Here I sit on a couch in the Oakland mountains soaking up the morning Sun, listening to the soft din of wind chimes, and adoring a cup of coffee. As I turn my attention to writing, I think back on the road trip I just took from Edgewood, NM to this mountain retreat in Oakland, CA. There were several themes from the trip I wanted to explore in today’s post… hopefully I can do them justice.
To begin allow me to show you the route I drove earlier this February. (NOTE: Who chooses February to do a roadtrip? I suppose I did.)
I should note the route I took was a long, lonely drive across the New Mexico mountains, into the lands of the Navajo and Hopi, then up into the canyons and mountains of Arizona and Utah. Finally, I made my way down into the desert of Las Vegas and through one last mountain pass to Arvin, CA, a farm labor community just south of Bakersfield. Once back in California, it was an easy trip up Interstate 5 and into the Oakland mountains.
That was the external view of the trip, and dare I say it was the “simple” part to describe. Here, let me share some pictures from it before we get into the deeper stuff.
The internal part of the trip is a bit more challenging to talk about, but since this is a No Judgement Zone, I’ll give it a go. Here are some of the themes I considered along the way:
Theme 1: Trust that the universe has your back
Shortly before the trip began, a friend of mine recommended this book to me. I began reading it a few days before I set out and found the advice provided to be necessary as I traversed the terrains.
I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but driving in bad weather is probably one of my biggest fears. This is especially the case when I’m driving alone. So, when the day before I left Edgewood my friend, who is a pilot and always has his eyes on the weather, showed me some radar maps indicating a storm was going to move through the exact area I’d be driving in, I began to freak out.
“Am I going to be ok?”, I asked him as I looked at the swirls of blue, yellow, and orange. “Yep you’ll be fine. Just be aware”, he assured me.
His words and insights were helpful, but they didn’t halt my fears. That night as I was reading the above book, it seemed to read my mind. The lines I read talked about noticing your fears. It suggested that when you do, instead of feeding them, give them up to the universe and thank it for the lesson that having the fear was sure to bring. I used this mantra consistently as I drove, and sure enough my anxiety calmed.
As I traveled through New Mexico then Arizona, no bad weather found me! Then I got into Utah. It started as rain, then before I knew it I was in the mountains of Zion National Park in the midst of a snow storm!
I held my fears close, but before I let them overcome me, I let them go telling myself, “I’m a woman from upstate New York. I’ve got this! Thanks for the lesson, Universe. I release my fears.”
Shortly thereafter, I made my way safely to the inn I’d be staying at that night:
This theme of trusting the universe had my back extended well beyond weather. I used the mantra to release my fears around staying alone in motels and AirBnBs, and even smaller fears and anxieties around trying new places and things.
The more I trusted, the less I worried. The less I worried, the more present I could be. The more present I was, the more beauty I saw.
Trusting in the Universe is something I plan to take with me for days to come!
Theme 2: There is so much more to this world than me and yet I’m one with it all
This is a big concept with a crappy title, BUT it rang oh so true for me throughout the trip. As much as I got stuck in my own anxieties and fears, I was able to recognize that life happens around and without me. I was also able to reflect on how even though life is happening around and without me, I can still connect with it, and others, in a very real way.
For example, when I arrived in Gallup, NM the first night, I stopped to grab an afternoon coffee to revive me. The man working at the coffee shop was so incredibly kind to me, and he treated me as if we’d known each other for years. He correctly guessed I was on a long drive, and when I left with a delicious coffee in hand he said, “Enjoy that coffee, and safe travels!” I considered how the man’s entire life took place without me, but how in that moment it was just him and I.
I rolled that juxtaposition around until I arrived at my Airbnb for the night. The host greeted me and before long we were exchanging life stories. She told me about her time teaching on the Navajo reservation, her time in The Peace Corp, and her current life in Gallup. We connected on politics, life, and work. Before the night was through we said our goodbyes as she would be at work before I woke up the following day. Again I considered how close we were in that moment and yet how we’d never meet again.
The next day I entered the Navajo Nation, and stopped in the capital of Window Rock, AZ. Here I took in the veterans’ park, and the nearby museum.
All the while I was here I felt isolated and yet surrounded at the same time. As I came upon memorials and exhibits detailing the Navajo people’s past, I teared up as their pain seeped into my veins. Yet, I knew known of them.
As I left the museum, the woman at the information desk who had helped me called out, “Thanks for coming today! Have safe travels and a great day!” (NOTE: Everyone along this trip wished me a great day. Not sure if that’s a West thing or not.)
I made the long trek to Page, AZ where I stayed on the “street of little motels”.
While putting my goods in the community refrigerator that night, I met a man from Minnesota. He and his wife were in the area to escape the winter. Between this conversation and the one I had with the owner the next morning, I felt I was in the company of old friends. At the very least I was in the company of like minded individuals.
After each of these conversations where I was so highly connected, I’d go back to my room where I sat… alone.
I’m unsure where this second theme takes me from here, but even thinking back on the experience helps me feel connected in some way.
Theme 3: Meditation, I need more of it
This is another big one. Driving 20 plus hours over 6 days alone gives one a lot of time to think. And, given that I’m on this current journey that stems from a need to understand myself and my world further, I had a lot to think about.
I didn’t have a lot to think about because I’m on this journey. I had a lot to think about because there is so much I’ve chosen NOT to think about over the years. Instead I’ve chosen the path of distraction.
As I drove mile after mile and had interaction after interaction, I chose not to be distracted. I turned off the radio and sat with my thoughts.
I reflected on my fears. I thought about how scared to be alone I am, and about how the fear makes no sense because I’m alone a lot without peril. I thought about my family’s fears of being alone, and considered that maybe I had absorbed these over the years. I thought more on how I had defined myself by my past, my family, my community and never really defined me for myself.
One night I decided to restart my meditation practice. Though, instead of mindfulness practice, I decided to let my mind roam. I called this contemplation instead of meditation. As I was thinking on how I’d never defined myself, I asked myself the question “Who am I without my past?” over and over again.
Eventually a vision came to me. I saw before me many versions of my current self, all dressed in different outfits and all standing, but at different heights. The Russian doll metaphor came to mind.
There I was surrounded by all my selves, and I continued to ask the question:
Who am I without my past?
Finally, the shortest Lis pushed the others aside, stepped forward, and said, “I’m here! I always have been! You’ve just been ignoring me all this time.”
The vision was a powerful one and I sat with the energy awhile longer. When I came back to myself, I vowed to try to help that Lis grow, and I saw carving out this self reflection, contemplation, meditation time was the way to do so.
As I wrap up this piece up, I’ll admit I’m a bit deflated. My coffee is almost gone, the Sun has moved, and the wind has stilled. I’m left with just me, these words, and my guess at what you’ll think of them.
Once again I find myself alone and surrounded. Once again the Universe calls me to trust in it, and once again I call on myself to trust in myself.
All these insights, from one little road trip.
Let’s be honest, it was a hell of a trip… am I right?