BOOK ONE – COMING HOME
The End of a Dream
Kitt Hathaway’s hands grip the steering wheel of her SUV. Tears of stress drip off her jaw as she stares straight ahead through the windshield. I am lost. In an oil tank farm in a freeway construction zone at rush hour. Not an elk or bear in sight. Just big, round, steel tanks of oil—toxic, industrial—opposite world. The car blinks an SOS from the shoulder of an exit ramp.
Shifting her eyes to the movement in the rear view mirror, Kitt sees Scott, her husband of 35 years, pull up behind her. How did he find me? How could he know I ended up here?
Scott gets out of his car, closes the door, and steps carefully down the narrow shoulder with one eye on the passing tanker trucks, their swoosh drafting his shirt.
“I saw you miss the detour sign. A big truck blocked your view. You went right past the detour we were supposed to take,” he says.
Kitt whines we’re on a detour all right. Leaving home to live in the east—that’s one big detour. Her inner weenie is on a roll. I am lost and as knotted as this traffic jam. Her forehead rests against the steering wheel while a truck downshifting past them deafens the air.
Home for Kitt and Scott has been in the foothills of the Rockies, high above Denver in a Ponderosa pine forest where wildlife large and small share their habitat with people. It is the only place Kitt has lived where an acceptable excuse for being late for yoga class is that the elk herd is moving down the road from the meadow to the lake, stopping traffic; where looking at the morning alpenglow on the peaks of the Western Continental Divide stimulates the magical wonder of existence; where at daybreak mountain lion tracks appear in the snow and mama and baby bears plod past the house; where it can snow nine months of the year, but most days are sunny.
“I get it,” Kitt says, leaning forward and resting her forehead on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, “This is about as low as we can go. We’re at the nadir. The bottom of a ramp, underneath an interstate in the flatland. We must be below sea level by now.”
“Take a deep breath, sweetheart,” Scott says. “We’re okay. We can just continue down here, turn left and get right back on the interstate.”
Neither one is sure if it is a rhetorical question or a question question. Whatever it is, it hangs in the air.
Wiping the wet streak on her cheek with one thumb, Scott worries that the tears are because she really does not want to move to be near his aging mother in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is not as sexy as watching the wildlife and hiking the meadows and mountains of Colorado, but who knows, this change could work out. Living in the Rockies had been Kitt’s dream—to flee the intensity of the Washington, D.C., area where they had lived for decades. Years in the dreaming stage. Seven years of actualization. Now, the tank farm. Maybe the tears are his fault and belong to him, but there is no turning back. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do! They are in between west and east, here and there, past and future, known and unknown. Life’s a journey and all that ...
“I don’t think I have ever had a sensation of being so lost and alone before. It was like everything familiar just evaporated. I’m disoriented, Scott, and you know I have a great sense of direction. I’m completely detached and disconnected and not yet connected to anything … It can only get better from here. I’ll try to leave it here.”
“Good. I’ll follow you. Just stay in the right lane when you reenter the interstate and watch for signs.”
“What if we need a left exit? Wouldn’t it be better to be in the middle lane?”
“What are the odds?” Scott counters, spoken as a numbers guy—CPA retired. So logical.
“Maybe you should lead. I’ll follow.”
“I want to keep my eye on you.”
“Because I look so good from the rear?”
“Nothing like a Toyota body.”
“I’ll swish my rear wiper for you,” she teases, “And if you’re real lucky, I’ll squirt the rear window, too.”
Scott smiles and says, “Just stay to the right. I’ll be behind you.”
Spoken like a numbers guy. He walks back to his car and hears her yell out her window into the industrial air a final thought, “Maybe we should buy a GPS! I can’t read the Triptych and drive at the same time!”
After all their years of marriage, he still finds her amusing and wonders how much a GPS costs.
From a place unseen, Scott’s deceased father, Gaelyn, speaks words unheard, “You’re not lost, Kitt-Kitt my kitten. You are fine. Everything is perfect just the way it is. Don’t you see? No, not yet, you don’t. But soon you will.”
Gaelyn is calling them home. Scott’s aging mother, Edith (Gaelyn’s life-long love and wife) needs them. But there is more awaiting them than Edith. Gaelyn knows Kitt is disappointed, but she is part of a bigger picture than she realizes. Charlottesville, Virginia, is where they need to be, not Evergreen, Colorado. Gaelyn is protecting Kitt and Scott through this life changing event that he himself instigated. Spirits can do that—influence someone’s life. He watches and offers an invisible helping hand along the way.
It was no accident that long tractor trailer trucks lined up next to Kitt’s car, blocking signage and confusing her. She needed a little event, a tailspin moment, Gaelyn thought, to demarcate the transition and increase her surrender and acceptance. The tank farm helped her to pivot nicely.
“Soon enough,” Gaelyn whispers with delight to the other spirits, “soon enough they will see.”
Another spirit, Mary, replies, “Her heart is beautiful, Gaelyn. She will be fine. It is upsetting to leave the place one loves. Remember what it is like?”
“Yes, I agree, Mary. She will be fine. She is a shaman in the making, although she does not realize it yet. That’s why she feels things so deeply.”
“They are headed for fulfillment. Absolute joy.”
Gaelyn says, “And they thought they already were happy!”
Both spirits laugh in their omniscient place of endless love and oneness.
Mary says, “My John is going to talk about me soon. He will tell the story of the drunk driving accident. He yearns too much, I fear. I’m going to push him to heal. I cannot bear his suffering any longer.”
“It is a momentous time, for them. My Scott and Kitt will be with Edith soon and your John will encounter his teacher and healer.”
“… if all goes as planned.”
Kitt survives Kansas City and has many more miles of Missouri to contemplate her state of affairs. She confesses to her empty car that all those little doodads and geometric shapes along the mapped route of the Triptych probably do mean something. There are just too many details for her to absorb during this high-stress time. Moving is a very dense experience—full of decisions at both ends of the trip and all along the way. We are not just moving. We are relocating and downsizing. Downsizing is traumatic.
“It’s like someone steps in and says, ‘okay your time is almost up, so lighten your load.’ Do you really need that candle holder? Every vase? All those linen napkins, books, and photo albums? Old tapes and cassettes? All those memories?”
She had examined each possession like a trout waggling on a fly line—keep or release? Then they brought each commitment in the community and each friendship to graceful completion. All that was left to do, was depart.
Kitt makes it through St. Louis without any mishaps. The gray Toyota SUV with the white Subaru Forester on its tail reaches the open space of southern Illinois. She relaxes inside her body, opens her car window to inhale the outdoor air, wiggles her torso and sinks a little deeper into her adjustable seat, leans her head toward the window for the air to wisp through her hair, shrugs her shoulders, and feels like singing—but only because she is alone in the car and no one can hear her. The West is behind her. The Midwest is fleeting past her. The east awaits.
Kitt is contemplating the name of each creek she crosses, when it suddenly dawns on her—everything she still owns is connected to the past. Taking stock of the carful of possessions that surround her, she gasps and says aloud, “Hah! What if this is a new beginning? Something new? Maybe we didn’t need to keep anything! We should have left it all on the other side of the Mississippi!”
Scott reflects on how good it feels to leave behind the snow blower, ice melt, unused firewood, and the worrisome 35-year-old furnace grandfathered into the property deed of their mountainside home. That furnace just might keep on running forever, he thinks but it will not be my concern any longer. His happy musings are interrupted by the sound of Kitt’s ringtone.
“Hey,” he says, “Miss me?”
“Yes, I miss you. You want to drive my car while I take a nap?”
He smiles and she continues.
“I figured it out. Living in Colorado for seven years was an adventure, like a vacation. It was my dream to live in Colorado and I have lived my dream. You helped make my dream come true and now it is my turn to do what you need. Who knew there was life after you live your dream? I thought living the dream was the living end. Now it’s becoming another chapter of life. I think we could have gotten rid of everything—all our stuff—and been just fine. We have a fresh future starting.”
“Sounds like Kansas City did you some good.”
“I have seen the Light!”
“But that doesn’t mean I won’t have a relapse, so don’t get too comfortable.”
“I’m well aware.”
“When do you want to stop next?”
Kitt returns to her own musings, snack bars, and radio. Colorado was so different from living in civilized, populated Virginia. I need the wildness I’ve had. I hope I find it in Central Virginia. I need some wild.
In the Subaru, Scott rehashes a conversation with his mother’s doctor, who said old age divides into three categories—young old-age, middle old-age, and old old-age. At 91, Scott’s mother Edith is old old-age. She suddenly stopped attending the plethora of events at the Charlottesville Senior Center. Her retreat from life was apparent in her phone calls with Scott and from his last visit. She remained in her little apartment that became home after Scott’s dad passed. Mother felt safe and comfortable there and did not want to live anywhere else. She had made that clear to Scott. While Mother would never ask Scott to make the cross-country move to Charlottesville, to care take her, she perked up noticeably when Scott told her the news of their move. She needed them and was too proud to ask, lest she interfere with their lives. Like Scott and Kitt, who donated, sold, and tossed half of their possessions before their move, Mother had been sorting through her routines, too, identifying and paring down to what she cared about most. Her family and a few remaining friends were what mattered. It was time for her to focus on these, to use her energy well and not waste it.
“Mother is smart and still sharp. It is not her mind that will give out; it is her body,” Scott had said to Kitt in discussing the move. “She often said that when it was her time to go, she would simply go. She would slip from her body. No ER, long hospital stay, or complications from pneumonia. It will be private and beautiful, she had predicted, and she will be happy. And just so I’m forewarned, she will most likely be outdoors. She will lie down on the Earth, and let go of her Earthly body. It does not matter what happens to the body after.”
Scott thought his mother could be eccentric at times, but he accepted what she said, and visualized himself running cartoonishly to her before the vultures arrive to disrespect her body. So Scott and Kitt make the move, inspired by the black vultures that circle endlessly over the hills and rolling fields of Central Virginia as Nature’s vacuum cleaners.
The two-car caravan reaches Louisville, Kentucky, at rush hour the next day, so nothing happens quickly. East of Louisville the landscape begins to roll. Kitt and Scott each listen to their car radios and notice the changes in programming that start to define the new region of the country that will be their home. More Christian music, sermons, and lots of bluegrass and country music. Kitt talks to her deejays, argues with the talk show hosts, and sings along to the music—in the interest of staying awake at the wheel and passing the time—but cannot miss the obvious cultural shift occurring and she wonders where she fits in.
She reasons aloud with one radio announcer, “At least we’re moving to friendly-but-not-too-Southern Central Virginia. I’ll have a magnolia tree, but not Spanish Moss, grits, alligators, or hot tin roof.”
The news, weather, and a few commercials air while she contemplates further, I have to be more flexible. Open up to this new adventure. Live in the moment. I’m a senior now. Whoop-de-do! I may be a senior, but I’m not very good at it yet. There is not much encouragement for becoming a senior—cheaper movie tickets and an invitation to join the senior center. Every journey has an end, but hopefully ours isn’t for a while. I have more to do—whatever it is.
The last state of the 1600-mile trip is the most mountainous of the 50 states, West Virginia. The drive is a roller coaster ride up and downhill that lands them at the Virginia state line on a Thursday morning in May.
The calm air of sunrise awakens with a slight breeze that flutters leaves on trees and riffles flower heads of Central Virginia countryside. Cows chew and horses roam, released from barns to rolling pastures that are undulating hillsides outlined by wood slat fences painted black. Deeper into the wilderness, bears bounce along at the end of their nocturnal foraging through the mountain woodlands, snapping sticks underfoot and jiggling wild berry bushes. Creeks run and ripple around rocks from hilltops to valleys where songbirds and bluebirds dart from one perch to another and birds of prey circle overhead on higher ethers. It is spring and the air is damp and warm. The hope of possibilities for the day are carried on Nature’s Appalachian aubade to all in her presence.
Charlottesville is nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains on the west and the Foothills to the east. Like snowboarders running a pipe at a ski resort, Charlottesvillans are soothed by the swaying forces that cradle them between the western and eastern geologic ridges of mountains and foothills.
The breeze gains momentum and carries the scent of flowers and animals, rousing insects that slowly open their wings and join the activity. The air moves over the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains and drops down over the hills and valleys to the Piedmont Plateau like the breath of Spirit, brushing the landscape with hope and expectation for this new miraculous day. Come play with me, it seems to say, join in my fun and find comfort in my embrace. Let me touch you softly on the cheek.
The citizens of Central Virginia are waking to their routines and the Earth feels their pulse as a tidal rhythm tied to the sun and the moon—one rising, one setting, ebbing and flowing.
Kitt and Scott wake, pack, and grab the hotel’s complimentary breakfast before heading north up the Shenandoah Valley and exit at I-64 east over the Blue Ridge Mountains to Charlottesville. Excitement builds for both of them, and Scott takes the lead in the Subaru. He signals that he is going to pull over at the scenic overlook just past the crest of the Blue Ridge. Kitt signals and exits behind him. It is their first view of the rolling foothills and the Piedmont Plateau east of the Blue Ridge, green with spring, fresh and verdant. The hills are rounded and lower than the rugged Rockies and seem to Kitt to be welcoming and friendly. If the Rockies soar and roar, the Blue Ridge whispers and hums in its aging geologic process.
They enjoy the view and snap a few pictures of the broad vista. Scott relaxes into the countryside he left after college. His youthful desire to make his own way in life took him north to the D.C. area. Now, returning on a new quest, the place he left feels right.
Scott texts Mother:
We’re in the area. We close with the builder in a few hours. Then to a hotel for tonight. Furniture arrives tomorrow. Suggesting dinner tonight. Your choice. –Scott
Kitt eyes Scott’s posture and sees that his shoulders have dropped their burden. He is happily taking care of business. It is what he does so well. He is relaxing in front of her very eyes and coming home. Interrupting her ceremonious reverie is the tickle of an undeniable drip of sweat gliding down her cleavage and catching in her bra. Another trickle down the base of her spine and into her bikini panties. Adios high, dry Colorado. Hello heat and humidity … I know, be flexible.
She giggles. Scott looks to see what is so funny.
“Look! My hair!” she says.
“I can feel it moving. It’s getting puffy. It’s frizzing in the humidity.” She giggles again. “I can feel it move, Scott! It’s been flat, straight, and limp for seven years!”
Scott’s phone beeps Mother’s reply:
Welcome home to Charlottesville! So glad the trip went well. Suggesting Ivy Inn for our celebration. I will make reservation. Pick me up at 6:45 pm. Love to you both.
Scott shows the message to Kitt and says, “Yes, ma’am.”
Contact with Scott causes Edith’s perky factor to leap and Gaelyn does not miss it. He is pleased that his family is coming together. It is right. It is good for Edith and for Scott. Gaelyn knows Kitt will be fine, once she gets off the mind track that Colorado is the best place to be. A plan is about to unfold. He leans in close to Edith, as if placing a hand on her shoulder. She is startled, sensing her deceased husband’s closeness and inhaling the scent that is his. She knows he shares her joy and she whispers to the air, “This is going to be fun, dear.”
“Well, Miss Kitt, are you ready to go see our new house?” Scott asks.
“Mr. Scott, let’s do it.”
He tousles her frizzing hair and she responds to the tease. Her arms wrap around his trim waist and she kisses him, not in a way that says ‘I have been alone, aching and yearning for lips to kiss, mon cher’ but in a way that says ‘I am grateful for life and I am grateful for you.’
“Let’s just send a selfie to Wes and let him know where his footloose parents are.”
Scott agrees that it is a good idea and does the honors. Wes is their independent-to-a-fault son who lives and works in Aspen, Colorado.
The Subaru and the Toyota speed along the interstate, descending Afton Mountain onto the Piedmont. Kitt is enamored with the flora of the green and colorful landscape whizzing past. I can have a garden again. That’s one thing I did miss in Colorado. Azaleas and perennials. From visits over the years, Scott is relatively familiar with the streets and locations in the ever-growing historic city and university hometown of Charlottesville and the surrounding scenic Albemarle County. They find their way to the north side of town easy enough and park in front of their new house. The builder is already on site checking things over before the walk-through and the signing of final paperwork.
While Scott is deep in conversation with the builder over maintenance of the HVAC, Kitt yawns. She decides that not everyone needs to know everything about the air handling system, specifically herself, and wanders out the back door to see her big boulder. It had been on the lot when they bought it. The builder said they would remove it, but Kitt said, “No. I want it. It will be my meditation rock.” Pushing it across the lot to its final location was cheaper than hauling it away, so the builder was happy to honor her quirky request. The striated tonnage is positioned to be part of a Zen garden and Kitt approaches it with respect. She pats the rock with her hands and climbs up on top of it. She finds a way to sit comfortably with legs crossed, facing approximately northwest.
“Good. You are a nice fit,” she says to the rock. “You are my meditation rock now. I always have one wherever I live. Sometimes I will need energy. Other times, grounding, inspiration, healing, or calmness. I get all bollixed up at times. Will you help me?” She listens and hears nothing, but behind closed eyes, she sees colorful images moving through her vision and feels a vibration from the stone rising up her torso.
“Thanks,” she says and begins to move as a voice in her head whispers, you are home. A tear of relief slips spontaneously down her cheek. The voice of Spirit touched her, and she knows with a certainty that this is the right place, the right time, and the right thing. Her connection with this new home is more easily made with a resident rock than through filling the empty rooms with furniture. The Earth is her real home. The house is a shelter.
With business complete, house key in hand, and overnight bags carried up to their hotel room, Kitt boots up the laptop and logs onto the hotel WI-FI. She emails their friends, Carolyn and Joe, in Colorado:
Hello, Colorado Friends!
We are here! We made it! One last night in a hotel before receiving our furniture tomorrow. We made the trip with little incident and will have dinner with Edith tonight. Albemarle County and Charlottesville are lovely in spring. Everything is so green—all shades of green. The mountains are round-topped and rolling. As everyone likes to say, the Blue Ridge Mountains are the oldest mountains on earth. That’s why they are so low. Not as exciting as our Rockies, but swelling and soothing just the same. I noticed blue birds and cardinals at the house today and my new meditation rock has already helped me. Scott is excited about the new reliable furnace and lack of fix-it projects—the benefits of building a new home. He deserves it.
I have dragged my you-know-what through this move, but when we arrived, I realized something. For years, I hiked and camped in Shenandoah Park. It was my refuge from D.C. Then I wished for a job where I could live near it. Now, I am there! I have moved from my western refuge back to be near my original refuge. I guess I have to get with the program. Enough boo-hooing.
We stopped at the Eisenhower Center for a brief visit—our only attempt at smelling the roses while making the trek. It was pedal to the metal most of the time.
Missouri, I’m nicknaming Misery. It is the buggiest-windshield-state, gets the tackiest stadium logo award (Crown for the Royals), and the shiniest arch (What were they thinking?). The construction zone in Kansas City got the best of me, but Scott rescued me. Obviously, Missouri didn’t have a chance to make a good impression on me—I was all attitude at the time.
At a rest area I bought a pamphlet of translations of the West Virginia accent. Kentucky is pronounced Cain Tucky. West Virginia, I hate to say, has more pot bellies per capita—and I don’t mean stoves—and no one could live there long without acquiring that accent! The land, however, is one fine stretch of wilderness after another.
That brings us to Virginia, which is a fur piece from Colorado. It is still unknown … to be determined … hopefully perfect!
If enlightenment is the gift for the spiritual warrior arriving home, I’m not quite home yet!
Forgive the crassness of my superficial, emotional mind. I am one freaked-out senior citizen, avoiding deeper fears! I miss you! What am I going to do without you nearby every day?
Scott says, “Let’s shower and change and head over to Mother’s.”
Kitt signs off from her email, With Love, hits the Send command, and to Scott says, “Okay, a shower will feel great. You mean, together?”
Scott just loves her.