I begin this last day of writing a month in a minivan in a state of art-pray, thinking about snakes. As a young girl, I often caught garter snakes to play with for short times. Other than foul-smelling pee, they were harmless. You could find them under hay bales at harvest time, and every old farm house had a pile of rocks where snakes lived. I mostly saw them as playmates.
Here in the desert, it’s different. Snakes are a powerful presence. They can be five feet long, and their bite can be fatal. They are waking up from a winter hibernation and appearing among us. Some people kill them, out of sport or fear. Some revere them. They are prominent in many desert indigenous teachings, symbology, art and jewellery.
As I begin to paint, I ask to know the snake’s spirit. To be truthful, I’m not sure I use actual words to do that. It’s more just like “wonderings” that bubble up from inside. I am beginning to think that prayer and curiousity might just be the same thing. I offer up my curiousity. In the direction of the snake.
I just start sinking into my morning “contem-painting” when I begin to feel restless. Before I know it, we are in the car and on our way out of town, a cloud of dust behind us. I don’t have time for painting! There is a doorway opening and I’ve got to get going! I have somewhere to to!
It’s not until I get to the other side of Portal that I’m reminded to slow down. Distracted rushing will rob me of rich experiences, and make my world smaller. I want “wide-open” road, not narrow!
I thank the Universe for the reminder, and commit myself to remaining open and relaxed, even through in my mind, I am already soaking in the Gila Hotsprings. Plus, I’m speeding.
Not ten minutes down the road I hit a T junction, and directly in front of me is the Apache Museum and the Chiricahua Desert Museum. There is a moment of hesitation. My foot hovers over the gas pedal. Hotsprings. You have to get to the hotsprings.
But I’m starting to catch on to this. I ask for guidance, and now I need to be prepared to accept it. This being a student thing is a two way street. It’s not lost on me that a snake appears on the sign.
So, the Apache Museum is closed for a staff meeting and I feel instantly disappointed, as if I took a wrong turn or read the sign wrong. I almost decline paying admission for only one part of the experience, but the woman smiles and says “it will still be worth it” and that was that.
Pips and I are the the only visitors, and the exhibit is on motion-lights so it’s a bit dark in the gallery, before we start moving around. The door closes behind us and I scan the rooms, which I see includes live animals further in.
Immediately, my eye catches something on the floor on the other side of the gallery. The room feels a bit eerie to be truthful; the cases are full of things like the worlds largest snake-bite kit, turtle shells, old books and odd curio about snakes from around the world. There is something voo-doo about it all, in the dark. I walk slowly to the thing and pick it up. It’s a snakeskin.
You know those bumps at the side of the highway? The ones that startle you awake, if you start to drift a little bit too far onto the shoulder or into the other lane? They rumble-jolt you, telling you to roll down the window, turn up the music or give your head a good shake. That’s how I feel, holding the skin. Like I just hit one of those bumps; my sleep-bump, my awake-strip, my alert system. Holding that snakeskin was like that, and now I also have the goosebumps.
I look around for someone to give me an explanation about why there might be snake skin on the floor, but no one steps out of the shadows to help me. I scan the corners of the room, including the high ones, to see if the skin’s previous owner is in the vicinity. I see nothing, and place it (reverently) on the counter, where I find it’s other half.
In the next room, Pippa and I meet it’s likely owner. Safely behind glass in a large terrarium, he is very much awake and very much interested in Pippa, who makes a very low guttural noise and takes two steps backward. I follow Pippa’s lead, stepping back, but am entranced by it’s swaying, rattling and intense eye contact with Pippa.
They are dancing, communicating, and it’s clear I am to take two more steps backward now too. I film a small interaction because I feel I am in a learning moment I can’t quite grasp yet, and may want to review later.
We go back to the turtles, and Pippa shakes off the interaction. Pippa’s shaking has come to alert me that that we are moving from one experience to the next. Now it’s time to leave. Back in the car, I muse a bit.
Today I have Kokopelli riding shotgun, a rabbit’s foot on my dashboard and I am asked to consider the snake; It’s unique habit of growing out of it’s skin, and it’s effective boundary setting.
I do arrive in Gila, where babies fill the green fields and I can feel the power of the place. Ancient power I can’t name, but can only sense. Things are born here.
After dark, when the pools are empty of others and clothing optional, I soak under the stars and cry for this ending. At the labour of sinking deep into an experience for an entire month. For the intensity of the movement. It’s almost over.
This month has passed, and nothing will remain except this trail of words I have left behind.
Like the snakeskin, it is not the thing, but a reminder of the thing.
I think about fertility and creativity and how the monthly cycle is a powerful thing for women. It has been quite a month, even as I now count the ones in which I no longer experience my menses. I had my last one as I came to the desert back in December. I somehow don’t think this is coincidental.
I want to thank you for being here with me as I’ve journeyed. I have felt your spirits with me; you have been midwives and attendants. When I stepped out of that warm pool tonight into the cold desert air, I stepped into a new journey and I am ready. When you are naked and cold under a million stars it’s hard to imagine you actually have what you need for the trip. But I do. We do.
I have only one piece of advice, after all of this, and it’s not about solar panels, how to wash your hair or where to go out here on the road. If you come, you will figure all that out, because it is unique and personal to you. My advice is something more important and maybe universal. Just one thing. Okay, maybe two.
Don’t fall asleep at the wheel.
Refuse to be sedated; rendered unconscious by what society or others say your life should be, or who you should be.
Pay attention to the rumble strips, your rumble strips – the things that jolt your spirit awake, make you curious or give you goosebumps. Listen carefully. Follow your curiousity like a spirit-guide.
And don’t write the ending first! It’s not about the ending! This is all we can be sure of; this one glorious moment we are currently in.
Linger over each word, each paragraph, each chapter; no matter what it holds. The painful, frightening, confusing and confounding. The beautiful. Use lots of commas and make up new words that better express what you need to say. Show up and author your own story.
That’s my wish. And it’s got nothing to do with vanlife, or being nomadic or even living in nature. This is just one of many journeys; just one of many vehicles that could take you there. That can bring you home.
If you need hope, please drink some right away. Look for it everywhere! Rub yourself on it! Roll in it, and cover yourself in it’s scent! This was taped to the back of the door in the outhouse, in Portal.
Just don’t fall asleep at your wheel. Fight, if you must, to stay awake. If you can just stay awake, you will arrive. Fully alive. In your very own life.
Safe passage to you all, and much love.
Kit & Pippa.
26 thoughts on “Day 31: Arriving Alive (the final instalment)”
Dear God, please don’t let this be the end of your daily musings. I enjoyed each and every one binge reading – couldn’t stop until I realized I would have no more to read for the next day so I saved some.I loved hearing about everything you were thinking and doing with Pipa and wish for more. Enjoyed seeing your art, hearing about what you were eating, where you were going – everything. The music was wonderful also. Thank you so much for sharing. Please don’t stop.
My wife just tuned into your interview by Bob, and we both found your van modifications very unique and useful. I especially love that fold-down faucet!! Your tales are thoughtfully-written and even more enjoyed than you think! I am also ex-military (USA) and have issues not visible but very apparent. Thank you for your service and may the roads be kind and ever-safe.
Good morning Foto(s)
I’m laughing about that faucet. Bob was rather keen on it too. Hahaha. The one thing I probably wouldn’t do again is pump water UP. Now it seems to me it would have made more sense to allow it to gravity feed down. Pumps can break, and water lines are tricky to reach etc. But that faucet, it is pretty darn cool. Thank you for your service too, and may you find joy in this new life you are exploring 🙂 Nature is a marvellous healer.
Your meaningful writings have me contemplating so much with this last post. As an artist I LOVE your adding the creative flair, art heals so much! But you are truly a gifted writer, and I shall miss reading about your day and the unique way of looking at its happenings. I find myself at a crossroads in my artistic life and personal one. What a blessing it would be to have someone such as yourself as a friend to ponder with and learn from. Safe travels and I look forward to whatever journey you take with your daughter, back home or when ever!
Good morning Gloria. Crossroads are fascinating junctures. But in some ways, every moment is a crossroad. All those little micro-decisions about turning this way, or that. All of the different possibilities, most of which we can’t even imagine, along each possible road. Did you find your way over to my “off-season” blog? I hope to see you on the other side. Keep “arting” and sharing it. I think the magic actually happens in that phase, even more than the creation… interesting now that I think about it 🙂
What kind of art do you do?
What a wonderful reply to find in my inbox today, thank you. I do colored pencil saturated paintings, 20-25 layers for my professionally marketed work. But love travel sketching, graphite, pen and ink and watercolor and colored pencil. Travel sketching helps me to really see a place and remember it. My work can be seen at http://www.gloriacallahan.com, I didn’t want to load a link to distract from your great blog. I also have an art blog you can access from my website. I will definitely search out your off season blog, missed it completely. I hope it has more about your home region as it’s on my must travel and paint list one day! Your comment about sharing plays into the classes I teach on my style, but I find that can it can be draining in my own creative ideas. Finding a balance is difficult, how do you reach a balance in your life?
I cant BELIEVE those pieces of beautiful art are pencils!!!! (You’re right, that’s EXACTLY what I said!) I am happy to provide a portal to such a beautiful site! WOw. Im glad you found the blog and I hope you enjoy discovering Cape Breton as I go along… discovering it myself! Balance. Oh, that’s a fascinating topic! I wrote about during spring equinox quite a bit… it’s elusive, because we are always moving between one state and another! It’s almost a moment to moment endeavour, seeking it in each action, decision, etc. If I ever really get anywhere to close to “achieving” it I will contact you immediately! LOL
I have a children’s story that your work would look so beautiful with! It’s called Toad Hole, and was so close to being accepted for publication lol. Have you ever done any illustration for books? I imagine its a huge undertaking for an arist, the writer only needs to come up with 1500 carefully curated words!
I discovered you’re van build a few months ago after two years of pondering and trying to figure out how to design my own travel life. It was just what I was looking for. It’s interesting that you put emphasis on the motivations, new outlooks, and self discovery rather than on the equipment and van essentials. I’m visiting Cornwall, Canada on May 2-7, we’re going to Ottawa to see the tulips, would there be any opportunity to meet you and see your van in person? My phone# is 1-773-559-1486. I would love to talk with you. Ellie Silva
Hi Ellen, Sorry I missed ya, I just flew through Ottawa to the east coast… missed tulips altogether! Hope you had fun!
Kit & Pippa, I have so enjoyed traveling with you for the last month. Thank you for allowing me to eavesdrop on your sweet life.
I don’t know why I like your writing so very much, but I do. That’s not a backwards way of saying I shouldn’t like it. There’s simply my confusion about why it speaks to me so loudly as I sit here in this comfortable chair, no adventure at hand. What you’re saying is true; I’m sure of that. So, I’ll ponder your words . . . Made easier for myself by copying by hand the last few paragraphs, the ones about staying awake, not writing the ending first (that hit like a snake bite), and wallowing in hope. Happy journey, and more writing.
Good morning Kit. I will so miss your daily offerings which I have enjoyed so very much. My life is very different from yours….I am 64, along with my husband we winter in Ftstjohn, BC where he works in logging and I do a bit of janitorial work. At Spring breakup, we then pack up and move home to the Crowsnest Pass in Alberta where we are building a house. To read about your adventure has made this last month pass more quickly and this week we are slowly packing, cleaning, etc and will be on the road for home Monday. I have really enjoyed your comments and pictures and art, whilst living a totally different life! It’s sharing experiences like you have that makes us all connected as women and makes us realize that adventure is possible! Have a wonderful time with your daughter, travel safe and please continue to share when you can. Who knows how many of us on your contact list are eagerly waiting to hear all about your day on the road?
Have a fabulous day! Connie
It’s been a blast. Very thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing, Kit.
I looked forward to reading every day, your journey and writing are inspiring! Hope, intuition, signs, and always the pleasure and challenge of a crossroads or fork in the road. Thank you for honouring us with this journal. One day I hope to cross paths with you (I’m trading in my campervan to convert a Caravan…)
and with sadness we too come to the end of a journey. Will miss you Kit, love your writing and your musings. So much of what you say resonates with me, or makes me say “yep”. Stay awake indeed!
Oh Kit and Pippa, thank you thank you thank you.🥰
Sweet woman, your rich poetic words are a healing balm to so many and certainly to me. You remind me to be present and take time to reflect on what is right in front of me. Kit it has been a joy reading your musing over the last month, I loved our walk thru the arboretum and Arnett Canyon, rich with goosebump moments. I look forward to more goosebumps…buckets of love!
Thank you immensely. I could feel your passion rising in this post. Endings, beginnings, openings… travel in style kit. :). You are an inspiration and a joy.
Reading your last 31 day’s writing’s was very interesting. However, it was so much more! Wonderful and moving in a very soothing in a nice way!
Thank you for the wonderful journey! Safe travels.
I too have enjoyed this month’s journey with you and yours. Plus that Kokopelli hitch hiker I hope to be reunited with soon. Happy trails to to youuuuu
I really enjoyed reading your blog this month. Thank you so much for your inspiring words. I especially loved this last post. I wish you well on your journey, give Pippa a pat on the head from me.
Great read, Kit. But what will remain with you are the changes that this chosen life has instilled in you. Every experience alters us in some way, so that will remain within you now. Thanks for sharing your journey.
I have no words that are really adequate to express what your blog has meant to me this last month. Just a huge THANK YOU.
You have so enriched my journey. Continue yours in peace and love.
I’m not at all sure how this works. Most entranced here, having just encountered your presence thru Bob Well’s 2/8 Utube post. Life is pretty special, and I thank you for the “joy” of it that is apparent in you.
Here’s to living a life that leads you to joy! Glad you found your way here!
Nice to meet you Papabob 🙂