Midnight

My heart is full. On the sidewalk outside the airport I say goodbye to a boy I just spent the last two days in deep with, deep in mossy woods of intimacy and connection, mist, hedgerows, what is buried underground.

“Are you ready?” He asks.

“Yes.” I say, and turn, walk between the double doors without looking back, then cry huge tears all over my customs declaration. YOW is a rat maze of barricades and checks, and I catch myself hoping there might be a treat at the end. A little corn, maybe. An offering of a seed. The path doubled back on itself, landing me back inside the hug I just walked out of. There is a bag stuck inside the baggage conveyor at the Vancouver airport, and the line spirals around like a too-cold-snake going nowhere, and then customs keeps me for too much longer in a little room with a closed door and I miss my flight, name being called all over the airport, and am put on a different plane 2 hours later which is also late because thunderstorms are rolling across Colorado. I sing songs to avoid the feeling of waiting, choosing instead to stay with my heart, which is spread wide as bird’s wings. There are sparrows in the Denver airport perching on the signs for gates 85-17, drinking from the water fountains. I stop to admire how they have made themselves at home, and wonder if they are in here by choice or by accident. Maybe they are casualties of the maze and chose to make the best of their situation. I’ve been here before , flying from the other end of the country, and they’ve added more announcements; now the moving conveyor belts tell you “You. Are. Nearing. The. End. Of. The. Moving. Walkway.” Though by the time the thing is done speaking your feet are already off and on their own.

Waiting in YOW

“I feel like my car and I need some time apart in order to preserve our relationship.” I told Kirsten in the interview I did for Mountain FM. In truth, I found a cheap flight to Texas. Then to Reno, then back to Vancouver. So many things have happened. Organizing a fundraiser, Indiegogo campaign and getting a trip off the ground have blown my mind. Throw in a few press interviews, getting an acceptance to speak as part of TED X Black Rock City at Burning Man

Festival (whoo!) and the end of a school year… The result? I cooked myself a multi-stew pot of a life that was a little too large to continue to fit in a car. I felt like the little old lady who lived in a shoe who had so many children her shoe-house split at the seams. Except that instead of children, I had a laser printer, guitar, fundraiser posters, dirty laundry and silent auction prizes flying out of the windows. I gave up trying to keep the piles off of the seats. Every item needed required moving 7 more things. I grew as patient as a stone… but about as efficient as one as well.

Luckily, upon enough exclamations of “MY LIFE IS COMPLETELY DISFUNCTIONAL RIGHT NOW” a friend let me house-sit at her place from June 15th on and I could spread kettle corn, crowdfunding perks, suitcases, paper cutters, river stones, and armloads of wildflowers all over her living room floor. Having a front door was amazing. Having a shower curtain was amazing. Being able to drop a pair of pants on the floor and leave them there was amazing. The fridge was amazing. Really? I just put the almond milk in there and it’s still good 5 days later? Wow. Having a stove again kind of intimidated me, and I kept eating containers of humous and piles of veggies and walnuts in a bowl until I got brave and remembered how to make lentil soup. Turmeric. Fresh garlic. Sage. Sun-dried tomatoes.

20130629_185444And then, I left. Packed half of my belongings in my no-plates car, gave her black hood a pat, said goodbye to horse, friends, rivers, mountains, gave one last kiss to the boy at the airport and was away, or at least trucking it through the rat maze one slow-snake motion electro shock at a time. The sky is dark outside the windows of the plane as I write this. I do not know who will be in Austin waiting for me at midnight when I land, no do I know what will happen next. Even the ranch we will drive to will be a stranger until dawn. Like the Denver airport sparrows, I will sip water, perch, fly, trust that my wings will carry me to the next destination.

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Direction in Which You Are Moving

63 days since I moved out of my apartment. 27 days until I leave for Texas. The walls of those dates move towards me with ever increasing velocity, trapping me between their banks. I try to remember that instead of a trap it’s a focus; a narrowing of the field of vision, a transformation from a prey animal’s 340 degree focus to a carnivore’s sharp frontal gaze. 

The car- who is now called Raven- herself has become almost routine. Things go where they go, and I’ve given up on keeping it not looking like a dog’s breakfast most of the time. There is no longer a gap between people’s asking where I live and my answer. Or at least the gap has narrowed. I have a few stock answers, depending on who is asking:

“I’m gypsying it out of my car…”

“I’m living part in W_______, part in S_______, staying with friends….”

The truth is I’ve been sleeping in hotel parking lots and condo visitor parking and in front of friend’s houses and by rivers in the rain and in tents on Vancouver Island. There have been bonfires and rainstorms and strawberries eaten out of the cooler that is within the reach of my left arm. I’ve become used to the towel drying constantly on my dashboard after early morning rec centre swims. I’ve showered in community centres, buckets, rivers, friend’s bathrooms, and washed my hair in the horses’ rain barrel water and in the sink at Starbuck’s. What does all of this mean? How do I take it away from the ‘I’ and out into something larger than my own experience?

In the beginning I missed the luxury of hot water. I kept to the wastelands, the hotels, the fast food restaurant internet connections (where I’ve written entire magazine articles over consecutive days and never once been noticed). Now I am tired of that aloft fierce loneliness. I am writing this on the table of a soap factory that is a friend’s living room. Living in the solo world of my car has made me miss community more, I think, then if I was living in a house. The air becomes thinner around you; the immediacy of the connections feels more sparse. And yet, when I think back over a weekend, I realize my days have been rich and thick with friends and stories and happenings, yet still there is that sense of being surrounded by so much thin air; as if the gravity around my life has suddenly become lighter and if I do not carefully tend to my roots- going around with small jars of water, laying pathways of candles in the night- I could one day be driving on a road and find it turn to dust under my tires, or that it could trixter me away, and lead me somewhere else entirely.

ImageIt doesn’t feel like a bad thing to be aware of; justa thinner space; one step closer to the thin razor’s edge of living- orone step away. How can I know? This is my life and I move through it the way a river runs its banks, time on either side, a gift in one hand, the other open, waiting, receiving, yet at the same time full of intent: Jumping alongside and astride this great thing that is carrying me, that moves forwards towards a horizon that one moment holds trees, the next holds ocean, desert, camel, buffalo, mongoose. I only know that the next instant will be a surprise. And the next, and the next, and the next.

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Every Thing She Loves (or ‘The Real Why’)

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“… in every moment                          we are carried perfectly                     by a generosity larger                      than we can fathom                                  that exceeds the boundaries               of imagination

That spreads our                      shoulders wide and clothes           them in the skin of cranes            

Shirts of blue gray feathers            born to the wind                               that stretch our arms wide                                  wind coming NorthSouthEastWest, saying

Accept an invitation.                       Fly.”

(From ‘The Crane Wife)

I’m living in my car because I need to believe I am capable of accepting an invitation. Because I need to escape patterns of scarcity culture that keep me falling away from dreams.

When this June draws to a close, I will get in my gypsy-caravan-car and drive 36 hours to Elgin, Texas to do an apprenticeship with Rupert Isaacon and Iliane Lorenz, who do  amazing work with autistic kids and horses. Using experiential methods developed by Rupert while working with his own autistic son (and a Mongolian journey documented in his book ‘The Horse Boy’ and a full length film of the same name), Horse Boy Method combines classical dressage, backriding, rule based games, academic lessons, tricks, and sensory work carried by a spirit of engagement, spontaneity, creativity and joy that is opening connection and communication, activating learning centres in the brain, and transforming the lives of autists and their families.

I’ve worked with horses since I was 7, and pursued a career as a trainer and rider through my late teens and early 20’s. Disillusioned by the world of equestrian sport, I began to explore alternative ways of relating to horses. I completed a certification to do Equine Guided Learning in 2010, but something still seemed to be awry: I missed the synergy of the human body moving with a horse’s, and the precise level of subtlety that elevated fine riding onto a spiritual plane. It seemed that by interacting with horses on the ground, we were missing an important piece of their magic. Almost a year ago I was ‘adopted’ by a large red gelding named Dublin, who has partnered with me in exploring ways of integrating some of the EFL concepts into my riding, and then sharing them with the kids we are teaching to ride through my business, Mountain Horse School. At the same time I began working as an assistant to an Autistic boy at a Waldorf School, which has been a wonderful and challenging experience, challenging mostly because I feel I was forcing the boy I am working with to fit into a ‘normal’ box rather than meeting him where he is. When I had another look at Rupert and Iliane’s Horse Boy Work, it was like the continental plates underneath my life- that deep end ancient bedrock that recognizes truths our rational minds can’t explain- began to move. There was so much synthesis of so many elements of my life, a coming together of so many of the paths I’ve pursued. I started looking at certifications and ways I integrate some of their work into my own practice. There was a certification in Ontario in May, but I figured that if I was going to go to Ontario to get certified, I might as well go as far as Texas and go right to source. Then I started looking at their working student program, and got in touch with Iliane to see if they had any openings for the summer. They did. I submitted their 10 page application, a riding video, 4 references, and waited.

“Looks good so far” Iliane wrote. And then, a few days later: “Get ready for a hot summer in Texas.”

I was in.

The next question was how I was going to make it happen. My job as Special Needs Assistant is long in satisfaction, but short on financial reward. I had no savings. It seemed impossible that I would be able to free myself from having to work for the summer- never mind paying the working student fee and travel expenses there and back. But as Goethe’s famous quote reminds us:

“...the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too… Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

So aside from the obvious considerations like saving a few months rent and gas money, I made my moving into my car a ceremony. A closing of the gates on the world of ‘could nots’. A red flag waving. Saying not rebellion, but courage. Not belief in scarcity, but belief in abundance. Begin. By living smaller there were less complications, less drama. My world has become entirely self-contained and focused. And while I don’t see that extreme of independence being sustainable over the long term (as humans are more tribally motivated and innately tied to the collective then we are willing to admit), it is an excellent place from which to balance, to still myself so I can proceed in collection towards the horizon, the still point of the moving world on which focus rests, and leads the eye, which leads the rest of the body.

Accept an invitation. Fly…

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One Month

One Month

So… it’s been a whole month since I locked the door of my apartment for the last time. I was full of grand plans for building a plywood base into the car and making built in storage… and then I ran out of time and had to move right in. I’m glad I did though, because the design I was thinking of has changed at least 4 times, as I started sleeping facing the hatch instead of the seats, streamlined my idea of a car-kitchen, and weeded belongings in and out of the car. (Eventually, I had to admit it was impractical to have a king sized wool comforter in there, no matter how much I loved it. Folded into quarters, it definitely kept me warm- but also made it impossible to move once I had wormed under it. And that big green mirrored cushion? Its size makes it a luxury in such a small space, but it’s assumed the role of a welcome mat. Every time I see it, it makes me feel like I’m home. 🙂

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Sleeping with a river

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No Ceiling

I’m 30 years old and I’m living in my car.

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Why does this feel like a confession?

In March 2013, I made a conscious choice: I wanted to be able to create more abundance in my life, more freedom, more opportunity, more mobility, more connection. I have a big dream I am journeying to make real. And I needed to eliminate the language of scarcity from my thinking. The ‘there is not enough’ rhetoric that is a constant part of the subliminal somatics of our culture. I wanted to smash this way of thinking wide open, to drive it (like a cowboy pushing a herd of wild horses) into abundance. I could see the richness and texture and depth that my life contained. I wanted to dwell there in that beautiful complexity instead of a place where I couldn’t cover my living expenses. I was tired of it costing so much to exist. Something had to move, change, and it had to be big.

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Let’s be clear: my car is tiny. It’s a Suzuki Swift. It was selected for fuel economy and no-frills features, not living potential. But then I discovered that the back passenger seats came out. So then I had a mini-mini-van, and 6 hours in which to sleep and be completely moved out of my apartment before I had to be at work, and then off on a 15 hour drive North to see a friend on what I called my ‘gypsy living kick-off tour’. Things got thrown in the back: mattress.

Guitar. Bells. Sheepskin. Duvet. Cooler. A large abalone shell, for burning sage. Rubbermaids. A cane clothes basket my mother made in art school.  Laundry bag. Running shoes. Camp stove. A few large river stones. (Perfectly smooth, for moments of homesickness and loneliness) Mason jars of granola, chia seeds, sesame oil, green tea, hot chocolate, brown rice, anchovies, arame, turmeric, salt.

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And for the past three weeks I’ve been sorting through the PILE, learning what I need and what I don’t. Trading the two burner stove for a tiny backpacker one, the 5 gallon water jug for a 2 gallon one. Figuring out what kind of plywood furniture I want to build into the back to make the pile somewhat tamer. (And enable me to stop snuggling with the guitar’s hardshell case.) And folding things. And putting them away. And folding things. And putting them away. And taking things out. And putting them away. And taking things out. And putting them away.*

There have been moments of the expanse of space I have been looking for. The black winged freedom. And there have been difficulties to lean into: how to balance the energy of being in public space all the time. How to eat. How to eat. How to eat. Navigating rec centres. The balance of intimacy and anonymity that is possible in every moment.

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