Impermanence…a personal commentary

What is the one constant in everyone’s life? No matter black, white, brown, or green…no matter if you live comfortably with means, or are barely scraping by…no matter if you live north, south, east or west…animal, insect, plant or human, impermanence is at play in your life.

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Over the last year, our lives have been greatly impacted by this often times unwelcome part of the life cycle. Everyday things change. Our likes and dislikes, our health, plants bloom and die, trees loose leaves, even as simple as outgrowing our favorite outfit, everything is in a constant state of living and dying…change. We live our lives as if we have a life-time of living to be had, fall through each day as if there will surely be another. Will there be? Are you sure?

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In my Buddhist practice, my teachers and their teachers and right on back to the Buddha, have always talked about impermanence. Nothing is without change. It is not only about a physical human death, even that is not permanent, but more about the constant flux that is a naturally occurring part of everything, living and dead. Humans are the worst at accepting this phenomenon. We try hard to make sure things are as we like them, to be sure we are always comfortable. We diet to stay the same weight, facelifts to prevent the inevitable force of gravity, even engage in risky behaviors to slow the aging process. Western medicine is all about treating the diseased so that death can be cheated. We never even think about death. To speak of our death is considered taboo, macabre, not something accepted in a “normal” daily conversation.

I know that the hardest part of accepting death, is to realize that death is not the end, not a permanent condition. Yes, our physicality comes to an end, but there is so much more to all living things that just a failing vessel of blood and organs, all things are made of the most basic of matter, water and carbon, formed into a structure that can resemble many different things, from a tree to a worm, yes and the human body. The essence of which is held together by energy. This energy is universal, it exists in the chair you’re sitting on, the flowers blooming in the spring, and even the ancient old growth forests rotting on the forest floors.

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OK, so you may be thinking, how do I stop or slow change? How can I accept something, death for example, that seems so final…so permanent? What happens to that life force when the vessel dies? Religions have been trying to pacify the panic and mourning that goes along with death with the promise of heaven and hell. Alchemist have been trying to find the secret of eternal youth since the beginning of time. No matter, impermanence is just a universal condition to be accepted and worked through on a daily basis. If you knew you were gonna die tomorrow, would you do anything in your power to stave off this inevitability? You are not alone. Why not live everyday as if it were your last?

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If I told you that to slow, maybe even end the violence in the world, the pestilence, the hate, anger, and all the “man-made” destruction of the planet, all we have to do is live each day as if it were a gift, treat each other with kindness, show unconditional love and acceptance to our fellow human beings and stop harming even the smallest of insects, would you at least try? It is so much easier to find fault, to feel the anger and act without thinking, to pass judgement and spread gossip, to continue to pollute rivers and oceans as if they were an endless resource. To avoid change at all costs. What if we all just gave it a little effort? What if everything you said to someone, stranger or friend, ally or foe, went through three gates first. Is it true? Is it necessary? The hardest one, is it kind? What if you smiled at a stranger, held the door for someone, didn’t honk and yell at the driver you feel is being crazy or stupid. Could you make a pact to do one kind thing for someone or something everyday? Could we each start a pay it forward society just by one kind act? What if it were really that simple?

The world is suffering, we all are dying everyday, tomorrow is not for certain. Every where Chris and I go, we bring love and light into someone’s darkness, whether we know that person or not. We are not alone. It is never too late but it does take an army to move an anthill these days. I implore you to at least try, how can it hurt? We can’t stop change but we can influence it with just a few random kindnesses.

A Small Tear on my Heart

It’s been a month since we said farewell to Gandaulf. I still have moments in the day when my eyes fill with tears and the words get stuck in throat. Times when all I want is to feel his thick, soft fur between my fingers, and smell his musky odor. At night I swear sometimes he is still there at the bottom of the bed snoring. Of course I sit with the feelings, let the tears fall and, like the clouds in a blue sky, it passes and I am left in the present moment…to move on.

Playing in the water was a favorite past time

We continue to sell off all our possessions and donated 4 big boxes of women’s clothing to the women’s shelter and odds and ends to the DI. Our shed is becoming more and more vacant everyday. Getting rid of “stuff” is fun, freeing and terrifying all at the same time. What I want to get rid of, Chris thinks we might need someday and sometime visa versa. No matter we settle and the item stays or goes and we move on to the next.

We have started our trial packs. It takes almost as many clothes to be gone for a week long vacation as it does to pack for a year. Save a nice outfit for the occasional fancy dinner or cafe hopping, a few more necessities for hiking or swimming, and an extra pair of shoes…they make a thing called a washer and dryer, so…just like at home, you still need to stop for a domestic goddess day.

The farewells continue almost daily. I have hooked up with some healers that are concocting some plant medicines for me to continue my journey of good mental health and a balance of mind and body. It’s been almost six months since I went cold turkey on anti-depressants and entered the world of good, wholesome plant based medicines. The journey has had its ups and downs, but I am a whole new person, not better, just changed and more energized and grounded.

Between this change and my spiritual endeavors, I have broken through the ancient fortress built around my heart and mind, and found a strong, safe foundation to build a new life on. Yes I have many small tears left on my heart, but I am free from this old baggage and free to build a new adventure in loving kindness and peace.

The End of an Era

It has begun…today we officially sold our Adventure Van, SleepyTurtle. The UTV and trailer got sold to a friend we’ve been selling cars to forever. All of our toys and our “home” have gone to good homes. This we are happy about. The universe has been at play in the last 3 months.

As sad as it was to loose Gandaulf, we were in the right place…not in Baja. His death was the beginning of the avalanche of change in our lives. Our entire lives have been geared around Gandaulf, so when he went over the rainbow bridge, we felt a great loss and confusion.

This entire week has been all about getting back on our feet, liquidating everything and getting on with our new chapter of life. Mornings are getting easier, and we are beginning to accept whatever has happened as our path. It’s bucking against things as they come up, that causes us discomfort. As we listen and pay attention to the signs, being aware of the subtle nuances of our daily life, things fall into place. Things that seemed insurmountable.

Farewells have also begun this week. This is where I struggle. We have touched so many new lives, and made so many new friends over the last 3 years which may not seem like that big of a deal to some but for Chris and I, we never have been able to develop friendships outside of work. Now we’ve connected on a deeply personal maybe even spiritual level, and unknowingly influenced their lives by just being ourselves. This for me is a gift. It is exceedingly difficult to connect with people at a meaningful level these days, perhaps due to mistrust and social media…Or maybe the later makes it easier? These special relationships will never go away, and there is no such thing as “goodbye” in our book.

May 6, 2023 will be our new adventure start date. Until then, the universe has our backs.

Love to all of you. J

Three Weeks

It’s been 3 weeks since the loss of our pup and companion, Gandaulf. We got his cute paw print from the vet that compassionately help us let him go. Yesterday was the first day I didn’t cry over my coffee and all morning. I almost didn’t cry at all.

The hardest thing to reprogram is my brain. Let me explain; I know our boy is gone. I know he’s not coming back. We also talk often about the hardest forever decision we made and I think we both are getting better knowing that it was also the most selfless decision we’ve made concerning another living being. We’ve spent the past few weeks looking for the right words. The words that tell us it’s gonna be okay…someday.

A good friend posted exactly what I needed to hear. My tears are not shed for Gandaulf, but actually for me. He has been released from this world of suffering and moved into the universe as energy we can draw on through our memories. I can feel him in my day in and day out movements, sometimes I stop at the van entrance and wait for him. The day will come that memories with bring me joy, maybe through tears, but at least he will make me smile again.

Part of any journey, after a death, is picking up the millions of pieces of your life that are scattered about in places you didn’t even know or forgot existed. Then put one foot in front of the other and live! Living for us includes travel, so that’s what we’ve been doing.

I told Chris that when Gandaulf passed, she and I needed to go on a around the world trip. First stop…Ireland.

We’ve rented a van, imagine that?! We picked up a cute conversion camper van from Indie Camper Rentals. https://indiecampers.ie/campervan-hire/dublin/dublin/2023-05-08/2023-05-22/nomad/offer/special. Next we have planned a driving tour around Ireland of over 1200km.

We are starting in Dublin and traveling south along the country, this map is going the wrong direction, but symbolizes the trip.

We have given ourselves two weeks to sight-see, hike and explore the rich history of this small island.

We are too excited to find the words to express our giddy, child-like wonder that stands in front of us on this long journey of travel and cultural immersion. The world is our oyster, as the saying goes. Travel without our side-kick will be lonely at times, and for sure much quieter. The hardest part of jumping off is always that nagging fear that rightly resides in the back of everyone’s brain when it comes to getting out of our routines and facing the unknown. Traveling for an undetermined amount of time, to places we’ve only seen in magazines and blogs. To relieve yourself of all your worldly possessions and travel with what’s on your back, what fits in a carry-on roller bag and a small daypack.

Someday we will settle down, when the wanderlust turns old and our body’s desire a place to call refuge. By then, perhaps we will have found a place, or a couple of places, that check off all the blocks. Until then, tune in for the next adventure to begin and we invite you all to travel vicariously with us. Thank you all for your support while traveling in The Turtle (sleepyTurtle our van). We may be down one body, but his traveling, fun loving spirit will continue to travel along with us. Peace

Death Watch

It’s 2am

It’s me, Gandaulf asleep at my side, and dad.

The sound of mantras drift through the air lowly summoning courage

Courage to face the unknown

The sound of breathing machines tick and buzz

Each breath, labored.

The elixir of comfort,

Administered by an angel

Release from the bondage of machine

A broken vessel

In the silence of the night

Let go

You’re not alone dad

We are all here.

I watch

Each breath labored

I’ll hold your hand

Till you let go and slip

Off into the peace of death

1/23/22

Ancient Cottonwood

Twisted.

Gnarled.

Reaching for the sun.

Existing for eons.

Starved.

Flooded.

Branches bearing heavy snow.

Wind beaten.

Baked by the sun.

Life giving shade.

Standing in silence.

Dark green to

Golden yellow

Your leaves.

Memories of thousands of seasons past.

A sentinel of time.

Roots deep in the mother.

Earth’s child.

Strength and forbearance.

Barren and silent.

Tree.

11/21 

Words

My mind struggles to find words

Words of peace

Words of love

Just words

Empty

Meaningless

Vacant

Creative

Of my heart

I can see

I can hear

My feelings 

trapped in words

My thoughts

Gone

A drop of water

In a sea of vast emptiness

I struggle

To find the words

10/21

Integration: Melding of dark and light

I want to step in front of a runaway train

just to feel alive again.

Something dead has taken refuge in my soul

Something dark and old fearful of the light

I long to see the light again

To feel the release

The warmth

To see clearly again

I reach inside

Bend to touch the ground

My fingers meet the warm earth

Like a tree my fingers become roots

The darkness falters

The thawing of my heart begins

I stretch to the sky

Fingers splayed open

Reaching

Reaching for whatever will channel into me

The suns warmth tickle my fingers, then my hands

A low cry finds my throat

Release

Releasing its darkness

Surrendering

Like little sparks of energy

Eventually kindle a flame

I release

I surrender

My body becomes charged

Warmed by the sun

One with the universe

Rooted in the Mother

Accepting

Acceptance of the whole

My will

My life force begins to course

Life seeps into every dark crack and crevice

A glow

The glow of life once again

It kindles and grows

I am alive

This too will pass

Let the healing begin

JA

Tall Trees, Deserts and Quiet rivers

We’ve made it to Oregon (June 2021). We’ve been back on the road full time for two weeks. We’ve meandered across Idaho’s western side, checking out the sights we never had the time to experience. We had just come back to Salt Lake City to do some business, get our COVID shots and see some friends and family.

I am really torn between wanting to go back to Salt Lake. I really miss the physical presence of my friends and family. During COVID, it was hard to be distant, but the thought that, what if I caused a friends death or illness, always lurked in the back of my mind. Leaving Salt Lake a year ago, that first month or two, ripped my heart out, not being able to have a party, to give everyone a hug and even go to a communal campfire. Let’s just face it I love to be held and to hold, to share stories of the road and a beer.

Sorry for the ramble…

I don’t know if there is a right way or a wrong way to “become a vagabond” a “wanderer”, part of the allure is living off the clock. I know I’ve said it before, but not having a set schedule is more conducive to my mental state. The lack of deadline stresses, fear of letting someone down, rush, rush, rush… now we pick a direction and head that way.

We have maps and Apps, books and sometimes cell phone service, these all act as guides, but we now have the time to explore that dirt road to “somewhere?”… stop and take a nap when we are tired. If we see a hot spring or lake on the map, we may make that our destination for the day, which may turn into two, three or even a week…or it may be a bust.

What drives us to pick a place and stay? I was asked this question by more than one of our followers. Trash, weather, bugs, sound, people, cost, and access to water are all deciding factors. Of course we have to be able to access it with our van and trailer as well. We are 11’ tall, 8’ wide and 35’ long (but we bend in the middle). At times we seek out the most remote area we can find and have to get out our mountain bikes to check out the road and clearances, as well as someplace to turn around. It sucks backing up a 1/4 mile with a trailer. Good news though, Chris is learning how to back up a trailer!

We look for silence that is deafening, bird song, the sound of water, open space, tall, LIVE, trees in the mountains, shade in the desert, access to water, and a sense of safety and security.

What drives us out of a spot…even after picking the perfect spot…bugs, gun shots, people, noise, weather and other factors beyond our control. These things often come up after a night or are noticeable within hours.

We both crave silence. Normal nature sounds are welcome. You can hear yourself think. We perform our daily duties like a well oiled machine and most things are done without the need to speak. On the other hand, we have meaningful dialogue when off grid.

I will often get immersed into the nature that surrounds us. It is a means of creativity, an inspiration to dream. The life of a wanderer is never lost… perhaps temporarily delayed or caught trying to find the next shiny object.

It’s raining and we are confined to the van for a bit. The thunder and raindrops make us feel like we are playing tent. It makes us feel alive! The rain on the roof of the van, the smell of wet earth, the crackle of a campfire…the birds all vying for the loudest call, and being able to identify the bird by its call. The desert and spring time flowers. The landscape so beautiful I wrestle with the words to describe its grandeur. The sound of the winds. Each of these seeps into your soul until a city becomes a strange land of traffic and sounds, rushing people, such that you wish to do your business and move along.

Our world has changed in so many ways. Our lives are slower and more meaningful. Our demons hide from the joy of living! Living like pioneers on the way to the next new land or adventure.

6/15/21

Repositioning

Life on the road is no cake walk. Compromise, silence and space, solitude and good old Mother Nature. A tough re-entry into the world of civilization and then back to our happy place.

Leaving the back roads and beaches of Mexico was… in itself…hard. It was in essence the hot and humid weather and the need for COVID-19 shots, that drove us back to Utah. We have been officially off the “road/van life” for a month now. We have been doing service projects for friends and family and van fixes …including one very inconvenient tow, all month. May 2021, has been Service Month… literally.

We have helped with a remodeling project.

We helped recondition and sell a speed/ski boat.

Assisted a great, close friend to buy a new car. Helped our sister and brother-in-law get a good deal on two great eBikes and of course, we both got our vaccinations for COVID-19.

The spread of COVID-19 has slowed in the US. People are being vaccinated. We spent more money than our normal monthly budget for unexpected van repairs, spent a few nights in long stay hotels, and had to give up the van twice for two different repairs, one, after a minor mishap with the trailer.

My body has decomposed in this month, it’s shed thick calluses off my feet, lost at least half of its once healthy glow, my sinuses blazing with rivers of snot from seasonal allergies, lungs full of said rivers. My mind has shut down as things around me change, and I’ve all but shaved my head.

The routine has changed from outdoor living in peace and solitude, a primordial existence with Mother Nature, to City life. Now, four hard walls with a shingled roof, flush toilets and showers on demand with plenty of hot water, shelter us.

We ran to Kara’s house, loaded up the Hyside raft we sold, the IK we sold, the oar frame on the new roof rails, everything else suspended from the ceiling of the trailer. All the toys in one heavy ass trailer. It sucked the gas mileage from North Salt Lake, UT to Twin Falls, ID to under 9mpg… keeping it at an avg. of 68 mph. SUCK…

I drove the whole way with gusty tail winds, strong head winds and strong sideways burst…nuts! The Memorial Day holiday traffic is evident, from seeing 3 crashes south bound in Utah, to plenty of slow traffic driving north. We listened to an ebook talking about how US drivers fall asleep or just plain old don’t pay attention because our straight roads are hypnotic.

Nothing in the outdoor recreation world has changed since COVID-19. The prices of the recreational equipment, led by the demand and short supply, is up by thousands over retail value. That’s what has lead us to the west side of Idaho, a place we’ve yet to experience. Once we offload the extra weight we will head back to the Northern mountains of Idaho to decompress… as has become our norm… 3 days of mostly silence between talks of destinations and a sorta plan… at least a direction. Time is of no urgency unless a set destination is planned.

We spent the first night at a Harvest Host golf course right on the Snake River and a beautiful river gorge.

The silence is welcome. All 3 of us, Gandaulf included, need to hear nothing but the wind, river, birds, crickets, our own breath and heart beat. Until the controlling and aggressive “city personalities”…calm down and a synchronicity of calmness and kindness resumes… this is how the re-entry, repositioning, has been. Sometimes you just need a little space. Doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. I can fight it or move through it, it’s always a choice, and 15-30 minutes of uncomfortability in a day… doesn’t ruin the whole day.