"Include your environment", this was a piece of advise Conrad's kindergarten teacher, Ms. Tina, gave her class before they began their journal entries; it was my volunteer day in the classroom and I was able to be in there as she dispensed writing techniques to my son and his peers that I gladly took mental notes of myself.
Sitting in a Greyhound bus in Coalinga, California including my environment is the very opposite of what i've been trying to do since 6 o'clock this morning when I first stepped onto the bus-still dark outside, but somehow completely full inside. The only open row was in the very back near the very thing I dreaded to be next to: the toilets. It's evening now. I've been traveling this entire day via "the bus". This means of transportation was hardly, nay, never the plan. A missed flight from MFR to LAX on a carrier that only flies in and out twice a week resulted in my present state of 'mind over matter'. Now I wait in the parking lot of a Burger King as my co-passengers trickle back on from their hamburgers and sodas inside.
Coalinga stinks, in the very literal sense. A mad dash across the dusty lot behind the bus to the Valero station for the pencil and papers I am now utilizing prompted, and was the cause, for me to hold my breath the entire brisk walk over there. In here, it kinda stinks. Out there, it really stinks. A few years back while driving from Texas to Oregon, in some small town along the I-5 corridor, quite possibly Coalinga, I asked the gas station attendant where we had stopped to fuel up my RAV4 and restock our Milkdud and Beverage stash out of sheer ignorance,"so what is the culprit for the awful stench?". He replied with sheer honesty, "what stench???".
Since changing buses in Sacramento I must admit it isn't so bad anymore. I no longer have to use my bandanna as a breathing mask against the odor wafting from underneath the doors in the back of the bus (I was able to claim a seat near the front during the transfer)-aka-the lavatory-aka the shit can; the crackhead vigorously rubbing his gums and smacking his lips earlier this afternoon behind me is gone, and the Bob Marley look-a-like discussing the bogusness of his most recent assault charge disappeared into the streets of Marysville to do Lord knows what. They have been replaced with a milder, crack-free, most likely "violent offender" free mexican Grammas and a women with some sort of mental disability still eating her fries oh so slowly. I have the entire row to myself and will till this bus comes to a stop, which is the final stop for me in this desperate attempt to redeem myself as cheaply as possibly and reunite with my family, home. Since realizing how incredibly screwed I was it has been an incessant battle with my inner thoughts not dwelling on how unnecessary this was; how I should be home already; how I should have been more proactive in ensuring better timeliness instead of being overly confident and laid back; how I shoulda, coulda, woulda.
The memories I am taking back with me from my time in Southern Oregon and the Trinity Alps do indeed greatly ease this present state I am in. I was honored to have seen and held the miraculous (no exaggeration there) Frederick Flynn, catch up with some of my favorite Oregonians, make two of them there first cup of coffee for the day, have the world's most flawless mocha at Noble, backpack! the Canyon Creek Trail all the way to the Upper Lake with the Zen Master herself, dive into the lake and at the bottom of a waterfall, sleep under the twinkling lights of heaven, and be humbled and blown away by it all; then once back into town again I had the privilege of attending church at Mountain, pick blackberries on a stroll through Jacksonville, and say farewells to people I adore.
All day long i've been trying to pretend this is all just an adventure; that I am on my way in some far away place-perhaps Peru (it's up there at the top of my list and has been a topic of discussion lately) or Turkey; that I am a world worn traveler, as I am already outfitted in my hiking clothes from the weekend, now with a green and white retro inspired bandanna around my neck and my, as Jon refers to them, "Ferris Bueller" sunglasses perched on top of my head as a headband of sorts; that I am en route to a small village perhaps where I will be observing the villagers to write a piece for the New York Times, or Conde Nast on what i'm not quite sure. I will have most definitely brought organic American candies for the children there and a jar of nutella for me. It's definitely closer to how I envisioned my life would be say tens years ago or so than it's current reality. However, it is the reality I did not expect that excites me to be home. Now, to combine my reality-my role as mother and wife-with a vision of heart led, purpose driven adventure...
Two more hours. I've repeated that promise to myself several times already since writing it down moments/an eternity ago. This just might be the longest portion of the trip yet, which speaks volume to my restlessness and anxiousness considering i've had periods today where my sense of smell was violated by the stench of rotting fecal matter stewing in a pot of scented disinfectant just feet from me, or where i found myself situated next to a man who was possibly a rapist and in front of man with enough crack in him to make crack lines all the way to Los Angeles. Never less, i'm ready to be home now more than ever. I've read an entire book from page 1 to page The End, and now i'm writing (written) a future blog on it all.
My thoughts are waiting. And there, to the possible places in my thoughts, I presently tread lightly. There is much on my heart, and much more in my mind. Some are safe for exposure and mulling through but some need time to be my buffer between 'it' and I. Ridiculously coded, and almost certainly will be inaccurately deciphered. Most people think, or assume, that I am some sort of open book, and I, for the most part, encourage that perception if not mislead to it. But the truth is I carefully (and sometimes with mistakes) only reveal portions. I suppose we are all a little bit like this to one degree or another, but I know for me, in terms of relationships, it's what really makes my communion with God so special, so important, and so unique. There is no one else-not a best friend, not my sister, not my husband who truly and deeply knows me, all of me. But He does; He gets me, He understands me, and He is gracious to what all that entails. And that right there, for me at least, is the ultimate love language: To be known, To be Understood. To know, To Understand. It's why when a friend tells me they're going through X and X that I go and pick up some books on X and X; I want to better understand them, to better know them, and hopefully-perhaps ultimately-to better love them by helping them. I long for deep and meaningful relationships where I love that person from a place that understands Who that person is, and naturally, I long for the same.
All of a sudden I realize it is dark. Outside my window the grey of early night collides and mixes with the blackness of void in the distance. A few lights here and another set of lights over there. My reflection looks back at me as I look at it.
Yep, still looking.
I have since pulled the green and white retro bandanna back up over my mouth and nose. Either the sewage in the bus has had it once and for all or this must be the Most Disgusting Smelling Part of the I-5 Corridor Yet (I didn't know such an accolade was possible). I honestly can't tell the difference anymore.
Some people are falling asleep-heads bopping around as if at a good rock show, eyes closed, mouths slightly open like a dog patiently waiting for dinner scraps, shuffle, shuffle. I wish I could fall asleep too but I know it's an impossibility. At the very least I would need a pillow. Oy! These bumbs!
Again, we stop. "A cigarette break", announces the husky voiced women driving this beast of a vehicle. This is just one of many such breaks/stops made today. I swear I would have been home by now if it wasn't for these (and the missed flight of course). I wonder if Greyhound will ever be sued for encouraging and enabling nicotine addiction by some lung cancer patient or a family of one. I can see it happening, and after 14 hours on this bleeping bus, I hope someone does.
I still have some water from the Upper Falls in my canister. It is my little piece of the Trinity Alps and in a few sips it will be gone. Gone. The likelihood is that I won't be back till next September , especially after this haiku.
Planning my trip I wondered if, when arriving back in Oregon, I would want to return on a permanent basis to Oregon, but, apart from a simply idyllic afternoon walk around Jacksonville with Sabrah (aka Zen Master) and her children, the area felt finished for me. Indeed I miss my friends, certain relationships that only close proximity can properly facilitate; I miss the friendships my children crafted with other little ones; I miss summer days spent leisurely and always communally at the spray park on a quilt with everyones picnics a free for all; i miss picking blackberries on bike rides, drive thru coffee stands, sparkling creeks, farm stands, and that sense of belonging to get when you run into someone you know at a yard sale or the grocery store. Community.
After reading a sociology book about community earlier today I no longer feel so bizarre for my infatuation and love lorn desire for it. Still, it took me several years in Oregon to create one, and nostalgia aside, only barely and meagerly. Dallas, if i'm to be quite honest here, was hardly any better though I did have my family (as wide as we were spread) there. Again, upon speculation, perhaps it's why i've always admired and pinned away for a life abroad. In my experience, it seemed to me that in most European towns, communities were just what the name implied. They were these networks of people, closely knit and woven together over generations who shared their lives together. The richness of it-the depth-I crave.
Currently, and depressingly, we live in the suburbs-a "commuter town" as Wikipedia referred to it when I researched Agoura Hills back in January. There is no unifying force here-no "town center", nothing really in fact to bring us all together to form the relationships that create community. And perhaps those "town centers" are why I love cities-that while the probability for closeness in relationships with those with whom one lives in proximity with is still unlikely, considering the components of a "town center": the cafes and coffee shops, the book stores and theaters, the novelty shops and pop up green spaces, all places created to travel on foot whereas one has the opportunity to meet another, does seem more likely than a suburb where people get in their cars in their garages and go to work or to eat or to play hardly ever living amongst those they do in fact live amongst.
Forty More Minuets.
I didn't know I could still write this much, or I didn't know I could ever be so without errand and without someone in need of me or in need to go somewhere that I would and could write so much (again).
Wow, random tandem galore.
"Remember that good stories have a beginning, middle, and end." It's doubtful this diatribe could constitute as a story be it good or bad, but again I recall the advice Ms.Tina gave Conrad's classroom while I sat in as a volunteer that day. My prison sentence on the bus is over-it ended last night at 9:45 when it finally pulled into the downtown LA terminal. Jon was waiting for me out in the parking lot. Truman had fallen asleep somewhere between Cahunega and Melrose, but Conrad pushed through and was bright eyes and smiles when I opened his door for a hug. Jon told me to "hurry up and get in the car before we're hijacked" and once i was in the car that I should "hand sanitize" and that I smelled "like port-a-potty disinfectant". It was true, and I was happy to be hearing it in our car with our kids in the backseat on our way Home. Home Sweet Home.