Bat Flight, Carlsbad Caverns, Photo credit nps.gov

Bat medicine is rebirth, but first…

What NOT to do when fear and pain creep in

My publisher and editor warned me that the week leading up to my book launch could be fraught with extreme emotional reactions. It’s the new reality setting in… the fact that I am being exposed – seen and vulnerable at a whole new level. I understand this intellectually, and I am grateful for the warning. I think to myself, “Okay, thanks! Now I will totally see this coming. I will recognize it for what it is, and I will not give in to it. I will remain connected and committed to the vision. I will not freak out.”

Bwaaahahahhaaaa!

A year of uncertainty caught up to me in a Red Roof Inn on a Monday night.

When I say “a year of uncertainty”, I am referring to what my friend Kelli calls the Void – the place where one door has closed and another has yet to open. It is a dark and difficult place to find your footing. You are never quite sure which way is up and which way is down and which way will lead you forward or even if forward is a place that exists anymore, and if so is it the right way to go? In this vast wilderness, the only thing I had to hold onto is my resolve in the following: I am a child of faith, I am divinely led, and I will have all the resources I need. I have been navigating this wilderness void for the last year, roaming from place to place, searching for something that meant more than my wandering did. People have asked me when I am going to settle down. “I don’t know,” I say, “But I’ll know when I know.”

Blank white book w/path

I believe I have found that something I have been searching for. The door is opening before me, and I can finally see a little light from the other side streaming in. I am returning to a place of passion and purpose. I am returning to a place that feels like home. My book launches in one week, and with it my new business as a solo women’s adventure coach. But first…

Two miles from my exit, I pass under a sign that reads Bat Cave. It catches my eye, as Bat was also present at my recent Reiki attunement. Bat medicine is rebirth. I am excited at the concept of rebirth. Yes! Thank You! THANK YOU! I am ready to step into my new life. I am ready to dive headlong into whatever is next for me. In my enthusiasm for the beginning my new life, I neglect to figure what rebirth requires – death. One must die before one can be reborn. As I check into the motel and settle myself for the evening, the hypnotic hum of the road is broken, and it takes my breath away.

Bat Flight, Carlsbad Caverns, Photo credit nps.gov

Batman Begins

I am reminded of the story of how the Batman was born. A deep pain drove Wayne into the wilderness. Here he encountered the League of Shadows, finding an outlet for his fury and a discipline that honed it into a new purpose. His final test was to face his deepest fear and to be transformed by it. Only then would he be free. Only then would he be fit for service. Into the pit of his childhood terror he fell, and when he rose again, he was a new man – The Batman.

At a Red Roof Inn on this Monday night, I too fall into the pit of my childhood terror. The menacing face of fear looms large at me, fangs staring at me. He slithers under my skin and consumes me from within. He hisses in my heart… Time has run out. You have nothing left. You are alone. No one can save you…

This is not the first time I have fought fear. I grasp at my gratitude, and it is but a vapor against the stark reality of the claims made by fear. My faith fails me. My spirit fails me. I grasp at my mantras, and they fail me. What is happening to me? I wince against the shadow. I know better than this! Fight, Sonya! FIGHT! But there is no fight left in me. I feel my heart failing, the shallow beating shallow beating shallow, shallow, shallow. I just need to sleep. I am so tired. I am so very tired.

I struggle all night to catch some rest and reprieve from the onslaught. I run my Yoga Nidra meditations over and over. I focus on breathing and calling the light. As day breaks, I find myself utterly broken with it, exhausted and desolate.

Bat Cave-1

Breakdown

The last of my points are spent, and I check out of the motel. I don’t know why this hits me so hard. Things are going exactly as planned. I weep as I load the car. There is no strength left in my legs. I weep as I drive out of the lot. There is no strength left in my arms. I weep as the road stretches out before me, yellow dash, yellow dash, yellow dash. My eyes burn red and blinking and weary. I weep as I enter the forest. Please let there be a place for me. I weep as I pitch my tent and pour myself inside and collapse onto my back. My head swells and aches and throbs, and my body writhes and racks itself in emotional agony. A wellspring of tears from the depths of my soul bursts open bitterly and refuses to be consoled. Tears run forcefully across my cheeks and pool down into my ears and stop up my hearing. My mouth gapes open to cry out in pain, but the cry is silent – a black hole.

I lie there at an utter loss for what feels like an eternity. My body and my mind is wholly paralyzed, numb with fear and pain. I am deaf and dumb and blind, hopelessly frozen. My body sinks deeper and deeper into the earth, engulfed by the black cloak of shadow. I let myself sink. I let myself go. I find rest in this pit of terror, letting go of any effort to free myself. I become perfectly content to just lie there forever, unable to move my fingers or toes, unable to open my eyes or my heart – just perfectly, exquisitely embalmed by the ground.

Called Back from Beyond

Somewhere far, far away, a small sound breaks through. I hear a bird calling, an echo from some distant land. My mind orients toward its song. I hear a creek babbling, a playful, bashful dancing across the dream of a forest floor. The sound of scurrying water fills my ears, and awareness rises within me. I feel a tingling in my body. I feel my eyes behind my eyelids. I feel myself, the witness, rising up into my body.

I flutter my eyelids, and they open. I wiggle my fingers and my toes, and goosebumps spread out across my skin. I swallow and stretch my extremities, groggy and disoriented. I see shades of orange and yellow as my eyes try to focus. I become aware that I wear glasses and would need them to see straight. I curl onto my side and push myself upright into a seated position. I spot my glasses and push them onto my face, my vision sharpening slowly. The orange is my tent. The yellow is the sun.

My phone whistles at me. I reach for it cautiously, still moving like molasses. It’s Mom. Her text says, “New breakthrough. Call me.” I see my water bottle sitting within reach, and I wrap my fingers around it and pull it into my lap. I unscrew the cap and take a sip of water. I swallow and feel the water dance down my throat. I take a bigger sip, and I sigh as the water flows and soothes. Yes, call Mom. Breakthrough. Good.

I rally myself up and out of the tent and into the car. I turn the key over in the ignition and roll the windows down. I drive slowly to the rec area where I will have signal. I take a deep breath and another drink of water, and I call my mom.

Breakthrough

Mom has been listening to Louise Hay, and she is bubbling and gushing about all that has just come alive in her. The word became flesh. The fog in my mind begins to lift as she speaks. Something about how love for our Self is the birthplace of miracles. Something about a love so deep and pure, the kind of love we have always longed for, and how we are supposed to give that love to our Self. “We must become the love we have always dreamed of, Sonya! And we must give that love to our Self,” she says.

I can feel my appetite starting to return, and I pull out some spicy hummus and zucchini as she continues talking. I can feel the color returning to my cheeks as well, as I slice and scoop and chew and swallow and listen to my mother. Her voice is like salve to my soul. I wish I could tell you exactly what she is saying, but all I really hear is LOVE, love for our Self. Something about all those things we wish our mate would do for us, we need to do them for our Self. If we want flowers, then give flowers in love to our Self. If we want to dance, then take our Self dancing in love. Send our Self a card to show our Self how much we love her. We don’t have to look outside ourselves for love. Love, Love, LOVE our Self.

Something clicks in me as I remember what I read in the brand new book by my friend, TheoSophia Rose. “I am the love I have been looking for my whole life,” I said. And I know that it is Truth speaking.

Flowers-1

Breaking Free

How can this be? We are just supposed to love our Self? I know that I know this, that I learned this along my journey, but I feel like I have only scratched the surface. I realize I have a head knowing. What I need is a heart knowing. What would it feel like to love myself so thoroughly and so fiercely that my deepest longings are actually being fulfilled? Why does this feel so preposterous? Can it really be that simple?

When I return to camp, I spot a cluster of tiny purple flowers. I pull a small glass from my car and pour some water in the bottom of it. I wander around camp and down to the creek and collect a few more sprigs – a little more purple and a little pink and a little yellow too. I slip them into the glass and sit them across from my chair. There! I brought you flowers, Sonya. I know how much you love them. I want you to know how much I love you too. I feel myself smile all the way down to my heart.

What else do we want, Sonya? I remember the painting from my cousin Teresa, which has accompanied me throughout my journey. I pull it from the car and prop it up next to the flowers. I sit and admire my new pretty sitting space. It speaks to me, and I love it all. The sun dapples through the trees, beginning its even decent. A soft breeze whispers by. Pale yellow leaves drift through the sky, being loosed and falling from the branches above like giant auburn snowflakes. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. When I open my eyes, they fell anew on the painting of the moon and the Phoenix.

You know you have laid ahold of the right dream when you are willing to let it be the death of you — only to rise again. Book launch in T-minus seven days.

Phoenix-1

On being #WiselyWild

Okay, so here it is: What NOT to do when fear and pain creep in

  • Turn off the reminder that you have a call with your book coach in 15 MINUTES, just as the breakdown begins. This is THE TIME you need her most.
  • Decide that you will NOT reach out to ANYONE, including your pilgrimage coach, because you don’t want to burden anyone or let them see you like this.
  • Turn on a movie for release and inspiration instead, because you can do that alone and it reminds you that the hero always crumbles before the big victory.
  • Text your ex when said movie also reminds you that you might very well have all of your dreams come true, except the one you dreamed with him in it.
  • Expect your ex to be charmed by your exquisite vulnerability and realize he needs to save you after all.
  • Continue to ignore all indications that NOW would be a good time to reach out to the people who love you.

Have a plan for when the darkness falls. If it never does, SWEET! If it does, STICK TO THE PLAN. You have allies for a reason. For peace sakes, let them help you.

If you don’t have a plan and you don’t have allies, just HANG IN THERE. This too shall pass. And when it does, cultivate some new, meaningful relationships. You may be flying solo, but you do not have to do it alone.

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It’s up to YOU! #NewYork, New York

🎼 If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere!

New York, in my mind, is the epitome of manifesting your dreams. Like starlets to Hollywood and guitar pickers to Nashville, the brazen are drawn to the struggle, the hustle, and the nearly impossible odds of New York City. Madonna Louise Ciccone was 19 years old when she moved to New York with only $35 in her pocket. The iconic move was a revered theme in fantasies of my own.

New York is where the serious get serious. When you come to New York, you are telling the universe you are ALL IN. It has a mystique about it, grit and glimmer at the same time. It was a place I personally never dreamed of. It was too big for me – too bold, too daring, too audacious.

World on your shoulders-1

 

And yet I found myself here, just by following my feet.

I think it is fitting that the universe would take me into the heart of Manhattan. As big a dreamer as I have been, I was afraid to go *too far*. I was afraid to be too gutsy, too defiant… too reckless. I wanted more from my life, but New York was over the top. I was content to settle for professional, the daily grind, careful to be grateful for every little scrap that came my way.

I was mouse, nosing around in the kitchen, scurrying for the crumbs, staying hidden in the corners, making my nest in the walls. I had the smallest, squeaky voice that was rarely really employed. I dreamed big dreams, but they were always confined in some way, unable to grow beyond my whiskers and my little nose.

New York Pink-1

But this mouse somehow found herself in New York City, as a driver even!, in the company of an artist, a fashion designer, a performer, and a producer. I felt the heartbeat of ambition in my bones. The grit and glitter fluttered in my belly. Sultry pulses sweat through my skin in the heat of the night. I dared not, but destiny drew me anyway, whispering it is bigger and sooo much better than you let yourself imagine. And you are welcome.

I strode the streets and drank it all in. I saw roots that broke up the concrete and buildings that scraped the sky. I saw beauty and grime, drive and despair, and I loved it all. I was a mouse among the masses, eating my cheese. Not just any cheese either – Raclette.

New York Fly-1

This all began with a single decision – to strip myself down to the barest essentials, seek out wild places, and uncover the primal truth of who I really am.

She Persisted-1

GO Solo Travel – Toronto

In conjunction with the launch of my book, I am creating a series of blog posts in service to other women who might be considering solo travel. I am focusing on baby steps right now, places where a woman might feel comfortable getting her feet wet with solo travel. I’ll begin with my most recent jaunt and work my way back from there, keeping up with the new places I am visiting in the meantime.

Why Toronto?

This was my first international jaunt since GOing nomad last year. I was invited to the Archangel Summit, an annual gathering of mission-driven entrepreneurs, leaders, and professionals. I attended the event with about fifty of my fellow authors and our mentor, Dr. Angela Lauria, who was a speaker at the summit. The event is a fundraiser, with entry fees being gifted forward to The Archangel Fund, which is used to provide micro-loans and donations to entrepreneurs and charities making the world a better place.

I considered Toronto a great baby step for my own solo international travel. I could literally drive (or ferry) across the border, so there were no logistical challenges with transportation. The people speak english, and the currency is very similar. I exchanged $160 American for $188.50 Canadian and was delighted to hold in my hands the FAR more beautiful bills of our northern neighbors. 🙂

Money-1

Crossing the Border

Crossing the border was simple and relatively painless. Being questioned by a uniformed officer made me slightly nervous, as did the fact that two dogs were loose and sniffing around my car. Justice was more nervous than I was, but we managed. I was asked the purpose for my visit, and I answered that I was headed to Toronto for the Archangel Summit. “What’s the Archangel Summit?” the officer asked.

“It’s a gathering of entrepreneurs,” I said.

“Are you an entrepreneur?” He asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I wrote a book about solo travel for women. I work with women who have a deep inner urge for solo travel and adventure. I help them find their way.” He was satisfied. It was strange and wonderful, answering that question in the affirmative. It was the first time I have ever identified myself as an entrepreneur.

The officer then asked me whether I had medical insurance, reservations and ample funds for my travel. A simple “yes” to these questions sufficed. He finished his inquiry by asking if I was transporting a firearm, tobacco or alcohol. A simple “no” to this question sufficed as well. And thus I was ushered into Canada.

I had been following my GPS and was delighted to hear “Welcome to Canada!” I thought it was so cool when my GPS started speaking in kilometers instead of miles. Then I FREAKED OUT when I saw my first speed limit sign. It was also posted in kilometers. Holy Crow!! I had no idea what the conversion was! I got sick in the pit of my stomach and goosebumps broke out along my entire body. My mind immediately rushed into the worst case scenario. OMGOSH, I’m in a foreign country and I’m going to get pulled over and they are going to deport me cause I didn’t study my math before I went and did something serious like cross the border. Fortunately, my car speaks kilometer too. 🙂 Imagine the wave of relief when I noticed that little inner circle on my speedometer.

River Rouge-1

Opting Outside

There are two campgrounds within a 30-ish minute drive to downtown Toronto. (You can find a list of campgrounds and conservation  areas at TRCAparks.ca.) I chose Glen Rouge Campground, which is actually within the Toronto city limits, and my site was backed by the Rouge River. The campground was heavily populated, even though it was the first weekend after labor day in September. My site had a fire pit and picnic table. The washrooms and showers were a short stroll away.

Had it been warmer, I could have taken advantage of the free general admission and discounted swimming at Petticoat Creek Conservation Area. But with daily high temperatures in the mid-60s and overnight lows in the upper 40s, I opted to explore the Rouge Park Trails instead. The trails are dog-friendly and moderately trafficked. Trail running is totally doable on this well-maintained system. The pathway is wide and obvious, fairly flat in most places, with ample white blazes to help you keep your feet. There are several spurs that wander off the path. I followed a couple of these and found they eventually routed right back onto the main trail. The Mast Trail is 5.1 km round trip. The trailhead is located off the parking lot at the entrance to Glen Rouge Campground, and the trail navigation is available on the All Trails app.

Justice @ Millennium Square-1

For a more urban but quaint hike or bicycle option, I loved the Pickering Waterfront Trail. The Millennium Square at the foot of Liverpool Road offers gorgeous views of Frenchman’s Bay and has won awards for its beautiful design. The Waterfront Trail through Pickering is divided into three named sections. First Nations Trail (3.5 km) is the western leg. Monarch Trail (4.7 km) surrounds Frenchman’s Bay and ends at Millennium Square. Peak Trail (4.0 km) runs from Millennium Square to the eastern border with Ajax. Each name has a historical or environmental significance. The trail is pet-friendly.

Millennium Square boasts a spectacular sunset view and stargazing. Dining options include The Waterfront Bistro, The Beach Chip food truck, and Yogen Fruz ice cream shoppe – all with patio seating.

Liverpool Road-1

Coffee Connection

Liverpool Road itself offers ample free parking and a number of locally owned boutique shops, including the OpenStudio Art Café. This adorable coffee shop is where I did most of my work while in the Toronto area. Owned and operated by the utterly delightful Michèle Bolton, this waterfront area meeting place offers free wifi, specialty coffee and tea, freshly-baked beignets and other delectable treats. Michèle displays the work of local visual artists, all of which is available for purchase. The Café also features original live art and music events and hosts an open mic night on most Fridays.

OpenStudio Art Cafe-1

I appreciated the courtesy Michèle extended to Justice as well. The patio is pet-friendly for well-behaved pups, and an outdoor outlet was available to juice my laptop and cell phone while I worked. I highly recommend this lovely little gem.

OpenStudio Art Cafe-2

As far as downtown Toronto goes, I didn’t do much exploring. Parking was a bit costly, and I was busy with the conference activities. I noticed a number of parks sprinkled throughout the city as I drove, and they looked to be well-used. Queen’s Park is one of the oldest urban parks in Canada, a pretty, green oasis bordered by the buildings of the University of Toronto. Glen Rouge Campground did provide a Toronto points of interest map and details on city transit access. More information on Toronto attractions can be found at SeeTorontoNow.com.

Centennial Trail salute, Spokane WA

Being both a busy woman and a lover of the outdoors, I seriously appreciate public green spaces. City parks and trails can be an excellent way to fit spending time with nature into a hectic lifestyle, balancing the effects of the urban hustle and bustle.

According to proponents of environmental psychology, spending time in nature has at least three positive effects:

  1. Reduced stress
  2. Improved mood
  3. Improved cognitive performance

muir

My favorite place to meet nature during my busy five years as a resident of Spokane was the Mirabeau access point of the Centennial Trail. This was a quick drive from my home and from my work in our downtown tasting room, but the river running along the valley floor and the tall trees lining the pathway shielded me from the urban noise and made it feel like I was a world away.

This section of the Centennial Trail holds many memories for me, so I paid a visit to offer my gratitude before saying so long to Washington and continuing my journey east.

I took up running when I moved to Washington, and this was my top choice for logging in my miles. Not only was it a beautiful natural area, but the trail was well-maintained and relatively flat. I felt more like a wild animal than a chunky human here, and I could work on my breathing and my form without over-taxing my body and my psyche.

140917 Walk

It was here that I first broke the ten minute mile threshold in a 5k race, completing the run in less than thirty minutes. The race was part of Valleyfest, and it was a huge accomplishment for me.

It was here that I made my decision to run my first half marathon. I had been invited to join a friend in running the Bridge of the Gods, but I had never run that far, and I was wavering in my resolve. I took to the trail that day and found many other women out for a run. One group of three was exiting the trail as I was entering, and they asked me to take a photograph of them, so they could prove to their trainer that they had logged in their miles. “What race are you training for?” I asked.

“The Spokane Negative Split,” the brunette in the pink shorts and ponytail replied. “Are you training for a race?”

“I am thinking about running the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks,” I said.

“Oh, wow! I think that race is sold out,” she said.

My stomach dropped and burned.

“You might want to check on that right away,” she said. “And good luck!”

“You too,” I said. And in that instant I made my choice. I drove home from the trail, logged onto the website and paid my entry fee.

I did some of my best thinking here, so I also used the trail for walking. There were times I spread my blanket on the shoreline of the river and wrote in my journal or just stared into the sparkling water. It was here that I came to brainstorm new business ideas. It was here that I came after the shocking death of a close friend.

160101 Snow

It was here that I labored over my life’s purpose on New Year’s Day. I had been feeling unfulfilled in my work and was reading Napoleon Hill’s thoughts on the concept of drifting. The park was a dazzling winter wonderland, and the trail was covered in snow. I enjoyed complete solitude and clarity as I plodded through my dilemma one footprint at a time.

Today I come to say farewell to what feels like a dear friend. I took off my shoes and did some rock scrambling with Justice down by the water. I brought my journal and my camera to capture some last memories. I rolled up my jeans and slid my feet into the cool water, listening for the calling birds. I watched a critter sunning itself a few feet from me and a family in kayaks floating by with eyes closed and faces upturned.

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I am passionate about helping more women experience the benefits of being out in natural places. Being too busy is simply not an acceptable excuse. The more hectic your life is, the more important it is for you to spend time alone with nature. You owe it to yourself first, and when we care enough for ourselves we have more to give to those we love. Need help with this? Email me at sequoia1011@gmail.com.

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The Centennial Trail runs 37 miles one-way from Spokane, Washington to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It has numerous access points, each offering a new adventure. The trail is pet-friendly and popular with runners, walkers, bicyclists, tourists and locals alike. Several city parks and serene water features are accessible from the trail. It truly is a gem and worth a trek.

Just another #travel book?

My 50 states travel project for 2017 was born from a crazy, burning desire to write a book. I have always dreamed of being a writer. I know what it is like to feel a deep yearning inside that keeps you searching for an answer. This deep longing finally drove me to give myself the time and space I needed to actually respond. I was excited, and more than a little nervous.

  • Have you ever been in a place like this? Where you felt a deep desire to do something more creative in your life? Responding to that deep desire feels a little crazy, but not responding is kinda making you crazy anyway.

Capitol Reef-4

So I embarked on my epic road trip. My journaling went great! Every day I filled three pages in my notebook with stream of consciousness writing. I was getting a blog post up about once a week. I even sent out a few fun newsletters.

But every time I sat down to work on my book, it just felt totally wrong. I had no idea how to do it. Do I just tell my story in chronological order? What is the point I want the reader to take away? The travel was changing me, freeing me, and I really wanted to write about that, but I didn’t want my book to be just another travel adventure story.

Capitol Reef-2

As the weeks went by I became more and more frustrated. I was not satisfied to just put words on a page. I wanted to produce a quality piece of work, something of true value, something that could really make a difference in the world. (surprise, surprise :)) As mid-year approached, I grew seriously concerned that I would get to the end of the year and have nothing to validate my efforts. Plus, I was running out of money faster than I expected. I finally realized I could not do this on my own. I needed help.

  • Have you ever heard the old proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?”

I was meeting so many fascinating people on the hiking trails and in the campgrounds, even at the gas station. I started praying that I would somehow, someway cross paths with someone who could help me write the book I dreamed I could write.

Capitol Reef-3

Then I met Dr. Angela Lauria, and I knew my prayers had been answered. Angela has been helping birth books since 1994 and has coached dozens of authors. She is highly selective about the people she works with, and with my application I was asking, Am I good enough? Is my idea strong enough? To my delight, I was one of a handful of candidates selected for her program, a kind of book boot camp that will help me produce a completed manuscript by August 1st!

<dramatic pause for applause> I know, right?!?

What a relief. I didn’t hesitate. I said yes to the call I could never quiet inside me.

I have heard the heart cry of so many other women who have also felt the Call of the Wild. Through this crucible I have discovered that the deep yearning to write a book was actually divine gift, and that I had an opportunity to use this gift in a much bigger way than I had ever imagined.

  • What is it that drives a woman to brave the dangers of solo travel? What is it that stops her? Would you ever choose to hop in your car and drive into the unknown? I am developing an idea that will help us answer those questions.

I am thrilled to say that one day very soon I will be able to share my finished book with you. Better yet, I will have a budding business in the creative arts that will allow me to support myself and other women as an author who makes a difference.

one decision

Turning my project back into a #journey

I caught myself in the mirror, and the sight surprised me. I stood there, squared into the reflection, my eyes wandering over and taking in what I saw before me. This is not the old, familiar image anymore. I can hardly believe this is me. I move a curious step closer, take a deliberate breath, and then I slowly let it out again. I see the face of a 44 year-old woman attached to this body, the lines of consternation and time are evident but graceful. I am drawn further in toward the mirror, toward the reflection of this face, tilting my head and regarding her more closely still. Deepening laugh lines play at the corners of my eyes. I smile and make them come alive again.

“You are doing this, Sonya,” I say out loud to the person behind my eyes. You are really doing this. I gaze deeply into her and catch the glimmer of the person I always wanted to be. I knew she was in there. I didn’t think it would take this many years. I didn’t think it would be this hard. I regard her carefully, looking even more intently into her eyes.

Bloodshot? I take a step closer, until my nose is almost touching the mirror. I tip my forehead forward, now looking from under my lids, rotate my head to the right, rotate my head left, and back to center again. I lift my chin and draw my eyelids wide and back. Tiny red rivulets run from the bright white outer edges toward the morning blue center. Why are my eyes so bloodshot?

I had turned this trip into WORK.

I have a dream

I have dreamed of being a writer all my life, and now I am chasing that dream with all that is in me. This trip is not a year-long joyride. It is serious business, and it has a deadline – Thanksgiving. I am reinventing my life, and there is no time to waste. I’ve leveraged everything I’ve got, so I’ve got one shot to get this right. My future is on the line, and I went all-in on the flop.

With so much at stake, I defaulted into tackling this trip like I had tackled every other lofty goal in my life. I was using all of my familiar masculine energy: being driven, gritty, strategic, relentless; wrestling my dreams into submission. I demanded the most of myself every day, marching my way across the country, monitoring my pace, cracking the whip at my to-do list. Morning pages – crrrack! Affirmations – sssnap! Hike the canyon – pop!pop! Fuel your body – crrrack! Choose the next destination – sssnap! Drive on – pop!pop! Make camp, Bunk down, Day complete, Now sleep! I said SLEEP. EXECUTE, SoldIER!

I had regimented myself to maximize my odds for success. I hated it when my circumstances would not comply with my regimen. I was frustrated if Justice was moving too slowly, or if she was stopping and sniffing too often. I was irritated if the McCafe did not supply the public outlets I needed to charge my laptop. I lamented when the Internet did not reach my campsite. I seethed when a technical hiccup erased the newsletter I had spent two hours working on.

Week 13 #1000Miles1Year #50States

Week 13 of my project (to log 1,000 foot-miles across all 50 states in 2017) took me into Texas. I contemplated the state mindfully, deciding where I wanted to concentrate my time and attention. I had never been to the Gulf area, so that was quite appealing to me. However, Texas is a BIG state, and I knew that the deeper I drove in, the longer it would take to drive back out. Did it really make sense to go all the way south to the border? I calculated my drive times and fuel expenses for several route options. It was entirely illogical to splurge on my resources and spend my time in the Gulf. But my heart argued with my head.

North Padre Island

I arrived in Corpus Christi, crossed over the Intercoastal, and continued several more miles out to where I would camp. It was a beach site, located on a thin stretch of sand, nestled between Mustang Island and Padre Island National Seashore. Under adverse weather conditions, this tiny strip of land would be fully submerged under the mighty Gulf waters. But today is far from adverse. It has been sunny, the temperature in the upper 60s, a persistent coastal current streaming over the shoreline. The orb of the sun is hypnotic, embarking on its descent behind the dunes, kicking up pinks and purples behind her. I study the high tide line and pitch my tent beyond it, spreading out my footprint amid the grassy dunes but maintaining a direct sight line to the sea.

The shifting sand is a baby-fine granule and feels silky under my feet as I load my sleeping bags and pillow into the tent body. Rain is not expected tonight, so there is no need to cover my quarters with the nylon fly. The mesh top alone offers a 360° view of what will soon be a starlit sky.

I bemoan the fact that my camera battery is dead, as my last three McCafe stops did not yield a single public outlet. Shame to miss photos of this amazing place, so I snap a few with my smartphone instead. Internet and cell service are totally sketchy here, so I sigh, and settle into the tent rather unplugged. I face south toward the crashing waves, sit up tall and cross-legged, and finally breathe in deeply, purposefully, trying to let it all go. Here I am, Gulf Waters. What do you have to teach me?

rumi heart

#Sunriser

I rose with the sunrise the following morning, raised my head and my phone to catch a photo or twenty. I have spent leisure time on other beaches, Atlantic and Pacific, and I was anticipating the pacifying, rythmic echo of the waves crashing one after another: ka-churrrrr, ka-churrrrr, ka-churrrrr… But the waves sound entirely different today. Here the wind is blowing so relentlessly that there is no lull between the crashing of the waves. The current just pummels the shoreline continuously, so the waves ROAOAR more like a constant whirring jet engine. My tent concaves politely under its pressure.

I decide to spend the whole day right here and log our miles strolling up and down the beach. As the sun continues to rise, and with it the temperature, I throw the rain fly up and over the tent body, snap it firmly into place, velcro it tightly to the tent poles, and tie back the sides, creating a little cabana for myself and Justice. I envision reading and writing to my heart’s content in this retreat from the heat. This will be a productive day.

The wind increases early and steadily. Seawater hangs thickly in the air, such that I taste its saltiness when I lick my lips. The fine-grained sand is picked up easily and carried swiftly by the current, so a layer of grit clings to everything it graces. My sleeping bags are covered in it. My glasses, cell phone, lantern and car windows are filmy from it. I cannot bring any books or writing materials out into this. Work is thwarted once again. I spin the hair around my face and pin it into tiny buns to keep the ragged strands from blowing into my eyes. The dazzling sun, the warm, moist gale, the roaoaring waves lull me into near listlessness. I finally find the time to meditate, something I have been meaning to do for weeks.

A turning point

This time was a critical turning point for me. Obliged to slow down and truly drink in paradise, I frankly realized I had turned this epic journey into a project. I had even started *calling* it a project! And I had assumed the project manager mode instead of allowing myself to be a journeyman. I was not really nourishing myself. I was not giving myself time and space to be present, to be impacted, to be changed.

There were things I wanted from this journey, other than a career change. Beauty. Creative. Spirit. To become more connected, feminine, and free. To find my voice, my message. Where was I making time for these?

It was all too easy to stumble. I am all too good at being a project manager. I have no idea how to just let go and be a journeyman. What if I get it wrong? What if I miss some critical detail? What if Thanksgiving comes and I just end up broke, with no leads and no dream because I neglected to create and execute a viable strategy?

Then again, what if I gain the whole world and lose my soul? Isn’t that what I have been searching for? And wasn’t the land calling out to me?

I am venturing into new territory, on so many levels. I don’t know how to do this. The person I have always wanted to be is right here, making her debut. But I can’t make this happen. Intuition tells me this only comes about when I allow myself to be unmade. I need to stop following my regimen and start following my bliss, and permit that joy to do its own special work in me. It does not need my planning to accomplish this. It does not need my execution. It needs me to be more open, receptive, and paying my attention to Beauty. Creative. Spirit.

Back to my #roots

Pop is worried about me. He has been watching my video logs on YouTube, and he says I am getting too skinny. He thinks I should be eating more rich foods and drinking hot coffee in the morning. He suggested I take a library day to review my goals. He begs the question: How are my present personal sacrifices being leveraged for my future happiness?

My future father-in-law is totally sweet, and I appreciate the sentiment. We have lived very different lives, and I am sure it is difficult for him to imagine why I would be driving alone across the country, imposing mean conditions on myself, chasing a dream that is still largely undefined. You may be wondering the same.

As fate would have it, I am entering the American Plains, a region that holds my roots and many childhood memories. A goal review at this time, in this place, is perfect. We are nearing the end of the year’s first quarter, and I am thus about 25% into my project. Looking toward the future, I take time to remember where I came from – small town USA.

Cotton in the Park-1

Agriculture is the basis of Carnegie’s economy, the main production being cotton, wheat, broomcorn, cattle, hogs and poultry. Here, cotton is scattered about the park playgrounds.

My kin on my mother’s side moved to Arizona from Montana when mom was still a young girl, and the family lived modestly as grandpa continued farming and beekeeping. My kin on my father’s side lived in Kansas and rural Oklahoma, where my grandmother had a cellar and canned her own vegetables and preserves.

My earliest memories are walking my sandles through rusty-colored dirt, chasing the baby horned toads because the big ones scared me, staying in the old converted school bus on grandpa’s farm, making mud pies and a delicacy I called “piccolosherie” from old can tabs, pebbles and other items I could scavenge from about the neighborhood. Did you know that if you trap a grasshopper in your hands, it will spit on you?

Grandma's Home-1

My grandmother’s home in Carnegie, population >2,000.

I grew up an army brat, and my family moved frequently. When my father was stateside, we lived on the army bases. When he was abroad, we often lived with family. He would send pictures and postcards from his foreign duty stations. I was beguiled by the images of these iconic structures and exotic landscapes, and I wanted so badly to be there myself. I was jealous that my father got to visit all of these amazing places, while I was stuck at home, day after day, with the same old dirt and rubble and horned toads and spitting grasshoppers.

At least we got to move around when he was back stateside. Each new duty station brought a new adventure for me. I got to go snow tubing on the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I got to tap my toes in real blue grass in Kentucky. One time our family actually got to accompany my father overseas. We lived in Germany for a year, and I thought it was the most magical experience imaginable. Though we lived on the base among the other American families, I attended a Host Nations class at school, where I got to learn practical German and practice what I learned on field trips, like going to the market and trying to buy tomatoes for the evening’s dinner salad. I was hooked.

Our military life ended when I was in fourth grade, and we settled back into Carnegie, Oklahoma. I thought it was utterly boring. I thought I would be stuck in that place for the rest of my life. I spent my summers at the park and the swimming pool, running around barefoot, sleeping outside under the stars, going to the pow-wows and rodeos, anything to bring the sparkle of life to my dull, brown world. I spent my winters devoted to school. We qualified for free breakfast and lunch, and I worked hard to earn good grades and ignore the fact that the other girls rode horses and wore leg warmers and I did not. I believed if I got smart enough, I could make the kind of life I really wanted for myself.

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The rodeo and the pow-wow were the highlights of my summers in Carnegie.

I became obsessed with the spelling bee. I found out that the national competition was held in Washington, DC. If I could make it to nationals, I would get to go there. Words were now my very best friends, my ticket out of town. I took home the practice book, which was a thick pamphlet of stapled papers containing column after alphabetical column of words, words, words. I studied those columns of words all summer long, dreaming of climbing the stairs of the Washington Monument and sitting in the giant lap of Abraham Lincoln himself. That winter, I won my school bee and was runner-up the regional bee. I made it to the state competition in Oklahoma City, where I misspelled the word dishwasher. Well… I was never a very good one. 😉

A couple of years later, my family moved to northern Virginia, and my dream of DC became a reality after all.

It took several months of concentrated effort to remove the southern twang from my voice. Adapting myself to a changing environment was exciting, and I was relieved to distance myself from that dull, dirty existence I once knew. I was metropolitan now. I ate seafood and took a foreign language. I saw cherry blossoms on the Mall and masterpieces by Monet. I wore dangle earrings and saved my money for two months to buy a pair of white jeans and a t-shirt by the Colors of Benetton.

Such would be the motion of my life over the next thirty years.

greganderson

Mural on Main Street in Carnegie.

 

Ironically, the pursuit of my dreams has led me back to my roots. Connecting with the land, sleeping under the stars, finding inspiration in the song of the whippoorwill… I missed the meaning in those simple messages long ago. I am learning to listen more carefully now, wearing messy hair and dirty feet once again. My southern twang is gleefully returning to me. Finding my message and my authentic voice is a journey whose time has come.

I don’t view my present circumstances as a sacrifice. I am living in my happiness. A simple life is not necessarily a mean one. I am discarding all of the distractions and discovering what is truly important to me, as the cotton gin separates the fibers from the seed. I am becoming ever more grateful for every small pleasure, like hot coffee and linen napkins and grasshoppers.

The grasshopper is both grounded and free, connected to the earth yet able to fly with the currents. With a single thrust of its strong hind legs, grasshopper takes flight with a leap of faith, not knowing exactly where it will land. I believe it is imperative for me to do the same. I may not know exactly where this leap of faith will take me, but I trust myself to ride the wind.