Road Trip and Reality

We drove to Virginia last week. When you start in Massachusetts it is easy to be productive careening through the Northeast. Connecticut then New York, through Pennsylvania to Maryland and West Virginia. Six states in one day causes one to feel triumphal.  A little lake house nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains was our ultimate destination, but on the way down, we had a few things to take care of. It was nearly five years ago when I discovered John Brown: His Fight For Freedom.  As Myles and I sat together reading it for the first time, I was deeply moved by the life of this controversial figure.  Myles was silent as he listened to John Hendrix's artful and compassionate rendering of the tale of a man who was willing to die (and kill) for equality.  I knew then, that I wanted to bring us to this place of history, where the  final, fateful events of John Brown's life took place. Harpers Ferry, WV is a beautiful town overlooking the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Thomas Jefferson said that the town, "was worth a trip across the Atlantic." I'd have to agree.

We left Harpers Ferry for our campsite at the Shenandoah River State Park in VA. We stayed for two nights, with relative success. A black bear did stumble into our groomed little area of his backyard. But that was no big deal. I actually slept through the sighting, yet made up for my lapse on the second night when I was on a fruitless, self appointed bear watch. We eagerly reported the event to a ranger who also agreed with us, "no big deal." Just what we thought.  We ate well over the fire, with our tradition of sausage gravy and toast for breakfast and camper's stew* for dinner.

And finally a lake, with cousins, and bunk beds, and life jackets. It was a wonderful escape, to be able to swim, and talk, and swap labors for a while.  Seeing my nieces through auntie eyes gives me hope that maybe one day I will be able to receive a similar big picture parental optimism that I try and share with my sister. It is much more difficult to take your own advice.  Myles is the pioneer of his generation in our family, so everything always seems so huge and horrible when he has a misstep.  It is hard for me to take his shortcomings and lapses in stride. For better or worse, on a road trip you are given lots of time to dwell on these types of things. I was dwelling on a particular interaction he had with his sister, and sharing it with Eric as we both shake our heads, saying "WE never did that as children, what is the deal?" when I was overwhelmed with the notion that maybe he needs a bit more love. Less unnecessary criticism, more gentleness for a change.  For some reason, I keep thinking the job of being a human is going to let up. But, it never does.

So thank God for books. We read Shiloh together on our journey, and it was beautiful. The story is set in West Virginia which made the tale even more poignant. There are few things better than reading a story of a boy and his dog among sleeping bags under the stars, with the Shenandoah singing beside.

And now we are home. Tired and mildly content. Slowly chipping away at lost sleep. I need a pair of those blinders that they give horses to keep them calm, as I try and live beyond the duffels in the kitchen full of things that must find their place again. Maybe by August.

 If you are ever driving through Scranton, PA with anyone possessing an affection for trains, don't miss Steamtown USA. We stretched our legs and soaked in some good ole' Americana steam history.

Mail Train.

* Campers stew consists of doctoring up some heavily salted lean ground beef browned with an onion, toss in some some boxed vegetable stew and a can of black beans to stretch it out and you have yourself one tasty fire cooked meal. My apologies if this sounds unappetizing, but in the moment, it really cant be beat.

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