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(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

The night was definitely not sultry—in fact, it felt rather cool for late August. Though we had hoped to travel and arrive in daylight, we had not made it onto the unfamiliar road until much later than planned. Along the way we encountered drenching rains as we snaked up and down mountains though the skies cleared before nightfall. Soon after, we descended into what we assumed was a plain, so obscured by fog that it could have been on the moon for all we could see. Our headlights lost so much of their effectiveness that we turned our attention to watching for wildlife appearing on the road.

In the midst of that eerie solitude, I received a call from the person watching our dogs back home. As I focused on my call, my husband Sherman asked, “Wait—what did that sign say? This is a really long bridge—you don’t suppose it’s over the Rio Grande River, do you?” I turned my gaze, but saw nothing but sheets of mist surrounding our car.

Usually we prepare better for a vacation and know more about the place we are visiting. But we were at an once-in-a-lifetime crossroads and thus had little time to plan for our short weekend stop—which fell in the After category. Before we had packed up our only children—twins—and their associated “stuff” in two cars and left them, all that stuff, and one car at college together. The three hours of sleep prior to the initial more than six-hour road trip (thanks to road construction!) and the following two days packed with orientation sessions as well as obligatory trips to Wal-Mart and such were enough to disorient even forward-thinking people, let alone people such as us.

The most we’d prepared for the After phase was by making a motel reservation in a location not too far off from the return path to our home. Life as we knew it was over and we were clueless to envision how it might look in the days ahead, let alone in the months ahead.

We barely made it to the resort town in time to grab dinner. But after we did and before we fell into near catatonic sleep, we pulled out the local guidebook. Imagine traveling to Taos, New Mexico and not knowing about the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge—so that was what we’d crossed over. We felt as if we were neither here nor there, especially since we had seen little more than the yellow line running through the middle of the highway.

That night when we had returned to our very large motel after eating, cars had spilled from nearly every motel parking space. The next morning, when we awoke a little after 9:00 or so, I looked out and saw that but five or so cars—including ours—remained. I turned to Sherman and announced, “I think the Rapture has happened and we’ve been left behind.” Well, contrary to my view from the motel window, there were still some tourists around town, though many more seemed to have raced back to wherever they came from in order to clock in at work on Monday morning.

We had a little more time before returning to our new reality. Instead we headed out to see that infamous bridge in the sunshine and heat of day. Wow, just wow. The statistics read 1,273’ across and 564’ down to the water flowing below at the bottom of the gorge. I mistakenly thought this view was the true picture of our new future—one where we could see where we had been and where we were going and stay safely on track.

Turns out that was the view/road/bridge not taken. The initial peaceful four or five months of After lulled us into thinking we knew our road map.

But the twelve-month period that followed showed us the real view was more like the one we encountered on that foggy night. The road that appeared so straight was not. It would have been more than enough to have encountered the murky path of losing my mother, uncle, and our two dogs before another year had passed. It would have been more than enough to experience injury and pain so life-altering as to change the patterns of my days and ways. And, it would have been more than enough for one of our children to leave that initial college within that year and the other at the next semester’s end.

By now, we are three years into After. Though our loved ones are still gone, time has mellowed our losses. Treatment and hard work—and that ever-present time—have healed my body. Each of our kids is finding a new path, our daughter studying away in a new closer location and our son living in our home while working and continuing his studies.

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

When we were looking for an affordable and enjoyable location for celebrating twenty-five years of marriage, we were drawn back to Taos. Before I returned, I didn’t really understand that part of the unfinished business I felt had less to do with sights unseen in Taos and more to do with returning to cross that bridge.

As we rushed out to watch the sun set from the bridge, nothing obscured the view. The light was so flat as to be underwhelming. Yet, the sky and land stretched out ahead of us in all directions and darkness had not quite descended to the bottom of that deep gorge. This time I walked with purpose, unlike during my first foot-crossing—I knew that lots of scary things lay below, but I was done with letting them scare me. Though it was long past time for a do-over, I felt compelled to ritualize this crossing.

So I did. I made that walk across and back into a prayer. With the wind whipping through my hair, I said goodbye to the bad and what couldn’t be changed, then stepped off to start again.

Attraversiamo—ancora.

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

(Read 2010 Attraversiamo post.)

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

About a week before taking our kids to college, Christiana and I went to see Eat, Pray, Love at the movie theater. We didn’t have time to go in the midst of preparing for the move, but reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love together had been part of Christiana’s recovery from some very tough times and we knew we wanted to see it side by side before our time living in the same town and home ran out.

The movie cannot convey all the nuances of what the book is about, but those of us who have read the book know more about the depth of the story, as well as many of the inside jokes. For me, Eat, Pray, Love reminds me how my daughter was able to begin to understand that another person’s recovery and journey toward a new way of living meant that she, too, could do the same.

At one point in the book/movie, Gilbert learns an Italian word that expresses where she is on her journey—attraversiamo. “Let’s cross over.” And she does—with enthusiasm.

Well, that’s where our family is right now. Last week around this time we were gathering up and loading Christiana’s and Jackson’s possessions into two cars. The plan was to get up at 4:30 a.m. and be on the road within an hour. Well, let’s just say we made it on the road in less than two hours.

Christiana and her father rode in the Mercury, ironically, with most of Jackson’s “stuff” and our suitcases. I rode with Jackson in the C-RV which was packed with most of Christiana’s items—she’s a girl after all—she took way more than the towels, sheets, and clothes Jackson brought along.

We crossed over a couple mountain passes on the road to college. If it hadn’t been for that darn road construction, we’d have made it there when we planned (which was echoed by pretty much everyone arriving by the route we did.) Thus we were busy playing catch-up the rest of that day.

Yet at the end of the day, our kids were ensconced in their own dorm rooms and we were sawing logs in our motel room—alone.

Orientation, waiting in lines, picking up last minute supplies at Wal-Mart and the grocery store, etc. took a whole lot of energy. So much so we hardly had time to register how different all our lives had just become. We were so overtasked that our goodbyes were basically an understatement as we all needed to get back to our own plans of what came next.

And then the kids drove back up the hill to the Fort (Lewis) and we got on the road to the Land of Enchantment: New Mexico.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

I don’t know about them, but we were so exhausted we could barely register what was happening—and we had a four hour road trip ahead of us. So first we crossed over the New Mexico border in heavy rainfall and then over mountains while the sun was setting in that stereotypically gorgeous New Mexican way. Darkness fell before we reached the valley and soon the headlights on our car were doing a poor job of slicing through heavy fog. Luckily the fog lifted and we didn’t encounter any livestock or jumping deer.

At one point Sherman asked me what bridge we might be crossing over.

I had no idea.

It wasn’t until we had arrived at Taos and started reading literature that we realized we had passed over a profound gorge on a bridge high above the Rio Grande River. Talk about attraversiamo! So we returned the next day—and were truly impressed with how deep the divide was between where we had come from and where we were.

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

As we walked across that bridge and looked down, I remembered traveling while pregnant to see another one of nature’s great reminders of crossing over: the Mississippi, that great mother river of the United States. Although at almost four months pregnant, I “got” that my life was changing, it wasn’t until much later in the pregnancy that I dreamed about trying to cross that river in what had become my hugely pregnant body—and woke to realize just how different one shore was from the other. There would be no turning back from where Sherman and I were heading.

Not only that, but that our lives with our soon-to-be-born children would be a series of crossing over, one after another, throughout our lives together.

Now that we’ve made it to another crossing of epic portions, let’s do it with gusto.

Attraversiamo!

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

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