An unexpected end, an uncertain future, and love.

Against all expectations and most logic, I ended my Mississippi River solo bike tour early.  If I’m honest with myself, there was fear in the decision.  Fear at entering territory (ie the South) even more unknown than the hundreds of miles I had already covered.  Fear also in letting down the multitudes of old and new friends that were impressed by my stamina and proud of my stamina, for just the day before I made this critical decision a college friend of mine waxed poetic on the Facebook on my pedal-toned calves and general chutzpah.

Clearer and deeper than this fear, however, was my sudden awareness that I had accomplished what I set out to do, something difficult to quantitively evaluate due to my lack of pre-ride mission statement, but something of which I was entirely certain nonetheless.  In overly simplistic and sentimental summary, I set out to find myself again.  Somewhere in the last year the muddle of my life and divorce and commitments and obligations and overwhelming number of possibilities overtook my core self, and she was misplaced.  Not lost, but off meandering somewhere in greener pastures while my logical self tried to little avail to get things in order so she could return.  Yet routine and obligation (a persistent bugger) made self rediscovery challenging, if not nearly impossible.  Hence the solo bike tour, a time apart from friends and failures and chronic juggling.

I set off down the Mississippi River on the Parrot to recommit to myself, the only person with which I will reside forever in this life.  I set off to relearn the joys of guilt free solitude.  To be interested in my Self again.  To accomplish something under my own steam that was not regulated or required by another.  It just turns out it only took me to St. Louis to do this.

So who am I, now?  I am more resilient than ever before.  I am increasingly comfortable without a ten (twenty, thirty, etc) year life trajectory.  I believe in my charisma.  I am in love with cities.  I am inspired and invigorated by LGBT and feminist culture, and plan to immerse myself in both of these things and explore my identity within them when I return to Minneapolis.  My bicycle is a part of my being.  I love and need other creative, communicative, interesting and interested humans in my life, while simultaneously being unapologically committed to pursuit of solitude whenever I crave it.

I may yet be a politician, a farmer, a writer, or something yet undiscovered.  My path will contain both heartache and passion for certain, because I cannot help but live 110%, always.

Be in love with life with me.  This is it.

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Land of the Saints.

Land of the Saints.

My last two days in St Louis – including my first day off from biking in two weeks – have been splendid, to say the least. Late September in this lovely city is balmy and filled with luscious flowers in front of nearly every brick home.
My exploration on foot yesterday began with a friendly bookstore cat…

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Moved to the marvelous free art museum and zoo in Forest Park, a beautiful urban oasis…

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A courtyard installation by Andy Goldsworthy, a favorite artist of mine.

   

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Burrowing owls! I can't get enough birds.

And ended with delicious local brews at HandleBar, a bicycle themed bar in the Grove, an up and coming neighborhood I could easily see myself living in.

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Am I ready to pack up and leave Minneapolis for warmer Midwest climes? Not quite yet. But I do hope to visit St Louis again before too long.

Finding Enough in Galena.

Finding Enough in Galena.

Well friends, I made it to my third state. I had meant to celebrate my entry into Wisconsin (my second state) with a silly little video, but my phone wouldn’t post it. So instead here I am enjoying a delicious breakfast just across the river from Main Street in Galena.

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It’s been two weeks since Sarah drove me up to Itasca State Park, and I’m both more and less changed than I might have expected to be. No grand flashes of insight on the meaning of life – in general or my own particular existence – yet. No red carpet unfolding of my future path. But I have discovered edges in myself to lean against or push beyond as the circumstance demands. More importantly, I am beginning to believe that I am Enough.
The particular framing of Enough had not entered my mind until my breakfast at Otto’s Place this morning, a lovely little place recommended by my gracious Couch Surfing host, David. Each table at Otto’s Place has a card explaining how the restaurant came to be, and their philosophy of Enough:
“That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. When we said ‘I wish you enough’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.”
I am Enough. I have Enough. It is Enough to ride 60 miles through the hills of Southern Wisconsin and stay at a hotel in Prairie du Chien. It is Enough to know that I have a good thing going with Sarah, and that we need some room to breathe and grow. It is Enough to witness all my chakras and layers of self, and to be in them as they are. Simply Enough.
May you find and know and be Enough, for this moment and day and terrifying, wondrous life.

Pride now, bravery someday.

I made it.  Through week one.  Through 13.2 miles of wet gravel, two straight days of unending damp and mist, finding myself the lone tent at a campsite in Palisade, and changing my first flat tire, I biked 50-70 to my destination each night to set up my little home, cook dinner on my dragonfly stove, and read at least a dozen pages of Middlesex before falling asleep to crickets.

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Surprisingly enough, in my many encounters with friendly and curious strangers along the way, the word they use to describe me and my trip isn’t ‘crazy’ or ‘adventurous’.  It’s brave.  Whether it was the Skinners with their little camper in Cass Lake, or Sandy and her family in Crow Wing, or Jane and Joe who invited me to their community pig roast, after a myriad of questions about how long my trip is going to take (just under seven weeks), how much all my bags weigh (I have no idea), and what I’m eating (lots of trail mix, dried bananas for the potassium, and a delicious quinoa/dried fruit concoction for breakfast every morning), all my new friends inevitably elucidate my bravery.

I have never particularly thought of myself as a brave person, even aside from this trip.  Open to new experiences, yes.  Outgoing, yes.  Curious, yes.  But bravery is something new, and after hours of contemplation – for what else is there to do during the miles of flat county highways but muse over life – I’m not sure that bravery is a mantle I am ready to take on just yet.  Perhaps in future weeks, when my tires have rolled through several states and I can set up my tent in minutes flat.  But not yet, not now.  There is time.

What I will acknowledge is pride.  I am enormously proud that I haven’t quit, of course, but also of my tenacity, my ability to listen to my body, to take care of myself, to begin to trust my intuition more thoroughly.  I’m proud of that tire change, despite the fact that I got another slow leak the next day.  I’m proud that I can charge my various devices with my generator hub on my front wheel.  And I’m proud that I’ve somehow found the grace to accept each day for what it is, be it hills, or rain, or a mostly closed campground or miles and miles of sunny shoulder, pulling me onward to the Gulf.

A Beginning.

A Beginning.

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Here we go! The Parrot (my valiant Bridge stone bicycle) and I are ready. Today we’re at the Mississippi headwaters in Itasca, and sooner than I can fathom we’ll be at the river’s end outside New Orleans.
What would you like to hear of along the way, dear readers and friends?

Goodbye, for now.

Goodbye, for now.

Goodbye little nonprofit office. Everything and nothing may happen for you in the coming days and weeks and moments while I’m losing track of measured time and instead judging my life by mood and distance, by sunset, sunrise, and the amount of home dehydrated food I have left. Hopefully you will flourish despite my absence, and I will return as a better organizer and woman than you have known before.

My Impending Adventure

2013, I do believe, shall perhaps be written about and remembered as my most momentous year yet.  In fact, it certainly will be, and not just because of circumstance, chance, and a failed marriage.  I have taken it upon myself to make some amount of momentousness self-created, rather than imposed, and as such am taking on one of my Seven Wanders of My World: biking the Mississippi River Trail.  Most importantly, I’m doing it solo.

It is my deepest intention to make this a whole person trip, to take note of my therapist’s suggested meditation and notice body, mind, emotion, and core self, without judgement.  In preparation I am planning and packing, preserving food (for the trip and for the winter, for I will miss the peak canning season while I’m on the road this autumn), tying up loose ends at my blessedly flexible job, and trying to let go.  Releasing expectation is both paramount and persistently difficult.

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Kale, garlic, tomatoes and peppers.

Despite the demands of a regiment of camping and 60 miles of bicycling a day, the body is easiest to care and prepare for.  New lightweight long underwear.  Camping cookware, including the indulgence of a solo french press coffee pot.  Home dehydrated vegetables.  Keens.  There will be moments and hours and even days of exhaustion, strained muscles, a sore back.  But also skin rich from Vitamin D.  More strength and tenacity that I’ve known before.  And daily morning yoga to keep me moving.

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The tarot deck, recent reading.

The mind is trickier, as I have learned that my constant analysis of self and surroundings pervades my other spheres of being.  Choosing books to accompany me is critical and impossible.  Good Poems for Hard Times is a certainty.  Novels and spiritual nonfiction are more difficult to choose from.  Knowing I will have to leave finished books behind is tantamount to abandoning a pet, even if I have never read the book before.  My tarot cards and book will join me as well, another indulgence of sorts, at least as far as weight is concerned, but what is the weight of a book to the body when its content can spark the mind to discovery?

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Drying mint.

Attending to emotion is more complex still.  There is much excitement of course, but equally as much, if not more, worry.  Not so much for myself, or even for the trip itself, because in spite of my mother’s rampant concerns for my safety, I believe that the universe provides, through my intuition and more compassionate strangers than potentially harmful ones.  No, my worry is for what I am leaving behind.  My still new relationship with Sarah, growing in depth and loveliness yet strained by my attempted internal re-alignment after the divorce.  The chickens.  The garden.  My housemates.  My family.  In my current life I am so very external, leaving little room for self care, a pattern that I dearly hope this adventure will shake up and recreate.  So with mint tea dried from the yard, my journal, a box of crayons, and plans for letters and collages and exchanges with friends found on the road, I make space for my emotional self to grow and expand while I explore the Mississippi.

The last, but of course most essential, layer that is my core self I do not yet know how to best attend to.  She is there.  She is being rediscovered, reshaped, unearthed as nutrients in tilled soil.  But I cannot yet place her, in my being or in the world.  In time.  Beginning September 5th.

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My lovely steed, The Parrot. She will accompany me through the journey’s end.