Years ago I started this blog as a travel diary and then it got lost in other priorities. These days of the Covid-19 lock down, I’m only traveling from the bedroom to the teapot, my bicycle, and occasionally a hidden beach at a local lake.
Whatever vehicle one uses to explore their “inner world” whether it’s journal writing, painting, gardening, walking, yoga or meditation this time of lockdown is an opportunity to explore them. We can make choices about using this time of isolation to bring a deeper perspective to our own struggles and our place in this world.
Journal writing, for me, has been a powerful tool to bring a deeper understanding of myself. A writer friend of mine refers to the “shit show” of her mind. All of us have a constant, barely conscious thought drivel dancing in our heads. It babbles on and on with dialogues of unworthiness, fears of failure and disease, worries, and desires for our future. Journaling, as well as meditation, lessens the power this internal chatter has over us.
Everything in life begins with thought whether it’s trying a new recipe or upgrading our resume. Being more aware of those thoughts helps us plant the seeds of a productive, satisfying life. It’s sort of like, if you want to harvest flowers, you must dig in dirt.
Oddly enough, isolation has brought me stronger feelings of connectedness. Partly because I’ve slowed down, have time to notice the beauty that surrounds me and the simple things that make me truly happy.
I’ve been writing in a journal about my fear of aloneness, but slowly learning to enjoy my alone time. When I am not on track with my purpose and life goals then loneliness sets in, and I fill myself up with escapism -Netflix, Facebook, the lists of menial jobs that I “should get done”, and, yes, overeating. Loneliness, I’ve discovered, feels like a wall I sometimes break through and enjoy the focus and peace of being alone. It’s like opening a gate into a secret garden of contentment and feeling fully alive.
Sometime in March I wandered out into the garden in the afternoon as I usually do and squatted in a flower bed between a pine and cedar tree. Raking a few leaves and needles into a pile, the scent of damp dirt filled my nostrils. The sun warmed the back of my head; the air still moist with the night’s rain. Then I saw them. The tiny tips of daffodils peeking through the soil. I ran my fingers over tops of their heads, and an electricity shot through me. I felt like a teenager when that special boy touched my hand in the movie theatre. Somehow I sensed the connectedness of all life–this miracle of the seasons that the peach trees know to set fruit, and daffodils begin again when the soil warms.
In recent years David and I have been able to travel independently. It turns out that isolation and travel have a lot in common. Exploring/existing outside the box of our culture and comfort zone, forces me to step back my pre-conceived thinking and ways of negotiating and managing my world. My mind squeaks open, and I am forced to adapt to change; and hopefully see a bigger picture. Travel challenges me to exist in a reality that is completely different than my own culture.
Travel brings connections with people that we wouldn’t necessarily think possible. I remember a guide who took it upon himself to make sure I kept walking on a hike to a temple at the 10,000 foot elevation in the Himalayas. (If I had walked with David, my husband, I would have complained and quit.) What actually motivated me was our conversation. Despite living on opposite sides of the world in totally different cultures and religious upbringing, we had much in common. Our concerns, ambitions, doubts, ideals and fears for our children and the planet were all similar. I had met a kindred spirit.
Traveling also brings back memories of a communal dinner one night at an Eco-resort on a remote stretch of beach south of Mahahual, Mexico. The comraderie and international feeling of connectedness was something I hadn’t expected. The group included four older German men, landscapers who brought their wry humor and a generous stash of beer and cigarettes. A young couple from Chile who had just finished their degrees and two women from Austria. Two Czechoslovakians and two Mexican nationals arranged and prepared the dinner. My husband and I were the only Americans. The food was simple—salsa, rice, and a platter full of a whole red snapper roasted in a reddened chili sauce.
The laughter and conversations definitely broadened one’s view of life especially when several of the younger men competed for who might have the honor of eating the fish’s eyes—a supposedly gourmet treat in their minds. And there was that moment when all eyes were looking at David and I when someone asked, “I don’t understand why the wealthiest country in the world is so stingy about their health care?” That was a question we couldn’t answer.
The corona virus has reminded me how incredibly short this life is, how fast it can change, and the importance of sharing our stories. I invite you to join me in this blog adventure. A story will appear in your inbox about every two weeks. I promise not to give more advice about staying healthy during Covid-19; but to take you with me on this writing and eating journey and go beyond the marketing drivel that abounds about travel; to share the challenges, the serendipitous moments, insights and colorful characters that inhabit our planet. None of us can travel these days, but memories do bring back such vibrant experiences and teaching moments.
I’m feeling eclectic these days. I’ll also include practical stories of growing up in a VERY different world than today, of the organic farmers I have interviewed and even recipes to expand your repertoire. Just hit fill in your email and hit the button on bottom right that says subscribe and I’ll see you in cyberspace.
Stay well and enjoy! Patti Bess