Throw Your Hands Up


Abandoned and burned out yellow tagged cars littered the long stretch of freeway east of Los Angeles toward my destination of Arizona. I’d made it through LA as daylight illuminated the once familiar exits on the 134 where I traveled for over twenty years when I lived in the valley.

Much to my mother’s worry, I moved from my small town of Stamford, Connecticut, to the city of sin as she referred to it. I was following my dream to work in the movies. I didn’t know exactly in what capacity but my mind was made up after working as a production assistant in my hometown of Stamford on the movie, Scenes From A Mall, starring Woody Allen and Bette Midler.

Naively, I drove with a poorly attached auto-trailer hitched to the car and navigated through tornado warnings in Illinois, jagged mountain roads in the black of night in Colorado and massive six lane frenzied freeways in Los Angeles, white knuckling it through the zipping cars controlled with ease by native drivers.

Twenty-eight years later I made the pilgrimage back to the east coast in a twenty-four foot Class C RV I’d affectionately named, Goldie.

The wasted shells of vehicles abandoned off the roadside on plateaus of dirt graves served as fair warning. I stared down an emaciated lifeless RV that didn’t make it across the desert with the circumspection of a Mt. Everest climber plodding past skeletal remains.

I gave Goldie a few pats of encouragement on her steering wheel, you got this, Goldie, you got this. I was determined to summit the peak of my chosen adventure.

But death marked hundreds of miles along my journey into Tucson, Santa Fe and even into Kansas and Oklahoma.

Roadside memorials to cyclists and pedestrians on the streets, highways and back roads of Arizona, New Mexico and Missouri marked where a life was cut short, leaving dreams unrealized.

An elaborate dream catcher carved from wood, a white painted bicycle adorned with a floral wreath and even LED illuminated statues punctuated my drive with reverence for so many lives lost.

It fueled me with an urgency to live.

As I enter my 55th year I reflect back on a handful of incidents that could have ended my life. For some reason, I am still here to throw my hands up in surrender while continuing on this rollercoaster ride of life.

I believe I’m here to express myself through words in a way that will have a positive impact on people.

I’m here to hug my long time friends and connect with family – to dance with my brother 1980’s style at a family wedding - to possibly meet my biological paternal family - to care for the animals and dwelling spaces of others – to smile at strangers and connect with humanity in kindness and unity.

I’m here to revel at the awe inspiring site of star clusters 20 million light years away - to breathe in the aromatic earthy creosote essence after a desert downpour - to soak in desert hot springs while being serenaded by songbirds – to absorb sunsets deep within my soul and shudder in fear from baritone thunderstorms and to appreciate the beauty of green rolling hills dotted with grazing cows and the melodic call of a loon on a dark New Hampshire night in the woods.

I’m here to eat Smore’s for dinner, delight in tea and sandwiches with a friend and indulge in an overpriced lobster salad in cherished solitude at a waterfront restaurant – to binge on Canadian maple cookies and to pan-fry a mere onion and potato dinner in the cave-like comfort of Goldie in a downpour of rain.

I’m here to listen to the same song in 4 different countries and see the joy it brings to everyone moved by the same rhythm regardless of their age, race, religion and beliefs.

I’m here to appreciate the collection of artwork at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum for my mother, whose life was cut short thirty-three years less than the artist she so admired.

What could my mother have created with thirty more years of working with her color palette bringing physical form to her creative inspiration? Hundreds of canvases left unpainted; stark, white markers like the memorials along the highways.

My mother was with me as I took in Georgia’s art for the two of us. My mother’s spirit is all of the art ever created since the sun the moon and the stars birthed their light. I know one day I will join the collective spirit of transmuted physical life forms dancing amidst the vast energetic universe. My physical life will not span 22 million light years or be encapsulated in fossilized stone to be discovered millions of years from now.

I have an urgency to live. Now.

With the windows rolled down, the Orbital CD cranked up high, I wound down the starlit mountain road from the Tucson Observatory with my headlights blindfolded for one mile to preserve the dark night sky for the scientists conducting research from the telescopes planted on the mountain top.

Wide eyed, both hands gripping the steering wheel, I leaned forward toward the windshield in an attempt to absorb better vision of the road.

The excitement and thrill of the ride swirled through my hair.

Breathe it all in, Patty.

This is it. A brief ride through life.

Throw your hands up.