Off again

By the time some of you read this, I'll be in New Mexico. After landing in Santa Fe tomorrow morning, I'll drive three hours out of town to a remote ranch where cell reception is spotty and a major grocery store nowhere near. My companions will be two women, one of whom I've never met in person and could recognize much more easily by voice than appearance. No, I'm not joining a cult.

Rather my writing group has been planning a retreat, and tomorrow it begins. Yee-howdy!

You might recall that just after 2013 rolled in, I started taking an online food writing class. We met there, drawn together by the deceptively simple act of writing about food. I've talked about these women before: one is a Louisiana gal who runs her own business; another -the NM resident- is a landscape artist, journalist, photographer and food historian extraordinaire; and the third is a New Englander who's taught writing and cooking and is quite an artist. Though not all of my online acquaintances have turned out to be friends, these women really have, and I am so eager to spend time together out yonder.

At the very least, we'll surely eat well.

I have felt oddly anxious about leaving. My departure at such a busy time of year seems ill-timed in a way. The logistics of child care alone would make your head spin, though my chart of who goes where with whom and when does beg the question of whether a room full of mothers planning for a short, solo vacation could solve world peace if given ten minutes.

Part of me feels that I don't deserve the decadence of five days away. I mean, this is a "working retreat" but it's not a formal conference or a business trip. I'm spending money versus making it, if you know what I mean.

Part of me will always worry about all the possible needs I won't be able to meet by virtue of being away; hell, I'm even fretting about our sweet fish although T seems to have taken such a liking to them that he regularly changes their water with a hand-pump siphon! Do I fear that no one will tend my flock as well or like as I do? Or that any differential won't actually make a hill of beans difference (in which case, I should probably take a load off)? Perhaps I know that if something happened while I was away, I'd never forgive myself. Then again, I'd never forgive myself if anything happened on my watch either. Sometimes moms just can't win.

It's curious that it gets harder to leave instead of the opposite. I'd have thought that as the kids aged, I'd worry less. But the stakes feel higher in some ways: homework starts to matter; discipline and rules are more important in some ways but burgeoning independence means that following those rules isn't as sure a bet as it once was; are they eating well? sleeping enough?... We have such a routine going. It's not always pleasant but it works for us, and I know what's being covered and taken care of. That said, we've all got to learn this at some point. I want them to grow, take responsibility for themselves, have these times with Tom. And so leave I will and must, even if my heart feels a twinge of 'ugh.'

In any case, I am thrilled to have this opportunity and a family who supports me in taking it. I cannot wait to hang out, hike, cook and write with these women with whom I've talked every couple weeks since our class ended eighteen'ish months ago. We have shared myriad works of depth, honesty, private memory and hilarity, with a frequency I suspect is pretty rare. Life tends to get in the way unless you carve out dedicated time.

I'm also excited to briefly sate my wanderlust. The last time I was in the southwest, I was thirteen and on a family trip. I had just recovered from a serious case of encephalitis, but we climbed the Grand Canyon, went to Taos and did other southwesty things that now escape me. My clearest recollections involve my parents' primary obsessions (as they seemed to me then): sopapillas with honey at every opportunity (mom); red rock formations (I thought I'd die if I saw another one); and huevos rancheros (dad). Dad also bought a Navajo poncho that he insisted on wearing daily once we returned home. It looked vaguely odd atop his physician scrubs, and in southern Louisiana, he must have been hot as hell though he'd never have admitted it. Hilarious.

I suspect this trip will sear exceedingly different memories into my mind, once I can get over the hump of actually leaving.