Essay on the days leading to and including my drive cross country from Georgia to Montana.
| The days leading up to my departure of Manchester were filled with a wide range of emotions from all parties involved. There was sadness, excitement and uncertainties. Sadness for I was leaving my family and friends. Excitement for the next level of my life’s journey, the possibilities were endless. And uncertainties from family and friends alike that believed that I was running away from my life and the bitter disappointment of my marriage ending.
The sadness that most of my family and friends felt was that of loosing someone who had finally found their way home. We all knew that we wouldn’t see each other possibly for years. My ex-husband had been emotionally and mentally abusive in the last two years of our marriage. He had kept me away from most of my family, either by not including them in celebrating life achievements or because their dislike for him kept them from being able to tolerate a small amount of time in his presence.
My Aunt Dale and her husband David had been trying to convince me to move to Montana since my ex-husband and I had separated the autumn before. I could no longer live in Manchester. My spirit was slowly dying and I was becoming a shell of the person I once was. So, I gave in to Dale and David’s insistence when Dale informed me that she was coming to Georgia. I agreed to move to Montana on a temporary basis. I would pick her up and we would make the trip back together.
I quit both of my jobs and began going through my stuff trying to decide what I would take and what I would leave behind in storage. While preparing to leave my Aunt Jenny passed away and I was unable to leave on our original departure date.
The night before I was to head south to pick Dale up, Kurt and I had our own going away party. We drank Cutty Sark from a dusty old bottle and laughed and reminisced about our younger years. This was our way of saying good-bye without saying the word. Kurt had been one of my lifelines during my separation and subsequent divorce.
He wouldn’t let me wallow in my self-pity. He would insist that I join him and his girlfriend at the movies or even just a trip to Wal-Mart. He kept me laughing with his silly antics, stories and jokes. He had helped me to pack my truck after funeral and made jokes about me freezing and begging to come home before the summer was over.
The next morning I woke early. I was ready for this adventure to start. I loaded my suitcase and headed to Albany to pick up Mama Dale. I stopped along the way and told several friends bye. With tears and promises to write often, I continued to my Aunt Kim’s. I met Mama Dale and Aunt Kim at Wal-Mart. We did some shopping for the trip. Afterwards we went to Aunt Kim’s and loaded some furniture, dishes and plants Mama Dale was taking back to Montana and more tearful good-byes between Dale and Kim.
Dale and I then headed to my best friend Amy’s house. Telling Amy bye was just as hard as leaving my family if not harder. Amy was the only person that my ex couldn’t run off. She had known longer than anyone that my marriage was in trouble – possibly even longer than me. She had been there right beside me through the majority of it. Two weeks after my separation, Amy had found out that she was pregnant with her first child and decided to move up her wedding. With all that was going on in her life, planning her wedding and preparing for the baby, she was there for me. She let me cry over the separation and later the divorce; something I was unable to do with my family. She understood that I felt like I had failed and was letting my family down by not being able to save my marriage. She spent an extreme amount of energy trying to talk me out of moving to Montana. She agreed I needed to leave Manchester but for some reason she didn’t feel that moving 2,551 miles away was the answer. Later she told me that the move might have been one of the best decisions of my life.
After leaving Amy, we headed to another Aunt’s house to stay the night. We went by my adoptive dad’s house to visit with him and his family before we left Georgia the next day. The next morning my Aunt Ning had her husband and a friend of his repack our belongings in the back of my truck and to secure them properly. She tried to get them to put the tarp on a certain way and when they didn’t, she had them duct tape the tarp to my truck. Pictures were taken and lots of hugs were given before we were allowed to leave.
We headed northwest back to Manchester so Mama Dale could see my mom, stepdad and Kurt. I didn’t cry until Kurt gave me a hug as I stood at the door of the truck. My little brother, the boy that I had helped raised was a young man and I was leaving him and the uncertainty of when I would see him again left me breathless.
Finally we were on our way. We decided that we wouldn’t stop until we were out of Georgia and farther into Tennessee. Just outside of Atlanta it began to rain and we were thankful for the tarp even if it was taped to the sides of my truck. We made it to just outside of Nashville, Tennessee before we stopped for the night. It was the farthest north I had ever been in my life.
The next day we traveled all the way to western Missouri before we stopped for the night. We didn’t stop much that second day. I felt an urgency to get as much distance between Georgia and myself. My invisible yet constant companion was fear; l was terrified I would turn back and return to my dead end jobs and miserable life if I didn’t continue driving.
On the third day of our trip, we went through Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. In South Dakota, we stopped at the Spirit Mound in Vermilion. The Sioux had considered the mound to be sacred and a place that was alive with spirits because of the noises they heard but refused to investigate. Lewis and Clark had explored the top and found that the sounds the Native Americans heard were that of hundreds of birds feasting on the locusts and grasshoppers.
We decided to hike to the top. The mound is located in the middle of a field. Since it was early April the grasses were amber and the wind had a slight bite to it. The air smelled so clean to me, a mixture of dirt and sun – warmed grasses. As I hiked along the path I could hear men’s voices and drums yet every time I looked around there was nothing but Dale behind me, the path in front of me, and the vast azure sky above me. At the top, we found a boulder close to the northern edge. Erosion had worn the top down so that it was flat with rounded edges. We placed offering of small pebbles to our ancestors and the spirits of the mound. I laid three pebbles on that boulder – one for the person I had been, one for the person I was and one for the person I hoped to become. I stood close to the edge and closed my eyes, breathing in the crisp, clean air. Everything turned red behind my lids then the face of an old Native American woman appeared. Her skin was wrinkled and leathery from years of sun exposure. Her braids were silver with streaks of black as a raven’s wings. In the depths of the amber liquid of her eyes I saw kindness, compassion and acceptance of my offering. With a smile so filled with love she acknowledged the journey I had begun. Peace filled my heart, peace over the death of my marriage and peace with my decision to move.
We stopped at several more places some were tourist traps and some we were just curious about. Around sunset we entered the edge of the Badlands and decided to take the Badlands Loop. At the first turnaround we stopped to take some pictures of the rocks and the colors the setting sun cast on the formations. I heard the cry of a coyote – such a sad and mournful sound. As we continued along the loop we would stop occasionally to take more pictures. Coming down into a valley a couple of deer started to cross the road. Dale started speaking to them and the doe stopped, turned, cocked her head and just listened to Dale’s voice. As Dale spoke three more deer came up and over the road, when the last one had crossed the doe tossed her head turned and bound after the others. It was so awe inspiring that we were both speechless for several minutes.
We stopped for the night in Rapid City, South Dakota. The next morning we started the final leg of our trip. We visited Mount Rushmore, Deadwood and Sturgis. We took a detour and went to see Devil’s Tower not far from Sundance, Wyoming. On the way, I saw my first snow, prairie dog and antelope. We took pictures of Devil’s Tower but didn’t hike the trail. I was exhausted and ready to be in Montana.
Late afternoon we crossed into Montana. Eastern Montana is part of the high plains desert barren and yet exquisite. I felt like I had been driving for days when we finally hit Billings. Dale took a nap as I drove through Billings and past a couple of other towns. I finally woke her when I saw a sign that told me Big Timber was a mere seven miles away. All the way from Billings I had been staring at these dark clouds but as we entered Big Timber Dale informed me that they were the Crazy Woman Mountains. We arrived in BT at 11:58 on Sunday night.
The first part of my journey was over and the second was just beginning. I had no idea what awaited me but I knew- be it wonders, tribulations or heartrending sadness; that I would survive and be a better person because of it.