There’s no denying it. As baby boomers, we are old enough to at least sometimes ask, Is it all downhill from here? From the active lives we lead, we say the answer resoundingly is NO. But writing from her home in Cypress, Texas, Sherrill Pool Elizondo still wonders.
I enjoy experiencing new places, but travel preparations or living out of a suitcase? Not so much.
I have never made a personal or travel bucket list and, after some reading, I have come to the conclusion that there are as many negatives as positives in making one. I have accompanied my husband on photography trips to many beautiful places in the world but for years, my own ambition was to climb Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg, Texas.
A few years ago we stayed in Boerne, in the Texas Hill Country, and visited areas that I vaguely recalled from childhood. Having lived in San Antonio until adulthood, I considered the area convenient to reach many parts of the state. We have visited Spanish missions, seen Painted Churches, ventured into East Texas, traveled to see spring wildflowers, hiked Lost Maples, visited state parks, and made side trips in the coastal region near our vacation home.
It was the trip to Enchanted Rock, though, that was very special. I had wanted to climb the rock at a younger age but am proud to say that although I never got to do it back then, I made it to the top this time even if I was giving my husband dirty looks and muttering that I had wanted to do this when we were younger… not in our 60s!
The view was spectacular and, as an old country song goes, I saw “miles and miles of Texas.” I truly felt like a native Texan that day, managing to climb to the summit of this huge pink granite boulder. Part of the reason was because of a reference J. Frank Dobie, a Texas folklorist, made about people who were “out of the rock.” My Texas roots run deep for many generations and finally I can truly say, I climbed Enchanted Rock.
I thought we would have a quiet Christmas in 2013. The hill country adventure to Enchanted Rock that previous Fall had been all that I had expected … until my husband announced that he was taking me to see the Radio City Rockettes in New York. It had been a lifelong dream. The Christmas show was spectacular and visiting the World Trade Center Memorial and the Statue of Liberty were meaningful excursions.
Still, although we had a wonderful trip, I was glad to return to Texas. There were last-minute Christmas details to take care of and we needed to plan a family dinner.
Then, dear husband announces that I am “welcome” to go with him to New Mexico and Arizona for “photography” after Christmas. Road trips can be tiring but a great way to see the country, especially traveling back roads. We went from the White Sands of New Mexico (which reminded me of snow) to the Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona (where I found inner peace in tranquil surroundings) to Monument Valley and the Flagstaff/Sedona area, dragging into Van Horn, Texas at 2:00 AM on New Years Day, then driving all the next day to get to Houston. A meaningful aspect of our trip was a Navajo guide in Monument Valley, sharing the culture of his people and taking us to special places for photography. A New Year’s Eve sunset in remote surroundings is as good as it gets.
As with most trips, I have taken home with me a particular visual memory, a scent or a sound that lingers in my mind, or some special thought about someone I met along the way. I have had many wonderful life experiences that I don’t think I really need a bucket list.
Maybe what I need to do is to stop contemplating advancing age, and to stop wondering if it is all downhill from here. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.
I have wondered though if I could ever climb Enchanted Rock again or would even want to try. The descent that beautiful autumn day felt almost as difficult and challenging as the climb to the top. It was a splendid view of miles and miles of Texas and each day I am beginning to believe that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words are truer today than when I was young: “Life Is a Journey, Not A Destination.”