Pamela and I go back several years to the time we each spent in Pacific Grove, California, not too long ago. We were neighbors and had friends in common. We both practice massage and Reiki, which we would practice on one another. (I was a bit intimidated as she is a long time professional and I was a rookie; she helped me to improve with her constructive feedback.) We would take walks sometimes along the coast and it seemed that she would always see porpoises and/or whales, or sea otters in the Monterey Bay, while I rarely did. We called her the sea-mammal whisperer. She rode her bicycle all the time, to work and elsewhere, and would ring the bell on her bike every time she rode by my house, which was often. My neighbors across the street noticed and thought it was sweet. So did I.
Pamela moved to the city of brotherly love for just that–the love of her brother and his children, of whom there are now three. That was some four years ago and now he and his family have moved on to Michigan, where Pamela’s sister-in-law is a neurosurgeon. Pamela visits them as she is able.
In Philadelphia, Pamela is establishing herself as a massage therapist and as a Reiki Master, or teacher. We had a “Reiki Share” with two of her students one evening and it was wonderfully relaxing. One of them was a young woman from Havana who moved to Philadelphia from Miami where her family lives, so she could experience a snowy winter. She has a job in the tech industry and practices Reiki in her spare time. She is a raw vegan most of the time, which is quite the contrast from the typical Cuban diet. The Reiki I received from our small group made me wish that all people everywhere could have such a comforting experience.
Pamela lives in Mount Airy, a neighborhood of Philadelphia that has beautiful, large homes built of local stone and which is adjacent to Wissahicken Valley Park, part of the 9200 acre Fairmont Park that graces this historic and grand city.
We took a walk to the park and I marveled at its large trees and lush growth. There was a nice river running through it with plenty of water, thanks to a rainy summer. The leaves of the trees will soon be turning brilliant colors of yellow, orange, pink and red. I’m seeing some fall colors even now as I travel west on the train.
While Pamela was working, I took the train from Mount Airy to the downtown area, where Independence Hall stands in all is 18th century glory. This is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted.
The guide who led my tour was a woman who takes her job seriously. Not only does she relay the facts of what transpired here, she also admonishes her audience to uphold the ideas expressed within the Declaration of Independence. In particular she quoted this famous line: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
She asked us if we thought the American people is a happy people at this time in our history, and there was a tense silence. I didn’t hear anyone say that they do. How can this be? We are the heirs of the rights and the liberty for which the American Revolution was fought, and we consume more resources than any country on earth, by far. What is missing then, or what is the problem? We certainly do pursue happiness, but how many of us actually achieve it?
I know that I am happiest when I have a sense of real purpose, a sense that I am contributing something of value to others and to the greater good.
From Philadelphia I went to Newark, New Jersey by train, where I met up with two fellow members from my Twelve Step program. We rented a car and drove to Westchester County, in New York, which is straight up the Hudson River from New York City. We got to see the Big Apple from afar and from up close, as we ended up driving right by it.
Our destination was Stepping Stones, the final home of Bill and Lois Wilson, co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon Family Groups, respectively. Bill Wilson wrote the book Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s and it has saved the lives of thousands, if not millions, of alcoholics and other addicts, including this sugar and flour addict. It is one of the best selling books of all time, having sold 30 million copies and being translated into more than seventy languages.
My trip to Stepping Stones was a pilgrimage in its own right. I hadn’t thought of going; I was taken by the acquaintances I made that very day. Another “lucky” development.
From there we returned to Newark for our conference, where 785 of us gathered for a weekend of study and fellowship. I had several serendipitous meetings with other members while there and have decided to go to a similar conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, in January.
I am once again on the Southwest Chief, which I boarded in Chicago, heading west and southwest this time. This train has an observation car, a dining car and sleeping cars, and an engaging crew that is giving us interesting facts about the towns and country we pass through, such as which famous people were raised in this or that town and other interesting facts. The corn fields of Illinois are vast and seemingly endless
and the Mississippi River was calm and peaceful on this late summer evening.
Trinidad, Colorado is a charming town.
By another unexpected turn of events I now have a home to go to when I get back to Monterey. My good friend Gina suddenly needs a housemate and I am the lucky one. It’s a lovely old house on Spaghetti Hill in Monterey owned by our beloved friend Elizabeth Todd. It’s within walking distance of downtown, farmers’ markets, yoga venues and 12-step meeting places. It even has fruit trees, and an extra room I will use as a massage and Reiki studio! My only dilemma is that I would like to buy a place to live, rather than rent. Any thoughts on the pros and cons of home ownership?
My pilgrimage is coming to a close, it seems, though my inner journey is far from over. Decisions such as renting vs. buying (which would probably mean the difference between staying in Monterey and leaving the area) lie before me, and this is much more daunting than anything I have done on this pilgrimage. I expect I will continue to post to this blog as those forks in the road are reached and one path is chosen over the other.
I have two quotes to share with you as I finish this leg of my journey. They are both wise and yet contradict one another slightly. The first one expresses how I have been feeling lately as I prepare to return to Monterey:
“The world does not need tourists who ride by in a bus clucking their tongues. The world as it is needs those who will love it enough to change it, with what they have, where they are.”
The second quote comes from a personal story in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, and it never ceases to ring true for me, no matter what my circumstances:
“Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”
I look forward to seeing my friends and family in Monterey, and to resuming my massage, Reiki and yoga practices. If there is any way I can be of service to you, please let me know. ? ♥️ ?