I have decided to head east from California, on a train, with my bike. (It’s rather hot to be riding my bike across the desert, though some would.) I want to go to Florida and to Ireland eventually, so it makes sense to go this way. I’ve long wanted to see more of the Southwest, too, so here I go.
Before catching the train I spent another night at the Fullerton International Hostel, an excellent hostel that is particularly clean and homey. While there I visited the Arboretum on the campus of California State University at Fullerton. (How could I pass up an Arboretum?) It was a hot day, but under the canopy of trees it was cool and refreshing. The Arboretum has a number of ecosystems represented, from tropical jungle to Mediterranean landscapes. This tree, a native of Africa, towered above me and felt so solid and strong.
I’m so glad I don’t have to be a lumberjack. I don’t know how I could cut trees down. I do love their wood, though.
Back on the train, it’s pitch black outside and only a few distant lights can be seen out the cabin windows. We must be in some desert, somewhere, either in eastern California or Arizona. I’m trying in vain to sleep in these coach seats that are pretty comfortable–for sitting in. There are a couple of lights shining down upon me from the cabin ceiling; I wonder why they don’t turn them off. It’s overly cool, thanks to air conditioning, and I’m keeping warm with my noisy space blanket, which is annoying for me and for everyone around me, I’m sure.
I’ve been praying quite a bit, inspired by reading Edie Littlefield Sundby, author of TheMissionWalker. Prayer has gotten her through gall bladder cancer, lung cancer, and a subsequent 800 mile pilgrimage walk along the Camino Real of California. I highly recommend her book, whether or not you have any notion of walking a pilgrimage, or cancer has affected you or a loved one.
Prayer helps me, too. If (or when) I feel alone, or not sure of where I’m going next, I am instantly comforted by prayers from my youth, from the twelve steps, or that I compose myself. I want to pray more. I need to remember to rely completely on my Higher Power all the time. It’s the only way that really works for me.
I arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona about 5:00 am this morning where the sun was already rising.
I went straight to my hostel where I’ll be staying for the next day or two, and was able to sleep a bit longer, which was good.
Flagstaff is an interesting place, from what I’ve seen of it so far. It’s at an elevation of 6900 feet, surrounded by mountains and populated by plenty of trees. It’s not what I think of when I think of Arizona–mile upon mile of dry sand and rock. It’s more like the Sierra Nevada. The sky is a bright blue this morning, with thunderheads forming already; afternoon monsoon rains are typical in summer. It’s nice to see a bright, azure sky after weeks in Southern California and Baja California where a dense haze can make the heavens dull.
In the San Bernadino National Forest, where I camped for four nights, there were a few small fires in the area, further contributing to the smaze.
But they didn’t last, and even with them the air quality was pretty darn good. The temperatures were perfect for me–in the eighties somewhere. I was comfortable in shorts and a tank top most of the time, which makes me happy! (In Monterey I have to wear a down jacket almost the whole year round. I hardly ever get any sun on my body.) I loved the species of Manzanita that grows in the San Bernadino National Forest which is larger and less darkly colored than the one in the Los Padres. It glowed red in the slanted rays of sunlight that are unique to the early morning and late evening.
Despite my prayers for direction for this next phase of my pilgrimage, the answers were not quick in coming, and I experienced some doubt and questioned this whole pilgrimage affair. Am I simply avoiding making difficult decisions, buckling down to making a living, and honing my professional skills with patience and perseverance? When I’ve completed this year on sabbatical won’t the same decisions and challenges be waiting for me? The answer to these questions ultimately came: Yes, they will, and I’m getting plenty of indications that I’m on the right track. I continue to make meaningful connections with people and to learn from them. Though not easy to be on the road, it humbles me and puts me in situations that demand and increase my faith. I want to go farther, and learn more. I’m grateful to have the means.
Back in Riverside with Mica for a few final days, we went to her yoga studio and practiced yoga together. Hanging on the wall of the studio where she practices and teaches is this painting:
I was struck by how much it represents my reality: distressed and confused by the mayhem of the world around me, I take solace in trees–both those that grow around me and by rooting myself in Tree Pose. Whether I am walking among them or pretending to be one, I take comfort in their life-giving presence and oxygen. I breathe in more deeply and I feel that all is well. Thank you, God, for trees.
It’s almost 2:00 pm now, and the sky is dark with clouds. Rain is coming. It’s been months since I’ve seen rain and I welcome it. Water is life and we need it. Thank you, God, for rain.
Let’s see what lessons the rain brings. ?