Salt Lake City, Utah. It spoke to me in some ways. In other ways, it didn’t. I faced some fears. I ignored others. I’ll start with the best part: Holly. I’ll end with the worst: chickens and snow.
Holly was my first real best friend. We met when I was 4 years old and my family moved in next door to her family in Bettendorf, Iowa. We were the exact same age, so it was a given that we were going to become best friends. My memories of Holly range from dressing in costumes and charging a nickel for the grown-ups to watch us perform dance routines, to eating her mom’s home-made jumbo pretzels, to wearing matching halter-tops made by my mom, to sitting in the tree in my front yard and arguing about whose dad was stronger (I still think my dad wins).
We fought hard and we played hard. She even bit me once. I told on her. For years after I moved away in the 3rd grade our families continued to vacation together in Northern Wisconsin.
However as time went on, Holly and I talked to each other less and less, until we finally completely lost touch. This was simply a byproduct of living in different places and first becoming self-absorbed teenagers and then becoming young adults consumed with the pressures of finding our place in the modern day world (if you haven’t noticed, I’m still stuck in this phase!). The last time I saw her was when she was working at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin. She went on to become an Aviculturist and I lost track of the different places she moved as her career progressed. A year ago Holly found me on Facebook…and yes, the magic that made our childhood friendship so special was still there. It was for all these reasons that I made her new home, Salt Lake City, the next stop on my road trip.
Holly, her delightful husband Blake, and their enchanting daughter Samantha all made me quickly feel part of the family. There was a first night dinner party with some friends, a second day hike at Mill Creek Canyon on the Pipeline Trail, a lesson on exotic bird feathers, s’mores over the bonfire, and, best of all, an impromptu family dress-up party that sent me back to the carefree joy of childhood playtime with Holly. Remember that traveling bottle of V.Sattui Angelica wine? Well, it is with my oldest friend that that the bottle was finally drained. Perhaps it is also fitting that it was with the safety of my first best friend that I faced two secret fears: chickens and snow.
My first secret fear, chickens, began when I was a toddler in North Carolina. I was TERRIFIED of chickens (specifically roosters). Keep in mind, I had no idea what a chicken was, but in my young mind they were the enemy and to be avoided at all costs. One day my dad brought home his bounty from a hunting trip, and while I was holding the dead pheasant, he told me it was a chicken. It seemed he cured my fear of this bird…until we moved in next door to Holly in Iowa. You see, Holly’s family raised a flock of chickens, complete with one bad-ass rooster. I have a vivid memory of sitting on my tricycle in the driveway watching Holly run past screaming, followed a couple seconds later by the angry squawking rooster. I don’t recall ever being pecked by a chicken, but it has been a fear I’ve carried with me into adulthood. I saw on Holly’s Facebook page that she had a peep of 4 fuzzy chicks living in her yard. What I didn’t quite process is that these chicks would be adult-sized chickens by the time I arrived.
On the one hand I was thrilled because we ate Toad in a Hole one morning for breakfast with eggs freshly laid by their chickens. Talk about eating locally! On the other hand I was terrified: THERE WERE CHICKENS ROAMING FREE IN THE YARD! No, the irony of me being chicken of chickens is not lost on me. Especially these chickens. The flock of four were very friendly and acted like loving and loyal pets of the family. They’d follow Holly around the yard and would nuzzle up to her.
Determined to help me face my fear, Holly introduced me to the most affectionate of the four: Charlotte. She plopped Charlotte right into my arms and then proceeded to document the monumental moment with a series of photos. Charlotte couldn’t have been more accommodating despite the fact that my heart was racing and I couldn’t turn her back over to Holly fast enough. I also tried, for all of two seconds, to participate in feeding the flock their mid-afternoon snack of carrots and bread, but the fear of being pecked on the hand made me quit almost before I started.
My second secret fear is driving in the snow. No, the irony of this is not lost on me either: I learned to drive in the snow when living in Wisconsin. Yet, after 15 years of living in weather-free perpetually sunny Southern California, I become paralyzed at the mere thought of getting behind the wheel when snowflakes are present. For this reason, I cut short my visit to Salt Lake City because snow was forecast later in the week and I wanted to ensure that Yoda, Princess and I cleared the mountain pass before even a speck of weather was present. Imagine our surprise when, right as I was pulling out the driveway, cold rain and a bit of hail began. This wasn’t in the forecast, and after being reassured that it is typical in Salt Lake City for this to happen for a few minutes and then stop, I decided to brave the roads. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the mountain pass the cold rain had turned to slushy snow. To an average driver, the weather wasn’t really that bad. Although it was accumulating on the hood of my car and visibility was a bit low, it melted the minute it hit the freeway. However to me, this was my worst fear materialized: I was driving the mountain pass in snow and there was no way to turn back. Freeway signs said that slow moving vehicles should flash their hazards, so I obeyed and was that annoying Prius moving at a snail’s pace in the far right lane. I kept hearing Holly’s calming voice in my head telling me that when driving in snow don’t think about what other cars are thinking, just go as slow as you need in order to feel in control. For me, that was SLOW. Yet, I did it. I made it over the mountain pass. In the snow.
I can’t say my fears of chickens and driving in the snow have been conquered, but I did face them and survive, and really, that feels damn good. Facing fears may be as simple as holding a chicken and driving in light snow, or it may be as complex as leaving one’s life behind and hitting the road for almost 3 months in search of a better tomorrow. Whatever it is, real growth cannot begin until we look fear in the eye and tell it we are not going to let it control our life. And this simple and obvious realization was my latest lesson of the road.