03 April 2014

Home for Turtles

"Longing for Home"  Photographer:  El Amigo Chico

George W. Bush never felt like my president. I just couldn't connect with the guy. From his physical appearance to the way he spoke, from his personal values as demonstrated by his professional choices to his life story, I just never felt myself a member of his tribe or part of his constituency.

Like most politicians, he often began statements with the words "What the American people want/believe/need..." and 99.99% of the time what followed was not true for me.

It was a crazy time. I felt exiled in my own country. I felt invisible. And hopeless.

I felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wondered if folks like me had long ago forsaken the U.S. and I'd missed the boat.

I didn't have a clue about what to do. I felt disoriented. At risk. My thinking was scrambled, frantic, terrified. It felt like the country was on its way down the tubes and I was desperate to escape.

I came to believe that my only hope was to set out in search of a circumstance that would facilitate my leaving the country. I threw away, gave away or stored anything I could not carry on my back. I surrendered the keys to my Oakland apartment and hit the road bound for .... I didn't know where.

One thing led to another. I soon came to feel I'd entered a parallel universe. Unlike the realm I'd left behind, Time was more flexible and keys were unnecessary and sleep had more to do with my energy level in the moment than what I had planned for the next day. Life became a series of new locations and situations -- house-sitting for friends of friends, contemplating the smorgasbord of Departure-and-Arrival possibilities offered on bus station and airport marquees, long nights at diner counters, nursing bottomless cups of coffee. 

Some mornings began with a few seconds of having absolutely no idea where I was. Other mornings began with several minutes of hearty laughter, astounded to find myself where I was. There were nights of gratitude to have somewhere warm and dry to lay my head; and other nights crumpled in despair, alone, without shelter or inspiration.


Photographer:  Felicia Simion
Through it all, the common denominator was Me. The locale, temperature, companions, noise level, amount of money in my pocket or reading material on hand changed. And changed again. But there was always Me. 

Catching my reflection in a storefront window or the bathroom mirror of a luxury hotel -- or a gas station -- I'd meet my own eyes and say "Hey! Hello there. I'm still here..." and give myself a loving embrace through my eyes.

Somewhere along the road I had a dream of Sojourner Truth. In the dream, our eyes met and, for each of us, it was like looking into a mirror. I started researching her life shortly thereafter, partly out of curiosity and partly with an eye toward developing a performance based on a comparison of our lives. I began to think of myself as a sojourner. I adopted a mantra:  I have everything I need. The Earth is my Home. Choose from love, not fear.

"Finding Yourself At Home"    Photographer:  Pia Johnson
I am entering my second decade of sojourn. There's a lot I could say about the experience, maybe will say if I ever commit to making a book of musings drawn from this blog and journal entries I've made along the way. The particulars of how people live, for example, is a fascinating study. People sleep on the floor or in beds or on futons, in houses and teepees and RVs...  People prepare meals on shiny, state-of-the-art stove tops and in toaster ovens or never prepare meals where they live. Living spaces boast floor-to-ceiling bookshelves or not a single hardcover publication on the premises. Living spaces smell like animals or like apple-cinnamon potpourri or whatever's on the stove.... In some houses there's not a sponge or rag for cleaning to be found; in other houses, each sponge has a tag indicating its precise and exclusive use.

Some places bear a close resemblance to my preferred style of inhabiting a living space. In the places that don't I sometimes long for "home" -- not the larger Home evoked in my mantra but the smaller, closer more personal sense of Home. That longing mostly reflects the level of discomfort or inconvenience I'm experiencing at that time and in that space. 

More than Home, I still long for Tribe. I recently realized that if I "won the lottery" today, I would use most of it to keep traveling, to travel further, in hopes of finding my Tribe. It's my fantasy that where I find people of like mind and heart, with whom I share values and humor and mission, any place will do. In such an environment, questions about over or under toilet paper, room temperature vs refrigerated butter, etc. are manageable and largely irrelevant, arising as they do against a backdrop of cosmic, spiritual, more humanly fundamental concerns.

I'll end up somewhere. Some day my life of sojourn will end and, wherever I am, I'll take my last breath. I'll be at Home -- in the Universe -- perhaps in some location that feels like Home...or doesn't; perhaps in a place I "own". But, as always, the fixed feature of that time and place will be Me. "Hey! Hello there.... It's time to move on."

The Christians call Death "Going home" but who knows:  perhaps it's just the site for the next sojourn.