Friday Morning Musings and a Seven-Year Itch

At 9:43 am this morning, Mountain Standard Time, I was supremely happy.

I took a bowl of hot cereal and a cup of tea outside and sat on the sagging wooden step at the bottom of the front stairs to catch the last rays of the not-quite-winter morning light, before the sun makes its way around the corner to the southern side of the cabin. Although the air is nippy, in the mid-50s, the direct sun still feels intensely warm at this mountain altitude. Everything was perfect…the view of my ragged yard, pine neatly stacked and ready for the woodstove against the backdrop of a mistletoe draped old juniper uncomfortably embracing a fading grandmother cholla, the uniquely blue sky overhead, the delicate flavor of the artisanal rose-strewn black tea in the brightly colored Mexican pottery cup I scored at the freepile at last year’s Rubber Tramp Rendevous in Quartzsite, the comforting taste and creamy consistency of cardamom-spiced wheat farina.

I was overwhelmed with a fierce yet quiet gratitude, just for this very moment, precisely as it was, the comforting, simple, natural joy of it all.

front yard 2

A piece of paradise Madrid, New Mexico.

And then the familiar cloud passed over my internal sun, just a faint and momentary darkening of the sunny mood. The insidious internal critic was chiming in, as usual:  surely, isn’t this heart-stopping joy, in large part, a product of being temporarily rooted here, abiding in sticks ‘n bricks, in this very particular place in northern New Mexico? I glance up at The Queen Maria Esmarelda, parked forlornly in the driveway, patiently awaiting her next big road trip and I feel a twinge. Because I know, deep inside, that I may soon be giving this all up permanently to resume the life of a full-time road gypsy. Secretly, some part of my soul longs for the moment. If I have to choose for practical reasons to give up one lifestyle in favor of the other, the van will trump the house. This is an unarguable fact.

And that thought brings me joy, as well.  And so I ponder:  is this perfect moment of soul contentment, here in my half-wild front yard, really dependent on being a house-dweller? Yes, it’s true that there is a unique satisfaction in being outside on this little plot of land that has shared it’s magic with me, off and on, for the last 14 years. The intimate messages from the natural world are perhaps more accessible in a place we know, that knows us, over time.

And, some inner voice whispers, there is a different, although no less potent, kind of magic in offering oneself to a less familiar landscape.  The excitement of new relationships, the frisson of excitement that comes from the inherent danger of the unknown, the knowledge that we are not in entirely safe territory here.

But, I ask myself, apart from these slight differences, isn’t this morning’s gift of joy rooted in the exact kind of experiences that my soul hoped to encounter in this grand experiment of becoming a road warrior for love? Am I not more likely, not less, to sip my tea outside in the morning when I am living in the confined space of a van? I brew the same tea and cook the same cereal in my makeshift van kitchen. And just imagine what currently unknown-to-me landscapes I might share sacred space with as a result!

Yes, it’s true that it seems to take longer, and be a bit more inconvenient, to do most everything in a van. For instance, today is laundry day in my rather crude, by society’s standards at least, former miner’s cabin existence. However, the friend who was living in my place while I was on the road left me a washer when she decided to move on. So, I will be able to do my laundry as I write this as well as perform other domestic chores. If I were on the road in the van, I would have to pack up and go to a laundry mat. On the other hand, it has been my experience that I tend to do more laundry over the course of a week or two, when I am here and stationary. More towels, more table linens (those dinner guests mentioned above!), more clothes, more bedding. Everything a little cleaner in general, it’s true, but at the price of more use of water and other resources. So, maybe not all that much difference in time, in the end?

My wandering thoughts are interrupted and I laugh out loud as Layla comes racing in crazy wild cat fashion from around the corner of the house and launches herself at the dying Chinese elm by the birdbath just in front of me, and propels herself to the very top of the dead trunk. Watching the cat cavort in the tree, I ask myself, how would her experience differ if this were a temporary campsite in an unknown landscape instead of ‘her’ yard? She will be very tentative when we first explore a new place. If we stay awhile, she slowly expands her boundaries, increasing her sense of safety, until it’s time to move on. And she is less safe, presumably, in new surroundings. Moreover, I believe, road-warrior, half-wild creature that she is, she knows this. Her acute perception of the inherent dangers in any situation and her ability to respond appropriately are what have allowed her to survive and thrive these last four years on the road and in our more-or-less temporary camp homes as I worked my itinerant jobs.

But is that an entirely bad thing? Who can say, for humans or felines, where the line is drawn between healthy and unhealthy stress? Just last week, one of the local DJs here in Madrid shared recent scientific findings indicating that our perception of stress–that is, whether we see it as life-shortening or as a welcome spur to be our best–is the main determining factor in whether, indeed, it is good or bad for us as individuals. In a lifetime of sharing my life with serial alpha-female domestic feline companions, I have never known a cat as vital, intelligent, alive and in her own power as Layla. Partly, that’s just who she is, of course. A serendipitous gift from the Cosmos. But I suspect that is also has something to do with the opportunity she has been given to access her more primal, natural self. But is this worth the increased stress and the inherent risk?

Today marks the seven year anniversary of the life-changing moment when I decided to sell my house and go live on the road. Although I have spent the better part of the last four years traveling, working, and living out of the van, as fate would have it (although I did try to sell it) I still have the house as well. I moved back in this past August, determined to finally sell it and use the proceeds to fund a marginally more financially stable life on the road. But I was immediately seduced by the relative creature comforts of hot running water and space and a stationary community, and decided to just let myself enjoy being here for awhile, not-so-secretly flirting with the idea that I might get to have both. The beloved cabin in one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, the community of folks I know and love, the opportunity to create a weekly radio show, soak in a claw foot tub, and make meals for friends in a full-sized kitchen. A place to store stuff so I can travel leaner and meaner when I do go. The opportunity to pursue road adventures, to taste the joys of the unknown and share time with my beloved van dweller tribe, without totally giving up this anchor of the familiar, of sedentary space and time.

But it seems that I do have to choose. Although I remain open, as always, to whatever unknown miracles the Universe in its infinite wisdom and compassion may offer, I am not currently living within my means and the status quo cannot continue. And so I have decided that I will be leaving. And not just in a “I have to make a choice but I’m not really happy, it’s a bad compromise” kind of way, either. Because in the final analysis (as my mother used to say) there is a purity to my original vision, the desire to radically let go of what is non-essential in order to live more fully, more in touch with nature, more in the moment. There are no right answers, perhaps no answers at all, to the questions I have posed in these few paragraphs. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. The salient fact that emerges from this morass of conjecture is that, after seven years, this vision still calls to me in a powerful way, beyond reason. And the realization and acknowledgement of that makes letting go of the very natural (especially for a Taurus sun sign like me!), everyday pleasures of living in a house not a sacrifice but a benediction.  I am following the calling of my gypsy soul and I am grateful, for all of it. In this sacred moment.

A picture of domestic bliss.


You Gotta Be Kidding!

from Steampunk Tarot

From Steampunk Tarot

I tend to write blog posts (or chatty emails, or journal entries…) when I am up and excited about something that I just have to share. Nothing strange there.” So,” you say to yourself, “she’s posting on her long-abandoned blog after two years–she must be downright manic with enthusiasm!” One would think. But nope, not even close.


As a matter of fact, I had one of the worst nights of my life last night. I am telling the honest truth here, not just exaggerating for dramatic effect. I didn’t get to sleep until well after 2:00 am. Anxiety slammed into me like an out-of-control freight train. And this wasn’t just, “how am I going to pay the bills?” or “I’m moving out of a studio apartment into a van in two weeks and how the heck am I going to fit all this stuff back in that tiny space?” garden-variety anxiety. That I’m used to at this point. That would have been manageable, a ledge I probably could have talked myself down from in a reasonable amount of time.

No, this was a major existential crisis. A black hole of despair. I am in yet another transition (pretty much constant since I first hit the road 2 1/2 years ago). Moving out of a temporary apartment in Madrid, New Mexico back into the van in preparation for heading out to Southern California to boondock for a few weeks in my best friend’s driveway before returning to my summer camp host job near Big Bear Lake in Southern California. I have no savings and barely enough money to get there and pay my expenses until I start the job in May. Again, this has pretty much been a constant of my van-dwelling existence (oh, let’s be honest, even before that–ever since the move out of my corporate-job life in California to my life as a wanna-be Tarot reader/astrologer in the Land of Enchantment 12+ years ago). I’ve been living on the edge ever since with a charmingly innocent (or fool-heartedly reckless) faith in Spirit to see me through. Or, at the very least, a blind faith in Spirit’s ability to send me yet another job to see me through. But this time, for the first time in 10 years, I am also in credit card debt. Van breakdowns and plumbing issues (in the tiny former miner’s cabin I haven’t been able to sell) this past Fall took all the savings I had from last summer, and then some.

And for some reason, as I turned out the light last night and settled under the covers, that aforementioned freight train came heading down the tracks straight for me. Powered by one insidious thought that wormed it’s way into my head: If the van stops running for any reason (the 25-year-old van that has needed almost constant unexpected repairs for going on three years now) I am completely and utterly f#$*!d. And the oil pressure gauge keeps riding lower and lower (yes, I am checking the oil–and yes, the slow leak is getting less slow all the time). I have over 1,000 miles and four weeks between me and my next paycheck, I’m maxed out financially and the credit card interest is mounting. Once I put everything in that van, it’s my home. If it breaks down I don’t have any other vehicle to get me to any kind of job and I’m living in the middle of nowhere New Mexico and my ability to obtain more credit is non-existent. And I can’t do the camp host job if I don’t have a vehicle I can live in. And I have a cat who depends on me and no one I know who could reasonably adopt her.

Of course, I told myself, my mind frantically running around in circles in the rat’s maze it had imprisoned itself in, I have friends who would take me in. I’m not actually worried about dying of exposure or starvation. But most of my friends aren’t exactly Rockefellers themselves. It would be a huge imposition to say the least. And they all have animals that would make co-existing with a deadbeat friend and her very large alpha female cat not at all practical. And did I mention how much I HATE even the thought of being dependent.

So, there it was, staring me in the face. The consequences of all the decisions I’ve made in my life that have led me to this pin-point in time. And it wasn’t pretty. Because no woman is an island. The consequences do not threaten me alone, but those I love the most. Because no matter how much I have pretended otherwise for most of my 60 years, we are all connected in an intricate web of love. We are our brothers’ keepers. Although some part of me would rather die than have to seriously inconvenience others due to my ownlack of responsibility, I know my friends don’t feel that way. And that it’s not truly a reasonable way to feel. I could have made other decisions. But I didn’t and here I am. Despite my oldest-child, co-dependent internal myth that “I am the responsible one, I have always been the responsible one” I have, it turns out, been somewhat less than completely responsible in this instance (and probably many, many others). Huge lesson in compassion and self-judgment. And in facing the ugly fact of how often I have been secretly judgmental of others through the years that couldn’t “take care of themselves.” Oh yeah.

OK, forgive me, but this is where the astrology comes in. We are in the middle of a super eclipse window, half-way in between the solar new moon eclipse that happened last week and the lunar full moon eclipse happening next week. A time of accelerated change. A great time to hold in your mind what you want to create going forward, the possibility of “punching through” to a new reality. Change that can unfold effects for months or years to come. Sounds great, you say. But sometimes (well, usually) for that kind of transformation to take place, something has to die. Some shadowSolar Eclipse
part of ourselves we’ve been running from our whole life is going to come up to be looked at and released so we can go forward with more of ourselves present. No wonder the ancients viewed eclipses with a healthy respect!

So, back to my rat-mind running around in its little maze in the wee hours last night. I knew this was an eclipse initiation, big-time. And, yeah, that didn’t really help me much. I was so desperate, I was forced to go down to the depths of surrender. I prayed, I asked Spirit for help. I don’t know how to do this, I whispered, I don’t know how to make this go away, tears streaming down my face. I realized that poor little rat had been running around in that maze for years, maybe her whole life. And it is a very, very complex maze. But she’s a very smart rat. She’s so smart that she’s figured out the whole maze, she can get from one end to the other, knows where are the tricky passages are, can find all four corners in the dark, over and over again. But she just keeps running around inside it. Because it gives her something to do. Because there are Rewards set up in different places. A bit of cheese over there, a comfy nest right around this corner, possible sex down that far corridor. Because the maze is designed to make her think that’s she’s doing something, that it’s leading somewhere, that eventually there is A Way Out.

But the thing is, she really knows, deep down inside, that there is no way out. But she has to keep trying because what else is she going to do? If she stops, she will have to face the reality that she is really trapped. And then the darkness of her situation will be truly felt for the first time. The sRats-in-a-Mazeense of claustrophobia will be unimaginable, the confinement she feels almost unbearable, the despair truly overwhelming.

But here’s the thing. If she doesn’t stop, doesn’t just sit still in the middle of her prison and let the fear and pain and the regret she feels for a life lived in those tiny confines wash over her, SHE WILL NEVER GET OUT. Because a door is not going to magically appear where it never has before. Not as long as she keeps repeating the same pattern. Will she get out if she stops? Who knows. She might have a chance, though. A chance that some new way of looking at the situation will come to her. Maybe she’ll take the energy she’s been expending to no purpose and use it to gnaw her way through a hole in the floor, or the ceiling. Maybe she’ll scrabble around and make such a ruckus that someone will check to see what’s going on and inadvertently let her escape. Maybe she’ll find that the maze actually has no roof but that she just never noticed because she was too busy following the false leads, too busy conforming to the rules, to ever even think of looking up. One thing’s for sure. As long as she’s pretending she’s not really trapped and distracting herself with the intriguing puzzle to protect herself from the pain of knowing the truth, she doesn’t have a prayer.

So, when nothing worked at all last night to calm my fears, I sat up, turned on the light, and picked up the copy of Autobiography of a Yogi which I’ve been slowly reading for several weeks now–for the first time in my life. (Every other self-respecting baby boomer I know read it in the ’60s–as I mentioned elsewhere, see What We’re About, I’ve been living my life backwards). Here’s the passage that was at the top of the page when I picked up the book for solace during my dark night of the soul:

“The Hindu scriptures teach that man is attracted to this particular earth to learn, more completely in each successive life, the infinite ways in which the Spirit may be expressed through, and dominant over, material conditions… Man’s forgetfulness of his divine resources is the root cause of all other forms of suffering.”

I found this strangely comforting. It’s what I’d been trying to tell myself all along, of course, it just wasn’t working. But to have it spelled out for me when I reached out for help was the key I needed to allow me to stop in the heart of the maze. Because the really scary thing about all this was that I knew in essence it was a Test of Faith. Seriously, I actually thought of Job and the Bible story in the middle of all this and felt like I understood it on a new level. Because, really, I could have had this conversation with myself, or a variation of it, anytime during the last 10 years. According to the standards of the dominant society, I have been living way outside any kind of normal comfort zone for a long time. I have not been Responsible. And though I have certainly been anxious and worried–a lot–it never totally overcame my innately fiery, optimistic personality.

What was different last night? Once the thought that the van could break down, very likely would break down, entered my head I just couldn’t shake it. Because I had NO FAITH that Spirit wouldn’t do that to me. Or, if She did, it would all be for a reason that was in my highest good, an inevitable step on my soul’s journey and would all work out in the end. But last night, I just couldn’t get back there. Partly it’s age. I’m not as young as I used to be and I’ve been facing some physical challenges that have undermined my accustomed faith in my ability to “just go get another job” in any situation, if push comes to shove. Partly it’s because I really have inched further and further out on the limb these last few years, until I can feel the branch beginning to sway. And this is why they call it a dark night of the soul–because you are forced to look the demon in the face: despite all your new-agey, happy/optimistic lip service to the contrary, you don’t actually have faith that there is a Divine Plan and you and all the circumstances of your life fit into it. I could have sworn I did have that Faith, but in a few short hours of inner angst it had completely vanished. For the first time, I could not find that place in myself where I felt held by the Divine Mother when I really, really needed Her.

So, I was immediately comforted by Yogananda’s calming presence. But I wasn’t quite there yet, so I picked up my phone and found my Outrageous Openness Oracle app (check it out!). I took a deep breath, composed my question (what do you want me to know?–the only question I can ever truly ask of the Divine) and the answer was:

“No worry, send blessings. Worry is throwing kerosene on a fire.”

What can I say, it made me laugh. Yes, I could have been–I had been–telling myself this very thing for hours. And it did no good. But, like Yogananda’s sage advice, the synchronicity of the message when I asked for it was evidence of what I most needed in that moment: there is a pattern, a fabric of Divine Love that weaves itself through the Cosmos and I am its child as well as its emissary.

I pulled a Tarot card before I starting this entry earlier tonight, to be included as part of the story. And here it is:

One of Shells: Abundance from The Fifth Tarot

One of Shells: Abundance
from The Fifth Tarot

This is from a lovely, earth-based, new paradigm Tarot deck called The Fifth Tarot. Shells are the suit of water, heart, emotions. Ones (or Aces as they are more commonly known) are always about new beginnings. This card is suffused with the heart chakra colors of deep pink and green and the calming, cosmic, oceanic blues. It is a promise that the pearl of wisdom, of heart’s knowing, the knowledge that we are held in the Divine Embrace, will rise up to bring new beauty and hope. Abundance on all levels of being is our spiritual birth right. We are swimming in the Sea of Divine Love and there are unexpected gifts. Although the process of creation that brings us that kind of beauty is more often than not pretty darn uncomfortable. Tell the oyster when that grain of sand is irritating the heck out of it that it’s “all for the best” and see what kind of response you get! And maybe the oyster doesn’t even care, it just wants to go its own way and not be bothered, leave me alone, thank you very much, creating pearl necklaces not my problem. But I like to think that, somewhere in its transcendent oyster-soul, it has a sense of its interconnectedness with the watery cosmos and finds solace in being the instrument for manifesting the “pearl of great price.”

And if we are willing to risk the dangers inherent in diving deep through strong currents, we just may be the one destined to bring that treasure out to the world.

And, yes, I’m a little afraid to crawl into bed, as I will be doing in just a few moments and turn out the light. What if it happens again…and it well might. Nothing in the material world has changed in the last 24 hours, I’m still hanging by a thread, the potential victim of my own crazy choices. And, just in this moment, I feel a renewed connection with the Divine Mother, especially in her manifestation as the fierce and fiery, all-powerful Lion-Headed Sekhmet, Beloved of my heart. I trust that I can go forward, seeking and finding a better balance between following the dreams of my heart and creating healthy structure for myself in the physical world, in a new way than I have in the past. That I don’t have to choose one over the other. The train hasn’t flattened me after all. And even though it may yet, in this moment I am grateful for all the blessings of my life, which includes each and every one of you!

May you feel the truth of Divine abundance in your own lives, here and now, in this moment of potent eclipse energy. What is being eclipsed in your life so that some deeper knowing can seep through? Do you have the courage to let it go? What is the future you are seeding? What are you waiting for? Take the time to stop and look up–you might just discover that the maze is open to the sky after all.

Backroad Roadtrip Heaven

Route 66

If I ever needed more proof (which I actually don’t) that my Guardian Spirits have a wicked sense of humor, all I would have to do is contemplate the irony of the vehicle they sent me when I decided to hit the road as a wandering cosmic change agent: a large, unwieldy, gas-guzzling, metal wind-sail masquerading as a van. Because, you see, all my adult life (and even before that) I have been in love with the romance of wandering two-lane back roads to nowhere. I was hooked long before I decided to live full-time in a van. I was pioneering seeking out bits and pieces of the oId Route 66 on my occasional sojourns cross country long before they were marked on any map, or conveniently pointed out by trendy little signs off the Interstates–when you had to figure it out just by noticing that little squiggly line on the map that wandered off the main artery and take your chances. And now that I am living a life with a bit more freedom and time to wander, I find myself driving a vehicle that frankly scares me more often than not when traversing steep grades or curvy mountain roads. Roads that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to in my tiny, intrepid Saturn wagon. And even when I’m not being terrorized by the wind sheer caused by passing trucks, I can practically see the gas gage moving as I drive down the highway pursuing my dream on a limited budget.

This is Main Girl, the Egyptian Lion-Headed Goddess Sekhmet. Whenever I'm in a tight spot I think, "What would Sekhmet do?" And I always see her just taking her giant lion's paw and sweeping their heads off. At least it makes me laugh!

This is my Main Girl, the Egyptian Lion-Headed Goddess Sekhmet. Whenever I’m in a tight spot I think, “What would Sekhmet do?” And all I can see is her giant lion’s paw sweeping their heads off. At least it makes me laugh!

But, like I said, I am well aware that my personal Goddesses have a sense of humor so I try to have faith and enjoy the ride, scary parts and all. And what a ride it has been this last week, as I transitioned from my month in Southern California back to my “home base” here in magical Northern New Mexico!

I left Escondido last Tuesday on a misty morning and took the long grade up to Valley Center. The QME did a great job. (Actually, the fact that she is able to pull her own bulk up a hill at all always strikes me as somewhat amazing; that she was able to do it without going under 45 miles per hour or overheating was downright miraculous–a good omen for the days to come!)

Our morning ride through the back roads of northeastern San Diego County was stupendous. We wound up and down through rolling hills and mountain roads, with old orange groves (that heavenly scent!) on one side of the road and live oak forests on the other. Driving along Lake Henshaw, the mist was so thick coming off the lake and the trees were so green it felt like some of my back road adventures in Ireland. I took a circuitous route, partly to avoid the steepest stretch down Banner Grade, but mainly to see even more miles of pristine landscape, much of which I had never traveled in all the years I grew up in this country paradise. After crossing the mountains we dropped down through the desert towards Brawley, and the ocotillos, which I had admired on the way in a month ago, were still in bloom. The desert was alive with gorgeous orange flames.

Inside this unassuming building on the southwest side of 78 in the center of Westmoreland you will find a very kind man serving up very fresh Mexican eats.

Inside this unassuming building on the southwest side of 78 in the center of Westmoreland you will find a very kind man serving up very fresh Mexican eats.

After hitting the desert floor our idyllic ride was over for awhile as the highway led through Westmoreland and Brawley, before hitting the open road again through the sand dunes and rolling desert of Imperial County. Before tackling this second hundred miles, however, I decided to stop at the little gas station/mini-mart, El Sol, that I had discovered on my trip out. One last shot of real (i.e., Southern Californian) Mexican food before facing the next six months back in northern New Mexico, the land of red and green chile. (“Where is the fresh salsa, the refried beans, the excessive avocado?” my taste buds have cried these last ten years.) Since I recommitted to vegetarianism three months ago, Layla ate the bulk of the meat while I enjoyed the corn tortillas, cabbage, and guacamole with remnants of chicken–it was still heaven).

This is my $3.00 plate of two fish tacos. Served with fresh lemon, lots of guacamole, and a smile.

This is my $3.00 plate of two chicken tacos. Served with fresh lemon, lots of guacamole, and a smile.

Fortified, we returned to the road for our eastward trip through Imperial County and on into Arizona. We rolled into Quartzsite about 1:30 pm. It had taken over five hours to go 200 miles. I decided to be uncharacteristically moderate in my road trip goals and spend the night on BLM land here in Quartzsite instead of pushing on towards Cottonwood (the QME has converted me from a 500-mile-per-day road trekker to a 200-mile-per-day road wanderer). I sat in the Burger King with the van parked in plain sight in the shade of a tree and spent the afternoon on line catching up with business while sipping my coffee milkshake (not on the menu, made to order–would this ever happen at a chain restaurant in high-powered suburban California–or even here in Quartzsite at the height of the season?).

Our "Internet interlude" at Burger King. Layla is lounging safely inside the van where I can keep an eye on her from my table at the restaurant. A nervous mother's ideal arrangement.

Our “Internet interlude” at Burger King. Layla is lounging safely inside the van where I can keep an eye on her from my table at the restaurant. A nervous mother’s ideal arrangement.

After a very lonely (and kind of creepy, I must say) night in the same area we had camped in just two short months ago alongside millions of RVs, now completely deserted, I decided to gird my loins and tackle the drive to Cottonwood, where the remnants of my RTR tribe awaited, despite a forecast of high winds on the far end of the journey. Everything went fairly smoothly all morning, wandering 60 to 71 to 89 to Prescott (only 12 miles of Interstate and over 100 miles of back roads–now that’s a Road Trip!), where we parked in the main square and fixed a light lunch. The grade up from the desert floor had been a bit unnerving and the curvy mountain road down the other side even more so, but it was stunningly beautiful and with all the recent front end, steering, and brake work the QME was handling the moderate winds just fine, even on somewhat exciting back road terrain.

After lunch we gassed up in Prescott Valley, turned off onto 169 towards Interstate 17, and the nightmare began. The wind was blowing us around and I was white-knuckling it big time with a line of cars behind me (which I kept pulling over for whenever it was safe, but there is a limit if one hopes to make any headway at all!). When we hit the Interstate it was even worse. Mercifully, I had completely forgotten what this stretch of road was like, although I have traveled it several times over the last four years. But never in a metal wind-sail with high wind advisories (which I found out about AFTER the fact!). I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared in my life. When the exit for 260 finally appeared in the middle of a very, very long, very, very, VERY steep hill I was never so relieved to get off of a highway. I was still rockin’ and rollin’ the last four miles down 260 towards the forest service turnoff and when I finally found myself bumping down the rutted, uneven (but no longer so noticeably windy) dirt lane that led to camp and tribe, I had never seen a prettier road.

Esmarelda's cozy 'divan' -- just the right spot for afternoon tea -- or a cat nap -- after a wild ride.

Esmarelda’s cozy ‘divan’ — just the right spot for afternoon tea — or a cat nap — after a wild ride.

I rolled into the spot just waiting for me on the top of a lovely hill and sat inside having a cup of hot herbal tea with Kona coffee shortbread cookies while the wind came roaring up and over the hill, shaking Esmarelda like a leaf on the wind. But as long as I’m not moving, careening down a steep grade in the slow lane with a sheer drop-off to the right and giant trucks hurtling by on my left, I can enjoy being buffeted by the winds of change. Indeed, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt cozier or more at peace. I spent the rest of my afternoon into evening with map in hand, planning my next back road adventure in a few days’ time. And this is one of the greatest joys of the road. I could craft a life where I can avoid ever having to be that scared again. But without the thrill of adventure and the renewed sense of gratitude at just being alive, I would miss the deep joy, beauty, and peace they bring. And that is a trade-off I am not willing to make.

This is The Queen Maria Esmarelda in our camp at Cottonwood. You may notice the upgrade in photo quality. This is because I didn't take it! Thanks to Bob Wells, for everything. Check out his blog at CheapRV Living.

This is The Queen Maria Esmarelda in our camp at Cottonwood. You may notice the upgrade in photo quality. This is because I didn’t take it! Thanks to Bob Wells–for this photo and for everything else. Check out his blog at CheapRVLiving.

After two lovely days and nights, where I reconnected with good friends from this year’s winter retreat in Arizona, and even met some new ones, it was time to say goodbye. I had put off my return longer than I’d meant to, being seduced by the joy and comfort of old and new friends in both California and Arizona, not to mention warm air and beautiful scenery. But six months is long enough, and my shop, my renewed commitment to The Work that awaits me there, and the soul family of my little artist/hippie village were calling me Home to The Land of Enchantment. Time to hit the road and savor one last day of Back Road Heaven… more on that Perfect Day in an upcoming blog. For now, good bye and happy trails, wherever you may be!




Saying Goodbye to Sybaritic Southern California

"Boondocking" in surburban So Cal. I never realized what a tropical paradise my hometown really was!

“Boondocking” in surburban So Cal. I never realized what a tropical paradise my hometown really was!

So, I’ve spent the last month parked in my best friend’s driveway in beautiful northern San Diego county. A month where I had all the time in the world to do pretty much anything I wanted. Did I post one single blog? No!

I WROTE a very long one but I became overwhelmed by the details and the convoluted timeline I have created here before I’ve even begun and never posted it. Am I trying to catch up with the last few months–or even the last few years, from the nascent stages of this journey? Or do I just moved forward and trust you all will follow the thread? This morning, as I prepare to leave the landscape of my youth (for I grew up here in this once rural inland valley) I have decided to take the bull by the horns and simply start where I am–on the cusp of a beginning and an ending.

A fantasy realized! I've been dreaming of walking barefooted along a warm So Cal beach since I first decided to sell my house and hit the road three long years ago!

A fantasy realized! I’ve been dreaming of walking barefooted along the beach since I first decided to hit the road three long years ago!

Despite the fact that my BFF is working insane hours at an insane, physically demanding job and is pretty much chronically sleep-deprived, we had a great time. One Sunday we drove up the luscious southern California coast in her peppy Mini-Cooper to have brunch overlooking the ocean in Laguna Beach. We also stopped at Rogers Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden posing as a nursery. Yes, you can actually buy the plants, but this is obviously first and foremost a labor of love–a paean to the abundant beauty of nature and Southern California’s ability to offer a happy plant home to a wide variety of growing things.


Just one of the many idyllic corners to be found at Rogers Gardens.

We also took a hike the first weekend at the Torrey Pines Seashore just north of La Jolla. I am ashamed to admit it, but in the 15 years or more I spent growing up here, I never once visited this beautiful place. The magic of van dwelling!

A view from the trial at Torrey Pines State Park.

A view from the trail at Torrey Pines State Park.

Let me hasten to add that the whole month was not entirely taken up with idyllic walks, sipping homemade margaritas (yum–love that fresh lime!), and philosophical talks with my best friend of 40+ years (the first evening’s conversation started with the topic–“after all these years, I realize I don’t really know what love is!”–you gotta love it.)  Yes, for those of you who know something about astrology, this duo has a lot of Sagittarius (the Quest for Truth and Meaning) in their respective charts! One of us is heavily Libran (Conscious Equal Partnership) and the other heavily Aries (The Amazon Warrior defending the Cosmic Order). I’ll let you figure out which one I am. (Hint — I’m the one living in a van LOL.)

So, all was well. Except, that my intrepid Queen Maria Esmarelda had started making an ominous scraping noise as I was winding up my road trip here from Arizona. After several weeks spent in denial (fueled by my total lack of funds) I finally put on my big girl pants and drove her to Susan’s mechanic (wonderful guys–if you are ever in Escondido and need a mechanic, check out Escondido Auto Tech!). Turns out, the $800 worth of front end work I already knew I needed was the least of my worries. Rear brakes, leaking coolant, loose steering arms–it was downright dangerous! Long story short, thanks to the generosity of a friend with excellent credit, I borrowed the money (a lot of money–I will be working hard all summer to pay off the loan!) to finally fix all the major mechanical issues that have needed to be addressed since I bought her and year and a half ago.

One of the hidden gifts of this experience is that I spent the better part of 3 days hanging out in Susan’s driveway in a quiet corner of her lovely condo complex. On the surface, this is a van dweller’s nightmare: to be separated from my home and security and almost all of the worldy possessions I have left. I was spending my days in the driveway instead of my friend’s lovely condo because my intrepid traveling companion is an alpha female cat. Susan’s (alpha female) cat did not think a feline visitor was a good idea (we tried it the first evening–not pretty).

Layla makes herself at home in the driveway.

Layla makes herself at home in the driveway.

So, we sat outside and enjoyed the view. Besides a couple of kids that buzzed through on skateboards one afternoon, the neighborhood was surprisingly deserted. What a waste! Everyone is so busy working to keep a roof over their heads in this suburban paradise that it’s hard to find time to actually enjoy it. But Layla and I certainly had a lovely time listening to the woodpecker busily plying his trade in the nearby tree, stalking lizards in the bushes (Layla, not me), and enjoying the lush, moist air and the green, green, green surroundings. I even got some work done on the computer project I’m doing for a friend. And at the end of three days, The Queen Maria Esmarelda was returned to us, finally, finally driving the way I always knew she should. She actually feels safe for the first time–a revelation! We ready for the next road adventure. Home never felt so good.

My "parking pad office."

My “parking pad office.”

A few days later, here I am mid-morning in the Delights of France, the Internet Cafe on Grand Avenue in beautiful downtown Escondido. I discovered this place when I first dropped off my van at the garage around the corner and like the good Taurus that I am, have not bothered to pioneer any other hang-out in the four weeks I’ve been here. They make one of the best chocolate croissants I’ve ever tasted (and believe me, I’ve tasted quite a few!)–good dark chocolate, enough but not too much, and light flaky pastry. I should definitely already be on the road (tonight’s planned destination is 200 miles away on back roads–a good all-day drive for Esmarelda and I in my new, relaxed van dweller’s life).

But I am determined to become a writer and it starts here, and now, with this blog! I dreamed last night that I was 7 months pregnant. I mean, me, now, at almost 59 years old, not some younger, seemingly more fertile, version of myself. I was nervous and very excited all at the same time. And the night before that I dreamed I was petting a lion. I am indeed finding the courage to birth myself. As are we all!

As an astrologer, I am here to tell you that the next 5 or 6 weeks, leading up the The Grand Cross of Cosmic Change and Transformation in mid-April, is a real, in-your face time of letting go of the old to seed the new. The energies are all over the map right now–we are feeling impelled to move forward and feeling somewhat confused and stuck all at the same time. It’s OK–it’s the way it’s supposed to be. Keep taking deep breaths and asking your true soul self, what is the direction I want to go in right now? (not what my head thinks, but what my heart knows.) And then take a step in that direction. Just one step is OK right now. It may take you all day to take the step as you find the rest of the day is taken up with letting go of all the self-created obstacles of a lifetime (or many lifetimes!). But with every true-hearted intention to move forward by letting go of a slavish adherence to what you thought you were supposed to be doing, you are creating the blueprint for an accelerated future. You will be richly rewarded, I promise, in all the ways that count as our individual and collective dreams begin to manifest in late April and into May.

I still don't know what Love is but, for me, this is a big, big part of it in this lifetime! Thank you my friend.

I still don’t know what Love is but, for me, this is a big, big part of it in this lifetime! Thank you my friend.

Well, it really is past time to rescue the Princess Layla (who is waiting patiently in her neo-gypsy wagon, lounging on the bed and dreaming of Arizona desert lizards) and head on down the road. Until next time, love and blessings on your Journey!


The Adventure Begins (Began!)

20140126_111122_resized_1Scene 1: Leaving northern New Mexico, headed towards northern Nevada for a seasonal work-camping job as a warehouse associate for the on-line lynchpin of the Evil Consumer Empire, facing a temporary adventure in the belly-of-beast. A drastic although necessary step to fund the first stages of the journey… The Queen still needs lots of mechanical work, not to mention lots of gas on a very regular basis, and the Princess must have her expensive mail-order, natural, grain-free kibble supplemented with raw, “happy cow” beef. And The Cosmic Change Agent in training still has lots of debts left-over from the “old” life that must be paid…

Monday, October 7, 2013
The adventure begins, at last. After spending one last night “stealth” urban camping in the public parking lot in old downtown Santa Fe, we left The City Different this morning, after one last cup of strong Scottish Breakfast Tea from Tribes Cafe, at 10:07 am.  It seemed appropriate, somehow, to leave my little village of Madrid, in the coal and turquoise-mining mountains south of Santa Fe yesterday evening, to be ready to start our adventure fresh this morning from the spot where we first played at van living on a part-time basis through the summer (forced to face our fears after the faithful commuter Saturn wagon was stolen last April). A prelude to the main trip, starting out by going north last night, in order to be heading south to Albuquerque this morning, en route to Highway 40 West and all that lies in wait for us in our new life.  This is not just a trip, but a journey, which started in a spiral, not a line.

What a day we had! Layla is pretty content with her new home—except when it is moving, especially at high speeds on the open road with trucks (and everybody else!) roaring by. I was convinced I would have difficulty keeping my speed up to 50 or 55. Instead I kept looking down to find I was going almost 65! So, I spent the day in the Zen meditation of attempting to function as my own cruise control–with limited success. But she does just float along at 55. 65 is pretty easy, but doesn’t feel as safe (not to mention the extra gas it requires!)… she is almost 25 years old after all and still needs quite a bit of work—cracked frame, leaking engine seals and head gaskets, front brakes down to 20%, an alignment, cracked windshield (but not directly in line of sight, thank the Goddess)… the list goes on. Oh, and it would be nice to have a cigarette lighter (for charging appliances, not smoking!) and some kind of sound system. It will all come. I’ve been replacing her one piece at a time. When that process is finished, she will really be quite something. And to find out today that I am getting almost 12 whole miles to the gallon (instead of the 10.4 I was getting commuting in her)—my cup runneth over…

So, she may need some work—but she is a queen indeed, with the heart of a road warrior!

Now I know why I was so uncharacteristically flip flopping on my itinerary… did I go north, or did I go south to end up west? Turns out I was the one who wanted to go North—the vision quest (as elucidated by the Tarot this morning at the recycle station)—two lane roads, comfortable cruising speed, Red Rock scenery—the classic road trip. Obviously, it was Esmarelda who wanted to go South. “Give me the four lane highway,” she was subliminally shouting,” the open road, speed. I want to be free!” So, we struck a compromise—but on her territory. We are taking the more prosaic, direct route, but at my speed (mostly). We didn’t even make my original, modest goal of reaching Winslow this evening (created when we had 3 days to make Cactus Springs, not 2).

But, we all made it safe and sound. Layla is a road warrior as well, or will be soon. She spent most of the day between the bed frame and the wheel well. But whenever we stopped—at the travel plaza outside Grants for our salad lunch, at the rest stop at the Arizona border—she emerged to lounge on the bed, cool as a cucumber.

So, with the excuse of giving her a well-deserved break, I stopped 30 miles short of the goal of Winslow and the Anasazi ruins state park, to land here at the KOA in Holbrook. Appropriately enough, this is where Esmarelda spent her first incarnation, as a senior citizen transport vehicle for the city. I wonder if she is waxing nostalgic tonight, or having panic attacks. No need to worry, my Queen, we are headed off early tomorrow (just after my shower—the first in six weeks!—and the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast here at the campground).  I am in Paradise—my brand new extension cord snaked out my small slider window to power my laptop and recharge my smart phone, pristine clean bathrooms, all night laundry and no need to be “stealth” as I sit here tapping away at my chronicles.

The QME camped at the Holbrook KOA on her first official night on the road.

The QME camped at the Holbrook KOA on her first official night on the road.

I’ve decided that this is the vandwellers’ version of a 5-star hotel vacation—a night at the KOA. I embarked upon this adventure of giving up sticks and bricks to live in a van on the road, and stuck with the three years’ worth of travails it took to make it happen, largely because I knew this life would bring me closer to nature. But the Taurus sun-sign part of me will not be daunted and sometimes wins out over the Aries moon and chooses comfort over adventure, so here I am on my first night in a KOA. Although this is certainly an Aries Moon version of comfort—a 25 year old van in a campground with the delicious, haunting sound of the train whistle periodically filling the silence of the Western night.

2013-10-07 18.11.37_resizedI had a revelation while cooking my dinner tonight on my 2-burner Coleman stove (which I finally made myself fire up just yesterday for the first time). I opened the side door, which is just behind the “kitchen” in the van (a $20 cabinet I bought at the resale store). “This is like camping indoors—the best of both worlds.” I think I actually said this out loud…The joy in finally living the life I’ve dreamed of, that seemed to allude me all week, as I worked my last shifts at the café and catering, attended my “goodbye” party (dancing to my favorite band who just happened to be playing in my hometown Tavern), leaving the village last night for the last time… I finally began to actually feel the joy, just in bits and pieces at first, cruising along in the van with the cat with the magnificent southwest vistas in front of me, a perfect fall day… fixing a wonderful, simple lunch at a highway rest stop. But, in true Taurus, pleasure-loving fashion, it didn’t hit full force until I made the decadent decision to pull into the bourgeois campground, steal some of the cats’ raw hamburger to make a fresh, homemade version of “hamburger helper,” talk to my two best friends on the phone, accomplish the minimal van dwellers’ housekeeping tasks of straightening up the van and re-doing the ice chest, and revel in the dearly bought decadence of reading May Dodd’s journal via Kindle on my laptop, enjoying the story of a very Aries, adventurous heroine of the 19th century west, vicariously experiencing through her marvelous story a wondrous and tragic chapter of history. It inspired me to actually sit and write this instead of just going to bed (or doing laundry!).  I don’t want the experiences of this day to be lost to me forever.

I know that so many things that are magical to me in this moment will soon become commonplace—Layla’s undaunted courage… voluntarily taking a walk in her harness soon after arriving here, in a totally strange place, after a crazy day spent mostly under the bed, being tossed around like gelato for a milkshake in the blender at Ecco Café—definitely not your run-of-the-mill domestic feline companion; making dinner in my indoor/outdoor kitchen; feeling so cozy and complete in the absolutely perfect space that is The Queen Maria Esmarelda. The bounty of electrical power and showers after 6 weeks of stealth urban camping with no power and sponge baths (which I actually like, by the way—so much more efficient than the hour I used to spend every day in the tub! I can’t wait until I have solar power and can be this independent in the middle of the wilderness—just imagine!).

I may have doubted my sanity over the last three years, or my ability to make this happen, but I never, ever doubted that I would love this life. And I do, I do, I do! And I always will. I was born for this—and I think the QME and Layla were, too—three adventurous females with gypsy souls, together at last. Here we are, incarnating the power of The Divine Feminine, in her Triple Goddess aspect, our old lives already half-forgotten in the wonder of discovering the new

Sekhmet on her altar in the Queen Maria Esmarelda.

Sekhmet on her altar in the Queen Maria Esmarelda.

And tomorrow, can it really be tomorrow?—visiting The Temple of Sekhmet just north of Las Vegas, Nevada. This has been my heart’s desire for the last thirteen years, since I first heard of its existence. This is truly a pilgrimage, not just a journey. I am a little afraid that my high expectations will unavoidably bring disappointment, but whatever the journey brings it will be a gift. To be in Sekhmet’s mighty, loving presence, at a Temple dedicated to Her, to the gift economy, to the recovery of the sacred desert, at the start of this grand new chapter of my life—it is already perfect!