Thank god for Dog Man, Lumberjanes, Zelda and Neil Gaiman, they allowed me to enjoy the beauty of Southeast Utah. Especially the Canyonlands and Arches. The books kept all of us sane. When I did giddy shrieks of "OMG LOOOOOKKKKK!!!!" and my boys would look up from their books and do feeble attempt of wows and return back to reading. I drove for hours in peace and at one certain point, they wanted to read at the picnic spot and I went to hike (10 mins) on my own at my own pace.
I totally got them and could relate. My husband and I traveled Southeast Asia for 3 months and we got to the point where we were templed out. They are natured out, for now. I hope. I did manage to drag them to some trails after a lot of bribing, though.
I told my boys that after Santa Fe, the terrains will be pretty much flat until we head towards northeast. I wonder what the rest of the trip will be like. I already have November pretty much planned out, after that... it's totally up to whatever works best for us. I love the uncertainty of what lies ahead because I know, no matter what, we will see new places and continue to make memories.
We forget how to live. Our society shames those who want to live. Don't tell me that getting up everyday to go to work is the way of life. Work. That word. It puts a shudder, a force that'd register 12.0 on the Richter Scale, throughout my body. It takes you away from family. It takes you away from your passion. It makes us need money. It keeps you trapped in a cycle that bogs you down from your 20's until you're retired or 6 foot underground. If you love your career, yay for you (no sarcasm here). However, how many of us can say they would keep going to that same job they are in, even for free? Really.
We went to Meow Wolf. That place IS amazing. I was in total awe, not just with the art pieces or the experience, but with the whole concept. A man, a household name for many, George R.R. Martin, purchased this abandoned bowling alley building. He, then, invited a bunch of artists to come and create a masterpiece, together. Different styles and personalities yet, they all clashed beautifully. It was a giant mess of an art gallery, but so passionately invested that there was a linear connection throughout the entire chaos. I. Loved. Every. Bit. Of. It.
I sat in the middle of the whole unit and tried to imagine every single artist who contributed. What were they thinking when this started? Did the end results exceed their expectations or were they, like almost every artist, not satisfied? Did they think it was a crazy idea and needed buy ins? Or did they have hours and hours at a round table, brainstorming with coffee and beer, cigars even? Did they, in their wildest imagination, ever think that the final result will draw all types of people? Finally, my last thought came to this: I hope they realize how fortunate that they got to be a part of creating that place. Not many of us can. Not many of us have free reins with creativity or the financial stability to truly do something we love.
Come to think of it, that entire "House of Eternal Return" is a huge meraki product.
I am curious, though, for each of you readers who actually got to this point of the blog, if you could do ANYTHING, really, anything... what would you do or be? As a little girl, know what I wished to be? Be an opera singer. Obviously, thanks to my youngest sis, Liz, who told me over and over when we were little, that I couldn't sing for shit, that didn't happen. I guess my timbre in opera has warped into silence: photos. And I am consciously aware with deep gratitude that I was able to go to the source of living.
Valley of the Gods was amazing. Our very first *boondocking (dry camping) experience. We basically owned the valley and had the entire universe to ourselves. We could see buttes named Sitting Hen, Battleship and Seven Sailors from our spot. From a distance, we could see the famous Monument Valley.
Then came night. It was unnerving. When our first night came, I told the boys I'd be going outside to take photos of Milky Way and that it'd be safe, unlike Goblin Valley. I went out and as soon as I did, darkness enveloped me. I skedaddled back into Mer faster than a cheetah with the chill of fear racing down my spine. I went in and slammed the door in a haste, my boys looked at me and were puzzled.
"It's too cold." (it wasn't)
I went to my bedroom and saw that all of my curtains were not drawn, I suddenly felt like all the spirits, energies and animals were staring at me. Hair rose at the back of my neck, I quickly closed all those thin fabrics curtains and all was right again. I felt safer. Really.
Eitan knew how much I wanted to take night shots, especially after that epic fail at Goblin Valley. He asked me if we could bundle up in warm clothes and that he wanted to join me this time. I told him, "honestly, I am scared, it's too dark." He went through our drawers and picked up the sharpest knife and said, "here, I'll watch your back."
This particular photo reminds me so much of Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods." There was a part where he heard a bear rummaging through their stuff right next to their tent. He was so terrified and the only thing that made him feel SO safe was his nail clippers.
The end result of photoshooting in the middle of nowhere? We felt safer.
Besides the ridiculous fear of the dark, it was amazing.
We spent our 3 days there doing nothing. We played outside, we hiked a bit, we slept, we played games, we watched a movie and we hung out. The boys even got to play with the camera, learned how to use Lightroom for editing and made movies.
I'll let the photos show you what our days looked like.
we ended our last night enjoying the campfire, smores and the sunset. I have to confess tho, as soon as it got dark, the chicken shit in me emerged and we went straight into Mer, with curtains drawn.
*boondock means rv camping without any hookups, no water, no electricity or sewage- which usually means docking on federal land, aka: BLM (Bureau Land of Management)
No matter how hard I tried to tell myself that it was okay, we were hopelessly lost. LOST. At 11pm in the middle of Goblin Valley. iPhone’s LED and our tiny headlight couldn’t shine far. We shone our lights as far as possible and it all looked the same, those columns shining orange while it was pitch black in the background.
Aidan was freaking out and crying, Oisin insisted that I was going the wrong way and I dismissed him because he was 7 years old. And Eitan was on the border of “are we lost?” versus “I’m not sure what to make of this.” For me? I had a smile plastered on my face while battling nausea and panic attack. I kept assuring Aidan that we weren’t lost. But, we really were.
Oisin kept insisting it was THAT way and I told him, “I am NOT going to rely on a 7 years old boy!!” and I decided to set up a system. I told the boys to stay where they are and that we would be 15 feet away from each other, to try and look at every direction. Of course, they wouldn’t stay, they clung onto me like a wet rag and I couldn’t get a system in to find our way back to the parking lot.
I wanted to throw up. I started thinking of Plan A, B, C and Z if we ended up being stuck in the middle of nowhere. I honestly was not afraid of being lost in that valley. We weren’t that FAR (probably 100 yards away), we weren’t alone and we were well dressed, with blankets, and it wasn’t that cold. We had bottles of water and snacks. I told myself, we could just yell for help until someone comes to us or that we could just stay put and sleep under the stars. Oh, the stars…. They were gorgeous.
Still, the sense of not knowing where were, it was like I was in an avalanche and suddenly encased into some dark snow tunnel, not knowing which way was up, down, left or right. It was like my breath was held up in midair with zero sense of direction. That feeling was scary. I tried my best not to curl up into a fetal position and close my eyes to stop that feeling of darkness creeping into my throat and heart.
I told the boys we weren’t going the right way and Aidan said, “are you blind?!?!?! It’s THAT way (opposite of where I insisted on going), look at that roof!!” I told them to turn off all lights so I can see the outline as well as see for other people’s flashlights (there were like 15 other people across the valley). All lights were off except for the stars. I still couldn’t tell the difference. Also, suddenly, there were nobody else using flashlights across the valley, I worried that we were the last ones left.
I told the boys to STAY and that I would be climbing up a tall entrada column and for them to not move. Eitan realized then I was lost and he was scared, Aidan was wailing and Oisin said, “my god, it IS that way, I know where! Trust me!”
I went up and scanned the outline. I saw a “roof” looking thing that seemed manmade and decided to shine my iPhone’s LED there… I saw nothing but more hills. I turned to let them know that it was the wrong way, but then, I noticed something. A rail to the stairways. Thank HEAVENS.
Oisin was correct. He was so sure of where we were. I later commented to him that I was very impressed and apologized to him that I said I wouldn’t rely on a 7 years old. He responded, “well, old people forget easy, I wouldn’t rely on old people” (burn). He seriously was the hero of the night.
The relief we had when we got to our car was immeasurable. Aidan was so upset that he declared that he will never hike in the dark again and we all unanimously agreed. Hours later in Mer, I was still shaken from that experience. The boys have zero idea that I nearly went into panic mode. That ordeal only lasted 20 minutes tops.
What still has me shaken to the core is, I kept insisting to go THAT way because I remembered coming down from there. It was all three of my boys who threw a big fuss (especially Oisin) telling me that I was going the wrong way and kicked up a storm when I didn’t listen. I relented. Thank god I did, otherwise, we would have spent the night with the Goblins.
rv life, full-time, is 100% without time. May be I lied, 85%. It's a slow life. We get up late. We eat late (breakfast at 11, lunch at 2 or 3? dinner... 7 or 8, give or take). We go to bed very late. Heck, I have two cups of coffee everyday and my first one is at 11am and then my next one? During sunsets.
So, what do you do when everything seems beautifully slow and yet, so many crap happening right now out there? The Las Vegas Massacre? #45 constant assault on humanity? The current state of social justice being at its worst? The AGB on their predatory mode increasing tenfold, threatening Deaf children's right to language all over the country? A friend's husband dying anytime from cancer? Another friend finding out she has cancer, again and was given months to live?
I sat outside, with my coffee and did some internalizing about life in general. So many thoughts and so many feelings. You know, sometimes you want to just pause the moment, pick up a life remote and press the button that has the equal symbol. Pause. Stop.
But it does not stop. Life does not. It goes on. Death and birth. Horror and joy. You're at the center of the universe and then a complete speck of nothing in the universe. You matter, and then, you just simply don't.
Since traveling, I keep seeing two common sayings on RVs or at travel store centers, "not all who wander are lost," and "life is good."
Yes, even if there are moments of pain and agony, moments of stupidity and asshats, life really is good.
Think of the water drop in a waterfall, the one that fell faster. Or the other one, that fell the slowest. However, they all are falling the same way, and when one distance self from it, it's gorgeous and all those little drops collectively makes a powerful force going into the one same direction.
I hope this analogy will be a reminder to myself whenever I encounter a moment way too painful, that no matter how awful it is, the fact that I get to be a drop of a water is a miracle itself and something that surpasses beauty.
This makes me even more confident with the choice of living slow, because no matter how fast life goes without a pause button, I played my life in slow motion by finding meraki.
This one is for you Tim, the fast water drop, my heart hurts for you, your wife and your girls.
Aidan is a homebody. He does not take challenges, he would do anything to avoid them (doesn't play games or feign exhaustion when asked to do anything physical) and he likes to be the hermit in his own comfort zone. So, naturally, this trip has been a challenge for him sometimes, especially when he's tired or upset (specifically, iPad issues not going his way and he always act up when I make him do homeschooling assignments). He struggled the first few nights and it went away. Until two days ago. When I went into serious homeschooling mode, his homesickness came back with a full force and he was either resisting everything I asked him to do or offered to him or was in full blown tears, begging to go home. Two nights ago was awful, I turned to a specific group on FB asking if it would get easier. Some questions were asked and I mentioned that he say he misses different things such as his friends, his cats and his dad.
And before you know it, I became the evil mother who is very selfish for dragging (forcing) her sons to do this when it's her own dream. That I was ripping my sons apart from their dad, leading into a divorce lifestyle AND that my boys would be psychologically scarred for life needing therapy. Ultimately, some of them said the same thing, that I was damaging my sons' relationship with their own father just because I wanted to chase my dreams.
Talk about a major slap in my face and a total "look at the mirror" moment. I felt HORRIBLE. I was so discouraged and found myself on a defensive mode. I thought it was a safe place for me to ask for help, but it only turned into a serious attack on my character as a mother. "I'd never do that to my son!" and that my seeming "defensive" was seen as me not admitting to the "elephant in the room" issue.
Then yesterday (day two of serious homeschooling), Aidan was completely NOT Aidan all day. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was selfish. I felt so sad even. Nothing I did could distract him or change his mood, he remained ANGRY at me all day. Then came bedtime, it was his turn to sleep with me. He dramatically said, "I refuse to sleep with you" and I didn't push for it, I simply said, "I'd like for us to chat and sleep together."
I let him go and sulk away. 30 minutes later, he came to me, "I want to sleep with you, but I don't want to at the same time because I am so upset at you." "That's ok, I understand completely and respect your feelings. I would still want to hug you even if I was upset with you." He joined me and today? The happy Aidan I know returned (zero homeschooling today).
I asked him if he was okay with still traveling with me? "Yes, can we still go to Alabama?" "Yes, but that would not happen until around March?" "That's ok, just make sure daddy joins." "Sure, we would have to plan it around his Spring Break tho." "Yes!!"
I knew there would be moments that wouldn't be easy for Aidan. I do not want him to be a hermit in his own comfort zone because I feel that it will lead him to make poor decisions in his future. I TRULY believe that my doing this trip, will somehow give Aidan coping skills about getting out of his comfort zone and to be okay with changes and challenges. In the long run, he WILL benefit from this and the pros greatly outweighs the cons.
Earlier this evening, I told the boys about Convo's "Keep On Dreaming" competition and Aidan said he WANTED to do it. I was shocked. I said, you'd have to be filmed and probably some photos shown publicly. "I WANT TO DO ITTTTT!!!" jumping up and down. He already brainstormed ideas with Eitan on this.
I watched them discuss ideas with such a positive light in their eyes and when they were discussing, I was suddenly brought back to that FB group, to those specific people and I thought, "FUCK YOU." I mean, really, fuck you. How dare did they assume that I'd psychologically damage my boys? How dare did they call me selfish and insult my parenting? And ultimately, how dare did I let them make me question myself like that?
They are exactly, right, I'd NEVER do that to my sons, I'd never put them in a situation that would potentially traumatize them or require them needing therapy. And yes, even if this dream is MINE, I know with 100% confidence, no make it 110%, that they will forever remember this as one of the best time of their lives.
I let my boys watch Caddyshack, as my memory served me, it was a weird-funny-chevy-chase type of movie. Oops, there was a scene that was R rated (sexual content) and my boys turned around at the same time to look at me and in unity, said, "WHY!!??"
I responded by laughing and clapping my hands over my eyes and I said, “sorry!!! Oh look, it’s over already.”
Good lord. I don’t remember that part- but I do remember the poop floating in the pool and that fake gopher.
Yesterday marked our one month’s anniversary since #findingmeraki started. I’d lie if I say time flew. It honestly feels like it has been MONTHS.
One month held the redwoods, the jetty and the sand dunes, the seaside with astoria and a quick trip to seattle. Then mt. hood, bend-sunriver (and two days trip back to livermore), crystal crane in the high desert of east oregon (all of our favorite so far). a quick drive through in idaho due to the cold (boise and twin falls) and then few days at salt lake city, provo and now, hurricane (near st. george).
I wonder what the next month will hold. One thing for certain, when we are out doing errands or sightseeing, when the boys or I say, "let's go home." It's Mer we're referring to. It's been a month crammed with drama, it's still a big adjustment we all are adapting to. For me, this is the lifestyle I could do for a long long time. As for my boys, the feelings vary and that is to be expected, but I am happy to report that they do not want to go back home, yet. ;)
just a mother who fled from society's constraints and is super excited to wake up to the outdoors, remain braless daily and teach her boys the art of boredom and discovery.