Taking Stock: A type of year-in-review, three weeks late. As per everyone's January tradition, I was streamlining my digital footprint and ran across a handful of photographs I'd never had the opportunity to share. (Many of them, admittedly, are from roadtrips taken in June and August, or, five of the best weeks of my life.) Looking at the images individually evoked memories I'd nearly forgotten, and it was the loveliest exercise to get those reminiscings on "paper."
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March 13th, 2015, Drumheller, Alberta
I'm with Jacob in Calgary this weekend and we've driven out to the Albertan badlands on an unseasonably warm Friday. His arm is slung casually over the steering wheel and everything feels new and exciting. The wind blows loud through the open windows and Slow Black River sets the scene. That night we find ourselves in a town of 33 people at the Last Chance Saloon, or, the only establishment with any sign of life. The waitress shares loud banter with every table, all of which hold people she seems to know. I keep forgetting I'm in a different country and then I notice an difference in accent or mannerism and I'm surprised all over again.
June 7th, 2015, Big Sur, California
Last night there was nary an empty campsite to be found, so we picked a side road and followed the windy pavement in search of a secluded spot to pitch the tent. About three miles up, we suddenly broke through the dense blanket of night fog. The thick mist was spread below us like a second ocean, framed by shadowy mountains and the starriest velvet sky. I pinched myself at the sight and exclaimed to Jacob that it felt like we'd just entered Peter Pan's Neverland. Now it's a bright morning and as we descend the mountain, a tiniest touch of the fog remains. It seems it wasn't a dream after all. We eat yogurt and granola and California strawberries that taste like candy.
June 10th, 2015, Bodega Bay, California
We left San Francisco this morning and I took the opportunity to play this song as we drove down Van Ness. Now we're sixty miles north of the Golden Gate and the afternoon is waning. Jacob pulls off Highway 1 and we get out of the Jeep to take in the blue waters and the tiny surfers bobbing in the waves. We agree that we'll camp here tonight. We seek out the campground host for firewood, who also offers (mostly unsolicited) advice on camping in California. I put on leggings under my jeans and pull on another sweater and scarf. Jacob teases me for getting cold so easily. We wade through grass dunes to the beach, which is eerily misty and quiet save for the wind. I realize that it's been a year since I left for Kenya.
June 12th, 2015, Sunset Bay State Park, Oregon
Jacob and I set up our tent in a lush corner of the campground, and then go out to find dinner. When we return, the sun is setting over the aptly-named Sunset Bay. Racing against the clock, we run a half mile across a cliff in search of a better view. It's something of a dream: getting up there all out of breath, golden light filtering through the trees, the sea crashing and churning below. Jacob lifts me onto his shoulders so I can better photograph the salty spray.
July 16th, 2015, Tulsa, Oklahoma
I'm living downtown in a 15th-floor studio apartment this week. Looking down at the city, everything seems so quiet and orderly. In the evening heat, as I walk Sadie the dog around the block, I pretend I am in New York City. I continue my metropolitan fantasies as I ride the elevator back up to the loft.
August 8th, 2015, Santa Barbara, California
It's a Saturday morning in Santa Barbara and we've managed to come during the annual Spanish fiesta. We find a Trader Joe's and buy supplies for a picnic on the beach, and certain members of the family are embarrassed by Dad's loud proclamations that we're from Oklahoma. The sandy beaches are warm and I watch my siblings splash in the Pacific for the first time. I can't believe I'm back in California again.
August 15th, 2015, Zion National Park
Jacob shakes me awake at the first sign of dawn. I groan and roll over, then begrudgingly get out of my sleeping bag after a quiet pep talk ("you're going to regret missing the sunrise!"). Outside the air is crisp and sweet and the rocks that surround us are beginning to glow. He's right, I would have regretted missing the sunrise. In pre-coffee silence, Jeremiah, Jacob, and I set off on the trail. When we reach the top of the canyon thirty minutes later, the cliffs are saturated with color. We meet a lone hiker at the top, a man recently retired who travels the States with his wife. We never find out his name, so we name him George.
August 16th, 2015, Grand Canyon National Park
It's a Sunday and we hike to a secluded spot with a view of the canyon. Dad holds up the hymnal and we all sing together, and we even have Holy Communion in the sanctuary of nature. Later we go on a drive to different view points of the canyon and it's beautiful but somehow hard to grasp. The sunset tonight is all dusty shades of pink and orange as it slides along the rocky cliffs.
August 17th, 2015, Monument Valley
The air blows soft and hot and we're looking down into the valley that is home to so many western movies. If I didn't know better, I'd think we were in Europe--I hear more German than English from other tourists. I sit on a ledge and let my feet dangle over the edge towards the rocky desert. Goosebumps rise on my arms despite the heat and Jacob wraps his arms around me. It's our last night on the road together and I'm wistful.
September 5th, 2015, Banff National Park
It's prime bear country here, a fact I won't tell my mother until I'm back safe and sound. The fog hangs damp and thick and it only adds to the mystique. A tour bus pulls up at Peyto Lake at the same time that we do, and we opt to wait for them to leave before we get out of the car. I messily peel a tangelo in the passenger seat while the drizzle turns to the snow.
September 25th, 2015, Tulsa, Oklahoma
It is my sister Mariam's 12th birthday, and I am freshly 19. The two of us go out for chai and shopping and the sunshine is still so warm. She has changed this past year, become more friend than sister. We make a pact to live close by when we are grown with our own families, or at least get together as often as we can. I feel like myself.