“Where we love is home …
home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

It is so good to be home. I sit on the deck, this beautiful Sunday afternoon, book in hand, wine glass filled and sitting tableside waiting to be enjoyed. When I decided to leave the west, with all of its stunning beauty, and return to the humid, snowy, bug-besotted Finger Lakes region of NY … well, let’s just say that many of my friends out there thought I was crazy. Yes, it can be frustrating when you hang your laundry and two days later it’s still damp, or it’s a given that you need to get up an hour earlier most winter days to shovel your way to the car, or you buy allergy pills and/or anti-itch cream by the caseload (ok, slight exaggeration there, I admit) … but, this is such an incredibly beautiful area: A landscape covered with a legion of lakes, rivers, creeks, waterfalls, canals, and dense prismatically colored forests; shale crust deeply furrowed by ice-age gorges that still weep crystal clear water, moraines dotting their bases; ground softly caressed by checkerboard farmlands and cavalcades of vineyards; craggy mountains still growing upward, unlike most, and capped with boreal life; millions upon millions of acres overflowing with a marvelous and fascinating diversity of flora and fauna – like no where else I saw in my travels. Few people are aware of just how very rural and wild NY is. The city most think of is only a tiny dot on the map of this state, and far far away from me.

Don’t misunderstand me … don’t get me wrong … I enjoyed every minute of The Ride. I saw places I never dreamed I ever would, and met wonderfully beautiful and kind people – generous of heart and mind – every step of the way. I have not one minute of regret or reticence about what I did, and I am grateful beyond the capability of any word in the human language to express … but I am glad to be home. In the wanderings of my journey, I quickly discovered that everyone has a place that shouts “Home!!” to them. It is not necessarily where they were born or even where they lived most of their lives … oftentimes, it is somewhere totally unexpected. But nevertheless the heart knows it. I was born and lived most of my life in Pennsylvania, yet by the age of 16 I knew that Upstate NY was Home for my spirit, even though I’d only visited twice – both times very briefly. A friend of mine who lived in NY all her life knew the moment she stepped from the steps of an airplane in Oklahoma, this was Home. She’d never been there before. Another friend, though originally from Alabama, but living 20+ years in the valley and mountains of northern Utah, recently moved to the red rock country – deep into the four-corners desert west. It has always cried “Home” to his soul. And there are many more similar stories. What is it  that makes a place “Home?” What is it our Spirit recognizes? Perhaps a DNA memory – a connection to the land deeper than we realize. Perhaps we look down from the heavens long before we are born and pick a place … and the game of life is to find it before our bodies wear out. I do not know, and it doesn’t really matter. All I know is that The Ride is at long last complete; I have returned home, and I have returned to myself. And the joy of the full recognition of this is as deep as the gorges of this land, and as kaleidoscopically beautiful, and indefinable indelible, as the heavens above.

(photo courtesy Michael Bailey)

Eat, Pray, Drive … Pt. II

“I think I deserve something beautiful.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Those of you who have read the book or perhaps have seen the movie “Eat Pray Love” know that it’s the story of a woman who went on a world-wide travel adventure to “find herself.” She spent four months in three different locations, each with a bend toward a different aspect of the human condition … sensual satisfaction of the palate, ears and eyes; deep soul searching and a sublime transcendent union with the universe; and finally the blending, the balancing of it all in glorious love. A friend recently commented that The Ride reminded her in some ways of this memoir, and it didn’t take long for me to recognize how very right she was. Nor long to borrow the book again from our local library to re-examine it with a new understanding and fresh perspective. Although my journey was never about “finding myself’,” the endless miles of driving did, nevertheless, bring a cornucopia of new insights and some surprising changes (like that I suddenly love bright colored clothes, sparkly nailpolish and purple curtains … I mean, really, where on earth did that come from??) in this person I call lovingly call “me.” And also a realization of something rather interesting….

I separated from my husband, who I later divorced, in 1989 after 10 difficult years of marriage. From 1989 to 2003 – a period of 14 years – I spent on myself, for the most part, catering to typical human needs and wants … working, relationships, enjoying theater, music, art, food, parties, shopping, wine, sex, etc. … and not giving much thought, if any, to the spiritual side of life. In 2002, I moved from PA to NY state, to live in the area where many generations of my ancestors had lived and died – and to get away from a pressure-filled job and the crowded, noisy city. To quietly enjoy a peaceful, slower-paced life among the lushly beautiful hills and checkerboard farmlands of Upstate NY. A few months after I moved I entered into a relationship that, upon its heartbreaking demise in 2003, had me careening off into a quest for understanding, from a spiritual level, the why’s and wherefores of myself and life … and a few other people. Initially, I spent four solid days doing nothing much more than staring at a lake deep in the Adirondack mountains, repeatedly whispering the words “Show me” to the waters, the woods, the sunsets. To any bit of the cosmos that would listen. And possibly answer. I came back full of hope and curiosity … and delightedly delved into 14 years of spiritual pursuit and enlightenment.

As I returned from my two years on the road in early May, I knew there would be a period of readjustment, a need to rebalance, or as a Facebook friend called it, “unpacking.” What I hadn’t realized was just how much of a challenge this unpacking process would be … re-entry into the orbit of “normal” life is taking longer than I anticipated, gravity weighing in with force and heat shields straining under the blaze of a new day’s light. Just who is this person now? What are her hopes and dreams today … and what are they going forward? Where does her soul meet her humanness? I find it rather provocative to discover that prior to the Ride, my adult life had consisted of two very separate and distinctly different 14 year periods. As I enter into what will most likely be the last parenthetical period of my life (though I admit I hope for a little longer than 14 years!), I, like Elizabeth Gilbert in the book, am looking at a beautiful time of coalescence. A time of balancing, of the bringing together … a blending and an integration of the seasons of my life that had gone before. An epoch of giving birth to what is yet to come. “At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you.” Contentment, yes indeed. And maybe even that last glorious love.

For now, though, I think I’ll pour a glass of wine, sit on the deck, and watch the sun set. Each day will come when its due.

Eat, Pray, Drive … Pt. I

“Even when you think you have your life all mapped out, things happen that shape your destiny in ways you might never have imagined.” ~ Deepak Chopra

At 7:48 AM on June 17th, 2015 – two years ago – having no idea of what would lie ahead, I posted this photo to my Facebook page. Seventy minutes later I turned out of my driveway, having sold or given away just about everything I owned – save for what could be tightly squeezed into the back of my little Subaru – and began the most incredible 23 months of my life … a journey that took on a life of its own and became known simply as “The Ride.” Looking back as I sit here this morning – having returned home to the lush rolling hills of NY state, and now sipping coffee on the deck of my new apartment – it is still hard for me to believe that it all really happened. Most of it still so hard to grasp, as if a distant dream that I’ve just wakened from … and yet at the same time, though I sit looking at the same green hills I did before I left, they are now different, as am I.  I find myself still working at waking up, dancing through the cobwebs of it all.

So many changes internally … not to mention the recently birthed plethora of gray hair and a few fresh wrinkles that now line my face … changes I had not anticipated, and changes I cannot yet fully label or understand the why and how they came about. Recently someone said that my journey reminded them of the book “Eat, Pray, Love.”  Well, actually, she said it reminded her of the movie, but having read the book before, I thought it deserved a re-read, and borrowed it from the library.  She was right.  I’d not thought of it before, nor did I leave on The Ride seeking any particular spiritual quest … I simply wanted to travel and meet people.  Live with them, share their lives, their hopes, their sorrows. Maybe write about them.  But in that process, The Ride did indeed become a pilgrimage of sorts.  It became the bringing-together of an even longer journey … the period at the end of a 28 year passage through two very distinct parts of my life.  No, correction … it became a comma, a semi-colon.  The third part is just beginning.

It is so very true … I had it all mapped out, like we all do, this walk on the earth we call Life … and yet things happen, things that take us on the most incredible journeys, things that change us in ways we did not expect, things that give us unexpected gifts of challenge, joy, love, and growth. Two years and a million psychical miles … I’m looking forward to what lies beyond the semi-colon.