Preparing for the Storm

Two days after Christmas the storm came.

I felt a shifting stir that morning well before the brunt of the blow hit. When I awoke the internet was out. This fact threw a wrench in my yoga routine. I tried to forge ahead with streaming a yoga video, but even that was choppy. So, I accepted my fate and skipped out on my practice. I always hesitate with this for fear of my inner sloth being validated. However on this day I had little choice, a fact I noted for later.

Shortly after I put away my mat, I realized cell service also was down. At this point I felt fairly content though. The heavy snows hadn’t yet come in and the family I was staying with was still home, so I wasn’t yet faced with it all. (NOTE: The family was heading out of town that day. The plan was for me to stay on at the house to take care of the pets while they were away.)

We lamented the lack of internet and cell service, but didn’t let it stop us in our planning. They continued to pack up their car, and I made a shopping list to stock up on goods before I couldn’t leave the house for awhile (NOTE: by awhile I meant a week).

The family made their departure as I made my way into town. My first stop was Walgreens where I found they were only allowing “cash-only” purchases due to the outage. (NOTE: come to find out this outage extended throughout much of the rocky mountain and west coast regions.)

Luckily I was able to use my card to purchase my food supplies at the grocery store and fuel up my car. I didn’t know when I’d be able to leave the property again, or when I’d see other people again, so I was grateful for this ability.

When I left the house that morning the view outside my bedroom window was something like this:

Light snow on a tree.
Just a covering of snow.

I got back to the house and the view was much the same. Still without any sort of internet or phone service, I unpacked my grocery bags and decided to get cozy on the couch to watch some movies. This plan was a solid one until the electricity went out.

There I was without electricity, internet, or phone, and completely alone on 32 acres somewhere in New Mexico.

Then the snow began.

What started as a flurry turned into this:

Snow storm
The storm covers the terrain.

The tree I showed you earlier very shortly looked like this:

Snow covered tree.
Another view. This time with more snow.

I only allowed myself to panic slightly before reminding myself I was completely safe and sound and well stocked up. The electricity came back on when it was still daylight, and I had a quiet night at home.

When I woke up the next morning, I saw the total snowfall had increased significantly.

Two feet of snow covered patio furniture.
A few feet of snow grace the patio furniture.

I also realized I had to walk quite a way to feed the horses. Not only did I have to walk down to feed them, but I had to carry buckets of water along with me. Here’s a picture of the trail I managed to carve out:

Trail through two feet of snow.
My trail through the snow.

It was on these walks through the several feet of snow that the panic kicked in. What if I slip and fall and freeze to death out here and no one knows? What if a coyote comes out of the woods and attacks me? (NOTE: I have no idea if this is even something a coyote would do. I doubt it.) What if I’m unable to keep the horses fed and watered and something happens?

You get the idea. I stopped each time I noticed these thoughts. Yeah it was -2° F with the wind chill, so standing there with two heavy buckets of water wasn’t the best idea, but I stopped nonetheless. I stood there, feeling the fear, noticing it, then watching it drift away. As I continued walking I let the huffing and puffing of my breath release any other old thinking and negativity.

I continued this practice while indoors (which was significantly easier, physically, anyway). Each anxious thought. Each fear filled reaction. I sat (or stood) with them all. I did little else except stay present with them.

Each time, they disappeared.

Little did I know it was this practice which clears the mind and soul, and readies us for bigger and more intense moments. Little did I know how much I would need this practice in the weeks to come. Nor did I know how much bigger those moments would be.

What I did know is as I cleared my mind and heart, so too did the weather clear, and with it came an incredible beauty:

Snow covered high desert.
The view clears.
Snow covered high desert.
Another beautiful view of the snow.

I like to think that this last part of the story is not mere coincidence; that if I continue with this practice in my everyday life, I’ll bring more beauty in as well. Perhaps that beauty will also be bigger as the moments themselves grow.

Well… there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?

Getting to the Root

I write to you after a week spent back on the East Coast. My current location is Lincolnton, NC; a smaller town about 45 minutes outside of Charlotte. It’s rural here. It’s maybe not as rural as where I grew up, but there is certainly a great deal here which reminds me of my hometown.

Not the least of these reminders are my childhood friends who currently live in the area. In fact, I’m here because a friend whom I’ve known since I was 4 years old needed a pet sitter while her and her husband honeymoon in New Zealand. I am delighted to be that pet sitter! (NOTE: Their pets are really cute… AND they have a beagle)

Beagle on a bed
Jack gets into bed.
Cat posing
Arya strikes a pose.
Cat curled up
Pickle settles in for TV time.
dog and cats curled up on a couch
The pets curl up for a family cuddle on the couch.

Being surrounded by reminders of my youth has me thinking of a line from a book I recently read:

After all, it is the root that looks after the survival of an organism. It is the root that has withstood severe changes in climatic conditions. And it is the root that has regrown trunks time and time again. It is in the roots that centuries of experience are stored, and it is this experience that has allowed the tree’s survival to the present day. ~ The Hidden Life of Trees; Peter Wohlleben

When I read this, I paused. I’ve often thought of my current journey as one in which I’m getting back in touch with my roots. When one spends so much time alone without much external stimulus and distraction, it’s kind of hard not to go through this process. It’s a process where I’m constantly figuring out and trying to own who I am, why I am, what I believe, and how I want to live in this world. It’s also a process where I investigate how these beliefs were established, or became rooted, to be begin with.

If, as the author says, a being’s roots are the key to its survival of chaotic and changing times, it seems a necessary exercise to get back in touch with mine. After-all, they are what store my experiences and allow me to be who I am in my present day life. If I don’t unearth them, I fear I’ll remain a shell of what others say I should be instead of identifying with my core and living my own narrative.

And you know what… I’ve lived as a shell for far too long.

Guess I’ll keep digging.

Making Friends with Strangers

I had such a wonderful day this past Sunday, I find myself anxious sitting to write about it. I fear I won’t be able to write a piece which expresses the immense amount of gratitude I feel. I’ll try to explore my reactions and reflections along the way, but to start perhaps I’ll just tell you about the day.

I started it as I do any Sunday, or, rather, any day here in Tucson. I took care of Sunny, did yoga, and had a lovely coffee-filled breakfast. I then left the house and headed towards Old Tucson where I was meeting a friend of a friend who lives here in town. (NOTE: This is a friend of the friends I stayed with while in Richmond, VA this Summer.)

I was excited for the excursion because I knew I’d not only meet someone new, but I’d also get to experience something new; always a win-win for me. While I was driving the 20 minutes west the friend texted saying she was going to be a few minutes late. Instead of arriving at the park early, I decided to pull over at a scenic point to finish my coffee. Here was the scene I got to sip to:

Desert view
What a view.

I got back in the car and drove the rest of the way to Old Tucson. I should tell you, I didn’t research the place at all. Thus, it was quite the surprise to find out most of the western movies my dad spends hours on end watching were filmed at the location! Unfortunately, I’ve had to sit through many of these movies in my day, but fortunately this provided a pretty awesome experience as I walked around the park. Here let me share some of them with you:

Gift shop front.
The Last Outpost gift shop.
Movie camera
One of the cameras set out front.
Old Tucson entrance
The entrance to Old Tucson.
Movie list
Just a small subset of the movies that were filmed at Old Tucson.
Movie set
The sheriff office set.
Movie set
Set for “The Hanging Man” reenactment.
Old west store fronts.
The Barber and Dentist here in “town”.
Old west hotel building
The hotel in Old Tucson
Old west store.
The mercantile store set.
Fake grave marker
These grave markers in the cemetery cracked me up.
Actors on set.
The actors play out the last show of the day.

The friend arrived shortly after I did and brought with her her boyfriend and his sister. The four of us thought we’d only spend a few short hours at the park, but we found we were having such a great time talking, exploring the park, and hearing about the stories filmed there and life in the Wild West in general that we ended up staying until closing!

In talking with my new friends I learned so much about them and their life experiences. I felt my knowledge of the world grow tremendously in only a few hours. Plus, being at the park with them was great!

We saw live reenactments of scenes from films, we road rides, we experienced mines… it was awesome to be around great people again! We also talked about how much we loved the experience of the park. What it came down to was the people who worked there CARED about the park and the patrons. Even though it was an act everyone was putting on, it genuinely felt GOOD to experience it. Yeah, it was a place of commerce, but it didn’t feel overly commercialized. It was an endearing place.

Before we left the park the boyfriend and I were sitting on the bench outside of a gift shop chatting while we waited for the others to purchase their wares. He turned to me and said, “You know, I’m surprised by how great today was. I really enjoyed the time here at the park and meeting and talking with you. I didn’t expect that.”

“I didn’t either, but when good folks get together, good times are bound to happen”, I replied.

We sat in the quiet of the next moment simply appreciating the time the four of us had together that day.

Eventually we four bid adieu and I headed back to the house to take care of Sunny before heading to another event full of people I didn’t know; the Halloween block party thrown by the neighbors next door.

It was another welcoming place where I had the opportunity to talk to so many new people about their lives. One person was the father of the neighbor. I sat and talked with the 86 year old man for quite awhile.

He told me about his life; how he left Mexico in the 60s then came here to make a new life for himself. He worked several jobs before landing one with the state of Arizona where he earned the pension he now lives off of. When I asked him what he did and still does during his 23 years of retirement, he didn’t flinch in sharing with me the simple things in life that make him happy. These included cooking, working around the house, and making crosses for those he loves and for his church. Here is a picture of the ones he made for the homeowner whose house I’m staying in:

Wooden crosses
Crosses made by José.

I walked back home after the event and sat down in silence. I reflected on how strange it was to live out entire relationships with new friends, the beginning and ending, all in one day. I suppose this is life on the road. I WAS still saddened by having to leave the loving energy of the day, but I reminded myself that I’ll be taking the energy with me wherever I go. This continues to help me work through the sadness.

Another thought that helps me is in thinking of all of the strangers I’d miss out on making friends with if I chose to stay in one place. Now THAT’s something to be sad about indeed.

Who Do I Want to Be?

I arrived here in Yuma, AZ Monday afternoon (I’m writing to you on a Wednesday), and was greeted by a lovely AirBnB experience. Here are some pictures to prove it:

Welcome Lis sign
I felt so welcomed by this sign!
Yuma like a local sign.
Instructions on how to do Yuma like a local.
Bed with pillows
After driving all day I couldn’t wait to get into this cozy looking bed.
Kitchen
Cooking in this kitchen reminded me of my time in NYC.

Let’s just say my choice in driving through the Santa Ana winds (and mountains) to make it here seemed a great one.

When I woke up on Tuesday, I decided to use the mid-morning hours as adventure time. I went to the post office to send a book to a dear friend, then I began driving around Yuma to see some of the historic sites. I was followed by the most uneasy energy I’ve felt on any trip thus far. (Except maybe when Cris and I stayed at a Hotel 6 in East Philadelphia on the East Coast Road Trip, but at least then I wasn’t alone.)

Little felt safe. I should say, little felt safe outdoors. When I interacted with people like the woman at the Post Office or the man at the coffee shop or my AirBnB hosts, they were all quite lovely. However, when I stopped at the city park or went downtown I felt nothing short of uneasy. Actually I was really scared.

I grappled with this fear. I shared it with others, and I also sat with it on my own. I questioned what is was I was actually scared of. Afterall, it’s not like these scenes are particularly scary:

Bridge and Mountains
I tried to grab a picture of the mountain views.
Church top and rock
A picture of the top of the Mission from Gateway Park.
Lutes Casino front.
Ok… this may look sketchy but it was in the cute old part of town.

It’s also not like I was in any real danger at any point. But yet, the fear remained.

As I worked through it, I began to see how its roots tangled themselves around my courage. I saw this, and realized how tired I am of being the scared person. If I wanted to become who I want to be, I needed to break said roots and allow my courage to take over.

So I took action. I took a walk around the neighborhood and noticed the cute houses, the school children playing soccer, and the man mowing a lawn nodding and smiling. My courage was growing, and it was encouraged on by this quote sent be a friend later in the evening:

As you think about your own path to daring leadership, remember Joseph Campbell’s wisdom: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself, for the people you’re meant to serve and support, and for your culture. Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and being afraid. At the exact same time. — Brené Brown, Dare to Lead.

Needless to say I slept quite soundly after sitting with these words.

When I woke up today, I decided on an afternoon hike a few miles outside of the town. I was set on having some time alone in nature to “sort it all out”. But, once again, I was denying entering the cave. Sure enough, when I got out to the trail, the road to the trailhead was closed. Further, my attempts to find another trail were also thwarted. I saw the sign. I needed to face my fears.

I came back to the town and decided to replay yesterday’s adventures, all the while facing down my fears and breaking apart their roots. It was an insanely healthy and progressive practice which led me to have a renewed view of my experience here. I saw myself becoming who I want to be.

Then I got the text.

One of my house sitting clients was inviting me back for a gig in the Spring. At first I thought, why not take it? I have nothing else planned?, but then something stopped me. I reached out to a friend who responded that they couldn’t make the decision for me, but if it was them, they’d make the decision based on “why they were on the journey to begin with”. Meaning, they’d decide not based off convenience, but off of who they wanted to be.

The words struck me with an unwavering truth. I’d have to turn down the gig and turn towards the unknown. If I didn’t, I’d be “delaying the risk I needed to take to become the person I want to be”, and keeping it real, I’m so of over doing that.

East the Sun, West the Moon

•• The title of this post is in reference to one of my favorite stories from my youth.


I write to you from the last afternoon of my house sit here in Templeton. It’s been an emotional day, and I’ve spent most of it reflecting on why. I suppose the first reason is that I’ll miss these pups (who are amazing pets/teachers) immensely. They were kind enough to take me into their pack for these few weeks, and I am grateful for the hospitality.:

Dogs standing next to each other.
Bibi and Buddy hanging out during play time.
English Spaniel laying on the couch.
Bibi watches TV next to me.
Dog asleep on lap.
Buddy doesn’t seem too interested in the show.

Beyond just missing these furry friends, however, something else is going on. But, what?

Fear.

Yeah, I’m scared. Really scared. Not being able to see what’s ahead of me, even though I know it is probably amazing moments and new connections, is really scary. It seems the assurance of the amazing moments doesn’t yet outweigh the potential of the crappy ones. I’m working on it though.

Beyond fear there is a gnawing. I don’t know the short description of it yet, so you’ll have to read more words to get there. The gnawing is this wondering… am I meant to meet all these amazing people and pets, have wonderful times with them, then never see them again? What is the point of that?! It’s deflating. It’s like one let down after the next… and this line of thinking gets me thinking:

What did I sign up for?

I then go into a self battle of You thought you were running towards something, but maybe everyone’s right. Maybe you’re just running away from adult responsibility and reality. Maybe you ARE the failure everyone thinks you are.

I’ll save you from the graphic scene that ensues.

I’m not sure what the answer is or IF there needs to be an answer, but as I stop to consider how to close out this piece I’m reminded of these scenes from the morning after the recent full moon.

Moon in a morning sky.
The moon sits high in the morning sky.
Sunrise with pink clouds.
Not too bad of a sunrise, huh?

As I was walking the dogs I noticed that the moon (seen above) was still high in the morning sky, glowing brightly. Shortly after, the Sun was ALSO rising in the sky. As I noted this, I thought about how both of these seemingly opposite masses were existing in the same place at the time. I chuckled to myself thinking how our binary worlds would go crazy from more of this type of thinking.

Maybe it’s time I go a little crazy then?

Upon Another Arrival

I arrived here in Templeton, CA the day before Labor Day. It’s been a relaxing few days and I’m extremely excited to be spending my longest pet sitting stint yet here. Not only did the homeowners welcome me with open arms, but their dogs are some of the cutest I’ve been around in awhile. Here’s a few shots to share:

wine menu
Menu from the wine / spirits tasting the Templeton homeowners and I went to.
Stacks of books
Look at the amazing books they left for me to leaf through!
Buddy
Buddy really is this cute…
Habibi
Habibi is also really this cute.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to head to the beach yesterday with one of the homeowners (and the pups) before they departed on their adventures earlier this morning (NOTE: I’m writing this to you on September 4th). I have to say I very much look forward to returning to the beach a time or two before I depart later this month. These pictures should give you a hint of what I’ll get to enjoy:

Studio Beach
Time for a walk on the beach
Morro Rock in the distance
Morro Rock in the distance

As I sit here “writing” there are so many things I want to share with you!

I want to tell you about how earlier this summer before heading back West I was able to spend a night with my brother’s ex-fiancée/my still friend along with her 16 year old daughter and her new boyfriend. I want to write an insightful and memorial piece describing how my nuclear family thought I was a traitor for spending this time. I wish I had the talent to better detail how full and whole this time spent made me feel and to describe insight it provided me into my inner being and character. It was pure love.

I also want to talk more about the time I spent getting to know the current homeowners of the pet sit I’m on. I’d like to expound on how amazing these people are and how comforting it is to be in their presence, not to mention to stay in their home. I wish I could relate the utter feelings of gratitude I have for this experience because I know if I could, and if everyone felt this way, there would be a whole lot less negativity in the world.

I itch to confess how scared I was arriving here. How I could barely sleep the first night due to my heart pounding through my eyes, and how I have no idea what and why this fear was. I long to explain the daily battle that occurs as I begin to plot out all I NEED to get done that day for it to be a productive day, then I realize this plotting, and work to accept and let it go.

I fear I’m only scratching the surface of all that I wish to communicate about what I’m currently experiencing, but I’m finding the words have stopped coming to me. So, for once, instead of trying to force them, I’m going to be content with what I’ve written thus far and trust that it’s what needed to be said.

Here’s hoping you agree.