On the road
Seven years ago in 2010 before California, before north cubby holes and south green rooms and southwest desert sandstorms, I would stand on the deck waiting tables at the Yacht Club in Ocean Pines, wind blowing (like a million different Pusser’s winds, Naptown holllaaa wudup Chessie and back then) and it blew warm and westerly like Hawaii, through my hair.
By the time second season came on that wind blew every single time a cover band played Ventura Highway. The kind of timing that always makes me giggle, alright alright haha I hear you, mama earth-G0d-Mystery-Baby Jesus, whatever it is. All Love no disrespect. Ventura Highway special wind all that Fall.
Anyway, that’s how I knew I would roll. Or how the Call came when I said yes to it All. Listening to the wind 🙂
Chessie the Bay Monster at Light City last weekend, where the Bay meets the City, Inner Harbor, Bmore
Now that I’m back home, land of birth-home original-soul home, I think all the time about Pirate Life. Haha maybe you have to be a writer to understand this? All love to Erika and our Nous, if so. My own private inside though, my secret place to run, haha since I was a kid! Is a yohohum deep in there that came alive whenever I neared the tide line of beach mud.
It’s been really alive since June 2015, when I arrived back in Maryland after a 10-day on the road cruise, back east from Laguna Beach. California Adventure behind me.
Pirate Life. I can’t help it you guys. Argh y’all, it’s true. I listen to the wind 🙂
Other things Calling. It was CSNY Southern Cross that called me again, back home here. And ohhh for real, oh wow them warm Laguna Canyon winds.
Carl Jung called these synchronicity. Joseph Campbell lined up coincidences in rows and said, this network from inside to outside you that you can follow is Divine, is the Mystery, and when you acknowledge this, you Follow your bliss.
This blog is a sweet outpost for me: A crow’s nest for my soul. A high and wide in the branch somewhere in the home of a Keebler elf. Hobbit style keeping eye lookout on all the kids. Thanks for letting me indulge the Words as a way of saying thanks to the Holy What Is.
This little hobbit house. I can count on one finger the amount of times I have cleaned it, like scrub cleaned the way I was taught when I was a girl.
When I was clean, like sober clean, almost two years, I had moved into my first place just for me, no roommates. It was a studio on the third floor of an old colonial house in a colonial riverfront town in rural Maryland. There was no air. In the summer the oxygen was thick as canned paint. We would ice each other down and you couldn’t tell the difference between melted water and sweat. The ceilings of the place slanted at an angle so that I ditched the frame of my futon–the one I’d flopped on all through college, through dropping out twice but finally finishing at 25–so I could just entertain guests on the mattress, backed up L-shape partly against the wall, sitting part on the floor. We ate and drank tea, a “magic blend” from herbs I’d cut and dried and blessed, around an antique, knee high table. The guests were girls I knew from being clean or else mostly friends of the honey-eyed local townie boy I was so in love with back then.
That was my first real, adult love. In my first just for me place, he slept over every night. We had two twin beds pushed together so that we could stretch out. It was hard to avoid the crack. My dad gave me those beds during his mid-life crisis. Dad quit his job and put his condo in Northern Virginia on the market all in one day. The beds at dad’s had been for my brother and I to visit. In six years I’d slept at his place twice. In my apartment, which we called Mt. Vernon after the street it was on, the beds were in a corner of the one big room, which besides the kitchen and a little closet-sized room I used for writing and meditating, was all it was. I put a white gauzy curtain around those beds, so it would seem like a private, sacred place for me and my man.
I used to get so neurotic there about cleaning. I hated cleaning. It was some weird, unconscious body strain that would take over me. I would clean, scrub clean and it would take days. Two usually. He would come home, to my home which wasn’t technically his, and this unspoken tension would limit the air between us. I would be angry at him, for a reason deeper than us, unspoken, in my DNA.
He moved in to Mt. Vernon eventually. And later, it happened every place we ever lived. The trailer on Oregon’s central coast which was his step-brother’s that we crashed in while they were in Mexico teaching people how to surf. The mother-in-law suite further up coast, where we never got our deposit back because for once I refused to clean, and instead, as we were leaving hired someone to do it for us. And the landlady said we didn’t clean and jipped us our couple hundred dollars which we really needed because we were living again on the road. It happened at Truslow, that magical place where our organic veggie garden was its own wild country, and lettuce was knee tall and swiss chard was big enough to be a sunhat on your head. And it happened the worst on the farm, Anngar, where we had four bedrooms and two storage rooms above the old kitchen where the “servants” (the farm’s owner said with a grin) years back on that old southern farm, used to live. Once monthly or so, I would decide it was time to clean which, even if I tried not to, never happened without me getting mad. I would get so resentful, turn in to such a martyr, and when I would try to talk about it I never had the words. Just a blank hanging stress that was its own form, and was bigger than me, and made me disinterested or passive, which is the most rotten kind of mean. The body holds what the heart doesn’t want to know.
In February at the time of First Seed moon I knew in my muscles I needed to clean this place, and to start in the room behind my closet where I used to write. Ever since I moved my desk out to the main part of the hobbit pad that other little room is thrashed with storage and random shit. In the magical way that wisdom moves uncertain but clear through the blood I’ve known that I needed a true spring cleaning. So this weekend that’s what I did. I am sitting here now, so thankful, so peaceful and with such motivated energy for so many other areas of my life which until now felt deadened to me. My place had become a distraction, it needed a re-boot. I am sitting here now, considering why I hadn’t cleaned.
Making room for that to change.
The thing you don’t know til you live here is the way palm tree leaves look when they bend in the wind. The Santa Ana’s. They’re real. They come sailing down the canyon with whole lists of lusty springtime wants. You hear them ranting and can barely breathe. High white-sun days of Santa Ana wind force a palm leaf bend streaked silver like the color of Christmas tinsel mixed with snow. Like an upside down smile, without the sadness of a frown. Upside down silver frenzy grin. Palm leaves in the hot sun-wind. And then you live here, and the thing is you’re driving PCH salivating over exotic trees one day, because that’s grace: The sudden appreciation of all that is. Silver Christmasy tinsel smiles lined up in wind-bent rows.
You’ve stopped drinking caffeine, you did this months ago because when your godmother died you were so strung out on Red Bull you could go round for round with it up against your single grlfriends at the bar. Except they were losing their inhibitions while your high-wired anxiety from energy drinks just drove the men away. After the lash flash number grab and flirty repartee. Caffeine effects everything, most especially your writing. When you went off it for good it was the slowest part of August, when it’s yellow melt and dust in the canyon and they’re bored shirtless bros everywhere. You didn’t get off the couch for three weeks and finally told your shrink pretty sure I’m depressed. She looked concerned, told you keep up with the resting. It wasn’t til September, after you relapsed on Americanos that weekend with Papa J camping at San Elijo that you realize. Oh shit, that was my coming off period. All those slow-coming understandings, reflections, quiet stillness. All those sighs of grace. That was all from going off 20 years of caffeine! So you’re in to it these days, things that slow your flow.
Grace. If you’re lucky, it slows your flow. But then what’s luck, other than grace? Willingness maybe? Willingness to see? The sudden shift of the eye, to catch the sun on the mountains, how the light and comfy green roll roll roll bump bump bump together like a skateboard over cement seams. Or maybe, the willingness to appreciate it. That could be luck. A funny sort of preparation. The willingness to meet grace half way.
And grace? That thing that cleans the eyes, so you can see.
I am thinking about you, California, you used to make me feel brave.
I stopped on a side-road outside Santa Rosa to eat tacos. There was a sale on RedBull which is all I drank. It was after a weekend making love with a pot grower on a secret coast hidden by the North trees. We ate oysters and he took me to a place with caves and cliff-crag clearings where I could lay naked in the grass in the sun. I tucked wildflowers in my hair. I had to rearrange my living so I pulled off the Avenue into a little womb space where the pine needles lay and ensure no sound. I took everything out of the car and put it on the ground: Now, to clear out and remake my little house. When you live in your car and your home is the road there’s never any place you’ve got to go. There was a stretch of land on the Sonoma coast where the ancients used to talk in rock-tree language, clean as wave spray. I ran the 1 up and down. I was running from nothing, nothing to run to. Just the pure relationship between movement and the ground. I listened to the native speak. Oh land. You’ve always been my home.
You~you made me brave.
Remember when I used to be frightened of the sea? Not the mama prima, oh Atlantic, who raised me? But wild, thrashing Pacific, untamed, unknown one? This was up north, Goat Rock, where the froth was so spiteful it shook the beach with thunder sound. Now I bow at your feet, Sleepy Hollow, Thousand Steps, Crescent Bay, and move as breath does from the lungs into the autonomous air. Aqua green peace. I move into you, mama, with you. I hear no sound. I am no more separate from motion than stillness is.
On Tuesdays now I often take PCH home. The line of dusk on the horizon is dark blue or purple-orange. Coming down Macarthur near Fashion Island where the bunnies are in a circle for the Easter Parade. That is when you first see the sea. Catalina laid out like a woman on her back and I always catch my breath like she is me, like I am that breathless woman made ecstatic from the sea’s all the time covetous caress. When you see her lips part that is my moan. The line of palms on the Coast Highway in Corona Del Mar from that vantage look like giants at the foot of breathless woman. She gives her breath to the sea it helps her rise and fall through the respiration of the trees.
I open my sunroof because in the dark on Tuesday’s even if the clouds are out you can still feel the still simple breathing of the stars. I drove the coast and felt their light in my hair. I pulled over on Cliff Dr to feel the sliver moon. I called Jon then drove up in to the high canyon hills. The land ran through me with the tremor-weight of horse thighs. It was so much to contain in through the windows, in through the sunroof, crescent moon and all those hills, that I stopped the car and turned off my lights in the middle of the road. My breath was so thick with you I had to gasp.
California, I am thinking about courage. My body without you is brittle. My muscles barely move. I lay in bed and feel the stars still in my hair from the sunroof and can’t deny the truth in quiet, the truth behind your dark moon.
I left Derynne’s this morning before her or the kids were up. Everything in my blood was curling towards the sea, and it was painful driving in the direction of the blue balm on the horizon with that only-in-the-morning-is-it-this-color sheen. Catalina was painted over in pink. It was hard to leave because that’s where my heart is, the people I love, and also where I surfed when surfing was more a part of my daily routine: Huntington Beach. It’s different in Laguna, where there are rocks and jags and cliff crags and I don’t know the tide or a single local break well enough to go by myself. These are excuses. But wistfulness will lead out of and lead you, some road map you follow though you don’t even know why or how.
On PCH I turned the volume up on my iPod and had to laugh. It was me. Literally, shuffle had pulled up a track of myself. In 2010, a month before I quit my old career and moved to the beach in Maryland to sit in the whimsy open-endedness of what next, I took a road trip to Vermont in a car load of four other people so I could speak at this big conference on staying clean and sober as a young person. We drove all night and in the morning found out the bridge was out at Lake Champlain. Sleepless and panicked I had a melt down and hours later was shaking my head in wonder that I, crazy ass me, was going to speak to all these kids? Periodically, it will come on shuffle, but because of the way it was recorded it will just play three or five minutes of the talk instead of the whole hour.
This morning the part was me talking about the fact that I had just quit my career and was in full surrender to the world, life, God, the Muses, the power, the mystery, whatever you or I choose to call it from day to day hour to hour. Was literally with my hands up and arms wide in “What next? Take it all…” as in take all of my ideas, every last one, and may I be still enough to feel it when you move my heart. And there came the head shake, the great irony: the birdseye view. Four years later, I live an entire coast away, have the tiny writer’s studio by the sea I always could see in my heart’s eye, am a grad student at an Institution I have been stalking ever since I first learned of Joseph Campbell on PBS in 1998. I told Derynne about it last night: one morning I woke up. That’s what happened, I woke up and was driving to my cousin Erin’s in Baltimore one morning, with the windows down listening to the trees. And suddenly I realized I was on the wrong highway, hadn’t been paying attention, and at once, that I was heading in the wrong direction in my life. In that single instant, I knew. Didn’t decide, just knew as if a light had come on. I am going to California. It took working two restaurant jobs all winter long but in August the following year I did it. I got in the car with no final destination, no plan. I just drove…said, here I go, take it all…
Follow your bliss, Campbell said. Even when it feels dead, or is shadowed by the reality you have to hold opposite of it: the all the time present scholastic responsibilities, the tension of that, of living on an intern’s paycheck and student loans, of being far away from family and friends, of not knowing anymore your own definition of home, of being willing to just hold that. It’s easy to forget that from the big picture, it all somehow makes better sense.
Which is why I had to laugh some more, shake my head. The song that played after me on the iPod? It was the same one that a group of dudes on bikes were playing out of a boombox in a basket my very first night here in California. With Wallace in Newport Beach, riding bikes to eat sushi.
I don’t know where I’m headed. That happens so much more than I want. But sometimes I get reminded to be willing to trust that I’m on my way.
It was grey to the east, and hot, when I got in the car in San Clemente. Thirty minutes in the used bookstore and I was no closer to settling my discontent then when I had left Laguna. Plumbing from under my kitchen sink was all over my apartment floor, two workmen in and out of my shoebox studio all afternoon, it was the third straight day of over ninety degree heat on the coast. I had to get out of there. Finally, I texted Jon, Alright, I’m coming. Be down by dark.
I stopped in San Clemente because I took the coast. It was Friday in the afternoon on a holiday weekend so I had no desire to mess with the 5. I gave myself all the time I could possibly need, anticipating a stop at a coffee shop to write and assuming San Clemente had something other than Starbucks since they actually have a legitimate used book store. I was wrong. My attitude was crap.
What happened to me? This is all I was thinking coming out of Oceanside, San Diego county. What happened to the girl so happy to live free in the moment? So open, unbound? In 2011 I piled my trunk with my camp gear, put a laundry basket in my back seat full of my favorite shoes, a crate with my favorite books, and two more bags in the trunk filled with the clothing I hadn’t given away. And I got in the car in Maryland, and drove to California. No plan, no map. At least not the destiny kind. I lived out of my car. I lived on the road. It was the third time I’d done that in my life. In fact, I wrecked my car on the 101 two months into my journey. So I lived on a farm a while, til I could buy a car again. It seems so long ago. That was how I met Jon.
He still lives on the road, has since he left his place in Oakland that fall we first met. I stayed on his floor back then, while he packed and stored and sold his stuff. He came and lived on my floor this past July. Three weeks in my single room studio, I let him move his alter in and all his clothes.
So I drove to San Elijo State Beach where he’s been living. It was night by the time I got there.
Leo was there, a friend also from the days I stayed and travelled up north. They were sharing a site with a family Jon called ‘the Bob’s’, a single dad and his four kids who all surf and homeschool and live on the road. Every day we had to change sites. It was a holiday and they wouldn’t let us reserve in advance. But the camp hosts were nice to Jon and the Bob’s, since they’d been living there before the Labor Day frenzy got to town, and tried to take care of them. Saturday we actually didn’t get one though, so we just slept on the beach in our sleeping bags.
I would’ve been happy to keep at that–god just the way it felt to wake up to the surf–the sea salt heavy and thick in my hair. But Sunday was so soupy you couldn’t even see the water, so I’m glad for my tent, and the way up high cliff.
Beetle showed up again and again, this after rattle snake and I am convinced: rebirth. I surfed a lot, I read. I unplugged from the internet, from my cell. I sat still and listened to the waves. Watched the sun go down, the stars come out. Sensed the moon on her dark wane. I stared at the fire. Slowed, felt the earth, how she heals.
And I found her, in bits, that girl who left Maryland two years ago. It’s so easy to lose sight of the path. To forget about the adventure. To fall blind to the open magic of the road.
Ahhh, Thank the Mystery for traveling blessings, for the reawakened soul~