I have spent the past two weeks driving cross country and back. On the way to New Mexico, I didn't get to take many back roads. On the way back, I did. The difference in my experience of the drive was profound. Back roads are part of my practice of joy. They soothe my soul and make me connect with the world in a way that simply does not happen in the same way while whizzing along an Interstate.
I thought that this morning I would be waking up in Iceland. I thought that you probably wouldn't be getting much in the way of a Joy posting other than my Instagram feed. I was wrong on all counts. On Thursday morning, while driving through the beautiful forests and hills of Pennsylvania, I recorded this podcast:
Within a few hours, my travel plans began to unravel. So instead of being in Iceland, I am in New York. Apparently, I needed to learn more about what I had just spoken -- the difference between Expectations and being in The Presence.
So, for this week's offering, I thought I would share some photos, in the order in which I took them, while driving across country along with some short anecdotes.
On my first day on the road, I stopped to take a hike in Western New Jersey. I always hope to see birds. I saw only one. This swan.
According to the Medicine Cards, pulling a swan card means: "Accept your ability to know what lies ahead, pay attention to your hunches, gut knowledge, and female intuitive side."
It took me most of the two weeks on the road to circle back to the message of that Swan. But I finally heard it. . . And that's what ultimately counts, right?
The next message from the road came on the back of a semi. It bears repeating: BE KIND, BE CAREFUL, BE YOURSELF.
If you don't like barns and farm buildings, you should probably stop perusing this blog post right now. I find them so incredibly evocative. I definitely have a barn "thing".
Many years ago I had the idea of photographing rest areas across the country. I finally started it on this trip. I feel like this shot gives a good glimpse of life on the road.
When you drive through the Midwest in August, this is what you see. To someone who grew up in the Midwest, perhaps cornfield after cornfield is boring. But to someone from Southern California who has lived most of her adult life in Northern New Mexico, I find them amazing. Not to mention, now I know how tall an elephant's eye actually is!
As I was driving through a pretty desolate area of rural Kansas, I suddenly saw a dirt road that beckoned to me. It turned out to be a bird refuge. Twilight -- gorgeous golden light over a blue lake surrounded by ochre fields. I took some wonderful photos, but this is the one that tickled me most. As a loner who often finds herself spending time with crowds of people, this is how I feel sometimes -- like my hair's standing on end and I'm squawking: GET ME OUT OF HERE!
Morning meets moon in Dodge City, Kansas. Every time I drive through Dodge, I find myself, indeed, in a hurry to. . .get out of Dodge. But this time, I enjoyed a peaceful morning of writing.
I'm calling this one Midwest Mondrian.
After three months of being away from home, New Mexico greeted me with a HUGE thunder, lightning, and hailstorm. It was spectacular. Just before it hit, I got out of the car and took these pictures of the road. Where I was going and where I came from. It captured the coming week to a tee. Going into clouds, coming from sun. The week ahead. . .
The storm on the horizon.
My welcome home New Mexico light show on my first evening back in Santa Fe. The next week was wonderful and intense. Lots of hard decisions, food for thought, intense encounters, healing, joy, deep excavation. Turned in the first draft of the first 100 pages of the book. Here are some images that capture the bleary almost trancelike week of releasing old stories in Santa Fe.
The shadows and light of enjoying old friends.
Family. Four-legged. And two. Grateful.
If I see a Farmers Market, I stop. Period. The end. These mushrooms from the Taos Plaza Farmers Market should explain why.
However, if I had stopped to photograph every gorgeous hawk I saw in Eastern Colorado, I would still be driving. What glorious sentinels of the road they are!
On a desolate stretch of road in Eastern Colorado, I saw some horses grazing in a dry field. I got out to see if any of them wanted to make friends -- and this sweet one did. We talked for about fifteen minutes. Probably the sweetest fifteen minutes of my whole trip.
I think the Flint Hills area of Eastern Kansas is so stunning. The cloud formations there are equally as amazing as the rocks and hills. This mystical Camel Bear Cloud blew my mind.
I am grateful every day for my Allie, the best traveling companion. 26 states and the District of Columbia, and she's only eight months old!
I do. Every day.
One of the reasons I am so grateful for barns is that they feel like part of the American Continuum, linking the present to our childhoods to the past to the places from whence our immigrant ancestors came. The land. And the caretaking of it as a way of life.
I am sharing these photographs in reverse order to how I saw them. I caught a glimpse of something out the corner of my eye before it disappeared behind a building. I circled back and found this scene. To me it captured the confusion, loneliness, joy and longing of childhood. In a tiny Midwestern town in Indiana. And everywhere.
I warned you about the barns.
It's a long long story. Involving lost car keys, five wrong turns, a school bus of Amish children, and having to pee very very badly. All of which landed me up on on this road under a bleary sky of sailing armada clouds in the middle of a very hot Tuesday afternoon. But I will always remember this moment on this road as the place in which I had one of the most beautiful profound bittersweet gorgeous difficult deep epiphanies about Spirit, Love, and the meaning of life. I am grateful that this photograph captures the almost dreamlike trance of that moment. But I am more grateful for the moment itself. And the way it will always live on through me.
I may be "lowering my expectations", but the bar of my life seems to be raised every day. This is the beauty of this Daily Practice of Joy. "Peace begins," says Sri Chinmoy, "when expectations end." And so it is.