TOUR Day 12 - Salt Lake City and Wyoming

Nothing is good about Wyoming. I think there are some people out there who fantasize about moving here and riding horses or some other such nonsense, but really, it’s the worst. I mean, there ARE horses. Horses and cows and then endless fields of flat, arid NOTHING. This is the second time I have driven the length of this state. There was nothing redeeming about it the first time, and no one has changed anything about it since then. 

Last night we did an open mic in Salt Lake City. It was one of the coolest open mics I’ve ever been to: the crowd was eclectic and happy, and the restaurant was respectful and quiet for the performers. It was Death Night. All the jokes were supposed to be about death. The host’s mother had just died, and he was working through some of his emotions around that through comedy. He talked about the letter the hospital sent to his house after she died, wishing her a happy recovery. He read the letter to the room, nervously laughing. I thought, “Yes; at its best, comedy is the most effective therapy. It gives us permission to laugh at our darkest thoughts.”

But there has been a lot of driving. Driving late into the night, driving through the morning, driving all afternoon. We have been driving so much, there isn’t much left to talk about. I felt very productive the first day in the car, writing in the back seat, enthusiastic for hours on the road. Now I have listened to my “current favorites” playlist 400,000 times, and there are no good songs left. I have started spending the hours on the road gazing out the window, missing people in New Orleans, and wishing I could go for a run. 

There is something a little bit ominous about driving through Wyoming, because the first time I did it, I was traveling with my sister to move from Portland to New Orleans. The car had everything we owned in it. We barreled along this highway with no highway company but the semi trucks also forced down this way. I remember sitting with my feet up on the dash, listening to Harry Potter on cassette, yawning and imagining life in a totally foreign city. I had no idea that shortly after we’d pass into Nebraska, we would crash. The Volvo, having being run off the road by a semi, would flip over a big hill and land underwater. Feeling myself upside down underwater, I would briefly be sure I was about to die. The feeling was utterly different than I’d expected. I’d expected to be scared, but it was more like a professor had asked me to turn in a paper I hadn’t started yet — a feeling of, “Oh, I didn’t know that was due today. I wish I had more time.”

But I didn’t die, and neither did Alexis, and even though I had been searching for a sign telling me that my decision to move to New Orleans was a wrong one — and if an almost-fatal car accident isn’t a sign, nothing is — I moved to New Orleans, and stayed. So how about that.

I do sometimes wonder if there were “right” decisions to make, and whether I made them or not. My line on the subject is that there is no such thing as right or wrong; that all there is is what is, and that is the deepest and most holy truth a person can know. But I still sometimes wonder, in moments of quiet, whether I might be happier if I had chosen a different adventure. Maybe even the Buddhist monks sometimes do. Maybe this is the dangerous addictive substance we all privately do: entertaining ideas of, “but what if.”

Here is my favorite poem. It is by Galway Kinnell and it is called “Prayer.”

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that. 

I love it because of the suggestion that the most holy — the most central — achievement is “what is.” But, that idea is nebulous in and of itself: “Whatever” it is. And, the idea is always out of reach: “I want.” The tension between “Only” and “But.” The inherent contradiction. The suggestion, to me, is that the holiest ideal of total presence will forever be out of reach; and if it wasn’t, there would be no point.