“Walk like you have 3,000 ancestors walking behind you.” Heather Ashamara – Warrior Goddess Training
This last year has been a challenge for all of us and will continue as we work our way out of what some call the traumas of isolation that we have experienced. I’m thinking there may be another way to look at it. Writers have written about how we struggle with the thin line of being alone vs lonely. Living in an Airstream on the Colorado River for the last year really gave me a taste of this. I am grateful to the CRIT (Colorado River Indian Tribes) for allowing me on their land and keeping me safe during the pandemic. Although sometimes I didn’t like it, the fact that nobody could come or go not only kept me safe but also really helped me embrace being at peace with my own company. It was a spiritual journey. Either I would make it or I would crumble and crumble was not an option.
I reflected on all I have come through in my life and those who have come before me and realized, even when I am alone, I am not alone. I have the strength that was given to me from everyne who has come before me. That strength has helped me in my activism work, as well as in simply surviving a pandemic. I’m not going to lie, at times I was a real mess in 2020, however, that strength my ancestors and my circle of those who have loved me instilled in me helped me to embrace loneliness and turn it into pure joy and alone time, over and over again this past year. (Along with some zooms with all of you. )
Living in a trailer I had already been on a journey towards minimalist living, focusing on only what is important, what is present to me in that moment, not worrying about what had passed or what was to come. Living in a trailer I was already learning to enjoy my own company. Little did I know, Airstream life was perfect for preparing me for a pandemic.
I was not one hundred percent alone. And unlike the charachters portrayed in the new Netflix movie Nomadland, I was actually quite well off and living the life. I had my trusty dog Dudley and a handful of households that were still here in the park for the summer. Of the folks who are left in the park we all found ways to help each other, lift each other’s spirits and feel a sense of normalcy. In spite of our varying political views in a year full of division, we showed up for each other underscoring the importantance of the challenging task of loving one’s neighbors no matter who they are, finding the beauty in them, seeing their humanness. This can be easier said than done.
We helped each other out when a wave of COVID spread through the park by checking in on each other, we helped older folks get groceries so they wouldn’t have to enter the local stores, and we helped folks get to the hospital when they were too weak to do it themselves. Simply walking through the park and saying hi to folks, letting them know they were not alone was another way we were there for each other. All of it I know helped remind me time would pass and we would be ok.
Of course being in a location where there literally were a lot of donkeys during a hot election year, you know I had a little fun teasing my “elephant loving” friends. The donkeys were showing up in large groups right before the election results went through. Emotions were high for all of us and I found a little humor about our real life donkeys showing up, kept it light and allowed us to stay out of the weeds.
The donkeys reminded me I was not alone in another sense. Wildlife seemed take over the park with the lack of people here. It was as if they were saying this land was theirs and they were taking it back. Many of the routines of the wildlife taught me to put routine into my own life and magically a few days melted away into an entire year slowly flying by. I felt like I was on some kind of special journey.
Just keeeping quiet and keeping my eyes open to seeing the wildlife was huge. Unfortunately my photography did not capture much of that. But, I had a huge bobcat land right in front of me after leaping from a tree above. There were coyotees that made a daily visit to my trailer and beyond, when the bobcat was no longer around. The birds and their singing was intensely beautiful, beyond description. The local bats that housed them selves in the purposeful architecture of the Parker Bridge would come out like clockwork as sun set and fly south in single file down the river while the Falcons would swoop down on them for their nightly dinner. There was a beaver couple who swam up and down the river, I’m assuming, back and forth between their homes, at certain times of day. There were sightings of a six foot rattle snake six inches around, and tarantulas in the back row. I feel fortunate to not have seen those. And of course jack rabbits and road runners were everywhere when the predators were not out and about looking for prey. The big horned owl would come and stare into the trailer at poor little Dudley, which was a little unnerving. And all sorts of fish would escape the occasional dancing fly fish lines that one or two weekenders brought up when the park opened up for public use. All of this wild life was like going to the movies, since of course the theaters were closed and we couldn’t. It was fascinating to capture in photos when I could, or just listen to and watch in general.
But back to the idea of being alone. Many famous writers and artists talk about the difference between being alone and being lonely. The idea that we are fed great nourishment in being alone… or with ourselves, contradicts the societal norms that when we are alone we must be lonely or flawed. When we hear that message enough the danger is that we might start to believe it, when in reality it is being alone that gives us so many gifts and helps us find ourselves. Sara Maitland who writes “How To Be Alone” says we give ourselves gifts when seeking solitude including a deeper consciousness of oneself, a deeper attunement to nature, a deeper relationship with the divine or spiritual, increased creativity and an increased sense of freedom.
I definitely dove into my painting and photography in this last year, connected with wildlife and the divine, developing a deeper sense of self and I truly felt free.
Living in my trailer in 2020 I established many routines that helped me enjoy my own company and deepen my life in all of the ways mentioned.
I loved my daily prayers and meditation, just as I woke each morning, giving me a sense of grounding. Along with that I tried hard to stay off social media for the first few hours of the day, really embracing time with myself.
It was very important that I kept moving each day. I began the pandemic walking four and five miles a day with others in the park. However, as my walking partners disappeared I was not comfortable going solo into the middle of the desert. If something were to go wrong nobody would know where I was. Thus, I walked the desert washes a little less and cricled my trailer park a little more. The days the bobcat hung out in the park I pretty much stayed inside all together.
I lost my longest, oldest friendship, not to COVID, but to cancer and realized all of our established traditions for dealing with grief and loss had been put on hold for the pandemic. I’m still not sure I completely processed that and think my solo time will be a place to continue to process all of the loss during this last year.
Of course, solo time allowed for me to work on a new vision board, a work that is still in process. I realized everything I put on the last one has come true. There is a real power in the words we put out into the universe. So again, I am working on goals and a vision for the upcoming year.
Driving through the desert was so breathtaking, grounding and connected. It prooved impossible for me to capture that in a photo, but I’ve thrown in a few of my attempts. There is nothing better than hitting the desert for a three hour drive with nobody else around.
In reading “Daily Rituals of Women At Work” many writers and artists grew themselves the most during that quiet, introspective time they spent with themselves. As an extrovert/introvert I find that both challenging at times as well as affirming. As much pain and sorrow as this pandemic has brought many, like most difficult times it has also brought us the gift of solitude and trailer life has made that even more possible and fun. For that I am forever thankful.