Lessons of the Desert

The desert in bloom

A woman I know told me a few months ago I had not spent enough time alone, since Jim’s death. She is someone I respect. She has experienced the loss of her partner as well.

I wasn’t sure what she meant so I let it sit until I could figure it out. Then I went to the desert. I left at the end of January and returned to San Diego today, Sunday.

I know a little more now about spending time alone. The desert is not for everyone. For me it is a place of healing and beauty and more. If you ever want to be alone, not just physically but in all dimensions,  there is no better place to go than the desert southwest.

Every time I travel to the deserted places, I know a little more about myself when I return to civilization. What do I know? I am not sure. I do know that there is a stronger presence of peace within me. At the same time confusion is also present.

I believe that people go through periods of identity crisis in their life. The first major one for many, appears around our 27th year. This is often times of big change, a move, a career change, people get married, others get divorced and whatever else can be imagined. I know that when I turned 28 my life changed a lot. I was off and on the move, exploring myself spiritually, emotionally, physically and more.

Another year of great change for me was when I turned 50. I think 60 might have been a marker year for me. I did not expect it to be because of Jim’s death. It is amazing how strong one can be when one has to be. When I didn’t feel strong, my friends and family were there to support me and hold me steady. They still are. I never did celebrate my 60th birthday until my 62nd year.

With the sale of our home, last July, I finally gave myself permission to wander and be lost if I needed to be. Elsie and I moved into the Roadtrek (the little house on wheels) and began to wander. The first few months were with purpose. I was the sag wagon for my friend Cat, as she bicycled the Pacific Coast.

In November when I returned to San Diego, Pat, a friend,  kindly took Miss Elsie and myself in. Little did I know it would be for almost three months. Teeth are tricky and I became close friends with the dentist while I was there. I finally asked for some time off and with some sound advice from my dentist, I left for the desert.

After the first few weeks, I have spent most of the time alone. And, I have been wandering. My feet have definitely been wandering. Hiking and walking every day has been a good adventure. I feel as if I have gotten back to my younger roots, and have begun to wander the desert freely and without reserve. I do use my hiking poles. As a good friend, Mary would say, NBA. No Broken Ankles.

I have pondered death and what it must have been like for my parents to see their friends and acquaintances die. I am reaching an age now where I too am beginning to know of loss of health and life. I always thought that someone would miss me when I was gone but the reality of it is, is that life goes on. We may carry the memories of those who have left, yet all of our lives continue to move forward. This is hard to acknowledge when it comes to Jim. There is so much I have learned from our time together. He was a gift in my life. I know he cannot be here physically yet I can carry the memories with me as I continue to grow in my own life.

it is hard to explore some of the more fragile parts of my existence. Life is not always positive. Yet even when things are looking dim I believe I can make my life positive by acknowledging the hard things of life. We all experience those hard moments. For some moments last for years. Not for me.

One of the questions I have asked myself out in the desert is “what do I have to live for?”. Existentially, I believe we all ask this question at some point in our existence. This is a hard question to ask and expect to receive a total answer. Some days I am not sure what the answer is. Other days I have a better grasp on it. When I get low I have amazing friends who know just when to call. This happened with me a few nights ago. Thank you Mary for calling. It was just what I needed.

Here are a few ideas of what I have to live for.

  • Friends-near and far, known and unknown.
  • Miss Elsie the Cat.

    Miss Elsie the Cat

  • The basic fact is that I am not ready to leave yet. I have given this some thought since Jim’s death. There is no easy way out.
  • Friends
  • My family. I have two sisters that care about me and nieces as well. I now have a great niece and great nephew. I don’t see my family  often yet I know they are out there for me.
  • Jim’s family.
  • I still have a lot of books to read and things to understand. I am not done growing yet.
  • Photography and painting.
  • Friends
  • I am still working on how to help others. I did this for most of my work life. I feel like I needed a break. With everything happening in the world it is time for me to address this again.

I believe the list is much longer and changes from day to day, moment to moment. It is not always defined. Little “ah-ha” moments are sometimes all we have.

I made my way to the outskirts of San Diego. I am staying at a beautiful county park. My view is incredible. I have one day off tomorrow and then I become busy.

A view from my home for the next two weeks

My tax and dental appointment loom on the horizon. Yes, the realities of life.


The End of the Bicycling Journey

Cat and the pups

Cat and the pups

The day prior to the election, Cat completed her bike tour of the west coast. She and her pups completed the Pacific Coast Bike Route. Although there were several issues with her bike along the way, mostly the tour was without incident, and on a sunny and warm southern California day she arrived at the Mexico border and went on to Rosarito for a couple of days of R&R on the beach.

She cut her trip short. She felt a strong need to head to northern California after the election results. Cat is now at a friend’s house in Yreka, before she starts her new adventure.

I made it back to San Diego in time for Halloween. After a successful post on Facebook, where I had six unique and different offers of places to stay, Elsie & I are in temporary residence with a good friend, Pat. I feel blessed to have remet her last winter. She has welcomed both of us with open arms. Thank you, Pat.

I did not realize I needed some recovery time after almost three months of pretty constant travel. I was road weary and a bit emotionally done.

Cat’s and my goal was realized. We both wanted to get her safely to the border of southern CA. It was very successful. She rode the last distance from Cambria to San Diego, almost totally unsupported. I was there if there was an emergency, otherwise she was on her own. I tracked her on my Find Friends app. We did text quite a few times to help her negotiate LA. When she arrived in San Diego we met up and spent a few pleasant hours together at the KOA in Chula Vista putting some finality to the trip. My last siting of her was from the San Diego airport car rental building as she and her two pups headed  north in a rented SUV.

Would I do this type of trip again? I am not so sure. Am I glad that I did this trip with Cat? Yes. Were there issues along the way? Yes. It wasn’t always easy. We arranged how we did this journey with each other about 4 times. There is a lot that goes into traveling with someone, being the sag wagon, dealing with each other, two dogs and one cat. One of her friends told her that she had given us about 2-3 weeks. We proved her wrong.

Here is what was successful and good about this trip.

  • The scenery I drove through and explored was amazing.
  • Waking to the sound of waves or looking up into the redwoods was such a peaceful and calm experience.
  • Cat and I got to explore our relationship. I know that since this trip I can define a little bit more about who I am in this universe.
  • I visited with my friend Kat, in Corvallis. After 13 years of little communication, it was such a joyful and good reunion.
  • img_0012Elsie the cat continues to surprise me with her adaptability.
  • Traveling 40-50 miles a day gave me such a wonderful chance to explore areas, either hiking or biking. I did not have to move every day because of the short miles.
  • I met or saw so many people on this trip who were kind and good. I also stayed with several. It firmed up some new friends and reaffirmed some of my long standing friendships.
  • When I sent out a plea to hear from friends, I received wonderful e-mails and phone calls. It definitely made me feel a bit less lonely out on-the-road.
  • Being rescued by Mary, a good friend, when I had an “incident” with my RT.
  • Being happy with my pics.

Here is what Could have been more successful on this trip. This is definitely from my perspective.

  • Cat had to continually stop at bike shops on this trip. Although it gave me time to explore, it was a often a delay. I could feel Cat’s frustration.
  • Traveling with someone else so closely for so long was, at times, stressful. I don’t think we always communicated clearly with each other. Clear and frank communication is so important. I still need to work on this. I believe this will be an ongoing issue through out the rest of my life.
  • Later on in this trip I found myself frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement for my role in this trip. I know, I know, I should not need this, it should be about the journey. I discovered this was part of the journey for me. I hope, some day, I won’t need this recognition, but for right now, well, I am human. It would have been nice to have Cat tell other bikers my true role on this trip. Sigh.
  • I have discovered that it is hard to have dirt in my RT. I was continually cleaning and I am not so fond of cleaning. I am proud of my little home on wheels.
  • My accident in Crescent City. On the good side is I got to spend a week with Mary in Medford, Oregon.
  • A computer screen that needed to wait until I got to San Diego to fix.
Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

Any trip I do has the good and the not so good parts in it. Sometimes the not so good parts become the story one tells of a trip. There were special moments on this trip that I will remember for a long time to come. My morning on Ruby Beach, WA is one I can think of immediately. A beautiful beach, low tide, star fish, anemones, starting in fog and ending with a blue sky and brilliant sun.

I am in San Diego until after the New Year. It is good to be reconnecting with long time friends. I even had some work, which gave me time to see all my fellow tour guides, and friends.

Now that I have had a few weeks here it is time to figure out where Elsie, the RT and I are heading when we get ready to head out again. As long as it is warmish and without snow I am good.

Any Suggestions????