Day 5 of Vanlife
After our visit to the “edge” of Writing On Stone, we decided a calm, quiet night near a body of water was the perfect destination for our last night on the road. One of the great things about living near an enormous wide open land is it’s pretty easy to find a parking space tucked into a crop of bushes or trees near a water source.
We settled in and brought out the propane fireplace. With the vans set in caravan style facing front to back we had ourselves a cozy shelter. I looked down on the ground near the van and had to smile. There was this little plastic dog. I was just asking my brother if he had seen the coyote on the side of the road as we drove on what seemed like endless gravel roads that day. He had. I picked up the “Littlest Hobo” and posed him in different positions to play with the lighting features against the sunset on my phone. The contrast of the light as the world settles down to sleep has always fascinated me. The energy conversion from day to night is seamless, automatic and yet, no two sunsets are exactly the same. Every night we get the chance to make subtle changes to our perspective.
What am I supposed to change here? How can any of us know what the right thing to do in our lives is? I have made the best and well thought out plans before only to have it pulled out from under me and turned upside down. Here I am still. I am here. I am alive and I am aware of myself and others around me.
I sat thinking about this for some time that night. The older I get the more I realize decisions made in crisis mode are usually not the best decisions. It took years to get me here, there is no rush to move me over there. Does that make sense?
The morning dawned crisp and clear. The sun was out and we still had fried bologna and pancakes to make for breakfast. Do you remember as a kid fried bologna sandwiches? They were delicious in my childhood. They are not so delightful now. Somehow someone has gone out of their way to make bologna taste and smell like wet cardboard. The pancakes were good though with a little bit of peanut butter and cinnamon honey.
We packed up and brought our new found vanmate on the road with us spending the rest of the day slowly making it back towards homebase.
We drove into the carport of my mom’s old home and both sat in our separate vans for a bit soaking in the last moments before coming down from the roaming high. I went to move my car and saw that it had a flat tire. Sigh, of course it does. I just laughed. My brother looked at me again puzzled by my responses. What could I say? It happens to me all the time. A series of obstacles appear and I set about sorting them out, walking around them, through them or fixing them. We got the spare tire on and put the van to rest for a bit.
So how was vanlife? There are definitely some kinks to work out and lots to fix or change. The bed is a little short, the electrical needs some overhaul, I need an inspection done for sure. Despite all that? I love it! I have always liked to explore. I like the freedom of going only as far as you feel like in a day then seeing what the place you land has to offer up. I am usually not disappointed to find something to spark some joy in my soul even if it’s just a plastic dog randomly lost in a farmers field.
A fellow adventurer waiting to join me on my journey.
Sometimes we are going through life like a deer in the headlights…
I have been struggling lately. Do I stay put, run away, travel or go back to work or a combination of any?
I decided an adventure was needed to help me work through what I want. My brother and I have been working hard on the van. Getting it in roadworthy condition. The time had come to it test out.
It took a few false starts to get out of the driveway. My brothers van wouldn’t start, then we drove just outside of town and I realized I forgot my braces and had to go back. I couldn’t find my keys for my car where my retainers were. I started to laugh and take a breath. Then retrace my steps to find my keys. It took awhile but we got going again.
I am fortunate to live in an area that offers lots of options close by to explore. We decided to venture into the Badlands Southeast of us then work our way Eastward into Saskatchewan.
Dinosaur Park, Northeast of Brookes was our first destination. On the way there it started getting dark. I realized that my cockpit lights weren’t working. I couldn’t see my speed or blinker indicators. It was challenging to drive. The road down into the valley was dirt and narrow. I saw deer off in the distance and as I came closer some crossed the road in front of me. I knew there were more on the other side in the field still so I slowed down quite a bit but didn’t want to slam on the brakes on the uneven surface. I clipped one and stopped to see if it was ok. I couldn’t find it as they had ran off into the meadow. The damage to the grill was a few new cracks. I was lucky. I hope the deer was lucky too. Spotting deer have always given me a sense of feeling safe and of being home. Hitting the deer made me think of what that could mean for me in relation to home?
We found a place to camp and settle in for the night. I put the diesel heater to work and was pleased to be quite comfortable and warm. The improvements we had made like internal lights, fridge and heater all seemed to work as we expected. Good news for our first night!
We woke up to a beautiful and crisp fall day. I got up early and went for a walk up into the hoodoos that surrounded us. The sunrise was breathtaking. The Badlands are alive and vibrant with energy. I sat down on the rocks, closed my eyes for a few minutes and contemplated what I want. I was surprised to come to the realization, for now, I just wanted to soak in the sun. As I get older my expectations have changed dramatically. These days what I want is to be present. To be aware of how I am feeling and to feel whatever that is. I have spent my whole life trying to suppress or deny how I really feel. That can get tiring and exhausting.
Going off in the van has shown me that I have an out. I have a way to explore and enjoy what the landscape has to show me.
Join me over the next few days in my recount of my journey and discovery through the Badlands.
I was driving out to work on my van that is being stored at my mothers old house. The road is familiar. I have been on it hundreds of times. It’s morning and the sun is shining. I have my Tim’s coffee next to me and running over in my head what can be done today to get us closer to using the van. My mind is exploring options and not really paying attention to the road ahead of me. I am driving a little fast and mostly on auto pilot. All of the sudden before me a hawk swoops its wing in front of my windshield. It comes at me from the south going north. I am driving east from the west. The dark brown hawk lands in the field on the other side of the road and stares at me as I slow down and look back at it. Hmmmm….what was that about?
I slow down and start to pay attention to the road. I take nothing for granted and know that the hawk is trying to tell me something important if only I pay attention to its warning.
I come to a section of road that climbs a bit of a hill and then drops down the otherside. You can’t see over the hill until you get to the top. As I approach the top I see a lady running with her head down listening with earbuds in her ears. She is running on the wrong side of the road and heading straight for me. She doesn’t notice my car until I am almost 10 feet from her. Then she looks up a bit startled and proceeds to move over to the other side of the road and pass me by.
This particular backroad is usually empty this time of day. I can cruise to town without encountering a soul. Today I encountered the lady and then a man on a bicycle again coming toward me on the wrong side of the road. You just never know when you will not be able to see what is lurking in your blindspots.
Blindspots are an interesting occurrence. Since we can’t see what occupies that space we usually assume that there is nothing there. What if there is? Now I know my example isn’t necessarily depicting a blindspot. It’s more about paying attention and focusing on the task at hand instead of multitasking. According to Google,studies show that only 2.5% of us are able to multitask successfully.
So why do we constantly think we can do it with success?
I can’t see what’s happening in my blindspots. I can use mirrors or ask someone for feedback to help me validate what occupies a space I think is empty. Whether that space be in my thinking, my views, my narrative, my memory or whether it actually is something physical. I am not that great at multitasking either. I do better completing something then starting something else.
The hawk was there to give me feedback that morning and I am very grateful for the heads up!
I have been contemplating doing more things one at a time and doing them to the best of my ability. Then I can move on to the next task with confidence that I am more likely to see what’s in my blindspots.
Afterall, what’s the rush?
A few weeks ago, my sister in law notified me that my face showed up on a Facebook page with someone asking if anyone could identify this person. My image was found on a cell phone I had lost on the summit of Mount Ward in the Crowsnest Pass. It was amazing that they had found the phone as I had lost it descending down on my butt over a mountain side of scree. Here is the remarkable part. I was up there in August of 2019. That’s over 3 years ago. Think back how much has changed in the last 3 years. For me? I lost my mom, I lost my job, COVID happened and I almost lost my sense of self.
As I look at the face staring out from the phone that shouldn’t be working, let alone sporting my face on the cover, I marvel at our ability for resilience. That woman captured is me but yet, is not me. She is restless and ready for change. She is tired and grieving over so much loss in the last few years. She is there with her two great nieces enjoying a warm summer day doing what she loves to do. Exploring uncharted territory and pushing herself to go further and harder.
Phone still works after 3 years!
Sometimes I am not sure where the strength comes from. It just appears and I am always grateful to the universe for providing it to me. I sat on the top of the summit enjoying the sun and view as the girls explored further up and around. I saw 3 crows in the distance. They were making a big racket and circling overhead. I watched them for a bit then noticed behind them that some big dark rain clouds were starting to form. Anyone who has been hiking in the mountains knows to start down when that happens. Hopefully you can outrun the storm, most often I am not that lucky. I was about to holler for the girls to come and they appeared ready to head out. I happened to look down and found the most unique rock I had ever seen. I had been thinking about the crows and their warning that the weather was about to change. The rock appeared to have a crow flying over the mountains on it. It was pale yellow with a black image of a crow. I picked it up and put it in my backpack. In hindsight, I wish I would have done the same thing to my phone which I placed in my coat pocket tied around my waist.
As the clouds got darker, we started to slide down on our backsides. It was treacherous and slow going. Over half way down I realized my phone wasn’t in my pocket anymore. There was no way I could go back up and try and find it. We had been zigzagging and moving over a large space of rock and debri. It could have been anywhere. Like a needle in a haystack. I resigned myself to either come back a different day or say “goodbye” to the pictures from that day.
I got a new phone and reclaimed quite a bit of my pictures, chats and music as I usually back up stuff to the cloud. I was missing the photos we had taken that day which was too bad. When I reloaded my messenger chats I was heartbroken to see my conversation with my sister who had passed away in 2016 wasn’t coming back up. It took some letting go to say “goodbye” to the conversation I had treasured.
Time goes by and I have had 3 phones since then. Every once in a while I would think about the phone and wonder if it was still alive. What view it had looking out over the barren terrain. Saying good morning to the crows and other creatures who passed by. My face is smiling out on that mountain side I thought. Never did I think it still worked after all that time.
I have been in contact with the mother of the guy who found it and will go pick it up some time soon. She said that several people had recognized the woman in the photo and let her know the phone belonged to me. The hat I am wearing I have taken on so many adventures. It’s kind of my signature look for exploring…lol.
Thinking about the phone and it’s adventures, I happened to glance through my messenger chats. I was drawn to the one with my sister, hoping that for some miraculous reason the conversation would reappear after all this time. I was amazed to see that it had. Everything was there again. My history with my sister has come back to me now. Years and years of conversation came tumbling down the mountain side to land at my feet.
Why now? So much has happened since 2016. I thought that was my low point but it wasn’t. Both of my parents died in the years after my sister’s passing. Despite all of the pain, grief and loss, I feel more alive today than ever before. I am living life on my terms in my own way. Choosing my adventures, love, spiritual paths and sense of self.
I am awake. I have lived many lives since I lost that phone. I am grateful for it’s reappearance to remind me to be grateful for what I have.
Once again the energy shifts and tilts the balance back.
I have a desire to put the phone back on the mountain.
Stay tuned to see what I decide….lol
Love you all that keep reading our posts and coming along on our journeys through midlife.
Light and love.
When it comes to retiring are you and your significant other on the same page?
In life and relationships we talk about a lot of things in regards to goals, religious beliefs, values, children and who is going to clean the toilet…lol. Most often, we gloss over at what age we are going to retire as it seems so far away when we are young.
These days though, many partners are talking about taking a break from their jobs for a year or two fully expecting they will find another job eventually. Some are trying to catch up with retirement funds, paying off debt that was unexpected and dealing with the cost of relationship breakdowns. Life can get complicated and a large amount of people put time away from working on the back burner. We live in a world now where you could be working into your seventies.
So, have you had the talk with your partner? Are you retirement compatible? What if you aren’t aligned on timing, expectations and lifestyle?
I remember thinking in my twenties that I would retire at 65. I would work, most likely, at one maybe two jobs. I would have a pension and some savings and life would be awesome when I turned 65. Well, we all know what happens to life while we are living. So many things are unexpected and not planned for. You wake and realize that those you love and expected to grow old with or around have either passed away or in bad health. You feel older. You slow down when you are hiking. You are weaker and feel pain in your joints. When did I start to get older? I thought all those things happened in your seventies not your fifties. I watch those around me and I realize my window of opportunity to live with abandonment is shortening. I can’t rely on being in good health when I am 65. I know my abilities today and I feel that if I can continue to build strength and endurance now that as I get older the longevity should hold. At least that’s my theory and I am sticking to it.
I have been talking to many friends and family about their plans. Some wanted to take time off to travel now and then maybe go back to work when they get tired of doing that. Others plan to work until they can’t work anymore well into their seventies or beyond. Others plan to work and play and juggle the two. What has been a common theme though is that most find themselves in a bit of a pickle when it comes to agreement from their partner as to both being on the same page.Life throws us curve balls. I am a firm believer that the universe shakes things up when we get too complacent.
My universe is telling me to squeeze the lemons now. Get as much juice as you can out of this existence. My husband is planning on working another 9 years or so.I am hoping he will decide that there is more to life than stock piles of money and things. You can’t rush someone else’s discoveries. You shouldn’t wait though to “do you”. It’s scary to venture out on your own. It’s even scarier to sit and wait for someone else to get on board.
Life’s obstacles are constant and ever coming at you. I had journeyed with an eagle in the past and it had shown me to put the chaos in my palm and squeeze out order and decisions from it. It’s an exercise I can do physically to help me focus on which direction to follow. Mistakes will be made, that’s how we move forward. It takes more courage to act than to stand still and watch.
Next week I am taking a break from van renos to hang out in Banff with my sister in law. We have decided to go tandem skydiving and caving. The waivers are signed and the deposits are given. I am making lemonade with the sweetest ingredients I can find. I am not saying that finding common ground with your partner isn’t important. It totally is. Respect for each other and practical goals are key. Time away from work doesn’t have to be expensive. I find a balance of things I do that are free and things that are epic adventures that may cost me a bit. It’s the doing that counts. The sharing of the experience. We all relied heavily on our memories during COVID of things we had done in the past to get us through the rough patch. I thank my lucky stars that I was blessed with so many adventures in my life so far.
It’s funny how the biggest regret in life is usually the ones that involve not doing something rather than taking the leap and trusting you will land safely. The journey is worth it!
Hopefully your partner agrees that taking breaks sooner rather than later is the way to go. If they don’t then it’s up to you to decide whether you stay put and wait for them or…
Get into that harness, secure the lines and find someone who is compatible with the here and now of your awareness.
I have always been fascinated by birds. Dreamed I could take flight and drift on the currents just like the eagles. Watched Robins make a nest on my patio and lay 6 eggs. Then defend the nest fiercely from me as I tried to enjoy just a square inch of my patio space and take pics of the new arrivals as they grew. Blue Jays have landed on my chairs and chatted away to me. Magpies have ripped apart my flower baskets and helped themselves to my moss. The variety of birds that come to visit daily in my gardens and yard are wonderful and welcome.
I have got back to working with some of my shaman practices and studying birds. Their hunting habits, communal tendencies and not so communal tendencies. I have watched as crows cornered the neighbors cat in the weeping willow. They were not happy the cat was invading their domain and wanted it out now. The cat was cornered and whining for help. I intervened with the crows’ shenanigans and had a chat with the cat to suggest a different route next time it wanted to wander.
Crows and ravens have alway been present with me for as many years as I can remember. They are the first birds to greet me in the morning and stay with me throughout the day. No matter where I travel to, they seem to be present. I even spotted a crow in the Vancouver airport in 2019 when we boarded a plane to Bali. It was squawking up a storm in the rafters but seemed to disappear as we departed.
My niece and I recently took a little hike to one of my favorite spots on the trail to some caves. We didn’t go that far as that wasn’t the purpose or destination this time around. There is a spot on the way that has a lovely water flow with luminescent moss covering most of the rocks. The sun peeks through the grove and bounces off the water into thousands of prisms of reflective light. It’s divine light. The place feels sacred and special. I use it often in meditation as a visual aid when thinking of a place in nature where the vortex is transparent.
We sat down by the rocks and I started to drum a bit. The shaman’s purpose was to invite spirit animals to come join us in the grove. It was my niece’s first shaman journey and I hope not her last. The meditation involves listening to the drums as you move through a natural transition into a space of peace. It invites you to imagine yourself in a grove with a place to lay down. In this case a flat rock in the centre with sunlight beaming down on it. Relax and feel the warmth. Take the time to enjoy the release of worries and tension. Invite nature in and ask the spirit of any animals close to come join you in the meadow. I think she was surprised to feel the presence of animals around us. One in particular she described as knowing it was there but not quite willing or ready to join her. It kept the perfereral view. It was obvious what it was and curious about her presence. This was a great success for her first time journeying.
Facilitating someone else’s journey was good practice for me as it has been awhile since I have done any guidance for someone else. At the same time I did feel some of my guides’ presence also and some new creatures hanging around. Prominent was the raven. A large one swooping overhead catching the downdrafts then moving higher to hover close.
In some of the literature I am exploring about birds it talks about the different types of feathers birds have. I am not going to go into too much detail here only to say that collecting ones I find on the ground has become more purposeful in the selection. The differences between those used for primary flight, covert and contour and the down feathers that are soft to the touch while holding great healing properties. I have a new appreciation for how complicated flight is for birds. Something that seems so natural has an ingenious mechanical design associated with it.
I have used feathers for smudging and in ceremonial practices before and know that different ones carry a variety of energy and meaning. As we kayaked around Crowsnest Lake on a recent camping trip, the hawks would swoop and glide high above us. The swooping sounds reminded me of being smudged with sage on numerous occasions. I would like to think the hawks were sharing with me the strength and powerful energy of sight and flight.
I plan to explore more the ceremonies and exercises I can incorporate into my shaman journeys. The yogic practices fit nicely too with many similar theories of practice associated with air flow, breath, flight, dreams and gliding on the wind.
Birds are amazing creatures. We can learn alot from observing them. Meditating with them. Incorporating their habits and life lessons into our own lives. They are always with me, watching, warning me of danger and things to come I need to pay attention to. I had a crow do a dance on my fence three days in a row three months before my mom passed away. I have come to respect their presence and guidance.