Those Alma-Tadema clouds. I remember driving across Kansas, years ago, and thinking how the simple lines of the land – just flat green or gold fields of wheat, running off to a flat horizon – encouraged the eye and the mind to turn up and imagine flight or floating, or down and think of subterranean projects, like the Big Well in Greensburg or the salt mine in Hutchinson. Here in Mesa, Arizona, my eye wants to wander up, again: from the squared-off architecture and the prickly natural textures – palo verde and oleander outside my hotel room door – to the luxurious, luminous sky. Maybe that response is a common one, maybe it’s one reason we associate the desert with the spiritual.
For me, the Arizona landscape represents both home and autonomy. Arizona’s where I first came when I left my marriage eighteen years ago, where I lived independently for the first time, where I had my first apartment, where I earned my college degrees. Today, it’s where I get my mail, register my car, and vote. But like a parent’s house, it’s where now I only touch down to rest and remember (amid taking care of adult responsibilities – voting, registering my car, collecting my mail) and then take off again. A week from today, I’ll be aboard a train.
So today, the last Sunday before I rocket off on a new adventure, I’m reflecting on the circles I’ve just made – the one of the past two years, from Phoenix westward around the world and back to here, and also a bigger, looser circle, from my first arrival in the Valley of the Sun nearly two decades ago to my current presence here (which could well be my last). I’m anticipating the coming circles – they’re really going to be more like figure-eights with some arabesques thrown in – with some trepidation, but that’s good: they’re new and challenging adventures.
I set out on October 27, 2016, to visit Southeast Asia and see if I could find a better way to live. Since I’d left the farm in 2014, I’d been rootless and broke. I felt like I’d tried everything and nothing worked. I thought a big change – get away from it all and shake myself out and then come back (maybe) – was what I needed. I wasn’t sure if I could make it on my own in Asia, in terms of basic survival, or what I would do if I couldn’t. But of course I did, and I found much more than what I’d been looking for. There’s a lesson: Start looking around for one thing, and who knows what else you’ll find. Serendipity is a law of the universe.
October 27, 2018, I’ll be in Hutchinson, Kansas, to catch the Southwest Chief headed toward the rising sun. From the easternmost edge of the continent I’ll ride a silver bird to Ponta Delgada in the Azores – the peak of one of the tallest mountains on the planet, measured from the ocean floor, if you believe Wikipedia. In a children’s book I had when I was little, there was a drawing of Noah’s Ark landing on Mount Ararat: the notion of landing on São Miguel brings that image to mind. A green mountaintop, a radiant blue sky, clouds in retreat, the dove overhead, olive branch in its beak. This trip feels all rainbows and promises.
I’ll stay in the Azores for eleven weeks, writing. After that, a month in Southeast Asia (Penang/Chiang Khong/Bangkok), followed by two weeks in Australia to attend a Divine Truth assistance group. Then I return to Europe to begin an entirely new year-long project. More about that as it unfolds.
Over the next eighteen months, my hope is to find my voice as a writer, to segue from abstracting and copy editing to more personal work, and generally to get my daily life into better alignment with my deepest values. I also want to get fit, learn to dance, and ride on two wheels as often as I can.
I have never been great at keeping in touch, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of friends and family often. I’m going to try to post here every Sunday so that you can keep track of me. Please keep in touch, whether it’s via email, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp or phone. I’ll do the same. Promise.
Wishing you love,
P.S. About my name…