Sabbatical Journal: Visiting family and friends

Camping near Baker City, Oregon.

My six-day retreat at Christ of the Desert Monastery in New Mexico was part of a 19-day trip I took through the American West. Driving 4,000 miles in my little Honda Fit, I crossed parts of seven states and visited my family and friends.

On the way to the monastery, I visited my friends Tom and Jean McCarthy in Farmington, New Mexico. I hadn’t seen them since 1979, and I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t written them since about 1990. Even though it’s been a long time since we’ve been together, they seemed exactly the same as I remember them. Tom and I were close friends with two other guys in high school, and seeing him was like going back in time.

After my retreat, I traveled to Colorado, where I visited my family. I saw my mother, my brother and sisters, and all my nephews and nieces except for my nephew, Noah, in Kiev, Ukraine. It was great to see my mom, who will be 100 years old in December, and my sister, Betty. Betty makes it possible for mom to live in her own home, although it’s getting more and more difficult.

In Boulder, Fort Collins, and Broomfield, I visited my brother Tom and his wife, Lora, and my older sister, Mary. I was able to have coffee with my nephew Ben, another coffee with my nephew Will, and I had dinner with my sister, Mary, and her son, David, and his girlfriend, Annie. My niece Annie Jo gave me a tour around the CSU campus in Fort Collins where I attended school 1972-74.

I stopped in Phippsburg, Colorado, near Steamboat Springs, and stayed overnight with my niece, Elena, and her husband, Dustin, before travelling on. It was great to see all my family. It makes me feel connected to them even though I live a long ways away.

I continued toward home, but on the way back I stopped off to see my friends Fred and Pogo West. Fred and Pogo were partners with me when I was a tree thinner in Southeast Alaska, 1981-1982. I hadn’t seen them since then, and it was wonderful to re-connect and catch up on their lives. Fred has liver cancer, and he’s undergoing radiation treatments.

I camped out each night while traveling, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have a complete camping kit, including a roomy tent, a homemade kitchen set, and comfortable bedding. Several nights I was able to find an out-of-the-way place to camp with no fee, which makes the trip much more affordable. I love camping out in the great outdoors.

Having time to visit my family and friends has allowed me to reflect on my life’s journey. All these people are part of my life, and seeing them helps me put my life together and make sense of it. I’m grateful for my life’s journey and all the people I have been given to know and to love.

After 19 days away, I was certainly glad to come home to Katy and our cozy home. It’s true what they say, “There’s no place like home.”

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