I am in the midst of yet another transition; and I’m taking this one hard.
So hard, I wonder why and how I ever set off on such a ludicrous nomadic journey in the first place.
So hard, my body aches all over – all the healing I’d done, all the progress I’d made with Caroline my Precious Crooked Spine – seems out the window. She begs me to put aside any notions of exploring this new place in which I landed, two days ago, and, Please, just let us rest.
I am happy to oblige, if only I can find a single room in this sizeable ski condo I’ve rented, in the midst of this halcyon High Sierra mountain village, to escape the incessant noise and mind-numbing pounding of construction. Every corner of the entire, tiny ski town seems to be under development – knocking down, building up, filling in every last square foot of space, pushing against the bounds of federal forest land with hotels and housing units to fulfill the high human demand for nature’s peace and beauty.
Ironically, I’ve arrived just in time, post-snow melt off-season, to take-in all the dusty, capitalistic commotion.
I shut the door to the bunkbed room on the quieter backside of the condo, and, as my exhausted body sinks down, my head begins to count, like sheep, all the places I’ve landed and inhabited since Escalante, Utah, my last long-term stay.
Page, Arizona --> Flagstaff --> Scottsdale --> Joshua Tree, California --> San Diego --> LA --> Santa Barbara --> Morro Bay --> back to LA --> Pasadena --> Mammoth Lakes.
It’s dizzying. Yet, seeing this list in my mind, somehow, gives me solace, justifies my downtrodden state, reminds me: I shoulda had a gummy. Then I nod off into deep, hard slumber.
I awaken, groggy, hours later, to the sound of children playing, the wind whispering through the pines. Eyes still shut, I listen for the sound of the pounding, resounding backhoe, of metal crushing rock. Thankfully, for now, it has subsided.
Opening my heavy lids, I gaze out through the horizontal blinds into muted daylight, pastel swatches of cloud and sky, branches sway, needles flutter, as my bones sink deeper into the mattress, heart rests deeper in my chest, and lips relax into slight smile of recognition.
I’m back inside myself again. Who knows how long it’s been?
I review my list: 11 stops. No, I correct myself. I’d forgotten Sedona and Cayucos. Add them to the itinerary, and that makes lucky 13 – 13 locations, 13 transitions, 13 times packing-up, traveling, arriving, unpacking, orienting, and settling-in over the last eight whirlwind weeks.
Though how could I have eliminated a one of those stops? My travels through Arizona and California have been all about re-connection...
...with long-lost family – aunties, cousins, and new to the world second cousins I’d never met – re-connection with precious but distant friends – closing the gap of space and time over dinners, margaritas, and donuts, dancing, protesting, and hot-springing, reminiscing, laughing, and, yes, a little crying. Plus, amidst all the social swirl, I had to catch and nurse myself through a severe case of Covid.
Clearly, this pace and level of activity was and is unsustainable. Clearly, it’s the itinerary of nomad novice.
David, my bunkhouse neighbor from back in Escalante, nomad friend, angel and guide, has told me as much. “Because you’re been doing too much; I warned you. You brought your DC mindset with you. Gotta slow down. Do less, stay places longer,” he urged me on a recent call. He’s been on the road, joyfully, for seven years. He worries I’ll get a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing and return home spent and resigned to an inert life.
I’m afraid he may be right.
Two days ago, rising up from sea level on the LA coast, winding through the Imyo National Forest, past Mount Whitney, tallest peak in the lower forty-eight, I landed in Mammoth Lakes, at ten thousand feet and noticed, despite the extraordinary beauty – snow patched peaks, ice blue lakes, expanses of verdant meadow – I felt little to no excitement. (Though, I had to smile for the photo.)
This is the very land that inspired Ansel Adams – the stunning landscapes he captured in black and white and every shade of gray – the reason I chose this place.
And yet, my heart felt no awe, nothing but a steady, survival thump-thump.
Maybe the airy awe feeling will come once I am rested, once my eyes have had a chance to stare at the four beige walls of my condo covered with tasteless bear-themed poster art, and are ready to open again to beauty.
Maybe the awe will come, again, once I’m back to my grounding morning routine of meditation and yoga and morning pages, once I attend to my everyday chores like doing laundry and cooking a meal.
Maybe it will come once I remember this journey has unfolded just as it was meant to, and all I need to do, all I can do, is surrender.
Maybe it will come, again, once I dip a toe into one of those glacial lakes or venture to plunge in and wash the world-weary resignation off my skin.
After my nap in the bunkbed room, I’m ready for a shower, my first in a few busy transition days. As I step out, cleansed, and wrap the towel around me, I notice the construction racket has started up again, the scraping and banging and beep-beep-beeping of an earth mover. My jaw tightens as my eyes catch, reflected in the mirror, hanging on the wall over the toilet, a framed proverb in cursive. I turn around to see it right ways. It’s ugly, like the cuddly bear wall art; but I smile as I read the message meant for me.
Hope…rejoice in our suffering, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. Romans 5:3
The nomad life, ultimately, may not be for me. We will see.
Meanwhile, there are lessons, there is hope.
Evening, now, I stand at the balcony door and gaze across the blacktop parking lot to the block-long and -wide construction site. The earth movers are inert, the workers all gone home. The sun’s begun its decent toward the snow-patched mountaintop. The aspen leaves flutter in the evening breeze.
I breathe in a gulp of mountain air as my feet sink down into the soft, beige wall-to-wall carpet. My spine feels relaxed rested; my belongings are unpacked and laundry done. The wood-carved bear sculpture stares over at me from his perch in the den.
A smile spreads across my face, a small giggle erupts.
Yes, of course there's hope.