Tag Archives: travel

Going Home

Sitting on a bench under the sun at seven-thousand feet, I wait for the bus scheduled to carry me home. My bus happens to be running late today.

Next to me, on the same bench, a Native-American man is waiting to pick someone up. At some point, he begins asking me questions about who I am, where I live and why I am visiting the American Southwest. In way of explanation, I mention that I have come to visit old friends, dear to me since the time we lived in this region almost ten years ago.

Spirituality
Spirituality

In talking about travelling, the man explains that he has not actually travelled much himself, though he helped to raise funds for his son’s travelling expenses. His son has been as far as Georgia to compete in a national contest as an athlete.

“He had the advantage of training in altitude,” I comment at one point early in our conversation.

Then, the man explains, “I am Hopi. I cannot work for myself. I work for the good of my community.” This explains, in part, why he has not travelled extensively. “I helped raise the funds for my son’s travel. His mother travelled with him.”

The concepts of community service and strength over that of individual wealth and stature are philosophical threads common to both the Hopi and Navajo cultures of this region. Given the historically sometimes brutal and definitely difficult nature of self-preservation, farming and hunting in this region, these precepts make complete sense.

The sun is now at its zenith. I feel my skin growing overly warm, yet I stay in the full sun to soak up its rays and breathe the fresh air of the out-of-doors, anticipating the long bus-ride home.

My bench companion continues, “My home reservation is not far from here. Can you believe two teenagers recently beat up an old man and threw him off the mesa? Meth. It’s terrible. We are having to lock our doors. We never had to lock our doors at night.”

Not sure about what to say, I nod my head in silent sympathy.

His face is full of sorrow. “I told my daughters, ‘Watch your little children. These meth users are not right in the head.'”

Finally, I respond, “Meth is ruining a lot of lives.”

More quietly now, he continues, “I am almost afraid to be there—on the Res. It is safer here in town. Isn’t that sad when you’re afraid to go home?”

Spiritual Reverie

Spirituality

So much of our time, in our spiritual yearning, is spent reaching out to grasp at the coattails of the Divine or in voicing a multitude of litanous petitions to God, when what we really need to be doing is becoming internal to clear painful, past impressions, distracting narratives or stale footprints from the sands of our Being–by paying attention to the gift of our very own Spirit and breath.

The rhythmic cadence of our breathing, moment by moment, moves as surely as the waves of the tides do, sweeping away the clutter of ancient confusions to grant us fresh landscapes, across which we may choose to travel.

On the Road Again

On  late Saturday mornings, my father would sometimes walk up from the office to the house and make an inquiry, “Hey, want to go for a ride? I have some bushings that need to be repaired.”

Three hours later and halfway across the state, I find myself in the smallest of cottage-industry shops in the middle of nowhere.  There are streams and lakes and fields and forests—and very few people.  The late-afternoon sunlight comes in through the dirty windows of a repurposed filling station, standing as only one of three buildings at a singular intersection, marking the community’s center. Half a dozen people are bent over vice grips wrapping copper wiring around parts—by hand.

Unable to stifle my surprise, I lean into my father’s space to verify, “They wind these by hand?”

“Yes. The labor and new copper wiring are less expensive than a brand new part.  They will ship them out when they are finished.”

Spirituality

On the drive home, we take a forty-mile detour (eighty in total) to purchase all-beef bratwurst from one of the only small meat suppliers left in the state.  There is an upcoming drivers’ picnic to celebrate the end of the school year.  Forty miles is nothing when considering some of the travel distances that the contracted drivers cover for charter trips or a single high-school athletic meet:  three hours out, play ball and three hours back.  In time, I learn to ask my dad about how far or how long the ride might be before making any solid commitments to a Saturday ride.

The bus service my parents owned, coupled with a propensity for long family road trips, means that I grew up reading maps and on the road again.  There were “day trips” to Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee or the Quad Cities, when a minor-league ball team needed transportation.  There were driving marathons to and from Florida, California and the East Coast.

A keen observer of design—both natural and manufactured—my father never tired of heading out on a road trip to appreciate the world around him and the people he served.  A teacher by vocation, he was inherently curious and ready to discuss potential design improvements on almost any object or subject.  He relished his personal time while driving.  In retrospect, those long hours were the essence of his personal practice.