Home again. Home again. Jiggety jig.
After a month on the road, I can tell that I’ve been farther than the market to buy a fat pig. While I was gone, I primarily worked on a writing project at an artist residency in Wyoming. Mark Twain said travel has the power to liberate the vandal. Perhaps it does so by teaching new things. During my time away, I learned so much.
I learned how to roll a snowman like I had seen in movies. The weather was the most obvious difference between here and there. I did not expect to go away in April and come home in May, having made multiple snowmen on my adventure. I had seen people in movies rolling snow and it making itself into a ball. I am pleased to say the technique works. The 50-plus degree difference in temperature between here and there was impressive.
I learned that even though spending $35 to sleep in a so-called Himalayan salt cave may seem ridiculous, in fact, I took one of the loveliest naps on record in said salt cave. (In the same afternoon, I learned that a salt cave sauna is not for me.)
I learned there is something special about connecting with an old friend met at summer camp when you were both 17. We had not seen each other since.
I learned that you always stop and ask the street poet to write a poem — and telling the street poet about your friend and her telling him about you for said poem makes it even more fun.
I learned that in Saratoga, a small town in Wyoming, the local municipal hot springs is the place to hang out. It’s two pools of water, one of which is usually 118 degrees, which feels great when the snow is falling. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with on-site dressing rooms. My new friends and I went many times. We met old and young, people from as far away as Australia and as near as around the block, ranchers and students, firefighters and their mothers. The hot springs were a wonderful "Everyman" experience.
I learned that if one goes to the municipal hot springs, he or she should hold on tight to the railings going in because the steps are slippery. I also learned that if one goes to the hot springs on a Wednesday night and accidentally leaves a nice jacket and silk shirt hanging on a knob in the dressing room and then doesn’t realize the items are missing until one is hurriedly packing to get out of town before an oncoming late-season snowstorm five days later, never fear. In this world today, miracles are still possible. Going back to the hot springs dressing room on Monday morning proved that. The beautiful jacket and silk shirt were still hanging on the exact knob where they had been since Wednesday night.
I learned that making new friends is as possible and as wonderful as it ever was — and new friends teach you things. Seven other artists were with me on the residency. Five of them were American. One was Canadian, and one was from South Korea. My new friend Maurice G. du Berger from Montreal, taught me how to make a no-knead bread that is beautiful enough to make my heart sing. I will put this knowledge to good use.
I learned the value of a humidifier.
I was surprised to learn that I did not miss driving.
I learned that sitting down to dinner with the same folks every night and each person sharing his or her highlight of the day builds a community. The little ritual is not to be underrated. Taking the time to give each person at the table the chance to reflect and share is powerful stuff. Even if you think this wouldn’t work for your group, I implore you to give it a try for multiple nights. It’s more powerful than you might expect. My month away re-emphasized the importance and sacredness of sitting around a table and sharing a meal.
I learned that I missed my family and friends, but on the other hand, they made it just fine without me! Even so, I’m glad to be back.
I learned that taking big trips is one of my favorite things but coming home again is better still.