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.
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.
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.
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 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.
(The title of this post is just a nod to a song I love. Sadly, I don’t know anyone named Jed in Tennessee…)
I left Atlanta early and headed for McMinnville, TN. I wrote this while waiting for the concert to start:
No cell service here underground. Nor should there be.
A short walk deep into a mountainside leads to the cavern in which I now sit. They’ve turned it into a great little concert venue.
I’m here for the Pirate’s Christmas Bluegrass show. Signs around the place here tell us that by entering the area we are agreeing to be filmed for publication or play on the internet or on tv.
There’s hipsters and older folk and women in fancy dresses and heels. There’s families and big beards and a long hair or two. I have even seen a dancing bear tie dye in the crowd. The place holds 500 people I’m told.
This concert cavern started life as a saltpeter mine for the Confederates during the Civil War. Saltpeter was then shipped to Nashville where it was essential in making gunpowder. I enjoy knowing the history of a place.
(Now back to the present.)
It all sounded awesome. It did, right? But it turned out to be a little too cutesy and just average musicians with a gimmick. Not to say it was bad. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t totally spectacular. And did I mention all the cute cute children joining the band on stage? Oh and Santa. He was there too. I’m glad I went. The venue was very very cool. But I wish I could have seen an amazing band/musician there rather than a cheesy Pirate show.
On the plus side I was given a little cache of loot as a prize for being the one in attendance who came from farthest away…
When I left McMinnville I *thought* I was heading back south – either to Hixson (just outside Chattanooga), or maybe Summetown where a good friend lives. But somehow, some way, my car headed north and next thing ya know, I was in Nashville.
Props to the bartender who told me where, in Nashville, to go – ie – East Nashville.
Dec 15th –
I spent the day wandering the Five Points area of East Nashville. Cute little independent stores, a great brunch place with organic and local food, and it’s fun to travel places while they’re all decorated up for Xmas.
I fell in complete love with this Xmas tree made by a local Nashville artist. If I was rich, this baby would have been mine!
Sorta steampunkish, sorta natural, all the way cool!
After all this, I’d had my fill of Nashville. It just wasn’t calling to me. No matter what people say, I didn’t feel much heart or soul here – at least not for me.
So I left and headed for Memphis…
I had these images of having plenty of time to write interesting, informative and pleasing blog posts about the things I’m doing.
Instead I find myself running ragged ever since I left CT – with no end in sight.
Yesterday in Atlanta I visited The Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Library, the historic home that Margaret Mitchell lived in while she wrote the majority of Gone With the Wind, and I ended the day visiting The High Museum of Art ( It was half price on Thursday nights!)
I really enjoyed The Carter Center. As a child my first awareness of politics was Watergate. (Wait. What? What’s a President? We have a President? And he lied?) So by the time Carter was being elected I totally wanted him to win. I had a teacher at the time who made us engage with the political process by choosing sides and visiting the local Party offices and volunteering.
I was so displeased by what I’d seen since becoming aware of politics that of course I chose to campaign for Carter.
Since leaving the Presidency the man has done many commendable things in this world and I enjoyed immersing myself in the facts of it all.
Plus it was kind of awesome to stare upon an actual Nobel Peace Prize.
A helpful museum guide named Tony broke the rules and took some pictures of me. He also gave me the Jeopardy-worthy little bit of trivia: There are only two cities in the world which house two Nobel Peace Prizes. One is Atlanta (I went and saw King’s today!) and the other is Soweto, where medals for Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela reside.
Somehow I enjoyed that tenuous connection, what with the week’s news being filled with the goings on at the memorial ceremony to honor Mandela’s passing.
(More text below photos.)
Here in Atlanta I’m staying with a nice older gentleman named Al. It’s a booking I made via Airbnb – a service born of the sharing economy whereby you rent out extra bedrooms in your house, or pay a cheap price to stay in someone else’s extra room. I’ve been renting out my extra room that way for a few years but this trip is my first chance to really utilize it for myself. (If you don’t know Airbnb yet, do check it out.)
Anyway, Al lives just on the outskirts of Little 5 Points. I spent a good amount of time here in the 80s when Vette (my lifelong best friend) lived here.
Today I started the day with a short walk to Little 5. Truly worthy coffeehouses and a collection of stores I wish I had access to on a daily basis. I spent a few hours wandering and browsing. Enjoyable day.
A Facebook post, saying where I was, got me a message from a friend saying she had people not too far from here and that I should visit and deliver a hug and greeting.
So I did.
That introduced me to the Lake Claire Land Trust.
What a fantastic place! With land bought from Marta, they have created a meandering little city oasis with playgrounds, sweat lodges, a small amphitheater, performance spaces, and I met an emu named Lou!
That was a great detour and addition to my day!
Then I jetted off to The King Center to pay my respects and learn a thing or two. The complex is rambling and covers many blocks. I got to see Atlanta’s second (or was it the first?) Nobel Peace Prize.
I was somehow humbled to stand near his tomb. The gravity of it all. A friendly pool cleaner named Lawrence took my photos for me.
I really like meeting real people to chat with.
I was going to go back to the Lake Claire Land Trust tonight for a Friday night friendly jam but that’s not gonna happen.
I walked a couple blocks from Al’s for dinner at a place called Babette’s and, at 9pm, have landed next door at JavaVino – a coffeehouse wine bar combo and I’m downing more wine than would allow me to be comfortable driving back to the Land Trust.
Here I sit writing this bit on my iPhone in hopes that when I get back to the house I’ll upload some photos and make this a real blog post.
My original plan for this trip was to cruise along the northern reaches of these southern states as I head west but a Facebook post last week from a friend might be sending me north from here to Tennessee – to McMinnville – where there is a concert tomorrow known as Bluegrass Underground. Once a month they have concerts that (I think) are filmed for PBS and December’s is tomorrow and billed as “A Pirate’s Christmas.” So yeah. I think I’m changing my plans and going north tomorrow.
I made the declaration to myself and others that I was leaving for my road trip (my journey, my walkabout, my adventure) on December 8th.
And since I’ve decide thus, I haven’t had enough time to think through every possible thing I need to do before I leave.
I’ve ordered a second pair of glasses because I just don’t think it’s wise to travel so far without backup glasses. They aren’t in yet and there are 4 full days till I leave. Trust.
I haven’t begun to pack yet.
On Saturday last, I organized a Celebration of Life for a beloved teacher who passed away a few months ago. Not that I had time to throw that into the mix but it was something I really wanted to do. I loved the man and he was influential to so many, I knew it was important for more than just me. Many people stepped up to help make the day a reality and it was successful and uplifting. Being so close to my departure date made it a little hectic, but so it goes, eh?
On Monday last I was pressed into speaking at the New Haven MoMondays event by my friend Rich DiGirolamo who runs the event. I’d told him my plans and he said – “How perfect! You must come speak! What you are doing is inspiring!” So I threw that into the mix too.
Tonight was the last meeting of my local Toastmasters group before I leave so I signed up to give a speech there too. It was important to me to let everyone know what I’m doing since I’m one of the officers and they’ll be without me for a few months.
There are dinners with friends I want to have. Some I’ve fit in already and some I can’t imagine how I’ll fit in in the remaining four dinners I have left in CT.
Tonight after the meeting I dropped my car at the shop to get the tires rotated, the oil and transmission fluid changed, the spark plugs and various air cleaners and filters replaced. I feel grateful that I have the money to do this before my excursion, but I barely have the time. I won’t have a car tomorrow, yet somehow I need to get to work for a few hours as I’m training my replacement.
Yesterday I trained said replacement all day then had to run off to another client’s house to help with the finalizing of a grant proposal that was due yesterday. That was a last minute call for help, but I could not say no. There is more official work that needs doing before I leave. When will I pack?
What goes where in the car? What will I have to admit at the last minute that I cannot fit?
My digital life is a mess and I’ve yet to download all the appropriate clients to all the necessary devices so that I can access what I need and have everything talk to each other. Hell, I haven’t yet decided exactly which cloud storage company to go with, let alone started uploading what I might need from my desktop computer. I’m gonna have to spend some time with lifehacker.com to make that decision.
The people who will be living in my house while I’m away will need to be told every little detail and quirk about winter in this house. We’ve yet to set up an exact time to do that. Four days left.
And if this post seems a little chaotic, imagine the reality…
I have a sign in my office that reads – “Start Before You Are Ready”