My mother shared her love of gardening with me when I was young, and when she died after a long illness, I planted myself in my garden to tear out weeds and wail to the winds.
Two months after her passing, I was on a business trip in Los Angeles and tacked on a few hours to make a pilgrimage in her honor to the glorious Huntington Botanical Garden in Pasadena. Because Mom instilled in me her passion for roses, I wandered through the 104-year-old rose garden. Closing my eyes, I felt her presence as I inhaled sweet fragranc
e of our favorite roses: Peace, Double Delight and Just Joey. Just being still among the roses with Mom was therapeutic in a way her funeral never could have been.
I’m not one to wallow in sadness for long. I learned long ago that the fastest way to drown my sorrows was to take a trip. Traveling helps me re-center, and it reminds me how much I can do, how much I can give, and how much beauty there is in the world.
So when my brother died after a long battle with cancer, I knew what I had to do. I grabbed my backpack and hiking boots and set off for the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Hiking has always been a direct, physical way for me to release my rage, sorrow and sense of helplessness. Nothing puts my life and mortality into sharper perspective than hiking in the grandeur of mountains and forests. The power and resilience of the towering trees and rigid rocks help me push my life’s difficulties to the side and connect me to something bigger than myself.
It’s not only life’s tragedies that send me packing. Sometimes, when my spirit starts to flag a little, or I’m in a funk or (those “menopause moments”), I organize a short road trip with my closest girlfriends. Roll down the windows, crank up the tunes, sing or talk it out and let the miles of highway roll behind you.
Nothing compares with the companionship of close women friends—from my childhood, college or newer friends who are the mothers of grown children. When we travel together we have uninterrupted time to share our deepest feelings and to listen with compassionate attention. I need the adventure, the laughter and healing power of “girl talk.” I’m fortunate to not only have a great husband, but one who encourages me to travel with my friends so I can “talk it over and talk it out” and return to him uplifted and revived.
I’m also lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay area, an easy launch pad for a five-to-seven day trip to Canyon Country in the southwest. I fly to Phoenix or Las Vegas, pick up a rental car and explore the National and State parks of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico where I feel my deepest spiritual connection with the red rock canyons and moonlike landscapes under blindingly blue skies.
One of my favorite pick-me-up road trips is the Grand Circle Loop. Driving through the red rock pinnacles and buttes, thick Ponderosa forests and wide-open desert gives me a sense of liberation unlike anything else. Windows down, hair blowing, music blasting, I feel free, alert and alive. Depending on how much time I can steal, I might stop in Zion, Bryce or Grand Canyon national parks, or Arizona’s Monument Valley or Colorado’s Mesa Verde.
Although my chosen path to healing is to immerse myself in the raw beauty of nature, with its vast spaces and silences, sometimes—when I’m in need of some deep pampering—I sometimes head to a spa for my healing. Everyone has their own way of healing. For me it’s taking a trip. I return home renewed and with a healthier perspective on my loss as well as the remaining time in my own life. So I’ll keep traveling until my heart stops beating.
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