Life: Blessings

Blessings can appear in the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected ways. Like dental surgery. Who thinks of dental surgery as a blessing? I recently went back to our hometown of Austin, Texas, to get a wisdom tooth removed… perhaps against my more stubborn nature. I mean, who is to say which teeth are more necessary than others, anyway? My thought is that I was born with this exact body, and it just doesn’t make sense to make big permanent changes to it, just because the majority of others do. That to me spells industry, as in the body hair removal industry, or the fitness industry, or the clothing industry. All are designed to capitalize on the insecurity and the difference of others.

But I digress… One of my teeth was causing health complications, and it need to come out. So back to Austin I went. The blessing here was that I got to spend time with my family for a week. I scheduled my flights to allow for a week-long stay in Austin, because oh so much can happen in one week, especially when living the lifestyle we have been living for the past year, and I hate to miss out on the goings on of bus life. There is a certain transitional period, as well, when one is shifting back and forth from living a certain lifestyle and daily routine, to living a completely different one. That is all fine and good, but like I said, time is pretty dense around here, so a day or two can feel like eternity. When one of us leaves the equation, its like we all have to re calibrate and readjust to the energy shift. And we are just more powerful together. I think all humans are.

I cannot fully express how comforting it feels to come back to a place and know exactly where you are in the world, know the different areas, have the ability to navigate your way through the city without a thought. Familiarity is a treasure I did not fully appreciate before this trip, but I have certainly found it now. Ahhhhh, Austin, the city I am from! Though it has changed tremendously, and continues to change and grow every day, being back still brings about that same sentimental feeling that I love. There is a sweetness that comes with it, a feeling of surrender into precious memories and times gone past, and also a tinge of sadness. Driving in to Austin at 9 pm felt especially rewarding after the trials life faced me with that day. They were nothing I couldn’t handle (after all, life never gives us more than we are able to handle at any point in time,) just little stones that I maybe stubbed my toe on or tripped over as I walked along the path. It had been a loooooong day, starting at five in the morning and including many busses, a plane, a train, and some good ol’fashioned hitch hiking. Needless to say, I was pretty wiped out and extremely relieved when I finally arrived to my final destination. Blessings can be disguised even as long days that test your patience.

My time in Austin was pretty low key, but still so special to me. Actually, most of the time I spent was in Dripping Springs, in the hill country just south west of Austin, where my moms new house is located. The hill country is absolutely beautiful. It always smells of cedar and wildflowers and sunshine, a scent I associate with childhood, with freedom. The wind blows lazily there, through short shrubby little trees and tall, gnarled oaks. The humid air traps heat better than a spiders web traps pesky flies, and makes your clothes cling to you with perspiration within moments of walking outside. The soil is clay based and filled with limestone. Because Texas has been in a severe drought for so long, it is also rock solid and dry, making yard work a bit challenging. The sun sets paint the whole entire sky with the pinks, oranges, yellows and purples of some tropical flowers, and contrasts so wonderfully with rolling emerald green hills, the limestone cliffs. This is home.

Recommendation: when visiting the hill country, be sure to go swimming in at least a few creeks and rivers. Its part of the experience. My mom and I went swimming in the lazy Cypress River that flows through Wimberly, where I also had the pleasure of visiting with a friend we had made in the beginning of this journey, an all around awesome Mr. Fix-it named Ray. Ray is the father of one of our first mechanics, Jesse Darnall, who helped us with our harmonic ballancer, before we had even left Austin. Both Jesse and Ray are very kind hearted and generous, and their help to us when this whole mess got started has been invaluable. So it was a treat to see him over a year later. The Cypress River is mildly cool, slow flowing, and lined with willowy Cypress trees, their twisting roots, slithering towards the water, their branches stretching languidly towards the open skies above and providing shade for swimmers bellow.
I also insist that, if you ever find yourself in the area, you make it a point to go to Barton Springs. The water is brisk and clear and poors from an underground springs which the Natives of the land have revered for its healing power for centuries. Those healing powers are very tangible to this day, though, unfortunately, they have been comodified. Still, whether you find yourself enjoying the “pay side” swimming pool, or the free side, where dogs and human alike are welcome, just a dip in the crisp, cold water will wake you up in more ways than one. I hung out with a new friend, also from Austin, whom we actually met on the road, while we were stationed at a mutual friends house in Tijeras, New Mexico. Leaving home can be an immeasurable blessing, as it has been for us. Just taking yourself out of a comfort zone and expanding your horizons really opens up doors where before no doors existed. We have had the great fortune of running in to many of the same characters many times on this journey, all friends, old and new. Looking back on all the new connections we have made, and continue to make, I am filled with excitement at the strength we are building in our web. The more we all connect to one another, the smaller this planet feels, and that much more possible conquering the great darkness we are faced with is. Together we can do anything. Community is such a pivotal part of the equation.

I got to visit with other friends and loved ones while in Austin, though our time together was shorter than I wanted. I even got to be there for my little sister Lila’s 15th birthday. I am so proud of her. I remember being that age, and how alienating and pointless life could be at times. Lila is all sunshine and flowers. She is so optimistic and smart. I see her going far in life, and it’s pretty dope that I get to watch it all unfold for her, unfurling petals of opportunity and experience as she continues along her life’s path. She is even more determined and stubborn than me… this should be interesting. Being her older sister has definitely been a blessing in disguise. I am the oldest sibling of three. We were raised by a single mother, who at times looked to me for support and help, and in response to this dynamic, I developed some unhealthy patterns. I was bossy with my siblings, and acted as if I knew all of the answers and was superior. It came from love, but also from fear. But I am rewiring the circuitry in my brain. That is what this journey (among many other things) is all about. Taking out the old, inefficient patterns so that I can rebuild better patterns, patterns that will serve me and enable me to create only growth, positivity, and love. Its been a true gift to learn all of these lessons with Lila, Simon, and my mom. I don’t know that I could pick a more loving, patient, and understanding group of humans to grow up with.

The most unusual blessing in disguise of this trip, though, came to me on the morning of my departure. My mom and I were a little late getting out of the house to catch my flight. Tardiness is a family trait of ours. But this time we were later than a little late, as in you are supposed to get to the airport like an hour before departure, and we got there ten minutes before, and I missed my flight. And thank goodness I did! I had booked my flight back from Texas to arrive in San Francisco, because back when I was booking all of this, the bus seemed to be in tip top condition again, and we were expecting to be stationed somewhere in the Oakland area upon my arrival. But, once again, the Bus brought us a lesson that we seem to just not be able to fully learn: you can’t plan. You just can’t. The future is unforeseeable, all we truly have is the present. This lesson came in the form of yet another mechanical hiccup that hindered us from getting where we were trying to go, and also presented us with a test in patience, focus, and self awareness. We found ourselves stuck in Los Angeles again, and I found myself with a non-refundable or transferable flight to San Francisco.
But blessings will always present themselves, if you believe and open your eyes wide enough to spot them.
On the last day of a very pleasant visit back home, my response to a stressful situation was tested, as we pulled up to the terminal with only a few minutes to check in and go through airport security. I breathed and reminded myself that it would all be okay, that this is certainly not the worst that could happen. The woman at the check in counter told me I was too late for my original flight…. and that there were seats available on stand by on a flight to Los Angeles, only 25 minutes later. Did I want to take that flight? Absolutely.
A flight to the place I really needed to be! Meaning I wouldn’t have to scour the rideshare page on craigslist, or hitchhike all the way back down to L.A! I was amazed.

Blessing after blessing, life unfurls its petals before me. Like a rosebud in bloom, these petal blessings seem to never cease, each one more fragile and delicate and precious than the one that came before. Every single thing is a blessing. If your eyes are opened wide enough.

So now I’m back in the city of Angels with the bus and the girls and the dogs, my beloved home and family. We’re still chilling at the shop in East L.A, finding stuff to fill the time. We work on bus projects, home projects, communication, our relationship, and rewiring our circuitry. Sometimes we go off on adventures, and sometimes we stay home and craft. It’s all part of a whirlwind trip called life. Unfurling its petals, endlessly, gracefully, with such complex symmetry, life is in full bloom.

Love Love love,
C

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The Bus Life

What is it like living on a bus? Before embarking on our adventure, and when I was still daydreaming about the freedom of the wide open road, that was a question I imagined I would be frequently answering. In reality, its not, but I’m going to go ahead and answer it anyway…

The Bus Life is very different from the more frequently traveled life paths, that is for sure. I don’t have my very own room to decorate exactly as I want. Instead, I share my 240 square foot living space with my two best friends. With everything we do to our living space, we consult each other first, resulting in a co-opperative creation filled with color and texture and ideas that would have never come to fruition had any of us done the designing and building solely by ourselves. We’ve managed to miraculously include a decently sized (almost) fully functioning kitchen, composting toilet closet, three cot style bunks, a clothing dresser, and a small sitting room into this tiny abode, but this bus is by no means oozing extra space. We do a great deal of dancing and shuffling around each other on a daily basis. Sometimes it can get pretty crowded in there, and my old claustrophobic neuroses show their ugly faces. In those times, I’ve learned the most productive response for me is to simply walk away from the bus. Living with two others in such close proximity has taught me many valuable things about myself. I now know that if I’m feeling overwhelmed or closed in, it is because I haven’t taken adequate space for myself. When living on a bus, taking literal space is not always a possibility, so I’ve also learned to get creative with how I take my mental space. I’ll write in my journal, get enrapt in a good book, or work on a crafting project while listening to music. If I absolutely NEEEED physical space, that’s on me; usually I manage this by taking a walk, run, or skip through some wilderness, if I can get my hands on it. Bus life can be small, and, at times, cloistering, but it is so satisfying .

Of the many many things that differentiate my life from the typical path, I don’t work a regular job to pay for my living space, nor the bills that go along with it, which is nice. But there are several obstacles we have learned (and are still learning) how to overcome in regard to the jobless, rentless, and utility-less (?) aspect of our lives. We don’t enjoy the convenience of endless running water, flushing toilets, or the electrical capacity to run a juicer, a circular saw, and a food processor all while charging a couple laptops and playing music over a speaker system. Showers are now a treasured luxury to us. To keep up with our personal hygiene, we use washcloths and dr.bronners. Sponge baths do the trick for a while, but there is truly nothing so refreshing as getting really clean in a shower of continuously flowing water. We’ve been very blessed along our journey to be offered showers from strangers that we meet, and surprisingly, the average time we go between showers is pretty much a week. Not too shabby, not too shabby at all. If we haven’t found a shower for a while and are starting to smell stronger than feels comfortable, we seek out a nice, chlorinated hot tub to sneak into. Bonus points on sneaking into the hot tub of an apartment complex or hotel: we live to break the rules, and succeeding in this pumps us with some adrenaline and feels very satisfying. If you’re a rule follower, you might ask yourself why you are following a particular rule. Is the rule breaking hurting anyone in any way? Does it make sense? Are you only following said rule from fear of getting busted? If that is the case, stop doing that, and start governing yourself based on your own internal moral compass. Life is too short to do what others tell you to.

Like, “Go get a job, dirty hippie, you stink and you aren’t doing your part as a cog in the machine. Do us all a favor and become a wage slave like the rest of us. We are not down with your liberation…” Yeah, no thanks. I don’t have a “job,” my one, meaningless contribution to the perpetuity of the capitalistic system, because I believe my time is worth much much more than a paycheck will provide me. I don’t have a “dependable”, steady flow of income, but I also don’t answer to anyone but myself. All of my energy isn’t drained working eight hours, five days a week, just to support myself. Instead, I can focus my energies on things that actually interest and enrich my life. Like making home made, health giving meals from scratch. That stuff takes time, y’all! It’s no wonder so many american families turn to frozen, prepackaged, pesticide and preservative laden microwavable meals to provide their sustenance. The demands of civilization to keep up with the status quo continue to get steeper and steeper, robbing participants of their precious time and energy, and totally zombifying them in the process. I believe that life is too precious to waste doing things I don’t want to do, even if doing those things ensures that I will have financial security.

Now, my being jobless does not mean that I am lazy, unmotivated, or incapable of making money to support myself. Quite the contrary. I’m going to take this moment here to brag a little, because a little self bragging every now and then is healthy…… WE BUILT THE INTERIOR OF OUR HOME BY OURSELVES, USING RECYCLED MATERIALS, AND ARE LIVING AND LEARNING EVERYDAY HOW TO SELF WEEN FROM DEPENDENCE ON CONSUMERISM!!! It’s something I am pretty proud of. It has not been easy by any means; the path less traveled is shrouded in brambles and sometimes you have to navigate your way across roaring rivers without a bridge, or over steep mountain ranges, in the darkness of a new moon night. But the important thing is that we did it against whatever odds we faced, not because we felt it was expected of us, but because we want to grow and change for the better of humanity, and this just happened to be the path we had to hack our way through. Okay, brag session over. The truth about making money on my own time…. is that it is completely my own time. I alone am responsible for motivating myself, for finding the discipline to get the hard, tedious stuff done so that I can bring in the cash without torturing myself. And I have not got the hang of it yet. But hey, everything worth doing takes effort. I’ve done many odd jobs to make a little extra cash, such as face painting, cleaning an old bus out, helping a friend move, belly dancing for tips, and offering up my organization services.

A typical day in the life looks, roughly, like the following: I wake up according to my body and the natural circadian rhythms it follows, which is generally a short time after the sun rises. I don’t rely on alarm clocks, unless I absolutely have to, which is rare. Instead, I let my body and mind get the adequate sleep they need, and as a result, I usually wake up in between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. with no resistance. I immediately swing down from the pull up bar connecting my and Natalie’s bunks and go into the compost toilet closet to pee into a white cup that says “Love” in bright red letters on the front. Since urine is completely sterile and choc-full of nitrogen, we typically find some plants nearby to pour our pee onto. I then drink a glass of water, take vitamins, and put on water for breakfast tea/warm water with lemon juice. Mornings are a sacred time for me, because I have the quiet and space to do stuff for myself, uninterrupted. I will sip herbal tea while I write in my journal about my goals and to-do’s of the day, read, or listen to music, mentally preparing myself for whatever lessons the day will present me with. Natalie typically wakes up sometime closely before of after I wake up. Unless we are going somewhere specific that day, Jamie sleeps a little bit later than us. After waking up, I do something physical, like yoga, stretching, walking, hiking, running, or biking somewhere. Then breakfast, about an hour after initially waking.  The rest of the day has no real kind of routine to it. It all depends on where we are, what I’m doing at them time, who we’re hanging out with, and whether or not the Bus is having mechanical problems, which take precedence over most other things. Really, our days are filled with whatever we feel like/need to do. I like filling my days with love and laughter, with music and creativity. I like exploring unknown areas. I like trying new foods, as well as doing necessary kitchen things to prepare for our meals. I’ll go into detail about that in a future post. Sometimes I feel like crafting or reading or writing all day long. From the outside it may look like we don’t do much in a day, but please don’t let appearances ever determine your perception of the whole picture, because often, appearances are deceptive. The things I deem of highest importance are preventative health care, self love, and learning. So a great deal of what I do in a day revolves around food preparation, since food, along with water, air, sun, and sleep, is a direct and irreplaceable source from which we draw life energy. Because we live without a refrigerator, I’ve been slowly but surely learning food preservation alternatives that will meet our needs without depleting us of too much energy. We have a pressure cooker that we use to can food, and I am constantly trying to creatively incorporate any leftovers into our next meal so that no food goes wasted. I’ve recently started fermenting extra vegetables too, which is super exciting! More on that later…

Anyway, back to a day in the life: currently we are in El Cajon, California, semi-permanently stationed at a bus conversion shop while we work on diagnosing and fixing our coolant leak. So lately, we have incorporated mechanical work into our daily grind. Other things being at H.B. Industries has brought to our lives: a secure place to live, for the time being! It is such a relief to know where the bus is parked, and will be till we say so. Parking on city streets, there is ALWAYS a sinking suspicion, no matter how minuscule, that we will get back to the bus after a day of running around and exploring to find a parking violation ticket stuck to our windshield, or, worse yet, we will arrive to the spot the bus was parked to find it towed away. Oh, the horror! So its nice to know where Bessie will be. When we are living between semi-permanent parking spots, we park wherever we can. Usually, we’ll find a spot either in a parking lot (its never too long before someone comes a knockin on our door to tell us we have to move, but we do what we can…) or on the street. It’s always interesting to look out the living room window and see unsuspecting passers by walking only a few feet away from our bus. From the shop, we can go to the city via public transportation to busk at farmers markets, or do errand runs with our pal Gerry, the head honcho here at the shop, and come home to the bus, surrounded by about a dozen other bus conversions, and know that we can be here, safe and sound. Having a secure place to be is also allowing us to work on the never ending list of personal bus projects; we’ve already completed a few. We’re constantly working on storage and organizational solutions that we hope will improve our daily quality of life (though life is what you make it! We all have the choice to feel happy and blessed with exactly what we have.)

So yeah, I guess that is a not so short summary of a day in the life of a bus dweller. This bus dweller, anyway…

Time doesn’t exist to a seed

If it seemed to me that time was warped before we left, I might as well be living in a new dimension entirely now. Its been only two weeks since Jamie left us in that striking gold canyon in Nevada, headed for our home base of Texas, but it feels like months and months. I’ve come to believe that without all of the distractions of modern life, like work and bills and cars and shopping and shiny, bright ads on every corner telling me I will never ever be enough, no matter how many shoes I buy, no matter how thin I get, no matter how rich my boyfriend is, because we must always have more more more…with the absence of all of that in my life, I believe, existence is vaster and denser than I could ever have imagined.

Of course, I can’t really escape the ads. They stand there, 100 feet tall on iron legs, proclaiming with a booming voice what happiness and success are supposed to look like, and just how much it will cost you, in a tidy, brightly colored packages complete with the perfect tag line All unsolicited and unwanted. No matter how much we don’t want to see see these incredibly mind altering images, we can do virtually nothing about it because the companies that put them up also own the property they are standing on. So we see images of thin, scantily clad women with “perfect” proportions selling clothing, fragrances, makeup, sex. We see men in positions of power. We see shiny new cars and savory, nutrient deficient food. Drilled into our minds over. And over. And over again. No wonder this madness has been going on for so long. They’ve got their brainwashing techniques down to a science.

The difference for me now is that when I see the billboards, I scoff, roll my eyes. Or I just try to flat out ignore them. Still they stand there, pounding their messages of inferiority and scarcity and fear into all of our brains. Its these parts of modern civilization that can send me tail spinning towards despair at any second, if I let them. It’s features like this that drive me to desire seclusion from the rat race more and more each day. How I miss Gold Strike Canyon, nestled in the southern tip of Nevada. I spent five pages in my journal just describing the intricate and wild beauty of the 6 mile hike down to a naturally flowing hot springs that overlook rose colored boulders , emerald moss and chartreuse fern cascading toward the Colorado River. We only spent four or five days in that canyon, but in that short amount of time, I began to really heal. I find it so easy to regain balance away from all the roads and consumption and advertisements. Away from the poison of civilization. So we hide away, when we can, for as long as our water tank and food will last us, till we have to go back to the cities to make some money and restock on our necessities. This bus adventure is definitely not any sort of solution. We’re still so dependent on the capitalistic system and its excess. That, also, could easily make me crazy if I let it. I have to remind myself that we are still babies in our journeys towards balance and health. We still have so much to learn about the world, community, and ourselves. This is happening right now to prepare us for what lies ahead, whatever that may be. I’m hoping that its land we can settle down on and begin to really fully sustain our own lives by our hands and ours alone. But I guess we’ll see…..

Anyway, time is really warped around here. Each day holds so much detail, a new lesson learned, new clarity to be appreciated. Or it holds so much weight and sorrow that I’m almost crippled with it. On those days, all I mostly do is  write in my journal and make good food and take walks and listen to music and cry, trying to nurse my own wounds so that hopefully some day I can nurse the wounds of others. This is a time of growth and self care, I remind myself. I imagine I lay deep in the earth, surrounded by cool, damp soil. I am a sprouting seed. I see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing, smell nothing, taste nothing. I am just able to be. I absorb the nutrients needed to become a little sproutling. My roots begin to spread out underneath me, grounding me to where I came from and soaking up the water droplets that have made their way down to give me life. Some day I will be a tree, but trees, like humans, take a very very long time to grow. So for now I am incubated in darkness, just beginning to be.

New/Old

Hello readers! I’m Caitlin and I’m finally making my first entry as a sister warrior of the RAGE Bus. We got back into Austin last night after enjoying our weekend on the beach of Port Aransas, Texas. Everything is covered in sand. Every actual square inch. Its kind of a mess, and it seems that our work with Bessie is never complete, as I’m sure that we will be spending this next few weeks before our final departure from Austin scrubbing on our hands and knees.

So much has happened in the months leading up to this point, I have no idea how to capture it all with these words. I regret not posting earlier, but the world is spinning so madly I’ve hardly had time to catch my breath. How can it be that each day feels so enduring, yet when I reflect on the weeks and months passed, it seems as if they have slipped through my fingers like the silvery memory liquid filling up the pensieve. Where do I begin? I guess I should start where we left off, with the building of our bunk beds.

We were still in Wimberley pretty frequently at this time. We would load up the Element full of building materials and animals, and make the short pilgrimage towards the home of the cypress creek and our wonderful mechanic friends at Darnall Diesel. After finishing the bunks, we began to work on our dresser frame and the frame of the composting toilet closet. We slept in the bus, in our own beds, for the first time at that shop. For a break in the hottest hours of the day, when work seemed impossible, we would head over to the rope swing at Cypress Creek, or take a leap into the endlessness of Jacobs Well. I felt I could fall into that water forever. Our bus was finally relinquished to us after weeks of waiting patiently, and we drove away from Wimberley as a turbulent rain storm came rumbling in. I remember feeling the power and the energy of that day like a solid thing I could hold in my hands. I felt that life was really starting.

I believe that we slept for a long time after getting the bus back to Natalie’s parents house. I don’t really know for sure, because this was about two months ago and already the details are blurring together for me. But sleeping seems an appropriate response, because I always sleep when I’ve been feeling a lot. The weeks that follow are also a blur, a blur of drilling and cutting and screwing, taking measurements and drawing plans. Those are the weeks of our labor, when all of the designing of our space was actualized. And those days were certainly frustrating. Everything took longer than expected. It also seemed that anything that could go wrong or get in the way probably did, though I know that is an extreme exaggeration. Through all of the hours spent toiling away in the hot Texas sun, I learned to drop expectations, and to just be in that moment, taking things as they came. At the end of the day, no matter how infuriating a project turned out to be, I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment and pride at our hard work.

It’s so funny how life happens. We had just finished putting our counters in when we got news that Governor Rick Perry was calling in a second special session to adopt some very anti choice legislation. We immediately packed up our bus and headed into town, parking at our old co-op house in south Austin. We spent the next few weeks frequenting the capitol, and then retreating back to the bus to recuperate. This fight against the eradication of human health and reproductive rights is not over by a long shot, but after getting arrested with the girls and two other friends, we had to take a break to refocus on the bus and our mission to get out of Austin.

So much has happened between there and now. We took a trip with friends to Port Aransas, we staged an intervention with a male in our community that used coercive behavior and violence, we fixed the leak in our oil line and change out the oil (well, Jamie and Natalie did that,) and we relished our last weeks, days and moments in our home town. Austin is a island of awesomeness in the sea of the south, and I value that place with all of my heart. I grew up there, I know the place well and it is comfortable and familiar to me. But where is the adventure in that? And guess what….here we are, mission finally complete. We’re out of Austin! We are now in North West Texas, visiting with Jamie’s family on the way out of Texas. I’m so excited to be leaving Texas, I cannot even convey it to you properly. I’ve done some light traveling around the states, but have mostly been stationed in the same place my whole life. A change of scenery and space seems like the appropriate tonic. Yeehaw, y’all, we’re finally on the road!

I know that there will be struggle ahead of us. We’ll travel down bumpy roads and smooth roads, but we will reach our destination, whatever it may be, because we have each other. I truly believe that with our strengths combined, it is enough to overcome the darkness we are faced with, that is inside of us. The road ahead has many lessons to teach us, and we will take them with open arms, accepting each challenge as a means to become a stronger and braver warrior of the light than ever before.

“We shall not cease from exploration,

and the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started

and know the place for the first time.”

-T.S. Eliot

May the light be upon each and everyone of you.

With Love and Rage,

Caitlin