It's been a gathering up sort of day, a day of sweeping all the loose ends together, fumbling to tie them neatly into some sort of functional bow. I feel a bit like the pioneer women must have felt, trying to muster their families together before that huge trek across the prairie and over the mountains. Oh sure, I'm just traveling 1200 miles in a very nice car with two little dogs and one middle aged man (and all our respective "stuff"), but the journey looms large, and the loose ends today were many and scattered. Although we frequently travel back and forth between our northern and southern homes, we usually go via air, and typically spend less than a week away. It's been two years since we've made this road trip with dogs in tow. That last time, I remember looking forward to it with a childlike enthusiasm, anticipating a big adventure. This time, it seems somehow more difficult, both physically and emotionally, and the whole event smacks of drudgery more than excitement. I'm a terrible artist, but if I were to draw a self portrait (in stick figure style) you would see a tiny person with very long arms being stretched in two different directions. One part of me pulled inexorably toward my only child who lives so away in Florida, the other clasped tightly around my first home, my family, my friends, here in Michigan. Recently, it seems harder to leave all that behind. I worry more - about my mother, who seems to grow more frail before my eyes, my aunt and uncle, afflicted with physical and mental infirmities, even my old house, the roof covered with snow, foot long icicles hanging from the rafters. I feel loathe to desert these people and things who need me, I feel guilty about stealing this time for myself. But there is one loose end that dangles in the back of my mind, and this is the one that I must always force myself to acknowledge, and then whisk firmly away, much as I do the cobwebs that form in ceiling corners. Among the women in my family - my mother, my aunt, my grandmother- lies this penchant to become so entrenched in the safety of home that they never leave. A reluctance to travel on long trips, becomes a reluctance to go out to dinner, becomes a reluctance to leave the house at all. I'm starting to understand that. I'm starting to feel that. But, I'm fighting it. And this trip is a major battle. I'm sitting now in my study, surrounded by wrapped gifts for my son and my daughter in law, and for my father and his wife, suitcases with books, tote bags with food (doggy and human) - some of the loose ends I've been trying to tie together all day. It's long past the time I should have gone to bed. Yet, I'm reluctant to let this day come to an end. Because tomorrow means a huge journey, and there is reluctance in my heart... Tying up loose ends, putting all the pieces together - some of the things I'll be thinking about as I travel the interstate over the next three days. I'll keep you posted.