Posts Tagged ‘home’
It’s been ten days since we first stepped off the South West Chief train into the Los Angeles sunshine. It was 6am and we were bleary eyed. Our get-away from Wisconsin involved a torrential down-pour that soaked our bike boxes and belongings, a 15 minutes-to-spare arrival at the station, a few desperately insulting Amtrak employees, and a mad panic that left Charlie and I separated, unsure of where the other was, each jumping between the closing doors, hoping like hell the other was onboard.
As the train pulled out, Charlie found me a few cars up, still struggling with our 6 or 7 bags. We threw our arms around each other, giddy with relief. Then he explained the bad news: our bikes hadn’t made it. They’d be on the next train (if only their boxes could hold together long enough). Finding our seats, we settled in for our three-day rolling adventure across America, finally able to relax.
John was waiting for us on our arrival, and sped us through the busy streets of building rush-hour traffic, to our new home off Palawan Way. With typical graciousness, he then found somewhere else to be for a few minutes, while we walked down the dock, to our floating dream. There she was. All beauty, all beat-up, all strength and character, as I had imagined. We stood together in the cockpit, disbelieving. Then we ventured down below, into the cosy cabin. It felt like home already! We giggled and sniggered, like a kid on a brand-new bike, unsure of how to express such joy.
We ought to have slept, at last able to rest horizontally, but at 9pm, after a day of sorting and cleaning, we looked around, saw it was dark, and wondered where the time had gone. Our first night was spent in perfect slumber, in the bow and belly of our boat, with the warm understanding that a new fire and adventure was now beginning.
Our bicycles arrived (somewhat unexpectedly) the next day, and since assembling them in the Amtrak warehouse, we have seen L.A on two wheels. We still haven’t ventured very far afield, but so far bike lanes and courteous drivers seem to be the norm rather than the exception. Our first priority has been to repair the engine, so many days have seen us scuttling around from shop to shop, looking for one part or another. We’re getting closer to the climax, and hope to hear the sweet puttering of diesel soon. That will be cause for celebration!
Which, speaking of, we’ve found no-lack of excuses for. Our first day marked a memorial of course, then the electricity hook-up (not as easy as it sounds on a floating home), then our bikes arriving safely, Charlie finishing his final class paper (and at last a free man) was another, then our week anniversary etc… etc…
And with only having finally hooked up our stove today (relying on the microwave until now), cafe breakfasts have been the logical and welcome feast for all our celebrations. Tomorrow though, to honor our propane efforts, it’ll be home-cooked eggs and bacon, with freshly brewed coffee! And our new little home will never have smelt so good!
And like a raindrop falling from a luscious leaf, my time in Australia comes to an end. Almost five months, but they seem to dwindle into a small stack of memories, finishing before they fully begin. When I left Madison, last year in early winter, life was pretty chaotic. My four years away from ‘home’ had finally caught up with me - I was losing touch with myself, grasping for truth, for happiness, and looking in all the wrong places.
Getting back to Australia, to the people who will always know and love me – let life click back into sense. I spent much of my time alone… reading, learning, growing… and enjoying my solitary company. I’d bike around for work from dawn till mid afternoon and silently watch my city come alive. On rainy days and during my breaks, I’d devour a book on sailing, or diesel mechanics, or live-a-board lifestyles, escaping into dreams and plans for my pretty little Cape Dory. On weekends, a train then bike to the beach would replenish my soul and inspire positivity. Life makes more sense in the water, that’s just the way it is.
Often I’d catch up for tea with one of my few dear friends, who’d listen compassionately and help look for new perspectives. The running saga of my life (latest skype calls, emails, letters) would tumble out my mouth as Mum, Ange, Andy or Jester returned comments, suggestions, or just hugs and understanding. Always I’d come home to smiles, good meals, and a cosy nest. And as the quickening time tramped on, my heart mended itself, my soul found itself, and happiness happened.
A jet plane blew me into yesterday, a train choo-choo’d me across America’s plains, and now here I am, full circle, back in Madison’s Midwest.
This last 6 months Charlie and I have jumped some big hurdles. We stumbled a few times, made lots of mistakes, and the tunnel grew dark once or twice… but from here, sharing together this springtime light of day, I’m thankful. Our strength feels doubled, our love more unified… and our new adventure ready to begin…
Owning a sailboat! California here we come!
As I toil away here, screw-driver and allen keys in hand, working Monday to Friday for the first time in my life… I picture this:
I’m putting away the pennies and true to the old adage – “A boat is just a hole in the water you throw money into” – tearing up $100 bills with ease and finesse. But doesn’t she look PRETTY?!
She’s had her cute little bottom painted, a brand new blue boot-stripe, her sea-cocks and thru-hulls replaced, a new depth sounder put in, and a whole long list of other fun (just add zero’s) additions or replacements.
She’s a Cape Dory 30ft Cutter (always a favourite of mine) and designed by Carl Alberg. We settled on January 1st – not a bad way to start off the year in my books! Before and since, she’s been in the experienced, nurturing hands of my old friend (and Captain of ‘Ramble’), John, who I am forever indebted to, thanks to his continuous love, support and level-headedness.
I’m spending my days turning them into weeks, work-work-working my way to her, and plan to be state-bound by mid-April. Perhaps no name will suit until i have felt her under a slight press of sail and a following sea, but I’m all open to ideas, if you have any!
For now, I console myself with dreams of letting go the bowlines, sailing away from the safe harbor, and catching the trade winds in my sails…
and at long last, I know where to call Home.
I’m drinking a Flat White. It’s 28 degrees hot. I biked here on the left side of the road, and someone just said “see you this arv’”. Where am I? Home! A week after landing, it all still feels like a novelty, but the part of myself I left here, 3 and a half years ago, has been welcomed back. Traveling, as is well-known by addicts of the open-road, allows you to be whoever you want to be. You can leave behind past identities and recreate. Usually, if you’re gone long enough, you’ll run right back into yourself, but there’s still an element of anonymity, of character-play.
Here, back home, I’m the Lily my old friends know, the woman my family knows. My mother knows me almost better than I know myself, so there’s no getting away from it here. And it’s so nice. Not to have to explain, not to have to decide, who that is. I’ve got a few more stories and a few more scars, but essentially, I’m still me.
And in the same way, my City is too. Buildings have come up and gone down, the dramatic floods early in the year have altered it’s shape and shaken it’s stumps, but it stills smells the same, people still smile the same, and Kangaroos still graze in the morning fog. Some things never change.
I left Madison in chaos, and with a heavy heart. My world there was splitting off into two different directions – one outside, one inside – and rather than decide which to go in – I left them both.
Brisbane, this is where I know. Where my constants can be constant and leave me room to figure out the rest.Where working out who I am doesn’t get in the way of working out what I want. Where my city stands, and where I stand – afraid, brave, and intrigued – together.
June 28th… no, actually – June 29th – marks a special day for me … Three years ‘on the road’ (an anti-climactic cancelled flight to Thailand delayed me a day). Or at least, Three years since Australia, since Family, since Bubble-o-bills, Milo, and Three Monkeys chai. A few special occasions of relief – Peter once, Mum twice, Dad in San Fran and Sister a whole fabulous 3 months in Barcelona. While floating on Ramble I even got a package full of Milo tins for my birthday. But special treats aside, I’m now into my fourth year away.
Away from what? I’ve built myself a Home in many places since, I’ve found new Friends, new Communities. I’ve relaxed on beautiful beaches, been to great gigs and slept on many a couch. But… … none of them have been Byron beach, none of them have been Mr Laneous at the Shire with the crew, and none of them have been Mum and Peter’s plush white sofa. I’m slowly losing my accent, gradually warming to the cold, and I’m even saying things like “Sofa”! I’ve learnt to spell like an American, speak like the French and eat like the Dutch.
I didn’t know what I was looking for, when I left in 2008. I didn’t know I’d find True Love,
and Bicycle Touring.
I sure as hell couldn’t have guessed I’d be living in a small city in the Mid West, building a northern hemisphere Home. But it’s a good thing I did, since that’s exactly why I left – to explore, to learn, to grow. Now, I have new words, new (old) boots, and a Whole New Family.
But I still dream of mangoes by the kilo, signs that say “Watch for Kangaroos” and especially, I dream of waking up on that plush white Couch, or camping amongst Bottle Trees on Dad’s farm “DeHavilland”.
If I were ever to make plans, I would say: I plan on this being my last year away. I plan on catching the sailing season in February, and riding the trade winds all the way HOME. I plan on Kilometers and Capsicums and 40 degrees Celsius. But plans are for fools. I’ll just wait and see.
Somehow, after three years of regular blogging and almost weekly updates – six months rolled by without a post. I firmly believe it’s better to write poorly than not to write at all… and yet I find myself hesitating, criticising, and eventually denying, any pen to pay process.
Which is a shame, since my new life in the Midwest has proved an opportunity for new thought patterns, critical attitude analysis, and some seriously profound lessons. With very few local friend outlets, I ought to have used this platorm to help sort through feelings.
That’s the way it goes with depression though… the less you do, the lower you get, and then the less you do. I’m really not familiar with depression – it sounds so severe to me. But I suppose being sad for extended periods of time counts. Maybe the language isn’t important.
There is a phenomenon here calld S.A.D. – Seasonal Affective Disorder… a.k.a Sun Absence = Depression. It is definitely real, I learnt that much. But I wouldn’t want to attribute all of my misery to a lack of sunlight and an extremely long winter. True, it did snow last week and I am growing quite tired of feeling cold, like inside bone cold, but there is a lot more to it too.
It’s moving to a new place, any new place. It’s having a partner with a broken leg that won’t seem to heal. It’s being ready for an Australian home then having to wait. It’s integrating into a new family. And each of those have such a huge range of emotions associated with them that putting them all in a line like that seems almost meaningless. The good news is that whatever the block, whatever the dark cloud… it’s clearing. People are slowly moving outside again, friendships are being formed, and I’m gradually learning old lessons about attitude ownership, personal power, individual freedom in relationships.
I still want more from Charlie that he can give me right now, I am still building up trust with his family, and I’m still searching for my mission here in Madison, but the sun has thawed the icy lakes, and maybe the ice in me too. Things are flowing once more. At least i”m writing again. At least i’m touring again. Yep: I am writing this from the road.
Just a little loop – Madison-Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison… just enough. Bike touring ‘courage’ seems so hard won, and so easily lost – but after a 90 mile day yesterday, in good time and with a smile, I remember - I can still do it. Tomorrow i’ll bike into Madison, along the same route I took in June. Then, I was introducing myself to Charlie’s town… this time I’ll be coming home. My home.
Most of our dictionaries will tell us “courage” is the ability to control (or conquer) fear. I’m often cited for being ‘courageous’ while out touring, hitchhiking, or traveling as a solo female… and yet: none of those exploits instill much fear in me. A little anxiety certainly, a healthy dose of anticipation, and perhaps a touch too much excitement, but fear? No, the open road speaks to me of possibilities, of adventure, of freedom. Societies initial ‘impending doom’ scenario is soon superseded with the reality of universal care, and though we may walk out the door in fear, soon the sky opens, the road widens, and your oyster tastes sweet.
If we have an understanding of what to expect, of our tools and our surroundings, then we are much less likely to be gripped by fear and therefore less likely to be feeling Brave. An outsider, who has never ridden a loaded bicycle on a deserted road, undoubtedly encounters uncertainty, insecurity and fear at the mere mention of it. But to the rider, who has become accustomed to life at a 15mph pace, and who has a map of all the waterholes, it has become a grand expedition, a soul-building, freedom filled experience. Our amount of courage is in direct proportion to our depth of fear.
So, I think it’s safe to say that while ‘out there’ on the highways and byways of the world, I’m not being very courageous. That’s not to say I’m not a courageous person. On the contrary, I like to think of myself as being very brave and bold. In fact, I just moved into a small house in a Midwest town knee deep in snow, with my lover (short one fully functioning leg) and his mother – with the somewhat delusional intention of ‘settling down’. If that doesn’t take courage, I don’t know what does! After three years of constant movement, and a childhood built on sporadic upheaval – being in one place with four walls and a roof, and looking for a job – well, it’s a little scary. Add to that a body and mind that don’t know of weather below 10 degrees Celsius, and you’ve got yourself some serious fear.
We congratulate our explorers on their bravery and we question our comrades who stay at home, but you may not have to rage the flood, or roam the field or climb the mountains crest – for a little bit of courage, just add fear.
Snow collects on the branches of the bare trees, pulling them down towards earth, cars roll slowly over the icy roads and the neighborhood whispers quietly.
I’ve been outside, bare and exposed, for a long time. Sleeping in tents or buses, boats or warehouses, community couches or blow up mats or carpeted floor. Open to life around me, rarely having to design a direction – instead just following in the footsteps of what seems right. Which is to say – I’ve been free. But wandering is a limited freedom. What about food choices? Or the freedom to choose what I’m exposed to? Rambling means the ability to ramble on, but is it ever a chosen destination? I can ride my bike to the next town, but the only real question thereafter is – who do I want to be? Beyond that, I’ve already made the choice to be open, so then I must be with whoever is there, eat what they eat and sleep wherever they don’t.
Now, off the wandering highways, I have new lessons to learn. In a lot of ways, I’ve been closing doors. A sailing trip to Mexico? Nope, settling down. Building and beaches in Hawaii? Nope, I’m settling down. Bike touring New Zealand? Close that door too. And it’s surprisingly liberating. There’s no doubt it takes strength to allow options into your life, to be open to the possibilities – but I’ve found the hardest is in fact in the narrowing down again. It requires a great power, the power of love for example, to select just one of those choices.
Now I wear pyjamas to bed, drink the same tea every morning and even have a drawer with six (6!) pairs of socks in it. I’ve been given slippers to keep my feet warm, beanies, scarves, gloves and boots – and just built my first snowman!
The weather here, in Madison Wisconsin, is grounding. Snow sticks to every surface and our hearts stick to our homes. It piles up outside our doorways – so we stay indoors. It offers time. Time to eat well, to write, to sew, to read, to learn, to develop. It’s a new found freedom. I can join the co-op and know my farmers. I can begin month long projects and acquire new skills. Especially, I can be myself, with the qualities I’ve found on the road, but simultaneously discover deeper aspects of ‘me’ that only a close community can help me find. We need both worlds I think, the road and the home, to maintain balance – but I sure have a lot of the latter to catch up on. And now, the space to do it.
A guy picked me up hitchhiking in Australia once, when I was going West to
head South, and he said it must be because I’m a crab (cancer) sign -
moving sideways to get forward. I think he might be right. Ive been
running home, backwards, the last few weeks.
From San Francisco I knew I wanted to be in Madison, WI, so I went north
up to Washington. The truth is, I wasn’t quite ready to hang up my
travelling shoes, and with the little last breath of autumn, I decided to
squeeze in one more adventure. It just felt like something I needed to do.
Often though, I ached for the warm home waiting for me in the Midwest, and
looked forward to time passing swiftly so as to get there sooner. I had
left the Northwest with the intention of returning quickly, and so loose
threads hung up there, dangling from the evergreens, awaiting my return.
Stopping briefly in the San Juans, I hugged my old friend Guisepi again,
and spent a few days with the close community there, watching everything
wind down for the winter. It snowed while I was there, an unusually early
winter, and the place looked and felt so different to my previous summer
visits. Everyone was bunkering down or packing things up, the hibernation
of the cold months ahead beginning already. I realised that seasons make
one so much more aware of Time. Where I grew up, with 90 degree
temperatures all year round, there was never a need to prepare oneself for
the coming conditions. Here though, every month that slips by brings new
tasks to be dealt with before the next shift settles in. It instilled in
me a sort of anxiety, for which the only cure I knew was movement.
I hitched a ride up to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island to see an old friend and
lover from the Caribbean. The difference in environment and seasons (from
the sunny BVI’s to snowy Canada), changed a lot in us too, and though I
was so glad to have made the trip, it was a somewhat awkward 4 days. We
went for a beautiful canoe ride though and saw the travelling Bamff Film
Festival which provided a lot of inspiration. I left a day early, partly
because I didn’t want to risk missing my ferry, and partly because it felt
finished. It was an exhausting hitching trip back to the San Juan’s, but I
was moving in the right direction again and that comforted me.
We spent a few more days on the islands, packing up the bus and getting
ready to hit the road. When we boarded the ferry, I felt a perfect sense
of closure, a much more official ending to my connections there. We rolled
A week of tea-serving, letter writing, lightfoot deliveries, and finally
we were back in San Francisco. Guisepi dropped me off at the Amtrak
station, we unloaded my boxed bike, all my gear, and then turned to
each other for a hug. Our relationship began as flirtation, grew into a
friendship over the years, returned occasionally to romance and now rested
in a love usually reserved for family. We agreed he’d always be my
‘hoboking’, and I’d always be his ‘hoboqueen’. We understood that no matter
the length of separation, we would always be close. We would always hold
huge amounts of respect for each other, and no doubt always continue to
inspire one another with our simple stories and life choices. We hugged,
smiling, and felt so much gratitude.
I boarded the Amtrak, beginning my last journey (for a while). Madison, my
beloved Charlie and his beautiful family waited for me at my destination.
I feel so whole. So utterly exhausted and rejuvenated at the same time. A
page is turning, a new life beginning. I am so completely ready to give
myself to a settled life – to rest, to create, and especially to love,
with the man that brings me home.