I know it sounds crazy, but unless I could get pregnant or married, then I could not change my health care policy and as such I would have to travel back to Telluride to see a doctor. I put it off for far too long until it was August and I knew I’d better just go and see my doctor once and for all. So, I called and made an appointment explaining that I’d been paying for my healthcare all year because I’d officially moved there in the Fall of 2016 until the universe shared her own plans for me that meant returning, yet again, back to Houston for the fifteen thousandth time.
I was about to cancel the appointment since the A/C in my car wasn’t working thinking, I guess I’ll have to drive at night to get out of Texas? Oh, No. Until my mom offered her car for the trip and within 24 hours I was off like a jet plane to Paris.
After my last client on Thursday morning, I packed up the car and got carried away with the momentum, got in and just started driving. I drove all night. Giselle, my lovely canine companion kept giving me a funny look as she kept changing positions in the passenger seat. With divine planning, I found myself at the most amazing French bakery in Santa Fe, NM that I had discovered on my way home last year. It was perfection.
Leaving Giselle’s leash attached to the side walk, I soon turned to see that she had four waiters and waitresses around her with water and treats. I said to myself, “That girl can’t go anywhere without making a scene.” With a bag full of fresh baked items for myself, I am now waiting in line for the bathroom when a man is looking around for Giselle’s owner. “That’s me! I’m here. Her name is Giselle. Yes, she’s from Bastrop and she’s named after the super model for obvious reasons.” You can hear laughter as the group continues to play with G-girl. Lovingly eating my first chocolate croissant with my eyes closed, he comes up to me to share that he just needed to move Giselle out from the entry way and would it be ok if they fed her some water?
In my mind, I could hear my inner wisdom speaking out loud when the voice said, “I love field trips! And this is just the silliest reason to leave Houston and go back to Telluride just to see a doctor when there is nothing really wrong with me.” Or was there?
After filling my tummy with fresh goodness, I just knew that I needed to continue to Ruidoso, NM since I’d also brought along with me the ashes of
Ms. Zoe my beloved canine who had recently passed. I’d promised her that I’d scatter her ashes at the overlook in Sunshine Canyon outside of Boulder where we spent time camping off the grid last year. It was simply stunning there overlooking the little Switzerland trail and it had the best views of the sunset. Yes, I truly had both the girls with me for one last road trip.
Heading onto Ruidoso, NM Giselle and I take a long needed nap in the car while parked in a local hiking area. I kept remembering a single photo of Zoe asleep in the car as we moved from Austin to Evergreen, Colorado when she was just a puppy almost fourteen years ago. There was also a really cool store for dogs where I had purchased new collars for both her and another dog I had while I was married named Bella.
Walking into the first store in Ruidoso, NM I am reminiscing about the first time I was there almost fourteen years ago when the nice lady who owned the store says, “You must be talking about the store down the street, No Bones About It.” To which I was excited to hear about since I’d figured it was gone by now. And Yes, that was IT!
Excitedly, I headed out down the street a few blocks down to find the doggy store and walked in with Giselle. This place has everything and Giselle isn’t sure what to sniff first because there is so much. The sales lady at the front is oohing and aahing over Giselle’s eyes that are blue and brown like David Bowie when she asks me if she can have a treat. “Of course she can,” I replied, “That girl gets just about anything she wants.” The lady squats down to hand feed Giselle a treat when I start sharing my story about seeing a white deaf dog on Facebook that was in Big Springs, TX, calling about it and finding out that it had already been adopted by another rescue group before noticing that I think I drove through Big Springs, TX. Looking over at the lady, she is just mesmerized by Giselle as she continues to feed her treats.
Looking around, I share my story about visiting this place on my way to Colorado about fourteen years ago with little Zoe and now it seems that I’m here with her in spirit as we are headed back to Boulder to her final resting place. Walking and talking and noticing that I’m about to cry, the lady is now standing looking at me when she stares off into the distance and there is an awkward silence. She breaks the silence with a big sigh and starts telling me that she too had to lose an older dog earlier this year and our stories have many similarities. We are now talking face to face over the counter when she points to a photo of her beloved dog on the wall when I finally ask her, “Are you the original owner of this store?” and she replies, “Yes.” We both stop talking and acknowledge each other’s loss in a moment of understanding. Thinking to myself after leaving with a new bag of the special treats that she had been feeding Giselle, I am thankful that Zoe led me back to Ruidoso where I had the opportunity to meet the amazing lady that has owned that cool store for all those years. I said to myself, “Thank you Zoe, I love you.”
While camping that night, I met my neighbor who was a guy on his bike camping for his first time as he was headed up to Casper, WY to see the Eclipse with 100% totality. He invited me to head the same way even though reservations for just about everything was completely full. I went to sleep wondering if I should head to Casper or not and knew I’d know in the morning once I’d gotten a full nights sleep. The next morning, I woke up knowing that it was time to head up North and with enough time to stop by my favorite store, Alfalfa Market before heading up Sunshine Canyon to give Zoe a proper send off.
Giselle and I drove North through Colorado and soon found some traffic that we couldn’t figure out. Finally, as we entered Boulder the signs were clear. Welcome Students! Ah, it was all the students returning to school. Plus, this was the exact time I was driving through a year ago and I was excited to feel as if I were a student again. Note to self: Make sure to apply for grad school here. Next year you could be officially coming up again to move to Boulder. Thinking to myself, “Well that makes total sense.”
Stopping at the ultimate store on the planet where I met amazing people as soon as I get out of the car before even picking out the perfect food items to dine on for the next few days, I am beyond happy. Setting up a picnic for both myself and Giselle outside on the patio tables, I am surrounded by cyclists and students all about my age and for the first time since I left Texas, no one is looking at my car driving hippy lounge outfits as anything but normal. Note to self – This is your new Mecca. Dining on freshly roasted beets and cherries, High Country Kombucha, coconut chips, guacamole and salads, I have to test everything out at least once. I’m literally in Heaven, even though I have a hard time opening an item and lose a few perfectly roasted cherries to the ground.
Now that we are happily satiated and the ice chest is full of great food and fresh ice, we head up Mapleton Street and into Sunshine Canyon. A flood of memories ensues reminding me of all the great times we had last year camping out here for about a week. Remember when you were cleaning out the ice chest and the baked chicken disappeared? completely by the girls?! OMG. Or when you visited the Ashram one morning and got to use their bathroom? How about meeting all the Damanhurian’s from Italy and taking a tour of all the local spirals? Wow. And I am still trying to digest that book on Spiritual Physics… Talk about meaty. Sandy, you’ve got some life. Seriously. And it’s so totally gorgeous up here. As I continue driving, the road turns into a windy dirt road, before we fly through Gold Mine which is a spec on the map, before the road changes yet again back to dirt and then I had to slam on the brakes. There is the little sign for the dispersed campground that weaves back towards the overlook you promised Zoe.
More memories come rushing in, when I slowly creep around the obviously trimmed bush or tree that left scratch marks all along the side of your car from last year. Don’t want to do that again. Passing the space that we called home last year, I can see a big group of young people checking us out as we pass and I wave. They all smile. Then, turning left in a little off roading path, the car goes a bit crazy and bounces all over when we come to the bottom of the dirt road to see a couple reading books and relaxing, probably wondering what I am doing here. Then, I head up to the overlook and park by the tree to the left where so many others have parked and camped for years. We get out and as soon as we do, I am conscious about surveying the area for bears. I learned my lesson from last year when we were sniffed in the middle of the night by an injured mama bear out scavenging for food with her cub. Note to self: THAT will never happen again. No Way. Little did I know that I had perched my camp directly in between the Rainbow people’s overflowing trash and the Bears! Talk about bear medicine, when Spirit and I have an agreement that I am not to be in scary situations and as such, I was sleeping with my arms around both the girls and just checked out until morning when I heard about all the dogs barking while the bears visited. No thank you. I like my scalp exactly where it is. Getting my head sniffed by the bear in the middle of the night is as close to the bears as I will ever need to get.
Seeing the sun reminded me of the images I took last year and it hadn’t changed one bit. Turning back to the car, I found the hammer and screw driver I’d brought especially for this occasion. I also found Zoe’s beautiful little box with her shiny nameplate and started walking up the trail to the overlook. I started talking to Zoe because I knew she was there with me. I said, “Zoe I know you are here! Thank you for reminding me how much fun we always had together. We went everywhere together. From Texas to Colorado to Switzerland and France and then back to Houston and then back to Austin and then back to Houston and then back to Colorado. I’m sorry that I couldn’t let you go sooner. I know you were in pain. But we are here now. I know this is your place. I’ve always sang the Sunshine song to you and now we are in your Valley.” I came to the cliff and looking out over the incredible valley I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be in this space and time. I sat down and turned the box over to unscrew the four screws that opened the box. Out came a bag with Zoe’s name on it again, but shaking it I could not hear any items that once held her knee together so I secretly wondered if it were really her. Then, I took a video of the entire area and the tears started flowing. Opening the bag, I started singing the Sunshine song as I apprehensively stuck my hand in the bag to grab handfuls of her ashes and scattered them in the air and over the cliff. After a full hand fulls, I reached back into the bag and pulled out the metal connector with one little screw still in it and decided to keep them both. But I took a big hand full and threw it up into the air that seemed to come and get it from me and also throw it back on me as I closed my eyes. “Thank you, Zoe, I know I am blessed by you. To have had all those years with you when I had given up trying to have kids and my first husband. First I had knee surgery, then you had knee surgery. Then, I had cancer and then you had cancer. I’ve had to learn how to sleep alone for the first time in my life. Since Giselle is a watch dog, she does not like sleeping in the same room with me and I’ve stopped tricking her into staying with me. If she wants to go, then I let her go. I’m fine. Now. By the end of the ceremony, I was covered with ashes and the bag was empty, but I put it back in the box and screwed it back together. I know I’ll be back. That’s for sure.
While stopping to relax at the big fire pit and letting the sun shine on my face, Giselle came up to me to offer her paw. She knows exactly what is happening, that dog is so smart and gorgeous. I took some time to hug Giselle while trying to decide if I wanted to spend the night here and I got a resounding no. Nope, we are leaving and continuing towards Casper Mountain. I packed up the car and we headed back out of the campground when I could not make it past the steep incline with deep ruts and after backing up and trying a few times, I noticed that the couple reading were now walking towards me. I pulled up the E brake and got out with Giselle still in the back seat and exclaimed, “I need help! Feel free to take the car up and out.” As I threw up my hands and they both smiled. I forget their names, but the boyfriend got in as Giselle sniffed him and then smiled at me and actually, I turned around and put my hands up to my ears saying to the girlfriend, “I can’t watch.” She is facing the incline as I am looking back down towards the path when I see the car leave and then after not hearing any horrible noises, she looks a bit tense and then she turns to me and says, “He made it.” “Alleluia,” I said as I gave her a hug. I turned and we walked up the crazy path as he gets out of my car and I give him a bit hug also. I thanked them both and got in to continue working my way out of the campground and back onto the dirt road.
Back in Boulder, we park by the river and take food and our towels out to chill in the cold water and finally nap on the plush grass with all the other people as the sun is starting to go down. Maybe I could sleep here tonight? No, I’ll keep going since the traffic is building for the Eclipse and it would be best to get there early. However, the best part about this story is how I felt once I woke up again. I found the PhD programs for CU Boulder and was totally inspired to continue my venture to return as an official student and that made me happy. I hadn’t noticed how much I’d been grieving over the loss of my faithful friend and confidant, which was considerably much harder than mourning for my first husband. Zoe had been there with me through so many of life’s up and downs and we had a beautiful time. I just wished dogs could live longer. I can see her prancing around and running and playing like we did every Friday in the Hiking group. Being in nature is where I can breathe easily and the sky is where I call home.