Here I am , on the road of life
Having a brunch date with some friends down in DC on Sunday, I decided to utilize the day and check out the Occupy scene in McPherson Square that afternoon. My walk from brunch at Founding Farmers happen to go by the White House. Walking up, the crowds in front of the Presidents domain were normal, but the signs and orange vests were not. My friends and I were stumbling upon a rally protesting the Alaskan Oil Pipeline. Saying goodbye to my friends, I decide to delay my visit to the Occupy village and watch the action around me.
The rally ends and the crowd surrounding the stage in Lafayette Square makes there way to the street in front of the White House. They form a huge line, everyone holding various signs. There’s activity all around. It feels good just to be here…watching. I’m in full on observer mode with camera in hand joining the amateur paparazzi about. Everyone is snapping photos all around. For once I feel no shame for following a crowd.
It’s time to make my way to the Occupy scene. I first notice the McPherson Square statue has been written on with chalk messages all over it. I feel a bit shocked as I remember almost being arrested in highschool for “defacing federal property” as the officer had put it. I had written the name of my school on Jefferson’s Rock at Harpers Ferry during a field trip there. At the time, had no idea I was committing a “federal offense.” I wonder if they know this.
As I get closer, I notice 3 of the occupiers are cleaning off the chalk messages and a group of other occupiers (assuming the ones who “defaced” it) were not happy. They begin to argue as the “cleaners” lecture them on respecting the property and grounds around them. I can’t help but find this little battle I’m witnessing humorous. As I walk by, one of the “defacers” writes the ‘F’ word on a freshly cleaned spot on the statue. I pay respects to the comical nature that comes with being human as I hear someone mutter “you’re fighting the wrong battles, man.” I continue walking…
and observing until I come upon a tent looking quite different from the rest, kinda homey. “Welcome to the Library” a young guy says with a kind smile. Just perfect, I think, walking inside. Somehow, I feel at home slightly reminiscing on my latest travels. I’m happy to find a tent full of FREE books for all, completely organized by subject on handwritten signs, just like a used book store. I’m in love. I want to know this mans story. Why a Library? How’d it come to be? For some reason though, I’m in no mood to talk. Just quietly observe. So, I make a promise to myself that I’ll be back and I continue on my way after browsing through the books, of course.
“Mic check!” a guy yells and a small crowd forms around him ready to repeat anything he says. Curious of what’s to come, I join the group forming. The guy begins to yell while the crowd repeats him word for word, “There are thousands of people down the street. For some reason they have this weird concept that if they stand along a sidewalk with signs, they are making a difference. Lets go get them and show them what will make a difference. Lets take our protest to the streets. The police can’t arrest thousands of people.”
A little annoyed about his judgment rather than solidarity with the other protest, I decide to hang back. The group grabs a huge banner and others run over to join. They begin to walk and someone starts to drum. I find myself following. As we reach the first cross walk waiting for the light to turn for our right of way, a strange noise begins to ripple out from the tunnel of tall buildings lining the street. It’s faint, but getting louder with every moment that passes. It’s a rolling, roaring sound that is building in momentum. We’re all beginning to look around and at each other wondering where it’s coming from. Suddenly, it hits me and I run back across the square while others begin toward the same direction. Standing on the corner of 15th and I, all you can hear is the immense crowd heading toward us. Their footsteps echoing off the buildings causing a slight rumble. Their unified shouts we can now understand, ” WE ARE THE 99% ! ” The Pipeline Protestors have in fact, taken the streets…and so it begins.
It was the look on his face when I told him it was free…
” No really, kid, you can have this. Enjoy, and remember to share it with someone special.” I said with a wink and a smile waving goodbye while trying to hide the fact that this 16 year old kid had just changed my life forever with one simple look.
He came aboard The Free Tea Bus at Last Thursday in Portland. He was reluctant, yet curious. “Is this really for free?” He asked before coming aboard with 2 friends in tow. “Yep! We’ve got homemade cupcakes and cinnamon rolls too.” I say playing the tea hostess. They came in and sat down taking the warm cups of The Fairytale Blend I had ready to go. Asking for their story, the young man goes on to tell me that him and one of his friends with him had just graduated a drug rehab center nearby. ” Congratulations! ” I shouted trying to take in the information. Feeling stunned. I would’ve never thought… Here were these teenagers, that given their appearance, I would’ve pinned them for being a part of a youth group of some sort. Maybe this is true also, but the reality was that this young man had already been through a certain amount of experience, and by age 16. My heart went out.
I didn’t ask about their stories with the drugs or which drugs. What kind, didn’t matter and something told me to lay off the subject and just enjoy whatever they wanted to share. So I did. To be honest, I don’t remember much about it. I don’t even remember their names. However, does that matter when his face is emblazoned in my memory? Though his name forgotten, his face remains famous in my inner world.
In our last exchange before they left the bus, is when it happened. “Do you mind if I could have a little bit of this tea to take with me?” He asked. “You know what? I’ll do you one better. Let me make you up a few bags of this to have more than just one cup for later. One condition though, you have to share.” Is all I remember saying before I saw his eyes light up before me, triggering the rest of his face to light up in a way that reached deep into my Soul and said, “Ally, this is why you are alive. This look right here, is all that matters…just remember.”
As I made up the bags, I was taken back to countless memories flowing through me of that same look in the eyes of others I had come to pass throughout my life, including myself. What did these looks all have in common? They were the look of pure, innocent happiness. Why? They came from experiences when a person felt the freedom and joy to be who they are without having to earn it. It usually came in times of receiving an unexpected gift or favor. Those experiences of spontaneous generosity that leave the person on the receiving end feeling an ease about themselves. It’s an ease I can only describe like this – when a person feels the deep satisfaction to be who they are and that is ‘good enough.’ I am… simply enough, to receive whatever it is that is being given in this moment. I don’t have to work for it. I don’t have to do something first to earn it. I don’t need to “DO” anything. I am just me and look at what Life is giving me for just showing up:)
Already feeling highly inspired from Rootstalk, this solidified that inspiration into something more concrete. I had just spent a week serving free tea and seeing countless looks like his, but for some reason it took his to make me understand why the idea of giving something for free had me feeling so good. So what did I do with all this inspiration? I sat with it… for a bit. I needed to reflect on it all – What Can I Do? or is it really all about just “being me,” or maybe there is a balance? So I headed north to a little island known as San Juan. A place and a home that became the stage for one of my most memorable transformations of my life thus far. Here, I knew I could get some good R&R from the hustle and bustle of festival living, traveling and cities. Which I had spent the past 2 1/2 weeks in having made a stop in Seattle to visit my community of friends there.
While on the island, the idea of “Free” kept coming to mind. What does it mean to freely give…of anything? My last few days on the island is when it all became clear. The question of ” What Can I Do?” began being answered…and I’m not sure where it will go or what it all means. All I know right now is, it is the beginning of something. Something inside of me that I can’t deny sharing with the world. Whatever it is. Whatever it becomes. Whatever I choose to do with it, or not do – I am, simply being me.
Here’s to be Being Who We Are -Freely!
What is Grateful Sadness? To me, it is a cozy, warm, calm sensation that speaks from deep within our being. I recognize it as deep satisfaction and fulfillment from how greatly we’ve been touched by our current experiences as we are in the midst of letting them go. It is the sound of life moving on while deeply appreciating it.
Sometimes we need our friends to convince us of doing what is best for ourselves because it is hard facing certain feelings, like sadness, that are difficult to address alone. As I’ve come to know myself, I know I need time, space and aloneness between very impactful, touching experiences to reflect upon them. To take time sifting through the beautiful moments that became lasting memories as they chiseled their way into my heart while I joyously lived them completely oblivious to their affect.
Today I woke up knowing of what was coming. The last of us would be remaining as we saw another friend off on his own adventure. This is the way of the nomadic, gypsy lifestyle. Coming together enjoying community, sharing, delving into deep conversations to boost our self discovery and of course, serving. The “end” comes along and we are each swept away by our Personal Legends calling upon us to go this way or that.
Just a week ago, there was 13 of us joined together for a grand occassion…today there remains just 2…slowly closing in on our own parting. After saying our tradition of “see you later,” I felt a rush kick in to head on to my next destination where my Seattle family awaits my arrival. Where was this coming from though? As I mentioned the idea to my fellow remaining nomad, he pointed out I should stay for the weekend and not run off. To let the experience digest for a while and enjoy the time of aloneness. Something hadn’t felt right about leaving so soon, and the kind of intensity behind the feeling, I recognized as common avoidance to the feelings that were bellowing up inside of me – Grateful Sadness -The last two of us chose to go to the local coffee shop we had staked out just days before as a foursome to be our communal hangout/office space for our stay in Portland, Oregon.
We sit down at a table for two after buying sweet treats and chai and I hear myself say, “Rich, I think I’m sad.” “Me too.” He replies, and as I take a bite of the delicious cookie we just bought, I begin to cry. Rich, understanding, reaches out for me and I cry as he holds me close, telling me that he too, feels the same sadness. He speaks to me about the importance of community and how after strong experiences with it along the road we need time in-between to just rest in it all. “It’s the paradox of Oneness and being only one.” The time for togetherness and the time for aloneness. He emphasizes that today is one of aloneness for me and to soak it up for all it’s worth. What happens is, we’ve been so deeply touched by our communal oneness, taking the time to reflect helps us process all we’ve learned and gained from each other. This is a time for cultivation within ourselves in order to share even more of our individual one-ness with the oneness of the whole.
While sitting there crying and listening to his words, I knew I’d get here. Get to this place of writing about it. The outlet that really helps me understand myself as I discover Who I am in relation to ‘whatever’ as I sit writing my feelings, thoughts, ideas and opinions about my experiences. So here I am. Sitting in the same seat. At the same table. In the same coffee shop. I sat here just 3 days before with 3 friends – sharing pie, sharing laughs, sharing opinions, conversation and internet time. Now… I sit alone. It’s kinda perfect though, as the coffee shop plays music to fit my mood like a comforting, encouraging friend saying “C’mon, Ally…just feel yourself through it.” So I am. I am gratefully sad today, and here’s why…
I just came from an amazing experience spent with brothers and sisters I didn’t know I had until I showed up to meet them in this lifetime around. My dear friend Guisepi, travels around serving free tea along the western sea-board with his faithfully, open mate – Edna Lu – The Tea Bus. This summer, Guisepi had been asked by one of his big sponsors, Mountain Rose Herbs, to run a Free Tea Pavillion during their Rootstalk Festival in Salem, Oregon which is all about celebrating plants, planet and people.
When Guisepi received the request from Mountain Rose, he immediately called upon his fellow nomad and gypsy friends to come help out and hang out for the week. With a couple of weeks to go, he finally had his chosen crew and another cosmic family was brought together again. Meet the crew!
Suzette, Rosie, Daruka, Rich, Gregory, Em, Candace, Johnny, Jade, Sarah and I had the luxury of camping out, serving free tea to our Rootstalk guests for 4 beautiful days with Edna and Guisepi at the beautiful 4-H Center located outside of Salem, Oregon. The festival was filled with music, art, storytelling, local-organic food and upcycled goods for sale. There were workshops covering all sorts of topics and practices on self-sustainability from at-home herbalism and wild-harvesting to mass conscious environmentalism and community building. Saturday night, we celebrated with a masquerade ball kicked off with a Samba parade, a fire dancing show to follow and live music for dancing. Our tea tent was happily packed to the brim for the occasion.
In a land far, far away…from here. There sits nestled in the woods of EasternGermany, in a tiny village called Gersdorf, a castle, or Schloss as they call it. It was left behind in ruins from centuries ago. Until… once upon a time, 5 years ago, A small community of people settled here to work the land and renovate the castle. They are an Intentional Community who are working to own the property someday so they can continue creating simpler lives for themselves, together.
Each year, they host a free festival called “La Libertad.” All are welcome.
This was my experience…
As I walk the grounds of La Libertad, I could easily be in the U.S. with the Beatles and Bob Dylan playing through the main stage speakers. There is an outdoor kitchen, community fire, outdoor bar, massage wagon, outdoor bath and shower area, compost toilets, beautiful clay oven for pizza making and the very best of all… the one and only… Chai Tent – the hub for socializing, artistry, music, games and just chilling out.
Tomas, the Chai master, is a young, gentle man who oozes the sweetness of his very own special recipe. When asked about his secret, he simply says, “meditation.”
“Oh so you meditate before you make it?”
“No. Not before. I meditate while I make it.”
He simply replies while chopping fresh ginger root for today’s morning brew. His concoction is strictly herbal blended with hafer milch (oat milk) and raw sugar.
It’s a tantalizing spicy with the perfect amount of sweet. He keeps it hot and fresh throughout the day and well into the night where it’s the perfect cuppa (or maybe 4 or 5 ?) for Germany’s cool, rainy climate. One could easily spend hours (and many do) in Tomas’ Chai tent sipping, watching and interacting without leaving and be perfectly content with his/her festival experience.
A large part of La Libertad is about collaboration. The days prior to its weekend are spent building structures, making signs, decorating the tents and structures, making pathways and helping out in the kitchen.
My mom, Jennifer, is an amazing artist. She fell right into her niche as word got around that an American artist was on the premises. It is Friday about mid morning when one of the community members, Anna, approaches her about painting a symbolic tapestry of the community that they wanted hung for the weekend festivities. Their former artists had bailed on the job and so they were in a jam.
My mom, happy to do it, but feeling a bit uneasy about the time crunch, of course, decides to summon me for help. In turn, I call upon my friend’s independent and very outgoing 12 year old daughter, Magi, for more help. Magi agrees, but after hearing about the time issue, simply says, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get some kids.” She’s off leaving us thinking she just got her own ticket out this. However, about 10 minutes later and loyal to her word, she shows up with her promised group of kids. All of them ready and willing to play in the paint.
After a while, word was out about the “Santa’s lil workshop” sight happening inside the castle walls. The room began buzzing with a constant flow of admiring onlookers, parents snapping photos and more kids wanting to help.
Magi had come through for us and with her help and all the kids, we magically finished in time to have the tapestry showcased as planned on Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, Anna and her fellow schloss-mates were very grateful.
As all good things must come to an end, I awake upon La Libertad’s final day and decide to take one last walk around. I see a different picture and feel a different vibe altogether, than what I witnessed just a week before. We’ve all experienced this at some point or another. The morning after a great party. The last day of school and then summer camp. Truly, the final day of anything that’s made an impact.
There’s that serene calm and quiet. No matter how relaxing the time had been, everyone and everything seems to be moving at a much slower pace than the previous days. It is just like this – No music. The fire is low. Chai tent is practically empty. You can hear people’s individual coughs and sneezes. Even the kitchen quit. They just put up a sign with leftovers set out that implied, “we’re done.” There is nothing like this cool, quiet, calm that so kindly states the obvious – party’s over, so…clean up, pack up and go home. Till next time…
When you return to a place filled with memories from a time once before, it’s hard to make new without fantasizing about the ones that once filled the atmosphere, but are now long gone…but not in the heart.
The memories from my long winters stay here in Austria and Germany, are still very much alive in me and as I cross the threshold into my parents house, they greet me with all their love, all their joy, their sorrow and magic they hold from my time here before. With each step I take inside, making my way to my old room, the memories dance around me saying hello, embracing me like people who were awaiting my arrival. Same place, a different time, new memories to be made, yet the old ones still remain. Even along the streets, in the trams and buses and each place I once was welcome me with a flashing memory like a secret wink shared between two people communicating a momentary connection of understanding. I begin to feel nostalgia, sadness and missing what once was.
I know where this is going if I choose to entertain it. I will cry and get lost in the tears of nostalgia leaving the present behind for some version of myself to appear in my place while I live inside my head. Not this time, however. I was with my dear friend, Daniel, a few days ago in Germany and while sitting there talking and laughing this sudden thought came to me and while participating in our experience, I also fell as a witness to it – fully there, engaged, but watching –
It didn’t stop me from enjoying our time together. It was simply like a knock of reality that kept me poised in the moment to see just how alive each one is and then just passes away in all its significance, but as if insignificant as well. Truth be told though, these moments don’t die. They don’t disappear, nor vanish or become nonexistent. They are existence... and simply pass away into my heart as a collection where they live forever in my own secret immortality – a grateful heart for my lifetime here and now –
I recently realized that when I leave a person, a place, an experience and say goodbye for the time being, I have a tendency to bury the feelings and memories surrounding them to avoid going to that saddened place in my mind of missing them. I do this, hoping to prevent the agony of not being present where I am and who I’m with. So, in my process of letting go, I “forget” them.
While spending time with Daniel, I came to the conclusion that I had done just that -forgotten- when letting him go after our beautiful travels together this winter. This made me see that I’ve done this all my life. I felt really “strong” for being able to let go like this. However, I’ve been feeling lately that maybe it’s time I learn to let go while remembering and that I might find more strength in doing so. To not be afraid of letting the memories live vibrantly with me as I go where I go and am with whom I’m with. I can actually engage the magic of my heart’s collection – all the people – all the places – all the experiences – without the fear of becoming too sad while I miss those who are too far away when I wish them to be near.
I’ve heard when you miss someone – simply miss them – send them love and light, then drop it. A practice I’ve only just come to know, trusting that when I think of each of you out there in the world living your stories, being who you are – you do feel the love and the light I dearly send as I am remembering you alive with me here.
So, here’s to a new approach of Letting Go – When I miss, I can do so without the fear of losing my presence in each moment. I am sending my love out as I am remembering the presents I carry treasured in my heart from my Life’s entirety. The nostalgia from memories of where I once was, magically transforms into happiness of Here I Am.