Reclaiming her selfMy mother was dying and my daughter was...

Personal Journeys

October 04, 1998|By Gloria West | Gloria West,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Reclaiming her self

My mother was dying and my daughter was on the verge of turning 16. As much as I wanted to run away from all the changes, I could not escape either passage totally. So I searched for a temporary solution, and found it in a trip to Arizona. I booked a flight and reserved a room and a car and headed West for a week.

As an East-Coaster, having lived in Baltimore, New York and the nation's capital, I wanted to put myself in a new and somewhat exotic place. Phoenix provided both geographical and emotional distance from the problems at home.

Even changing planes in Dallas excited me as I headed out on my adventure. Cowboy hats and boots replaced the somber suits and wing-tipped shoes of the East. I felt free.

Landing at Sky Harbor in Phoenix - such a strange name for a desert city airport with no possibility of water or a port - my heart raced and told me I was really alive for the first time in many months.

Although I was visiting this city for the first time, I felt comfortable immediately and easily followed the directions to my motel. Two thousand miles southwest of home, I was totally relaxed in my new surroundings. Now, this was a major change from the homesick camper who grew up refusing to sleep at the houses of schoolmates. At this point in my life, freedom from family and friends was a relief, and I reveled in my solitary journey. My aloneness kept me company.

Having chosen accommodations from a travel guide and without prior knowledge of the right lodgings to look for, I was unburdened by expectations. My little motel was certainly clean and safe (at least I emerged unharmed), but not exactly in the most desirable tourist area.

I loved my little room, and even the sight of the upholstered pickup-truck seats drying outside the room next door did nothing to dim my enthusiasm. My goal was novelty, not predictability.

I filled my time driving into the desert playing classical music on the radio, and expanding my hopes and dreams as the space around me widened and lengthened. I also enjoyed eating alone and finding single-friendly places that welcomed the traveler passing through.

Thinking only of and for myself during those seven days may sound selfish. But having lived as a daughter, wife and mother for many years, I had buried my own needs and desires. And here in the desert I reclaimed them enough to face returning with a new attitude.

Gloria West lives in Columbia.

Krakow, Poland

Paul Denbow, Dundalk

"Old World charm best describes Krakow. In old town, visit Wawel castle and cathedral, the seat of government between the 11th and 14th centuries, and discover the legend of the dragon. Take an evening stroll along the Wista River, then head out to one of the many cafes for dinner."

The Canadian Rockies

Mary Joan and Sidney Levin, Baltimore

"Our trip started in Alberta, Canada, out of Calgary to Montana, Banff and Jasper. We climbed Sulfer Mountain, rode on a snow coach at the Columbia Icefield and took a sky tram to Whistler Mountain. We walked two miles around Lake Louise. We river-rafted the Athabasca River, took a helicopter flight over the Rockies and rode over the Great Divide and viewed nature at its best."

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Pub Date: 10/04/98

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