which a friend of Carson’s wrote back to a newspaper ‘back east’ that he felt had misrepresented the character of Kit Carson. It was both an eloquent defense of his friend and a well placed lambasting of reporting without fact finding. It made me wish for more incendiary columns today.
And then it was time to pack up and drive to Raleigh.
I realized that much had transpired for us and between us out west. We had developed friendships there, had enjoyed much more designated playtime than ever before, and Allen had fallen completely in love with the world outside our apartment and was ushering me into that world in bite sized chunks I could savor. He hiked the Grand Canyon for 4 days at a time, and I got to back pack in Fossil Creek. He skied the most challenging slopes north of Flagstaff and took me snow shoeing.
I was not eager to come ‘back home’. But I discovered I did look forward to moving forward to North Carolina where many friends and family are, and that we now had practices and intentions and patterns in our life we could transport with us in our larger moving van and in our larger hearts.
Our last night in Prescott, friends threw us a going away party. It was such a thoughtful and generous gift, and I felt flooded with gratitude for these friends who had met Allen most mornings for a hike up the local mountain. They had a huge spread for us and treated us to fabulous conversation.
Mark is the pastor of the local Presbyterian Church, and Dede, his wife, is one of the most welcoming and open spirited women I know. They hosted this fare well gathering which was dubbed “the end of the world party”.
We miss them.
This is a photo of Tom Whittaker, another of Allen’s hiking buddies. Tom is a celebrity of sorts: the first amputee to summit Everest. He in an inspirational person, and makes a living as an inspirational speaker. He is also a stellar photographer. As a going away present, he gave Allen a CD of music and also a CD of photographs of the places they had hiked together. Below is a picture of Allen opening this gift.
You can not see that I have tears in my eyes at the beauty of seeing this man that I love be so well known, seen, and understood by a friend.
Here are two photographs Tom took of Allen on one of their last hikes together while we were out west.
the pack on Allen’s back he has dubbed his ‘punishment pack’ and it weighs 38 pounds.
Then we drove East. 500 miles a day. every day. Allen pulled over at the end of our Oklahoma day, which was the day the desert seemed to turn to green. On that day we saw this
The following night we were eating ribs in Memphis, then unloading some things in Asheville (Thank you Carlton for your help!), and then to Raleigh where we bought a new air conditioner.
We took some quick trips the week after unpacking our trailer and re-settling in. Allen found us a rental home in 48 hours in Asheville and I began studying for the national licensing exam for massage therapy. We visited our beloved Brierpatch and were delighted to find things in very good and proper working order… a surprise for a forested mountain cabin after a brutal winter.
Then to the beach.