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Wisdom Gathered Over Time

For the Travel Snaps Challenge

By Hannah MoorePublished 22 days ago 6 min read
11

It was mid-March, unseasonably warm here in the UK, and I was looking forward to the trip we had painstakingly planned and booked many months before. The route was mapped, the motorhome booked, campsites reserved and even some activities arranged. We had priced and plotted into the small hours and all that remained was to execute a damn fine plan. Things had been increasingly stressful at work, and I was yearning for an adventure. As it transpired, the adventure would be of quite a different sort.

The first spanner in the works came from my parents. They had been booked on their own trip, a cruise around Japan they had fancied for some years, which was unceremoniously cancelled just weeks before departure. “How would you feel” they said, faces keen in my telephone’s screen “if we came with you instead?” Now, before your knee jerks into a very understandable “not on your nelly”, my parents have done a lot for us. The least we could do is cram two extra adults into an RV for two and a half weeks and show them a good time, right? My partner, I am sure, has long dreamt of bedding down with his in-laws for a protracted family sleepover.

We upgraded the RV to a six berth, and pledged to work hard on our patience.

The second spanner ensured that this work paid off. A few days after firming up some new arrangements, our own trip was rendered inaccessible. My work had been becoming increasingly stressful for good reason. At that time, I was working into a hospital respiratory team, and COVID-19 was mushrooming across Europe. Lockdown had hit. The skittles fell one after the other until, on the day we had been due to fly, we instead marked the end of week one of home-school with our 8 and 10 year olds with lessons in chess and checking the engine oil.

I was fortunate, through COVID. As a non-medical member of the team, I was quickly expelled from the wards to conduct my work from the safety of home. And home did feel safe. I pulled my babies and my partner in, behind closed doors, and revelled in feeling more safe that I had in many years despite the circling vultures of coronavirus. We worked hard, my partner and I. Between work and home-school tag teaming, we were putting in 16 hour days and still feeling inadequate at everything. While others were repainting bedrooms and baking banana bread, we were flitting from PE lessons in the front room to meetings over zoom. And I was loving it.

We had been due to roam the national parks of the American West, 2000 miles of some of the wildest lands in the United States, but instead, we were voyaging into different unchartered territory – quarantine, just the four of us, between our own four walls. Ansel Adams, that famed photographer of the land we had expected to explore proved himself equally relevant to our enforced change of plan when he said “In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration”, and it was with this attitude that we launched ourselves into lockdown.

I learnt that, as much as I have always preferred to move whimsically through my days, scaffolding helps me function, and when I function well, I am more motivated, less despondent. Scaffolding also meant that we all knew what was going on, and freed from disputes, we enjoyed sharing time not just playing games, but trying new things, exercising, cleaning toilets. I also learnt that exercise makes me feel better. Who knew? My usual towering anxieties were rendered feeble by the retreat into home, and I found myself present and engaged in the way I had always hoped to be. And we had a great time. I don’t mean to make light of what happened, I am painfully aware of the costs, but for three months in early 2020, we adventured with unabashed joy through our connection with one another.

It was two years before we got on that plane, a party of six. The trip was, of course, awesome, wonderful and amazing. Driving out of our campsite on Sunset Boulevard, we hit desert before the first morning was out. The children, leapt from sand dunes in Death Valley and trekked out among the bouldered salt crystals of Badwater Basin.

We watched the sun rise in striated ochres at Zabriskie point and the stars punch pricks of light into a desert black sky from the quiet of our camp. In the first two days, we had taken the trip of a lifetimes, and we had barely even started.

As the stench of six unwashed travellers in a metal box in a Death Valley spring began to build, we read stories of prospectors seeking livelihoods in this gold flushed landscape, validated by the ghost towns and remnants left behind, but implausible none the less. The imaginative leaps these men and women must have made to cast themselves into the searing heat were alive and well in the communities still braving the edges of this land, and we spent our third night in a campsite where the WiFi password was a declaration of belief that there was more to discover in that infinite sky. We passed, too, an alien themed establishment we swerved towards, intrigued, before pulling away again, unsure whether a brothel, even one with such a theme, would accept walk through guests and accompanied minors, a regret I carry to this day.

After the barrage to the senses that was Las Vegas, Zion uncurled itself from a pocket in the vast desert like a testament to God, its tree lined waterways a balm to the raw, uncovered red rock of its mighty peaks.

Stranger still were the amber hoodoos packed like massed soldiers in the basin of Bryce Canyon. Here, we rode sturdy mules down unlikely slopes and along precipitous ridges, sweating in our saddles before, once the sun went down, freezing back in the van on that high desert plain above. On we drove, over Route 12 in high winds from Bryce to Torrey, through land dotted with the remnants of 11000 years of human habitation, dust blown tiny towns where tumbleweed swooped across our path, into the vast, impenetrable last area of the US to be mapped, miles of slick rock sliced through by chasms, over an isthmus of road plunging to rocky swathes below and then up into snowy heights, summiting at 9600 feet before dropping back into trees and farms and at last to the sanctuary of our campsite.

On to Fruita, to peer through the windows of its tiny, improbable school and scan the cliff face for petroglyphs that speak even more so to the astonishing adaptability of mankind, and on again through rock, which does not adapt, but is irrevocably eroded into arches, mesas, reefs and canyons, narrow contortions of resistance, horseshoes of our Geography lessons in school, and wide, gaping splits, their ancient waterways an implausibly thin ribbon of silver in the distant base.

But we adapted. One morning, in a campsite between Arches and Canyonlands, we awoke to a thick covering of snow after t-shirts and sundried lips the day before.

High in the Mesa Verde, we breathed more rapidly in the slightly thinner air as we admired the dwellings plugging the fissured cliffs, and in Joshua Tree we stripped off again, sweat glands pumping into action to cool our bodies while we explored, finding life in abundance in this land of arid unlikeliness.

8 hours of time difference, 85 degrees Fahrenheit (47 Celsius) of temperature range, 10000 feet of elevation undulation and unquantifiable wonders. Just as we had done two years before, we flexed and adapted as life has done since its incipience, when the landscape in which our distant ancestral life forms evolved looked so very different.

Again we learnt to adjust to living differently, six of us squashed together, working round one another, holding patience and willingness. And awed by the majesty of rock, water and light around us, by the millennia of human history layered on geological time, we turned also to one another, to six people, worthy to walk upon those rocks, amongst that teeming life.

Back home, I reviewed my camera reel, reliving the trip. It had been a good one. An excellent one, in some incredible landscapes. But I noticed something wonderful, as I flicked through the pictures, images I had hoarded of the things that I wanted to keep hold of. For every photograph of a peak, a canyon, a plant or rock formation, there was one of a person. My golden kids, my partner, my mum, my dad. Every step I took in my adventure, each mile I travelled, I shared with the most captivating things in the world. For all the distance we travel, what could be more worth exploring than ourselves?

photography
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About the Creator

Hannah Moore

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Comments (10)

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  • L.C. Schäferabout 18 hours ago

    I had some dread at the start, thinking the whole thing was going to be a C19 reflection... happy to see that was only a springboard! And possibly good training for the trip itself when you were finally able to take it. Being in each others' pockets can be hard.

  • Joshua Feinberg18 days ago

    Thanks for sharing these insights. It’s a great reminder to stay patient, keep pushing through the hard times, and always be open to learning.

  • Cathy holmes19 days ago

    Simply gorgeous writing, and the pics are amazing. My favourite is the one with the six shadows. That should be hung on wall. Really, really well done.

  • All your photos were stunning! This was definitely a memorable trip!

  • John Cox22 days ago

    This is wonderful essay as always, Hannah. Warm, wise and filled to overflowing with life and love. There is nothing quite like a clear, dark night in the desert. When I was a boy I thought visible stars were numbered in the hundreds. But walking in the Mojave Desert at night as a young soldier, lost, I experienced wonder and terror in equal measure. Closing my eyes 40 plus years later I can still see that infinite expanse of stars. That was probably the first time in my life that I felt truly small.

  • Rachel Deeming22 days ago

    What a wonderful trip through landscapes, real and emotional.

  • D.K. Shepard22 days ago

    Stunning photos once again, and just as you said, not just majestic landscapes but your beloved people. Wonderfully told story through quarantine antics and international adventure

  • Donna Fox (HKB)22 days ago

    Well this wasn't the original trip you planned but a beautiful journey of growth and love!!! I loved how you even made COVID sound like a great time and that you eventually got the trip you desired, perhaps at the time it was meant to be taken too!! 💚 Great story here Hannah!!

  • angela hepworth22 days ago

    Lovely to hear about your journey!

  • Dana Crandell22 days ago

    A wonderful voyage of discovery, beautifully told.

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