An Experiment

As an experiment, I can remember that everything has a purpose, a possibility or offers something to study, then I can keep it or discard it.  This includes people, interactions, experiences, and emotions.

I have stepped into an extraordinary experimental journey.  Some of this journey is too familiar, some of it is all new.  This is not the first time I have ventured out on my own. It is the first time doing it in my 60’s with my kids who are 2,000+miles away.  It is not the first time I have felt uncomfortable with my unfamiliar surroundings; it is the first time I am seeing it as part of a bigger picture, part of a journey of stepping more into myself, accepting more of who I am and what I need to just be me, what I need to feed my spiritual questing.

My journey to Evanston has been much longer than the 5 night car trip via I-40 with Mr. H.  It has been everything leading up to this: all the thinking about doing what was right, the packing of my whole house, now rented long-term, selling, throwing out, and giving away much of what I have owned, saying see you later, to friends and family and life as I have known itbecause goodbye just sounds like more than the truth.

As I packed up I found myself wondering where I would be when the boxes were opened again, feeling a bit scared and excited.  Mostly excited but sometimes it can be hard to feel excited about something in the future I know little about.

I know that I really don’t know anything. I work hard to fill in what I don’t know with judgments, either positive or negative and though the positive feels better, I still don’t know what it is I am doing. I know I am here in Evanston, I know my room is a room, my dog is happy to be with me, and I know that I am slowly trying on this move. I know I am back here in the land of my first 30 years of life to retrieve something or glean something.

I am trying to just let this journey learn me and work me. I am trying to just sit with and turn towards what is uncomfortable, what makes me squirm or makes me judge myself.

I am thinking about the phrase, “What if it Was Sacred”.  What about allowing the things that make me uncomfortable to deepen and change me. and so become sacred.  I want to be present, and be a warrior to old ideas and limiting beliefs and allow myself to be open and listen to new possibilities and ideas. I want to feel the influence of the new, and what directions it can take me.

 

Traveling in the Present

4/7/17

“The role of the traveler today- like the role of any artist who treads outside the bounds of mainstream cultural imagination- is to be a storyteller of new possibilities, and most importantly of all, a messenger of hope.” Simon Yugler -Travel Alchemy

Traveling has a very special alchemy.  It gives me the freedom of being outside my normal day to day and places me right in the present; a much more pleasant and freeing place to be than my past or future. It helps me really know what I don’t know and I am relieved of the pressure of pretending to know. Travel gives me hope about humanity and expands my world by leaps and bounds.

There is a spirit among fellow travelers that says, hey, we are on the same road, at least for a moment. We share some unspoken part of being human. It’s as if we know in our bones that our ancestors and the many ancestors before were nomads, or travelers with a yearning to know more, learn more, see more, typically in search of food.  As travelers, we are trying on a nomadic life, sharing our stories, enjoying company with strangers in the strange lands where everything is somehow familiar, everything is new and we are looking for food, gas and perhaps a connection.

Traveling gives me the opportunity to widen my vision, open my eyes, feel the air, smell the atmosphere and take the opportunity to slow things down enough to see that every moment can be sacred, a little, tiny journey in itself. I see things I like and things I don’t. I hear things that hurt my heart and other things that grow it. I find atmospheres that sooth my soul and others that make my soul curl into a tiny ball trying to protect itself.

Now that Henry and I have arrived in Evanston, the traveling becomes something else.  It becomes the contrast to “on the road” traveling.  It is discovery and finding the places the fit us.

Evanston is a city, like every city, where you are expected to know, know what lane to be in for the turn you are about to make, which streets are one way, or where to park to go to the grocery store, what the customs are around leash or no leash for Henry, even when the law says leash and all kinds of everyday things. The expectation of a city is that you know what you are doing at every moment.  “Knowing” is how not to get in the way of anyone’s rushing and the very important business of getting to the next place or meeting, or appointment.  When I get it all right, I avoid the glances at my license plate and then at me, that clearly state that I am a foreigner here. The angry, dirty stares that say, “Oh, right, you are from California, of course, you know nothing about being here. You idiot, learn the roads here!” They don’t know I grew up here, I own this place.  Grant it, I have to relearn landmarks and roads, but I belong, even if my license plate says I don’t. At least my license plate says I am pretty cool.

At the end of the day, we are two tired travelers. We’ve arrived. Henry lays with his tail curled under in an attempt to achieve the fetal position and stop moving just to go inward. I have never seen him curl up so tightly. His eyes are bloodshot and I imagine he feels as I do, a sensation that we are still hurtling through the air, on the road at 60-80 miles an hour.

 

Tired Henry
Four Dogs Tired

I have been trying to tell Mr. H no more endless car rides for a long time but he just doesn’t seem to be listening.  It is as if he is saying, I am too tired and I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

GPS on “Walk”…Wait, What?!

4/6/17

Last night in Tulsa OK, Mr. H and I took a long, leisurely, kinda’ southern stroll, through the historic Swan Lake neighborhood of Tulsa. With the GPS set to Walk, I found the restaurant Roka and got an amazing dinner to go. Just easier to get food to go while traveling with my buddy.  As we waited for the food, H and I chatted up the incredibly kind waitress at the restaurant and met some folks that fell head over heals for the buddy.  We also met a fellow Airbnb host, originally from India, who invited us to stay on our next Tulsa visit.  Hmm, as beautiful and friendly as this area was, I am not sure when a next visit would be.

 

This morning I loaded the car with my belongings along with my very reluctant dog, put my phone in its holster, and set it for the next stop The Magnolia Hotel in St Louis.  I looked at the google map enough to see a 5 and read it as 5 hrs.  I was so happy it was not the expected 6.  After grabbing a wonderful latte at Shades of Brown Cafe, I was puzzled that the GPS was taking me on lots of side streets and roads that went right next to the highway and wondering why it wasn’t putting me on the highway. I was enjoying the greens and browns of land, the old broken down houses which were once someone’s dream, the gentle hills so much, that it didn’t occur to me that the GPS was telling me the walking route to St Louis and that it would be 5+ days to get there!  Not 5+ hours.

I did get to see lots of Tulsa and things like the self-proclaimed,  “Most Inspirational Rest Stop”.  It was an absolutely huge cross that made me think about who built it and how it would be to have that smack in the middle of a lawn.  It sure is a way to remember that you’re supposed to remember god, or faith or whatnot. Not my cup of tea, in fact, it was really off-putting for me but I imagine it is something someone is very proud of.  Now the windmills, that’s something that inspires me and even makes me proud, like I own energy saving ways.

This whole walking route also made me think about Forest Gump and wonder if I would want to walk my way across the US sometime.  Still thinking about it.

The GPS and I reconciled our differences, her British accent helped a lot with that. We got on track with Drive not Walk and continued on the road.

After several Rest Stops, tumbles and rolls in the grass, we made it to St Louis about 3pm, walked around the amazing Arch, saw some really disturbing history about slavery and got to see what an amazing city St Louis is.

Henry rolling around the grounds whenever possible.

 

Long Stretches, Henry, and Strangers

4/4/17

“We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.” From Brain Candy facebook page-

It is April and it is Winter here between Gallup and Amarillo.  This day started with ice on my car windows, followed by alternating sleet, snow, hail, rain, gusty winds, 32-46 F, and upon arriving in Amarillo it has been just plain blustery, rainy and cold here.  Long, very beautiful, straight stretches have been the visuals for my drive.  The radio, when I can get some good music or news and my book on tape, rescue me from the weight of being the sole driver.  Sometimes a conversation with myself works as well and sometimes it is interesting. I tried to teach Henry how to drive and how to have a conversation, but he was just not interested.  Rest stops have been a welcome change for both of us each day.

There is grass here in Amarillo, unlike Gallup where it was mostly “decorative” rocks. When fortunate, there were real, beautiful, ancient rocks at the rest stops.  And when we arrived in Amarillo at our hotel this afternoon, Henry was thrilled to just roll and stretch in the grass, kicking his legs out behind him, rolling on his back, laying his belly on the cold turf.

Our room overlooks the highway and a Longhorn Steakhouse sign. Within a block of each other, there are two more steakhouses. I am certain they are there just in case there isn’t enough steak at the Longhorn.

Steakhouses, Roadhouses, Indian trading posts, souped up trucks that audibly make their presence known within 10 miles, truckers, cowboy hats and boots, line dancing, quaffed hairdos, bolo ties are very real and very personal to people here.  They are part of a culture and identity just as gourmet restaurants, cafes, boutique stores, media and the arts culture are part of mine. What people identify with here in the southwest, can make me curious, it can also make me want to turn away, it can offend me and hurt my eyes and it can stir all my fears and stereotypes.

And then this happened.

While waiting at the bar for my dinner to go, at one of the steakhouses tonight, I met a man who wore a cap with an orange bill and the rest was camouflage like his jacket.  His first comment in a deep Texas accent was about Henry and how he had had a yellow labrador and what great dogs they are.  He talked about moving around with his dad in the service, his ex-wife who didn’t like hunting, his son who had committed suicide in his early 20s, over which he got ever so slightly choked up, and how that was the end of his marriage. With a large smile on his face, he talked about being happy to have a great girlfriend now who liked to travel, camp, fish, and hunt.  I can hear about the ex, the son’s suicide, his moving around, the girlfriend. But I really did not want to hear about the hunting…really! Or even the fishing. I am such a hypocrite because I eat meat and fish, I just don’t kill it. Maybe that’s worse.  He was a nice guy and he might not have chatted me up if Mr. H was not there.  We shared a lot about travel and the adventure of entering a different culture.  He was a really nice guy who shook my hand when I left and genuinely wished me safe travels.  It was so good to connect with another human and not keep a distance just because of some stereotype that I can project onto another.

Henry opens doors, opens hearts, brings out a smile, and kindness in most everyone.  With all that he brings out in people feeds my belief, that underneath, we all have similar needs. We all want connection and a reason to connect, we want to be accepted for who we are, and we want to be free from fear, we want safety, food, and shelter. We want to care.

Right now, the weather is just weather.  The drive is just the drive.  And, everyone is just doing what they do and being who they are.  Henry will always be Henry, no drivers license and not a conversationalist, but indeed a true love and companion.

 

2 Rules Broken or…Wait a Minute…

4/2/17

Rule #1 Stop driving after 5-6 hours, 7 at the most, each day.

Rule #2 Fill up gas when half full.

I got carried away on the first day.  I really wanted to make it out of CA even though I knew that wouldn’t happen.  When I reached Barstow, CA, my gut said not here, go to Needles, even though I reviewed this option at least 3 times before my departure, the first time with the AAA lady and we agreed, Barstow was enough for Mr. H and I, for one day.

As I approached Barstow, it just felt wrong, the energy of the place was wrong, and I didn’t need more information than that. But that meant driving another 2 hours, making the day a 9 hour trip with stops, and forgetting rule #2, fill the tank at half full.

As incredibly beautiful and desolate the Mojave is, it does not have many signs saying when the next gas would be.  I set my GPS to show me gas and the first one was disappointingly way off on the other side of the freeway, the GPS marker said “short detour”. From my side of the road, the tall Mobil lollipop sign was filthy, barely legible, and didn’t look open, but as I drove by I saw it was filled with trucks.  My thoughts took to comforting me for missing the stop; That’s okay, I don’t need to support ExonMobil right now or ever, or for that matter any gas company, but then where would I be? What a mess we are in. Exon, with all their money, should have a clean sign, right?! And on and on.

There, my justification for not stopping was complete. But a slight concern about getting gas felt like a gaping unknown and took me down unnecessary imaginings of driving on the car battery or ending up on the side of the road waiting for AAA, happy I had Henry with me to ward off any weirdos.  As if he would.

The fact is I had plenty of gas to drive another 100 miles or at least 75. Certainly enough to get to Needles. I began to wonder if the energy of the Mojave made me feel the concern for enough gas when I had enough. The fear of being sucked up by the desolation of the desert, getting left and lost there fed my concern for enough, enough gas, enough whatever.

Seeing the dusty Mobil sign made me think it was better I missed it as all the really bad stereotypes of truckers came to mind; the bearded guy, that calls you honey, the guy with nails that are never cut and always dirty, the guy who smiles with too many teeth missing and those left are yellowed and brown, the trucker with the southern accent which gives no credit to how smart they might really be, the blonde cowgirl/woman trucker that calls you honey, and is scarier than all the men put together, and on and on. All the while I knew my feelings would be different with a companion other than my K9, Henry. It would be a discussion about should we try it or drive on.  On my own, I didn’t even want to try it. I looked to Henry for approval of my decision, but he was busily focused on the back of my head working at getting into my brain to get me to stop…just stop anywhere.

Two hours later, I reached Needles with 2 notches left of gas, eye holes in the back of my head, from Henry staring and saying,  “It’s time, way past time to get out of this frikin’ car!”

I want this trip to be uneventful, except for good words spoken between myself, fellow travelers and hotel and restaurant clerks. I want it to be a nice trip, a really nice trip. It can also be interesting, but definitely nice.

And, about the rules for travel, I made them up, I can break them.  Just sayin’.

Rule #3  Do what is needed to make this a nice trip