The drive to Arizona was frankly stunning, with all the variety of landscapes one sees on the route we took. We stopped to visit Cove Fort, then went past Lake Powell, crossed the Colorado River near Glen Canyon Dam, and drove through Flagstaff and Phoenix on the way to Tucson, where my parents live.
This was my first moment seeing my mom in the midst of her cancer treatments. I'd seen her on video chat, so it wasn't a total shock, but she was definitely wee and bald, and it's undoubtedly strange to see your powerful parent so diminished, even when mentally prepared for the fact. Her sense of humor endures though, as does the rest of her personality. My dad and sisters cope in amazing ways, with practicality, hope and diligence being the watchwords. I felt entirely outside the circle of intimacy that has grown up around my mom, because I'm so far away. Indeed though, I'm already outside the circle of all my family's intimate daily living due to a lack of proximity, and I wasn't expecting more. They have no need of me in the daily challenges that cancer presents, and so for this week I was pretty much just window dressing, making my mom laugh and doing a little grocery shopping for our New Year's celebration, and not much else. Mostly it was good to see her, to understand better what those daily challenges are, and be determined to go back to help a little more.
Sara and I stayed at my folks' place until January 1. There was a lot of actual heartwarming times with my family. Sisters, brothers, spouses, nieces and nephews. I love them all so much and appreciate how easily they make me feel loved and welcome.
When we were making our plans to head back to Utah, on a whim, I booked a room at the Yavapai Lodge on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We took our time wending our way north through Arizona, stopping to see family in three spots along the way, so we didn't arrive till 10 pm on the night of the 1st. I'm so glad we did though, because once one drives into the actual national park, the darkness is astonishing (I'm an avid skywatcher and stargazer, so astonishing darkness is a good thing). I've never been in such dark that I can remember. It was brutally cold, but we stopped right in the middle of the road, turned off the headlights and looked up. The sky was breathtaking. Literal gasps were heard in the car as we took in a night sky that rivals the one I saw in Twizel, NZ. I was in a small town that night in 2014 so while the skies around were dark, I wasn't entirely away from light. This time, there was nothing candescant for miles and I will never forget the clarity and stellar beauty of that moment. Once we got to the hotel I attempted a few pictures, but since I had no tripod, it was impossible. No matter. I have the pictures in my mind, and I now want to go back as much for that as for the canyon.
|Blurry, but it reminds me of what I saw, so I'll take it.|
And Oh, the Canyon! If you haven't been in winter, bundle up and go. It wasn't crowded, there was snow on the rims and the pines, and it was glorious. There was mist draped over the mesa tops. There was a spectacularly frosty sunrise. The biting cold made me feel more like an adventurer than a mere tourist, and even with the people who were there since it was a holiday weekend, there was a quiet to the place due to that compression of sound that occurs in the cold. Even in my fairly ill-prepared state (I left my coats at my mom's), and bundled only in the layers I had on hand, I enjoyed it so much. The Lodge is right there, in the park. I can only imagine what a madhouse it is in the summers, but I would definitely go back during some off-peak times. We didn't stay long in the park, but it was worth the money and the detour. I need to do more exploring like that when I go to places. So often I focus only on the work and the family and I miss things.
Sara and I perched in Utah for a night, then finally, the reason for the Big Drive finally happened. She drove off. Without me. She's off to Rexburg, Idaho to attend Brigham Young University-Idaho. I'm completely thrilled for her, but it was a hard minute for me, knowing she was leaving home, probably for the last time. She'll be fine. How I'll do remains to be seen.