Friday, December 17, 2010

Road Trips, Friendship & Freedom (Summertime in California)

" are all possibilities...
live as an appreciator of horizons
whether you reach them or not..."  

David Whyte


Freedom is deeply important to me. I have been trying (once again) to pretend otherwise. To think I could back myself into a corner of  'tiny freedom' where the chaos and otherness of existence can't find me. Problem is, my own stuff comes with me into this corner too.

Alive again, cruising along the open road in full sunshine, adventure calls! Above me: a canopy of infinite blue promise. Below me: sweet movement! (beneath my wheels, outside my vehicle, inside my soul.) My Camry glides through naked golden hills past occasional huddles of Live Oak. No shopping malls or suburbs--audacious freedom. The still point of the turning world becomes my sense of place and possibility. The volume switch for existence turns itself off. Life's noise goes quiet.

Hours later, I exit the highway to enter into a sepia tone, picture postcard: a bustling gold-rush town where modern families enjoy country life. The thrift shop is easy to find. It reminds me of an old General Store where townsfolk gather.  I follow my friend through nooks and crannies filled with unique objects of delight, while her husband helps a customer. Inside their office she shows me a giant piece of coral someone just donated: nature's sculpture-work, worthy of prominent display in its own glass cabinet! 


She takes off early, from work, and I follow her car along winding roads through a wonderland of Autumn leaves. The orange fireball starts melting into scarlet streaks. We reach her enchanted 'castle on a hill' just in time for a spectacular sunset, a glass of deep red wine and two enthusiastic doggies, eager to play.

I put my things in the 'guest' bedroom still decorated with girlish knick-knacks even though my friends daughter has grown and moved away (our kids played together 20-something years ago when we were all part of a large learning collective). Our evening together was delightful, falling into laughter over the antics of time shared and time elapsed, girlfriends again, as if no time has passed. 

In the morning, we squeeze in more kitchen talk and look at family photos before saying goodbye. My friend leaves for work. I'm alone with the dogs in a rambling fairytale world with secret staircases, arched doorways and window seats. I’m supposed to go explore the town but it's cloudy outside. All I want to do is curl up inside and simply BE. My room is cozy and the stillness invites me to luxuriate within this precious gift of empty space. Stuffed animals populate the daybed couch. My journal stares at me from the desk beneath soft lamplight. Hot tea steams from my cup. It is gray outside the window, with a light drizzle: a perfect excuse to stay indoors, read and write. Oh how I wish I had just one more day.

The very notion of 'choice' or 'freedom' can suggest ideas like impediment or advantage, acquisition or limitation. But do these polarized options actually represent the entire picture? When I experience a lack of freedom it seems to deprive me of the opportunity to just BE:

 I have this precious gift of time and now I'm conflicted. If I stay here and indulge my remaining time in capricious musings, I'll miss seeing the nearby towns, shops and scenery. If I go driving around, my time of inner exploration will be over. 

Why do I allow these demands of choice, and decision, to claim ownership of me? Neither option is available when they're pitted against each other. It becomes an endless tug-of-war. I would really, really like to stop doing this. I wonder how? Perhaps the real question is, What causes 'a lack of freedom'? 

Is it actually true that freedom is absent? Could I have it backwards? Maybe my sense of lost freedom arises from a misunderstanding: If it is our True Nature to 'just be' . . . and if we lose Awareness of this natural state . . . then, of course, we would no longer feel free.

Life loves to pull us in multiple directions at once. Right now, I stand here torn, like an over-stimulated child who has just stepped through the gate of her first world fair, multiple voices clamor: Go see that exhibit! Try this ride! Now!! But I just want to stand here, take in the chaos and let it wash over me. I just want to be fascinated by the blur of sound, movement, color and form. I don't want to move or think or decide. Just bask in the Everythingness. Most of all, I want the freedom to be moved by Life's intuitive rhythm. I want to register how IT nudges me; how IT invites my involvement. I wonder what prevents me from letting this happen?

Here in this room I simply stop. Put my coat down. (The outside world--the mandate to explore--can wait.) Pause long enough to really open. Feel. Sense into the  S P A C E  that cushions thought, impulse, choice, decision. Meet this vast invisible 'something' which surrounds me (inside, behind, ahead, above, below). BECOME what's real. Notice how it's already alive. Let it flow through my cells. Acknowledge it:

Suddenly I realize: Nothing wants to hold on. Everything wants to move. Nothing (and no one) is so important that IT (or they) get to trump the precious, unique, and powerfully present, moment. The stillness IS the dance. I want to stand before such a moment (in each and every moment) with infinite reverence: even if it means giving away everything else but THAT instant to see what it actually holds for me. What might it be like to continually free myself into 'just this moment' and simply show up and pay attention to IT? And nothing more....I wonder?Instead of being given freedom FROM the demands upon 'my' time--I can find the freedom TO fully enter each moment of time, by actually inhabiting it! Can anyone actually 'have' freedom? Or does freedom have us? There is sweet freedom in embracing the fact that I can't have it all. Yet, when I release 'it all' then I can have THIS! As clinging dissolves, vast, clear, Awareness remains. The 'me' falls away for a few precious seconds. Spacious Presence (Beingness Itself) is what we are. The relief of possessing nothing becomes the emptiness of being everything.

 ~ Okay, what do you want to show me?  ~  

If not for friends who make such space available to us,
if not for an uncivilized expanse of land, 
and maintained highways, 
where our soul can roam unhampered,
if not for the evasive edge 
of all our horizons 
where dreams take us, 
how would we survive?

~ Update ~ 

My friend still lives in Grass Valley. She and her husband have a different business, now. You will find CLOCKTOWER RECORDS downtown (in the photo of town above!). If you see Debbie or Curt, at the store, tell them I said hello!


  1. Stephanie,
    First off how fun to read about your experience in our home. Of course I could picture you so well and how I loved having you visit.
    I then was pulled by the part about the freedom to go into the place you are worded it much more eloquently. It is like the saying about Peace not being in a place of silence, ease, etc. but being in chaos and being peaceful in your heart. I appreciate your writing a lot. Gives me much to ponder and as always I love your deep and sincere honesty. xxoo Thanks for letting us read what is real.

  2. Ah my dear wonderful hostess! The vibration in your home is so allowing; it so readily invited me into this deeper place that I never wanted to leave. I cherish this adventure for many reasons. I carry the flavor within me now. I am so glad to have had the chance to 'capture' some of the magic it had for me. Thanks as always for your insight, resonance and appreciation. Friends make all the difference in the world! Thanks so much...


Please add your thoughts here in the comment section! I'd love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by, Gratitude, Stephanie