Friday, August 22, 2014

Like Natural Beasts

Everything is impermanent. I know this in my head. But living nomadically reinforces it daily in my mind, body and soul. Especially now that I'm falling in love. With these guys:

Of course I'm already in love with the one in the middle. The other two have also captured my heart. Golden retriever brothers Max and Levi are our charges for two months as we housesit in Port Townsend, Washington.

Dave and I love dogs but don't have one because we travel so much. When we housesit, though, we often take care of others' creatures.

Because the housesits are temporary, we are acutely aware we will be saying goodbye to whatever we are enjoying: the animals, the garden, the gorgeous house, the great town, the astounding natural beauty. We are immersed in all of those things right now.

It's beautiful to watch the dogs joyfully run the beach. To pull potatoes out of the soil. To pick huge raspberries and blueberries. To write in front of a window facing the forest while Dave fills the bird feeders and waters the garden and cuts flowers to fill the house.

Yet all of this will come come to an end.

Dare I risk love in the face of impermanence?

That's life's big question, isn't it?

After all, what's permanent is change. The flow of moments and days.

"Let us ride our lives like natural beasts, like tempests, like the bounce of a ball or the slightest ambiguous hovering of ash,the drift of scent: let us stick to those currents that can carry us, membering them with our souls." - M.C. Richards

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Opening the Door

Last fruit and flower gathering before going.

Today we leave the California farm. Next up: Nearly two months in the Pacific Northwest.

A friend of mine asked if I ever feel sad about leaving a place I have fallen in love with.

It can be bittersweet. I think about leaving our routine of berry picking and animal feeding and  pie baking. I think about saying goodbye to the beauty of the redwood trees and local friends and comfy couch where I read each morning.

And I realize in two short weeks this farm morphed from foreign to familiar. From unknown to home.

That's been the case with most every place we've stayed in the past year.

So when it comes time to go, I acknowledge the impulse to cling. Then I ease myself into letting go, softly, through appreciation of everything we experienced. Then I turn my attention to curiosity and excitement about what lies ahead.

What's ahead?

Always a new adventure. Always new doors opening. Because change is the nature of life.

If I'd known this when my marriage of fifteen years ended, I could have saved myself a lot of grief. Can you imagine letting go of a person you love? Accepting that the person wants to move on? Accepting that we own no person, no place, no object? Accepting change--meaning the nature of life?

Can you imagine fear morphing into excitement?

Yet the clinging and rending and devastation taught me so much. Nothing is wasted.

This nomadic life teaches me more and more every day about letting go. About what serves me better: viewing something as an ending, or a beginning. Viewing an obstacle as a hardship or an adventure.

One of my greatest teachers is this regard was my mentor and other-mother, Gabriele. She viewed her dying experience as an adventure. Her heart was not filled with fear. It was filled with curiosity. Even joy.

I've always been a creature who liked change. But that was on my own terms. Now, I'm more radically embracing "letting go" and "letting be." Life feels more rich that way.

As Mark Nepo says, you have to put down what you carry to open the door.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What is it about July 23?

July 23, 2011...
...I caught the bouquet at my cousin's wedding.

July 23, 2012...
...We got married in Hawaii.

July 23, 2013...
...I woke up having a seizure in Cape Cod, the morning of our first-year anniversary. Brain surgery followed.

July 23, 2014...
Our two-year anniversary--and so much to be grateful for.

We decide to go on our favorite bike ride. Even though we are living a traveling life, we happen to be in our previous hometown of Santa Cruz on this day.

We ride up West Cliff Drive and on the bike path along Highway 1. Then through Wilder Ranch and over to a dirt path that follows the ocean. Farm land to our right. Infinity to our left.

Dave suddenly says, "Stop!"We scramble off our bikes. Hundreds of harbor seals lounge in the sun and play in the water.

We watch, entranced. Their silver bodies shimmer, as in celebration.

I'm suddenly so connected, so plugged in to life. As Shakespeare said, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Living Many Lives

"And now for something completely different."

That's what Dave says when we are plopped down into a new life. Since we are nomads, this happens often.

Right now we are playing farmers in the Santa Cruz mountains, housesitting for friends.

Dave gets up early each morning to feed, water and let out the chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. He does the same at sundown, herding them into their enclosure.

He feeds the rabbits. He gathers eggs. He cuts flowers and fills the house with color and fragrance.

We pick berries, plums, nectarines, peaches. We pull greens from the garden.

Using this fresh food, I've cooked stir fry, berry cobbler, and crunchy kale. Dave uses the dinner leftovers for breakfast hash. I'm making smoothies every day. Coming up: Plum pie, and potato salad made with hard-boiled duck eggs.

It's very satisfying to recycle everything. When I cut off the tops of strawberries or root out a rotten nectarine, I set them aside for the animals. Eggshells, banana peels and peach pits go to the worms that make fortified dirt.

When we first got here, I felt a little overwhelmed. How were we going to pull this off? But a day or two later, I was into the swing.

Laundry on the line? I can do this!

I love watching Dave take to the next "completely different" thing. He doesn't complain or worry. He just goes for it. He becomes it.

Living so many different lives is challenging me to become more flexible and resourceful. I'm learning how to suspend judgement, and to trust in my creative powers.

Today, I root myself here. Yet change is a constant, waiting in the wings. "Something completely different" is always around the bend--not only for nomads, but for us all.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Best Idea We Ever Had

Capitol Reef National Park? Seriously, who knew such a place existed? Okay, maybe you did, but I was oblivious until now.

Capitol Reef Natural Bridge hike.

Capitol Reef is the third Utah National Park we've explored in the last couple of weeks--and I'm now convinced that Utah is a national treasure.

Fremont Indian petroglyphs, about 1,000 years old (in Capitol Reef).

I'm no longer under the spell of only Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Yes, those three are fantastic. But there is so much more to see--and fewer summer crowds in other places.

Zion National Park is incredible. My favorite aspect is all the water. Get really hot on a hike or bike ride? Jump in the river! There are a zillion swimming spots. Or you can hike The Narrows, walking through water for miles--and stopping for a plunge in one of the many swimming holes.

The Narrows

Before leaving Zion, we drove around the back side into Kolob Canyon and took a hike with awe-inspiring views.

Kolob beauty.

Then we headed to Bryce Canyon National Park, first spending a night in Cedar City, Utah.

When we were checking in to the adorable Big Yellow Inn B&B, the owner told us a Shakespeare Festival was taking place a block away. And that night, tickets were two-for-one.

I'd had no idea that this festival has been taking place at Southern Utah University since my birth year, 1962. We had two choices that night and picked Sondheim's "Into the Woods" over Shakespeare (sorry Willie). Dave and I were amazed how the actors flawlessly sang so many complicated lyrics. Even though the play ran three hours, we enjoyed it. (Serendipitously, we discovered that the film version is being released this Christmas starring Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp.)

Bryce was visually incredible. I was Verklempt by its grandeur.

In Bryce, it's hard to believe nature creates such things.

This time of year, the weather in Southwest Utah is dramatic. Bright blue mornings often precede dramatic thunderstorms in the afternoons or early evenings.

Sunset, with moonrise, out the window of our room near Capitol Reef.

Wallace Stegner called the National Parks "the best idea we ever had." Indeed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Home is Here

Mark and Dave biking in Zion.

Last night as we sat under the stars in Zion, a friend asked:

"What's it like to live without a house? When I'm on a trip, I love traveling, but I always reach a point where I look forward to going home. Then I enjoy being back in my familiar surroundings, involved in my rituals."

I turned to Dave, curious how he'd answer. He talked about the mindset of living on the road. We didn't leave with the expectation that we'd return. So it's about being at home wherever we are.

In our year on the road, whenever I feel that yearning for "home," I get curious about it. What, exactly, am I wanting? A sense of peace, perhaps. So I can provide that to myself wherever we are--by getting still, by breathing, by feeling my body from the inside out. That might involve sprawling on the couch, listening to music, taking a mindful walk, meditating--or eating popcorn! It's up to me to soothe myself. It's up to me to, as Dave said, be at home wherever I am.

Hanging out with friends old and new in the Virgin River.

It also means embracing life as a journey. We aren't on vacation. We aren't driven to see and experience all the highlights of wherever we are. We enjoy our surroundings best by exploring new places without worrying about "missing something"--and we balance activity with downtime. The journey is the point.

Right now we are in Zion, Utah in a house with almost twenty people spread over three generations. Mark, a longtime friend of Dave's, leased a place for a week and invited us. He said there might be some others--but we hadn't realized we were walking into the open arms of a family reunion! I feel like we are at camp. In just three days, we've bonded with this awesome group by exploring the amazing national park, cooking, and talking and laughing for hours. Last night was a big dance party late into the night. We cleared the living room of furniture, and Mark--who's a DJ--played the music, complete with laser lights!

Once again, connections with people and nature have become central to our lives.

Before coming to Zion, we spent some time in the L.A. area with friends.

Huck Finn Bluegrass Jubilee
With Jude, Melissa and Reggie

With Ricardo, Dave's friend since the 1980s--and Cecelia and Charlie

Paul and the boys

All this socializing was punctuated by some time with just the two of us in Big Bear. We rented a great cabin on Airbnb.

I'd never before been on a ski lift in the summer, but we took it up, with our bikes dangling on the chair in front of us.

Then we rode down the mountain!

(and sometimes walked )
We also visited the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which rescues and rehabilitates wild animals. It was incredible to be so close to a grizzly...

and a mountain lion.

We also stopped in Sedona for a few days, where we stayed at another Airbnb place and hiked to the four reputed vortexes.

They are beautiful spots. But I didn't feel more "vortexy" there. Just another reminder that spiritual energy--like home--is there for you whenever you want it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mahalo, Maui

 This is the path we walked up and down every day on Maui...

... while we lived here...

 ...the house of our friend Christine. She built it thirty years ago. Solar powered, the house has a compost toilet, an outdoor shower, and an open air kitchen.

The only noise you hear are birds and the rushing creek with waterfall, seen from the living room window:

Pineapple, avocado, banana and payapa grow abundantly.

There was a house cat named Dora...

a house gecko...

and a house spider ...

...who fortunately lived outside. A crafty arachnid, she spun her web in a spot where bugs flocked to our lit-up window at night.

Here's our generous host, Christine, with her boyfriend Kenny. We hadn't known each other well before coming to Maui. But now after spending two magical weeks together, they feel like our soul siblings. We also fell in love with Kenny's dogs, Lucy and Roxie.

Christine and Kenny are kick-ass strong. At age 68, they swim miles every week. Being a merman and a mermaid ourselves, Dave and I swam almost every day. At Twin Falls, we experienced this:


Other days, we swam and snorkeled in the ocean, floating around with fish and huge sea turtles. One day we drove the road to Hana and hiked out to this mind-blowing spot, Red Sand Beach...

...where Dave captured my synchronized swimming maneuver, a ballet leg:

We hiked through bamboo forests...

 ...and around the other-worldly Haleakala Crater...

where we were so high....

...we were above the clouds.

 It just so happened that Dave's college buddy, Craig, and his three kids were on Maui too.


We spent a couple of fun days with them that included swimming, snorkeling...

and the best fish tacos ever:

One day, Christine and Kenny took us on the ferry to Lanai, where we swam for more than two hours way way way off shore.

The water looks placid in this picture, but it was wild and wavy and infinitely deep--punctuated by serene, surreal ultra blue landscapes. Confetti of fish, sculptural coral.

At moments I thought, "What the hell am I, a land mammal, doing all the way out here? Will my feet ever touch Mother Earth again?" Salt water seeped into my snorkel. I wished for gills.

The fish swayed with the surges, reminding me to release to the ocean's power. I thought about the woman in Swimming to Antarctica who swims for days in the worlds's coldest waters without a wetsuit. I thought of Diana Nyad's amazing achievements. I watched Dave and our friends plowing through the surf, no land in sight.

I thought about how land and sea are yin and yang, overlapping like life and death, one not possible without the other. For hours afterward the motion of the sea stayed with us, a kind of dizziness not unlike my post-brain surgery vertigo. I thought of it like Mother Earth gently rocking us in a cradle. 

We are, after all, her children.