I’m sorry I haven’t been writing lately, I’ve been busy working on my friends house. As it turns out, his wife has always aspired to write. I thought I would give her a guest spot, and get your reactions. Please comment, and let her know what you think!
I went to college to be a school psychologist, got through two and a half years and got married instead. That left me just enough education to make a little more than minimum wage. I thought I wanted to work with kids for a living, but it turns out I just wanted kids of my own, which I have and they’re everything I could’ve hoped for. But I’m still working with kids. It’s not awful, usually. I’m just done.
One day a little while ago, the noise level at work was particularly high. Just for fun, a three year old girl let out a scream that was so shrill, it pierced the ear drum and went directly to the part of the brain that turned David Banner into the Hulk. I decided in a split second that the only thing to do was be louder than all of them. So I yelled, not AT them, just a really loud yell. It was cathartic for sure. The kids thought it was funny. My employee friends thought it was funny. But not the mom who just walked in the door, the mom who didn’t like me because I wouldn’t put up with her daughter’s obnoxious behavior. She didn’t report me or anything. She just added it to her reasons not to like me even more. I dare her to work there.
Times like these are when I like to escape in my mind to places I’ve traveled…My husband, Bryon, our kids and I had taken an Amtrak train from Chicago to Flagstaff, which is another story in itself. From there, we rented a car with phenomenal air conditioning and drove to the Grand Canyon. After all the wonder of that, we headed north to visit the parks of southern Utah. But first, we stopped in Marble Canyon, Arizona at a place called Cliff Dweller’s Lodge. It seemed so isolated out in the desert that it was both adventurous and a little unnerving. The business was a motel, restaurant, and outfitter for fishing expeditions in the Colorado River.
After we checked in, our boys, Chris and Alex, ages 11 and 8, ventured to the huge red rock cliff in back. They climbed about halfway up when I realized that if one of them fell, we were nowhere near, well, anything. Thankfully for this mother’s soul, they decided the same thing and didn’t go up further. It was still pretty exciting for Midwest city boys. While exploring on the cliff, they found a small, crumpled American flag stuffed in a tiny cave. They brought it down, washed out all the red dirt and laid it flat to dry. After attaching it to a stick, they climbed up again the next morning and planted it on a ledge. A moment in history.
The meal at the lodge restaurant the night before was unexpectedly fantastic. We sat on the open air deck which had misters on the edge of the roof to keep the heat down. The sun had already set by the time we ate, but it was still kind of hot. It was a matchless experience: to be eating onion rings the size of tricycle wheels while peering out into the vast dark desert, able to see only the shadows of mountainous ridges by the light of a crescent moon. Yeah, it was that cool.
But that’s not even the place I’m ultimately escaping to.
The next morning, I was up before the sun. I went out to the car to check on Bryon. His snoring the night before was so hideous that all three of us yelled at him at once. He slept in the car, but proceeded to tell me that it was a gift we gave him and he almost came in and woke us up to see it, but thought we might not react well. He said the stars were so dense he had never seen anything like it. Shooting stars every minute. Planets up close. He felt like he was looking into galaxies undiscovered. I was jealous.
The sun was about to come up over a ridge, so I grabbed the camera and headed over toward the road to get a good shot. Thinking about what Bryon saw, what the kids did, our dinner, and what I was looking at right then, I was swept up into a rich vacation fervor. That mood crashed swiftly when I heard a gritty, country boy voice say, “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.” as I rounded the corner and he looked me up and down. I took one pre-dawn picture of the ridge and turned quickly on my heel to get back to the car.
On the way in the day before, we noticed a little rock structure off the road with some huge martian-like boulders around it, so we decided to check it out after we loaded up the car. The structure was an abandoned house built not quite a hundred years ago and was the original Cliff Dwellers Lodge which basically was a place to get some food on that long lonesome highway back then. The house was built around the largest of the boulders in the area. We went in, took pictures, the whole bit. It’s situated right in front of a craggy nook, two rock walls forming a sort of inlet. We went a little farther in to look at some of the huge, wacky rocks and that’s when it happened. I heard it. The sound of our feet scraping the ground was monumental. Every word spoken was doubly audible. I said to everybody, “Stop! Just stand still!” We did. It was the first time I had ever heard actual…silence. There was no machinery, there were no birds, there was not even a slight breeze. Total stillness. A colossal hush. It took concerted effort to finally walk away from there. My father-in-law, for a time, overused the word ‘surreal’ to the point that now, when I use it, it’s usually in jest. But I can’t come up with a better word to describe what happened there that day. It was surreal.
We were all taken in by the moment. Bryon said it was a bit scary; like total abandonment, isolation and loneliness. I thought it was heavenly; peaceful, soothing, true escape. Since then, it’s one place both of the boys have said we’ve got to get back to some day.
One of these days, I won’t have to work in child care, but until then, on those days when the noise level reaches outrageous decibels, that’s where I go…to a little alcove in northern Arizona, and no one knows I’m there.