Six weeks ago I crossed the country with my dog and my car full of basic necessities (and my favorite blankets and pillows) to try living in Colorado near my two middle sons.
They came out here two years ago and I missed them. I have five children and if you have followed this blog you know that I spent the summer in Wisconsin with my daughter and her family. But when she asked me to take my grandson to American Ninja Warrior camp in Green Bay, I realized I did not want to be there for the winter! I’ve seen those Green Bay Packer games on TV and I know it was too much winter for me.
Over the next few weeks, I set an intention of coming out to Colorado for the winter and finding a fully furnished and well-decorated space–emphasis on well-decorated. I did not want to drag all my belongings out of storage and drive them across the country only to perhaps turn around again.
Once again, I learned the power of setting a clear intention but letting go of the outcome. And within three weeks I found the perfect place. Not only was it beautifully decorated, but it also has a fireplace and a stunning view. And my wonderful landlady was from the same town in Wisconsin I was living in. The power of synchronicity–another lesson.
By now you’d think I would feel confident crossing the country–I had sold my house, traveled through Europe, moved to another state for the summer, but crossing the country alone was slightly outside my comfort zone. Then I thought about my great-great-great grandmother Mary Ann Thrall Minkler who left Omro, Wisconsin as a young bride in 1852 to join a wagon train for California with her husband Cyrus Minkler. They left behind two young sons who were only 2 and 3 years old with Cyrus’ parents. What was their plan? Did they plan to get established and come back for the children? Did they plan to have the rest of the family join them in California? Were they excited? Nervous? Did they feel they had a choice?
Clearly, they had a plan, but it is lost to history, as are the details of her story. You see Cyrus died along the way after catching cholera crossing the Platte River in Nebraska. Apparently, 1853 was a very wet and rainy summer. Think about this. She is maybe 20 years old and alone on this arduous journey. This put my journey in perspective.
What I do know of her story is she made it Nevada Territory. She remarried John Kelly. They eventually made it to Janesville, California and she sent for her sons 20 years later. One of them my great-great-grandfather, Birdsey Minkler.
It is a story of pain and fortitude, of choices and self-determination. I am not the first generation of women to be resilient –I am the generation with the most freedom and opportunity. Genetically she shared a sense of adventure, willingness to take chances and live with the consequences. To make the best of any situation and the internal fortitude to thrive. I’d like to believe she had a positive attitude and lived a long and happy life.
My drive to Colorado was uneventful. I was nervous but it gave me a boost of self-confidence. I did not have to walk from the midwest and I didn’t have to wait 20 years to see my two sons.
The other night I wondered what trail her wagon train followed. As I dug into the research I found that she most likely was on the Overland Trail. And that the Overland Trail passed just two miles from where I live today.
I am connected to this place not only through my current family but through the past. Going west is part of my DNA. I am part of a fabric of stories of strong women that went before me, and it is my job to set an example for the future generations. To document and share these stories for my daughter, my granddaughters and the generations of women to follow.