You can come out now. It's safe. // Letting the rash let it out...
“God plays dice with the universe, but they’re loaded dice.”
-Joseph Ford, physicist
A quick sketch of the quirky hand-painted bus parked near a church where we did service work near Bateman.
A found pair of fuzzy yellow dice dangled from the back of the brand new red bike cart I scored off Craigslist. Sequined undies, neon lycra, striped leg&arm-warmers, new neon green bell, rad sunglasses I nabbed from my grandma, facepaint, clif bars, patch kits, pink handlebar tape, neo-spork. Check, check, check. All Packed Up…..but ….going nowHere. The day before the STL Superhero crew was scheduled for departure to the Austin homebase training for the 20th official Haul of Justice ride, my skin erupted in an oozing, scaly rash — face, neck, chest, back, arms, hands. Yuck. Perfect if my alterego was LizardGirl but realistically, absolutely untenable for weeks of bike touring and shower-skimpy camping.
…………………………………………………………….Ummmm…… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .help?
When I was a kid, I was a game-board flipper. I.e.: if I wasn’t winning, I’d lift and flip Chutes and Ladders or Life or whatever we were playing so the pieces went flying. If I wasn’t winning, no one was winning. Luckily that historically Scott clan competitive edge has softened into total cuddle-puddle collaborative mentality, but I still need a good nudge every so often to get my head out of the internal dialogue of my anxious perfectionist’s fail/succeed binary and get deeply, simply grateful for what is.
<Breathe>>>>> ah. There it is.
Grace. This moment is plenty. May I grow wise to the principles that shape this divine dance of the Dice of Destiny to feel and love creation at the causal level.
Game on. The Superhero bike tour was a dynamic crash-course in crazy-loving, self-sufficient, humility and availability to the universe. The rash woke me up to neglected aspects of my mind/body conversation, and my healing journey landed me in sync with the superheroes in perfect timing. Spending Christmas on the road entirely outside of the consumer-holiday dimension with strangers-turned-kin crafted a new schema of Family. For a chronological telling of the journey, here is superhero ZIA’s amazing photojournal of the day-by-day play-by-play, within her larger trip journal called “Living on a Bike”!
I am inspired to share here moments and themes that come foreground to me as I reflect on the whole trip, including the remedies, serendipities, stellar Human Beans, encounters with Nature, and New Shapes that most moved me.
“YOURE NOT GOING ANYWHERE, HONEY…”
Up til about 3pm on the day before scheduled departure I was frantically darting around my freezing cold studio, packing, scratching, answering emails, and scratching. Clawing, more like. Whimpering. Packing! Must. Pack. A ball of nervous energy and hissing extra-bitchy to my un-phased, patiently supportive & characteristically calm boyfriend, I was doing my best to ignore my intuition’s blaring loudspeaker message: “Sweetie, just where do you think you’re going like this?” F—You I’m Leaving and you can’t stop me!!!!!! Totally attached to my carefully constructed exit strategy, not leaving was not an option. Must. Pack.
When my fingers were frozen, I escaped to Mud House for blood sugar and warmth, and ran into an old friend I’d been out of orbit with. Our surprise heart-to-heart, her open sharing, softened me enough to get real. When I went to the bathroom to pee I realized my blue turtleneck was entirely soaked with rash goo. Ewww. Moment of truth. Peeled it up to see the skin beneath was inflamed, my eyes were swollen, I looked like shit, I felt like shit, I am not going anywhere.
I gave in and called up the ride to say I was out. For now. Whew. As soon as the words were spoken, my lungs and body totally relaxed. MMM, that glorious instantaneous space that zings into being the second resistance is released! Even though I was in as much physical discomfort, I felt so much better. Now I was free to learn from the illness I’d manifested, explore new healing modalities, and open up to possibilities that were shut down when I was dogmatically controlling my schedule. From To-Do-List to Feel-Into-This in the wink of an eye.
All My Relations xoxxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxo
As I gave attention to the mysterious eczema outburst and its root causes, I enjoyed many firsts!
1st treatment @ Community Acupuncture: sliding scale, kind and collaborative treatment — the guys are so gentle, friendly, and included me in problem-solving the outburst.
1st time at Chery’ls Herbs: Just breathing in there feels healing. I bought soothing Calendula Cream and Comfrey Salve. Yum.
1st Oatmeal bath : Swim in your breakfast! When I asked Katie Mack if it was a pain to clean up she advised that the slow down needed to sift and drain is an important part of the process: Making time for healing rituals….
1st apple cider vinegar soak : Tingly! Tangy!
1st time at SKYZONE! Not “healing” per se, but a fun goodbye date with my love We had the place to ourselves and got tired in about thirty minutes in to our Groupon coupon hour.
The most impactful tools that showed up were my first co-counseling session and my first sweat lodge, both “heart technology” resources shared with me via wonder-woman Jane Gramlich . The morning the Gold Rush minivan split and I stayed home with ‘nothing to do but heal’ attitude I accompanied JR to Jane’s house where he was picking up some probiotics. He left but I stayed; her presence is magnetic and my heart was a live wire. As my bottom lip started spontaneously quivering, she sensed my need and got out her timer: “I listen to you, then you listen to me” – one of the amazing practices of co-counseling, or “RC” – Re-evaluation Counseling, is equality. Here you can find a link to its wonder-tenets. Most basically, RC is the practice of taking turns totally listening and allowing the other to fully feel and discharge any emotions that arise. The utterly aware and tender attention she shared with me facilitated a surprisingly slobbery, profound SPILL of cobwebbed sobs…….grief and sadness at the pain of poverty and felt impotence stored so deep from the past three years of life/outreach on Cherokee, plus sparks of celebrations, deep breath gratitudes, yarns of longing. Lifeblood. A withered shriveled thing watered up. Sweet wet crunch like soaked almonds, living again. She let me go on as I needed to, then when I finished she checked the clock. We took a stretch break and then she took her turn for the same amount of time, and I experienced the sweet balance of feeling love for her as I entered her universe fully. Wow. A green smoothie and meandering conversation later, I was walking back by the MOBOT with birds chirping in my soul, 180 degrees from the stuckness of 24-hr prior. Annica. Stick around.
Saturday morning, a group of us carpooled out to the country to gather around a fire and meet the twenty or so others with whom we would soon sit scrunched and sweat-drenched in a tiny canvas-covered dome. IF you’ve never, Here’s a great synopsis of the Sweat Lodge history and process. The moment the water was ladled onto the stones and the last orange ember gave over into darkness, nowhere to go but inside. In the total black of no-time, thick steam heat becomes the space of eternity. Sitting like this feels so familiar, pleading together and being heard. The shared prayers, mad sweat seeping through my healing skin, and wordless songs pouring from my heart at the top of my lungs was perfect medicine. Asho.
Go ahead and strum that fantasy where life is a musical in an instant.
I even laid in a tanning bed a few times to let the fake sun dry it out, in that weird wonderful womb cooking skin smell. On the December 5th New Moon, I kicked it girl time style with Safita and Nado, because too much love is just about perfect. .. and set the intention:“ I AM SAFE AND SUPPORTED IN MY SKIN AS I AM.” The day before I headed down to catch up with the Superheroes, I finally saw a dermatologist who gave me a cortisone shot in my booty and some packable meds just in case for the road. It felt good to seek alternative/spiritual healing first, and then add to that the resources of allopathic medicine, instead of vice versa. The situations, conflicts, dilemmas, and breakthroughs that arose during the week told a story of the skin condition’s energetic root. I know this rash and what it represents are still with me and I commit to gradual, full healing…
I eased into Austin a week late but right on time. My old best brotherfriend Dan Green had stepped up as Superhero Austin HQ host, and my craigslist ride (see below) eased in around 4 am 12/10. Too excited to sleep, we cosied up to watch Slumdog Millionaire: all your life prepares you for what you need to know. You have all the answers. Finale Bollywood community dance scene, amen. It is written.
He dropped me off at the church where the Superheroes were staying a few towns SE, and I walked into a room of 17 wise, adventurous, forgiving, skillful, brave, honest, wonderful humans who I’d join for the next three weeks in service and silliness.
Nightshade came back from a Resale Shop some superheroes were helping to organize with this book, which I almost bought for myself at BookWoman in Austin a year prior. Filled with great exercises of looking anew and quotes from folks who do. "Every experience is unrepeatable." -Italo Calvino
EARN YOUR NAME
AND SO I set out to be The SerendipiTease, and my superpowers?: “I enjoy being in the right place at the right time with a smile that beams your brightness right back at you! I speak and sing the truth in love, and powerflirt with the entire universe with acroyoga, honesty, and compassionate touch.”
My stutter-step in leaving reminded me of the requisite prelude to serendipity: Surrender. If I wanted to live into my superhero name, it wouldn’t be because I was forcing my agenda or scurrying forward with a furrowed brow. Just breathe, baby. Let it happen. With that 101 lesson fresh under my belt, I could proceed, and take joy in the myriad of cosmic coincidences that cropped up around every corner during the ride.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- ◊ Craigslist! So once I was stuck in STL without the cheap transport south (van ride = gas divided by five) I scratched my head at how to get out of Dodge once my bod was ready. I posted a pre-emptive ride request on STL and Austin craigslists, then checked out Chicago’s – a ride via STL to Dallas had JUST been posted for almost a week later, 12/9. Hmmm… too long to wait? How would I get to Austin from Dallas? Called the dude to say maybe….. Heard back from him a few days later that he heard from another Craigslister Austinite Beth who needed her keyboard driven down from Chicago – she’d drive up to Dallas and take me back to Austin with her instrument. Hot dang! The ride turned out perfect — my body was finally ready to leave, Bob was a total sweetie who overrode my initial impression of smidgen sketchy stoner. He and I pulled up to the business Hilton he’d pricelined and the bartender who’d just last-called brewed me a fresh pot of coffee…. I took the keys to Beth’s sweet burnt orange rental KIA SUV, and she and I chatted heart-to-heart nonstop the entire ride. How is it again that I am driving with an amazing lady stranger in the middle of the night, getting dropped off at my doorstep for almost no cost? Universe I love you…
Classy Curtis being inducted as the Superhero "Spirit Power!" PHOTO BY ZIA!
- ◊ Wig spoke clog! Sweeping (riding the end with tools and patchkits) with Superstretch on a gorgeous flat stretch country road outside Cuero, I suddenly couldn’t pedal. WTF? Examination revealed that the bright green wig I salvaged and stuck in my ‘muffler’ didgeridoo had dislodged and fallen into my cart wheel. Wrapped mean around, it took a minute to find my scissors and do surgery. Meanwhile, a dashing sixtysomething gentleman with a gallant accent, ten gallon hat, and gleaming smile drove by and chatted us up… laughing at the oddity of the scene. He drove off…. Paused…. then reversed, introduced himself as Curtis and mentioned if we needed anything, to give him a call – - and that he’d be willing to open up the First Baptist in Cuero if we wanted a warm place to sleep. We ended up Christmasing there in the a huge spot with a gym, pool tables, showers, an industrial kitchen, and a super friendly town. Curtis, the county commissioner and church dean with a heart of gold, told great stories, connected us to fruitful service spots, and dubbed himself the superhero “Spirit Power!” I adored this experiential case in point that seeming “glitches” . . . breakdowns, inconveniences…. are Pronoiaic plot-twists to open us up to gifts we otherwise might miss. Go go green wig portal to blessing!
Very important news bulletin. ...Superstretch is really Stephen George Shapiro?? PHOTO BY ZIA!
- ◊ Meeting Jennifer Preyss So we rolled into Victoria and start scouting – biking around with antennae out to connect with people who can link us to service and a campsite or homebase. It’s Sunday December 26 and downtown street are absolutely empty… Stardust and Stronglove wander around and bike up to talk to the one person they see. Of course the only person Just So Happens to be the reporter that’s scheduled to interview us — Stronglove had gotten a Victoria Advocate press reference from our Christmas angel Carrie in Cuero. “Come on in!” So though we still have no idea where we’ll be staying that night, we pile into a small conference room and laugh hilariously as we learn the answers to Jennifer’s questions (real name? occupation?) that we have no idea about, three weeks into the journey. Her candid curiosity and attentive listening gifted us with the chance to tell our story together. So the next day after my lunch cook shift was complete, I was hankering for some quiet time before I headed to join the project at Habitat. I totally wanted a coffee shop break. Toying with feeling guilty for a) ditching the group for the first time and b) giving in to my waning coffee addiction, I checked in – I really was feeling tugged, and so opted for enthusiastic celebration of pleasure, and ambled to the town café with Nightshade and our books for a break. On entering, we see — Sitting right in front of the door was Jennifer, the reporter! Who was there on a whim for the second time in her life. Before we sit and gush, a woman starts chatting me up and offers to buy me whatever I want — I realize she is the same woman we met walking down a country road a few days back – she has bike toured the world and is here visiting family. Two serendipities, one cuppa. Heart-to-hearts ensue, Jennifer and Nightshade and I have an off-the-record convo that feeds us each, and this practice of feeling and moving with intuition is knocking my socks off. Jennifer wrote two great pieces – a shorter lifestyles blurb and a faith feature“As the superheroes left my sights for the last time, I started asking myself, when I last embraced life with reckless abandon? I asked myself, when I last did something careless, disregarding my inevitable dissenters?”
All is calm. All is bright. / PHOTO BY ZIA!
Screech, Zia, Infinity and I kick it with the Dunn street kids. PHOTO BY ZIA!
◊ ◊ All in the Family : Christmas eve in Cuero found our caped selves meandering the hallways at a nursing home and connecting with the elderly there. We kicked it with one of their more lucid customers, an African-American man in his seventies with a wicked sense of humor. He razzed us; we inflicted more Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer on him, and got him talking about his grandkids… Treyshon, JayVeon, and Jasmine. All sung out, we biked off- – the group split up on various missions. I was determined to find kids, needing some Play Time, so I beelined with a crew to a housing project where we heard lots of kids lived . Zia thought she had a short cut so she led the way, and en route encountered a young girl who she gifted a big stuffed bear (that Eko had predumpstered for kid gifts). Ended up we had to double back to re-find the street since it curved unexpectedly; arriving at the neighborhood within minutes we were kicking with a crew of funny smart little people and their grandparents in a commonspace yard, Christmas-messaging in sidewalk chalk and crazy face painting. A young mama asked how long we’d be out . . . . brought her kids by ten minutes later. Their names? Treyshon and JayVeon. And moments later, Jasmine walks up on the scene with her bear. What?? Out of the whole town, the Superheroes managed to hone in and connect with strands of one family all over town.
I love my gift from Sandy
Amazing Daniella and James brought homemade breakfast out to our campsite & we got to play with beautiful bebe.... PHOTO BY ZIA!
WHAT IF WE’d NEVER MET?
In an email I received before take-off, soul sister and artist friend Emi Heymeyer wrote me: “There’s family everywhere.” The words rung deep – I long to know this, yet often when I travel I still feel the touristy outside-peering-in… restaurants, bars, long walks, looking. The Superhero ride was great practice at bursting thru the imaginary boundaries of Unknown Territories smack dab into the homes, hearts, problems, and joys of real people’s lives: traveling at the level of pure participation.
Our crazy outfits and clear mission opened doors. Costumes crack open stares into conversations, and the safety of our intention ushered us in to intimate situations with little hesitation. I loved watching the wary crossed-arm distance melt into excited interest and collaboration. Zero to sixty in usually about three minutes. For instance – Infinity Man and I rolled up on a tiny country church in Kingsbury preparing for their Christmas pageant and potluck. We introduced ourselves to a hesitant church lady with a quizzical brow: “Um… let me go get Pastor…..” By the end of the night we were enjoying cheesy casserole galore, breaking down the manger set, listening to how the drought has affected ranch life, camping in their back yard and waking up the next morning to Dee’s amazing pancakes. Of course, that wasn’t always the case…… the cops in Nixon were too sketched out by unfamiliar antics and asked us to leave asap. Which we did – joined by Latino teenagers in the town who received the same judgmental treatment by the authorities. Modus operandi: Connect where we can be a gift, move on when it’s not working – never forcing an agenda, always learning from the law of attraction in action.
“The universe is the mirror in which we can contemplate only what we have learned to know in ourselves.”
– Mr. Palomar / by Italo Calvino
The journey was fraught with good, kind souls who went out of their way to help, to receive, to give. These especially made an indelible impression:
- ◊ Ms. Willy B / Lady Love made solid contact with the food pantry in Lockhart which connected us with service for some of their elderly clients. Captain Oregano reported back that Willy B could use as many hands as we could free. Soon her house was crawling with capes — cleaning out back rooms full of clutter, fixing broken window panes, raking leaves, and God bless Stretch who made her stove shine after no joke four hours of straight scouring. Camped out at her kitchen table, mostly sedentary due to recent surgery and extra weight, she answered questions and delighted in the flurry of action. She shared with us the difficulty of her past year, losing eight people in her family the past year, and the discouragement she was suffering. “Just yesterday I was talking to a friend, sayin When am I gonna get my blessing? Things been so hard. Now look just a day later and y’all turn up and all this. This is my Christmas gift.” At her house I felt how much pure service is a gift to the servers – feeling useful, stepping outside the worries and challenges of my ego’s personal plight, enjoying being a vessel. I noticed that her grandson, shy and quiet, was playing with an Avatar toy and watching the movie too. Face paints handy, I turned him into an Avatar within minutes. Mwah.
El Pinguino, El Capitan Oregano, yo, y Diez Minutos. PHOTO BY ZIA!
- ◊ Isidro and Abraham I was bummed about the news that the Nixon cops wanted us gone. Wavering with low spirits – getting down on our crew – look at us, we are a bunch of weirdos. Oh well, picking up trash is no crime. I stripped off my pink cape and sequins and got into my black yoga super ninja undercover clothes and headed out to a lot near the highway I’d noticed earlier was full of litter. Out the back door of the community center where we were staying, I encountered Isidro and Abraham – friendly Mexican-American 16 and 17-yr old who were bored. Hablamos un poco and I invited them to walk with me and pick up trash if they wanted… I was impressed –They did, for quite awhile. They offered to buy us Gatorade and then came back to the center to play pool with some of the guys. Later that night they came by on bike curious if they could ride with us. We decided it would be fine to invite them on a daytrip if their parents were down, so Stardust, Oregano, and I biked with them to meet their families who received us with so much kindness. They next morning they showed up early and with cookies their moms had packed for us all. Stumped when asked what their superhero names were, Stretch said – “Ok, You have ten minutes to answer. “ So, ten minutes later we had an induction ceremony….We christened them “Diez Minutos Para Contestar” (clever!) and El Pinguino — They accompanied us 9 miles down the road for a Trash-Pick-uP morning in the next town over, Smiley. El Pinguino gave me and Stardust handcrafted needlepoint art we’d admired in his mom’s house the night before. Endless generosity. It livened my heart to feel the group attract racial diversity; though we as a crew reflected many different ages and styles of being – we were mostly Caucasian. A few days later, Christmas Eve – I got a text that said they wanted to come spend Christmas with us! An older friend of theirs dropped them off and they spent the afternoon with us. They text me multiple times a day. They are rad.
Our best caroling jam session with the ladies of Laren Industries. PHOTO BY ZIA!
- ◊ Sandy After we finished picking up trash in Smiley, I was walking the strip and drawn to a window of a craft shop. Peering in, the ladies waved me inside and soon I was surrounded by the sweetest gaggle of women yet, mostly in their 40s-50s. I’d stumbled into a project called Laren Industries that provides employment to people with developmental disabilities by creating clay and fabric artwork for sale. Their joy was totally infectious, and I immediately connected to a woman named Sandy with a giant smile who spoke unwords in guttural tones and dancing eyes. She motioned a gift to me – a neon-colored woven placemat that I immediately strung about my neck as ‘the breastplate of happiness’. Soon the whole Superhero crew was crowded inside serenading them with our brief set of Christmas carols – which they asked us to sing again, and again, and added their own reprises. Karen, their caretaker/’boss’ told me about the time she took the women on a cruise and they befriended the whole boat with their shrieking laughter and endless playfulness. “You must become as a child….”
- ◊ Elaine Heading from Victoria to the beach for New Year’s, we stopped at the Party Barn – an elegant ranch event rental spot referred to us by a trip contact. Received by the owner’s daughter in a golf cart, we biked in to 250 acres of awe-inspiring Live Oak groves and picturesque swamp. Armadillos and alligators, oh my. We helped them take down the barn’s Christmas decorations including a 14-ft tree and feasted on a delicious pot of chili and cornbread they fixed us. Elaine and Dave, the owners, were full of questions – welcoming, but reserved and curious, straight-faced and clearly trying to piece together just how things worked. In the morning, we woke up to our mission: trash-picking. // The ranch burned their trash, and the wind had swept debris far and wide into the pristine nature that surrounded the pit. On the ten minute walk to the site, I was dumbstruck. It may be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, the way the live oaks twist and turn, gnarling a knobby canopy skyward – some trunks so fat — two or three hundred years old? Heartbeat faster, this is sacred ground. Arrive at the clearing where beer bottles, plastic cups, soda cans, Styrofoam plates, plastic bags forks spoons, tampon applicators, diapers, and other debris were scattered into the underbrush and bushes. Wild Yeast found an unopened jar of sauerkraut which Racoon, bless him, promptly tasted and declared sandwichable. Uneasy complaints about the task and discomfort about the toxins released when burning synthetics raised great conversation about consumerism, trash island, Bag It, and success stories like Sandhill community – a thirty year old collective who saves their trash and has a tiny landfill the size ofa kid pool. We talked and bagged until the land was mostly clear; I was increasingly quiet. // Somewhere along the way any judgment faded: it ceased being ‘their’ trash — it was my trash, my disposable cups, my carelessness – and it was a prayer with and for the Earth that I’ve forgotten how to feel. The stark contrast between the mighty oaks and the ugly scraps of convenience cut me so deep, and I wept. Barraged with reports of global warming and garish TV newscasts of oil spills, I can typically barely feel the gravity. But – Bend, grab, bag. Bend, grab, bag. This pace and proximity opened the floodgates of my heart, and I could grieve for my own dissociation from Nature and feel stirring so powerfully how much I long to know her and care for her. Each simple motion was one of repentance and affection . . . . I love you. I’m sorry. Later I shared this with the group – - we circled up near the pit after the chore was complete to be together and release the intensity. As we held hands in silence, the trees suddenly picked up a strong breeze that spiraled our circle. I know they heard us, their whisper and caress was the sweetest forgiveness. “May the beauty we love, be what we do…” // Back at the barn, I went to brush my teeth and ran into Elaine. We got to talking and sharing . . . “I want you to know how hard it was for me to let y’all come here. I mean, what if you all were crazy and tried to kill us? We sleep with guns by our bed but still. I’m really glad I did, it’s good what you all are doing.” I felt so much love and appreciation for her opening and self-trust, and so much gratitude for how we all intersect at various phases in our awakening.”Now if y’all are hungry I have some food for you to take….” She loaded us up with venison sausage from their land, buttermilk pie, tea cookies, and all the leftover fixins from their Christmas dinner in Ziploc baggies. We lunched like royalty.
- ◊ Infinity Man At the party barn campfire, Myna’s daughter asked us each our name and “What’s your superpower?” Mild mannered Infinity answered, “Stick around long enough and you might just find out.” We all burst out laughing — true that. Slow and steady wins the race: Somedays the sage in me would assign myself to Sweep (ride last) with Infinity so the Hare in me could learn from the Tortoise in him. I thought I stretched a lot and was free to be me . . . Infinity bumps it up a couple notches…… Downdog just about anywhere, in his green sweat shorts with torn blue briefs worn on the outside, endearingly oblivious to the overt oddness. Infinity is himself. He consistently helped me to check my judgment and impatience and give in to the comedy that is reality. Riding behind his figure-eight cape flapping, I was biking on the road to nowhere, freed up to enjoy the scenery.
- ◊ The women on this trip. Our crew was full up with the spiciest powerhouses of bright-eyed, zany, empowered ladies…… Age 20-60, world traveling, love-giving DIY beauties of every flavor: : : : Nightshade; Screech Owl; Stardust; Eko Explorer; Zia ; Ruby Hummingbird; Tenderheart; and the legendary three who left us early on – Exploding Heart Full of Love ; Lady Love; and Juniper Sparks ~Lady with a Porpoise. I can’t say enough so I’m not even going to start. You each give me faith for the mighty shifting back toward balance as the Goddess rises. I see her in each of you and I take you to heart.
Besides college backpacking trips, this trip is the most time I’ve spent outside in my life. Biking -- hills especially -- is amazing medicine. Motion: "Pray at all times, with all kinds of prayer..."
FEEL THE DIFFERENCE?
“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”
– Chinese Proverb
You mean “Being Green” isn’t just a tee-shirt I can get at Target? I definitely have been a culprit of Do as I Say not as I do — spouting Sustainable and self-sufficient theory while sipping my Americano-to-go in my 23-mpg pimpmobile. But I didn’t buy this car! But I’ll use this cup again! On this trip I faced my own unwillingness to give up earth-destructive habits I’m attached to. I had time, mile after mile, to consider why I maintain that certain lifestyle-modifications are too radical to be attainable. Moment by moment, I felt the difference between Nature and City. Living in community on the road let the lessons sink in deeper than I’ve felt before.
Here are some moments that come forward:
- ◊ Snail Sex! So it’s a movie, it doesn’t really count – but I’d never seen Microcosmos before, and watched it on the night before I set out while stitching up my cape at Dann Green’s. The slow-mo symphony of the mysteries of insect minutia everywhere abounding set my eyes to noticing – the giant crawdad in the path, the tiny spider rapelling off my bike pants, the lizard atop the tent. Beautiful I love you.
Outside Victoria along the Guadalupe River, who was our friend for much of the trip. PHOTO BY ZIA!
◊ Nature walks Nightshade and Ranger Bill took us walking and identifying around Lockhart State Park – we saw chinaberry, mistletoe, oat grass, lots of oaks, and wild boar havens. When they learned I’d never seen a real live one, I got apersonal tour of a neighborhood pomegranate tree one night from hosts Greg and Andy in San Marcos. An ex-military brilliant horticulturist, Greg and his delicious biceps wouldrrrrrrrrrip leaves from trees and spit their latin names ~ a strange mix of tender wisdom and violence. From him, I learned Anacua, an amazing scratchy leaf Native Americans used for sandpaper. Christmas morning I walked looooong to talk to my fam and my beloved and gathered a found plastic-Jackolatern full of giant fresh pecans on thelawn outside a bank that Infinity turned into our sorghummy good Christmas pecan pie.
- ◊ Sleeping outside!! There was a measurable difference between our group vibe when we camped versus when we stayed inside at a church or community center. Autonomous, connected to the rhythms of natural light, able to wander into the trees – each of us seemed freer and our chemistry was more grounded outside. The weather was perfect many nights to forego tents, and I found I love falling asleep to stars. The night of the eclipse/solstice, we awoke at 1am to a cloudy sky. Laying in her sleeping bag beside me, Stardust played the didgeridoo and patiently watched – she’d nudge me at a cloud break and we’d laugh in joy loud enough to wake the others to catch the glimpse of the glowing too. Peekaboos made seeing the experience even more precious.
- ◊ Road kill funerals. While biking, it’s tradition to stop and honor animals that have been killed by car accidents. Finding whatever scrap of tire or litter as gloves, we dragged stiff possums, bloody raccoons, squarshed armadillos off the shoulder and into the grass to decay. We saw frogs, giant wild boars, elegant deer, skunks that all met the same violent death. Giving them each a moment’s recognition, thanks and a handful of leaves was once again an experiential reminder of the reality of car-dominated terrain for animals. Other encounters with fine feather/finned/furry creatures were a bit less grotesque: Stronglove sawed and sawed and sawed a dead ramhorn off; Oregano fished-gutted-fried many a catfish; Yeast and co plucked a chicken that a host’s dog killed.
Stronglove, at last successful in sawing his ceremonial horn.
- ◊ General portability It felt so good to up and go, find a site, and make a nest. The free and easy way we carried everything we needed heightened my awareness of the sickness of too much stuff – literally. Accumulation of unused objects produces a material stagnancy that influences the energetic and produces illness, fatigue, dis-ease. The Big Getting Rid is near and dear to my heart, and our service included many such “Declogging Missions” to people so bogged down with accumulation that intervention was necessary. The worst was a project we affectionately dubbed “The Trailer of Terror” – a 10’ X 70’ container chock stock with paper products, old computer monitors, clothes, toys, outdated electronics, and surplus canned goods from the 90s, all doused in rat poo and water damage. Originally, everything was saved with the good intention of helping others …eventually. CF: Manna. Present use is primary. We unloaded everything and created an instant Yard Sale with the salvageables, and all took home treasures – I got a Furby tschochke and sweet rolls of red/white reflective tape. The church was left with fresh storage to serve its Food pantry overflow.
- ◊ Pilgrimage to the Big Tree Sometimes a tree can tell you more than can be read in a book.” – Carl Jung On New Year’s morning we walked a few miles to the 1000 year old oak at Lamar outside Goose Island State Park. We thought we were walking just a few blocks (none of us had looked at a map)….so we kept…. Walking… and walking. It felt a fitting monument to end our journey together. Human time felt inconsequential beneath her enormous arms, embracing everything, upward. We circled around in its younger relatives to share our New Years intentions.
How can strangers connect to build an instant family that travels, serves, cooks, and plays so seamlessly and peacefully? Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the trip for me was the simplicity, efficacy, and novelty of our social shape – and the day-to-day practices that maintained it. “With our powers combined, we are….” became a palpable force that carried us through ups and downs of the group dynamic. A lot of this is owed to the visionary foundation that Ethan set and has built on over the years with an incredible cast of our 500 superheroes. I love his list of superhero list of intentions, particularly : Outward-spreading ripples of love. Self-love, then “your neighbor as yourself”….. When we were tense with each other, the world around us was way less interested in what we had to offer. “By your love will they know….”
The rhythm of sharing food was strong glue. Peanut butter tortillas, amen.
I felt the power of these practices:
- ◊ Daily rituals “AWOOOOOOOGAH!!!!” ( the call to circle). Even though I usually didn’t know what day of the week it was, I felt tremendously grounded in the cycle of our day based in recurring rituals. Morning meetings kicked off with Readings of the Greats – a thought quote from a wise person, anecdote, poem – food to center mind in upliftment. Before lunch and dinner, we circled up the old-fashioned way Holding Hands! Any thoughts of “this is cheesy” were erased by the immediate physiological whoooosh of peace and presence as we all took a big breath and moment of silence together…. Until someone led out a song –anything goes: This little light , talking bout the man in the mirror, my granma and your grandma, Prince medleys….. Night time we recapped the day in The Great Eyeball – which objectively listed the days’ events – sometimes simply, sometimes quite performatively. And last but not least, Thanking and Sharing: reflecting on gratitudes, lessons, concerns —— when we were tired we skipped it, some nights it lasted for hours til’ peace was reached.
- ◊ Substance-free . . . .Mostly. The ride’s reputation of being alcohol-free is one of the prime aspects that drew me. Not because I don’t enjoy wine with dinner or delicious beer after a hard day of work in the sun or the occasional whiskeycrazy dance dance to the break of dawn. Because I’m frankly so tired and sometimes angry at how much addiction dominates youth culture’s hugely powerful time & money resources, as well as causing prolific amounts of glass, plastic, and disposable trash and often emotional baggage to sort through later. I have drifted further and further from circles of friends/artists in STL as I see alcohol as a primary glue that holds the social scene together. I grieve for power that hides out behind clink clink small talk and I deal with personal frustration that I still give in to these customs instead of helping to further pioneer new ways of being. So I figured the trip would be proactive on this account – and it was. Issues came up as the ‘ban’ was presented during training with a lot of grey area so as to be life-giving instead of legalistic. We had long conversations about our personal needs, backgrounds, struggles, and hopes around alcohol use – as well as questioning why coffee & cigarettes weren’t necessarily included in the ‘substance free’ status. We always circled back to the intention to be wholesome, present, and approachable – - as well as minimal consumers. I know I felt some cloudiness at the weight of the plastic bag full of alcohol bottles I took to the dumpster (this part of TX doesn’t recycle glass) during New Years Day cleanup after we decided together to include champagne Etcetera for New Year’s Eve– and I also felt a lot of gratitude for our amazing all-night sharing, singing, and full force celebrating our last night together . Just being in honest dialogue and accountable felt great — that’s more aware than most groups I’ve been part of. Whatever available steps.
- ◊ Role-sharing Our day-to-day responsibilities were cared for by five rotating teams: Cook & Clean, Breakfast & Metta , Navigation, Support & Massage, and Hunter-Gatherer. The teams shapeshifted as our group shrunk from the peak 19 to final days 10 people – but the principle remained of sharing duties. My favorite was, of course, Support & Massage — ‘floating’ doing whatever people needed support with and offering lots of acroyoga. Tasks that usually daunt me (cooking for a large crew, choosing country routes in unfamiliar territory) offered opportunities for growth with the support of a team. Never a dull moment.
Post-ride pre-lunch stretch break. I loved seeing Stardust against the blue sky! PHOTO BY ZIA!
- ◊ Cuddle puddles! We had a hugely affectionate, open-hearted team with lots of hugs and compassion abounding…..Close-knit and easy-going, tent snuggle buddies made freezing cold nights less daunting. And…. I found mistletoe in the forest and I wasn’t afraid to use it. Xoxxx! Peeing in nature and wiping with leaves, bathing in rivers, riding into wind, changing in open air — what a gift to feel the power of the elements on our skin, in our muscles.
The county line dance tradition.......
◊ “Relationship before task”: In college, a favorite teacher used this phrase to describe valuing each other before adhering to incessant Busy-ness. Again and again, opportunities came up to be steered by our desire to connect instead of Arrive. When we leave a place, we circle up around the “true” superheroes that make towns tick by their continued outreach and effort. In these ‘supernovas’ – we’d speak the qualities we saw alive in the person, and swallow them up in a big group hug. We weren’t watching the clock, and it was well worth the delayed departure times to witness grown men tremble in the middle as they were able to relax, be vulnerable, and Receive. My favorite time bubble we made was on NYE: we had our own countdown – we decided not to watch the clock. We took time to thank the past year by each remembering and recapping our adventures, struggles, growth – when we realized we weren’t going to all get a chance to share amply before midnight, I suggested we tune into our own sense of time and raise a toast to the New Year when we were done fare-welling the old. It felt so good to totally listen to each person instead of wishing they’d hurry up so we could get done by the stroke of twelve.
- ◊ More song and laughter than anywhere else ……… We were a rolling jukebox. I brought a didgeridoo, Yeast toted a guitar, and Nightshade knew every song anyone opened their mouth to hum. Honey-voiced Lady Love taught me harmony to “Going on a Sentimental Journey” and we all edited the 12 days of Christmas to reflect our trip for the Xmas HQ Phonecall-in. Stretch and I wrote a ditty to thank : “Dan Green to the Rescue!” with multiple verses that traced his hosting contribution, a fluttery falsetto bridge that goes “Super Powers are combining, Willing Reaching Honing Finding ….Yours and Mine…. Yours and mine, its Our Power….” And Racoon wins best wake up ever for when he sang a full on Circle of Life from Lion King with a bucket drum. Oddest in the public eye might be “county line dances” – the ritual when we dismount our bikes at the County Line sign and have a hoedown. Jig, pole dance, playing spoons we found on the side of the road – room for everything .
I'll play my best for you, pa rum pum pum pum.... PHOTO BY ZIA!
Dust off that diva cup, girl! Make it real. Make it personal. How sustainable can I be this year? How much can I choose bike or public transport over car or plane? What role can I best play in supporting the growth of life-affirming community? What skills shall I grow? Where? With whom?
I cherish these new friends, beautiful stars on the map to visit with soulful projects in motion. Maybe a trip to Mexico with Stardust to paint a mural in an orphanage? Go see Nightshade’s mushroom plugs @ Acorn and learn to seed save? In April, I’ll see my boo off to the Possibility Alliance for his 8-month internship in Natural Building there – among the projects to complete: the Superheroes HQ Treehouse!
Back at DG’s Austin HG, trip decompression. I walk with Screech Owl arm and arm, we loop back to the Austin park ‘circus tent’ where the superheroes did their orientation games. It’s dark and it feels good to walk. Yasenta? Screech Owl. SerendipiTease? Lyndsey. Which name do I call you by now? Hung out in the limbo between the ride and the ‘real world’ we ask our learning to stay real. How can we carry this magic into our lives? No words: she and I breathe-sing- stretch- beat-box, and stomp out echoing train rhythms full of the new year’s hopes and intentions. I can’t map out how but I learn to trust, feeling myself become part of a larger locomotive, stirring whirring waking up. The track may not be laid yet, but this train is bound for glory.
May I help build and be a piece of the bridge that connects the world we dream with the one we walk in.