In the mirror

October 10, 2020

The mirror reflects my upper body, I have not taken much time in the last year to look at that reflection, but today I am. In my shoulders, I see the mountains against which I pushed my bike when it was too steep to pedal. In my forearms I see the in the sinews the long descents on which I held the brakes tight. In the color of my skin, I see the many, many days in the summer sun where I rolled on so many roads.

My body.

It has pretty much been a battle between us, me and my body. Most of my life spent believing it was not as it should be. It’s a needlessly painful journey, to look at one’s body this way.

A few days ago, I was looking at my bicycle. My little purple machine, unassuming, unfashionable, kind of old school and ordinary It carried me over nearly 3000 KM of road with a heavy load, I feel wonder and thankfulness for it. I feel a love for it.

Now, looking in the mirror, I feel a love for my own body. This is a rare event. I feel wonder for the gifts it gave me; from being a completely untrained body, huffing and puffing over a tiny hill, to a powerful engine, taking me over 1000s of meters of elevation, mountains, hills, crossing countries in record time. This body at 56 years of age giving me a journey of a lifetime, giving me a sense of immense freedom, strength and ability. I am in awe with this body. In awe with its generosity, its beauty, its incredible healing ability.

This body’s only limits are the limits I bestow upon it… It listens to me so intently, constantly.

As I rode at times, it would speak to me, and I would respond with love, and following that, it gave me even more.

I never knew one could do so much physically. Many times in my life I had caressed the dream of hiking or running or riding across continents, but I never could confront doing it. It just seemed too, too, too hard. What allowed me to do it, was the decision that it didn’t matter how long it took. That it did not matter if I got off the bike and pushed. That I had nothing to prove, no ego or insecurities to cater to. When it gets hard; go slower, one step, then… another. One pedal stroke, then another. Another essential ingredient: motivation. It has to be clear, undeniable, untainted. Then one can really do anything. Uncompromised intent.

This body of mine was made to move, to breathe deeply, to sweat, to work hard. This mind of mine was made to explore, to ponder and search. To never settle for comfort but to seek answers. To meld with the world around me, disappear in the wholeness of it and exist fully, bloom like a flower on its own time and needs.

One day, we were riding through Serbia, it had been a hard day. My legs just did not want to go. I had even taken an hour nap in the afternoon trying to reignite them, on the lawn of a church. When I got up, I felt even more defeated. We left the church yard and headed towards the river down the hill hoping to camp there overnight. First my friend was attacked by wasps when he tried to lift a cover on a well, we ran out of there, took the next road towards the river and then we immediately got stuck on a greasy muddy road, bikes caked with inches brownish gray clay. We grumbled out of there, and got back on the road as the sun was coming down. The closest town was so far away it seemed. Night came, we were riding on a scary 4 lane road with no shoulders, cars brushing by us so closely honking their horns, flashing lights, I was terrified, struggling to see the holes in the pavement or any type of obstacle that might arise. Trying to stay close enough to draft from my friends airstream and far enough to be able to see road hazards in time not to crash. When we finally were able to get off that road, a hill waited for us… more sweat, more huge efforts. I am giving all I have.
Then we found ourselves on a wide, flat if not slightly descending, friendly road. No cars, we started to pedal faster. Side by side we rolled, it was intoxicating. I could feel my body suddenly so alive, so strong. It felt like my racing days, keeping this threshold pace. I felt invincible, I was the engine in the night, I could, for the first time on this journey, push the biggest gears, with all this luggage as if I carried a bag of feathers on the bike. I became completely exhilarated.

We made it to the next town, found a good deal on a room for a couple of nights, all my worries, all my fears, all my resistance washed off, I was me, decalcified of limiting ideas, I was laughing so hard and loud, unapologetically. So strong… so strong.




So much took place since the last post…

I see that I posted once in May, once in June and now for July. On the last post I found  the bicycle I thought was going to be my trusty steed for the journey. Then I spent 3 days in Wroclaw running around to find second hand bicycle equipment, it seemed then that I was just days away from hitting the road.

On the last post I said that I was going to Bytom, to my new host, Kamil. He came to pick me up at the Zabrze station and we drove to his home. Bytom is a small, fairly poor town, a coal mining town where they thankfully made a conscious decision to keep a lot of trees and nature.

The first stop was to go to the bike mechanic to tune up the bike for the trip. When the news came they were not good. The mechanic dismissed the bike as improper for such a journey and that there were  massive underlying problems with the bike, the bottom bracket (where the pedals hook up) and the head set, (the front end direction of the bike) both were “toast”.

It was a big blow. I had been searching since May and this bike was the only one I managed to find. I fought with this reality, I had fallen in love with this bike, and I was hanging on to it. After this, I decided to continue with this bike but all sorts of things did not work out, like the tires I had ordered that were the wrong size, and when it was time to return them the company said that they don’t do returns. like the second hand cycling shorts that I had found second hand online, that the woman would not send, it was one thing after another that were stopping me from hitting the road.

My vision was to travel with a trailer and back panniers, the trailer to accommodate my guitar and laptop that are with me, which are the two most important things I carry with me at the moment for my soul and for money earning. I bought a low price trailer made in China. (don’t do it) and someone had donated panniers, in theory all that was left was to hook all this gear up, pack it and hit the road.

All seemed OK. On July 4th, Saturday morning, I was about to go. Everything was packed. We hooked up the trailer and I headed out on the road… for about 500 meters. The bike was pitching in every direction, the whole rig was like a wet noodle that I was sitting on top of… it was downright scary. I had to turn around after about 7 minutes. It clearly was not going to work.

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Needless to say I was quite disappointed but the specter of traveling with this rig was inconceivable. I accepted defeat. I thought then, lets ditch the trailer and find front panniers.  The next day I decided to go for a ride, after about 15 km the bottom bracket started to clunk really hard, I had a look and it was about to spill its internal parts out, then the headset started to creak ominously. OK, I finally get it, I thought. We are not to travel together. I returned home feeling like the walls were caving in on me. My bike search had been so difficult before, I had a very hard time confronting the idea of spending hours and hours and more hours scrolling through OLX the second hand goods search engine they use here in Poland to try to find myself another ride.
I was pondering all this wondering if I was meant to spend the rest of my life in Poland when my phone rang. Out of the blue it was an old friend from my Vancouver days. Joey!!! What a surprise!!! We talked and he started to ask me about what I was planning, Joey is an avid bicycle traveler, has been doing it for years. When I told him about the bike he just said no. “This bike will not make it, you need another one.” I kind of broke down, trying to hold the tears of tiredness and frustration. I told him about how I felt, in this foreign country since almost 6 months already, with no direction, not understanding the language and having had to gather everything from ground zero only to totally fail, all the money spent when I have so little.  Being here with absolutely nothing meaning that every single piece of gear I need for the trip, every screw or piece of rope or even spoon or fork I have to either find, buy or get it donated. Now I was facing having spent all this time and money to outfit this bike and not have a bike anymore. It was hard to absorb.
“You can do it”, he said. And he finished with “enorme calin” (huge hug) : I give you this huge hug… it was an out of time and place moment, as this friend from the other side of the planet can share so much love and support and that those I received so intensely and clearly.  We hung up. I sighed heavily. With new resolve I started to explore OLX once again. I searched for about 15 hours. I had 3 contenders. I contacted the owners, one in Wroclaw, replied right away the others were not so forthcoming. By Sunday night I decided to go to Wroclaw. It would cost money but there was nothing in my area and more possibilities in Wroclaw.

Monday morning, I head to the big city by train, I was anxious. Trying to enjoy the moment but at the same time I felt doubt and the fear of making, once again, the wrong choice and spend another month in limbo.

The man brought out the bike, I tried it. I wasn’t convinced. It was definitely more solid than mine I kind of liked it but it felt like the gears were not quite right. He brought out another one, a big gazelle of a city bike which was unbelievably comfortable but, was not suited for the job. I was thinking about that other bike south of Bytom that really had captured my imagination but the seller was so slow answering, I still wasn’t sure it was the right size. So to kind of be done with it and go with the initial feeling I had with this bike I bought it.

I missed the next train to Bytom by 3 minutes, I had to wait 2 hours, which I spent yet again internet shopping looking for front panniers, and rack to replace the trailer. I arrived in  Zabrze at midnight, from there I was to ride back to Bytom as there were no more busses to be found. Once out of town it was eerily quiet everywhere, I followed the GPS instructions religiously, no time to get lost this late, on one stretch of road, going down and fast, the chain started to jump gears madly. My heart sank. I got home and my host Kamil was there with Julia, I didn’t want to be negative, keeping an upbeat face but when I told about the gears, Kamil said: Oh that is not good at all and I felt this hole in my stomach.

Next morning, without skipping a beat, I rode to the bike shop. Verdict: the chain is bad and they will have to also change the cassette. OK. Do it. I said. I waited a couple of hours, I went back to the shop and they told me that they had to also change the bottom bracket, total price: $40 CAD. Which is so cheap… they were so helpful I was totally grateful.  (Some of the things here in Poland are so cheap compared to Western Europe or Canada.) I rode back home and FINALLY I had a huge smile on my face: the bike was rolling like a dream on a cloud.

Wednesday, morning I went back to town to pick up trekking handlebars I found online and back to the bike shop to replace the tires as the back one was already cracking and I preferred to be safe than sorry on that.  I came back home, the Panniers had arrived, so I started fitting everything on this new bike. Thursday I spent every moment working on the bike and organizing my stuff.  I was not able to sleep that night, my head so full of what needed to be done. I decided to ship the belongings I will not use on the journey back to Romania where all my other stuff is. I figured out how to install the handlebars, but when it was time to hook the brake levers back, a part was not fitting. I decided to go to a local bike shop and take a break and have a coffee. As I sat there I as looking at the weather: Sunny Friday, Saturday: rain all day, Sunday, Monday…. Sunny . It was suddenly clear: I leave today. I was hoping to take a day of rest before leaving but if I take Friday off, then Saturday is an all day storm day, which means I wouldn’t leave until Sunday and somehow this seemed intolerable.

 

I returned home, figured out the brakes, the handlebars, packed my belongings in my hiking backpack took it to the post office and sent it away, back home I packed the gear in the bags, cleaned up my room… and there it was: I was ready. I found a cheap room 25 km away in Gliwice for 2 nights. The short trip will allow me to test ride everything, the rainy day will be my day off.

Now this may look like I did all this alone but I have to talk about Kamil. I found Kamil on TrustRoots a web site that caters to travelers looking for help or a couch. I had contacted him initially regarding help in finding a bike. Kamil was there every step of the way, helping me with everything from speaking to Polish people who did not speak French or English, helping me find parts, giving me counsel and advice as much on biking than on personal things, sharing the highs and the lows, allowing me to use his phone number for the couriers to contact me, giving me a home for next to nothing for a month, sharing his thoughts and heart with me. I found a soul brother and if I am riding now, he is a huge part of making this possible.

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So I took the bike outside, set the bags, the guitar! And suddenly, all was there, I was ready. We took photos and I headed out, somewhat gingerly at first, a loaded bike is a whole other thing, then settling in and realizing the amazingness of what was taking place, seeing the beauty around me, and also feeling that I finally was able to move on my own, not prisoner of my circumstances anymore. My heart swelling so big, I was laughing and crying and the Journey started right there and then.

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June 15

This was the day I was originally wishing to leave, obviously I am not there yet. Over the last few days I have been running around Wroclaw to find second hand equipment for this bike journey. In the end I have had to buy a number of things online as I just could not find them.

I spent the week end at the Locomotive Hostel, very nice staff and interesting design ideas but … the bed was horrible, a cheap foam pad, which despite being wrapped in fake satin, just collapsed under one’s weight and all that you feel is the hard pieces of wood that frame the bunk bed. So I could not sleep, waking up every 15-20 minutes to change position because of soreness. With little sleep I ran around town from morning to night, and after two days I was exhausted. Yesterday I decided to move to a different hostel, paid more money for a single room for the quiet and the chance to rest. To my surprise, the mattresses were also made of  same, if only marginally better, shitty foam. My saving grace was that there were two single beds in the room, so I put the two mattresses one on top of the other and that allowed me to sleep.

I elected to rest until mid day, then it was time to get cracking with orders to place online (tires and sleeping mat)  with work on for the dragon book to attend to and yet more errands. The mission to find fenders for the bike, I had been scouring the internet for used ones but I could not find for a road bike, or the price was the same as for a new set. So I went over to Remar Sport which is only a few steps away. I decided to ride the bike there. Now funny enough, I’ve had the bike for 10 days but i have not been able to ride because I have to carry 2 HUGE backpacks and the guitar when I move around… so I hopped on the bike and … Total happiness. Oh, I am so ready to go… it was so great to feel the bike under me and fly to the store.  I felt immensely free.   There I got fenders, gloves and a multi tool. The multi tool allowed me to finally change the butt breaking saddle that was originally on the bike and put something more gentle and long distance friendly on.
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I have one more errand today, a friend of Kam (the Polish guy who has been helping me as if he was my brother) has a free used helmet for me. I will ride there I think, despite the huge boots and harem pants… after that, what is missing is riding shorts with the chamois (protective pad) for long distance… then I’ll feel I got all the necessities.  It’s coming together. It’s been kind of wild to put all this together in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language, but people have been amazing and really helpful and friendly.

Tomorrow I leave Wroclaw to go to Bytom where Kam lives.  There I expect the trailer and the tires to come by courrier, once that happens, we’ll set everything up and I should be ready to go !

OK gotta get going… talk soon

June 6 already. I feel that I am a week behind, but it will have to do. I am getting ready to take the road. After being confined in Poland since March 15 the borders are finally opening, June 15th were the last news.

I spent over 10 weeks in the farm in Precznica.  I left at the end of May to go to another Workaway host, I didn’t know how long I was going to stay as I was waiting for news about the reopening of borders and visa requirements.  I also really needed the change.  The farm had its charms and wonder but it was also very demanding.  It was hard to say goodbye to the horses, the goats and the gardens but the time was ripe.

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I went to a place called Taras Tarczyn. It was out of this world beautiful, peaceful, loving and funny. My host Urian is a Dutch man, he runs this place as an agro touristic venue, people rent rooms and spend week ends in nature. Urian is a painter, a designer, creator, he has a real knack for bringing people together.  We had deep conversations, laughter and a humanity I was in deep deep need.   I helped around with cleaning and various tasks. For someone who didn’t really feel any attraction to Poland now I am carrying memories forever of the beauty of the land and its people. This Lower Silesia  is paradise on earth.

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I stayed for a blessed 10 days, Last Sunday was a very special day, we went to the market and after we drove around, and I got to see more of the region.  We stopped at Beata’s house. She treated us to cheesecake, and then we visited her home. On the second level there was a sort of meditation-ceremony room. As the guys left the room she held me back and asked me to close my eyes. I did. She performed an intense energy session on me, it was as if all my fire burst to life. Tears rolling down my face.

After this we went home, I had to prepare for the concert. The second one this year, and the fourth in … 3 years or so. It’s not easy anymore. My voice has been absent, the sound does not come out willingly…  and playing is not easy either, the coordination, the freedom that is there when you perform all the time is more a memory than a reality and I have to really trust and flow as anxiety can submerge me. I never really felt this sort of thing before, it’s a kind of fear, I’m trying to understand it, I can play by myself but when there is an audience, everything shuts down.

At three people came upstairs, 12 or 14. I started. I played “Clown of the Party” and I was shocked at how sad the lyrics are, then the next song… same thing… I thought, I need to retire these sad songs and write new ones if I am going to perform… I was looking at everyone, they looked so serious, I started to doubt myself. Maybe I am torturing them… Maybe they don’t really want to sit there and listen to me. My voice was working but it certainly was not brilliant. I started to tell the story of the accidental adventuress, my second album, played some of those songs and started to get emotionally engaged in the process.  I finally started to loosen up. At the end they asked for more, I played the Friendship song and that was it. A warm flow of applause started, smiles, I realized that they really enjoyed the prestation.

People came to see me they were deeply moved, a few told me they cried (and they were men!) It was interesting to me, to see to what extent my lack of confidence makes me believe that no one likes me or what I do.

After the concert and the hanging out I spent time with Beata, she too suddenly offered a healing session.  We chanted mantras and she did something with tuning forks on my skull, on my neck and on my heart, it was very deep and very moving.

Two days later I left for Wroclaw.  I have to be out of the Schengen zone by mid July, they made this rule for all the people stuck with expired visas in Europe following the Corona virus disturbances. I have had a dream for a long time: to travel by bicycle.  I thought that  I wasn’t strong enough and had given up on that dream, around year 2000 I suffered a back injury that ended my “cycling career” (I was doing bicycle races) I never thought I could ride again. But this year some things happened, that showed me that I was still strong, that I could still ride, not race, but ride. So I am about to.

I decided to return to Turkey by bicycle.  I don’t want to fly anymore as much as humanly possible.  And I want to see the world, not race through it.  So from Wroclaw to Turkey with a stop in the middle in Romania.  I want to just take my time.  Ride, camp, sleep, ride again.  Stay in nature.

Some weeks ago while the idea was not much more than a feeling, a desire, I had told my mother that I was looking for a bicycle.  She immediately sent me money, which really surprised me and also made me realize how much I wanted this bicycle.  It activated my mind and I really started to look for my ride.  At the time the money she sent was my “budget” but since, unsolicited donations keep arriving after my friends hear about my project.  They sent me money out of the goodness of their hearts.  The Sunday concert also yielded some more funds and things feel more and more possible on a material level.  It really feels like the Universe is opening it’s arms and showing me the way…

I found the bike at the Jelenia Gora flea market last Sunday  I had been looking around the market not having great expectations when I suddenly saw this fine blue baby.  I was looking at it, I tried then suddenly out of nowhere a man barged in the middle of our transaction and offered a larger amount 400 to the seller… I wasn’t understanding what was happening but Urian and his son engaged with the man right there in an animated argument.  For some reason, the seller did not take the higher offer and sold it to me. I took this as another sign.

this is the photo, the moment I saw the bike at the market:

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Two days later I left Taras Tarczyn and came to Wroclaw, with the bike, my bags, the guitar… way too much stuff! My idea is to take 2,3 days to work on my client’s project. (Book III of the dragon books I am illustrating) I am also here so I can get the bicycle equipment I need. My friend made a post on FB announcing the trip and asking if people had bicycle stuff in their basements and garages that they would sell. We got a free tent, now I have to find, hopefully used, the tools, a sleeping bag, a trailer (I will not do panniers as I have to carry my guitar… and the bike is not made to accept panniers so all is perfect in a strange way) all this hopefully by the end of next week at the latest.

Principia, the Go Guitar, the laptop in the bag and me, on the way to Wroclaw

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So here I am.  I think it is about reclaiming my strength, seizing possibility, following my heart and trusting in life.  Stay posted for the developments…

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Another day. “count your blessings”  I tell myself.  I am tired, I pushed too hard last Friday trying to wrestle a day off, by doing two days worth of work into one. I’m still paying, well, my muscles are. When you spend 7 years working on computers, physical work is a true punishment. It’s not that my work is so hard, it’s just that I became so soft.

When the morning comes, I don’t want to get up but once I’m outside, I smile. It is so beautiful and it will be either the horses or the goats who will greet me “good morning”. “Hello babies” I respond. I am actually impartial about what I’m doing.  I ask what they need me to do and I work until they say to stop.  I had a bit of a break down last week. I understood that it was 5 days on 2 days off but after 21 days I realized it was never going to come.  I started to get upset, then did this marathon, and got to sleep in the next morning but I was so sore that I didn’t sleep the night.  So it’s about one step and another and being totally in the moment.  I observed that when I need a day off, it rains or snows or freeze outside… no joke.  “count your blessings”  It’s about being in the very moment. It’s about respecting what my body says, and if it means I’ll work slowly then, that is what it is.  Steady.  No people pleasing.  It doesn’t work anyways.  So I surrender… that word again.  I have to surrender to all that is, and not try to battle something out of the situation.  I’m not the boss.

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I’ve been spending more time outside than I have in years and years and it is like a kind of growing addiction, the sun, the earth, the birds, the trees, they are all operating some sort of voodoo and some days I’m energized and others I’m completely drained. But every day I want to be out there. A bit like when I left Vancouver in 2010 and could not get enough of the sun’s rays.  I am totally enamored with the birds’ singing.  There is a Nightingale every night, he sings a multitude of songs. When I work in the garden, it’s so quiet, I suddenly tune in to the little “river” to be honest it’s more like a creek but they all it river.  And along the sweet sound of water running there is the symphony of all the birds, and as I toil on the soil, taking out this hard headed clover, I am being … what is the word… “reprogrammed” by this music, and then the sun… and the earth.  Being a human, on my knees, in the dark earth, doing a little job, that will help feed humans. Unnoticed.  Quiet.

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I’ve been here for 26 days, I don’t know how long I will stay. Like for most people, tomorrow is a mystery. Who knows what the world will be like in 2 weeks? The hardest thing is to have no friends near. To have no close person. I have not physically touched another human since … February 18th except for the hug with my host when I first arrived and another hug with a woman who came here.  Thankfully the animals are here, healers of the human heart.

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Sunday, on Easter, I went to walk up in the meadow, the horses were up there, I wanted to go and sketch them, but as I got there, I just took photos and sat with them. They were day dreaming it seemed, standing up in the warmth, some lying down, they would come and visit me. I felt like this was my initiation. I had been among them, cleaning their shit and giving them hay but they were pretty aloof. After this visit in the meadow, it feels like now they recognize me in a different way. That too is a kind of intoxication. Away from walls, and cement and cars and noise and too many humans, suddenly there is another sort of equilibrium that is taking place, a different energetic balance between all living things, visible and invisible.

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At times I cry. I sit on the earth and cry. Just tears rolling out of my eyes and this energy draining from my body. I’m not sure what I feel, if I feel, how I feel… I aim to not fall into dramatizing anything, the situation, the people, the relationships, the aching body, the uncertainty. We never did know what the future held before, we just pretended we did. Now it’s just more difficult to fake security, on this fire ball covered in a crust of burning rock, flying through the universe at thousands of miles per hour, one has to be glib to pretend there ever was security.

I dream of a nest for myself.

I also dream of travels in deserted wide open places.

I thought of a caravan of sorts… an earth ship in a remote village.

Going through the lands with a horse, or a bicycle.I dream of writing new songs that would really express what I feel for my instrument.

But for that one I’m not only dreaming, I’ve been practicing, almost daily (some days I was just too tired to be able to play at all) I found a trove of guitar methods online for free. I have the Go guitar and it’s not obvious to play classical guitar stuff on it, it’s a very different kind of beast. But when I listen to classical guitarists, I don’t want to emulate that. There is something missing with classical guitarists… I always have to follow my own musical voice, I never could conform to schools of thought…

I am rambling.

Drop me a line, write if you can. I miss you.

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In the mountains

March 29, 2020

Eva said I should write. I had thoughts about it,
Should I write? Maybe, a selfish act, or just an opportunity to share in these days of self isolation.  And selfishly, a way to avoid writing the same letter to 10 different people, those who want to know how I am, and what I am doing.

I am in the mountains in the South of Poland. Something that was definitely not in my vision for a destination. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I am staying within a little congregation of homes, not quite a village, there is neither stores nor church. Just a few homes, so close to the road, you can imagine that at a time,only horse and carriage would pass through this agglomeration.

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March ends but there is still the bite of winter in the air, real winter. I am poorly equipped for this sort of weather, most of the last 25 years of my life were spent in mild or hot climates. Last week we had nights around -8, the ground froze, and the days were not that much warmer. There is a wind, that comes from in between the hills that chills you to the bones. Not with humidity, but with real cold.  Thankfully my host has extra jackets, sweaters, socks and boots that I can use.

I came here because it seemed to be the right thing, horses, earth, skies and far away from cities. In the cities the fear is so present, it wraps itself around you with a steel grip and spreads  like a plague, everyone looking  with distrust at each other.  This kind of fear has a very destructive effect on a person’s life energy, the message to the body is one of danger, it destroy lives, destroy self determinism, and that makes that person more subject to being manipulated and abused.

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A few years ago, I made a deal with my body, we agreed that it was much smarter than any doctor, any science, and that this body’s natural propensity is to be healthy. I decided to trust it, and to engage in a dialogue with it, ask it what it needs now. Treat it as a noble, powerful entity that works with me in a cooperative venture, where we all work towards the realization of the purpose of our very being in this world at this time. I came to realize how much I didn’t trust it, how much I have been operating under this idea that it could let me down at every turn. That I needed doctors and tests, and “prevention” the main modus operandi is the idea that all that I could ultimately expect is breakdown and unreliability and that there is always a disaster lurking.  The modern medicine trains us “patients” to fear the future and to trust the ones with white smocks and stethoscopes around their necks. It trains us to fear any reaction of the body, to silence any expression of the body, to fear any sensation coming from the body.

It turns out, my body has been incredibly generous and strong and ready to live and dto give more than I ever could expect. The worst things always came from my own beliefs and fears and if I turned around and changed my attitude to one of love, things would get better. Well, I must say also that the meditation practice, helped my understand that all things pass, so feeling bad or feeling good, that was going to pass too and those feelings are just passing, coming, going.  The peace I got from this likely prevented many ills.

Back to the present moment… Poland, mountains, horses, goats, garden and two wonderful hosts. I could not have been more fortunate. I’ve been pulling weeds these last two days, kneeling in the fresh earth, birds singing, visiting me, I am practicing patience and equanimity. No matter what I have to do, despite being tired, sore, I just work on being right there. My biggest challenge has been to cope with a completely out of shape body… it’s one thing to work on a laptop all day long, it’s another to pick up shit, water buckets, lift things and move around all day.  I am getting a bit better now but the first few days I was ready for bed at 7 PM!

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I see the endless streams of news flooding the internet and that all feels like true insanity. Interestingly, people complain about being home, when only 10 days ago they complained that they could never have a minute to relax. Here it is, you asked for it no?

I wonder about the world and its human borders. Some say this is the beginning of the new age, the liberation from an oppressive, destructive, unsustainable system, others say that this is the perfect moment for the implementation of a totalitarian New World Order where we are all under surveillance, and where freedoms are willingly surrendered for an illusion of safety.  So here we are, observing this historic event, lets see what will happen.

There is no safety, there never was. If there is something that never changed it was that. Unpredictability is built in our universe, the wild gusts of creation from Creation itself changing our little worlds in a second. I guess living as a self employed person I never had such concepts as job security or safe retirement. Life was going to be what each curve would deliver along it’s unpredictable road. We build clay walls all around us, believing that we can stop the tide.

It snows now, I went out to feed the goats, pick up the horse shit in the field. As far as I can see around me are hills, I don’t totally know where I am, but do we ever? It’s a step by step affair. More than ever, it’s about being right here, right now. There is no predicting anything. All my plans, my visions, like gambles on a betting table, it could go in any direction, and, it’s totally OK.

I keep hanging on to my guitar practice, even if my hands, arms are so tired from the unusual work. Somewhere, somehow, this music thing was always a part of me, I did not play for the last 2.5 years but somehow, now it’s been calling me. I had a surprise invitation in January to go play an open mic in Bucharest,it was the trigger that pushed me to practice, man, was it hard! I could not remember anything and my fingers were so stiff. My voice, gone. The fingers gradually came back, to the point where I felt quite good about my renditions of some classical guitar pieces, the voice, not so much but at the moment I don’t feel I have so much to say,  so it’s OK not to have a great vocal instrument for the moment.  but I do want to play, feel the guitar’s vibrations on my body, put some emotions into something. Exist on that plane, even if it’s to be by myself in a room or a park somewhere, it all goes into infinity anyways.

As I write this the night is coming, the trees are strikingly dark against the gray and white background.  This might be the last blast of winter, it will drop below zero, maybe a chance for a day off tomorrow. I  do need it.

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Every day is a new day, every day brings it’s wonders and challenges.  Today brought surprises and a complete change of direction.  The times, it seems, are a’changin’.

I was sitting in a Vipassana meditation retreat in Poland, it was day three of the 10 day course.  I had served the previous course, being kitchen manager… one of the toughest 10 day period of my life, Vipassana, no matter what you do, serve or take a course, always brings new learnings, new teachings and personal growth.
This morning, as usual, after the gong sounded, we silently walked to the meditation hall, sat down, waiting for the daily instructions when our teacher said, “We have an announcement to make…”  He explained that the management was forced to close the center as the corona virus spreading through Europe had reached Poland and that the government demanded that all group gatherings and public places be closed.  There was also the matter of borders being closed in many countries and because many of the students come from many different countries, closing early would help them reach their respective homes.

I gasped.  “No!” I thought.  I really wanted to get this course done… then the next thought was… uh, what do I do now?  Where can I go? I had a vague plan of slowly heading towards France, I had thought of going to Normandy if possible to see the land of my ancestors… but, can I travel there?  With closed borders, cancelled flights and interrupted international bus travel…. My mind was kind of frozen for about one hour…

We all gathered in the dining hall, handed over our locker keys an got our phones back, in a matter of moments everyone was on their device trying to contact family and friends.  A woman was trying to find a way to Russia as flights were cancelled and the  border closed, another small group going to Estonia left in a hurry as they were told that  there was the possibility that the borders would be closed.  It was a strange sight.  Only 20 minutes earlier all of us in silent introverted meditative state, were now negotiating the current situation, the bizarre new reality that was now ours.

I went to clean my room.  Pack my bags, I realized as I was removing the bed sheets from my mattress that my anxiety came from the fact that I didn’t know where I would sleep tonight.  Where will I go?  Many were going to Wroclaw, but that city is expensive…

OK,  I thought, first I will head back to a familiar place, back to Poznan and from there I can get up to date with the situation in the world and be able to make a more informed decision.
I managed to find a ride directly to Poznan, we rode three of us in Arturo’s car, a Polish man, a Russian and a Canadian, sitting in a car on a highway, I burst out laughing, to the incongruence of the moment, the wildness of life, this strange sense of the multitudinous possibilities life holds.  Every micro moment, every single factor can change, and we change along with it.

In Poznan, upon arrival it was eerie, my hostel is situated right in the center of town, on a Saturday, that would mean streets filled with pedestrians, stores running swift businesses.  I got out of the car, said my goodbyes and loaded my bags on my back and started to walk towards the hostel. The streets were empty.  A few people, most stores closed.  I walked to my favorite coffee shop: closed.  hmm no espresso to be had.  I realized it may be a good idea to buy some food for a couple of days.  I went to Biedronka, a grocery store, there too, it was eerily quiet, some shelves were empty, as if the store was going to close.  People stayed at a safe distance from each other, the clerk at the self check out was slightly freaked out, pulling a mask on her face every time someone addressed her, reaching with her arms out in front of her as if to put an invisible barrier between her and her interlocutors.  I asked her if the store was going to be open tomorrow, she got angry blurting things in Polish at me, a man turned around and asked in English: is there a problem?  I asked him about the store, he said: “yes, they will be closed for 2 days”  “Oh!” so my hunch was right, I bought food for a few days.  We will see.
What to do?

Annitcha, annitcha,  this too will pass.  It is time to practice the tenets of my meditation practice.  In  physical world, all arises then passes away.  The consciousness remains, the physicalities, the emotionalities, the conceptualities, rules and civilizations come and go.   The blessing of life and wonders of this world are there every moment to be appreciated.  Deep breath.  So I guess I will discover more of Poland than I had planned.  It’s time to sit at the computer and see where I can weather the next few weeks, let that wave roll and crash on the shores of life.
I’ll keep you posted.

 

Update

August 18, 2019

I have been in Romania since July. I left Istanbul heartbroken on July 4th, I left not really wanting to but feeling that there was no other way around the dilemmas I was facing.

I wanted Love to win. I wanted Love. I fought hard for this one, sometimes valiantly, sometimes pitifully, sometimes desperately. A divine intention wrapped in the quagmire of my insecurities. In the end, if you don’t love yourself unconditionally, love is denied. Life seems made that way. it’s the ultimate test; if you do not totally embrace yourself,  the cracks of self loathing become precipices into which you tumble.

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I sit facing the garden, in a little building adjacent to the main house. The sun shines brightly, the birds sing. At the end of the garden is a big wall and beyond that wall (erected to protect from floods) lays a river. I hear the bells from the sheep… they pass daily, this place is idyllic. A little piece of Eden, hidden away,.

There are all sorts of fruit trees and I’ve been enjoying my fruits freshly picked, directly from the branches, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines… What a wonder. It feels like taking a bite of sun… My friends here have been angels to me. So kind, so welcoming.

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I am staying here until September 4th, when I will head to Spain for a 10 day silent meditation retreat. I am looking forward to go through the process, I did it once before, it’s not easy, it’s actually a kind of torture at first, trying to silence the mind while the body and the ego scream at you in all possible ways. But if I can just gain a bit more calmness that would be a win.

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Magic

June 25, 2019

Magic

I stepped out of hiding, stepped away from working. I stepped into Istanbul, a happy Istanbul that just celebrated an important political victory; unseating the party that had controlled the city for 24 years.

It’s brilliantly sunny, 30 degrees, the skies are deep blue, coming out of the metro, I head for the trees at Gezi park, I am going to meet a friend, something I don’t do often. For one, I don’t have that many friends, secondly the ones I have are impossibly busy usually, and thirdly I also have been working so much , since March I have shunned any distraction that would take me away from the work I was doing and from the 7 days a week 8 hour plus days, there was a deadline to meet, insecurity regarding my ability to meet that deadline and sub-stressors such as the possible demise of my laptop, it is showing signs of wanting to give up its duties and the fact that own personal life is being highly unpredictable these days. Plus, with meeting the deadline, it means that the job is ending and with it so is the income, which means that I will have to hit the road, want it or not.

But today, these thoughts are not really crowding my neurons. I am taken by the poetry of the moments and they succeeded one another at a high rate of speed. There are few trees in this city. Fascists don’t like trees, they cut them, I was thinking about how thankful I am for the Gezi Park protests, which despite all the ugliness that followed, permitted the park to survive  (the plan had been to tear it down and to build yet another shopping mall and the people said no.) On my way over the pedestrian walkway, there is lavender, a lot of it, and guiltily I cut a couple of twigs with my nails, I don’t like cutting plants… hurting them for my own selfish desires.  I am going to give my friend a Reiki session and I thought that the scent of lavender would be appropriate, and for that maybe the plants would forgive my crime.

The pathway continues between Old Money properties that are surrounded by big trees, almost a forest there. Istanbul at one time was so incredibly lush, these hills that are now Taksim were home to the wealthy and some last remnants of that era can still be found in rare forgotten corners. My mind travels… back in time, Oh Istanbul, why do I love you so?

I connect with my friend and we sit on a park bench, a blue spruce sprinkles us with it’s old needles, it’s almost like a gentle snow fall of light blue sparkles, a cat in the distance furls and unfurls his tail in a question mark, people of all stripes walk by with kids, with dogs… it’s so relaxing, parks are so important in the city… a dog walker with a minimum of 8 dogs masterfully controls the herd, they run free, they are of all colors and breeds, 2 street kids come offering us packages of kleenex, a business model common here for the poor, the kids think we are yabanci, (tourists) they ask for 5 euros for a small pack,

“Abla… Lutfen… alin” Sister, please, buy, he pleads,“Where are you from” my friend asks in Turkish
“Adana” he answers

“why are you here in Istanbul?” she asks

“It’s too hot there…”
The two of them must be around 10 years old, so street smart, so alive, so tuned in. They are incredibly beautiful, their dark eyes like pools of shiny ink.

Later we walk into another park, we are now in Nisantasi, a posh neighborhood. I call the park Kedi park (cat park) as there are hundreds of strays in there. A tiny kitten is stuck in a tree and cries to all of us for help. Someone mentions the firemen, everyone is standing there craning their necks empathizing with this little white and red kitten.

We decided to go try a new cafe, the brew is magnificent. After that we part ways. I now walk by myself, my eyes catching all sorts of small moments of extreme beauty. A cat a the door of a fancy boutique, a smile on a face, the flowers in the gypsies stalls. I feel at home, I love this place, I know it’s too crowded, dirty, the air is too polluted and the water quality more often than not pretty iffy… but Istanbul… its hills, its freedom, it’s absence of constant control and rules and must dos. You can just be you. Poor or posh. It will let itself be admired and loved.

as I cross the park the most beautiful cat appears in front of me, his color is a rare type of tabby, he is a few months old and just so beautiful.  we spend some time together.  I fall in love constantly with these strays… he purrs, climbs on and off and on again, what a gift, the love and trust of a city cat.

In the park, I find a pine cone that just fell, sticky with pine honey, opening it’s arms to let go of its seeds. I have a cone fetish… I collect them all, especially if they appear before me like this. Walking by a children’s play ground, a little girl comes running, oblivious to my presence, so focused on her play, she is so beautiful. The kids laugh, slide, run, play and all seems so well in this very moment. A man on a blanket takes a nap in the shade, as I get back on the walkway, I can see the Bosphorus in the distance, and I start to cry. Oh Istanbul…. Why am I here? What is this pull? I’ve been in love since the moment I arrived. There has been ups and downs, even hate at times. But now I see you at your best and with this electoral victory a new hope has infused the very oxygen.

As I get to Taksim, two street musicians are playing, I stop, listen, they are Syrians, a crowd has formed, they are Arabic people, singing in their language… Music… I watch the faces and the smiles on those faces and it moves me to my bones. Then a couple of blind people stop. One is very tall, he has a white cane, his friend, is obviously severely visually impaired but he seems to be able to see a bit more as he stares at his phone for a moment with the phone practically stuck to his eyes. Their faces light up, they start to sing along, tears again run down my face, the beauty fo the moment is so profound. I am a human with my brothers and sisters, flags float in the wind above us, dancing such a graceful dance, a butterfly comes to me and stops… then I cry.. and at that moment a black gigantic street dog comes to me, lets me touch him, comforts me, then walk away.

I reel of joy and gratefulness and wonder for this life, this life we forget to really see most of the time, as we drown in worries that are pointless. Almost as if we make the most effort to not see, to be unaware, disconnected from this amazing life, bond, conduit,

magic. Just magic.

And there was silence.

March 28, 2019

 

 

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There was suddenly silence in my world. All the chatter, clatter, the never-ending maddening buzz stopped. It had started buzzing in November 2017. I was in an intense, blissful relationship. In September 2017 we had just traveled for a few weeks down along the Aegean sea, backpacking, a kind of trip of a lifetime, eating wild figs off of the trees and walking among olive trees and mystical places. I had just given up the room I rented; there were changes with the building’s landlord and I felt so on top of the world that I figured that I could just let it go, not pay rent for the next 6 weeks as I would be traveling, and that everything would be even better when we’d come back as I would certainly find an even better flat and that maybe we’d even move in together… I never felt such a love, felt I never was so loved by anyone. Despite the 24 years age difference that separated us we were, it seemed, indestructible, pure, completely merged into this bonheur total.

We made a plan; he would finish his studies in Istanbul in December while I would live a few months in Ayvalik on the Aegean then we’d go together to Poland where his last semester would be. I had a huge translation to do so I’d do that while in Ayvalik and scope the area for when he would join me. It was simple, full of promise, there was a forever feel in the air. But a month into my stay in Ayvalik, I received a first of a series of angry calls, that became angrier and angrier, he even called me a traitor. I was completely confused and so upset I could not eat, sleep or think, I was barely breathing.

So a frantic sort of desperate period started, I went back and forth between Istanbul and Ayvalik, the money was running out with all this unexpected travel and expenses, finally in December I came back to Istanbul, to at least try to figure what happened, I did not expect much. I came in loaded like a donkey, with way too much luggage, as returning was not part of the original plan. I was roaming all over Istanbul with this heavy burden of things were meant to serve for the new life in Ayvalik. Lamps, sleeping stuff, clay, art supplies, things you don’t carry around when you travel. I started to live in fear and pain. What had I done? Why was he so angry? What could I do? How was I to go on without him? How could I fix this? And also: Who was this angry guy?
I had no place to stay, I was spending money that was to sustain me for the next few months but it got burned on fligths, bus rides, hotel rooms, restaurants. When I finally found a flat, they asked for way too much money but they were artists and since it was only for two months, I thought it would be OK, and still be much cheaper than the shittiest hostel.

But a few days in I realized that this was going to be challenging, the art students were on school break and that meant that there were parties every night, I barely was able to sleep these two months. Then they started asking for more money when they got the utility bills, and there was cigarette smoke all over the place, almost every night. It was a quiet sort of torture on top of the personal turmoil already going on

Two months. Two month until what? The plan for Poland changed, he wanted space, he wanted time and I understood that and said yes, you do, go without me. When I said “go alone” he’d say “come with me” when I would think of going with him he’d say “I need space.” On an incredibly emotionally charged morning, he left, I stood there at the top of the stairwell barely keeping it together.

Soon after that,I realized that my finances were going into an unstoppable fall towards oblivion. In September I had thrown all cares to the wind and had gone to Canada to see my mom that I had not visited for 4 years, then I also went to Vancouver to see my friends, those expenses added up, income that was supposed to come did not and the the precarious balance I was juggling between the line of credit, the credit cards and my unpredictable income was irremediably disturbed.

It became clear that I did not have money for the next rent, that I was on the brink of bankruptcy. The numbers were flashing on the page like neon lights on a dark night. The first few days following this realization, I was in a total panic.

This meant that I had to find a way to have a roof without paying for it, so I started to search into the Workaway website. (volunteer work website) . I found hosts for the next 3 months and it looked like a good adventure with nothing to lose, so on January 18 2018 I left Istanbul with a backpack to go to France where I was to stay for a month on the first project. That is how the next 6 months went by. In July I was officially bankrupt, in September I was officially divorced, (something I had been seeking for 9 years).
We saw each other through the spring and summer, I kept hope. Upon my return to Istanbul I was dreaming of a home, of us being together of things to smoothly calm themselves. But no.
From January to now, we went through a little hell, and finally I received the terminal email. “jamais deux sans trois” all good things come in threes they say, I now can add to the divorce and the bankruptcy, this breakup with the man I spent most of the last 5 years with.

Silence.
I am not good at breaking up. Logically, any self-preserving person would have called it quits in November 2017. If someone calls you a traitor, you should take their word for it, true or not, because that is where their mind is at. Things were never the same after. But what we we had lived was so extraordinary to me that I could not give up, I thought we’d find the magic again…

Silence.

My body , after all this pain and struggles, I see, is gradually letting go, it is stopping to desperately grasp at hope, at anything. It feels like floating in dead air, the abruptness of the silence shocking. As if you stopped an arena rock concert mid-song. Just the ringing in the ears keeps going. The last few months, were punctuated with so much upheavals, the appearance of break ups and make ups, confusion, pain, loss, anger, fear, even madness for me, then hope, and way too much thinking. Now this silence is maybe the only possible remedy. The only viable course.

I am so tired, that I am going to accept that I have been dumped. I am done with it all. One can only take so much disrespect. Looking back at my life I see a line of people leaving me, dumping me, kicking me to the curb, or simply choosing not to communicate and even dying… there is a big emotional booby trap laying there that could explain the obvious fact that if everyone leaves me, there has to be something majorly faulty with me. And there is.
With him, I could not be strong enough with self love and self confidence not to let thoughts of our age difference interfere on a regular basis. From the beginning I thought he’d leave because of my age. But we went on and I usually was the only one worrying. So in a way I created this cul-de-sac. I made this a big issue for myself instead of just living life as it came. It became incredibly exhausting. Especially this last year. Since I don’t love myself, not seeing the love in the eyes of the lover made me certain that this was the proof that something was indeed wrong with me, and the cycle of self destruction would start. I would see my face in the mirror and wonder how anyone could want this ugly old woman. Yeah I know. Not healthy at all. But the mirror has always been my enemy, my nemesis. The one ‘putting me in my place’ The one who could defeat me with one look. And I guess it won the battle, yet again. I think it’s a kind of madness. I now see photos of me at 20, 30, 40 and I think: she is so beautiful. How did she not know that? But I didn’t see it, I saw a monster, I saw a disgraceful mound of flesh undeserving of love and life. And this ruined a lot of my life and still does. I still see the monster. Who is this ghoul in the mirror ?

So for a third time, Ground Zero. Big decisions are looming. Up until just before 1 PM today when I saw his terminal email, I still deeply felt Istanbul was home. Now, I am not so sure. It will take some time to figure this all out. The only thing that I know I must do at this very moment is work. I am going to just work really hard on every project that I have committed to. Pour all my energy and will and creativity into work. That would not be a waste and, this new silence will help.

I will also do all the things that I stopped doing while with him. I realized this recently… I stopped blogging, taking photos, playing music, dancing, seeing friends…. a ton of stuff…

Better to have loved… yes, I agree, I would not give up one single moment that we had together. Even the bad ones, it now feels kind of legendary, mythical. How blessed I was… I do hope that I will learn from this. I am so empty hearted right now. Two mornings ago I could not get up because my heart was hurting and hurting and hurting so deeply. I will have to make me my best friend, my strongest supporter and my most clever friend.

His eyes… Oh.

I have a few more days in the Hungarian country side, among a bunch of cats, 3 dogs, the forest in the spring, 3 goats 2 pigs, 2 chickens, our 400 newly planted trees and two outstanding human beings, to ground myself on this earth before returning to the mega city of 20 million. But despite all the city noise, this silence, that is now with me will come along. We’ll get acquainted. I’ve done well solo, actually I always do better solo… I’ve done well just being an electron coursing the universe, maybe this electron can finally learn to love itself in the new found silence.