My second day out of Ohio, I found myself looking forward…from the instant I entered “Eternity”, my Honda Civic. Old memories of my life in New Mexico back in the 90’s rushed to the forefront. I’d taken this very route once before…as I trailed Kevin, my longtime boyfriend in those days, from New Hampshire to Santa Fe.
That first trip out I was a follower….training my eyes to the license plate of the Uhaul Kevin towed. That first trip I was excited, but on edge….one never knew what might set Kevin into a rant…into me driving around eggshells all over the highway.
But today I was surrounded by hawks….everywhere…soaring solo all across the fields of Oklahoma. So many hawks, flying like me….free, alone, independent, ecstatic.
Twenty five years have passed, nearly to the month, since that first trip. And all I could think of as my memories unraveled before me, was a line from a new favorite song, introduced to me by Annie and Mark Miller: “Think of all the wool I’ve spun to be here tonight.”
My life could have gone so many different ways….but here I am, on the road, ready to head into New Mexico an hour or two after sunrise….to see if she, that enchanted landscape, has survived as beautifully as I have!!
Pursuing one’s dream….setting out on one’s own… carries the bittersweet weight of leaving. I left Columbus at 8:30 this morning, heading West, after an inspiring visit with friends, Jesse and Michael. It took a good two hours before the heavy gray clouds burned off my heart. This is the way it always is…that transition from the known, the warm love, the familiar dailiness of friends and family…to the open road ahead.
I spent the first two hours of today’s drive remembering the fun I had in Columbus and the boost of energy and confidence received from the two other people on the planet who know first hand what this gypsy life is like. But by the time I passed under the “Leaving Ohio” sign, I pictured the mauve and orange canyons, the cobalt blue endless horizon, and the barren arroyos of New Mexico. With every mile closer to my destination, my heart beat at a wilder pace.
This is the way leaving will always feels for me….a few hours of transitioning that allows my current environment to situate itself firmly in my bones….and my vision of the future, of my next life experience to begin manifesting before me. My highlight of the day was passing through St Louis, watching as the arch grew huge before me and then receded in my rear view. And the minute we were out of St Louis, hills arose from the flatlands…outcroppings of rock appeared…the sky began to widen into panoramic view…..and the Mississippi was behind me….for the time in a year and a half!!!!
Maybe the Hawaiians are correct: Maybe Hello and Goodbye mean the same thing!!
It’s been plaguing me for months. Moving chaotically across my computer screen. Jumping backwards on my documents. Creating gibberish out of my descriptive language. Hopping from one document to another. Erasing written moments of genius (!) as it treads maliciously on its tiny feet.
As many of you are aware (if not, see Blog Entry #1), I have serious Mouse Issues! This time, the mouse is without fur and toenails! For quite some time now my mouse issue has been compounded by the lurching cursor controlled by my remote mouse…a mouse with a mind of its own!! Fresh batteries, a brand new mouse, working with the computer device setups, and many other tactics, have changed nothing!!
I’ve lost text…paragraphs and pages! I’ve lost ideas and dialogue, never to be retrieved! So, in order to control the cursor, I discovered that if I held my portable mouse with my left hand, and type with my right hand, then I am able to proceed with my memoir. But the awkward process of working this way has made the writing process much more frustrating than fun.
Can it be done? Of course. Would it make a great story when I go out on book tours with the published book? Sure. Is the cost of an amusing tale worth the mind numbing insanity of attempting to control MICE and CURSORS??? Luckily for me, the answer is NO!!! Oh, and did I mention that the screen on my Dell laptop went black last year, with no replacement lights available, so that in order to use the laptop, I need to hook it up to an external monitor!
The first stop on my latest journey, led me to Ohio, spending time with lifelong friends Jesse and Michael..in their traveling home…Odessa! During my stay, they gifted me with a small Gateway laptop that I can take anywhere to continue to work on and finish my memoir by my March deadline.
Turns out it wasn’t the chocolate covered marizipan cake or the spicy Indian lentil curry that were the highlights of this stop, instead it was the 9.5 x 12 in. technological gadget that has transformed my writing life and my story. Grateful for wonderful friends, who will be featured in a future Blog Post on YESRISKJOY. No More Excuses!!!!!
A gypsy, an adventurer, a sojourner or seeker will at times find herself overwhelmed with choices and opportunities. Many doorways can appear simultaneously, and what is she to do?
Accepting the role of gypsy requires a commitment to fluidity, to allowing the stream of life, with all its currents, all its eddies and pools and tributaries, to present itself so the seeker can stand in its midst, eyes closed, palms raised, sixth sense heightened, and welcome the wisdom that appears.
When I first began my gypsy journey in September 2014, I knew I wanted to spend my first winter in Wilmington, NC and I imagined I would travel to New Mexico for my second winter on the road. I fell in love with Wilmington: the amazing friends I already had there and the new ones I made; the beaches, from Wrightsville down to Fischer Island; tiki clubs on the pier; Mermaid shops and Tarot readers…the entire experience, a magical one!
But breaking my collarbone, followed by my wrist, altered my original plans of finding work, exhibiting in local galleries, and teaching writing and art classes….all very difficult to do when I wasn’t able to drive or hold a pen in my writing hand for 6 months! So I thought I might spend my second gypsy winter in Wilmington in order to create the experience I had originally visualized.
But the stream at my feet began moving….close friends had decided to winter in Phoenix….the idea of finishing my memoir in the “Land of Enchantment” where the story takes place, began to fill my mind…..a friend in Santa Fe offered me a place to land….friends of my New Mexico friends suggested possible job opportunities in the state. At the same time, Wilmington friends pointed to other tributaries and possibilities, not to mention, my mother, an East Coast resident, is 92 years old, and I want to spend as much time with her as I can. In addition, my two young nieces in MA will soon be teenagers, with no time for their Auntie.
So I entered the water, laid on my back, stretched out my arms, and let myself float downstream for awhile. The quieted mind, the alleyways of imagination, the daily writing practice and prayer, along with two insightful tarot readings in Wilmington!!, all led me to the wisdom hidden under river rocks. I needed to clarify my number one priority and then I needed to discern which path would be the most beneficial to manifesting that objective.
It was clear my priority is to finish my memoir in time to pitch it at AWP/Los Angeles in March 2016…..and the path that would make this goal most achievable is waiting for me in New Mexico. To bring the story fully alive, I want to stand in the orange and mauve canyons of Abiquiu, meditate in the arroyos near Black Mesa, adjacent to my former residence. I need to smell the early March wind and soak in the secret hot springs of the Jemez. To recall all my hopes and then the darkness I descended into before I was able to climb back out into that spectacular sunshine.
To make my decision, it was imperative that I stay fluid, stay open to the choices and opportunities. To be willing to read the signs and enter into my own depths of intuition, to be able and willing to change my mind, again and again, to stay flexible.
Turns out life IS sort of like my childhood game show: Let’s Make a Deal. The universe presents the doors…and it is up to us to pay attention, to trust our innate knowing, in order to make the perceptive choice.
Resistance: The refusal to accept or comply. Alice Walker understood it as the secret of joy.
Growing up, silence was my resistance. Self-imposed isolation was my resistance. Living in the pages of The Lord of the Rings and The Bell Jar; swimming through the lyrics of She’s Leaving Home [Beatles] and It’s My Life [The Animals]; meandering through the dream world of my heart was my resistance, my rebellion. I’ve always been drawn to the Rebel Archetype: to James Dean and Georgia O’Keeffe; to Leonard Peltier and bell hooks.
The last room of my Summer 2015 Art exhibit was devoted to Resistance. The room was filled with paintings, collages, sculptures, and paper mache figures of wolves and the wild woman, both of whom are archetypes that survived persecution by thriving in the wilderness, in the shadows. My purpose in creating the Resistance Room was to raise awareness and to inspire viewers to transform a torturous historical past into a meaningful and positive vision of the future. There are hidden gifts in the path less traveled of She Who Will Not Be Tamed.
A gypsy is a rebel. A gypsy is guided by resistance…born with the willingness to sacrifice certainty for freedom, for adventure, for the endless horizon. When your heart shows the way, resist the mind’s fear….when doubters penetrate your boundaries, resist their negativity. We all have a bit of the gypsy inside us…a bit of the wolf….of the wild woman. Connect to that spirit, and in so doing, welcome your joy.
I’d been warned it would be blisteringly hot. But the morning I drove the back roads from Rapid City to Badlands National Park, the sky grew a bruised purple and grey, while the wind battered my rental car back and forth across the broken yellow lines of the divided highway. At times the sky opened and poured…other times the sun backlit the dark clouds in a golden frame. The entire day I blasted the car heater, and when I stepped outside, I bundled in every piece of Winter wear I’d brought on my trip. No amount of polar fleece warmed me.
I stood before the Wall, staring at crumbling rattlesnake colored canyons….deep crevices that floated ancient voices, ancient cries and moans, on the wind. The experience was more than eerie…I felt as though the land was alive, the land was in pain, the land was speaking only to me…of a lost time, a lost world. I was grateful I was alone. Grateful I could sob and carry on without judgement, without the need to explain.
All my life I’ve held reverence for geographical space. All my life, topography has shown me who I am. From the white capped waves of Oneida Lake where, at 5, I fished with my father…he searching for perch and pike, me on a desperate hunt for a drowned brother….to the cobalt blue skies of New Mexico that stretched forever, that offered all possibility….to the mauve and orange canyons and archways of Utah and Arizona, and the wild forests of Glacier and Waterton Parks, the landscapes of my life have brought me to my knees….in gratitude, in spiritual connection, in an instinctive understanding of meaning and purpose.
While I hold deep reverence for the amazing friends and family in my life, and for the strangers I’ve met along the way; for the influences of ancestors and artists, musicians and writers who’ve come before me, who’ve led the way, who’ve shown me How, I try to always consciously recognize the world I stand in..from New York, to Paris; from Los Angeles to Jackson Hole.
On my journeys, I’ve found that every day I have to trust I’ll find my way; I’ll hear the whispers on the wind, a voice through the lyric on the radio. We are, each of us, right now where we need to be. Trust that you will go where you need to go. Trust that you will be supported and protected by the ground you walk on.
The first words out of my mouth, after I slipped in the snow and broke my wrist, were, “WTF?!” My broken clavicle had literally just healed, and now a broken wrist?! As my sister drove me to the Emergency Room, I repeated “why why why?” like a mantra. Why was this happening? Why my right arm? Why now, when I had just begun my journey? Why a second break? Why me??!!
Unable to drive, or use my right hand for 2 weeks, while I waited to have a cast applied, I spent my time reading Carolyn Myss’ Anatomy of the Spirit, and perusing all my wolf books, in preparation for my art show. During that time, I realized that asking WHY? is meaningless. It turns out my first word after the fall: “WHAT” … was the important one.
Why gets us nowhere. We can’t move beyond self pity with “why”. But, by asking myself “What?”, I was able to find meaning and purpose in my life circumstances. That’s what Resilience is all about: finding ways, or at least A way, to spur you on your quest..to fuel you to continue being curious, to propel you to the next step of your journey.
Instead of “Why”, I began asking myself: What can I do with this situation? I now had at least 2 more months in which I would not be capable of completing any serious work for my exhibit. So, what could I do with that down time?
Thus, I read; I drew stick figure, left-handed sketches of paintings I planned to create. I read wolf fairy tales and myths, and wrote barely legible notes for my own fairy tale painting. And in the process, in the slow relaxation of days, I realized that the novel I’d been working on needed to be transformed into the memoir it was originally meant to be. What I needed to do was own my story, tell the true tale..despite the many flaws it will reveal about me, about my choices.
I believe we all fall down, and without resilience, we stay there…grounded, wounded, and without purpose. The next time you find yourself asking “Why,”…turn the question into “What?” What can you do about it? What meaning can you find? What will you do with your experiences? What action will you take to move forward?
I titled my gallery exhibit “Resilience/Reverence/Resistance” because the three themes were working and weaving; braiding and criss-crossing together in my life. Resilience calls for movement…be it a change in perspective or an action of matter. Reverence and Resistance can bolster our resolve. Stay tuned for my next blog entry which will explore these two notions.
(Photo from Sean Christopher Gallery OH; Resilience Room)