Sleeping at Walmart

Lake Crescent, Washington
One of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful lake I have ever seen on our travels
When we lived in our mini van during the summer, we slept in a Walmart Parking lot at least a half dozen times. I always wanted to sleep in a van in a parking lot. It feels clandestine for me and so ordinary for a lot of RV travelers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who loves staying in Walmart Parking lots with his wife in their RV has they travel through the states.
The key for me is to shop at Walmart and use the bathroom right before bedding down around 10 p.m. In our mini van, we didn\’t have the luxury of a bathroom. After my last trip of the night across the parking lot back to the van after picking up some snacks, we would watch a movie on our phones, than climb in the back, and dig ourselves under the sleeping bag. My partner would build himself a fort in his corner to shield himself from the lights and sounds of cars and delivery trucks going in and out through-out the night. Me. I would lie exposed to the flashing lights in my sleeping shorts and shirt, falling asleep like a baby to all the noise and strangers passing through the night. I slept better in the Walmart parking lot than the camping sites we stayed at in the canyons and forests through-out the northwest. I was born in San Francisco, remembering vividly as a child how I would fall asleep listening to the traffic and watching the lights move across the ceiling like a movie projector as the buses rumbled by on the city streets. City sounds are white noise that relieves my anxiety and stress. So different from my partner who is extremely sensitive to sound.
On our next leg of the journey, I don\’t think we will spend much time sleeping in the van or staying at Walmart.  And the tent we slept in a few times when we first started our nomadic travels was returned barely used. Part of me would like to try staying at one of the truck stops along the interstates, eating some junk food, people watching, and picking out a suspense movie to end the night before falling asleep to the generators loudly buzzing and rumbling through the night. 
It\’s probably not going to happen. 
This morning, my partner and I sipped our coffees talking of Disneyland (he has no desire to ever go back, I love the Indiana Jones ride and the mayhem), exploring San Diego and hopefully making it our home base, my desires of becoming a member of the zoo and going on whale watch trips, and his desires of exploring the neighborhoods (where to settle) and walking on the beach soaking in the sun. 
We venture out again in two weeks heading south.
This morning, it is drizzling rain. NO snow, ):  I love how the beads of water cling to the branches like tiny pearls. I can\’t get enough of the rain especially after a hot, insufferable fire season. Never complain about the rain! Oh, what a blessing it is for all of us. The trees and plants need it. The animals need it. Water is so precious.  

 

Straight and Narrow

Mural in Downtown Olympia, Washington
One of my favorite places I\’ve traveled to on this Journey
I have never chosen the straight and narrow path. Some of us want to stay on the path with signs leading the way. But do any of us really get to stay on the path no matter how safe it feels?  It seems some of us jump off finding the straight and narrow uncomfortable while others are pushed off, stuck for a time at a crossroads, or lose our way finding a better adventure in the dirt somewhere out there.
Today, I am remembering a time I strayed from the straight and narrow, quite literally.  It was the mid 80\’s. I was twenty-two sitting on a velvet green couch, my friend Melanie sitting near me on a leather chair with an ashtray next to her,  her cigarette lit, a glass of wine in hand. The Argentine professional tennis player Gabriela Sabatini grunted on the tv screen, hitting the tennis ball across the net with a power I had never witnessed a woman athlete possess, any woman possess. 
During commercial time, I peppered Mel with questions. I wanted to know how it felt to be a lesbian. I knew gay women, but Mel was my first gay woman friend and I wanted to know, really know about her life. I was intrigued. Melanie, five years my senior at least, smiled. With no hesitation, an authenticity and pride I had witnessed in few women during that time (most of the women I knew, the ones I worked with in the office, their dresses, high heels and manner, were a testament to their conformity). Melanie sipping on her wine, spilled out stories of her childhood, stories of \”coming out\” to her mother, her sexuality, the first woman she fell in love with, the woman she had a crush on now.  I remember being so fascinated. So intrigued, by a story that wasn\’t anything I had ever known before, that I seriously considered going lesbian.
After a couple of experimental trips at attempting to be lesbian. I failed going no further than making out and pissing off the two women that I selfishly threw myself at. 
Looking back, I know I was searching. Searching for love. Searching for a new way of being that was so different than the confines of an IBM typewriter, spending 9-5 with married women whose aspirations at the time were having a baby shower or giving one, and dreading meeting business men in suits on blind dates that I knew always ended up going nowhere. I couldn\’t relate to them and they certainly could not relate to me and my dreams. 
Next month, I turn 55. 
I don\’t know where Melanie is. I ran into one of her lovers. The woman she had a crush on and eventually had a relationship with so many years ago. My partner and I bumped into her ex lover at a b and b near where Mel lived in the 80\’s.  Mel lives thousands of miles away now. 
My memory of her and our time together watching Gabriela break barriers with her tennis racket remind me of all the people along our paths that show us the trails we can choose or in many ways choose us to veer off the straight and narrow.

 

Fall\’s Path

 

This is the path the deer follow around our home in the forest. One day, two does and a fawn peered into the window. I was sitting on the couch, reading my book. I looked up and there they were, their noses pressed against the glass trying to figure out who this stranger was.  I don\’t know if the people who lived here before fed the deer or nurtured a relationship with the Mom and Auntie who brought their growing fawn to me. It was a gift to see them that morning a few weeks ago, so inquisitive and bold as they watched me through the glass.
This morning, the earth is damp, the saffron fall leaves nestle with the twigs and small rocks along the walk way. My partner made me a holiday tape. Dean Martin sings Silver Bells as I wait for the next storm to arrive. Pumpkin Pie and toasted cinnamon bread with hot cups of coffee take the place of breakfast and soon lunch.  I am in a cozy fall mood. 
Earlier, I ordered ten books from http://www.bookshop.org, all the books I chose written by women authors.
Bookshop.org has renewed my passion for books. I\’ve been so disappointed lately in what I\’ve found at the bookstores and through Amazon. As soon as I hit the web page at bookshop, an online bookstore that supports independent bookstores, I knew I found my home. I had to stop myself from ordering books, there were so many that caught my attention.  
One of the books, I ordered, that I am looking forward to reading is \”The Bitch\” by Pilar Quintana, a Colombian author. The book is about a childless woman who finds and adopts a dog. One of the quotes about the book attracted and repelled me. I know it\’s going to be a hard book to read. I feel like it\’s time to read writers that crack me open and guide me to another world to jar my thinking and beliefs. This book is one of many I ordered that I hope will awaken me to a deeper sense of what is going on in the places beyond the ones I think I know.
\”The Bitch is a novel of true violence. Artist that she is, Pilar Quintana uncovers wounds we didn\’t know we had, shows us their beauty, and then throws a handful of salt into them.\” –Yuri Herrera, author of Signs Preceding the End of the World
Right now, I am reading  \”A Pilgrimage to Eternity\” by Timothy Egan about his pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome in Search of Faith. At first the book was frustrating. I was getting bored with the history of bloody Christian battles and the assassination of Thomas Becket until this morning. The author won me over with his writings of Mary Magdalene, who was an educated woman of independent means who helped the working class mostly illiterate apostles. In the Book of Philips, it states she was the companion of Jesus who often kissed her on the mouth. 
Well, of course, I found a book of Mary Magdalene on bookshop.org and back ordered it in time for Christmas.  

Mary Magdalene Revealed: The First Apostle, Her Feminist Gospel & the Christianity We Haven\’t Tried Yet by Meggan Watterson

Good Weather

Portland
Leaving the Fires
My idea of good weather has changed since 2017. Before the Sonoma Napa Valley Tubbs Fire, my favorite time of year was Fall. I still love Fall, but only the tail end of it when the rains come. This morning, the first real storm of the season hit and it was wonderful. A blessing from the heavens.  The rain poured in sheets of water. I left the dry warmth long enough to take a walk through the woods near the house, a small doe was foraging down hill. As she turned, and crept away to hide a few feet away, I found a private spot in the woods and peed. We have a beautiful bathroom with a spa tub in the house we are staying in, but there is nothing like feeling wild enough to pee in the woods. It\’s something men probably don\’t think much about, for women, or at least for me, it makes me feel rooted, untamed.
Most of the afternoon, I\’ve spent watching a Netflix series, and intermittently taking a break to look out the windows with each vantage point revealing ashen grey storm clouds building up over the sky readying for the next release. I am wishing upon wish for the temperature to drop enough for snow to fall.
I sit here writing with a hot cup of coffee, a piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and a calmness I haven\’t been able to feel since the beginning of summer. For the first time in five months, I feel no threat of disaster. COVID still hovers. With a vaccine on the way, my fears diminish of getting sick or passing on the virus.  
These last few months, facing so many threats, I have learned to embrace my fears, to in a way embrace my death. I still hate fire season and the constant upheaval and worries about whether to evacuate or not. 
One of my favorite spiritual teachers Ram Dass spoke of his teacher Emmanuel who reminded him not to fear death. \”Death is safe.\”  I love that!  Death is safe. What a thought. He also said \”Death is like removing a tight shoe.\” Hmm. Maybe death isn\’t that bad after all.
I am not anticipating my death or worrying about it. I do contemplate it. And I find that the more I embrace my inevitable death from this body, I relish life even more so. 
Looking out the window, the sky grows darker. The next couple of weeks, our last few days here, I will deepen my roots into this forest, I will cherish the moments I have left. Where we are going will be so different from where we are now.  We are searching for just the right cottage on the beach in San Diego so we can plant our feet in the sand, and walk, and walk, and walk.
Today, I watch the rain and let the forest seep into my soul. 

 

Endings and Beginnings

 In the beginning of Summer, we lost our housing due to Covid. We lived in housing with five other roommates. It was pretty cramped. Losing our housing was a blessing and a catapult giving us the opportunity to finally live as nomads, something we had talked about for months before.

For almost four months, we camped through out the Northwest with our mini van and tent. I cooked meals over the campfire. I took showers in public washrooms. I got over my claustrophobia by forcing myself to sleep in the van breathing fresh air through a small window. I gazed at the stars under a light pollution free sky for the first time in years. I laughed as ground squirrels played and rolled on their backs like puppies at my feet. I envied $100,000 RVs that I could never afford. I rode on back roads for miles feeling the towns as we drove through, wondering if I could live there, knowing that I could not. Not right now. I learned that I love nature, but I prefer hotels over camping like the one in my photo above. 

Since the summer, we have evacuated from at least three of the largest mega fires ever recorded on the West Coast. All apocalyptic. All as scary as hell. The yellow-orange smoke with menacing mushroom clouds closing in on us as we raced through unfamiliar territory to safety.  

I am tired. Tired of fires. Tired of the pandemic. Tired of not finding affordable housing and a decent job.

I am excited. Excited to continue the journey to find our way home along the way. The longest I stayed in one home was ten years during my elementary school years to Junior High. Most of my life, I have moved every two years. Recently, I have moved every two or three days. 

For two months, we have lived in a lovely home with light, so much light flowing through the windows on a mountain top overlooking a valley with another mountain in the distance. It is so peaceful and quiet here. It takes us a half hour, half of that driving down the mountain, to get to the closest town with a grocery store and gas station. Most of the time is spent here on the mountain. We may go to town once a week, sometimes not that often. The next two weeks, our last two weeks, we won\’t leave for town at all. There are storms, snow projected for the next eight days, with a day or two of breaks, and back to storms until we leave after Thanksgiving. Yesterday, we shopped for provisions to last until we leave. We have so much food, I look at it all, and it\’s so much to get us through, so much food I\’ve lost my appetite.

I am hungry for snow. I hope it gets here before we leave. I\’ve never lived in it like my partner who never wants to live in a town that snows again. For me, it\’s still magical like a Charlie Brown Christmas Special. 

In two weeks, we head south to San Diego. Both of us are getting a strong feeling, a pull to make San Diego our home base, to find good jobs and settle for a while. We love the ocean, the weather (mostly in the 70s), the close proximity to Mexico (one of my favorite places to travel to), the airport that will take us to far away places when COVID is better controlled, and the opportunities for work and housing. 

I have no expectations. There are no promises. It is another adventure on a long journey that reveals itself one step at a time.

Pain in the Heart

This afternoon I finished watching \”Becoming Nobody\” a documentary about the Spiritual Teacher Ram Dass. Listening intently, I found myself finding an answer to one of the questions nagging at me the last few days after the election.  Why did so many vote for a man who has been so cruel, so damaging, so insensitive.  I\’m sure there are many answers to this question, but the one that struck me came from a place I hadn\’t thought of before.

In the documentary, sitting cross legged, touching his chest, Ram Dass spoke of empathy.  How living from one\’s heart, feeling the depth of one\’s heart, seeing and feeling suffering in the world causes such excruciating pain in the heart that one can immediately escape the pain by going to the head.  

Our practice is to stay in the heart and in my words breathe through the pain of the suffering we see and feel in our world to experience empathy deeply.

As I wonder about this, I remember people I\’ve known, myself included who have gone straight to the head when we have witnessed cruelty, unkindness, or pain. The mind jumps to justifications, excuses, sometimes even a selfish \”better them, than me\” relief, a self righteous shield \”their choices were poor\”, a better than attitude, a superiority that explains away our position, our advantage over \”theirs\”. 

When I have acted from my head instead of my heart, I have felt myself retreat, the drawbridge closes, the moat fills up with murky water giving me a sense of false separation, protection. I close my heart not wanting to hear or see the truth before me.

One day, after a hard day working for an animal shelter many years ago, I looked in the mirror and could not recognize the person looking back at me. It scared me. As I stared into the mirror at the stranger before me, I realized how far I had strayed from my path. I was following policies, working in a system at the time, I didn\’t fit in. I was looking away, ignoring my sensitivity, my inner guidance, I was running from my heart, working in a job that was not right for me. I was stuck in my head, not listening to my heart\’s desire.

Being human, I guess all of us have looked away from another\’s suffering, avoiding our hearts to run away from the \”excruciating pain\” we don\’t want to have to feel.

Is it easier to justify caging children separated from their parents listing reasons in the head why this is okay, is it easier to turn away from sustainable practices to cash in on profits that cause so much damage to the environment and wildlife, is it easier to point fingers and blame instead of working together to find a compassionate answer, is it easier to follow policies instead of questioning why?  

Is it easier to be closed in the mind, instead of open in the heart.

Living from the heart is painful. It takes great courage. It is not easy to feel the pain. To sit with the suffering.  


“I would like my life to be a statement of love and compassion–and where it isn\’t, that\’s where my work lies.”
― ram dass

 This is the work that I am committed to. It isn\’t easy. I still fail at it especially when I don\’t understand why others make the decisions that they do. This afternoon, I think I found part of the answer. It\’s our avoidance of pain, the denial of the suffering of others that keeps us stuck in rigid belief systems instead of living, breathing and acting from the heart.

Screen Time

 When I owned my pet sit business a few years ago, one of my clients was a well known Hollywood Director who released a blockbuster children\’s film on schedule every other year. They moved to the Sonoma Valley area to live out their dreams of having a vineyard and a barnyard full of animals. They stayed for about a year and half, sold the house, gave away the farm animals and returned to LA. The kids missed surfing and the beach.  What struck me about this family when I visited to take care of their animals when they were away was the lack of technology in the house.

There was a chalkboard in the kitchen with the healthy menu of the day, no landline phones, no flat screen televisions in every room. In fact, there was no flat screen tv to be found. Later, I learned this was all by design. No one in the household watched television. Smart phones were limited for use by the parents only.  They did not want the technology or outside influences to affect their children\’s creativity. 

I\’ve read this is true of Tech Giants as well. Many also limit their children\’s time on smart phone devices and television.

For many years, I lived without a television set.

Today, I have a smart phone, a smart tv in the house we are staying at, and my laptop. I subscribe to Netflix, Gaia and Hay House Radio.  Gaia and Hay House are positive, spirituality streams. Netflix, I indulge in crime shows and food/travel series to escape.  I am trying to spend more time on the positive, listening to Hay House and watching documentaries on Gaia. My biggest challenge is the news.

On my smart phone, I find myself scanning back and forth between news sources following the drama of orange head digging his heels in, fuming in the White House and the transition of power hoping and praying this time they don\’t disappoint us with their promises of change.  

I know the time I spend reading the news is a big waste of time. Why do I still do it?

I think part of it is boredom. Most of my life, I dedicated myself to my work and building my business, taking care of animals-my own and my clients, and spending the rest of my time rescuing animals. I wasn\’t raised in a Waldorf household, where education and creativity was nurtured and cultivated. I grew up watching my parents, my dad work five days a week sometimes seven fixing cars and my mom working forty plus work weeks at the post office most of our childhood and teen years.

As my sisters and I grew up, all of us leaving high school before we graduated, taking GEDS and high school proficiency exams to start working early at sixteen and seventeen, education and creative pursuits escaped us. My younger sisters worked hard hours in retail and the restaurant businesses. I started in dog grooming working my way into the mortgage industry by having decent typing skills. 

Today, not having a career or a business has left me a bit astray. Who am I. What is my purpose. Am I worthy not having a job, a cause, or business to throw myself into?

What do I do. How do I fill up all this space in my life. Why do I feel like I need to fill it up. Is it okay to spend my time watching the stars disappear in the night sky as dawn is born into another day of promise. Does my existence here need to have a purpose to cling onto or can I just delve into the beauty that has been given so generously to us.

When we first settled on the mountain a couple of months ago, it was hot. Temperatures climbed from the 90s to the 100s. A raging fire devouring hundreds of thousands of acres nearby covered the area in a thick smoke. Surrounding us, the trees looked so dry and fragile in the heat. In our yard, I noticed the grouse digging in the dry heat. I filled a tray of water for her not seeing or finding any kind of reliable water source near her scratching area. Earlier, I had heard about a pack of wild boar, normally reclusive, making their way down from the mountains to a creek along the highway. In plain view of traffic, they soaked in the cool water escaping the relentless heat. Their wariness of humans receding into the sweltering temperatures.

As I fussed about what my life\’s purpose is and what positive influence I can bring to this life, I realized that maybe it can just be simple things. I don\’t have to lose myself in changing the world or building a business.

It can be simple. My life can be simple. As simple as filling a tray of water for a wild grouse on a hot day. It can be as simple as not bring negativity into a situation. Checking my ego and letting go of who I was so many years ago and who I am becoming today.

In the Woods

It\’s been several weeks since I\’ve written much of anything. I abandoned my previous blog that I posted during our nomadic travels while finding our way through the pandemic. At the time, I gave up the blog in hopes of spending my time and energy focusing on a book. The book was a difficult birth, failing at conception. I spent the next few weeks delving into reading and contemplating life without typing about it. It was a good break but I find my fingers and spirit are left wanting. Wanting to share my life with myself and you.

This morning, I find myself in the woods several miles from the sea. It is cold, blustery out. A prediction of snow as not come to be. I wished for it yesterday, and the day before yesterday. Last night, I got up in the middle of the night, looking out the window, checking for sparkles of white, puffs of snow on green limbs. Nothing. Just darkness and shadows of light dimmed by the waning moon.

We have been settled here for almost two months in the woods.

We are leaving in three weeks, on our way south as far as we can go before reaching the Mexican Border. I am confident we will find a home and work to engage in.

The last several weeks have been an adventure. We have evacuated from three major fires, one the largest in California\’s history. Believe me, this is nothing to be proud of, not a medal I want to wear or brag about. It is just an uncomfortable fact. Here, in California, part of the year, a big chunk of it is spent surviving and trying to thrive with fires raging within miles of your home and work. Many days, you find yourself waking up to an eerie sun, cloaked in smoke illuminating your world in a apocalyptic bath of distorted orange light.

Hence, my wish for snow. 

The snow isn\’t here yet to usher in a proper season of premature winter. Even so, I believe the fire season has finally been extinguished until next year. One, can only hope.

There are so many good things to share with you.

The deer here are so tame, they barely move when you approach them. They look at you like you are the stranger out of place. We have two black bear that rumble through the night, plowing through fences like proper beasts, and a petite female grouse who has befriended us, flying down from her rooftop perch in the trees every morning, flapping her wings at us in greeting. There is a grey fox, a pair, hanging about waiting for someone to forget to close the chicken coop before sunset. Their chops anticipating plump hens for dinner. So far, we haven\’t fed them. I read that fox love to stockpile fresh chicken carcasses. They will kill a whole flock in one hedonistic night. 

At night, the stars, a planet, and moon hang from the sky like a colorful drawing from a children\’s book. In the morning, I watch the fog blanket the valley and slowly move back across the mountains. I am at peace here, the quiet is my friend.

A small part of me would love to stay and tend the gardens, keep up my friendship with the grouse. The rest of me knows, time is near, and we will be leaving again to find a new home near the beach where my soul is waiting for the next journey to begin.

Today, I watch the clouds form in the sky, feeling the warmth of the heater, waiting for the snowflakes to fall.

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