Scenes Along the Way…

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest,
breathing
like the ones
in the old stories,
who could cross
a shimmering bed of leaves
without a sound,
you come
to a place
whose only task
is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,
conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

~ excerpted from “Sometimes” by David Whyte

As I pack up and prepare for a new kind of journey, I thought it fun to re-post a short video I put together of some scenes from early on in the Ride. I cannot share it directly to this blog (unless I upgrade), so you will have to check it out via a YouTube link. It truly was such a delight to have been a part of these moments and lives, now almost three years ago … and I look forward to more adventures yet along this long road of Life. I hope you enjoy……

Video link: The Ride, Pt. I

Why Do I Ride?

“Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.”
~ Khalil Gibran

Why do I Ride? There is far more to these crazy meanders of mine than simple wanderlust, a gypsy soul, or a desire to see new places – although I admit, that is beautiful bi-product of why I do it. The reasons, the goals, the hope is indeed, far deeper than that….

It has become pretty obvious to most of us that we have become an increasingly disjointed and separated society, especially here in America. We chat online, we message, we text. We watch ‘reality’ shows … shows about other people’s lives and documentaries about lands and cultures far away … all well accomplished at keeping real reality at arm’s length and gobbling up our time. Time that could be spent connecting with new friends or learning about the changes in the lives of old friends and family. Time that could be spent reaching out to another human being with love … real love, not televised, artificial, scripted “love.” We all-too-often have so little idea of the silent tears people weep, the faceless dreams they have, the voiceless sadness they live … even those close to us. We turn to booze, food, thrill-seeking, and even church, in the desire for something more … in a desire to FEEL something. Something to crack us wide open … and to share something.

So I travel and I stay with people I’ve only known though social media – those corridors of the hallway of separation – until the moment I knock on their door. Then we sit together, we walk together, we talk. We break bread and share stories of our lives. We hug, we laugh. Sometimes we cry. I hear their tales, and they hear mine. We connect in real time. Ears to eyes, heart to soul. We are all human … we are not an image on a screen, or character in a book (or kindle, as the case may be), or a roll in a video game. The teller at the bank, the kid collecting grocery carts at the store, the cable guy, the teacher at school, the nurse in the doctor’s office … they all have stories, they all have loved and lost. And so I travel to remind us all – myself, included – that we are all a part of one whole living, breathing, moving, thing. Life. We are all connected, like it or not. And when the dominos begin to fall, one-by-one, we all do. We need each other, and we need to remember that.

The second of these two reasons: My early life – actually most of my life – has not been easy. I’ve faced many challenges … mentally disturbed and abusive parents, no college education, an emotionally derisive (ex) husband, no family, no children, no money. I’ve worked all of my life for less than what many would ever consider to be a good wage. I’ve lost a house to foreclosure, been homeless, hungry, beaten, raped, and on the verge of suicide … twice. I’ve been challenged all my life with what they now label as “learning disabilities.” And at 63, I have little savings, making-do on a small SS payment and occasional part-time work. I live in a small, inexpensive apartment, and my “new” car is an ’06 with 160,000 miles on it and a few dents. BUT….. I have also made so many of my dreams come true! I overcame those seemingly overwhelming hardships, and sought out and studied enough that most people assume I have a university degree. I’ve insisted on living with an open heart, and I’ve managed to travel across this amazing country (now soon to be twice!), seeing and visiting places that were once only pictures in a wish-book I had. I’ve met amazing people of all races, nationalities, religions, orientations and cultures; from the very poor to the rather wealthy. My point, and one of the reasons I do these “Rides,” is to show – to hopefully inspire and to teach – how dreams CAN come true. That you CAN do it. You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to come from the “right” family, you don’t have to be young. I often speak to the fact that Life is a gift … a beautifully wrapped package, all sparkly and perfectly tied with an elegant bow … a gift of abilities and desires and dreams and hopes that are given to us on our birth-day. Given to us by whatever it is you believe in … God, Creator, Energy, Infinity, the Heavens, the Universe … it doesn’t matter the name, the gift is the same. And it is given freely and with absolute delight to us – all those things that you desire and that you CAN do … all given to us at the moment of conception to enjoy and make happen.

This is why I ride, and this is why I write. My hope, as time moves forward, is to begin a new journey: A journey of speaking to audiences and share the way to recognize YOUR dreams and how to begin to make them happen … how to make them come true. It requires both head and heart, but it IS possible … I am living proof … and every one of us CAN do it. It is my hope that we can begin – together – to make your dreams … our dreams … come true. And by doing so, pay it forward and help encourage the world to be a better, healthier, and happier place. And it all begins now, with all of us connecting, helping each other to build and realize each of our dreams.

See you all down the road…

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.

*******

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.

 

 

 

 

The Siren’s Song…

“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.”
~ Wallace Stevens

So very delighted to have had the article, below, was published in the March/April issue of “Life in the Finger Lakes” magazine … in full color, with additional photos. It speaks to why I decided to return to Upstate NY after the long meander of The Ride. What was it that called me back, in spite of having seen some of the most incredible areas of this country? Read on, to find out…

“As I crossed the invisible border between Pennsylvania and New York, beginning the final leg of an almost-26,000 mile journey begun two years ago, tears stung my eyes and blurred my vision. I eased onto the shoulder of the road, rolled down the window and smiled. Two years since I’d seen this land … these lakes, these waterfalls, these trees. This lush greenest of green! The scent of a thousand flowers filled my nostrils, and the damp air clung to my skin. I’d been meandering this incredibly beautiful country for two years; I’d photographed and stayed in some of the most amazing places from the Atlantic to the Gulf to the Pacific – and yet I chose to return to the Finger Lakes. Why? Why leave the towering red rocks and other-worldly arches of Utah, the white powder of saline deserts, the colorful striations of ancient earth upheavals, or the massive 800-foot-high gorge of the Rio Grande? Why turn around at the great redwoods of the northwest and head for the fat oaks and maples and dancing willows of the northeast? Why say not now to the craggy snow-capped Rockies … and yes again to the gently rolling hills and flat farmlands of this region?

Let me start by telling you that I am not originally from the Finger Lakes, or even New York State. I was born in Philadelphia and lived most of my life on both sides of Pennsylvania. My father’s family, however, was from the Geneva area, and after visiting once when I was ten, I told myself I would live there one day … and it only took another 37 years to reach that goal!

It’s funny, though, how life can take us on some surprising journeys, and just 13 years after I arrived here, a friend’s sudden death along with a looming 60th birthday catapulted me into the adventure of a lifetime. Within just a few weeks of her passing, I’d decided to sell everything I owned, toss a few remaining clothes in the car and set out to meander the country. Little did I know I would wander for two years and 26,000 miles, and even further removed from my mind was returning to New York.

Yet there is a siren-song that beckoned me back … a song Seneca Lake sings silently to many of us who lived here. A magical melody reaches out from her denim depths, singing to those who listen. Her cobalt-blue waters, topped with frothy, bobbing white hats on windy days, her deep musty perfume; her endless shoreline painted with vineyards, crisscrossed with farms, dotted by thick woods. Her friendly, simple and happy people … a mix of races, religions and occupations. To drive the loop from Geneva to Watkins Glen – perhaps stopping for a sip of wine and a breathtaking sunset – is a perfect way to spend a long, lazy Sunday afternoon.

But there is something deeper. Though all long-past now, many generations of my family were from this area, and I truly believe that it’s a part of my DNA. Studies have been done recently on DNA memory – specifically regarding early trauma suffered by our Indigenous people – and they found that there is indeed a change, a memory, imbedded in the subsequent generations’ genetic makeup. If this is true, could it not be so for those of us with familial history tied to an area? Could, in essence, the waters of these lovely lakes have become a part of our chromosomes? I truly believe so.

So many I know who choose to leave – for any number of “logical” reasons – always seem to come back. A year, two, maybe a decade … but they come back, even if just for a little while. Perhaps there is indeed a magic, a bewitching spell, cast on those who take the time to walk along the shores of these captivating sirens. A magic that cannot be denied, and a magic that lasts a lifetime.”

Seneca Lake, NY

**********

Once again, I have to say that it truly is a pleasure and an honor to be freelancing for such a fabulous magazine. If you enjoyed this one, I hope you’ll take a moment to read my previous articles,”The Simple Things” and “Where We Love Is Home” … and perhaps take a few more to enjoy some of their other offerings. It’s a beautifully done publication filled with information, history, and photos of this incredibly lovely region of the country. 

The Gift…

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

Wait,” he said, as he held out his fist, fingers curled around something that must have been terribly small. “Don’t leave yet. I want to give you this.” I extended my palm, and he slowly dropped a tiny piece of metal into it.

****

We were standing outside of the courthouse, after what had been a brutal few hours for me. I was being deposed about the accident that took Angela’s life over two years before … and the five-minute intersecting of two lives that later became the catalyst for The Ride. (see page: What was The Ride if not familiar) Though I’d only returned to New York a few weeks before I was ordered to appear, I was there – reluctantly; I’d gotten a call from the attorney the day after I arrived home, telling me I had no choice in the matter … I had to show up in Ithaca, 70 miles away, the morning of the 31st. Or risk being subpoenaed, or worse. I’d never been involved in a suit before, never been questioned by a cannibalistic lawyer, never been inside a courthouse except for tours. Two hours after I opened the door to the conference room where a single deposition – mine – was to take place, I left feeling exhausted, battered, dirty and angry. I’d simply been a by-stander … a woman on her way to work, riding a bus that will forever remain frozen in time in all of our collective memories. I was there that day and on that bus, at that tragic moment, due to a series of unforeseen coincidences and circumstances. I never should have been … it wasn’t my usual bus. But I was, and because of those fateful events, Angela and I shared a few brief moments of breath … and of spirit … together that forever changed my life. And now, 28 months later, I was sitting in a room being repeatedly questioned about my memory and capability to judge whether Angela suffered those last minutes. As the challenges continued, growing more demeaning with every query, objections flying back and forth, I grew frustrated and short tempered. When it finally ended, all I wanted to do was shut that door and go home. As fast as I could.

But he had other ideas. “He” was Angela’s husband. As he held the door open for me, he was apologetic – he had never wanted me to go through that, he said. “You were there for her, and I know she knew it.” He thanked me again as I began fumbling in my purse, almost forgetting that I’d wanted to give him the photo of Angela I’d carried the last 23 months: A photo that came with me as I explored 26,000 miles of this amazing country, and the photo of the woman whose spirit and heart I felt riding along side of me through every one of those miles. I wanted to give him the photo, and tell him what I did and why … share with him where she had been with me. Though I was shaking, I managed to find it and handed it to him. “I want you to have this. I want you to know what happened after the accident…” He quietly interrupted me and said, “I already know.” Her daughters – who I’d only met briefly at the wake and never saw again – had been following The Ride, he said. I never knew … they never contacted me, but they’d been silently shadowing that most amazing journey of Angela’s and mine.

He and I chatted a few minutes and I turned to go. I was spent from the morning, and wanted to be home. “Wait,” he said urgently, as he held out his fist, fingers curled around something that must have been terribly small. “Don’t leave yet. I want to give you this. I made it … for Angie. I inscribed her name into it. She used to carry it on her keychain …. and I want you to have it.”

I held out my hand, he held his over mine, and as he opened his fist, a tiny piece of metal dropped into my open palm. “And oh, by the way,” he said as I walked away, “Angie loved to travel….”