With Gratitude for Patsy Terrell

 

 

I was on vacation when I heard.

For more than a week I have been trying to wrap my head around what it means, what I want to say, how to make sense of it.

Many years ago, when the internet was still mostly new and online communities functioned with yahoo group lists, I found some of my people – people who wrote things by hand, loved words, believed in the power of words and the worth of communication, kept journals, practiced gratitude, aimed for grace, embraced the wider world, lived consciously.

We didn’t know each other. Not really. We were a far flung group. But we shared. For years. And when social platforms moved on, we moved our friendships to Facebook. We kept in touch, some of us.

That’s where I originally met her – way back when. I ran some groups she participated in, she ran some groups I participated in. I can’t say we were close, but we knew what mattered to the other, we cheered each other on in life, and through the years we kept in touch. Journals and journal keeping was a shared passion. We’d send each other articles we knew would be appreciated. Exchanging bits of wisdom, thoughts on art and writing. She sent a collection of notes from a writing class she took on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I sent little care packages of antique linens or fabulous costume jewelry when one of my clients was downsizing such things. Contemplating community, happiness, beauty, inspiration.

She was an inspiration alright. Indefatigable. A powerhouse of ideas and a wellspring of kindness and compassion, always seeking to understand, learn from and appreciate others. Even from a distance I knew she could bring out the best in people.

We always said we’d meet.

She promised me lunch at Roy’s when I eventually got there to visit – which I assured her I would, someday.

I’ve done a lot in the journal keeping community in the past. She supported everything I did and everything I dreamed of – a magazine, an archives. I appreciated and learned from her input.

Recently she could no longer stand by and watch unfairness and corruption in the political world so she stepped up and she ran a grass roots campaign. Fighting a long time incumbent to gain a seat on the Kansas Legislature. And she WON!

It was so exciting to watch the results of a Kansas election from my home in Connecticut and brag to those around me – “I know her! She’s wonderful. She’s running for all the right reasons. She’ll be so good at this.”

And she was good at it. Insisting on respectful discourse, she said she would not participate in debate that was not respectful on both sides, always. Such class.

My vacation was a whirlwind thing. A road trip planned in a week and consisting of nearly 6,000 miles in 17 days.

My honey wanted to visit his mother in Utah. He said – “Check the price of plane tickets.”

But no. I think flying these days is hateful. I pushed for a road trip and I won.

We’d been to Luray Caverns in Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kanab Utah, Zion, White Pocket, scenic Rt 12, Back through Colorado and now we were driving across Kansas.

We didn’t actually have time to stop in Kansas, plus I knew that if she was in Topeka she was likely busy with the legislature, and if she wasn’t in Topeka, she’d be too far off my path there in Hutch. Nonetheless I thought I’d take a quick look at her facebook. It was dinner time. Maybe if she’d just posted, “I’m having dinner at such-and-such place in Topeka,” I might swing by for a quick, surprise, drive-by hello. I knew that was unlikely. But I looked.

Her most recent post (earlier that morning) – “You’re waking up in a Kansas where the Brownback experiment has ended. Good morning!” And a few other posts about the successful override.

How exciting!

I sent her a text.

“Patsy. I’m on a quick road trip and passing through Kansas headed east. 40 or so miles from Topeka at the moment. Had hoped to make time to meet you but it’s not going to happen today. However I did look at your Facebook page to see what you’re up to as I pass by and I have to say CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for all your work making Kansas and the country a better place. PS. It’s gorgeous here!”

She didn’t answer. Yep. Must be busy.

We stayed in Missouri that night and the next day headed for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. My sweetie was driving.

That was when I saw the text from a creative maker friend whom I’d introduced to the amazingness of Patsy on Facebook.

His text said “I’m so sorry” and included a link to the news story “Kansas Legislator found dead in hotel room in Topeka.”

My mind stumbled and I looked up at the world around me in a blur. Then my eyes focused on a passing highway sign – Paducah this exit.

Seriously?

This can’t be right. In fact it’s quite wrong.

Patsy was from Paducah.

Patsy doesn’t exist any more?

How can that be?

Ten days later and I still trip over this fact, daily. Patsy is no longer smiling in this world. Patsy is gone. I never got to meet her.

We weren’t close but she meant so much to me. She was so very important to the world.

I can’t wrap my head around how hard this has been on me. I can only imagine the grief of those who actually knew her buoyant energy.

And I feel for her dearest friends Mark and especially Greg.

If you guys see this – all of my hugs and love to you both.

Thank you for being in Patsy’s life.

And Patsy, thank you for being in my life – however much on the fringe, you mattered.

Peace.

  • The photos here were taken from Patsy’s Facebook page – photo credits to Greg Holmes, Kristen Garlow Piper, and David Bell
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Songlines in Progress

 

I began this journey telling the people around me that I was “going walkabout, ‘cept I’m taking my car.”

At first it just meant, to me, that I was going wandering.

 

Aboriginals in Australia go Walkabout and they follow the songlines. The Songlines have been there ever since the ancestors sang the world into existence during the Dreamtime. I’ve always been one to appreciate a good creation myth thanks to my early fascination with Joseph Campbell. Singing the land into existence? Wow, that’s beautiful. And powerful.

They go Walkabout in order to keep the land alive. (I don’t remember where I copied the following quote from…)

 

            “So important are Songlines to Aborigines that unsung land is dead land, and if a song is forgotten, any land which is no longer sung over, will die. To allow such a thing to occur is the worst possible crime for an Aborigine. To be able to sing a Songline indicates an historically unbroken, intimate knowledge of the land. In short, it marries people to place. This is called ownership.”

 

Traditionally this was done as a sort of coming of age ritual. It is a time of transformation from one stage of life – childhood – to that of adulthood, and responsibility. If they followed the Songlines etched in their entire beings, and etched in the story of the land, they could not get lost in the vast expanse of the Australian Outback. If I pretended to be an expert on the origins of the Walkabout I’d be a liar. (Or I’d be up all night turning myself into one.)

 

Modern day Walkabouts are not rare. Many people do them in an attempt to define the direction of their lives. A Walkabout is a time of solitude and soul searching. Which is exactly what I needed, what I wanted, and what was required for my life this winter. (Who the hell have I become at this age? Am I still who I think I am? And what do I want to do now/next?)

 

So off I go on my Walkabout. It’s nearly two months ago now, that I left. Telling myself I’m following the songlines. MY songlines.

 

There’s something tricky about following the songlines. Most especially because I’m not completely sure what I mean by that. Be it etched in the land, or etched in my own psyche, I just know that there is a path out here. Through this country. For me. And maybe (likely) it’d be a different path at a different time, but right now there is a very specific path. There’s a story. Of the now. And I need to find it and follow it.

I’m trying very hard to do just that.


Sometimes it’s about something to experience or a place to be. Sometimes it’s about someone to meet or a friend to see at just the right time. Sometimes it’s about a particular road to travel.

Sometimes I lose the songlines. Or I think I do.
I struggle at times with exactly where to go and what to do.
There are things and places and people I want to see but what if the songlines don’t go that way?
Some mornings I make up my mind on the direction to go, then I get out on the road and go a completely different way.

 

This happened in Atlanta. I thought, from there, that I was headed to visit my best friend’s parents and then I was going to Birmingham. But then the songlines pulled me north, into Tennessee. I went with it.

 

This happened also when I was in Dallas. I had determined all along to visit Austin on my westward journey. But I stayed in Dallas longer than planned and then the songlines dragged me west to Las Cruces for Xmas Eve. Literally, I woke planning to head for Austin, but got on the road and went west instead of south.

 

Okay.

 

It happened again as I was leaving Las Cruces. I wanted to go to Tucson. I’d been feeling the pull of the Sonoran Desert since before the journey began. But then a friend in Albuquerque was going on vacation and offered me his apartment while he was gone. This sounded ideal. So I forced myself north to Albuquerque, but when I got there I felt it in my whole being – no. no. no. This is wrong. wrong. wrong. I knew I’d veered from my songlines so I had dinner with said friend, brought him to the airport at 5am and high-tailed it to Tucson to reunite with my path.

 

I’m not kidding when I say it’s hard to follow the songlines. The wester I get, the feinter they seem. (Is feinter even a word? Well. I guess it is now.)

I wrote the following a few weeks ago –


“Just now, around noon on January 7th I’ve pulled over in order to type this.
I left Scottsdale yesterday sure that I was headed for San Diego directly. I still think I’m headed there. Just not so directly.
I thought I was headed for Yuma when I left. But no. The songlines steered my car to Blythe. I didn’t know why until I woke this morning. I knew I was headed towards the Salton Sea. And this road!
Oh my! THIS road!
It’s wonderful. Two lanes. 65 mph. I am mostly alone rolling through the desert. At first it zoomed through fields that the great majority of America’s veggies come from this time of year. Then came the small mountains – the road winds through and around them in glorious sweeping curves. And the desert here is lovely.
The road swims through dips. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. So much fun to cruise along. 65 mph. The sun. The sand. The scrub. Me. My car. The land. The day. This country. This lifetime.
And where I’ve just stopped, ahead of me are sand dunes. The Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area.
Looks like the Sahara.
And I’m gonna start driving again. And I’m gonna pull over somewhere and take a walk in the sand because that is where I am, and that is why I am here.
Yay for songlines!”

 

So a few weeks ago I was clearly still on my songlines. Or at least I felt like I was.

But today. Not so much. (I think.)

I’ve been pondering this the past few days and have come to some conclusions.

 

Northern California and the Northwest really isn’t (aren’t?) part of my songlines this time around. Well. I suppose that’s not completely true, since, here I am.

It’s more of a nostalgia trip up here.

 

I knew this. Knew it before I left.

But I’d spent so much time out here in my younger days. There are so many people I love out here that I haven’t seen in 20 years and more. San Diego was definitely part of the lines. I’d spent two days there when I was 17 and didn’t feel that counted as really having been to San Diego. And I had to go to Riverside and find Tony’s grave. That was a part of the songlines too. But from there it gets a little cloudy.

 

I was lured ever onward by tricks and trails of the heart.

 

I considered not exploring California this time around but there were people I REALLY wanted to see.

So I figured I’d go to Laguna Beach. Either way, I needed a dose of the sunny pacific. There I would stop a few days and think. And consider if I was indeed going north.

 

And since I was this close I simply HAD to go in to LA. Some of my favorite people have four new girls since I saw them last and I want to know who these girls are as people. That’s important to me. Especially since I’m this close. And in LA there are some museums I would love to visit. So I went to LA.

 

One of my best friends in the world recently bought a house in Vallejo. I’d really like to see him and his new house and he really wants me to visit and smile at his choices. So I went to Vallejo. I wanted to.

 

Now. Once I’m in the Bay Area there are so many people to visit. But I’m off the songlines and I know it. I can turn back soon. I’ll just go visit my friends in Novato and have a night at Terrapin Crossroads. I mean. Since I’m this close. I would be silly not to do that much.

 

And there’s a bunch of friends in Santa Rosa. And some of my Oregon people are in Santa Rosa for the weekend too. It would be crazy not to go there for dinner. Especially since I’m this close.

 

Do you see what keeps happening?

 

And those who live in the mountain towns of northern California off 101. It’s only a couple more hours. And how lovely it would be to drive those vistas. I’ll go for dinner and a mini-reunion. It will be fun and I’ll get to see people that I haven’t seen in forever, children that are grown and starting their own families, towns that used to be so familiar to me. I had a wonderful dinner with old friends.

 

As I drove north from Redway, towards the Oregon Coast my mind and heart were stressed – what am I doing? What am I doing? What the hell am I doing?

Why do I just keep moving north? I should get to the border of CA and just turn around and head back south till I can find the songlines again.

Ah!

But that would be crazy – I’m really not so far from Seattle and all the people I love and would love to see in Seattle, Portland, Eugene. Some are very close friends and some are weak connections with a beautiful chance to strengthen relationships. Turn acquaintances into friends. Yes? This kind of thing is what life is all about.

A grade school friend with a creative restaurant. A close high school friend’s ex boyfriend. (Yeah. Follow that thought a minute.)

I want to know these people better. And if I turn around now, I might never get the chance.

And that night, as if he read my mind, I got a text from a friend I met in 1983 and I haven’t seen him in possibly close to 30 years, that said “Come to Portland, Please!”

 

Lured onward still.

 

And I’ve been trying to figure how I can squish everyone in as quickly as possible; see everyone and move on. ASAP.

 

My friend, on the phone the other night, said that I’ve seemed slightly annoyed ever since I left LA. Not that I’ve consciously felt it, but he might be right. There has, perhaps, been some resentment in my soul that I’ve left and/or lost the songlines.

 

And I told one of my favorite people in the world (She’s in Seattle!) that I was feeling squished and rushed and like my dance card was over-full. And she said that if I didn’t have time for her, she understood. But I should tell her where I will be and she’ll drive to see me. “I’ll drive 100 miles for a hug.” She said.

 

Stop.

 

I am on a most fabulous adventure.

And if I’ve veered from the songlines I imagined, so be it.

I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Songlines or no songlines.

I chose to travel this road so I could visit with people who make my heart smile.

I will not rush this.

I am in no hurry. So what if I take longer to get home. What’s home?

 

So I’ve had to adjust my perspective. I’ve quieted the voices asking “what the hell am I doing?”

I’m visiting.

I’m may not be on the songlines at the moment.  (Or maybe I am?)

Right now it’s not about that.

Perhaps I’m singing this land to make sure it doesn’t die to me. From the quote near the beginning of this post – “any land which is no longer sung over, will die.”

I do not ever wish to forget this northwestern song.

 

It’s about people and relationships and if I think I’m off my path I’m likely wrong.

The thoughts that I am off my path are about me not living in the moment.

 

And that, right there, is the crazy part.

 

Be. Here. Now.

 

Seattle, Portland, Eugene, here I come.

Goin’ Walkabout… or something like that.

This is the rough draft I wrote for a speech I gave the other night.

***************************

Somehow I found my way to the very first MoMonday ever in New Haven. That was back in the spring.

Since then I have become friends with Rich DiGirolamo, who is the driving force behind MoMondays in CT.

My use of the term friend is quirky. I don’t call someone friend unless we actually do things together. Maybe we don’t always, or currently, but to get the friend title, we’ve got to spend some real time.

One of the things I love about Rich is that he makes it happen.

Actually. Makes. It. Happen.

When we met, and looked at each other and said “OMG, I love you! We could be friends!” Rich made the first call and said we had to do lunch. Truth be told, I’m not always so good at that. I meet folks I might love to be friends with but I don’t always find the time to pick up the phone. But he made the call, made the plans, made it happen. Just like he does here at MoMondays. He’s making all this happen with sheer will here in New Haven.

That kind of determination and relentless push to get things done inspires me.

You want something done – you gotta make it happen.  No amount of wishing is going to bring results like a couple of well placed actions will.

And I’ll tell you a little secret; If you move through life, always saying “I want X” or “I want Y” and then the chance for it comes along, you’d better jump on that chance. Otherwise your life is just wishes.

Me?

I’ve been walking around this earth for nearly a decade saying I want to get back out on the road. I want to see different scenery every day, eat different places, sleep different places, drive different roads, meet new people, make new friends, and have long conversations into the night with them if at all possible.

My chance to actually do it is now, so I’m taking it.

I’m packing up my car and driving off on December 8th. That’s just over a week from now.

It’s true I’m the script writer for this play I’m starring in, but I’ve often had trouble with the plot.

I’ve always envisioned my life as somewhat of a Hero’s Journey.

Joseph Campbell says we all want to be the Hero.

The Hero has a decent life. Nothing to complain about. Even a life of happiness and contentment. Then he’s called, often without the desire for such, and  somehow given to see a bit of a different life, a different world. It may not be what he wants, but our Hero doesn’t quite say no. Not really. Because this is the way of it. This is the path of things. This is how it goes. Whether she wants it or not, the Hero heads into the new world.

There are challenges. There are ups and downs in this new world. There are pitfalls and beauty and fun.  Sometimes a dangling carrot brings great rewards. And sometimes it only nets a carrot. And always. Always. There are dragons to slay.

I wanted this story. The excitement. The adventure. But I couldn’t see how this plotline related to my life of late. So much of my life’s excitement, travel,  and adventure happened when I was younger. But it’s always been sort of a dream of mine to have this mythic life.

And then, last week, a close friend of mine with whom I was sharing all this, pointed out something very interesting. It’s all just a matter of flipping the story on its head.

I’ve always been aware that the key to happiness is to constantly readjust what you know, believe and feel, to suit both your reality and your story.

You are the author of your own life. This play is yours to construct.

If you don’t like your story, create a new story.

And if you saw me the last time I spoke here you know I wasn’t much liking my story. After traveling the country in a van for nearly a decade I came home for family reasons and to be with my mom during a rough time and I ended up starting a cafe. It was a very successful business for a while and I loved it for 13 or 15 years. But the sameness of my days began to wear on me until I felt like my life had been reduced to ordering large cups.

I was pretty unhappy deep down. I wasn’t living the Hero’s Journey I felt I needed and wanted.

And if you were here before, you know that I began to make the changes that would bring my life back in line with this blueprint I’d always had for myself. A life of excitement, adventure, new people and new scenery.

I got rid of the majority of my material possessions. I sold the Coffeehouse and stumbled blindly around doing little bits of things that helped other people free themselves from clutter and objects that add little value to their lives, because for the moment, that was something I could understand. Though for a few years now I’ve been unable to move myself past that stage.

And with a simple flick of the wrist, my friend last week, flipped my whole story around and I’ve seen it all in a new light that I find exciting and exhilarating.

I know now that this sojourn in Connecticut was my long dark night of the soul. Okay that sounds a bit dramatic, because truthfully it was fun and fulfilling for a damn long time. But it became tedious. A burden.

And there were dragons to slay.

I lost my mom, to cancer. I miss her every day. Selling the business I’d poured my heart and soul into for 17 years. Getting rid of my possessions. Selling, just recently, my childhood home. Dealing with releasing old loves that no longer suit me.

But I’ve done it.

I’ve killed those dragons.

I’ve completed all the quests and like a video game, I get to move on to a new level .

And like the Hero on her journey, I get to return home now.

I get to go back on the road.

My chance is here and I’ve said I wanted it for so long, that I have to take it.

I’d be full of horse hockey if I said I knew what the road holds for me now. I haven’t a clue.

I’m going alone, if you’re wondering.

And one of the things that pushed me over the edge into actually doing this…

I have a friend on facebook. We knew each other in grade school and I haven’t seen her in 35 years. Last month she took a solo trip to Italy for 3 weeks. I was so impressed. I asked her what prompted this and she said “Because I always promised myself I’d go to Italy before I turned 50, and since I’m turning 50 next year I decided to get on it.”

That echoed in my head for a couple of weeks and I knew I was about to get on it.

I’m terrified. Of course I am. This is HUGE.

But I’m also open. Completely open. And ready.

And I’m going back out on the road.

In ten days.

I don’t want any of this to sound like I’m tooting my own horn or like I think I’m better than anyone else – “Hey look at what I get to do.”

But it’s the people who get out there and get going on what they want, the one who get things done and make things happen who inspire me.

So I hope to inspire you.

To never give up on the dreams you have.

To always keep your eyes open for the opportunities.

To make a new story if you have to.

And to remain open to the world and all the beautiful souls who inhabit it.

And if you do all that, and if you’re really lucky…

You just might meet a new friend who’ll give you the opportunity to stand on the stage at MoMondays and tell your story.

Thanks Rich.

***************************

P.S. Yes. I’ll be blogging about my journey here on this blog.