Ode to the Road

Insight One: 5/16/2015 at 3am on el Camino del Norte: Everyone and everything is my friend.

What did I get out of my camino?

That is the question I’ve been asking myself for the better part of a year now. I know that the walk changed me, and I know that it marked a profound moment in my life. But I’m not exactly sure why.

I started the walk one year ago today.

I loved it. I loved who I was being on it. I loved who I met on it. I loved working through my pain, walking in wonder, and experiencing new things.

I loved reveling in beauty, walking through mud, and balancing freedom with structure.

I loved my backpack and my 14 pounds of things. I loved walking every morning and drinking 3 cups of café con leche every day. I loved my camino families and walking alone. I loved stripping everything away and living simply.

I loved being connected to God.

I loved having profound insights.

I loved getting wet in the rain, getting warm by the fire, and taking off my shoes at the end of the day.

I loved dipping my feet in rivers.

I loved walking in a skirt.

I loved wearing the same two tank-tops the whole time.

I loved my underwear and that it didn’t constantly ride up my butt.

I loved my journal, hand-colored with care.

I loved that I was courageous enough to walk alone.

I loved that I was open enough to walk with community.

I loved being of service to my companions.

I loved being of service to myself.

I loved the simplicity of life: wake up, eat food, walk, eat food, walk, eat food, commune and wander, sleep. Repeat.

I loved walking among wildflowers and in forests or coastal terrain, all day, every day.

I loved walking in the rain while covered by a canopy of trees.

I loved the warmth of the sunshine.

I loved catching glimpses of the coast as I climbed up and down hills.

I loved walking along bluffs overlooking the ocean.

I loved walking on the beach barefoot.

I loved making dinner with new friends who felt like old friends.

I loved getting lost and finding my way.

I loved talking to cows.

I loved being away from technology.

I loved using technology to listen to guided meditations every night.

I loved using my Spanish.

I loved the taste of food after a long day.

I love being submersed in wonder and beauty for 30 days straight.

My walk marked the end of my work as a teacher at Ft. Lewis College. It marked the end of my time in Durango, CO. It marked the beginning of my life in Los Angeles.

It symbolized my capacity to be independent and married at once.

It reminded me that I treasure simplicity.

It inspired me to engage in beauty, challenge, and community.

It revealed to me the ways in which I’ve changed, and the ways in which I’ve remained the same.

It was such a gift to retreat…to tap into myself. To tap out of not myself. It was a gift to have the time. It was a gift to have the money. It was a gift to have the mental peace, the physical strength, and the soulful clarity.

It was such a gift, and I treasure it.

Here is a poem that I wrote on that first day:

Ode to the Road

Wide Open     

            The road

            Her heart

            His eyes

Wide Open

            Las puertas

            Los brazos

            Los momentos

Wide Open

            The past

            The present

            The future

Wide Open

            My eyes

            My heart

            My soul

Today, the world, wide open

to swallow my soul.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

Random First Line: “Darling it’s beautiful. Thank you.”

Darling, it’s beautiful. Thank you, she said.

She turned her broken heart over and over in her hands, inspecting it from every angle.

There was the time he had lied; the time he had commented on another woman’s breasts; the time he had told her to stop eating so much bread. There was the time he had not answered her calls…all night…even though they had plans. There was the time he forgot her birthday, cancelled their weekend away, and told her he wanted to see other people.

Her broken heart pulsated in her hands, each wound raw and gaping. With every turn and touch, it ached and throbbed, the pain impossible to bare.

The heart had a mind of its own. It beat wildly, pressing itself into her mind no matter the time or moment. It sprawled…it took…it commanded. It carnivorously devoured her soul.

There was the time they met. The 6-hour walk along the beach. The sweet gifts, glances across the table, and tangled legs in bed. There was the smell of his skin and the sound of his laugh. There was the time he said, “I love you,” and the time he asked her to move in. There was the love-making, the soul-searching, and the life-living; the pancakes, the evenings walks, the cozy nights in.

There it all was, right in front of her, beating in rhythmic time.

She cradled her broken heart in her palm. She watched it weep and ooze. She watched it throb. She watched it breathe. She watched it change in shape and form.

It was a gift from him to her, this broken heart.

Over time, it settled. Its wounds healed. Its scars softened. Its rhythm became strong and smooth. What once was raw and gaping, now was sweet and wet. Damp with sweat. Damp with exertion. Damp with relief. It was over, this heart-felt rage.

It was his gift, from him to her.

This strong, beating heart, that carried her all the way.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

Random First Line: “Is this your car?”

Is this your car?

They looked at each other nervously.

What car, mom? they asked.

She pointed to the red bicycle. This one, she said, clearly confident.

Mom, that’s not a car. That’s a bike.

No, no, she said. Clearly you’re wrong.

She dug through her purse, pulled out a set of imaginary keys, and opened an imaginary door. She climbed over the bike frame and sat on the seat. She leaned over and rolled down an imaginary passenger-side window so we could hear her.

You see? she said. If this wasn’t a car, could I have opened it with my car keys?

She selected one of her imaginary keys, put it into the imaginary ignition, made a sound with her mouth (clearly, the car turning on), and took off.

We watched her go down the street, pedals flying, hair blowing in the wind. She paused at the stop sign, turned right, and disappeared behind the corner house.

What just happened? Corbu asked his sister.

I have no idea.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

Random First Line: “I think I am your daughter…”

I think I am your daughter, she said.

The giraffe looked at the hippo skeptically.

Then he remembered the night: a giraffe, a monkey, and a hippo walked into a bar…

It wasn’t a joke. It was a night of steamy, awkward sex.

He quickly counted on his cloven-hooves. It was 43 days ago…8 months ago.

Flashes of round rumps, silvery skin, and a tangle of legs—tall and short, furry and smooth—filled his mind.

The giraffe leaned down and looked closely at the hippo. Sweat dripped down his nose and into the pond.

The hippo looked down at the pond.

Um, excuse me? she said.

Y- y- yes? the giraffe stuttered, nervous she might be right.

The hippo responded, I said, I think you’re in my water.

He looked down.

He was.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

Random First Line II

What happened when you woke up? she asked.  

I looked past my toes and into my therapist’s face. She looked at me, her eyes steady. She tapped her pencil against her notebook. Tap. Tap. Tap. Her hands looked like my mother’s.

Well, I said, everything was perfectly still.

She looked at me expectantly.

More still than usual. There were no birds. No breeze. No sounds.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

It was peaceful, I said. Surreal.

I switched the cross of my ankles and changed the part of her face behind my big toe.

And then? she asked.

It stopped. The silence…the stillness. A bird chirped. The curtain fluttered. My husband cracked eggs into a bowl.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

What do I do from here? I asked.

She looked at me and stopped tapping her pencil. She glanced out the window. She glanced like my father.

You wait, she said.

She looked back at me. I looked at her. The sun filtered through the curtains, sprawled across the floor, and made angles on the wall.

A cactus-shadow danced.

And we sighed.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose  

A Random First Line

This week I’m playing with creative writing. Each day I’m using an app to pick a random first line, subject, character, or plot. Then I’m rolling with it! Today I selected a random first line (in bold). Please be gentle with me. 😉

He opened the door to find her standing there, crying. Snot was everywhere. Tissues flew. Dogs barked.

She ushered him in and closed the door.

Can you believe this is happening? she asked. He couldn’t.

They embraced.

I’ve waited so long for this, she said. And it’s happening!

They walked into the room together. His bed was neatly made, sheets fresh, pillows fluffed. The walls were freshly painted green, his favorite color. Pictures, mostly of space—especially of the moon—sat patiently on the walls.

He walked over to Jacob’s dresser and picked up a perfectly folded blanket.

His mother gave me that, she said. His grandmother made it.

He held it in his hands and let it unfold toward the floor.

It smelled like his roots: sheep’s wool, dried grass, and earth. As it unfolded, a piece of paper fluttered to the floor. She picked it up. Clutched it to her heart. It read:

Thank you for loving my boy. Thank you for seeing my boy. Thank you for loving him as your own.

With trembling fingers, she lovingly smoothed out the note. She opened the back of a picture frame and tucked it inside. It would be there for him, whenever he was ready.

The doorbell rang.

They looked at each other, grasped each others hands, and walked to the door.

It was him.

He was home.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

Our Human is Our Humanity

Today was a beautiful day. I’m happy.

On another note: inspiration.

It might be impossible to describe what I’m sensing about inspiration.

I keep trying, and I keep failing.

But it goes something like this:

  1. There are things all humans have in common.
  2. Imagine that the collection of those things comprises our humanity.
  3. Said another way, “humanity” is the collective of things we all have in common.
  4. That collective is a particular space.
  5. Inspiration exists in that space. Perhaps inspiration is that space.
  6. It doesn’t exist outside of that space.
  7. When we’re in the space of humanity—of our common, shared experiences and features—we’re in the space of inspiration.
  8. When we’re inspired, someone or something has breathed the space of humanity into us.
  9. When we’re inspiring others, we’re breathing the space of humanity into them.
  10. Inspiration is humanity.
  11. Humanity is inspiration.
  12. When we’re in touch with our humanity, we’re inspired.

Here’s the thing that I love about this logic: it gives me the power to be inspired by anything. And I need that. There are a lot of shitty and hard-to-witness things happening in our world. We can let it break us down, or we can let it inspire us.

We can find humanity in anything. Anything. I’m positive about this because we’re human. Our humanity is always here. Our humanity is right here, in our human. Our human is our humanity.

To inspire is to breathe in. As humans, as long as we’re breathing in, we continue to be humans. We could say that the very nature of the human being is the breath. Without it, we cease to exist in human form. So inspiration is human.

I think I’ll leave things here.

Though I do have three more things to say:

  1. I love frosting. A lot. And, I just committed to eating sugar just one time per week. I might really miss frosting.
  2. I love my friends. I don’t know what I did to deserve my people, but damn. I really lucked out.
  3. I’m looking to laugh really, really hard (and a lot) over the next several weeks. If you see me or talk to me, let’s laugh together.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

Limbs and Brains Make the World Go ‘Round

I need more time to think about inspiration before I post something big and juicy about it. I have so many ideas running through my head, but it hasn’t fallen into place yet. I can still see cracks in my logic and curiosity in my heart. I want to work through some of that before I share it.

And so I’m wondering what to write.

What should I say?

Should I share my exploration?

Should I write something completely unrelated just to keep my word to post?

Or should I do exactly what I’m doing and see what happens? Clearly I’ve chosen this route.

Inspiration is not what it seems. That’s all I know. Nothing is what it seems. I find that so interesting.

Today, on my walk, I was thinking about returning to Africa. A little voice in my heart said, all you have to do it walk. Give that I’ve walked across Spain twice, I immediately imagined myself walking all the way to somewhere in Africa. That would be a long (and wet) journey. But then I imagined myself walking home. Walking to the car. Walking in the airport. Walking onto the plane. And stepping off in Africa. Then I thought, well I would certainly need some money to do that. So I’d have to walk to work. Walk around work. Walk home. Do that until I have enough money.

Then I had this weird insight that I hope I can describe. All of life and all of the world happens through the movement of arms, legs, and brains. That’s it. 4 limbs (and sometimes not even that many) and one brain per person (no smart-ass remarks here, Shoshanna) make people’s lives go round. Can you think of anything that we do that doesn’t use one of those things?

So picture a bunch of limbs and brains running our world. Forget about personalities, social constructs, political paradigms, and all of that other stuff. Forget about all of the complications in your life and the myriad nuances that make you, you, and others, others. Just fuggedaboutit.

All you are is a set of limbs and a brain.

Now I’m not saying I’m right. This is just the quirky image and insight I had in my brain as I walked with my limbs this morning.

So what does all of this have to do with inspiration? I’m not exactly sure. That’s what I’m still sorting out for myself. But it has something to do with the meaning and significance we add to inspiration which is actually something that only exists in our brains. There is no inspiration out there. There is only inspiration in here. And maybe when two people are inspired by each other, all that’s happening is that what’s in here in each person is simultaneously being out there to ultimately be out here.

Thinks just got wacky. I know.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

Adventures in Generating the Space of Inspiration: Part III

Tonight I’m thinking about those situation in which breathing (inspiring, being inspired) is difficult.

Last weekend, for example, I was paddling out to surf when an unexpectedly big wave crashed right on top of me. I tried to dive under it, but it caught me in its cycle and wouldn’t spit me out. When it finally did, I couldn’t discern which way was up or down. I opened my eyes, and everything was brown. No sign of sunlight. Eventually, I found my way to the top and gasped for air. Another wave crashed just in front of me. I sucked in as much air as possible and dove deep. This time I made it under and easily came to the surface.

In yoga, I often have a hard time breathing when I twist or go into plow pose. My breath becomes short, shallow, and full of effort.

When I’m grieving, I sometimes sob so hard that I cannot stop long enough to take a breath. I often have to calm myself down to take in some air.

When I’m laughing super hard, I sometimes panic because I can’t breathe. I cannot stop laughing, and I cannot breathe. It’s still funny, but I get nervous. Laughing might not be a bad way to die.

Today I couldn’t breathe as I wrote for 11 hours straight. I wasn’t working on fun stuff—I was working on web content. It wouldn’t have been so bad had I not been panicked that all of my creativity and skill-set had left me. I might have been able to breathe if I wasn’t worried about missing my deadline or disappointing my boss.

Sometimes I can’t breathe when I’m worried about money, confused about relationships, or mad about something. Sometimes I can’t breathe when I’m annoyed, exhausted, or overwhelmed. In all of these situations, my inspiration becomes short, shallow, and labored.

So how do I inspire when inspiration is challenging?

How do I breathe when I’m witnessing racism, poverty, and ignorance?

How do I fill my lungs when I’m shrouded in insecurity and uncertainty?

How do I inhale even as I weep and sob?

In surfing, when I’m caught in waves, I’m supposed to relax and go along for the ride. I’m not supposed to find my way out of the wave, I’m supposed to be in it. I’m supposed to lovingly let it have its way with me.

In yoga, I’m supposed to release my muscles, loosen my grip, and, 90 percent of the time, stop squeezing my butt.

In grief, I’m supposed to grant myself being and trust the process. I’m supposed to let the emotions come when they come and go when they go. I’m supposed to let myself be held and consoled.

When I’m laughing, I’m supposed to…well…I don’t really know. I certainly don’t want to stop. Perhaps I’m supposed to get a grip. Nah.

So what about when I’m stuck in my writing and thinking? What about when I’m face to face with hardship? What about when I feel slapped around by life and society?

What if all I have to do is relax, grant myself being, trust the process, and laugh? What if that’s all there is to do to inspire and be inspired when times get tough?

I wonder.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

Adventures in Generating the Space of Inspiration: Part II

The more I think about the word “inspired”, the more I’m fascinated with it.

I found two definitions of “inspire” online:

  1. Fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative; and
  2. Breathe in (air); inhale

So if I’m inspired, I’ve been filled with the urge or ability to do or feel something.

Or, quite simply, I’ve inhaled.

According to this second definition, I’m inspiring all day long, without even thinking, simply by being alive. With every inhale, I’m inspiring. With every inhale, I’ve been inspired. With every inhale, I inspire.

This reminds me of the miracle of being human. The simple miracle that we are all here, alive and breathing, walking around on this crazy earth.

It reminds me of the simplicity of life. Life is simple. You breathe in, you breathe out. That’s life, folks. That’s inspiration.

Simply by being alive, we’re filled with the urge or ability to do something. We all do things, don’t we? We do things like walk, talk, dance, have sex, look at things, touch things, eat things, smell things. All of these things are actions inspired by the simple act of inspiring. We also feel things. We feel happy. Sad. Mad. Glad. Confused. Anxious. Excited. In love. We feel simply because we inspire, and our feelings—every last one of them—are evidence of us having been inspired.

All of this perfectly matches what I thought the instant I posted my blog yesterday: I’ve got it all wrong. Being inspired has nothing to do with doing inspiring things or submersing myself in inspiration. Being inspired requires only that I open myself to the life that is already living in front of me. Being inspired requires only that I inhale; that I allow in—or even just notice—my urge and ability to do and feel something. Being inspired is nothing more than breathing in life and noticing that life is lived by inspiration.

Every single time you inhale, you’re inspired. Poof. Just like that. You don’t have to have life sorted out. You don’t have to be doing something fun, beautiful, or engaging. You don’t have to like what you’re doing. You don’t have to be positively influencing others.

All you have to do is breathe.

Isn’t that interesting?

I think we’ve collapsed “inspired” with “I feel good, and I want to do this.” We’ve collapsed “inspire” with “I’ve got my shit together and can make people feel happy and moved to tears.” We’ve collapsed “inspiring” with “I’m so cool that I make others want to do cool things too.” We’ve collapsed “inspiration” with “something that can take away this crummy feeling and replace it with a yummy feeling.”

Perhaps “inspired” and all of its parts-of-speech counterparts are none of those things. To be inspired is to have taken in breath. It is to be alive. It is to be filled with the urge to do and to feel exactly what you are doing and feeling right now. That’s inspiration.

So we don’t really have to work to be inspired.

But we can clearly cultivate inhales that fill us with particular urges and feelings. When I inhale in yoga, I’m filled with particular urges and feelings that are quite distinct from the urges and feelings I experience while inhaling and watching Donald Trump. My love-making inhales produce distinct urges and feelings than those of my dinner-eating inhales. My inhales produce distinct feelings and urges throughout my day and across moments and circumstances.

That’s so crazy.

So what do I inhale? What do I breathe in? What do I invite into my lungs and body? What do I allow to circulate through my system and how does it affect my urges and feelings?

And, does it have anything to do with anything outside of myself? Aren’t I the one inhaling? Isn’t it my breath, my lungs, and my body? What if my own inspired, inspiring, inspires are completely of my own volition? Where does that leave me?

Inspired, perhaps.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

P.S. Now I’m thinking that we can’t even inspire others. Everyone, after all, is responsible for their own inhalations.