Looking around the, freshly installed, internets here, in The Woodshed, though I have stuff to do today (mainly grant writing, but why would I do that?), and I am shocked at how negative it all is. I am wondering to myself, “How do I make this less the place it is?” And the answer came to me, write a post, duh.
Be the change, Diamond.
Well, then, ok.
I have so much to say. So much to write. So many updates about life. I have had trouble doing so for several reasons.
1) I didn’t have internet.
2) I have been BUSY.
3) I have been unsure how to talk about the things in my head.
It is an odd thing going from traveling the world and meeting new people every day to settling down in a familiar place. I think it might be a dynamic that is made even more peculir by the public way I was living on the road. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves now, posting on the internet about a personal journey is as public as a person really can get without being surrounded by paparazzi.
I feel that when I write on here that it is just a journal and I like it that way, but then I find myself writing and then pressing the delete button as I realize I went too far. It isn’t my life and my stories that concern me, it’s the other peoples’ lives that I intermingle with that I have the slightest tinge of concern for. As a friend told me, I don’t want this to be The Truman Show. There is another part too, though. Grief. Things have changed since being on the road, because, now, I have the first major death in my life that I have to cope with.
My mother died when I was 17, and that was a bit of a deal, I guess. It was a repressed and ignored deal though, and since she wasn’t much of a positive force in my life it didn’t affect me like Gramps’ passing. And now, here I am, the journey is done; life should be a bit more normal now that I am home. I should just be reflecting on the way my eight month adventure affected me and shaped the new course of my life, but instead I have this well of emotions to slowly dredge out.
My journey was supposed to be closer to a yearlong. With Gramps coming to the end of his journey I couldn’t do it, I had to cut my journey short. And before I made it home to see him one last time he died. That made me sad.
Is it because he died before I got home, or is it because I turned out I really didn’t have to cut the journey short? That is a hard question, and it makes me wonder many things, like am I selfish for even wondering? That is a big question in my head.
I came home for some certain things. I diffused the situation when Gramps passed, and I started planning for all the other things that justified cutting my journey short. I allowed some of the reason to be the people still in my life. I made time to see some of my close friends, and go to some of the events that they had invited me to attend if I made it back in time. In one of these instances it was a boy. He was a friend with a slight question of something more. This boy and I didn’t work, and in my saddened, grieving, mind that fact hurt more than it really should of. There was no heartbreak around the situation, but I allowed the small situation to cloud the break that was already there over Gramps, and so there was a short time of confusion. Lots of self-reflection brought me back, and now here I am, back at step one; I am sad that Gramps is gone.
Am I selfish?
Would I rather be on the road still?
Or am I just sad that one of the most important humans in my life is now gone?
And how do I talk about that?
I am not sure how I talk about it, but you know what, I do have stuff to talk about, so that’s what I’m going to do.
So if you are a regular reader to this blog then you are aware of my slightly unorthodox way of viewing the world. If you noticed I talk about things like “the universe” or “signs.” Well, I have no apologies for such speak, but if you don’t dig then I would suggest you pause reading this blog and wait for the next one, because I am going to continue down that path. I like you, reader, and I thought you warranted that disclaimer.
I saw a wolf two days ago. I was riding the motorcycle back from town. I had gone in to pick up the router that is now blinking, and sending wireless signal around The Woodshed. I used that trip on Little Wing to run other errands as well. I met about grants, I visited with a couple of friends, and I picked up some chocolate and cheese (when one lives twenty miles away from town they have to make every trip count, but I only have so much space in the Pelican box on the back of the bike.. just enough room for a router, and some chocolate and cheese). On my way home the bike stalled.
Mechanics, if you have any advice it is welcome here. This same sort of stall has happened once before since I have been home. It happens when it’s warm out, but I honestly don’t think the temperature matters in this situation, because it is always warm when I am riding the bike here in Minnesota. It happens if I have been riding hard, like taking many ninety degree angles at a fast speeds, basically after I ride like I think a real rider should. It happens after the engine has been on for a bit. If I switch the petcock on reserve (which I tried this last time it happened) the bike will sputter back to life, sort of like the same feel one gets when the tank runs empty. The stall happened, the bike began to slow, I pulled off to the side of the highway, switched the reserve on, and the engine took a few seconds but it started to respond to the throttle which I was pulling on. I think it is dirty fuel something-or-other. Dirty carbs due to maybe dirty lines, or something that isn’t maybe fully letting the air and fuel to mix correctly. I don’t think it is a huge deal, but, like I said, advice is welcome.
Anyway, after the bike stalled a bit my first thought was the tank was empty, so I doubled back and went to gas station that was only a mile away. The station is about fifteen miles away from The Woodshed. I filled the tank, realized I didn’t actually need fuel, and that Little Wing must have stalled. I debated the next step. I was going to ride home, no biggie, but which way? Was I going to ride back through the road construction that I had just hit twice because of doubling back for fuel? No, I was going to take the back route home. I got on Little Wing and we started off. It was a great ride, I was glad I changed my route. I was about three miles away from home when I saw something coming out of the right hand ditch. Deer, I thought, and grabbed the clutch and allowed the bike to coast. I was about four hundred yards away from it when I had first noticed the ears poke up through the weeds, and as I slowly coasted nearer I realized it was not a deer. The creature was a canine of some sort. It was too big for many domesticated breeds of dogs, and two small for others, a mutt? No, no way, look at them ears. And as it nonchalantly walked across my lane of traffic I sensed it look at me out of its peripherals as its head moved the slightest bit in my direction. I watched as the animal picked up its feet a little higher and quicken its step. It wasn’t a nervous pace shift, but more like an I-guesss-I will-get-out-of-your-way pace shift. I looked at the creatures paws, as they stepped higher and Little Wing and I coasted oh-so-slowly, because, remember, this is all in the time it takes to coast 300 yards. The paws were so big, and I realized that the creature before me was a wolf. The moment I came to the realization the creature seemed to sense it. The quick-step turned into a sprint and the wolf launched itself across the road and into the woods. I hit the throttle and stared through the trees at the creature that deftly wound its way through the underbrush.
This is not my first time seeing nature in these Northwoods that I now inhabit. It comes with the territory, but it has also seems slightly magical (spiritual, universal, like a manifestation, herald or sign).
Walking down to the river yesterday I saw three grouse, one bigger one and two smaller ones. I remember being told that grouse are actually nervous critters, and I remember never seeing, but always hearing, them in the woods, and there they were, three of them, allowing me to get within twenty feet of them as I made my trek down to the river for my afternoon soak.
I saw two blue jays hopping in my front yard and took it as a sign. This was a week or so before heading to South Dakota for Grandpa’s memorial service. The service was held on June 23, and prior to I was stressing. It would be my first time back in South Dakota since Flying out of Sioux Falls back to California. Gramps wouldn’t be there. I didn’t want to be there. The morning of the two blue jays I descended from my loft to use the facilities and turn on the radio. I just woke up, and I don’t typically take too much time to look around that soon out of bed. I had hands on the ladder, after taking my morning pee, with plans to go back to the loft when something made me look up. I looked straight out of the window, past the photos of family, my smiling father, sister, grandparents, the last photo I took of Norman Knispel, and I saw two bright blue birds. It took a second to identify them. It was like I was seeing the blueness of a blue jay for the first time. I stepped off the ladder, slowly, and just watched them scratch at the ground, searching out food. After a minute I realized I wanted a photo so I reached for my camera. I got two pictures of the jays before they took off.
After a night filled with unsettling dreams that was exactly what my mind called for.
A few days after the blue jays, just a few days before departing to South Dakota, I woke to the sound of something that resembled the sound of toppled five gallon buckets being rolled around on the ground. It was the sound that the plastic on the metal handle of the bucket makes as it is moved around. There is a stack of five gallon buckets outside one of the walls of The Woodshed. It is the same wall that the woodstove is positioned on. The morning was still fresh and I was not so I rolled over with the thought that the raccoon or deer that was out there would just have to wait. I heard the sound two more times before I started to question my diagnosis of the situation. I sat upright, and I heard the sound again. I realized with a start that the noise wasn’t coming from rolling five gallon buckets, but instead from the woodstove. A mouse, I thought.
I climbed down my loft, my heart racing. I’m not scared of mice, but I think I may be scared of creatures being trapped in places they shouldn’t be. I stood by the woodstove and took a deep breath or two, bracing myself; I wasn’t braced enough. I opened the door and silence reigned. There was still an unburnt log in the stove, from my first week’s home. I reached my hand and shifted the log just the tiniest bit. My ears and eyes were filled with a whooshing as I drew my arm back with a start. I felt a shrill shriek escape my mouth. I shrieked at least three times after that as the image of the bird that had just flown within inches of eyeballs sank in. My brain soon caught up with the situation and my fear subsided as I realized the bird was not attempting to be violent. I had heard a thump that had managed to make it through my loud vocals, and I realized with a bit of concern that the bird had flown into my window. The same window I had stared out just a few mornings earlier when the blue jays greeted me. When I looked over I saw, there, from behind my motorcycle helmet, sitting on a box in front of that infamous window, the little head of a blue bird peeking out at me.
So, down the scrawny pipe of my woodstove a rare, Minnesotan, blue bird had flown. In some act of crazy, cosmic, serendipity it had had hidden itself behind my helmet and the plant from Gramps that drapes itself down onto said helmet. The plant was given to me by Gramps. He had gifted me with the greenery a couple of years earlier, when he had got it from the memorial service of one of his closest friends. Gramps would always ask if I was keeping it alive, and I would always tell him it was flourishing. He would respond first with a doubtful look and then a sly grin, and most likely a wink. He knew it was well, but he loved to question me.. on everything. I wondered, as that blue bird flitted up and down a short length of the window, whether Gramps was coming to check on our plant. Was he questioning me? A loud, beautiful, blue bird would be just his style.
I walked to the door and opened it, expecting the blue bird to fly the five short feet out the open space, but it didn’t. I realized I should get a picture. I walked around to my camera, while the bird continued to flit against the window. My camera was dead so I plugged it in and in the time all that took the bird still remained inside. It was a good three minutes before I realized it wasn’t going anywhere. I had some photos so I walked to the door and held my arms out, as though directing a friend to an exit. One arm extended in the blue bird’s direction and the other pointing to the opening that was the doorway.
The bird got it and I heard the same whooshing sound I had heard earlier as it flew out, into the wild open spaces. Silence remained behind, and I was, once again, alone in The Woodshed.
I went to South Dakota. Gramps had requested cremation, so we were able to save the memorial service for a month and a half after he left our dimension. We buried Grandpa on his hill. I cried. I came home, and I cried some more. Ever since the week of the many different blue birds I have been calmer about the whole thing, you know, life; and death. I have been thinking about what grief means more now. Then when I am least expecting it a wolf runs in front of me, or three grouse move about me calmly. Or I happen upon three fox kits. Which is something that also happened.
Taking a walk with some friends in the Bemidji State Forest, admiring the plants and bugs, taking pictures of spiders, talking about woodsy things, we came across the little orange fur balls.
I was in the lead, and I was the first to spot them. I wondered what kind of a dog it was and as I moved my head the slightest bit to point the critter out to my companions another one popped out, and I realized. “Shh, shh. Look, foxes.”
My friends stopped, and looked. I could sense the mutual wonder as a third fox came tumbling out of the bushes. My friend, and neighbor, Cassidy, told me to take a picture. I was hesitant, I didn’t want the foxes to leave while I fumbled with my camera, but there was no need to fear, and I was glad he had directed me to do so. The foxes saw us, I could see them looking directly at me as I zoomed in with my lens, but they were too young to be nervous, and having too much fun to care.
We watched as they skipped, and rolled, and tumbled. They frolicked as the girls behind me cooed about how cute they were, and one of them, a photographer, talked about she wished she had brought her nice lenses. Cassidy and I stood in silence. I focused on getting some good pictures, and got absorbed in their play. We all agreed the foxes were a sign. Later on that evening I found my first ever four-leaf clover.
I am not sure what all these signs add up to, maybe nothing. Maybe it isn’t Gramps’ spirit coming through. Maybe it is my wishful thinking. Maybe I am on some weird spiritual kick with no grounding in reality, and maybe these animals are just doing their thing and I am assigning it some special meaning, but I find comfort in thinking otherwise. And finding comfort is important to me right now. So I think these are signs.
I do want to be on the road again. I want to be learning all I can from traveling, and I want to be visiting new places, and seeing things I haven’t ever saw before. I want to take in life at a high speed, with no apologies, just like I did while on the road.
I am coming to realize that is exactly what I am doing now.
Life doesn’t stop being an adventure just because one isn’t “adventuring.” I am dealing with the craziest experience of my life right now in my own mind. It is way more taxing, and takes a crap ton more courage, than any adventure. Everything up until this point, those eight months on the road, has led to this point of dealing the way I am now having to do. I want to be back on the road. I want to be back on adventure, but what I really want is to have Gramps back.
Blue birds, wolves, and foxes tell me that wants and needs are two different things. I am on adventure. I have a wolf living right next door. I have crazy noises waking me up in the morning. Trials and tribulations are finding me just fine right now, and Little Wing still has carburetor issues. It is like I never left the road, honestly. Life is damn fine, death and all.
That’s my positive for the internet.