One recent noon, my husband Richard and I drove southwest out of Denver, headed over the mountains on our 125-mile commute home after helping out with my mom’s hospice care. The weather forecast predicted gusts of over 60 miles per hour in the high country, but it wasn’t snowing, and the temperatures were unseasonably warm.
The sun shone and the pavement was dry as we wound up Turkey Creek Canyon into the foothills of the Front Range, as we passed through Aspen Park half a vertical mile above Denver, and then crossed Elk Creek, Wisp Creek, Roland Gulch, Deer Creek, and finally dropped into the rocky canyon along the North Fork, headed toward 10,000-foot-elevation Kenosha Pass.
Then we spotted the orange caution sign: “Highway closed in 18 miles.”
I called the road condition report. A semi had blown over, blocking both lanes at the foot of Kenosha Pass and closing the highway. It was 1:58 p.m. Our choices: keep going and wait, or turn around and drive back to Denver.
“It’ll probably be cleared by the time we get to Kenosha Pass,” said Richard. We drove on.
Just before the pass, we chuckled at the flashing lights of a programmable warning sign, broadcasting an unintentional haiku: “285 closed ahead/accident, high winds/poor visibility.” Atop the pass, we pulled behind the last vehicle in a long line of trucks and cars, and Richard shut the car off.
It was quarter past two. As the sun slid toward the snowy ridge, the shadows in the aspen grove beside the highway turned a gorgeous shade of blue. I shot a photo. Then I pulled my laptop out of my briefcase and began catching up on my journal writing.
I typed; Richard, who is recovering from brain cancer, including two brain surgeries in less than a year thought about the water feature he’s been commissioned to design and sculpt. The sun set. Gusts buffeted the car. A Sheriff’s vehicle came down the line: “They’re still working on getting the semi off the highway. No known time for reopening.”
It was three-o-five.
We decided to wait until four, and if the road wasn’t open then, we’d drive back to Denver for the night. We watched a pair of ravens play on the waves of wind, swooping and tumbling. The light began to fade. Richard turned on the engine to warm up the car. The ravens blew by again. I typed; Richard thought about sculpture.
Just before four, the gate at the front of the line swung upward. Taillights came on in front of us, and the line moved forward. We were on our way!
As we came around the curve at the top of the pass, we had a panoramic view of South Park, its surface a moving white fog of blowing snow: ground blizzards.
Then the roaring wind quieted, the evening sun came out, and the rest of the drive was uneventful. We dropped into our own valley just as the sun set behind the 14,000 foot-high peaks of the Sawatch Range that form our western horizon.
At home, it occurred to me that our drive was no different than the figurative journey life takes us on: we set our course after making our best guess about the conditions; we go along until something stops us; we adapt as best we can; and when we can continue, sometimes conditions are miserable, sometimes just a bit stressful, and sometimes really lovely.
It seems to me that the important point of any journey, literal or figurative, is the spirit we bring to it. If we can adapt to the unexpected with grace–whether highway closures, brain cancer or hospice care, appreciating the light, the aspens, and the ravens playing on the streams of wind, the trip will be easier and perhaps even full of gifts we could not have expected.
Here’s your writing prompt: What have the journeys in your life taught you? What has been the most difficult journey so far? The most delightful? What journeys have you taken over and over again? Start up your computer and open a file, pick up your notebook or journal, and write the word “journey.” Then see where your creativity takes you…