Apparently this is the state for lovers and is reputed to be the happiest in the union. Green trees, rolling hills and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The greenery is not as intense as it is in Tennessee. Can I say normal green? Not so overwhelming. Old farms dot the landscape and grow corn, cotton and other plants. It is idyllic in a surreal way that I find hard to put into words. As we were driving I kept asking myself, “People still live like this?”
There is a sense of history seeping out of the landscape. You start passing places named after the Presidents who lived there. Battle fields where famous battles were fought are pointed out so you can go and walk among the blood and death in your mind. Indian names surround you – as the names of rivers, streets and towns while a small voice in your head reminds you that most of the tribes these words are from are extinct as a direct result of our American ancestors. About halfway through Virginia with these thoughts rolling through my mind I was quietly freaking out. We stopped for gas, more water and a potty break at a gas station just outside of Natural Bridge State Park. Do not confuse this with the national park of a similar name we were told. Daniel and Xander went to explore the facilities and I took the doggies for a walk.
There was a train track behind the station like you see in the movies, the track emerging from the trees for a brief moment and then disappearing back into them as it winds around a curve. I of course wanted a picture. I really wanted to get right on the track but didn’t want to end up like those Darwin award recipients who stand stupidly on the track while the train comes rushing through to squash them. In my investigation I found the remnants of an old crossing. Taking this as a sign, the puppies and I looked both ways and crossed. On the other side there was a gnarly old tree with what I am sure was a no trespassing sign but since the paper was torn and missing, I ignored its implicit message.
The pavement of this old road disintegrated as we walked into the woods. Asphalt turned to gravel which turned to plant life over growing an old trail. The puppies and I ventured forth finding ripe blackberries on the bush, thorny wild roses, pine and oak. Someone had to come through here every few months at least to keep the plants at bay as much as they were, I wondered who and why. A few minutes more and I found myself in a clearing with a single white cinder block building. Rabbits were still and frozen on this perfectly trimmed and tended lawn waiting to see if I was friend or foe. A square lawn surrounded this building of no windows and 1 door. No-one could see this from the train or from the gas station, it was too far back behind the woods. Heck, they wouldn’t even see the trail. How odd. I am sure there is some simple rational explanation for its purpose but at that moment, that it remain a mystery and special was important. Somehow this exploration grounded me. I was able to focus on this bizarre discovery and somehow everything was OK. The puppies and I walked back to find Daniel and Xander looking for us. I called out and showed them my find.
Turns out – Xander had been looking for somewhere private to pee so it was perfect! A neat adventure for all, a pee crisis averted and it was time to get back on the road.
The rest of our journey was uneventful. The new day found us driving into the area that would now be our home. I was struck by subtle things. The colors of the cars – in Arizona they are primarily white and what ever color will show evidence of the dust and sun. Here, the cars are black or gray. If those two colors happened to be unavailable the day you purchased your car, you probably ended up with white. I was concerned about the window tint on our van – I shouldn’t have worried. Important people in their important black Suburbans sport a tint that would do a Tucson summer day proud! Occasionally someone will drive by with their mid-life-crisis red car and I want to follow them to find out why they chose to make this bold public statement. I want to know if perhaps they find themselves repressed in other areas and this is their cry for help! Or maybe they just really like red, I don’t know but there are so few – it begs the question.
People in Tucson are just more relaxed. Here, you feel the hum of purpose, and stress. Even the cicada’s and crickets sound different. I was having another quiet panic attack when we discovered a Trader Joe’s. Daniel parked and I ran in. I stood for a moment just inside the door basking the familiar. Thank heavens for Trader Joe’s! I could walk down an isle and find what I found in Tucson. I found an employee and laughingly told him of my gratitude for Trader Joe’s and was reminded – like Dorothy, that I was not in Kansas anymore. The store may be the same, but the people are not. He was a very nice gentleman but nonplussed by my expression. He was busy you see.
Yesterday I dragged Daniel to three different houses I found after picking him up from work. I told him of another I wanted but which was completely impractical for our needs. Together we decided on one and sent thank you emails to the other agents/landlords for their time. We filled out the application this am and held our breath until mid afternoon when the landlady finally called with the news she was accepting us as her tenants in spite of our lack of credit. She said, “I called all your references and they were of course all glowing.” YAY!
So now, our new life really begins. New neighbors, a new culture to learn and a new home. I still get small echos of panic every once in a while at the thought of all that is ahead of us, but then I remember Dave and the lesson he taught me.
“One thing at a time. Don’t look forward, don’t look back. Just focus on what is in front of you and you’ll get through fine.” I take a deep breath and everything is OK.