Traveling to the Desert – Day Two


January 1, 2016.

400 miles done and 1400 miles to drive. Smack dab in the center of Missouri.

New Year’s Day. There’s a new year’s tradition — or is it superstition? — “what you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll do all year long.” Well, there you have it — a year filled with travel!

Crossing Missouri — began by driving across the Mississippi River and drove until we crossed the Missouri River in Kansas City.

I say “mi-zour-ee.” Do you say “mah-zour-ah?”

Small herds of cattle and farms in eastern Missouri; more horses and small ranches driving further west.

I saw an owl, a brown and white barred owl, standing on the side of the highway, as if he were studying the road that stretched in front of me. Ten in the morning. I can only think the owl was a good journey omen. This was not the only encounter on the drive to the desert I had with birds. They accompanied me west in the most extraordinary ways.


500 miles done and 1300 miles to go.

Stopped for barbecue southwest of Kansas City, Kansas.

Oh. Yum. Not in Wisconsin any longer, Dorothy.


600 miles done; 1200 more. A third of the way.

Eastern Kansas. Flint Hills.


700 miles done; still 1100 more. 7-11s. Lucky numbers. Just as the afternoon was getting long, just when I needed a sign… a  gift from the Universe.

A murmuration of starlings. A pulsating cloud of birds, dipping, dancing. The flock expanded, then contracted. Dipped towards the fields, then swooped high into the sky.

A most serendipitous sight.




900 miles done, 900 more to go.

Kansas on the diagonal. Northeast to southwest.

From Wichita to Liberal. The road is straight. The land is flat.

Every small town has a grain elevator. Grain elevators are the most interesting subject for photos in Kansas, at least I think so. especially when driving late afternoon into the night. The light catches the metal containers — some quite ordinary,  but many in unexpected, even spectacular ways.


1000 miles left behind in the rear view mirror. 800 miles still ahead.

Driving into the sunset.

Kansas flat. Horizon orange, deepening into red the color of blood and lingering deep into twilight. A thin red line in the black.


Since driving and arriving are the priority for this trip, all photos are drive by.

Using my iPhone and Hipstamatic filters set on random (though still available for some post processing when desired) add a sense of photo adventure with a modicum of control.


My New Year’s Day Project

A New Years Day Photo

Windy, Wintry Welcome to 2010

I had hoped to kick off 2010 with this writing project, but I didn’t have it done. Better finished a week into the year, than never finished. (See F). Here are my January musings from snowy Wisconsin. It’s a bit of a mish-mash. There are some to-do’s, some to-hope-for’s, some gratitude mentions, a bit of a summary of last year, and a welcome for the New Year.

2010 ABCs

A is for Acceptance.

Accept who I am, where I am at this time in my life. Accept all those parts of life I can’t change. Accept the challenges to work on the changes I can make.

B is for Balance.

Balance is my word for the year. It may end up being my word for the decade if I remain a slow learner in this area. I’m a Libra, born under the sign of the scale. You’d think I might have a head start on this balance issue, but no, I’m still learning.

C is for Crash Landings.

Seems I learn best after being startled to awareness. I could do with a few less crash landings, maybe a few more cushioned landings. Meanwhile, I will pay attention to the crash landing lessons. Not that I have much of a choice. Maybe I could pay attention to the crash landing lessons with less resistance. Now that I can work on.

D is for Details.

I could try to focus on world hunger issues, but I can make a difference if I donate to the neighborhood food pantry. I could worry about the impossibility of achieving world peace, but I can make a difference if I smile at the harried woman standing in the long line in front of me. I could fret about my retirement plan and it still won’t magically recover, but I can help myself feel better by noticing the new buds on my orchid plant. Details. I can do details.

E is for Elephant in the Living Room.

As in, I cannot hide the obvious, so I may as well deal with it. And while I’m dealing in elephants, one more reference – an elephant joke that is also applicable to life in general. Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.

F is for Finishing.

I have a million ideas. I have a hundred projects going. Now I am committed to do the finishing part, pick a project, finish the editing, and send that baby out into the world. Then repeat, over and over.

G is for Gratitude.

Nearly every evening I write a few lines in my gratitude journal. Unlike other journal commitments, this takes me less than a minute, possibly the most important and beneficial minute I spend in my entire day.

H is for Home.

I am of two spirits: the travel junkie and the home body. When I am out on the road, I love to explore, meet new people, dig deeply into the cultures I am visiting. When I am home, I am happiest caressed deep within my studio. Books, writing materials, art supplies, simple food, a stash of photographs to work through. Good times!

I is for Italy.

Visit Italy is one of those big, juicy, long term goals I wrote in a journal many years ago and have never forgotten. My original plan was to visit Italy in April 2010. Sherpa (see S) has a four week sabbatical coming due, so it’s a once in a lifetime trip. Global economic change interrupted the time table but not the goal. I find this a little amazing. I am not great with long term goals, but I have managed to keep Italy alive. So each month, a reasonable sum of money goes into the Italy account. We are learning Italian – the basics – with Rosetta Stone software. I read one page of my tour guidebook every night. I talk about Italy with people who have been there. And I have a large April 2011 calendar hanging in my studio. In each day’s square, the word ‘Italy’ is written. In pen. In big letters. The better to see and motivate.

J is for Jazz.

No, not the music. The black cat I adopted a year and a half ago. She is my constant companion, usually at my side, often patting my face when I try to sleep, draped around my neck while I am sitting in front of the computer screen, racing me up or down the stairs, always begging for attention. Jazz has a history of neglect and is one of the neediest creatures I’ve ever met. She teaches me important relationship lessons every day.

K is for Knowledge-Seeking.

Ah, that’s a wide term that encompasses reading books, internet research, lectures, workshops, museum visits, deep conversations with wise folks – the best roads to new discoveries. Beam me up for more, Scotty!

L is for Limit-Busting.

All those excuses that I use so I don’t have to show up and be seen? Go away.

M is for Mindfulness.

Mindfulness has become a popular concept. I find its benefits proclaimed frequently in my reading and conversations. I first studied the concept of Mindfulness in the fall of 2006 when I began a yearlong course. And as simple as the concept sounds – stay in the moment – it is deceptively difficult. Even after a year of study with a trained facilitator, and several more years of practice on my own, I am still a novice. I find myself worrying about the past, and planning the future, but staying with the present moment requires lots of concentration on my part. Nonetheless, I practice often. I find it calming, grounding, necessary.

N is for Nature.

Thank goodness I can escape into the natural world at a moment’s notice. Though I don’t always succeed when I have to dash in and out of nature in the coldest months, I do like to spend a part of every day connecting to the natural world. Usually I explore with camera in hand, or with pencil and paper, but this coming year I want to focus on going out with nothing more than my senses to exercise.

O is for Oops.

As in “Oops, there goes another rubber tree…oops, there goes another rubber tree…oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.” A hit song, the original from 1959, and one I listened to and sang as a little girl. High Hopes. It makes a great theme song.

P is for Photography.

Photography is my life. Hmm, that sounds a little dramatic. OK.

Q is for Quest.


R is for Ritual.

I have a little treasure trove of trinkets, talismans, a collection of tiny things that I do a sort of ritual with. No hocus pocus or magic, just little reminders for me. Sometimes I’ll carry one or two in my pocket. Or I’ll line them in a row on my desk as I’m working. I have a carved armadillo, a fetish I purchased in New Mexico in 1999, fashioned from dolomite by a Zuni carver. Rounded, unadorned. A reminder to just keep moving in a deliberate fashion, slowly, but forward. There’s a tiny jade fish from New York City Chinatown. In Chinese culture, the fish is a symbol for abundance of wealth and good luck, but I like to think of it as a reminder of what I have, the non-material stuff. I have a tiny, metallic gold, smiling Buddha. He reminds me that life is good, so smile. I have a single pearl, a gift from my grandmother and a tribute to my  strong women ancestors who have traveled on this path before me.

S is for Sherpa.

Sherpa is the funny but meaningful name I sometimes call my husband of 33 years. He is my companion and my guide and my soul mate. We’ve traveled far together, he is another who walks with me on this grand journey we call life. (I admit he does often carry a lot of my camera gear, too.)

T is for my Three Twenty-something Children.

This is the first full year that my children are all adults. They are all embarking on careers or finishing their education with a specific career goal in mind. No longer do they ask my permission to visit a friend or go on an overnight or fly across the country. They are all on their own and I love to see them in action, full of plans and ideas, and combined with the energy and courage to see them through.

U is for U-turn.

I used to think the U-turn was all about photography – the difficulty I experienced in taking time to turn around and photograph what I had just driven past. It was all too easy to say “never mind” rather than slow down and go back. Now I think it has a lot to do with many parts of my life. I zoom by a little piece of living, and then give it a second thought. And I think, “Why not slow down and experience the moment?”  It’s hard to live on the slow path – there is so much to check off on my life’s to-do list. But the idea of slowing down is gaining momentum. Slow food, slow art, slow dance. Now that’s better living, right?

V is for Vagabond.

I am a study of opposites, for as much as I am a home-body and an introvert to the nth degree, I also love to travel. I love to plan trips, and I spend some of my happiest moments working on my travel itineraries. They are always loosely constructed, full of notes on hundreds of opportunities and options for each destination. I love to discover hidden places and spaces. Currently I am at the idea-jotting stage for a swing through the western US National Parks in September and gearing up to finish the plans for a February trip to Arizona.  And then, there’s Italy, always on my mind. (see I)

W is for Work.

There was a long period in my life – many years – when I was unable to do any sort of work due to a recurring, debilitating illness. The career I trained for in college became an impossibility. I was forced to put any notion of productive work aside, finding myself unable to manage much of any sustained activity. But the last couple of years have been good to me. Gradually I’ve begun to add work back into my life. I’ve found work that fits into my own time table. Work is maintaining a writing schedule. Work is taking a variety of photographs – nature, travel, architecture.  Work is readying my art for exhibition. Work has added a huge dimension of meaning to my life.

X is for eXamine.

I usually put time in my daily schedule for reflection, meditation, intention setting.

Y is for Yogurt.

And other healthy food. I’ve been shifting towards a healthier diet. No, I am not giving up my occasional chocolate treat, but I am more aware of what I ask my body and mind to run on. First, I’ve learned to eat on a schedule. When I don’t pay attention, I sometimes forget to eat my first meal of the day until mid-afternoon. I was letting myself run completely out of fuel. So I try to eat 5 small meals throughout the day. Keeping processed food out of my kitchen and fast food stops down to a bare minimum also helps big time.

Z is for Zero Tolerance.

I used to let the gremlins – code word for negative self talk – have a field day in my head. I’d invite them in, set them up in cozy chairs, offer them a hot cup of tea, and then pay close attention to what they had to say. No more. I now have in force a zero tolerance policy for gremlin talk. Not listening. Nada. I hear nothing. Gremlins no longer have an open invitation.

So there’s my 2010 ABC project.

One project completed! (See F). If you are a frequent visitor to my blog, thanks for stopping by, and a special big thanks to those of you who comment. I love you all. If you’ve stumbled on this as a first time visitor, I hope you’ll come back. The emphasis is usually on photographs, not alphabets, but this post is in honor of a new year and a new decade.

Happy New Year to all!