To Dance with the Sea….

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.” ~ Richard Bach

On Facebook, they call this day of the week “Throwback Thursday” and people generally post photos of themselves when they were young. But today – in the wake of my preparations for another Ride, another journey – there could not be a more perfect one for this particular Thursday to have fallen on. Two years ago on this day – on May 17th – I stood, feet planted in the icy cold wetness of the Pacific Ocean, foamy bubbles and black sand swirling around me, cobalt skies above, deep blue sea rhythmically pulsing for as far as the eyes could see. I was dancing with the Sea and the Earth. And I had done it … I’d done what so many thought was impossible or non-sensical. I’d meandered my way from one side of this country to the other … from one ocean to another. I’d touched the salty waters of both sides of this continent.

It was a journey that included over 50 stops, meeting and breaking bread with dozens of new – until then never-before-met – friends, laughing and crying and sharing stories; sleeping on beds and cots, in tents, trailers, apartments and mansions. It was a journey of new people, new cultures, new vistas and new loves. 26,000 miles of highway and dirt of every color worked their way onto the old ‘Silver Backpack’ … and I could have asked for no better traveling companion than that old Forester. RIP, sweetheart, you did well and deserve your rest.

I’ve now got a new-to-me vehicle, and I’ll be leaving NY on June 30th to set out on a new Ride, another meandering journey. I don’t know yet if I’ll make it to the Pacific again on this one, as I’m still putting together the agenda (though I do hope to do so at least one more time before my days here end), but that moment – that photo – will always bring a smile to my face as long as I live … and I’m looking forward to the dozens of smiling more moments to come in the months ahead. Life is such a wonderfully amazing and beautiful gift … one given to us to open and enjoy to the fullest. We CAN make our dreams come true, and we have those dreams for a reason. Simply, to fulfill. Like Nike used to say, just “Do it.”

Keep on riding everyone, and enjoy YOUR own, personal, amazingly beautiful ride…

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A Mother’s Day Missive

“We are born of love;
Love is our mother.”
~ Rumi

Something a little different today; something not necessarily pertaining to “The Ride,” but rather, a story of love from me to you, on this Mother’s Day.

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This is my mother. It is my only photo of her; it’s not the best, as it’s from a newspaper article written around 1989. But it’s all I have. She was an artist, a singer, a writer, and wrestled all of her life with many demons: Bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and alcoholism, among others. We had a rather brief and very challenging relationship – she never wanted children and I was seen as nonessential … and moreover, as the wretched roadblock between my father and her. She left us immediately after I was born, only to reappear in our lives a decade – and several husbands – later when I was 10. The following six years were incredibly difficult, and I could easily fill this blog with many stories of her abuse and hatred toward me. Our last stormy encounter was in 1973, and she passed away in 2003, having never spoken another word between us in those 30 years.

So, why do I write this now, on Mother’s Day? Seems odd, right? But, you see, there is much more to this story … especially for those who understand and believe that lifespirit, and love and forgiveness, are never-ending. Keep reading….

In the summer of 2012, I was sitting in my apartment reading, late one afternoon. I felt an ‘odd’ sensation, and looking up from my book … I saw her standing there. Or rather, her lifespirit. She was young and beautiful and healthy; and had a peaceful, loving expression on her face … an expression that I’d never seen on her before. I was stunned and silent – I’d not given my mother a thought in decades – but at that moment, and without a single word exchanged between us, I knew that beneath all of the disease and broken chromosomes and chemical imbalances she waded through all her life … she, her Spirit – the true essence of her life beyond what we know and understand in this world – did indeed love and care for me. In the passage of a nano-second, forgiveness and joy reigned. I understood completely and fully that none of the abuse was “her” fault, but rather were the manifestations of the delicate balance of our physical nature … a broken or missing gene/chromosome here and there, the learned patterns of generations prior, the on-again off-again nature of the drugs meant to “control” what we deem as mental illness. It was not she who did not love or care for me … not the Spirit or Soul of this woman who was my mother … but rather her humanness, her mortal-ness, and it was beyond her control. When that is fully realized, forgiveness comes oh-so very easily. And it did. I smiled … deeply, completely. Compassionately. She smiled in return, as she slowly faded from view.

Yes, it would have been nice to have had a different, “better,” mother … my life certainly would have been easier, and my standing joke is “Next time around, I’d like to know what a normal life is!” …. but, this lovely, emotionally challenged woman also gave me gifts I never would have had, had I not known her: Strength, resilience, intelligence, an artistic bend, a love of words, theater, art, education; and a desire to live Life fully to its last beautiful breath.

Happy Mother’s Day, one and all.

Where the End is Another Beginning

“I will find new meaning in every joy and sorrow,
in that silence, I will hear the voice of spirit, and
freed from this world, I will see another world
where the end is another beginning.”
Rumi

I don’t recall exactly when the feeling started – a malaise, almost. A feeling of discontent, disquiet, awkwardness, boredom. I don’t know when it started, as insidious as it was, but I do know it came to a head on that late April day … as I trudged out to the car on yet another cold, gray day, snow swirling, wind battering the naked trees, branches swaying in the reflection on my windows. I hurriedly tried to button my winter coat, fumbling in gloved hands and shivering as I got in the car – quickly shutting the door against the bitter wind … I was tired of it. On October 1st, or thereabouts, of the previous year, the sun had abandoned us – running away to some other galaxy, never to return. Or so it seemed. It was gone, done, over and out. And so was I.

But it was more than just the weather. A year ago, after my two-year, 26,000 mile journey meandering across this country, I’d returned to New York … to the place many generations of my ancestors had called home. To the lands they’d farmed and fished after their own adventure crossing the Atlantic on the Mayflower, as well as the dozens of others who came on the ships and planes that followed for 200 years. To the place I, myself, had called home for 15 years. But something happened somewhere along those 26,000 miles I drove … I was no longer the same person I was when I left. I’d been raised in a very artistic, open-minded and liberal environment – and grew to be the same as an adult – yet the myriad of cultures, vistas and people had broadened and expanded my horizons even further … far more than I ever anticipated. Two years of complete freedom to be who I was, without constraint of career or regional expectations, allowed me to grow in surprising ways. I was quite a different woman than I was on that day in June 2015 when I pulled out of my driveway … leaving friends, work and a home behind in the rural lands of Upstate NY. Yes, it was more than just the weather. I was coming to realize that I no longer “fit” in the place where I once thought I would stay forever … where I’d surmised was to be my final stop on ‘The Ride’.

It was a disconcerting revelation. Heartbreaking, in many ways. Dozens of generations had lived and died here; and fifteen years prior, I’d moved from the cities of Pennsylvania just to be among the ghosts of those ancestors. It – these lakes and farms – was in my blood. And indeed it was, but all these generations later, I guess you could say the blood was thin, and all was not – I was not – as once was, so long ago.

That evening, I stopped by the cemetery where my Grandmother lays. As I knelt at her gravestone, I quietly whispered to her of my unhappiness and how I felt guilty; after all, I’d come home just a year ago. I’d come back for the simple way. For the Amish and Mennonites, for the farmers and homemakers and teachers, for the hunters and mechanics. For the apple orchards and vineyards. I had come back to the place where I long ago promised I would return to stay. And now I wanted to leave. As I stood there, I closed my eyes and felt her warm gentle presence surround me, much as I did when she would hold me on her lap as a child.

“It was never your home,” she said. “It was mine. I loved it, and it was perfect for me. But it never was yours.”

I felt her smile. Where the end is yet another beginning. And at that moment I knew that I, too – like my ancestors who crossed the sea and began a life in an unknown and strange new continent – was about to set out to explore faraway places and discover a new land to call home. My home.