My journal entry from late December
Driving north from Santa Cruz on scenic highway 1, I strain my eyes into the darkening sky, searching for the pullout with ocean-view camping described on a free camping website I often use. I was told camping along the coast was always illegal, so I’m dubious of what I’ll find, or if I’ll feel comfortable enough to fall asleep. I see a tiny pullout near the pulsing dot on my phone’s map app, but it’s just a bit of dirt parking pad alongside the highway, which I’m sure will be quite noisy and offer no privacy whatsoever. Trying to sleep with headlights shining in my windows has no appeal to me. I drive several miles north, make a U turn, then retrace my path south. I do this a few times, going a little farther with each pass, as a queasy sensation grows in my stomach. I recheck the website with its glowing description of a place to camp right off the highway, then I notice the reviews under the post that warn you could get a citation there, or anywhere when parking overnight along the coast in Santa Cruz. It suggests going up to San Mateo County where it’s not so restricted.
I have very little money to spare, and don’t want to spend it on a campground or hotel. Where am I going to sleep? The familiar critics begin to fill my head, admonishing me for not checking more than one source about camping on Highway 1, for getting into a situation of not having enough money to do what “most people” would do, and for succumbing to the mesmerizing experience of buying groceries at my favorite health food store—which resulted in me leaving town at sunset instead of allowing enough daylight to find a comfortable place to sleep off the road. All those beautiful organic fruits and vegetables and variety of raw and probiotic-enriched foods called to me as old friends I’d missed for several months. Argh!! Sometimes I trust myself when I shouldn’t, and sometimes I don’t trust myself when I should. That bit of adrenaline rush I get when taking a risk can be confusing for me…
Wanda’s gas gauge indicates she has less than a half tank, and I’m growing concerned that I may run out before I can return to Santa Cruz. I know of one gas station between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, and hope that it’s still open as I head further away from town. Since Wanda’s gas tank was dented on the rocky, rutted road into Saline Valley, I need to fill up before the dial hits ¼ tank. I feel a surge of relief as I round a curve and see the pumps lit up. The station is closed, though, and so are the bathrooms, so I head over to the brewery next door to relieve myself. A friendly man greets me with a wide smile and offers a Christmas cookie as I walk in. I wander over to the bar and ask if the bartender knows anything about a free place to camp along the highway for the night. “Oh, don’t try anywhere in San Mateo County. You’ll get cited for sure! Head back to Santa Cruz. You should have some luck there.” I must look a little exasperated, and maybe desperate, because she adds, “Or you can just park here in our parking lot. No one will bother you here and it’s plenty big so you can have some privacy. Just tell them Tanya [not her real name] said it’s okay, if anyone asks.” I thank her profusely, thinking I should at least buy a beer, but I’m not in the mood for beer. I want to heat my soup up, have some dinner, and go to sleep.
The next morning, after taking Riley for an illegal walk on the beach to do our morning meditation and Qi Gong routine, I promise myself I will search for another site earlier in the day. I want to sleep to the lullaby of waves crashing rhythmically. Day 2 of coastal camping becomes a repeat of Day 1, and there I am, in the driveway of the Coast 1 Brewery again. At least it’s familiar and I feel safe. A new awareness and discomfort arises as I drift off to sleep that night. I’m a vagabond. Homeless. It’s illegal for me to sleep anywhere in this county in my van, unless I pay money to be in a campground. I haven’t felt this way on my whole trip across the country and back, and here I am in my own home town. I feel a sense of dread at trying to re-enter my former life with little money and no home for another 5 weeks until Kira leaves for her 2 month adventure to the Philippines, Australia, and trekking to Mt. Everest base camp, when I’ll be able to stay in the sweet little studio she rents from me.
Three months later…
I have been subbing now since January 8. My emotions run the gamut from enthusiasm after a well-received lesson or from truly being present with and helping a struggling student, to dread of having to rush through the morning routine I love in order to arrive at school on time to start another day, and feeling like I am not as gifted at this teaching thing as I think I should be. It is more stressful than I’d like to hold space for 20 young adults, especially when they tend to have more emotional and educational challenges than the average teen. I have also fallen in love with many of them, and they wiggle their way into my meditations and linger in my thoughts as I try to drift off to sleep, almost as if they were my own children. My heart has been blown open by their sweetness and innocence and trusting natures. And…. I feel like this experience is an exclamation point to my decision last summer to leave the profession of teaching to discover what I can pursue that makes my heart, mind, and spirit soar. I’ve given notice that I will officially retire this summer.
Fun with my students: a field trip to our local community college and a cooking lesson to make crepes for one of our special Friday events.
Wanda was at Sierra German Auto in Bishop for 3 weeks getting her new engine
switched out, a new gas tank installed, new shocks, and a thorough going over to ensure that she is road-ready for many more years to come. As I drove her back to Santa Cruz she seemed to purr along the highways, and I delighted in the eight hour drive each way, a taste and reminder of how much I like being a wanderer. Every time I drive long distances in this country I fall in love a little more. The open spaces, the rolling hills turning into awesome mountains, the changing seasons, the fields of rich soil where food is grown in the Central Valley, and the diversity of people and cultures in different regions stimulates my imagination and sense of awe for this amazing planet we live on. I’ve noticed that when I’m not preoccupied with working every day I take more time to interact with others, and I feel a sense of freedom to enter into deeper, more meaningful conversations, including with people I don’t know. I am reminded of the name I received on my Vision Quest so many years ago–Woman With Glowing Heart– and feel that she comes forward more easily when I’m living a simpler life with less time restrictions.
Wanda at Sierra German Auto–I think she enjoyed those snow-capped peaks surrounding her for 3 weeks! Here’s her new engine just before being installed.
So now I am looking forward to getting back on the road again! The peaceful solitude of living in my little studio, where no one came to visit (except Kathy came twice), I had no air bnb guests to tend to, and I felt like most of my old friends did not reach out to spend time with me, allowed me the space to research some things I’ve felt passionate about, but haven’t taken time to fully explore with the busy-ness of my former life in Santa Cruz.
Each morning I read about a different eco village, and am excited to visit several of them as I return to my nomadic life, wandering with Wanda in search of myself and a possible new community and lifestyle. Since none of them are located in the Central California area, I am even considering finding out if it’s possible to start one here. I’ve been looking at real estate listings, reading about how to work with local regulations and planning departments, and talking to people to see if there is enough interest to get a core group moving in this direction. When I talk about it I feel my eyes sparkle and my energy bubble up from a deep source within. I know I’m on the right path!
I’ve also been working on myself, practicing some of the tools I learned in the Hendricks Institute workshop I took in late January/early February. The work includes taking responsibility for the life and experience I’ve created, for evaluating the stories I tell to see if I’m staying on the triangle of victim/villain/hero, and to embody authentically expressing myself–the positive as well as the negative emotions that arise. It also includes learning to love myself, even the parts that I don’t like or am embarrassed to admit are there. I express gratitude for some part of me each day, hug myself while looking in the mirror and say, “I love you!”, and re-commit to self-loving daily practices like meditation, Qi Gong, and setting daily intentions. I’m also reaching out to include things that bring me a sense of joy and connection, and letting go of things that no longer serve me. Big time!
I decided to re-join Yala Lati, a women’s global music choir, while I’m in Santa Cruz. I’m looking for those experiences that bring joy and connection to my life! Here some of us are singing blessings to the water on World Water Day. A group of beautiful mermaids did a dance for us. Mmmm… so lovely to be part of this community again!!
My plan now is to finish out the school year helping Lisa with her school, which enables me to get paychecks and medical insurance through the summer. I’ll be able to pay off all my bills, plus have money to take another Hendricks Institute training so I’ll be qualified to be a coach using their techniques. While I’m in Santa Cruz, I’ll also gradually get my house ready to put on the market next spring… Yes!! I’ve decided I’m ready to let go of this lovely place I’ve created so I can be fully open to the new life that is currently evolving in my imagination and psyche. Believe me, it is pretty scary! Being able to buy a home by myself (a single mom, no less) in Santa Cruz was an unbelievable feat for me 19 years ago, and having a home is a huge security for me. But it feels like a burden I no longer want or need now that my children are off on their own, and I trust that I will find something that suits me better and allows me to pursue a more leisurely and creative-driven lifestyle. A sense of peace washes over my body as I feel into this possibility….