We haven’t gone on a family vacation in two years and this summer I was determined to get out town, if even for a few short days. I tried to book us a condo in San Diego – yeah, right. Those have been booked for months and months. How about Mexico? It’s just as hot there as it is here in Tucson and I haven’t gotten around to getting us passports. So, I settled on Pinetop, a quaint town in the Arizona White Mountains where the summer temperature is in the high 80’s. Much better than 105.
My pre-vacation preparations have always looked a little like doomsday prepping. I pack several days in advance working off lists that I wrote a month ahead of time. Yes, Pinetop has modern conveniences like Walmart and a Hallmark store but you never know.
This year, over packing wasn’t an option. We were bringing the dogs and the crate takes up half the vehicle so I restrained myself. Since this trip was also planned quickly, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d probably forget something.
Like a first aid kit. When my son busted open his big toe from running barefoot with scissors (ha – just joking about the bare feet!), all I had was damn-new-shoes bandaids in my purse. You know, the kind without pictures of Dora or Cars on them. And no anti-bacterial spray. We had to wash his bloody, filthy feet with regular soap and water.
Historically before a big trip, I tend to go into a “we’re going to die” mode. While my husband is visualizing the joys of no traffic and smooth sailing, I’m visualizing death and destruction on the highway. It’s just the way I am and I’ve accepted that this is where my mind goes when I’m anxious about something. I’ve come a long way since our last vacation and I no longer let the thoughts consume me. When a vision of impending doom enters my mind, I observe it non-judgmentally and let it pass. I’ve become an acute observer.
I was doing pretty well until we were about 60 miles from our destination and I saw a giant smoke cloud rising above the distant pines. It looked like a volcano erupted and it was positioned exactly where we were going. Frantically Googling “Arizona forest fires” was useless with no cell signal in the middle of nowhere but I tried anyway. For several agonizing minutes, I indulged in thoughts of my family perishing in a fiery death. As I observed the thoughts entering my brain, I resisted the urge to tell myself, “Shut the F up! You’re freaking me out!” No, my dear friends, I practiced loving kindness toward myself and let the negative thoughts dissipate into
As we approached Pinetop, the smoke cloud loomed larger but I took some comfort in the fact that other cars were going in the same direction we were. We wouldn’t all drive directly into a forest fire, would we? If this was a truly dangerous situation, there would be roadblocks, right? Right? Right?
We were all tired, hungry and cranky from a 5 hour drive that should’ve only taken 3 ½ (but that’s a totally different blog post. Hint: if you ask a 4-year-old if she needs to go potty, she’ll say yes every time) so we went through a Taco Bell drive thru. I gently suggested to my husband that he ask about the forest fire and he did. Sure, it was just to shut me up, but still. The fire turned out to be about 20 miles away and had just sparked a couple of hours before. It was too soon to tell what would happen. I asked how we would find out if the town needed to be evacuated and the guy said, “Don’t worry. You’ll know.”
Once we arrived at our cabin, I logged onto the wifi with the password the owner gave me (sweetunicorn69? Seriously, dude. This is a family vacation!) and did my own research. Then I let it go. I turned off the laptop and stopped searching the woods for signs of flames. I only did one Facebook status about it, said a prayer for the people in the little town that had been evacuated and turned it over to God.
Do you know what happened in Tucson while we were gone? An earthquake. An actual earthquake. Well, it happened in New Mexico but it was felt in Tucson. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.