Road Trip #2 by Devon Miller-Duggan: Reaching a Destination

It was wonderful. The first day, which was supposed to be 10 hours, turned out
to be more like 13 courtesy of the insanity that is the DC Beltway, my
stubbornness, and an accidentally silenced GPS, so I ended up on 95 heading
south instead of 81. It was still a wonderful day. Once I turned the GPS back on
and paid attention to it, I spent a rapturous hour following its instructions
through the exquisite Virginia countryside back to 81. That was the only
muck-up. For which I can take no real credit, since once you turn right off of
81 onto 40, it’s pretty much a straight shot. I’d done the drive once before,
but with my elder daughter and her College of Santa Fe roommate from NYC and
loved it then. I remembered Tennessee as being seriously beautiful (true for
eastern TN) and that the Panhandle of Texas was weirdly thrilling (I have a
funny relationship to the accidental state of my birth). And it was. As was the
gradual movement toward bigger and bigger skies, and then bigger and bigger
mountains.

A solo roadtrip is very, very different from a shared roadtrip (of which I am
hugely fond). The solo version is a weird, alternate-dimension space in which
you really need to pay attention to things like when the next rest-stop is, how
your body is feeling, where the next gas station is, whether you’re signaling
lane changes, and how the driving cultures differ from state to state.
Everything else is pretty unimportant, as long as the weather doesn’t make
itself an issue. Everything. You really do need to pay attention, to be deeply
mindful of things you don’t tend to think much about, even though they are
themselves odd things—important, but without inherent profundity or connection
to anything else in your life. I suppose the 2,000 mile drive is as close as I
will ever come to the focus, work, and quiet of a week of zen sesshin or a solo
trip on the Appalachian Trail.

I arrived in Santa Fe safe and sound, and feeling better (though tired—next year
I’ll give it 5 days), more myself, than I have in years. More alive to all the
things that are right, blessed, good, and joy-giving in my life than I have been
able to be for years, maybe forever—which is not to say that I have been unaware
of them, or un-alive to them, but that there’s been a scrim, a membrane between
my heart and those gifts for a long time. I wasn’t a different person, and not a
converted person, just a person with a great many cobwebs blown away by 4 days
of road and solitude and huge skies. The last time I experienced anything like
this was the day my first working SSRI kicked in and I felt as if one of those
huge, spherical diving helmets had been lifted off my head without my ever
having known I was going through life wearing one. All of this sounds very
dramatic, and it wasn’t. In some ways that was the best part. I got to Santa Fe
a little early to check in at the conference, had lunch at a diner I like and
read for a while, then went up the hill to St. Johns, where the Glen is held,
checked in, unpacked, went to the reception to find and hug my Glen tribe, and
just slid into a scene I know and love.

So step 1 in Moving Through the Existential Crisis of 2014 was letting go of my
only-in-my-head nemesis and actively wishing her happiness. Step 2 was a bag of
plastic beach-toy sand-mold letters (which is another blog entry altogether).
Step 3 was 4 days alone on the road through radically changing landscapes. It
certainly isn’t the recipe I was looking for back in January. And all through
the intervening months. And it is certainly not what I’d ever have thought would
work. Which is undoubtedly the nicest way it could have happened–by surprise.