Yesterday was the kind of a day I want to sandwich between sheets of waxed paper and laying a heavy book on top (how about my Treasures of the Louvre - one fat and heavy mama of a coffee table art book!) press and preserve the multitude of rich details as a remembrance to carry me through leaner days.
It began with a morning more like early April than July: there was an unexpected chill to the air and gentle breezes under crystal clear blue skies. The day held a sense of freshness that only a cool, dew damp early morning can offer. I went running and came upon a flock of wild turkeys, fourteen in all. I moved to the side of the road and they slowly streamed by me and then slipping into the woods, they vanished. I stood in the street, locked in my trance until a neighbor moving his trash cans broke the spell.
Minutes later, a hawk swooped over me and landed on a roof top.
All before my morning coffee. I figured I had had my fill for the day.
Spontaneity is not my normal habit, but it is something I crave and try to practice. Although my list was long, my list is always long. So when I discovered magic might be happening less than an hour's drive away, I bundled Cowgirl into the car and we set off on a little road trip.
I had meant to pack my camera, but in the haste to get out the door and into an adventure, it was left in the mudroom. Which is just as well because some days can only be captured by the sensitive medium of the heart.
Road trip in the Midwest means miles and miles of grass, cows and sky. Road trip over The River (which for us is the Mighty Mo or the Missouri River) and into Iowa means rolling hills like sleeping giants keeping you company for much of the journey. Years ago I used to toss my bike into the back of my dark blue pick up truck (oh yes, move to Nebraska and at some point you own a pick up) to make this drive to the Wabash Trace, a 63 mile bike trail running down the profile of Iowa to the border of Missouri. It's a beautiful trail that dips in and out of farmland with refreshing stretches tunnel-like through groves of trees. And hills. Lots and lots of hills. Thankfully there are local ice cream stands situated right by the trail.
While I wasn't on this trail today (although now that I am remembering it, I am storing the idea away for future adventures with Cowgirl) others were. We were traveling to meet them. "How would you like to visit two poets who are riding their bike across Nebraska to share their love of words and books?" This surprisingly lassoed Cowgirl in, although in all honesty, she is always up for spontaneous adventures even when they may sound oddly vague or baffling. Poets? On one bike? (I had to explain the tandem concept to her) Opening up libraries? (again, explanations on the Little Free Library) Why not?
We arrived well before Maya and Amy, so we had time to make new friends while sitting outside the quaint Glenwood Public Library (the kind of library you knew as a child - or wish you had known - its big stones steps lifting you up to the treasures within). Did I mention it was a glorious day? We walked to the town square (oh yes, this is a true small town folks) to find something cool to drink, the orange Fanta raising Cowgirl's spirits even higher, so by the time the poets arrived, she was doing cartwheels on the sidewalk and playing tag with her new friend.
Then the fun began. Meeting new and old friends (faces remembered from art workshops long ago and in more woody scenes), the treasures of the traveling Tiny Book library (seeds for future play) and then what we had come for: our poems.
We actually brought artwork - a Cowgirl original drawing of an Ice Dragon - to trade for poems. Maya and Amy set up on one of the benches outside the library, their typewriters on their laps, a stack of index cards by their side, and one by one we filed up and gave them our word which they expanded into poetry.
This is where things cracked wide open. Or maybe it was just me cracking apart.
After completing the poems, each writer would read out loud her poem to the recipient, while all of us gathered leaned in closer to witness the miracle of words capturing deep soul truths and gentle wisdom. Each poem felt intensely private and intimate, as if we were receiving with our poem, a blessing. We were given our poem cards, but we also were given a glimpse into the fuller possibility of our word and the meaning it embodies for ourselves and for our lives.
dragon by Maya Stein
It's funny how something that looks so dangerous can turn out to be so gentle. It is easy to be misunderstood, to see claws when all they are is hands, to see fire when all it is is breath. If I could give you any advice, it would be not to worry if someone shies from your scales, if your sharp, wise eyes frighten and intimidate. What's beautiful about you is what's beautiful about YOU. Hold this close to your big green heart.
Dragon by Amy Tingle
What do you like about dragons, Clara? Is it the way they can breathe fire or their sharp claws, or the whipping of their tails? If I had to guess I would say it was their wings. I can picture you soaring about the snow-capped mountains or crossing an ocean on wings of your own. Letting the thermals carry you when you need to rest, flapping hard when you have somewhere to go. Oh, Clara, close your eyes and feel your wings grow.
dandelion by Maya Stein
How they stood by the Nebraska back roads like little soldiers, how the wind never seemed to disturb them, how their tufts held firm and reminded me to sit a little deeper in my seat, and hold the reins with a lighter touch. It is a different thing than trees, their rooted loyalty to the earth. The dandelion says, it is alright to bend and sway to the elements. It is alright to wave from the side of the road and, sometimes, blow a kiss to whoever passes by.
Dandelion by Amy Tingle
On the side of the road in Colorado we saw dandelions with heads as big as a grapefruit. I thought of how many things I could wish if I stopped to blow on one. I'd wish for good health and bigger adventures. I'd wish my daughter would grow to be strong and true. I'd wish for a peaceful heart and a peaceful world. I'd wish for patience and creativity and trust and truth. I'd wish for more wishes, wouldn't you?
What more can I possibly say?
I can say this: driving home we both were quiet for awhile, each of us wrapped up in the magic of an afternoon that seemed like a dream from summer nap. Before we pulled into the driveway, I asked Cowgirl what she thought about the people we've met this summer - the people like Katherine Dunn and Maya and Amy - who have fashioned lives and work from what they love doing and what they feel passionate about. I wondered if she recognized that theirs are not standard job titles listed under careers, but ones they created for themselves. She was quiet in that way that tells me she is chewing things over. It is a conversation I intend to continue ... for both our sakes.