Tag Archives: Travel

Photo Journal

If you had the chance to read my last post you probably noticed that I mentioned I was gearing up for travel again.  Consequently, I won’t always have the time I desire, at a given moment, to write out some of my stories.  At least not until I am settled long enough to hammer out some lines.

Also, there is a direct relationship, which could be graphed, between having adventures and writing about them.  Have to have them first in order to have something to write about 🙂

So I thought I would launch another category in the blog today – Photo Journal.  When I don’t quite have that next story put together, I can at least post a nice pic for the day.  Some positive energy.  Beauty without words.

I’ve noticed other blogs doing the same and they use the theme of being “Wordless.”  Makes sense and sometimes, as the old expression goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

I have many pics of wildflowers that I haven’t had the chance to identify and this is one of them.  Maybe someday I circle back with a name for this one.  In the mean time, enjoy 🙂

Another White Flower 2

***

Photo:  While I try to use all of my own photos for all of my posts there are times that I must seek out others to match the theme, but every post in this category will be one of my own.  I took this one on the trail yesterday 🙂

 

 

Monsoons and Mountains

I’ll be gearing up soon.  Time to cut roots, pick another dot on the map, and drive.  As the time dwindles in my current resting place, urgency grows to take in all the sights and sounds possible in this oasis.

I study maps and locate a pristine spot that holds great promise.  A place where perennial streams meander through desert canyons.  A place bursting with life.  But I discover you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there. Such are many places here.  Primitive roads where only a bulldozer has preceded you.  Signs warn that you’re driving at your own risk, and being out of cell range you want to be sure that car is up to the task.  It could take a day or more to hike out if stranded and returning with a tow truck may even be difficult depending on where and how you get trapped.

Forty years ago, I off-roaded in an old 1970 Plymouth Satellite.  It did ok for the most part.  I knocked the muffler off once and a while bottoming out, but I’d just reattach it and move on.

It would have been quite the sight, if anyone had been there, to see me driving that car right through the middle of forests, across open grasslands, or over rocky flats.  In search of the mythical Escalante.

Freedom then was being surrounded by Ponderosa Pine with fifty cents in my pocket, half a tank of gas, and some food to cook over an open fire.  Most probably food I had caught that day after making the proper offerings.

But the world has changed and I’m outfitted quite a bit differently now.  I’m driving a Prius with about 8 inches of ground clearance.  Smooth ride on the highways, but cautious trolling on the back roads.  I’ve had to turn around many times where the rains have washed out gullies big enough to swallow this car.

With one destination scratched from the list, I search out another.  It’s not far away from the original target and promises a good hike through the mountains.  Unusual mountains.  They look like some giant had fun rearranging and piling boulders to the sky in very unnatural configurations.  I wonder what this terrain must look like from the Eagle’s point of view.

How did this mountain range form?  Was it volcanic?  Was it upheaval?  Metamorphic stone smoothen by the rains and bleached by the sun over millennium.

I have good road most of the way, but the last five miles are primitive washboard.  I creep along at 10 miles an hour.  Any faster and the Prius shakes violently.  I bridge cattle guards in this open range country and cross four low-water washes.  They dip gently enough to cross, and a few inches of water reflects the recent rains.  If it rains again, they’ll fill rapidly.  Flash flooding is common during this season.

It is the Monsoons.

As I reach the base of the mountains, I discover the road is gated.  This segment of national parkland is “closed for the season.”  The sign doesn’t say what season, but I’m here and so I park on the road.

I check my gear, settle my backpack.  Essential to fit it correctly to avoid strained shoulders, neck or back.  But as I head towards the trail dark clouds start rolling in.  They appeared so distant on the horizon only moments before.  What appeared to be days away now envelops the area.

The temperature drops rapidly from the 80s to the 60s.  And as the rain drops begin to fall, I scramble back to the car.  This is not a time to hesitate.  I have to make it past those low-water crossings and can’t speed to do it.

As I splash through the first one, I glance back and the sight is amazing.  The mountains have virtually vanished in the veil of heavy rain.  Like a magic trick of monstrous proportions, the Monsoon rains have made the mountains disappear.

Chochise Stronghold 5

No time to gaze, I creep back the way I came and I’m grateful to make it across the last wash intact.  Now I can pause and reflect.  Marvel at what I’m witnessing.  But I can’t pause for too long.  Time to finish finding my way back to that paved road.

Once back on solid ground, and with hiking out of the question, it’s time to pick a new destination.  The rain forces me east, and I find an old historic town with the navigator.  The navigator wants to save me time, but I choose the backroads.

As I streak out on that gray ribbon and back into the warm sunshine, I notice I’m in a valley, a flat plain between 4 different mountain ranges.  The Monsoons blanket the north and the west, and I’m treated to a wonderful display of wrap-around lightening from the Thunderbeings.

This dessert grassland has been brought to life with water.  Water that hides in underground streams.  I’m driving through orchards, and pecan farms.  Corn fields and pistachio trees.

Vineyards and wineries dot the horizon.  The soil here perfect for developing the favor and sugar the grapes need for their fermentation.

Hawks ride on the trusses of the center-point irrigation systems that pull water from the buried aquifer.  The perfect vantage point for any prey attracted by both the water and cultivation.

I pass a gin factory and a bean plantation.  A cattle feedlot appears, surrounded by planted pines – an attempt to hide the final forced growth before the trip to the slaughterhouse.

Dust Devils spring up in the cultivated fields.  Mini tornados spawned by the Monsoon winds not far behind.

Herded out of the mountains, I find myself in an almost two centuries old town.  I park on the street next to the railroad tracks and soon a freight train rumbles through town.

First stop, a cowboy museum.  Not where I expected to be, but the storm brought me here so I explore the town the same way I explore the mountain trails.  I walk the streets and feel where my body is pulled.

Of all things, I find a bar of old-fashioned lye soap to purchase.  Something suggested to me to avoid modern soaps and detergents to which I now have chemical reactions to.  I didn’t know where I might find some, and wasn’t looking for it today.  But here it is.

Next stop, an antique store.  Now the Monsoon catches up with my retreat and as the high winds blow and torrential rain pours, I take my time in this shelter of shiny objects.  Glassware, military medals, old clothing, hats and rocks and minerals.

The proprietor turns out to be a Cheyanne Indian and she gifts me with a beautiful feather.

The symbolism associated with feathers refers to ascension and spiritual evolution.  A flight to other realms, Shamanic Journeying to gain knowledge.  Feathers also represent the Thunderbeings, along with the power of the wind.  Both clearly present today.

Feathers are also used ceremonially, fanning the smoke from sacred tobacco, sage, sweet grass and cedar.  A way to carry prayers to the heavens.

The proprietor and I talk and trade stories of life as historic figures might have traded coffee and sugar for furs.  It never ceases to amaze me how we meet kindred spirits on our paths.  In the middle of nowhere.  Some 1500 miles away from where I call home and a hundred miles away from where I’m currently based, my soul recognizes a familiar soul.  Had we walked together before, a different time and place perhaps.  Had I gifted her with a power object in that past life time, a gift now returned?

As we talk, she shows me many treasures in her shop.  I elect to add one to my collection.  A piece of rutilated quartz.  Quartz with inclusions of Titanium Dioxide – golden filaments.  This stone has also been called as the “Venus Hair Stone.”  It is said to be an energy amplifier to aid meditation and intuition.  To help free one from the feelings of suffocation or strangulation.  It is also said to connect the physical and spiritual realms and to aid in bringing out one’s true spirit.  It is an illuminator for the soul.  An interesting mirror image as the heavens touch the earth with life-giving water and electrical charges.

I am gifted again with a medicine bag for the stone.

The rain, thunder and lightening now paused, I give my thanks and say my goodbyes.  I make one final stop.  The retail shop of one of the local wineries.  A glass of wine to top off the day’s unplanned adventures.  As it turns out, the store’s owner, the only person in the shop, is a displaced mid-westerner from my home area.  So, we remanence of familiar times and places we walked before our consciousnesses had connected in this distant town of less than a thousand households.

What are the odds of any of these encounters?  These gifts – all cleansing, physical and spiritual connections, healing and growth.

Such is life in free-flow.  Chance occurrences.  Chance connections.  Compelling feelings to head into the mountains, to drive to an ancient town, to walk inside certain buildings, to converse with complete strangers whom we’ve seem to have known for lifetimes.

But is anything truly by chance?

The storm cloaks the mountains I sought, chases me out of that remote natural world to a place with spiritual gifts, kind words, and communion.

It was a good day.

***

Photos: All captured in the moment.  Below, a couple of shots before the rains.

Chochise Stronghold 7

Chochise Stronghold 8

Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on September 12, 2018, under the title “Surrender Control & Let The Wind Take You To A New Adventure.”

Hiking Through the Rhyolite

Many millions of years ago a volcano erupted with hundreds of times the force of Mount St. Helens.  Later the earth would push the remains upward leaving the volcanic rock exposed to all of the forces of erosion.  But the erosion was differential.  Softer materials washing away first. Leaving columns of stone.  Statues in precision alignment.  Sort of like the Moai on Easter Island.  Only here, they face inward to the center of the collapsed caldera.  Covered in desert scrub, it is difficult to imagine the explosive forces that once coalesced here.

The monoliths can also have disproportional heads where the boulders appear to balance mysteriously on much tinier pedestals.  All standing shoulder to shoulder like soldiers lining up on the parade grounds.

Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 7

Before I enter these mountains, I sign in with the park ranger.  They need to keep track if people go missing.  Know whose body they may find days later if you don’t return.

They warn me that there is a high chance of rain, and the trails across the ridgetop I’ve chosen to hike will have me exposed to lightening.  But I don’t believe the Thunder-beings have any interest in hurting me.  They can be great messengers of the Earth and the source of replenishing energy.

I’m prepared for the 8-mile trek.  As much as I can be.  And as I wind my way through the monoliths I follow an undulating path.  Up and down, back and forth, snaking my way along switchbacks.  That image of the snake’s path accented by the mineral serpentine, mixed with green, blue and gold lichens, reddish rhyolites, and specks of glistening mica.  A colorful cacophony.  Discordant reflections of muted color that shift continually as the sun makes its daily journey across the sky.

Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 13After a couple of hours, I reach the ridgetop.  Black char on skeletal trees, evidence of a fire from a decade ago, mixes with the light and dark greens of new pines and oaks.

 

Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 8

All of the washes and creeks are alive with a torrent of water.  Small waterfalls offer the perfect intonations for meditation.  Worn trails fragment as you hit flat rock.  And segments of it vanish completely.

There was a flash flood the night before and if there had been foot prints or trail markers they’ve all been washed away.  Erased as if no person had set foot here for eons.  And no one is here today other than myself.

Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 10

Often, I find myself in the wilderness where there are no other people.  But I’m never alone.  A troupe of Painted Redstarts moves through.  Lizards scurry away.  Butterflies seek out precious nectar from the red and yellow columbine that burst forth sporadically.

I come upon a pine totally splintered from a bolt of lightning, probably from the day before because its needles are still deep green.  No sign of this timber having dried.  Totally debarked with pieces strewn in a thousand directions.  I pick up a small piece of this now energy laden bark and place in my shirt pocket above my heart.  You can feel the energy throbbing.

I hit another point on the ridge where the trail has cloaked itself.  There are at least ten directions I could go.  Four seem more likely.  I climb up on a boulder to get a better vantage point and to my surprise a solitary white-tailed deer is right below me.  The doe doesn’t seem to know I’m there.  The wind coming towards me carries my scent the opposite direction.

I watch her quietly graze on low-lying tree branches.  Then she raises her head and sees me.  Stares right into my eyes.  But I’m surprised by her actions.  I expect her to panic.  To run away as most deer would.  She’s unconcerned.  Apparently feeling no threat.  And instead offers to help.
Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 11She alters her path and circles back toward me and loops to my left.  We lock gazes, and I follow her.  Her gentleness lures me to the right path.  And then she’s gone.  In an instant.  A blink.  As if she wasn’t there at all.  Her spirit saves me the time I would have spent trying to find the right route.  Time is life out here.

Descending from the ridgetop, I make it to the center of the monoliths.  How long have these statues stood?  Holding this ground.  Carved by forces that no human sculptor could match.  They’ll be here long after my physical body has departed.  Silently keeping watch.
Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 15I hear an Owl in the distance.  Its affirmation tells me I am safe.  I can take a break here. Take the load off my back.  Hydrate and take in some calories to replace those consumed.  Breathe in the surroundings.

Native Americans used to inhabit this place.  It’s sacred Earth.  I offer thanks for being allowed safe passage.  I’m not the top predator here, after all.  Black beer and mountain lions call this their home.

An injury here can mean death.  Can’t let your guard down even as you grow weary.  Pay attention.

I hear a noise, and a Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard perches himself on a rock next to the path.  He does pushups and flares his neck in a display of dominance.  I stop to observe.  When I start to take my next step, I notice a large stone in the center of the path.  I had not seen it before and if I continued unaware I would have tripped over this stone and have possibly been injured.

Falling to right would have landed me on the switchback 20 feet below.  Falling to the left, into the rock wall there, could have meant a fractured skull.  Falling forward, a twisted or broken ankle.  I thank the lizard for his warning.
Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 17+C1

Such is nature.  Be attentive.  If your soul is open, nature’s spirits will speak to you.  Warn you.  Protect you.  Give you energy.  Keep you on the right path.

The hike complete, it is time to center and reflect.  There are always forces around us at work.  This day was my mother’s birthday.  She passed away last year.  And I can’t help but think that maybe she is watching over me too on this day.  Protecting me from all the dangers that surrounded this solitary hike into the wilderness.

As I drive home, Hawks, Ravens, and Turkey Vultures line the telephone lines.  All facing inward.  Like the monoliths, soldiers.  These are the protectors, the shape-shifters, the visionaries.  And they guard my route.  Almost like a salute to a journey well completed.  So many of them.  Their numbers far exceeding and mingling with their prescribed territories.  An oddity?

Thank you, mom.  Love you and miss you.

***

Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 14

Photos: I took them all with a cell phone camera as I hiked 🙂

Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on August 29, 2018, under the title “If Your Soul Is Open, Nature’s Spirits Will Speak To You.”

Dreaming of You

There is a place

where I have gone

when I am dreaming.

And it has been very rare.

Where I know I am dreaming

and there is no difference

between me the dreamer

and me the dreamed.

Who is to say which is more real.

And I can choose where I wake up

in my bed

where this body is sleeping

or in the dreamscape

where I am experiencing

On that plane of existence.

And tonight

if I have that choice,

I choose to be where ever you may be

because I know

you will be in that dream

Where ever it may be . . .

***

Photo: A landscape takes on more color and becomes a dream, but the image is just as real.  It was all a matter of perception and expanding our senses.

The Warm Desert Wind

The warm desert wind swept up from the chaparral.  Wrapping around my face before continuing its journey into the canyon, the place where I was heading.  Another gust comes from the opposite direction, the canyon itself.  A see-sawing of wind.  A vibratory force.  Alternating current.  An invisible infinity symbol.  The Mobius.  Lightly whistling at times.  Ever-bearing weight at others.

I was tracking up a wash.  A magical place that appears bone dry but it’s surrounded by vegetation.  What feeds it?  At different elevations, the hidden aquafer emerges.  Clear, cool, running water, disappearing beneath the rocks a hundred feet above and a hundred feet below.  Feeding Mohave Lupine, Sky Pilot, Scarlet Gilia, the Mexican Silene. Manzanita, with its dark, reddish-brown bark.  Bordered by purple Fairy Dusters.  A scattered box of crayons, melting into the brown, dusty earth.

Miller Canyon - 8

As lush and diverse as the growth is here, one might wonder whether this should be called a desert at all.  But there are different types of deserts.  And this is not a desert like the ones I’ve encountered in the furthest southern points.  So harsh that the ability to adapt can be short lived, as will you be if you’re stranded there.

Those deserts are bone dry and barren.  Every plant a spiky throwback to the distant past.  Where evolution stopped.  They tear at your ankles as you walk.  Shred your pants. Gouge your skin.  Like a pack of hungry wolves, they go for your Achilles tendons.  To bring you down.  Cripple you for the kill.  The earth soaks up your blood with a never-ending thirst.  The dryness, suffocating.

But where I’m at there are multiple biomes.  Sky Islands, so called because of the diversity that lives in each mountain range.  Volcanic uprisings now differentially worn by wind and rains.  Rhyolite columns stand like ancient warriors in the altitudes above the lowlands, guarding the pine forests and their inhabitants.

Chiricahua - Hike Droping Out of the Rhyolite Columns 9

And at the base of, or threading through the canyons, Sycamore, Willow, and Cottonwood paint ribbons of green along creaks, streams or rivers.

San Pedro River - 7

At mid-altitude, there are Pinon, Juniper, and Mesquite trees, as well as Emory and Silverleaf Oaks.  And in between these islands can be grasslands.  Vast stretches.  Tan waves of vegetation below blue skies and billowing clouds.  The land undulates, alive.

AZ Vista+Crop 1

In other outstretching plains below the floating islands lie infinite reaches of scoured desert floors.  Fictitious trails through Saguaro cacti, like standing in a perpetual hall of mirrors.  Where do they all lead?

Here, the sun bearing down causes an evolutionary reversion to the reptilian form.  Just basking in that sun raises your heart rate.  Exhaling water vapor that’s evaporated before you can see it.  Your skin desiccates and takes on the shape of scales.  It becomes armor you will need in this battle.

To tread here you must do continual 360-degree spotting, take snapshots in your mind, tracing landmarks for the path of your return.  At some point, your memory banks are full and the terrain all starts looking the same, and you must decide whether to turn around or march into oblivion.  Blood and brain broiling.  Unforgiving beauty.

Saguaro Natn Park 15

Rising from that depth, the air cools again.  The humidity rises.  Plants flourish.  Bare rocks become canvases, covered with Petroglyphs from those who knew how to survive here, how to build a community here, how to chart the stars here.  The songs of their storytelling still echo through the canyons.

For now, I’ll tread through the scrub land, rising into the pines and I’ll sit with my friends.  The deer, the javelina, the coyote, the falcon, the hawks, and my brothers the Owls.  And we’ll share the tales of our ancestors, for just a while longer.

Madera Canyon - 5 - Looking South From Josephine Saddle

***

 

Photos: I decided to include a few photos to go with my words.  Sometimes words aren’t enough to carry you there, to reveal the contrasts, the infinite beauty.

Neural Roadmaps Revisited

Revisiting the past seems to cycle in our lives.  If not physically, mentally.  But it seems there are times when the physical odyssey is unavoidable.  It may even be unconscious at first.  We embark on a journey just to realize midway we are circling back in time. Perceptions have shifted, aged, but we are retracing routes gone by.  “Treading trodden trails,” as the saying goes.  Neural roadmaps.  Highways of memories.  Echoes of day dreams.

The roads might be slightly different.  And the faces we see this time around may be new to us, drawn together, in passing, by a transitional event.  In this case, it was my mother’s final breaths.

I saw the parallels as I was driving by the home where myself and my brothers grew up.  A small town now a burgeoning suburb of a major city.  When the family moved there, the population was around 250, plus a lot of corn fields.  When I left, there were little more than 2500 people.  It’s no longer a rural community and the population has passed 30,000.  The corn fields replaced with structures.  More boxes for storage, of categorized life.

My old home is now a dental office with the yard paved over.  A parking lot for tooth repair.  The vacant lot across the street, a playland of the imagination where mythic battles raged in the jungles of weeds, now a motor bank.  The majestic apricot tree on the corner by the park, gone.  Not even a seed to carry its memory of the sweet fruit it offered free for the taking.  The lake we fished in, fenced off, imprisoned.

The historic downtown, an outward reflection, a mimic of time, but the core has transformed.  The library is office space.  The hardware store, an art gallery.   The feed mill, a microbrewery.  The old school is torn down.  Time and places evaporated.

But all of my memories are intact.  The pleasure and the pain of growth.

Every summer this home was a launch point for the family reunions.  First with my dad’s family in Indiana, and then my mom’s in Michigan.  Those were times of active voices.  Of laughter and play.  The excitement of seeing cousins, of family card games, and mysterious old homes to explore.  Spiral staircases to dusty attics, and coal furnaces in the basements.  We mined for treasures.  And we found them in shiny objects unearthed, planted by the generation before.

And there were haylofts in old barns, where we leaped into the sky, hay piles lying beneath to break our fall.  Flying for instants that lasted forever.  A shirt was a cape, or a parachute.

An old hand pump still brought water from the earth.  A hidden aquifer of life.

An electric fence for horses, and a dare to feel its pulses.  Grab hold the wire and zap a brother with the other hand, before mom or dad would shoo us away.

Pulses, pulses, I feel my heart beating as I drive, wandering back in time, shuffling though images not matching the roadway.  Highway hypnosis.

I’m retracing that reunion route again, but this time, the nuclei of both families are gone, having passed on to the Blue Road of the Spirit.

My father passed in ’09, and after revisiting the ground where I was raised, I stop to pay my respects to him and my paternal ancestors.  He was buried in the family plot in the town where he grew up.  A few miles down the road is “Stearleyville,” or its shadow, founded by my great, great grandfather.  The reverse of my hometown.  The small village is gone, fully reverted to farmland.

The cemetery is filled with generations, back to the original immigrant couple.  Two stones eerily bear my own name.  One my grandfather, and one his second son that died as an infant – born on my same birthday, passed 30 years before my birth.

I remember my dad’s funeral.  Full military honors.  Steeped in tradition.

He taught me the meanings of honor, integrity, loyalty, strength of character, and hard work.

We talk in silence.  For a while.

Then it’s on to Michigan.  A small town on the border of Ohio. My mother also to be buried in a family plot.  Similar small town and farm family roots.  The memories of both homes blurred.

She’s outlived the rest of her family so we have a small ceremony.  A few cousins, whom I’m meeting for the first time.  It’s a nice service for a well-lived life of a good heart.

She taught me compassion, empathy, and self-sacrifice.

My parents’ bodies lay some 300 miles apart.  Their spirits united?  Their soul contracts complete?  And the particles of consciousness they helped bring into the world are scattered about the Midwest. Such is the stardust of which we’re composed.

Family plots.  Family traditions.  Traditions I will not follow.  My ashes are to be released into the wind.  No name carved in stone.

I wonder, when I leave, what neural roadmaps my daughter’s memories will travel.  I hope that she too has flown wearing a magic cape.

***

 

Photo: I didn’t actually take this image, but it is an image of my brain from an MRI . . .

Writing’s a Bitch, So is Soul Searching

By Harold Stearley

This article appeared in The Urban Howl on January 10, 2018

http://theurbanhowl.com/

Warning: This might get heavy. If you don’t like reading more than 140 characters stop now. If you don’t like introspection and self-examination, turn around. If you don’t like thinking about the writing life, expansion of consciousness, freedom or soul searching, well you know…

We all know it, writing is a bitch.

Some days, while standing in the line at the grocery store, the words just flow, like we are channeling from the Universe, and we’re scrambling for a piece of paper before they’re gone. We know that they can never be recalled in the exact fashion we first held them.

Other days, we sit staring at the screen and nothing comes, the mind is numb. And some days, you just need to jump in the car and drive 1400 miles to that cabin in the middle of nowhere to kill off all of the distractions, to force yourself inward, to open the gate, to find the words, your true voice and, similarly, to find your soul.

I just completed the drive.

I do a lot of driving in the early morning hours. Up at 1:00, out the door by 2:00. You can cover a lot of distance before the rest of the world is stirring. But there’s an eerie quality to driving at that time of day, depending on where you’re at. Good highways, good lighting, good signage, city lights, and especially the moon can all be warming — they add definition to that dark and empty landscape.

But then the navigator wants to save you some time and you’re off on that two-lane, undivided highway, with no shoulders, no lights, few reflectors, and sometimes no center lines, and you wonder what the hell are you going to run up on as you fly down that gray ribbon at 70 miles per hour, give or take.

So, I latched onto a truck, a single, box-like entity sharing this 100-mile radius. I know that guy will light the road ahead of me, and he’s going in my direction. I can tell he is following his navigator too — headed straight for the left-hand turn we are both supposed to take down that next stretch of lonely highway.

He comes to a stop, no turn is there; a concrete barrier instead. We both sit in silence, then slowly head down the road a mile, execute a U-turn and come back to where the mysterious road is supposed to be, but this time from the other direction. A right turn appears and we are headed south.

I guess navigators don’t see all of the barriers — neither do we, especially the ones we create for ourselves.

As we speed away, I suddenly see a blast of dust kick up on the roadway. The trucker’s trailer, blowing sideways in the high winds, dipped off the edge of the road into the dirt. The trailer heaves up to the right as the dirt grabs hold of the tires, left-sided tires leave the pavement, skyward bound. I thought it might flip, but it doesn’t roll. He somehow pulls it back on the road. I’m glad for him.

Time to back off a bit, back into the darkness. Sometimes we spend time there figuratively as well, avoiding our own light.

Our minds are jealous beasts. They want to control the environment, to tell you what it is you are seeing and experiencing, but there is little you can see in this time and place. The mind wants to fill the darkness, fill that void with something familiar — give it shape, give it form. And so it does.

Outlines of mountains that aren’t really there. Cloud formations. The moon, three-quarters full, slowly becomes round and full — the circle complete, but then it sets. You realize these things aren’t there and you still can’t really tell where you are going. Nothing but headlights punching a momentary hole in the darkness and tail lights glowing red behind.

Nothing in front of you and nothing behind you beyond where those lights can reach, where their rays dissipate, swallowed by the night. You hold on for dawn and pray for it. And when it finally comes, when those first slivers of light pierce the darkness, you’ve traveled some 300 miles and you awake in a different landscape. No longer the flat Texas panhandle.

Instead, there are mountains and cacti and desert chaparral. A freight train appears to the east momentarily dissecting the plain and the road, from the mountains. You instinctively count cars, register if they’re carrying grain or coal. It’s hard to shut that brain off.

But the new world floods your senses and it is pleasingly disorienting. It stops the mind, the internal dialog. All you can do is experience, take it all in. Time and space have expanded from the simple act of driving out of your boundaries. You see, people’s worlds seem to be in a constant state of contraction.

When we were children we experienced those endless days of summer because we lived freely in the here and now. Our imaginations raced, we played, we observed, we wondered, we were always wowed. Nothing was taken for granted. We weren’t reined in by fabricated definitions or borders. The sky could be red if we wanted it to be. We played in foreign lands. The thickets and woods were a jungle. A cat, a mountain lion. We weren’t bound by math or history or science, only the limits of our senses and what we could dream up. Our worlds expanded. Time stood still.

The essence changed slightly in our teens. Still free of societal responsibilities, we became invincible. Play took different forms, sometimes more dangerous, stretching the limits, but there was always laughter. We swung the world by its tail. We owned the here and now.

But as we age, the boundaries and borders come. We have been force-fed society’s definitions and bound by its rules. We are assigned roles to play. Told dreams aren’t real, and never can be. We are given work. Our identities narrow. Time and space begin to contract. Our worlds shrink. At first to a community sphere, family and friends, a home and job, and eventually a smaller home when the kids have grown, then a room as we become feeble, and then gone.

We fill our shrinking world with distractions and we’ve created massive amounts of media to do just that. Television, movies, computers, social media, smartphones — these all make us feel like we are interacting with a larger universe. No longer confined to that commute to and from work in a box on wheels, in a ten-by-twelve living room, in that eight-by-eight office space. These prisons without bars.

If we’re lucky, and perhaps diligent, we can maintain some of that childlike view of the world. We might even travel while our bodies are able, and we should. Travel expands space and time. Travel, breaking out of our self-imposed boxes, is freedom. Freedom to experience anew.

One thing we seem to want to avoid, that is always available to us, is that inward journey. We are always filling our voids with outside experiences, seeking solutions outside of ourselves, searching for another person to be with, anything to keep from looking inside. Not all of the external is bad, and it should still be pursued.

We are social animals, and the unfamiliar internal world can be frightening. And so, we often do anything we can to avoid truly engaging in introspection and self-examination, figuring out who you are, and exploring the soul.

It can be painful work.

Some even lose themselves to a communal identity. They speak in clichés and platitudes, and they exercise as little independent thought as possible. They meld in. They try not to think or reason, punch the time clock and become a job, wrap their identity up in an external definition.

“I am a mother, a father, a teacher, a wife, a husband, a homeowner, a gardener, a doctor, a forklift driver.”

They don’t mention that they’re a spirit soul. Or that they’re here to find a soul purpose. Or that they’re preparing for a spiritual life after the body is gone.

People will do anything to avoid their true self. And if you start down that road of soul-seeking, you won’t come back to the mundane world of clichés, you won’t be “right as rain,” or “roll with the punches,” or “go with the flow”.

What you will be is authentic. You’ll see with a clarity that you’ve never had before. You’ll be true to your word. You will feel the world’s vibrations, sense its moments.

Your intuition will magnify, you’ll know people before you meet them. You’ll know your own heart. You’ll feel it when another beats in synch with yours.

So I drove. Travel, motion through the external world, tears down walls, eliminates those borders, returns us to the world of no boundaries, frees our imagination, takes back our minds, and recharges our spirits.

It’s back to that endless summer, clouds that form faces and animals, feeling the grass between my toes, living in the here and now, no distractions from the expansive world around me. I can look into my soul here, for when the world expands, it expands in all directions, including inward.

Funny thing, I was stopped by the Border Patrol — literally this time instead of figuratively — and I had to declare where I was coming from and where I was going. I could just imagine that officer’s reaction if I had told him I was coming from the world of illusion and going to the real world, the place where the spirit roams free.

Our bodies will eventually fail, our worlds will contract, and freedom of movement will be gone. We’ll be trapped inside with only ourselves for a while. We might want to get to know our real selves, make that spiritual journey inward, and free the spirit before that happens. Why wait to be dancing in the light?

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* Photo:  This was one of my one-handed, over-the-shoulder, while driving pics 🙂