Archive for March, 2010

…What We Will Be…

It’s my penultimate day on the road, and the Tennessee sky is blinding and crystalline in the wake of the massive storm.  As I drive east of Lebanon, I pass a billboard that asks “If you died today, where would you spend eternity?” Does it mean something that I initially drew a blank in response?  An instant later, I thought, “Well, behind the wheel of a Subaru!”  Yes, I cracked myself up.  (Nota bene: This blog is in no way sponsored by Subaru.  However, if Subaru would like to call me up to discuss, I am willing.)

So I am back on the road, thinking about how I’m headed home, and how far behind my blog is already (more on that later).  I find myself wondering “what’s gonna happen now?” when I get home, and feeling more uncomfortable than ever with the notion of “home,” something I’ve never been fully easy with.  It is clear I am not ready to head back.  If it weren’t for Sofie, I can’t say how long I’d have stayed out here; but I’m feeling guilty for having exceeded my original plan by nearly five days, and must get home to my girl.  Although I am still officially “on walkabout,” I can not help but begin processing the experiences and miles behind me.  I try to withhold summary thoughts, keep conclusions at bay, yet feel an inner thrust to some kind of knowing, which has a trajectory all its own.

As I face the autumn sun blasting between the remaining gold and russet leaves not peeled off by the storm, I revel in the renewed contact with sunlight, and find myself thinking about needing to be a part of nature.  An old Buddha quote (that has long hung on my refrigerator) comes to mind:  “All that we are is a result of what we have thought; what we will be is what we do now.”  And so I am thinking a lot over these remaining miles, what will I do now? But I still really don’t know.  And decide to give myself at least the last day-and-a-half on the road free from the pressure of answering.  But the seed is there, germinating.  Despite having hung on my fridge for about eight years, this quote keeps coming back to me now.

By the time I reach the Virginia state line, I’ve caught up with the back edge of that horrendous storm.  Headed largely north, at first I could see the western edge of the cloud mass on my right, even though I remain outside it and under the sun.  But before long, I catch up with it, and am back under the clouds, even as I look wistfully at the clear sky and setting sun off to the west.  As far east as the eye can see hovers this massive, ominous, seemingly endless dark and menacing cloud-cover.  As much as I want to be a half-mile west and clear of that blanket of gloom, I am at least glad I waited out the rain enough to not be full under it yet again.

I spend my last night on the road in Lexington, VA.  Running late from oversleeping, I check my email one last time just before leaving the hotel.  There in my inbox is newly arrived a missive from a woman — let’s call her Flora — whom I’d met only a few days before leaving on this sojourn.  I met her right before departing, and therefore barely know her.  But there she is, unexpectedly in my inbox, essentially criticizing me for not doing a genuine walkabout, which she reminds me is something done alone with nature, without contact with other humans.  She points out that I’ve been in constant contact with people, clearly implying I have failed to do my walkabout authentically, then says “I hope you’ve accomplished your goal.”  The tone was both critical, yet also seemingly pseudo-supportive, her language largely couched in a “spiritual sister” tone.  A cosmic challenge coming to me at the 11th hour of this trip, this email really pushed my buttons.  In a rushed and triggered moment, I could not resist writing back a defensive (if sweetly-toned) reply, pointing out how much time I’d logged alone, and inviting her to read this blog to glimpse the inner journey; and moreover pointing out that the only “goal” for my walkabout had been to go, so mission accomplished!

Yet, despite having “defended myself,” I could not shake the effect of this critique.  Flora’s email seriously upset and angered me, although I wasn’t sure why, since she was not someone important to me, or even “in” my life.  There I was on my last morning of walkabout, all packed up, luggage cart loaded, about to leave the hotel room and trying to get unstuck from my resentment, when on my way to the door, I stopped and stared at myself in the mirror.  I stopped, looked in the mirror, and talked to myself, made contact with myself, in a way I never have in my whole life.  I told myself, “This person doesn’t know you; this is yours; nobody lives inside you; this journey has been yoursyou know what it was and wasn’t; nobody can take that away from you, and it is for nobody to judge.”

I was looking at myself in the mirror, looking at and talking to myself as if I were looking at a friend in a café, and I began to cry.  I had never talked to myself like that before.  I had never received from myself like that before.  Perhaps because I had never been able to give to myself in just that way.  I had certainly never made myself cry like that – no worked-up drama; simply treated myself kindly and compassionately, as I would a friend, telling her that nobody could judge her experience for her.  It was an intense and surprising moment, and in the end, I believe, no coincidence that it came on the day I was finally going home, however reluctantly.  And so, on this clear November morning, following what may have been the most intense half-hour of my entire trip, I drove northward again on I-81, and soon enough found myself compelled to thank Flora for giving me the chance to prove my friendship to myself.

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