Running of the Wild Horses

Today I dreamed  about a head of a dog, offered as a gift on my birthday, 6 months from now. Because I refused it, the head then turned to a bear. Suddenly I was here, where the Bear that is a dog, rests just there at the end of the bed.
It was an offering in a language that I understand in my bones, while my head denies, and my heart prepares for battle. Without thought to its meaning, I pushed away this unwanted package, not from disgust or fear. It was rational reaction to the memories that tore across the rolling hills of my mind scape, out of my past, on fast wild horses. These injuries to heart and spirit are those that require this denial.
singleAM
Or do they?
Is this true? 
Once wounded one must never tread here again….. Really?
Is scar tissue reason enough to turn away from the Mystery of life possibilities and potentials?
When the giant wave knocks us down, and we eat sand, should we never look at the ocean again?
Black wild horses (5)
All this effort to survive,
just to be…..safe?
Are the big dreams of our lives riding on the backs of the Wild Horses?  Herded off into our personal and national mythology  because they took up too much space and couldn’t be controlled?
Questions to wonder about on the last days of 2013

Heart’s Home

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Florida to New Mexico in a snapshot;

First day: Tallahassee, Old style, dog loving La Quinta. Second story, the outside room confused the dogs. Of course they didn’t like it, it was a catwalk! He ate oysters, cheese grits, and she had Fried green tomatoes.

Next day: Hattiesburg Mississippi, site of important Civil Rights events the summer of 1964.  Almost 50 years ago hatred lived here. He found Crescent City Grill so I could have a great salad in a place where the greens are still green, and of course… more oysters.  It was not a great room.  I found myself eye to eye with a monster in the bathroom, another in the night, and a third in the morning.  All that time sitting under palm trees in Florida and never a big bug, but in Mississippi, they came to us.

On our way to Shreveport LA we saw a road worker in striped pants laying in the road, hurt or worse, surrounded by his armed Sheriff guards. The scene brought a chill to the bone.

Day three: Mesquite TX; a part of Dallas, 40 BBQ places in a small radius! We found a great one, ate BBQ ribs and baked potatoes with snippets of Jurassic Park 3. Gnawing on big bones and watching that carnage didn’t quite feel Kosher to me. We finished up with Patrick Stewart waltzing through the “Christmas Carol.” Is there anyone; actor or cartoon that hasn’t had “at” that fable?

It was a three hour trip out of Dallas via flooded highways and local streets. There were fire engines and ambulances on the roads, racing to reach the results of poor judgement. I discovered a new driving trick for torrential rain; turn on your flashers. The drivers feel mortal for a moment and slow down.

We came out of the storm in Abilene. For hundreds of flat, cotton growing miles, we marveled at the skies.  Not much happening on the ground in West Texas, but the skies are amazing.

Which brings us to Hobbs, NM tonight. So many miles! Good local food from land and sea; a tonic for the body. For the soul, an ongoing story called Dangerous Old Woman from my hero Dr. Clarissa Estes.  The radio in 5 states played the same 6 Christmas songs, all spouting “be of good cheer” and, “we’ll all be together.”  No wonder so many people struggle in this season with all this enforced cheeriness.

We watched the 2013 winter solstice sunset from the Hobbs LaQ hot tub. I have been thinking about last year’s solstice. I walked the Labyrinth at a church in Santa Fe. Three times into the center and back out until I went home at midnight.  A labyrinth is a trip into your psyche, a trail into your own unconscious. It was memorable because the intentions sent out there, played out in the coming months.

Tomorrow- through Roswell up the backside of Manzanos to I 40, through the canyon formerly our daily commute, and on to the “Breaking Bad” lands of Albuquerque. There are little and big hearts to tumble into this Christmastime in New Mexico.

For so many people this is a very hard time.  For all of us, our worlds are a changed place from last solstice; last Christmas. It’s a time to be happy, to be sad, to take in what has changed and honor it, honor what is here and be happy.

Two Christmases ago, my father was dying.  Last Christmas, I decorated for Christmas with my Mom. We adorned her apartment with her favorite pinecone lights and set out our childhood angels. It was wonderful. I hadn’t been with her at this time of year for a long time.  She died two months later. Those lights are in our storage space waiting for the time they will be joyfully put out again. This year I will take it all in, because I know next year will be different.  Love what you have today.

Thanks for reading, thanks for being part of our adventure, our lives and our shared human heart. Blessings on us all!!

Gypsy Diaries

campsite

We are headed West today, and yesterday, and tomorrow, and the next day. Leaving, if for a while. the palm trees, beach walks, squirrel habitats called campsites, and tiny little homes called RVs.  We have packed our ancient sleigh (2004 Toyota Highlander V-6 for those that need to know) with small amounts of each season’s clothes, electronics, dog food and good cheer. I can see out the back window this time, clearly we are traveling lighter.
In the road hours I have been considering our last weeks.  For anyone that imagines that traveling with two large dogs and providing the “cone of silence” to a working partner is some kind of relaxing vacation, think again.  It has provided some soul growth.  I am just not as peaceful a person as I once believed.
Our last neighbor heard my rumblings of discontent as we were packing to leave Minerva in storage. Campsite walls are nonexistent, and sharp words travel faster. There really is an unlimited amount of ways to bruise oneself in a space this small.
 Our campsite neighbor at site 27, and his 70ish wife, decked out in a big grin and a Santa hat, were heading home to their actual house, 60 miles away. She secured the trailer door, as he loaded his dog and chairs into his pick up. He asked me, “Having fun yet?”  Trying to be gracious to an elder, over the din of Bear and Mac barking at the 300th squirrel attack that morning, while not dropping clean laundry as I tripped over Bear’s leash and dumped the water dish….again. I said, “I have fun scheduled for this afternoon, but now it’s just all the moving!” He stopped for a moment, gave me a truly guileless smile and said, “This life is really all moving, isn’t it?  We are really just a bunch of Gypsys, that’s what we are and that’s why we do it.”
 Actually, I think “we do it” for a variety of reasons.  Not the least of which is to hear Truth from strangers who the smile and wave, and drive permanently out of our lives leaving us to digest a profound observation about ourselves. Well drop a pinecone on my head! Why would anyone live in an RV if they didn’t like to MOVE.  Ah… the sweet smell of perspective, bless you our hog hunting friend. So, Thought I might do some public processing on our last 6 weeks as nomads.
swamp
Best moments:
Nokomis drum circle with our children and grandchildren.
Realizing that as the temperature dropped in New Mexico, we had no pipes there anymore.
Heavy rain on the roof and being dry, happening at the same time.
Hearing Bear give an authentic New Mexican, Full Moon howl in answer to a Florida hound dog across the park.
Doing laundry outside, doing everything outside.
Glass bottom boat at Silver Springs; seeing 20 year old water.  It takes that long to filter through the limestone. Watching it gush without pause into incredibly clear 30 ft deep pools.
 Worst moments:
Being called away from Thanksgiving Dinner because Mac had bolted from the Dog caregiver, and was lost in acres of Florida underbrush.
Having to leave East children to see West children.
Feeling mad at my dogs, for being…dogs
 Seems there is more under the Best side. In our “regular” world time, I have plans for many delicious activities like baths, letting the dogs out, and being alone!  We will see how wonderful they are when they are easy and available.  We will see how hard it is to sleep where I can’t see the trees. It’s hard to beat hearing owls in the night, and finding an owl pellet under the tree in the morning.  We will see…..

Rituals of Steelhenge

ChartresLabyrinth We are presently staying in an official “Mobile Home Park” for snowbirds south of Sarasota, Florida. We usually stick to the forests, but those opportunities are slim to non-existent in the coming months. Hence, we set out to take a walk on the “mild” side to see if this more available venue was survivable with our pack. As we have a penchant for the privacy of perimeters, I hadn’t often ventured into the center of this community. Walking our dogs can set off a chorus of canines, our dog Bear turns into something from “Call of the Wild,” so we keep to the edges.

I came to Middle Earth today to wash and dry, and rub elbows with the locals from Ontario, Michigan and all points North. I soon realized I was sitting on the Axis Mundi of this Vagabond village. Two hundred or so sites are arranged in three concentric circles, dissected by an equidistant cross; a veritable Stonehenge of aluminum and fiberglass. I should have recognized the power inherent in this design, and the significance of the season. Early December marks the apex of Snowbirds migration here in SW Florida. I was unsuspecting witness to some of this flock’s winter nesting rituals.

At the center of this community lies a present day altar of sorts; two recycling containers and a huge trash compactor. Strangely enough, the latter had Mayan-esque sensibilities, as one had to ascend 5 steps, and raise the lid to reach the maw of the insatiable daemon. As in a scene from a sacrificial ceremony, each member of the community found themselves there daily, supplications in hand. I soon realized there was more at work here. As we all know, offerings are given with the expectation of reciprocity and this divinity didn’t disappoint. As I acclimated, I was able to see the pile of castoffs for what it is, the font of Sacred Stuff. It formed before my eyes.

Commencing with a TV cart, circa 1980 the altar was in place and the ceremony began in earnest. Some objects were proudly displayed, even arranged, like flowers at a funeral. “I don’t want it, but look how great it is!” Others were furtively dropped off, or casually tossed to the pile on the way to the compactor. Residents arrived instantly as called in by the pheromone of Free. It rolled like this: I leave “it” sitting conspicuously next to the trash. You come by on your bicycle, golf cart, or dog walk, and take it home. “Home,” being a vehicle with very limited floor space, and a yard smaller than motorcycle parking space. “It” could be just about anything that could have arrived by car, truck or 50 foot personal caravan. That possibility makes the plunder possible. Having been carried here, or been stored here over the summer, does not guarantee survival or retention. RVs are not built for excess, some days I’m not sure what they are built for, but that’s another post.

From my observation point, it was clear that these cardboard cartons standing open were a siren’s call, a “come hither” to pedestrians and car passengers alike. “It, ”might be a box of faux crystal glassware, seemingly a poor choice for moving mansions, one broken, one whole beach chair,( I’m curious about that story), two dusty wreaths adorned with beach finds and a tube TV with the positive message, “great pictur” taped to the front. Nothing unusual here, except for the quantity of joy and even avarice generated in passersby. From comments overheard in the laundry, I wouldn’t find it surprising to find some spouses out there on the pile.

I of course am not one of these people; I am merely waiting for my clothes to dry nearby. I only know the contents of the boxes because I found some trash in my car that needed to be discarded immediately and the boxes were on my path. I am actually not even old enough to be here in this Florida RV park, I have just thrown them off with my very light hair, white hair actually.

To add color, the box of glassware has been claimed. It has indeed passed right by my car window with its new owner, a 70 something lady with florid skin, who carried on a conversation with the box as she passed “If I can just get you home without breaking it…..” My point precisely. A gentle man on a bicycle has just stopped by to donate some nice latticework to the mix. I think I will donate my backpack beach chair to this alter. It’s a good, if bulky backpack, but a lousy beach chair, someone will LOVE it!

Where the Old People Dance

The last post asked, “What else is here that I don’t see?”

Well I saw it on Saturday night at Nokomis Beach Drum Circle.  This is an unexpected observation. I thought I caught wind of this, but I needed more time, more experience before sharing my thoughts with a wider audience.

 Here it is, today’s epiphany; A total subterranean culture exists here in Southwest Florida.  It is “Mature People” having fun, and they don’t care what anyone thinks. Life, like ice cream has many flavors.  This flavor is exquisite, and personally chosen, and lived courageously. When the crust of the body gets thin, the spirit shines through the cracks. That is a joyful event for everyone in close proximity.

 And I always thought coming to Florida was the default choice of being old and living in the cold and snowy north. Nope, this is the Spring Break of the Fall Folks.  And it is a joy to witness this freedom. Especially for someone reaching the end of Summer.Image

The Alligator in the Pond

smilealligator

Everyone knows there are alligators in Florida. Alligators are to Florida, what Moose are to Maine. They are apparently, everywhere. I say apparently because they are nearly impossible to see, even close up. Yes, Alligators lurk and live at the edges of beachfront, in canals, ponds, wetlands, swamps. They are not the bright green, upright icons chugging beer on a T-shirt. They are invincible archaic survivors, living in what to me, is the belly of the Underworld.

I have noticed in our time here that people in Florida seem complacent about the presence of these ancient beings.
No matter the frequent “on location” TV News reports of another 8 foot, armored, cold blooded creature showing up in the hot tub with Fifi’s pink rhinestone collar stuck between his teeth, your typical Floridian or Snowbird doesn’t seem to find their presence worrisome. Delude yourself if you must, but they are among us. More accurately we are among them; this is their swamp. And no indigenous creature does swamp better than a Florida (American) Alligator. (Alligator mississippiensis)
http://www.flheritage.com/facts/symbols/symbol.cfm?id=3

Let me illustrate the peaceful coexistence scenario

swimsign

Our present campsite residence has a small but attractive lake fed by a meandering stream, the color and opacity of 1970’s Army fatigues. This circular lake-ette is surrounded by trails, a grassy picnic area, and a small sandy beach.

One could easily imagine colorful towels laid out amidst the palms and pines. Small children are wading in the shallow water, filling their plastic buckets and racing to the sand, while Mom chats on her iphone, watching the clouds pass. The reality is gently offered by the Parks Department with this tame and tractable cautionary sign.

How could anyone consider swimming with alligators?
I wonder if the tone of this cautionary sign would change were we to replace the word “Alligator” with:

Huge Prehistoric Carnivorous Reptile?

Be watchful for Huge Prehistoric Carnivorous Reptile, especially if no Lifeguards are present.

(Tarzan doesn’t work here.)

Report approaching Huge Prehistoric Carnivorous Reptile to Lifeguard or Park Ranger.

Never feed Huge Prehistoric Carnivorous Reptile.

Here in Florida, Alligators are the “elephant in the room” of suburban development and tourism. Along with recent additions of Pythons and Gila Monsters, Alligators are just part of the Flora and Fauna of Florida. Would someone in say, Milwaukee be OK with one of these guys, laying in the driveway or coming across the yard?

Alligators are one of the few wild creatures comfortable living in suburban and wild places to have removed themselves from the endangered-species list. They were down but they weren’t out. Once it became rude to wear them as shoes and purses they bounced back.
Or did they just come back up to the surface? Amidst the Spanish Sword Palms and the pea green water they reign supreme. Never underestimate the resilience of a prehistoric reptile species. Here’s the facts:

American Alligator
150,000,000 BC – Present
Lives in southeastern America. Usually lives for 35 to 50 years, and grows to a length of 10-15 feet during that time.
(http://www.preceden.com/timelines/68990-evolution-of-the-alligator#sthash.e86DhO7E.dpuf)

Let that sink in…150,000,000 BC – Present; and still here

35 to 50 years? The oldest alligator in captivity is 76 years old and living in Belgrade Zoo.

Length of 10-15 feet -There is a 19.5 ft alligator caught in Louisiana

Bring on the reclaimed land, ice age, gated communities and global warming; they are still here. For our Darwinian Evolution fans this might suggest that they were built correctly the first time, no need to renovate or modernize this model! Yes, there are an estimated one million alligators in Florida alone. If this estimate is as humanly biased as the facts above, we can expect there are many more. Why are the Alligators so willing to cede ownership of this vast environment to humans and their suffocating need to drain and build?

I believe it is a conspiracy by the Alligators to keep the humans oblivious and complacent until Florida can be reclaimed by the rightful owners and original inhabitants: the Reptiles.

Just kidding,. …maybe…

To a greenhorn Florida camper like me, they are the Dragons, Giants in the Wood, the Yeti on the mountain. They are the minions of Sobek, the Egyptian Croc God. http://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/sobek.html
Look that name up, it’s an interesting read, a bit too juicy and conflicted for this missive. He is a Shadow side teacher; always interesting, always treacherous.
Maybe my curiosity about human “Alligator blindness” lies in the persistent “Reptilian Brain” conversation. This Reptilian awareness ranges from alien watchers suggesting we are controlled by Reptilian races, or we ARE a Reptilian race to the more concrete and mainstream Triune Brain theory, representing the current Psychotherapeutic paradigm. Triune brain says human brains are built on a Reptilian Brain chassis, with Limbic system and NeoCortex added later. Ask any trauma survivor, the reptilian part is in charge of fear, flight and fight.  This ancient part is effective for survival, but hard to modulate and nearly impossible to turn off.
Google Reptile brain and there is everything from soup to nuts; and they are strangely all related if you step back far enough.

Whatever the reason, I intend to give them wide berth. I will treat them with deference and respect and I will stay out of their pond. It does suggest another question:

What else is here that I can’t see?

What are the rules?

MacBWleft

BearBWright

Minerva and entourage are camping in the place called Florida. A place that looks feels and smells as different from the high desert of New Mexico as a mangrove swamp is from a dusty arroyo. Minerva is also the newly claimed den to two big dogs: Bear and Mac. They are as yet, unsure of their roles and assignments on this adventure.

As a collective, these two are 165 lbs of focused intent and curiosity, both tinged with a backyard dwellers innocence. Much like a teenager, visual images spawn movement, and action happens before the intellect is engaged. We can see the canine questions floating like a comic strip bubbles above their heads.

“Are we exploring? Should we hunt? Are we supposed to protect?

WHAT IS THAT SMELL???”

“Why is the inside so small and the outside so big, and why do we keep moving?

Did you HEAR that?”


“Should we keep the other people, the dogs, the wildlife out of our space? (This is a favorite activity.)

But what is our space?”

Where’s the fence that made the boundaries so clear? For a dog it is easy to know their domain; they pee their way around the area until they have a safe bubble of familiar smell. This method is bit subtle for humans. We like fences, tall walls, bad perfume or unpredictable behaviors. The result is the same. We have marked our territory and have the right to keep it safe.

As large fierce New Mexico dogs, these two are capable of maintaining their territory with a minimum of might. Just sight of them gives pause. They have unceasingly honored the “Dog’s Contract.” They are charged with monitoring intrusions and maintaining the integrity of their personal domain; the backyard. Driving out skunks and herding Bob the cat over the fence were all in a day’s work. Intimidating marauding coyotes through the wire fence was Bear’s particular strong suit.

Our boys faced this question of a nomadic canine’s assignment at Ft. DeSoto State Park Campground. The questions that had been dogging them throughout the trip walked right through their campsite at midday, in the form of a small raccoon. Disregarding the four talking adults and two playing children barely 10 feet away, the raccoon walked past the Barbie bike, over the dog leash and attempted to climb the palm tree between the two shocked frozen dogs. A few seconds later it was a fight to the death, and the raccoon lost. The dogs worked together with precision. The raccoon didn’t suffer long. Watching your fuzzy, family foot warmer kill with speed and skill is disconcerting. There is more ancient programming running in our companions than our human-centric “sit and stay.” Eons ago, dogs in all their editions made a pact with human beings that says, “If I can sit by your fire, and eat at your feet, I will protect your babies,” …and they did.

Why was a nocturnal scavenger running through campsites at midday? Ft. De Soto is a very beautiful place. It is a place that draws a packed campsite on most weekends. It is also an island. The raccoons are so overpopulated that they have made their own rules and answered their own questions. Daytime gangs of panhandling raccoons are the norm at open beachside picnic pavilions and private campsites.

But that is another post.

Cape San Blas

Cape_san_Blas_ARial_shot (1)

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth”
–Rachel Carson

Cape San Blas

“On the way” to family and Minerva in stasis, is Florida’s Panhandle. With the desire for our favorite vehicle for rest and reboot called “Beach,” we dropped out of the Interstate corridor for some coastline adventure. Moving South eastward, we eased our way through Panama City, one traffic light at a time. This Spring Break Mecca is an older, possibly more tired version of Ft Walton Beach. FWB being a 20- someone’s idea of “The Beach.” The string of beach towns on this corridor are a congestion of high rise hotels, Beachfront Bars, and multiple editions of bright blue beach emporiums memorable for their subtly suggestive 30 ft shark painted on the front. Beach is baudy here. It isn’t a set, or even a back drop to fun in the sun. It is a drop cloth to the uniquely human search for diversion and debauchery. I was hopeful that our destination was something completely different.

St._Joseph_Peninsula_State_Park_Dunes_Cape_San_Blas_FL

To the Real Estate hawkers, and to internet searchers such as myself it is “the Forgotten Coast.” http://www.forgottencoastline.com/ If forgotten means natural and undeveloped, let’s hope everyone not already living here, continues to have amnesia. This is not a Florida that I have ever seen. It is still alive and breathing. The sands sway on the hips of the gentle and powerful mother gulf, there is life here on the edges.

We are in a place call Cape San Blas, Florida. A thin arm of green trees and white sand sprinkled precariously in the blue water of the Gulf of Mexico facing a real small town called Port St. Joe.” Y’all have a nice day,” seems to have some meaning here. Just after Port St. Joe’s, and just before Indian Pass and Apalachicola a spit of land elbows outward and upward. This pile of sand points at such a rakish angle that movement over time and weather is virtually guaranteed. The real estate signs announce these lots as X. As in X marks the spot for the next washout. Don’t bother to call us unless you like risk, the risk of discounting the purpose of barrier beach in the natural scheme of things. There is a great deal of humor in Nature.

Apalachicola…., let that name roll off your tongue a few times. Apalachicola. It is somehow more than a name. It creates a sound that is something between a song and a sneeze. Anyplace with a name that melodic must hold some magic. This is the land of oysters and shrimp by sea and hushpuppies by land. It is impossibly white sand that is soft on the feet, small waves to watch and sunsets that delineate the days. A good place to catch up with the pieces of ourselves that we have dropped along the way.

Sunday Morning in Louisiana

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Sunday morning in Louisiana

The roads are quiet, the casino parking lots on both sides of the highway are nearly empty on this day of rest. Shreveport is promoted as “Louisiana’s Other side.” Having never been to the Southeast corner where New Orleans holds sway for good times, this may well be Big Easy country style. I’m not likely to find out on this trip.
The trees are just beginning to turn,a few red sumacs and oaks with burnt orange edges. It is chilly here this morning, lots of dew making mist when the sun shines.

What do I know about Louisiana?

Not too much. We are on the Interstate, a straight leafy corridor sliding through the northern section of this Southern state. These generic roads from city to city are an interaction free zone. Interstate Highways in any state are akin to traversing the intestine of the state; we just pass through. There is some commerce between traveler and locality; a snack or some gas. But for the most part, we come in and go out unchanged; like corn.

The important facts at this moment are these: there are a lot of churches, and most with the same steeple as if there is a “steeple supply” in each town next to “Tractor Supply.” The speed limit is 70 mph, the Highway Patrol drives white SUVs, and there is a fly in the backseat. The latter is only of interest to our dog companions; Bear and Mac who are always looking for some diversion from their padded position. Yesterday’s backseat activity was picking out the sharp sticky plant travelers who hopped aboard when Mac took advantage of a slack leash and a great smell.

What is in a smell?

Smell is not only a great skill of Canine Folk, it is their great joy, their Raison d’être. On our frequent roadside stops, both dogs approach each area with dedication and delight. As Cesar Millan, http://www.cesarsway.com/ notes; “Dogs are as interested in Pee mail as we are in Email.” Noses down, sweeping the area for sign and signal from their predecessors, Bear and Mac have investigated each comfort opportunity with unlimited zest. I believe we might be STILL be waiting for the final report on our first stopping place two days ago, the grassy edge of a Valero station, had the humans not prevailed.

At the rest area of the Sticky Plant there was a special treat. Both dogs were enraptured by a smell so sweet, so persuasive, that the pull of the leash and sting of the pricker bush was not enough to dissuade his enquiring nose. Was there really a sign left for the next dog? A combo of urine and spit that said, “There is a one-day dead disemboweled rabbit over there; under the sticky bush, to the right of the tree, …Enjoy!”

I imagine in a dog consciousness there is an exhaustive catalogue of nasal experiences that are continuously revisited and enjoyed. These choice moments are constantly updated as best, unusual, extraordinary and “Holy …..!”

Not unlike humans noting the landscape on the next towel at the beach, and updating their personal library.
We travelled a 20 mile stretch of road on the edge of Tyler, Texas yesterday that had no less than 7 “Gentlemen’s Clubs.” What an antonym. In the midst of a patch of dense forest on Route 31 there are such places as “Bare Assets,” and “Time Out.” Their existence wasn’t surprising or offensive, it was the extraordinary volume and the in-congruency of their surroundings.

I wonder if people and dogs are so different. Sometimes you just want a place to do your business in peace and sometimes the smell is too much for the pull of the leash.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

― Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems

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20131102-074544.jpgRoosevelt County, New Mexico

To reach this place, one travels through remote, beyond the “middle of nowhere,” and on into no man’s land. A flat, mostly straight road that arcs upward only to pass over the mile long trains carrying mysterious cargo moving West. The track and the road are laid out like a spilled liquid dripped onto the endless Southeast New Mexico plains.

No wonder the UFOs land here in the mesquite and grass north of Roswell. Our infamous visitors from above could very well have entire communities complete with alien Walmarts and they too would be swallowed up and invisible in this vista. This concept of SPACE is unknown to those in the east, this land is boudaryless and measured in miles. Out here every crow has their own ranchette.

A verbal visual

A Small windowless house, set back from the road down a dirt track. A barn, empty corral, silent windmill, and 4 dead trees on each corner planted for shade, and an optimist’s hope of feeling rooted in this ocean of Wind. There is no graffiti on this empty house. What would be the point? There is no one here to shock or antagonize, and color is neutralized into the “Plains Beige” of mid-Fall anyways.
I’ve flown over these places many times, seen the three parallel lines of track, road and power lines and wondered why they huddle together amidst all this space? It is an entirely different experience to be on the ground here. They are close together for survival, for the sanity of those that use these thoroughfares of modern transit. I wonder how one could hold a thought here? Or a dream? Does one set out to live here or get mesmerized until inertia sets in with the howling wind, and a horizon 50 miles away?
Anyone that believes there is human dominion over the earth needs to live here for a month or a season or a year, even a day might humble.

And into Texas

The wealthier, healthier neighbor to New Mexico meets us almost at Clovis. There was of course a detour at this state line. The road quite literally didn’t exist as if the two states couldn’t quite touch each other; they operate on different states of mind. I was driving, so this isn’t a surprise; more an expectation. Instead of a smooth transition into this very different state, we made a 90 degree left turn, then right, over two sets of tracks, thankfully not hosting the multiple miles of trains that we wisely beat into town, and then left onto the 4 lane divided highway 84 that dives diagonally towards Lubbock and Sweetwater TX.

Two images for today will remain in my mental scrapbook. The first appeared on the range by Ft Sumner. A scene from the past and the present, a single cowboy on horseback herding a small corps of doomed cattle down a red dirt hillside to join the gathered herd. This is a classic image from the Wild West that I have never witnessed in10 years of residency in this corner of the West. And in Texas, a modern day hero; World Guy, http://www.worldguy.org/ walked along the side of the road with his dog, pushing a 6 foot inflatable Earth. Both brought this poem to mind;

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

On this first day, of the second part, of Minerva’s journey, I’m grateful to be here.

Wrapping Things Up

We are wrapping things up here in New Mex. It isn’t nearly as tight as this, or as small as this but it does have some sharp places and unexpected beauty! Going somewhere requires leaving as well. Certainly makes life more conscious and intentional when the destination is new at every sunrise. Becoming formally Nomadic is like wearing new shoes, they need to start out a bit tight in order to feel good “after a while.”
It’s raining !! Here in Santa Fe that is a blessing, a benediction on us all to move forward into what ever your heart desires.
So…let’s move on!

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Musings from New Mexico

Minetvastatue

Minerva is my antenna to the ethers of creative flow and collective connection. She or her owl are a flagellum of sorts; flowing forward and aft of our physical travels, looking for the common link between actions, circumstances, people and locations. Jungians might call this synchronicity. I think the pond we all swim in, is smaller than we think.

Recently I have become disconnected from my muse; my own right brain connection to the creative collective. I have been stationary and focused on deconstruction in it’s most constructive form; making space for something new.

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” Joseph Campbell

Minerva is presently operating incognito in Thonotosassa Florida in a place of waiting and indecision we call Storage. This place of many doors is named Zephyr; as in wind from the west, representing an intercessor, or a place of passage between this life and the next. Funny how these ancients keep showing up in my modern story. I think there is some kind of Mythological gang that lingers just above our radar and they like to see their names in print.

For the last weeks and for a few to come, Minerva has been quietly lurking, modestly languishing in the shade of her two behemoth Class A neighbors. Class A being the Motor home designation for-

“I have a lot of stuff,

I need a lot of stuff

And I’m not leaving home without my stuff!”

We have been smugly operating under the delusion that we are not those folks. We come from a different tribe; the too late to be Hippies and too early for Yuppies, let’s try out this lifestyle via “RV lite.” The mythic names of these city buses in drag are unknown, but their sad stories were relied by the manager of the storage facility. 

“This one (pointing to the 15 Foot square face with the high forehead on Minerva’s left), it goes out once in a while, they go on short trips. But the other one…….Never goes……it hasn’t been out in years.”

Wow, how does one forget something this large? And the monthly storage bill? This forgetting must take great effort and great toll on the psyches of those who can remember its journeys. It would not be sitting here moldering under the Live Oaks if it didn’t hold significant emotional charge for those on the title. Or is it their survivors or their heirs that hold this door closed with both hands, a shoulder, and a lock. If it didn’t hold meaning, or memories, or unprocessed grief, it would have gone the way of last year’s pants when they no longer fit or flatter. 

This process of removing the “me, her, them, us,” from the physical stuff of life has been my quest since we asked Minerva to wait here. What is the human compulsion to imbue our belongings with pieces of our soul? Or worse yet, our loved one’s soul? Or even,… hang on and breathe for this one,… echoes of the souls of our precious ones who are gone and are not ever coming back in our lifetime.
It may not be Class A in size but I am not without “stuff.”
“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” Joseph Campbell

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We returned to New Mexico via Rapido air transportation to diminish a house full of belongings down to a container the size of a 10’x15″ cube. It looks really big when it’s empty. My attention these past weeks has been firmly rooted on my own oft ignored lily pad here in the gentle pond known as Santa Fe. It has been my focus to separate the meaningful from the meaningless, to weigh and examine our non-essential possessions. I set forth on this solitary journey to extract the soul parts wrapped around bits of glass and wood taped together with sticky human grief.
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This has been my process these weeks. This passage has been stormy, there has been weather; heavy weather. Typhoons of emotions spinning in the physical while in the ethers, my Spirit demands my soul pieces back from parts unknown. I imagined bits of my identity being held hostage by those who will wait entire lifetimes for one small girl, one woman, to demand wholeness and forgive mortality. The work of active grief is returning and releasing and allowing them to be free; keep the love, give the soul back. And it goes both ways. Grieving is too passive a word for this process.
The synchronicity of this tale is that on the dawn between Halloween and All Saint’s Day, a time celebrated for the thinness of the veil between the living and the dead we will end this chapter, close the door on this home for the last time and head into…the East!
“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” –Joseph Campbell

Family alphabet

In days past, visiting relatives was part of the education of self that was expected, anticipated, enjoyed and embraced. Conversations wove freely through slow moving days of food and naps, Shucking corn, clam scrubbing and clearing the table. Departed family spirits, like visiting dignitaries, joined us at long tables. Their presence gently flavoring the reminiscences with their attitudes and shadows. I have never lost the “OurTown” imagery of their continuing interest in our lives. They are real to me, if not palpable to most.

This week we visited with the elders of my Paternal family in a state steeped in these traditions, the state of North Carolina. Our Matriarch; youthful and energetic, Patriarch; worldly and elegant, these are the holders of the family knowledge for their generation. They hold this position with…reluctance? Responsibility? Freedom? To understand what this feels like, one would have to be in this place where the ties that bind, bind less, and freedom walks with sadness.

In an afternoon reminiscent of generations prior, my Uncle and I dove into his childhood memories illustrated by a box of photos once held by his parents in the earlier part of the 1900s. My earliest impressions are 2 dimensional; photos and stories. The players are close and familiar, but they are still imaginary beings. I have never heard their voice or seen an expression. Our Patriarch has images, memories, observations, feelings, these folks are 3-D to him. When he speaks of them, they show up.

So this afternoon the four of us, no doubt escorted by countless ethereal beings, created ceremony. Without knowing the meaning at the time, we enacted the ancient ritual, the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell would recognize our modern day escapes. We set intention: Find the Sacred Mollusk. We went on a journey: history, architecture, beauty and defeat. All necessary elements in a respectable Hero’s Journey. Homer has set the task, we did our part to make it ours.

We reveled in laughter and shared experiences in the heavy air of this place; oysters and Bloody Marys was our dance. Having secured the feast we settled into the shank of the day. The “blood tied” relatives delved into the “How come? and why did?” of the past, rattling our ancestors out of eternal peace by wondering, questioning the stories of their lives and actions. The other two, less enamored by these intriguing questions, but no less animated, stayed firmly rooted in the present. Their thoughts and opinions swirled around the Yankee game and politics, two generations engaged in the art of conversation in the “here and now.”

Finally here is the question and the musings:
what is this shared experience called family? Stretch it horizontally and there are Aunts and Cousins and strangers thrice removed. Shared genes and shared geography, and so rarely shared views. What is the vertical axis? Where do the ancestors end and we as individuals start?

FAMILY Alphabet, so many words!
ancestors, brood, clan, descendants, extraction, forerunners, generations, heirs and assigns, in-laws, kindred, kith and kin, line, lineage, ménage, network, parentage, progenitors, relatives, siblings, tribe-the Google version left off here, these are mine:

U causes us pause, like a thin finger reaching out to us from our progenitors, “As am I, so you will be…..” Judge gently or not at all.

V volition, as in we act of our own volition not thinking or caring about the heirs and assigns that will look at our pictures and our actions and ask in today’s vernacular ask WTF!?

W why…..why did they do that, think that, go there, marry, drink, leave or not leave, become hardened, get scared, keep going, create, dream and prosper?

X are the countless crossroads of our lives, seen better and more clearly in retrospect, and rarely at right angles.
There are clansmen and women who live on the interstates; moving fast, making time, clearing the obstacles with barely a look in the rearview mirror. Others take a Morning Glory’s path, curling for the sun, twisting around something interesting before moving on, only blooming when the light is gentle and the season warm and the support seems sure. Look to these pictures for confirmation.

Y. . .How about Yaw? definition of yaw
http://www.thefreedictionary.com

Nautical -To swerve off course momentarily or temporarily: “The ship yawed as the heavy wave struck abeam.” I am personally familiar with yaw, everyone has storms,and waves, and unexpected opportunities, what did you do with them?

2. To turn about the vertical axis. Axis Mundi? May Day tree? Sun Dance Tree? Is that vertical axis? Is it Fate, Family, genealogy, history, gene pools? Who says we need to stay close to the vertical, oblique and tangental is good too. What if you cut the lines altogether?

And Z, we will get back to Z

In one picture we have my Paternal Great Grandfather, immigrant from Germany with Cobbler’s tools. Much later in life, a man with money and property, but also widower who lived decades beyond his oldest son; a wonderful musician who died young. Here is a powerful businessman, head over heart. He is pictured here in his shoe store as a financial success. I wonder about this man, I am curious about his influence on the next generations.

The other photo is a poem written by my Mother for her daughters. Always documenting life’s “yaws”, be they symbolic or catastrophic, she left copious notes and poems and thoughts. So did her Mother, usually while traveling. There was another ancestress who “read the cards”. Her accuracy was tragic when she anticipated her own son’s death.

They have both left legacies for their heirs and assigns, one thoughtfully and with foresight and another with actions that will never be understood by those that personally felt the cold sting of oversight and abandonment. In the alphabet soup that is my unique set of genes these are two personas, mere echoes of the person, a thin transparency of their life.

Spirits still inform, still create thought, although I suspect they have moved on to other projects. I am beginning to recognize the purpose and meaning of legacy. Not the dusty piles of papers or dollar bills but the attitudinal legacy. When my great grandchildren look at my face what will they feel? What have I left behind…?

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Here we are and There we go…

For those who are keeping track:
Minnasota

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Wisconsin

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Michigan

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Ontario

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New York

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Rhode Island, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania

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That concludes the travelogue portion of this post. There are thousands of words to go with these cryptic images but they are as yet unprocessed and unsorted like a week’s camp laundry. Minerva is moving again after a two week hiatus. She was quite ignominiously left in a driveway while her compadres and the owl visited some geographic places not suited to her robust girth and stature. The gas swallowing mini mountains of the Berkshires, the tight lipped, tight turns of Connecticut intrastates, the unimaginable vista of 12 lanes of traffic flowing in both directions in a high speed merge onto the Garden State Parkway. Even with her best “Minerva-ing” this is not her world.
There are tree stories, ghost stories and owl stories and people we have met. There are the places under the places; like last night’s campsite that once held German POWs from WWII. These stories are waiting for the cool long shadows of tall trees hold the magic of things that move slowly gently and in their own time.

If Minerva ain’t happy, Nobody is happy

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This is a stern taskmaster. She takes herself seriously because she must, it’s her job. The Goddess business is about maintaining natural order. Creating containers for all manifested beings to create beauty or chaos; our choice. One might think it is randomness or the guile of a stranger or maybe fate. But I think we always choose, even if the choice is how to perceive each event.
We tried out chaos today.
Why? Couldn’t say, maybe it was too peaceful and we were missing the cues. Could be the larger view of what our journey could be is in conflict with our safety sized world. Best way to shut that down? Create chaos and work with that. Keeps the mind and body busy and foils the Spirit’s attempts to wake us up from countless incarnations of smallness.
Might be, if we give “it” enough breathing room “it” might breathe us right out there to the end of the branch hanging over the cliff where the dragon lives. Or it might breathe us into Freedom and Peace and Beauty.
But we tried chaos today.
Ask anyone who has used/ lived in an RV for any period of time; even a weekend, what the worst case scenario might be…..we all know. The potential for disorder lies at the end of a stout black pipe with a firm cap that sits under the bathroom. Humbleness follows the literally spilling of your most disliked products. There it is, on the ground and how fast can we clean it up? And even that was like chasing Mercury. So Minerva, we will listen and be patient and accept the difficulties as signposts. Thankfully we are mere mortals and expected to make messes.

Illusions and Detours

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Detour: noun
1. A roundabout or circuitous way or course, especially one used temporarily when the main route is closed.
2. An indirect or roundabout procedure, path, etc.

We planned our route and mapped it out with no less than three electronic devices; IPad, IPhone, and GPS, and yes, there was a Rand McNally book map too. It was a complex route, as most are when your intention is to eschew the interstates, while staying out of complex urban driving situations better handled by cars or professional large vehicle drivers. Neither of these describe our Minerva or our driving skills. At 11.8 feet tall, 8.5 feet wide and weighing in at over 10,000 lbs. driving spontaneity needs to be kept at a minimum.

We planned Our “approach” to the metropolitan areas of Minneapolis-St.Paul with respect and due diligence. We felt confident that the outer outer interstate ring at 8 am on a Sunday morning would be “quiet.” I recalled a time years ago that I came to that airport, rented a car and drove out of the city and across the state without navigator and without incident. It would be just that easy.

As we flew north on I-35, the rain stopped the sun came put, traffic was light and all was well. Then it began. Every quarter mile the large orange signs shouted “Road Work I35, Route 5 to Route 25.” Oh well, we thought, If you know this area then you could do something slick and efficient, but we don’t so we opted for the potential slow down. The orange barrels began, the lane closures and we felt confident that we were getting off soon anyway. Then the exit was closed! Or was it?  A quick skip across the zebra stripes, had they been there, was out of the question in this barge.

Ultimately there were three detours, announced by large orange signs, bearing incomprehensible suggestions of alternate routes. Each road designed to keep traffic out of downtown offered a reprieve to the unthinkable RV driving experience. Each exit offered only another Detour sign.

I watched in horror on my IPAD as the small blue dot creeped still farther north past the airport and into the urban areas. After we had completed a perfect square; north, east, south, west we were released one exit beyond where the hellish experience began. Our ponytailed driver remained calm and collected the entire time. He propelled Minerva across some headwaters of the Mississippi and into Wisconsin without incident, where our white ponytailed driver took over for 25 peaceful bucolic miles amidst the Wisconsin countryside. I even maneuvered though a gas station to reach a kid in a parking lot sitting on a pick up truck bed full of corn.

What about the illusion in the title? If we give up the illusion of control, are there really any detours?

 

Mayo Magic Moments

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There are many interesting moments in this island of mortals meeting their mortality. Nationalities, tribes, races, ages; divisions are meaningless amongst the waiting rooms, rest rooms and consultation rooms, we are all just human beings.

This morning, ninth floor Gonda building, a dazzling view of the Plummer Building, subject of my infatuation in an earlier post and just across the street from my chair by the floor length window. A family of five comes from the bank of elevators, some in western dress, some in burkas. The daughter or grandaughter, looking as if she would be comfortable in any 6th grade suburban school clad in jeans and T- shirt, stops in her tracks at the sight of the buildings outside the window. Gazing at the Plummer Building she says, “That kingdom is very high! Is that the ruler’s kingdom?”

I was so taken by her language. The subtle understanding that this was indeed a kingdom of a different sort. A Camelot, where the past rulers decided to treat each being with respect and love and concern; where each of us is worthy of compassion fit for a “ruler.” The code of conduct on a wall in Rochester Methodist Hospital, part of the Mayo system said “Patient forward”. Here that means to staff, volunteers and residents of this “Med City” that your needs are more important than my ego. I will serve the need of compassion until 5 pm this evening.

We watched a Doctor who had been instrumental to our care leave the building at the end of the day. She who carries her own physical trials; an illness so exotic and physically taxing that I can only imagine the emotional, mental toll but it took up no space in our examining room.

And what about the women in burkas. Who are they? What does it feel like to be here among us that appear to have so much personal freedom? Today we passed through the Peace Plaza in the afternoon. In the summer, probably the shortest season here in Minnesota, there is a gathering on Thursdays. Street venders, food venders and wonderful music convene in this three sided place.

It is so unusual to see so many people of different places, so many people of different capacities. Wheelchairs, braces, hand holding, surgical scrubs and street clothes, all mingling and enjoying the smells and the sounds. As we passed the bandstand holding a Jazz quintet of “50’s” something musicians playing a “40’s” something ballad, there was a couple dancing. This couple in their 70’s was grinning, leaning into each other, and the music. They were both aware and oblivious of the others that were fed by their spontaneous remembrance of good times, and love, and each other.

As we moved through the bystanders, I saw her. She was dressed all in black from head to toe. She wore a burka and a batoola, a golden mask that covered her nose and mouth. What it didn’t cover was her eyes, they were lined and creased, older than me, smiling and wet with tears. Our eyes met as we passed, understanding of the joy of this moment for the dancing woman. The joy was shared between us too. We are the same as that woman dancing with the man that she loves, free from care….for this moment. For this moment is joyful, for this moment nothing else matters.

I learned something today. The joyfulness of women is universal. I wish you many more moments of joy, my friend in black. May we all work together to bring more of that into the world.

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The Mighty Mayo

The Mayo Clinic
From a New Mexico perspective Mayo Clinic seemed like a mythological place; holding everything the medical model currently has to offer; the best minds, machines and research, all available in a gentle small Midwestern city named Rochester.

Their preparation is so complete that by the time you meet your temporary assigned PCP he/she is already familiar with your problem, your records, and has a preliminary game plan in place. This itinerary is scheduled, yet by design is fluid and mutable, always responding to each new piece of information. Additions and deletions to your daily schedule are aimed at fully utilizing the patient’s time here. How can that work? I think it is because this is a Clinic. If this Doctor isn’t available, another one is, this system appears to be more hive than hierarchy.

“Could you come in at 7:45?” Need an MRI? Could you come now?” How long are you staying? I think I can get that appointment tomorrow.”  What does this feel like to the patient? Competent, caring and safe. This looks like, feels like a medical collective.

In the atrium of the Gonda Building there is a tapestry of people and art and even music. Different musicians play the grand piano here in this glass space all day. http://www.mayoclinic.org/mayo-experience-360/landow-atrium-south-enlg.html
Women in black burqas, circled by family, Arab men, tall people with African faces, midwestern Executives and spouse in for their pricey “executive physicals” and, of course, our jean-clad ponytailed patient carting in 3 computers to spend the day waiting for a Muscular-skeletal consult. Opting to shorten our stay by utilizing a system, not un-like flying stand-by, makes for some extended observation opportunities!

So how did Mayo come to be so different? I think it’s the owls. I think owls bring everything out of the mudane; from profane to sacred. Notice the owl atop the original medical school? The man pouring over plans with the owl present is Dr. Plummer, one of the originals with the Mayo brothers. Most of the design of this medical system happened there, in his building. How about all those mythological beings right there at the front door? Dragon, griffon, phoenix? The powerful forces of mythology and ancient history. In a scientific place in the 1920’s they seem an unusual motif. I sure would like to know what those owls meant to Dr. Plummer.

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Creatures of the fields

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Here in the Cornhusker State of Nebraska there is a lot of corn. Hundreds of miles of corn fed by these huge creatures. Some of the fields are marked by signs like Pioneer or DeKalb; the branding and patented plants of the behemoths of Dupont and Monsanto.

Farming here looks highly industrialized and massive in scale. Could it be that the wonder product “high fructose corn syrup” is created here in these green fields?
Green rectangles of uniform corn plants, consistent size, shape; the sameness of these “natural forms” is numbing. Not so numbing to allow us to miss the Cargill plants. The smell, the smoke, the endless passing of empty cattle carriers. I am grateful not to have seen them on their path to the slaughterhouse. Even empty, the scent of something nameless hovers around these trailers like a swarm of flies. We all know Cargill as one of the several massive meat product processors who create “value added meat products” Think pink slime.

I noted on our diagonal trip across Nebraska that a line of evergreens denotes either a feedlot or a slaughterhouse. Avert you eyes as you pass, hold your nose. There is something so completely in opposition to a cow living his life in a field, being taken to slaughter by the family that raised it, or a hunter stalking and killing the creature that will feed his family. This practice of feedlot: mass slaughter, hormones and antibiotics, ( because the feedlot is a place for sick cows too) Is it really OK to eat an animal that we have so completely disrespected?

Oh Dam, it’s windy

Oh Dam, it's windy

First night out, here we are beneath a large dam built by the Army Corps of Engineers in Southeast Colorado. I wonder if they ever camp here, UNDER the dam? We have learned much today: items may have shifted in flight, cows do some strange things left to their own devices in miles of open range and….why does the antelope cross the road?
We learned that the GPS woman is probably correct and if you think you may be on the wrong road, check on that sooner rather than later. We learned that without irrigation green Colorado turns into brown Colorado and it blows dust around just like New Mexico.
I had my “blow the big RV across the road” wind storm initiation today. Glad that’s over with. Taking a shower in an RV is like trying to wash your body before you are born. Tomorrow is another day. Destination Mormon Island Nebraska!