Are you Indigenous Indian?

“Are you part indigenous Indian?”  Asked a man waiting in line at the Post Office.  A secret smile crept onto my face.  I really wished I was and told him that.  He said he was part and commented on my looks.   No one has ever asked me that before, though I did have one boyfriend years ago, who commented on my feet and how they looked like I had walked many lands and that meant to him that I was very wise.  I decided to just let that be true… for him.

I wondered what the man at the Post Office saw that made him ask. I searched my history and memories like they were typed pages holding secrets, hidden between words.  When I was little I was a blue-eyed blonde with Russian ancestors. But I always thought my grandmother, who was born in Russia, looked like an indigenous Indian and wanted to know the story of her parents and childhood.  I wondered how her looks came about, the tall thin woman she was, with high cheekbones, and sunken cheeks.

That small comment, that day, made me feel so special.  The man spoke to my desire to be with or in as many cultures as there are people, a desire to be part of a tribe, well, many tribes.

Images flutter in front of me and I see my grandmother next to an ancient wise Indian, one whose feet have walked the earth, touched the actual soil. I see the deep sun-dried lines that suggest, wisdom and natural beauty which is simply, beautiful, worn and filled with stories.

Good pick up line, I thought.  It turned me inward, into things deeper in me than I can understand. It made me aware of a ball of light deep inside that glows when I decide to look that way.  It may glow all the time, even when I am not looking.

And when those words enter my thoughts I also hear, “There she goes…off the deep end… again. She is sure that is what certain friends and family are saying about her now, “Ball of light, glowing deep inside…whaaat!”  That says too many years in California, for sure!

So, of course, I am headed back to California, with plans to meet old camping friends, and we will camp our way back, through indigenous lands, where I am pretty certain, no one will ask if I am indigenous Indian.  And I will be back in the land where spoken words of balls glowing deep inside are more commonplace, as well as shamans, healers, and therapists.

Dad's Glass

Scared…Sacred

The fences we create bind us to the stories we tell about ourselves.  I am looking for the light in the fences.

I have learned something about scared and sacred.  Scared wakes me up. Sacred lets me steep in an experience of what I am feeling, what I am seeing and what I am doing.

4/17/2017

After a meeting with my two daughters in which they told me that I needed to change something and it needed to be big, I embarked on a very unexpected journey.  My girls spoke from their hearts to mine with love and a deep knowing.  It was January of this year 2017 when I actually let my mind and soul consider moving and returning to the land of my growing up, on the North Shore of Chicago.  I knew that was where I needed to start.  I didn’t know what would happen past April and then May came around.  Now I don’t know what will happen past May.

I have a constant, questioning voice about my decisions or life choices. It makes me completely miserable.  I am working on a better relationship with that voice. Working on hearing it and reminding myself this is an experiment, not a done deal.  That all I can do is be where I am and when that makes me edgy, when I can, I turn towards it and look at it square in the eyes. When I have eyeballed it, I look at it from head to toe, I see the light of it and the dark of it, the shape of it.

This move was yet another life decision and I wanted to be sure it was the right choice. Embedded in my head was my father’s words just before his death, “Never regret anything, Ellen.”  It puzzled me then and puzzles me now. I regret most things at some point or another, except having my two girls and going to Del Art. Did my father really never have regrets?  Or was he saying that because he had so many regrets and regretted regretting?

My choice to move away from the Bay Area, my friends, my kids and what I have known for 30+ years felt risky, scary, and so crazy. I suffered the 10+ required days of thinking about how this would work and each day was filled with fear. I had no appetite, and a gazillion roiling thoughts going around and around in my head about how this would work, what would I do with all my stuff and all I really wanted to do was to discard everything. I was exhilarated, and exhausted, eating and sleep suffered a bit. All of that continued as I proceeded to get a renter for a year, empty my home, fix a few things in the house and leave by Sunday April 2nd.

I arrived in Evanston 4 weeks ago as of this rewrite, moved into an Airbnb with a wonderful hostess who also takes care of dogs, and the only things I know for sure are that I will be feeding and walking Henry twice a day, going to Lake Michigan and eating in or out. Other than that, I really do not know how my days will be filled when I get up in the morning and the quiet voice of doubt whips up and I am flattened by thoughts of what the hell have I done by moving here.  How will I bring in income? Maybe I will just get camping gear and stay on the road.

My days always get filled regardless of my chattering mind, some days are slower than others. Some days have been filled with what I must do. I have had to get dog permits for the Mr. to go to the beach. That alone took 3 visits and a very patient clerk at the City of Evanston who commented on my commitment to get this done. I told her that I would come back from time to time just to say hi, so we wouldn’t miss each other too much.  We both laughed and wondered if I actually would do that.  I have had to get my car tuned up, take a ring in to be fixed, get a button for a shirt and sew it on. I have gotten a library card, found art and needlework classes, continued my writing, working on my website and figuring out licensure here. I have met friendly strangers, explored cafes and restaurants. I have located sanghas that offer insight meditation, and most days I have gotten in my 10,000 steps while exploring the many villages on the North Shore.

Each errand I have gives me another opportunity to meet people, and the people I have met are really swell.  That 50’s word, swell takes me to when I was growing up here on the North Shore of Chicago. Swell reminds me of the harlequin print peddle pushers my mother made from altered hand-me-downs, of the ice cream truck with organ music that would arrive in front of our house at 1083 Oak Street on Saturdays.  Swell reminds me of the light pouring in through the glass shelves at the bottom of the long steps to the second floor of our house. It was the house where I would sit in puddles of sun which poured out on the carpeted floor. Swell takes me back to the wonderfully long summer days on Lake Michigan, and most of all it reminds me of my mother in her handmade batik moo moo dress busy in the kitchen or helping at my father’s store. I felt connected back then. Being here, in the land of “midwest, milk fed beauties” (thank you Max Greenstreet), connects me again to a place I feel I might belong.

The other day while waiting for my car to have a routine check at the recommended Duxler Auto Repair on Greenbay, I ate at Prarie Joe’s.  I sat outside with Mr. H. soaking in the sun and trying to remember the cold of winters here as if to prepare ahead. Good old Henry drew a visitor to us and she was the self-proclaimed mayor of Central Street, Tina. While chatting, sitting right there on Prairie Ave., Tina told me about the many different streets she lived on, all bearing the name Prairie. She reminded me of a time, before my time, when there were prairies around here, and of the time my family drove out to the so-called first McDonalds in our two-tone Ford, passing by prairies all around.

Those days of my youth could have been held as sacred if I had known what that meant. The only thing I knew was that I was alone a lot, and life at home gave me both comfort and fear. I knew where I belonged and that was a comfort and knowing where I belonged made me a little bored and antsy.  As a kid I seemed to have spent a lot of time waiting: waiting for a ride to come get me, waiting for a classmate to come over, waiting for my brother to play with me and make silly jokes, waiting for my dad to be home for dinner and waiting for him to be in a better mood.  I felt bored a lot like my mind was hungry for concepts to mull around. I needed something to think about to drown out my yearning for my dad to be okay, not grumpy, not depressed, and not angry.  I needed concepts like sacred as an antidote to being scared.

 

 

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

 

Shadows

4/1/17

Each place I travel I will find shadows and each place I will find light.

It is the night before I start to drive to Chicago.  I am in a room with the most wonderful shadows, up at midnight, wondering how tired I will be tomorrow and how far I will drive. I am excited, I am afraid.  The adventure began with the knowing I wasn’t where I wanted to be, then the anxiety of change, the packing, the sorting and now, getting on the road…tomorrow.

I am so aware of all the good thoughts people have for me and this adventure, all the support in words and gifts that make this adventure so much more than my adventure.  It seems it has become an adventure for many and I am so pleased to have people join me.  I am deeply grateful for all who are my traveling companions.  So let’s go along and see what we find, who we meet, what strangers say hello and offer kindness.

Tomorrow we, Mr H and I, are off, with the intention of leaving at dawn and arriving in Barstow, CA.