I wanted to lay down on the trail to feel the beautiful strangeness of it all–the cold snow under my back, warm sun kissing my cheeks, limbs kicking the sky and lungs laughing at the irony. I rolled around with the dogs in simple ecstasy, knowing life would never be the same. And then I picked myself up….and I ran.
I’m standing in front of four neatly stacked brown boxes that are taped shut in my friend’s garage. I have not seen the contents inside of them since I left Mammoth Lakes two months ago, and despite being nearly all of my worldly possessions, they suddenly seem so foreign to me. And like a burden. How could I possibly have so much stuff? Really it’s only clothes, shoes, books and some family heirlooms but despite the minimalism for most folks there is absolutely zero chance that this will all fit in the Jeep. Or that I will actually use them.
For two months I’ve driven circles around the Southwest (California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and two minutes in New Mexico) essentially living out of the Jeep (and using “The Ranch” in AZ as a basecamp) with only the essentials: my camping gear, running clothes, maps, a journal, a laptop, three books I have not read and a few ridiculous outfits that include tiger print bell bottoms, a black felt hat and moccasin boots (a writer must have her uniform). It quickly became second nature to use less and less in this scenario. In fact I find myself gravitating to the same clothing items over and over again in my purple suitcase (hmmm this doesn’t smell so bad, I’ll just wear it again) needing less and less of the less I brought along. With each mile of tarmac or dirt road that rolls behind the Jeep I slowly forget what I even have in my trunk. I strip down to the only things that matter, like the present moment, which are already on my body….in my body.
Moving around from place to place incites the explorer in me. To turn a corner or crest a hill and see something I’ve never seen before. That’s how you start a trip in Southern Utah and “somehow” end up in Moab….or Durango in less than one week. Along the way I’ve undoubtedly seen things that I am stricken by, inspire me or perhaps even love–singletrack trails, silky sand dunes, soaring hawks, moon rises, beautiful people and coffee shops with the most amazing cinnamon rolls in the world. But like the fleeting rainbow colors of each sunrise and sunset I know that I cannot posses any of this. I will have to let go and keep moving as is the way of the nomad. Trying to hold on to each place or people I meet along the way is as far-fetched as fitting anymore gear into the Jeep than is already stuffed there. Like running with every beautiful piece of rose quartz or obsidian I find on the trail stuffed into my pockets.
And so I fall madly in love with each sparkling moment until it becomes so magical that it BURSTS! I watch the bright flames flicker and jump until they eventually smolder and burn down as I run on and let them go. But that feeling of smoke hitchhikes with me in every pore, strand of hair and thread of cloth wherever I roam. And even when that fades I can’t wash those moments from my memory and heart (and of course my journal and camera roll too). The smell of a campfire can transport me back to sleeping in a cave in Utah, the sound of a hawk to the day I first left the Sierras, a chill against my skin to rolling around in the snow with Matty and Roam, the squish of mud beneath my feet to a spontaneous evening spent at Grand Falls, the taste of coffee to each amazing sunrise I’ve woken to in so many gorgeous new places.
Rather than going through all of my possessions and weighing the pros and cons of how much I need or want each thing, I’m taking a different route. I’m setting aside ONLY what I need and from that only the things that I love and need (or need to live). The rest, no matter how much it pulls on my heart strings, is just not possible to carry along. To move quickly through the wilderness one must travel light, and the same is true of life. In letting go of my tight grip on these things, and places and even people, I’m not erasing their significance. Oh no, quite the opposite. I love them all enough to set them free. I’m also placing my trust in the notion that there are many more beautiful moments ahead, that the universe will provide. I own (almost) nothing and yet my life lacks nothing. An empty glass begs to be filled. A full glass may overflow, but it can never hold on to more than it’s capacity.
Oh but what about love? Love is not a thing that can be held. Love is all around us. Love must be released, shared and allowed to blow with the wind. When it’s really love, any way shape or form of love, it always comes back to us. 10 fold. Maybe not in the ways that our culture teaches us that love means, but if we tune our instruments (our hearts and souls) we can feel it’s vibrations all around us…..
“The empty blue sky of space says ‘All this comes back to me, then goes again, and comes back again, then goes again, and I don’t care, it still belongs to me.” –Jack Kerouac, Big Sur
On my last morning in Arizona the sky set itself ablaze, not from any force but its own. The orange glow burned strong, I turned my back and walked down the golden road and thought, all this may fade but it never goes away.