Return to Mobile Redux

I’ve really let myself go. I haven’t meditated regularly since before I went to Montana, or practiced yoga or worked out or hiked or even walked much.

In fact, for the last three months all I did is drink too much, smoke too much, and watch movies.

I was giving up. In self destruct mode. I just didn’t know it. Funny how that happens.

Why would nature give us a self destruct mode anyway? Is it a part of the evolutionary process? Perhaps it’s a way to filter out those less willing to succeed regardless of their genetic traits. A way of leveling the playing field.

Whatever the reason I need to terminate it because two days ago, just a week after arriving back in Mobile, I loaded up my car and started driving back north in blind obedience of that instinct.

I had a list of “valid” reasons for leaving, like being in a place I felt like I didn’t belong while struggling with a strong need to belong somewhere, feeling stagnant and nonproductive and wanting to do something about it, and the deep emotional pain of loss, loss of love, loss of dreams, loss of hope, loss of Self.

Wah.

The entire list is made up of excuses that justify the urge to self destruct.

I have a home. It doesn’t matter that I live 2,000 miles away in NE Montana, Mobile is my home. The job in Montana is just a means to an end.

I belong in the world. Not in a little trailer far away from anything that can hurt me in front of a big screen with a drink in my hand while I binge watch Game of Thrones and give up on my dreams.

I feel stagnant and unproductive because I’m not doing the things I should be doing and I can do those things anywhere.

Okay, the pain is real but it’s not fatal unless I allow it to be. So I’ll keep reminding myself that pain is where the light gets in and offers the lessons I need to learn. I have so much to learn yet so I’m grateful I’m getting the opportunities.

It took a whole day of driving, 1,100 miles, to begin to understand these things. To admit to myself what I was doing and to apologize to the people I hurt by running away, because that’s all I was really doing.

I reprimanded myself, cried, forgave myself.

Then I turned around and began the long drive back home.

When the weather changes and the work season begins again I will drive back to Montana to follow through on the goals I’ve set, but not until then.

The first things I will do when I get there are throw out the TV and the ashtray and find my yoga mat.

Home is…

Andrew.Draper-home.is

 

Winter has tightened its grip, choking out the last work days of the season, and I am officially unemployed.

I wrote before how Alabama had come to feel like Home for me. I was looking forward to going back when the season ended but that’s not going to happen.

Instead, I will drive almost 1,900 miles to Mobile not to return home but to retrieve what I left behind. Then I will turn around and come straight back North to wait out winter and put in a full season come spring.

The upside is that I will have some time to write in solitude and after more than a year of having my belongings strewn across three states I will finally have most of it in one place.

I, however, will remain divided for as long as it takes to find that place I call Home.

But what is “Home?”

For me, the answer is simple: Home is where I want to be and it’s where I’m wanted to be.

I try to picture myself in the places I prefer. The places I want to be. Deep in a forest. On the side of a mountain by a stream. In the desert. They are isolated places. Secluded. Desolate. Lonely.

They are places I’ve been before and in many ways they are the places I most belong, but there isn’t anyone in those places that wants me there and being there first makes it difficult for that to ever happen. I’ve tried. It didn’t work. Those places require a joint decision. To go there alone is to remain alone.

My thoughts sometimes turn to places I haven’t been. Uruguay. Patagonia. Corfu. Iceland. Knowing that these are impossible places for me to live, at least in this moment, somehow makes it easier to accept that it will not happen.

I can’t help revisiting the past when I think about home. The places I’ve been. The people I’ve been with. Other than my son, who is now grown and with a son of his own, I can’t think of one person who really wanted me to be there. Me. Not an image of me. Not my income. Not my pain. Not a warm body to share a bed. Me.

I do have friends in Mobile who want me there, but they are going through changes in their lives that put me in the way. So I should add that Home is also a place where I belong.

Right now I belong where I am. It’s where I need to be. Working in the oilfield is my best option to reach my goals. But it’s not where I want to be and other than my employer there isn’t anyone here who wants me here. I’ve sacrificed those aspects of home to fulfill obligations and needs and desires and hopes.

Home. Such a simple concept and yet always seeming to be just out of reach.

I’ll find it yet. Or maybe it will find me. Or maybe I’ll just wake up one day and be there.

Until then, this place, here, where I share my heart and my soul with any who will read, is my home, and my family spans the globe.

I’m good with that.

Welcome home.

 


 

Image by Andrew Draper.

One Pearl Longer

On the eve of each new year I reluctantly don a necklace
of melancholic nostalgia
the significance of which envelops me.
Strung from pearls of wisdom gathered by my former selves.
One per year.
Each radiant globe a diamond of priceless memories
compressed by me into a diminuve crystal ball.
Offering up reflections of immense happiness
tempered by devastang tragedy.
Each precious gem a hard-worn, hard-won epiphany
of the ebbs and flows of life.

Midnight revelry trumpets
auditory triggers of inescapable images.
With each mind’s eye vision comes anew
the heartbreak of loved ones lost forever.
The chain grows heavier and heavier,
constraining tighter and tighter.
Joy and pain, light and dark
intermingle to murky fog.

Come dawn, a fresh new day’s light pierces the gray numb
clarifying each orb until only lightness remains.
The warm beads now comfort me with their familiarity.
Carefully I remove the gossamer strand.
No matter.
Once disturbed, the tenuous connection evaporates scattering mirrored circles of life to places unknown.
Hidden here. Tucked there.
Only to return in their circuitous configuration in 364 nights
to be worn hesitatingly, reluctantly once again,
yet with honor and thankfully
one pearl longer.

– Karen Brown

Image by Karen Brown

Viewpoint

I’m at a roadside park just off I-94 overlooking a part of the Badlands called Painted Canyon.

The sun is setting to my left. It highlights the layered colors of the sprawling valley below me in intense blues, fiery reds, bruised purpled, living greens and a hundred shades of grey and brown.

The clouds are lit from within on a background that slowly shifts from pale blue to a deep violet capturing all the colors of my imagination.

Just past the edge of this vantage is an ancient juniper with dark berries. Balancing on the edge of its sparse limbs a meadowlark sings. In the distance a red tailed hawk circles.

At my feet are perfect yellow flowers that iridescent green bees suckle at. Ants clamber in the deep grass, carrying supplies to stock their underground metropolis.

A child’s balloon floats by me. A red island drifting on a cool breeze. Dancing with the invisible.

In the distance a child cries. Another laughs. The incessant sounds of man, the murmuring chatterous monotony of high and low and hushed and shouted tones and nearby traffic and all their smells, sweet and masked and dirty, are all broken, drowned in a profound silence that has no name.

Standing at the fence that keeps humanity at bay, separate from the world we were born into, is a young couple, giddy with love, arms wrapped around each other, smiling, content, joyous. Their love shines so brightly that it adds to the glow of the setting sun. A stranger takes their picture, hands the camera back to them with a “You’re welcome” and with no more than a quick glance into eternity and a shrug, walks quickly back to their car. They have someplace to be. An itinerary. A plan. They will miss so much. Too much.

I take in the sight and am filled with a deep peace, with the miracle of this moment. It is captured within me and I am captured within it and it lives forever.

Not in the past. Not as a memory, now, because Now is all that ever exists.


Image by J M Greff

Seasons Gratings!

Christmas is over. Thank the gods!

I have something to admit: I have a problem with Christmas. Not an objection, I like the idea of families gathering and sharing, I just don’t have that, not for many years. and it’s become a problem. An issue.

I don’t know when it started, a long time ago, but every year now for a few weeks leading up to the day and building exponentially like a nuclear reactor going offline unexpectedly (except far more predictable), I deal with a pretty severe depression. By the time the day arrives I want to lock my doors, block the windows, turn off all the lights, and disappear silently into a bottle.

It’s a battle. One I usually lose. This year was no different. I tried. I really did. I meditated and read only optimistic news and reached out to family, but the meditations only made me aware of the underlying self pity, the good news made me feel left out, and family stayed out of reach.

How about that? Me. The Bohemian that spends his spare time learning, practicing, and writing about mindfulness and acceptance and gratitude and love. Depressed.

The thing about problems, problems like seasonal depression, or loneliness, or loss of self worth, or whatever, is that absolutely no one is immune. No one. The Christ faced his demons in the desert, Buddha constantly battled with Mara, and I deal with depression that lights up like a Roman candle with the first Christmas song played over crappy speakers in some back road gas station Santa will surely pass by and grows into a raging forest fire that chokes the life out of me and leaves me in ashes.

Okay, maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but also probably not so far from the truth of how it feels, but it’s also not my point.

My point is that everyone, absolutely everyone, deals with something and while I am neither the Christ or the Bhudda I have been given the very same tools to deal with those “somethings” that they were.

And one day I will learn how to use them.

Wait for it…

Today I’m grateful it’s passed and accept that I still have things to learn.

Depressed Bohemian, indeed.

There’s something funny about that image. I’ll throw it in the fodder file to use later. A gift to myself.

Long Nights Moon

Today I woke to this gorgeous nearly full moon illuminating the clouds from within and was reminded that even in the darkest days there is light.

I took some time to contemplate the shortness of our own days, the divine spark that resides in all of us which lights the darkness from within, and the eternal promise of life renewed, and I silently expressed my gratitude for every second of light and life I am given as well as for those inevitable periods of darkness that make the light so much easier to see and appreciate.

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The sun will remain low on the horizon for three days before rising back into the heavens. The nights will be long and cold.

This solstice is quite rare because it is accompanied by a full moon that brings with it positive change and pleasant and welcome surprises. The next time we will witness a full moon on the solstice is 2094.

To make it even more special it will be followed by the Ursids meteor shower on the 22nd and 23rd. I have no idea when this triple crown will happen again but I don’t imagine it will be any time soon.

It is quite literally a once in a lifetime event so I hope you take the time to bear witness and celebrate in your own way.

Tonight I will celebrate publicly. I’ve been invited to a Christmas party hosted by one of the companies I drive for that also happens to be a company I have contracted with many times over the years and was an employee of until last year. It will be a comfortable gathering among friends.

Tomorrow night I will honor this time privately by writing down my hopes and fears, my joys and sorrows, and release them all in fire and an offering of the ashes to the wind in gratitude.

Sunday I will connect with friends, family, and Beloved to reaffirm my presence, my promise, my commitment, and to thank them for being in my life.

However you decide to celebrate or honor this sacred time I wish you a happy and blessed solstice!

Mixing it up: Full Moon – Time in the Womb – Giving Thanks

November 23 brings another full moon and with it comes impulsiveness and anger. Not a good mix.

Solution: Be mindful and compassionate.

Well, that was an easy moon to explain so I’ll move right on to the good stuff.

Here we are at the beginning of a new year so it’s time to set intentions for what we want the coming year to bring.

“New year?” you say.

That was part of what I didn’t cover in my Samhain post so I’ll cast a little light now.

In many ancient beliefs the new year begins not at spring but just before the dark of winter.

That may seem strange to many of us. We often view the little death of winter as an end times. But the old view is more alike to a time in the womb. The darkness before the light.

In that view it is a time not just to survive and hold out until “life” returns, but a time to prepare for the life we already have. The life we will be born into come spring. A time to gather what we need to face that birth. To nourish so we can flourish.

So winter is here and while the work I am doing for a living tends to evaporate for a time, and in that way winter appears to reflect the more modern thinking of winter as and end, I have learned to be grateful for this short hibernation.

It is, for me, a time to replenish my physical needs, to further my spiritual needs, and to explore and redefine my intentions. A time for me to catch up with all the inner work I am forced to put off the rest of the year and to focus on my goals.

Yes, my financial state becomes… uneasy, this time of year, but this winter is providing some unusual opportunities that I am deeply grateful for.

My employer has set me up in a park model trailer that is quite comfortable and he is not charging me rent.

I have the opportunity to return to Mobile before Christmas and to help some very good friends I have come to think of as family with some remodeling in exchange for room and board and a little pocket cash.

While I haven’t made a ton of money up here because of the weather I have made enough to make some headway with my plans for the website and will have covered almost all of the expenses before heading south for a month or so.

I will be in Mobile, Alabama during the coldest part of the year up here and have a boss that will cover my expenses to return, and if next year is anything like this year turned out to be I can expect to make enough in one last season to focus the next twelve on writing.

I have replaced my unreliable Rodeo with a low mileage minivan with enough room to return north with everything I left behind that will make a good trade for something larger next summer. So when I leave here next fall everything comes with. No more leaving my life spread across two thousand miles.

Long story short; I have a lot to be grateful for and this short rest before the long haul is just what I need.

Silence

There is a silence here. A silence in the air. In the ground I walk upon broken with heavy boots leaving the slightest crackle of lightest snow snuffed little by little with each step as my path hardens into firmest ice.

Above me a sky of photograph blue spreads so far I can see the curve of this incredible planet I call home.

Big Sky. Yes. No denying that moniker. I’ve seen many skies and Montana has the biggest skies I’ve ever seen.

Early winters are the norm here. I guess I forgot that having lived so many years just east of the natural weather break the Badlands provide. Here, there is nothing to stop the winds amplified by unimaginable miles of rolling hills meeting high plains.

So here I am. At the edge of what I knew facing the experience of what I will know.

Sounds familiar. Sounds like Life.

Unless we live under the warm blankets of comfort, never venturing out to explore what we may yet know, we fortify ourselves. Build walls.

We in-experience.

To never step into the cold, the blizzard winds that tear at us, each frozen tear of the Universe itself falling from heights we really can not imagine like an infantry of icy pebbles, or grains of purest sand that burn our feet with impressions of the memories of worlds that left them, is to never experience the gift that life is.

How fortunate I am that the Divine, both furious ice and flame, has put me here to see with eyes and feel with hands what those with only the machinations or extrapolations of minds may express or experience through words.

I hope my words suffice.

Personal Update – November 8, 2018

Surrender isn’t the same as giving up but it sure can feel like it.

The insurance adjusting never paid off. Thousands of dollars, 6 licenses, 32 certifications, over 600 hours of training, and I never worked a single job. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

I’ll take what I learned there and try to apply it somewhere else but in order for me to do it right and to continue pursuing my goals to turn to writing full time I need to be able to support myself and can’t do that alone on the substandard wages I made in Mobile.

So I came back North to finish out the season hoping I could make enough before freeze to at least pay off the debt I created trying to change careers and bank some to see me through winter, but it’s not happening. Freeze came early. The season is pretty much over.

Unless something unexpected happens I have no choice but to commit to driving truck for the full season next year. The man I am working for in Montana is providing a comfortable trailer rent-free as part of my pay so saving money will be easier.

I’ll head back to Mobile for a few months when I know for sure the work season is over and return in the spring.

I was optimistic and hopeful when I moved to Mobile last year and while I’m not giving up on my goals I can’t help feeling like I failed even if it is just a temporary setback.

But that’s just a feeling and I am neither defined nor controlled by it.

I will make the best of what I am given and keep moving forward no matter what.

A Cycle of Gratitude – from 2016

Another year, Mother

Another Cycle of Moons gone by

I sit with head bowed

While recalling the tears, joys, fears and sorrows

With gratitude

Now

As you thin the veil once more

I peer into the space

That separates us

And see you smiling back at me

And I am overcome with gratitude for all that has been

And with hope

For all that will be

I give to you my heart

With all that it carries

And give thanks that you have made me