Abandoned Barn © 2013 Bo Mackison
The Ninth Day
Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 7:17 am. 41˚ and a cold drizzle.
I study the map with intention.
450 miles from my destination, and suddenly I yearn to be home.
Damp, the gray clouds spread before me, hugging close to the ground.
It’s farther than I want to drive, but I throw my preferences out the car window,
and phone home, “No stops today. I’ll be there by 3.”
Fog thickens, the spinning windmills disappear,
only the brown-black soil drenched with slick puddles is visible.
For distraction’s sake, I turn on the radio, listen to an interview in progress,
Maya Angelou recalls her youth, the words of wisdom she lives by,
I catch bits and pieces as I concentrate on steering
around wide load trucks and semi trucks, double strung.
“Love liberates love,” she says. “Doesn’t bind.”
I think of my four month stay in Arizona.
Angelou speaks her mother’s words: “I’d love to have you near me,
but if that isn’t possible – go.” The ultimate gift.
The exit sign for Rushmore, Minnesota shifts into view,
Red wing blackbirds dart from field post to billboard post.
“Love liberates love. Love doesn’t bind.” The radio informs.
I take a break from the steady rain, pull out my umbrella,
pace the pavement in front of a square rest-area building.
Winded and chilled, I wipe the raindrops from my arms and face,
resume my drive.
Piano notes fill the car’s interior, Bill Evans plays Peace Piece.
My chest tightens, the need to drive safely is stronger than my urge to weep.
It’s been a long drive, a long stay away.
A swarming flock of crows mobs a hawk.
Skies lighten, blue sky window,
only a glimpse before gray returns.
Glimpse of Sun © 2013 Bo Mackison
In central Minnesota, I exit I-90. Back roads cut the angle.
State highways wind through the countryside. Snow covers fields.
Shooting Star Scenic Highway.
At the VFW east of Adonis, I wait in a traffic jam.
Drivers park cars along the road, there’s a crowd
standing outside, neatly in a long line.
Flashing neon sign tells all — Chicken Dinner, 12 Noon to 2:00.
I munch on almonds and string cheese. My apple rolls on the floor mat.
Upper Iowa River at flood stage.
More music on the radio – Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers,
James Taylor crooning You Are My Only One.
I’ll Make Love to You by Boyz II Men.
I’m at flood stage, too.
MN 56, US 63 South, IA 9 East.
I zag across state lines, searching for short cuts.
Lionel Richie’s Truly plays on the radio. Really? Universe, I am listening.
I pull to the roadside, take deep breaths, open another bottle of water,
turn off the radio to concentrate on the road.
My breathing comes easier as I cross the Mississippi at Marquette
and two hawks dive from the limestone cliffs, land on a sliver of river island.
On the eastern shore, the governor’s sign welcomes me to Wisconsin.
At Mount Ida, in a 20 mile an hour zone, I study a woman
as she spray paints her yard’s dried seed heads a bright iridescent blue.
I smile. Then I grin.
An hour later, I pull into my driveway.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet by night. This poem is in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days. This is Day Nine, the final day of traveling. This entry is dedicated to Sherpa, who is close to my heart, wherever I am.
Entering the Badlands © 2013 Bo Mackison
Rapid City. 6:27 am. Sunny and 37˚F.
Filling the car’s gas tank is morning’s first priority – $2.94 a gallon,
cheapest gas on my travels. I buy sunglasses as I pay for my gas.
Standard equipment in Arizona, I’ve three lost pairs in the car,
and I’m driving due east into sunrise.
Streaks of angry orange flames decorate the cheapest pair that fit.
No matter, I buy them, in a hurry to find the back road to the Badlands.
I am the sole traveler on Highway 44 for miles, the country’s rough, desolate, beautiful.
The Badlands rise from prairie, stark layers of sediment,
rock ribbons in tan, gray, yellow, black.
Grasslands and badlands – a contrasting combination
of pale green growth and rock erosion. Soul soothing.
Badlands National Park © 2013 Bo Mackison
My hike is brief – an hour in, an hour out – I make the time.
Hiking in rocky wilderness is good for what ails me.
I celebrate with lunch, Indian Tacos at the Cedar Pass Cafe,
visit the Badlands National Park’s Visitor Center.
Roam through the twenty site campground – more family trips
come to mind. I am grateful I’ve held tight to these decades-old memories.
I’ve avoided the mindless Interstate roads for 2100 miles, but no longer,
Back roads that head east are no longer an option.
Roads in South Dakota head to outlying ranches or farms, or towns 50 miles to the south.
I pull on I-90 East, set the cruise control, and become traffic.
Destination: Sioux Falls, a decent dinner, a quiet hotel room.
On my last night on the road, I wade through puddles in the cold rain,
enter the nearest restaurant,
and order a steak. It comes with a first class salad bar -
bowls mounded with fresh veggies along a twenty-foot table.
Contentment eases into my being.
Tomorrow I will be in Wisconsin,
but for now, a walk in the rain soaks me in Midwestern welcome.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet by night. This is a poem in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days. This is Day Eight.
Aloe Fireworks © 2013 Bo Mackison
“People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating, we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation… Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.” ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel
I dubbed this bright coral aloe the ‘Fireworks Aloe’. To me, it is a beautiful reminder of CELEBRATION. Not the noisy, crowded celebrations we associate with national holidays or milestone achievements — parties, large gatherings, extravagant entertainment — but the small daily achievements that deserve celebrations, too.
The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. ~ Oprah Winfrey
These aloe buds are bright and beautiful. They carry a certain joie de vivre, the French phrase that conveys “an exultation of spirit.” The blossoms remind us to celebrate life frequently, passionately, reverently.
We often do the hard work, complete the frustrating assignment, then move on to our next task never pausing to look back and acknowledge our achievement. How wonderful to take a few moments and celebrate, with appreciation and reverence, a job well done or a task completed in a timely fashion.
“Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music.
Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music…”
~ lyrics from Three Dog Night
The reverse side of the CELEBRATION card offers questions/reflections for journal writing, art, and a call for action:
- Celebrations do not require expensive preparations or large chunks of time. A celebration marks the completion of a project, large or small. Reflect on the projects you’ve completed in the past few days – large or small. How many of these accomplishments did you acknowledge?
- In your journal keep a running list of your completed projects for a short period of time – perhaps a morning or a weekend. (Laundry, exercise, weeding the garden, writing a paper — they all count!) As you finish each project, celebrate. Think small Or not. Acknowledge with an “exultation of spirit”.
- Collect a few props to use when you want to celebration. Streamers. Upbeat music. A big sheet of paper and bright markers for writing yourself congratulatory messages. A kazoo for impromptu cheers. Add smiles and laughter. Use frequently!
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Bo is creating a deck of Desert Wisdom Cards for exploration and discovery, using the Sonoran Desert theme – its myths and stories, cultures and heritage, and the desert’s remarkable natural beauty and resources.
Pictograph by Native American Artist © 2013 Bo Mackison
Day 7 – Nebraska Panhandle to Black Hills
Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. 7:10 a.m. 34˚F. Sunny. Windy.
Smoke hangs in the air as I head north, leaving town.
Cook Oil Road.
Gas Engine Road.
Narrow valleys shrouded with heavy fog.
Wild turkeys on the roadside look ready for a butterball feast,
No kin to the elongated, scrawny fowl in Wisconsin.
Black calves peer though the wire fencing,
one has a pure white face, striking in his difference.
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument on the Nioroba River.
The ranger unlocks the Visitor Center, it’s early on a Friday,
He story tells his way through the exhibits, proud of
the people in the murals and their discoveries and kind deeds.
A calendar pictograph covers the wall – a peoples’ history. Striking.
Horses in Custer State Park © 2013 Bo Mackison
Trees appear in the distance as I drive
the battered road in Ogallala National Grasslands.
Antelope stare, then break into an elegant run.
Ardmore, Nebraska, nearly out-of-town before I notice it’s a ghost town.
Old houses and churches, broken windows in faded businesses, out of business signs,
old cars, but no people, no voices. No signs of movement, of living.
Driving turns hypnotic, I jerk alert when I see a curve sign.
Enveloped by soft greens, soft mounds, soft sounds, I continue –
Me, my car, the narrow asphalt road.
Historical Sign Ahead: Wood Stage Memorial Marker.
Cheyenne River, a narrow ribbon of brown.
Wild Horse Refuge. and the hills turn Crayola Crayon Green.
Cascade Falls, Black Hills National Forest.
Bison chili at the Blur Bison Cafe in Hot Springs.
Buffalo Right of Way © 2013 Bo Mackison
Wind Cave National Park,
I skip the cave tour and watch the buffalo instead,
often I wait, my foot on the brake, as the buffalo ignore me.
Huge beasts, shaggy and disheveled, shedding their winter coats.
Mount Rushmore from Afar © 2013 Bo Mackison
I detour through Custer State Park, relive memories of a family summer vacation
twenty years past; there was a pop up camper,
a hotel-preferring husband, three kids and me, all on our big explore.
Memory making moments, still precious, favorite childhood memories.
I pull out my camera when Mount Rushmore, framed in a narrow tunnel, takes me by surprise.
Flags at Mount Rushmore © 2013 Bo Mackison
Miles down the road, I hesitate.
Stop at Mount Rushmore National Monument? I’ve already seen it…
Once more memories crowd my thoughts, I stop, pay exorbitant parking fees,
and walk to the empty benches in front of the four Presidents.
That vacation long ago…
I remember the 9-year-old boy who sat next to me for a half day,
craning his neck, staring, studying
stunned into silence by the thought of a mountain, a sculptor and a chisel.
The memory alone was worth the stop.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet. This is a poem in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days. This is Day Seven.
Red Tulip © 2013 Bo Mackison
Celebrate the day, the hour, the minute, the moment.
Celebrate the sunshine, the blossom, the greening of the spirit.
Celebrate life and beyond.
Thanks to all the women in my life who love, live, and make a difference.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.
May First Snow in Colorado Springs © 2013 Bo Mackison
Day Six – Trekking to Nebraska’s Panhandle
A perfect excuse for a day sabbatical from the car was a freak May 1st storm
that followed me across Colorado and caught up with me in Colorado Springs.
Set with a quiet room, a lap pool, and a breakfast bar,
I planned an all day writing/photography retreat – revival for a weary traveler.
May 2nd and I head northwest, city rolls into country,
cars angled awkwardly in ditches remain from yesterday’s icy sleet.
Yellow road sign: No plowing. 7 pm to 5 am.
Nebraska Panhandle © 2013 Bo Mackison
I delight in beds of deep purple wildflowers on the roadsides.
Sheep, cows, horses share small pastures.
A trickling creek winds around thick-rooted bare branched tree relics.
1st Street, 2nd Street, 3rd Street, 4th Street.
Asphalt roads in the villages, county roads are dirt ruts.
Circuitous, the South Platte runs wild with snow melt,
and snow clumps around fence poles, in the tree thickets.
Scotts Bluff National Monument ©2013 Bo Mackison
Clouds are famously scattered, every second grader draws this sky.
Looking for coffee, I pause at the Prairie Cafe in Stoneham.
Abandoned, a sign — “closed, be back soon” — dangles from a cracked window.
I cross into Pawnee National Grassland, though grasses are rare in these parts.
The Grasslands are home to tanks, army helicopters,
I pull over for a camo caravan led by a siren-warning police unit.
Army games and cattle farms dominate my road view of National Grasslands.
With relief I leave Pawnee and cross the Colorado/Nebraska border.
Path into the Storm © 2013 Bo Mackison
My day’s destination – Scotts Bluff National Monument.
Scotts Bluff, sandstone rising 800 feet above the North Platte,
an eagerly sought landmark by travelers on the Oregon, Mormon and California trails.
And an eagerly sought landmark by this traveler, too.
I walk a rare mixed-grass prairie, listen to a ranger’s historical stories,
experience her passion for the land and I have time enough to explore.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet. This is a poem in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days. This is Day Five and Day Six.