The fire was still crackling, the mist falling, the ocean still playing dodge ball with the beach, but we were leaving Yachats. We thought we had one more night in the house and would spend it planning the next few days of the trip, but there was a mix-up. The cleaning crew showed up at 11:30 and we were out by 12. I couldn’t tell you how Mr. Jackpot took it because he just started packing. There were a few halfhearted attempts on both our parts to decide whether we wanted to go “north, east or south”.
Had our connection not been nearly severed, I would have been more adventurous and willing to just take off in any direction to a destination unknown. Absolutely. That’s a day well-spent in my book. But my intuition told me that Mr. Jackpot was not presently wired for spontaneity. This wrinkle would have become another problem for him to solve. Along with all the other work-related problems being phoned in to him. I wonder what they would have done had he been in the Peruvian jungle with no cell service? Can’t a guy take a vacation anymore?
In the moment I felt pulled by the desire to have Mr. Jackpot make the decision and for me to say that I wanted to go home. I was game to continue on, but I really just felt we should head back to Marin. I only wish I had said it in such a way that it didn’t become a mad dash to get there. But I’m grateful I said it. I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to go back, but I knew I wasn’t anywhere near 100% sure I wanted to continue this trip. I felt like I was coaxing a feral cat out of a basement through a broken window and into broad daylight by trying to get this simple sentence out of my mouth:
Maybe we should just head back to Marin.
And off we went. No discussion, no playing out the options. We hit the road.
I’ve made no secret of my trophy case full of Bad Passenger of the Year awards. You could be the best driver ever; blow one stop sign and I’m sitting on the edge of a razor blade the rest of the way. Thankfully, Mr. Jackpot had proven to be a very competent driver. Capable of spying a Cooper’s Hawk while navigating the swells and corkscrews of west Marin roads without having me hyperventilate and hurl which, in combination, could be really gross.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself still conscious while barreling down the 5, in the rain, coming up on 18-wheelers like we were the bigger one, as we climbed until the rain turned to snow and then snaked our way back down again, applying the brakes as if their use was more costly than than the car itself. I occupied myself by freezing to death and taking in the insanely beautiful landscape as it whipped by.
You know how Mother Nature was primping her tail feathers and doing her best to coax me into her arms throughout this trip? Well, she pulled out all the stops on the harrowing and nearly silent drive. The sun was setting behind me, rain changed to mist as I sat an inch from my window, marveling at row upon row of mountain ranges slotted one behind the other like set pieces on a stage. I lost myself in the depth of it all.
I can say for certain that I have never seen so many shades of green. From the pale and thin leaves of wildflowers to the inky green foliage of the trees that coated the mountains, except where a swath of deciduous trees kept busy nursing their new leaves along, or where the hills had been logged. (It made me wince to see that, but I understand why it happened. I just hope it stops.) The grey sky only made the green more sultry.
Then something showed up that the trees and the mountains and the setting sun and the snow-capped peaks to our east couldn’t compete with:
I am not making this up. Directly in front of me, stretching across the highway, was a double rainbow. The larger one was to the rear, its colors distinctive and bright. The smaller was a little paler but perfectly clear. And I was perched on the edge of my seat completely amused and besotted by the clever and magical nature of Nature. I was so taken it never occurred to me to take a picture.
As we flew like a plane down the 5, with the visions of rainbows in my head, I found myself on another plane altogether. I could see and hear and feel all the 3D stuff that was going on – Mr. Jackpot’s supreme stress, the strained communication between us, the upended plans, me returning to Marin and The Genius is staying in the house with the boys, the aggressive driving – but my being was on another plane, unaffected by it. Which does not mean not engaging with it. Or not learning from it. Or trying to understand why I created it. I just wasn’t letting it all run amok and twist my insides like a barber pole. Which is a good thing because I would have shattered, given my clenched position in the passenger seat as Mr. Jackpot took his aggression out on the pavement.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad we weren’t going 65 and stopping at every Cracker Barrel. I just wanted to live to see another day. So when the rain was replaced by shearing winds in the flat lands about 50 miles from Sacramento, I made a pact with myself that if he didn’t slow down in 5 minutes I was going to ask him to. And if he didn’t slow down then, I was going to ask him to drop me off in Sacramento. The winds gusted, rocking his SUV like friends playing a joke on a lip-locked couple parked on Lover’s Lane.
30 minutes later I asked him to slow down. It took an extra 25 to minutes for me to state my need. I could pass that off on the fact that we had spoken but for about 20 minutes collectively in the 8 hours that had elapsed on our 10 hour drive – it takes a while to warm up the old vocal cords. Or I could call it like it was: He was super uptight and I didn’t want to deal with his reaction to my request. A request that he was sure to read as a criticism on his driving.
(As I reread those last two sentences I see the obvious – who am I focused on? Mr. Jackpot. What am I worried about? Mr. Jackpot’s reaction. Who am I judging? Mr. Jackpot. That was the struggle within then, too. I had to repeatedly release thoughts about him, why he was so clenched, why he seemed mad at me, why wasn’t he talking, and focus on me, keeping myself centered and aware, and exploring why I created this experience.)
He slowed down. And drove 5-10 miles an hour UNDER the speed limit.
I honestly couldn’t believe it. I asked him to drop me off at a hotel. He didn’t reply. At this point it became surreal, but at least I knew I wasn’t going to die. Unless we got rear-ended, which was a distinct possibility. I told him I was looking for an exit with a hotel but if he saw one first to not hesitate and leave the freeway. I’d make my own way home. Then I called him on what I felt was an over-reaction to a justifiable request. The winds were truly wicked that night. Driving was a hazard for that reason alone. Why did he respond to my request to slow down in such a fashion? I didn’t even know how to describe it except to say it was immature. Which I did.
His reply was something right out of the handbook he used with his former partner. I could tell that it was a reaction that was not meant for me, but meant for him to feel and then later to look at. I let it go.
Because I was traveling safely in the slow lane (HUGE relief even if we were driving like Ethel after her 90th birthday party), I kicked back and relaxed. By this time we had hit Sonoma county and I was in sniffing distance of a bed in a hotel room in Marin where I would be alone. I was beaming for having expressed my needs, for being able to unclench my sphincter, and because I knew that I had four days ahead to go inward and see how I’ve morphed over the last week.
When we arrived at my house, I grabbed my bags and threw them in the back of my car. We stood 10 feet apart and I said,
Thanks. Good night.
I opened my door and climbed in, started her up, cranked Train and actually hollered, Yee-haw! For real. I yelped with joy. I felt free. No offense to Mr. Jackpot. I don’t hold anything against him, I’m not judging him, I’m not mad at him. I am grateful for his presence in my life, I am so stoked that I was able to gorge on the stellar accomplishments of nature, and I really appreciate all that he did to make this trip happen. I yelped for joy because I was given a supremely intense opportunity to internally strut my stuff while Nature externally strutted hers. We both aced it.
It’s safe to say that the drive home from Yachats was one of the biggest interpersonal challenges I have experienced outside of my moments with The Genius. But even compared to them, this one was significant because it wasn’t The Genius. This was an opportunity to see if I really was capable of aligning, balancing and grounding myself in the midst of upheaval with another person, a man. I was able. And more than willing.
Good thing because I sense a major transition coming, I know I will continue to have potent encounters, and I have to trim down the time it takes me to speak my needs or I will never summit life.