When I retired, I was one tired mama. I had been working more than full time for a number of years and had become an expert on being distracted, impatient and bossy. A friend was selling his 1988 Westfalia van, so we bought it and I started to plan a "short" getaway for the month after retirement.
I knew I wanted to drive south to evade the frosty Canadian winter temperatures. The trip evolved into a four month solo odyssey through dozens of U.S. national and state parks. It was transformative. I learned to slow down, to be fully present and to enjoy the solitude that woods and water offer to those brave - or foolish - enough to venture out on their own.
Erin joined me for a week of my trip. I picked her up in Las Vegas and after introducing her to "the Strip" (which I could live without....) we headed to Zion National Park to set up our tent.
I have travelled a fair bit, but Zion is one of my favourite places on earth and to share it with Erin was wonderful.We walked and climbed and cooked camp meals on the open fire. One of the highlights was a day trip to Bryce National Park, stopping for Erin's birthday supper that finished with 'ho-made pies and polygamy beers at the Thunderbird Restaurant.
I wanted to take a quilting project on the trip, as I knew I would have a lot of long evenings by the campfire. Quilting has preserved my heart through many a difficult or lonely season, as it provides so much time to be still and think, while at the same time being productive.
A favourite quote of mine comes from a pioneer woman who said, "I make my quilts warm to keep my family from freezing. I make them beautiful to keep my heart from breaking." I understand that sentiment...
So before I left, I found a quilt pattern I really loved (Storm at Sea) that consisted of 48 blocks. I cut the fabric pieces and put them into 48 Ziploc baggies. Each baggie made a block of 65 pieces. That's a total of 3,120 pieces - all hand sewn. Normally I would machine sew the blocks and hand quilt the finished top, but everything about this trip was slow!
My 1988 Westfalia set the pace, putt-putting up every hill. I passed a total of five vehicles in four months, while thousands of cars passed me, some rather angrily! There's something to be said for enjoying the world slowly so that you don't miss the gifts along the way - baby turkey vultures learning to fly, bobcats darting off your path, gas station burritos and warm conversations with fellow travellers.
When I got home, I put the 48 blocks together, quilted it up and it is on our bed now. I sleep under the weight of that memorable trip every night!