Tuesday 1st October 2019

My husband and I have recently returned from a wonderful trip to the USA. We visited places I had been before—the Teton Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, Durango-Silverton Railway, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Flagstaff and finished in San Diego with a couple of days at Balboa Park and the Zoo. But these were all new sites to my British husband and it was a real pleasure showing him places I've visited and love.

We did a lot of driving—endless miles through prairies with the promise of mountains in the distance, desert landscapes with cactus and rock, snow-capped peaks, forests, many thinned by fires, stunning waterfalls, and sparkling rivers. It was a magical time. I loved the driving, where the lack of any buildings, and a lot of the time the lack of any traffic allows your mind to wander (if you are the passenger!). And sometimes when you are driving along your mind remains empty—you become one with the landscape. It becomes a spiritual moment, and I was lucky that with my husband sharing the driving, I was able to have many of these moments—possibly the closest I have ever come to mindlessness or meditation.

The book material flourished. Every place seemed to create a story—with new characters and ideas for plots. Most of these will rattle around in my head, maybe wake me up in the middle of the night, and maybe get noted down in my 'New Book Ideas' file. And maybe it will be forgotten, tucked so far into that file box in my head it will never be retrieved.

I loved the openness of the west, the emptiness that lets me think—or not. I felt a strong connection with these spaces—the quiet night with its billions of stars, the mountains, particularly the Tetons, with their spires lifting into the sky like silent cathedrals, the red rocks of the desert. We enjoyed observing a lot of wild animal—bears, bison, deer, antelope, mountain goats, elk. There is something that speaks to my soul when I see wildlife—whether it's a bird or a bison—it's another connection with our earth.

The last time I was in Yellowstone was in 1989 (a year after the 'big fire'). God only knows if I will ever go there again. I tried not to think about the possibility of never returning—after all, there are a lot of places we want to visit. But I can't think of many places that will touch my heart and soul quite to the extent this journey did. I was very privileged to make this trip. I won't ever forget it.