September 27, 2022
So I did get a bit off track with my blog schedule. I fretted about this for a moment, but then came to the conclusion that this probably only really mattered to me and it really wasn’t that big of a deal if I missed a week and then wrote the next one late. So here’s what has transpired in the past two weeks: Luke and I found a new dirt road to ramble down. We went for several miles through a really beautiful canyon with some slickrock formations as well as chinle hills. At points, the road merged with the wash and it became very muddy and rocky. We wondered if the road was really meant for vehicles at all or if it was really just for sport OHV’s. We realized we would need to turn around when the rocks in the road were so large that they scraped the bottom of our high clearance truck when we tried to drive over them. It was a nice day exploring though and the dogs enjoyed running and sniffing a new place. Here is Left Hand Collete Canyon Rd.
I also went hiking with my friend Rosalyn. We decided to stick with Bryce Canyon National Park since it had recently rained a lot and we didn’t want to have to get all muddy or risk getting stuck out on a dirt road. The weather was perfect and the hike was excellent. Surprisingly, each time I had been to Bryce before this, I hadn’t hiked down into the canyon. The views from below are spectacular and it’s a whole different experience visiting the park from this angle. We did the Navajo Loop hike and part of the Rim hike. What an incredible and unusual park! Rosalyn says it’s her favorite place in the states.
I had big plans to fly home for my little brother’s wedding. This is the first time I’ve been back to Massachusetts since we left in the beginning of October so it’s been almost a year now. I tried my best to pack my week trip with visits to friends and family as well. Luke drove me the 5 hours to the airport in Las Vegas. It was a lovely drive, but such a long round trip for him for which is was extremely grateful. I had found a cheap red eye direct flight to Boston. You always hope that you can sleep on the plane, but then realize that it’s almost impossible to sleep on a plane. I imagine it’s just as bad as trying to sleep in a hospital.
So that is where I am now, in lovely Massachusetts during the bgeinning of Fall. It’s been a whirlwind of activity compared to my normal life and so I’m writing the blog today from my friend’s passenger seat while she runs errands for work. I write a little bit then admire the scenery out my window and write a bit more.
Visiting my old home has been overwhelmingly heart warming. I go back to Utah tomorrow and I’m sure that even if I had stayed for over a week, it wouldn’t feel like enough time to have good quality time with everyone. However, I feel like I’ve done a great job making the most of the time I have here.
The New England adventure started on Thursday. I met up with my best friend Nikki and we went out to breakfast. She had to work, but she’s a property manager so a lot of her work involves driving around to run errands so we had plenty of time in the car to catch up and bond. I was definitely too tired to do much else anyhow. Me leaving was very hard on her as she had recently experienced other losses and she had withdrawn so it was really wonderful to talk and become close again with her. Thursday night we went to my old open mic. Luke and I had attended this open mic almost every week for about 10 years. It was a great listening room open mic where many of the performers were regulars and the crowd all paid attention when they got up to play. Over the years, this became our Cheers bar and we became close with many of the regulars. It’s too bad Luke couldn’t come with me, but it was so wonderful to see some of these old friends. One friend, Marty, even wrote a song about our travels and told me he’s coming out to Utah soon for a National Park trip so we talked about trying to meet up again when he does. They all made me feel so loved. Here are a couple of our old friends at the open mic-Mick and Glenn.
I stayed at my friend Nikki’s house for the first night and in the morning joined her and another old friend for their routine of going for a walk in the morning before work. She lives near a lake so a walk through the neighborhood included walking through the woods and getting to see the leaves beginning to change color by the water. We also saw a heron chilling by the water which was awesome. Sometimes you appreciate a place more when you return to it after being gone for a while. A simple walk down tree lined streets reminded me that New England can be beautiful too. I also had the quick observation upon arriving back here that New England is crowded and all hopped up on sugar, retail, and anxiety. Driving out here is definitely more of a hassle than it is in the southwest. I made one stop at a Dunkin Donuts out here and quickly realized that I wasn’t missing anything as I waited for 15 minutes in a drive through line for overpriced mediocre coffee. Here is a not great photo of the heron and our tree lined walking route. We did this walk a few times while I was here and I got to meet Joe, a sweet guy who is out fishing in the same spot every day and chats with us when we go by. The day I snapped his photo he had caught a big fish, but had already released it by the time we saw him.
Then came wedding day. I was a little nervous as I had the big job of being their wedding photographer. They told me about a couple of shots that they wanted, but didn’t give me much direction. My little brother is ten years younger than me. He had the wedding at my father’s house in Connecticut so I went down there the night before to take my brother and his fiancee out to dinner and to visit with my father and step-mother. It occurred to me that this was the first time I was sleeping over at my father’s house since my early adolescence. I won’t really get into all of the reasons why that is here, but it was the first time in a long time that I felt like I had some unstructured relaxed time with them and it was really great. The day after the wedding my father sent me a very thoughtful message saying how proud he was of me. Do you all find these relationships more precious and these moments more joyful when you’ve been away for awhile? Throughout the week I have found myself wondering what has changed because I definitely feel different with these people. I have come to the conclusion that it is probably several things. I have changed a bit in how I see the general world, my values, and the way I connect with other people. My lifestyle has changed drastically and become far more simple. Also, I found myself wondering yesterday if leaving my career in mental health has given me more emotional space for the other people in my life that previously I had been lacking. I know I am less selfish with my time and impatient than I used to be. Anyhow, I digress, the wedding was really beautiful, I got to see a bunch of beloved family members, and my little brother looked so happy. It’s weird, but in some ways his wedding was the first time I truly saw him as an adult, separate from the family. I don’t know his bride Brenda very well, but she loves nature and birds and hearing her talk about these things is fun and fascinating. Everyone should have an interest that makes them light up when asked about it. I haven’t delivered his photos yet so I hope he won’t be mad that I’m giving a sneak peak here to introduce you to my father and stepmother and my siblings on that side of the family as well as some of their children.
You may think the party was over here, but it’s only just begun. Who needs sleep when you’re visiting your hometown for only one week for the first time in a year? The next day I went to Mom’s house where my siblings on her side of the family all gathered to see me. Mom was intent on feeding me things I don’t get in the remote stretches of Utah so we had Chinese food which was yummy, but made us all want to pass out and nap. I was very happy to see all of them and catch up on all of their joys and trials from the past year. Everyone seems to be doing well. In my travels that day I also visited my mother-in-law and “Gram” (Luke’s grandmother). They were both under the weather, but I brought them homemade macarons from my friend’s new business down the road. It was genius as I was able to connect with an old friend and support her new business while also having the perfect gift for my in-laws. If you are ever in the area of Milford, MA, check out Summit Macarons. She gave me a couple of samples as she knew they were a gift and hazaa! They were delicious! A little crunch to the shell with a moist inside of cake-iness and yummy filling. Here is my friend Val with one of my “on the road” cross stitches that I gifted her as well as my Mom and siblings.
On Monday I spent some time with my step-sister Jessica. We went out to lunch and caught up on each other’s lives and family gossip. Then we went to her daughter and my niece’s place to spend time with the new baby. My niece Hannah does not want pictures of her new baby in the internet so I will respect her wishes and refrain from including me, but that baby is so tiny and cute at one month old. From there, Mom and I filled our fix for Indian food and had an excellent dinner out. I ordered some sort of sampler dish so I didn’t know what most of what I was eating was, but it was all perfectly delicious.
On my last night in town I met up with a group of past co-workers I had formed friendships with. Back in 2018 a big change happened in the company we had all worked at together for several years. Back then we were all stressed about the change and didn’t want to lose our connections with each other so I suggested we form a wine club and meet once a month either at a restaurant or to potluck at someone’s house. Now in 2022, wine club still meets. There was about a year in which we all met over Zoom when the pandemic was new and very scary, but we and now they kept it going. How lucky am I that so many groups of people were willing to gather so I could see then this week? Here is me with those lovely ladies. Forgive the poor lighting in this dark restaurant which was aptly named Reunion.
I know that this was a long blog post so thank you for sticking with it to the end. My message and learning here is that you should love everyone you meet, because it will only make your life richer, even if it’s just a brief interaction. Take time especially to listen to the people you care about and be involved in their lives. If you decide to take your life on a wild adventure, make sure you don’t forget to make the trek back home (or to what was once home) every once in a while. Feeling love from groups of people is so overwhelmingly joyful and you may even learn something about yourself in the process.
Thank you to my friend Nikki for hosting me several nights this week, being a caring confidant, a remarkable person, and willing to pose at an orchard for a quintessential New England shot in a New England shop. I fly back to Las Vegas tomorrow where Luke will pick me up and we will make the long drive to home for now in Escalante, Utah.
Jennifer MacNeil is currently traveling the US with her husband and two dogs. She loves to have adventures, explore, meet fascinating people, and see amazing places. She strives to learn every day and spread kindness to others. She documents her journey through her photography and blog to share with others.