Wednesday, May 27, 2009

West Sussex, England

Be Careful What You Ask For...

I am a big believer in the power of intention. My life shows clear evidence of the fruits of powerful desire made manifest. This is niether good nor bad, just proof that our outsides mirror our insides. I have studied and practiced enough Eastern religion to know that your life becomes what you think about - so I try to think of positive things, though I am not always successful, and those negative things show up in my life quite dramatically. Enough new age philosphy for now! I can't help feeling philosophical though, as the recent dramatic turn of events shows me that I am less in control of events that I often think I am. As I was on my last day in Austin, frantically tying up all loose ends in preparation for my European odyssey (actually, I was sitting at a coffee shop, trying to get in my last dose of Weird Austin for a while), I got a call (on a Sunday) from the hiring manager for Palmer Station in Antarctica, asking me if I could sail to the station on June 5th. My trip to London was in two days, I had a 5 day adventure tour booked in Ireland after a week in England, and then I was going to fly to Helsinki June 5th to take a 15 day journey through the Baltic lands, ending up in Berlin, a city I wanted to explore in depth. Long story short is I spent about 48 hours locked in indecisive torment, praying for guidance, and getting more & more information from the Ice folks that made deploying more appealing: the date was pushed back to being in Denver on June 9th, so that I could do two weeks in Europe and not have to cancel the whole trip. Also, the position they were offering me was less of a desk job than the original, and has no supervisory elements. By the night before I was to fly to London, there was no doubt I was going to choose to go to work instead of to play over the next several months. I have been unemployed so long as to be annoyed with it, and the opportunity to go to this tiny station is a rare one. These ancient and interesting countries will still be here when I want to return...and now that I have 8 months of work before me, I will have the security of loads more cash. Also, one of my greatest wishes has been to not ever have to experience summer again. I dread the months of May-September so much that I have been considering moving to Alaska for sometime now (though where I am now, West Sussex in England, has a delightful climate in May). Not only will I be at the Antarctic station during this time, but it will be DARK - something I have wanted to experience for a long time, as I am not a fan of sunshine either. I haven't been wintering on Ice because the season is too long for me to be away from my dog. My mom will keep him for a certain amount of time per year, but he is my responsibility and I do not want to abandon him completely. He is almost 12, and I will probably have to take some time off of the Ice eventually anyway when he starts to go downhill.

So to tie this ramble in with the title, even though I was meticulously planning & researching every aspect of this trip, there was a seed inside of me that felt like something was off about it, that is was not really what I wanted, and was sad that I had not gone to Palmer with Will in March...I would have deployed if someone was not able, but the boat sailed & I thought my opportunity was gone. I would have never guessed in my wildest dreams that I would be able to go down for half the season. And all the while I was making plans to fill in the gaps between tours on this Europe trip I could not ignore that my heart was not in it. It felt lonely doing it all by myself...and I couldn't quite get a handle on why I wasn't into it - even though I know from experience that once I get on the plane I get into the travel groove. I am also staying with a wonderful family here in the English countryside so I will not have a chance to get lonely as I will be with a group in Ireland also. At first I balked at how much money I was going to lose by cancelling the one big tour, and having to buy an expensive one way ticket back to the US, but now that I've gotten my travel itinerary for deployment, the money issue seems irrelevant...I would not have changed my plans for McMurdo or Pole, but for Palmer I'm sure it will be worth it. I will not have time to recuperate in Houston before getting on the plane again, but deep down I asked for adventure beyond the "planned" adventure I had going, and that is exactly what I got. The Siren Song of the Ice is more powerful than my small plans, in this case at least.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adventure Bound

I took this photo in Taos last week, and it speaks more to the beauty of the place than my photographic abilities. The combination of the unguessable time of day, the clouds that look painted on, and the flatness of perspective that evokes a postcard-like feel make this one of the most intriguing pictures I've taken. The lushness of the sagebrush foreground contrasted against the sears portrait studio backdrop-esque mountians almost make it cheesy, but at the same time this sacred spot at the penitente church on sacred Indian lands is very special to me and the girls I go out here with, so this is a rapturous photo to me.  I've blogged about these painting workshops for years...this was my 12th or 13th one - it is the deepest spiritual work I do, and I feel so grateful to have found this teacher and this work.

I less than a week I fly to Europe for 5 weeks. I am doing this trip alone, and am amazed how much resistance I'm feeling as it gets closer. Almost 3 weeks of it will be on tours I've arranged, and, it's not covering huge land mass areas, but many different tiny and interesting sounding countries will be explored. As a native Texan, there is a thrill in being able to drive across an entire country in a few hours - it just seems amazing. So I will be visiting England, Ireland, Finland Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany. The Finland-Germny portion is two weeks with an adventure tour operator, and the other tour is 5 days on a jeep doing the southwest coast of Ireland (sigh). I feel strange telling people about my life when the economy is bad & people are losing jobs & struggling. I went on two luxury vacations within 3 week of each other and now I'm going to Europe for 5 weeks - I am on the other side of the economic spectrum: flush, money to spend on non-essentials, not only non-essentials but on my "dream" life - when is the other shoe going to drop? Oh yeah, there is no "shoe." (Only the "habit" of guilt, then punishment). It is not in my nature to "enjoy life." I am used to it feeling like a struggle.

When I was a child I fantasized about travel & moving & seeing places I'd never been to. Going to Helsinki feels very exotic to me, as Istanbul did two years ago. I realized that my childhood dreams have come true, but at the same time feel a gravity in my soul. I'm not sure what it is but it feels like with the achieving of a certain status that one has worked hard for comes with some sort of responsibility to one's fellow man - a responsibility to show that dreams are there for a reason - and there is a price to pay for one's dreams, but that's the subject of another posting (long). Travel emboldens me, makes me confident, and makes me want to spread the word that anyone can do this - it's not really all that expensive, but there's a lot of super detailed planning & compiling of details that goes into a trip where you're making all your reservations and plane flights. It was the journey of getting here that was so heady: the seed of the dream, the first taste of it on my first trip to Europe 32 years ago, then many years of daydreaming & scheming & spottily getting to travel, then working my way into my current lifestyle of working 1/2 the year & travelling all I want in the other part. And now I understand why it's the journey that is more important than the destination - because like Spock said in one of my favorite episodes "having is not the same as wanting." Once you get there, there's a little bit of "now what?" There was a time when I couldn't imagine how one got it together enough to by a car, a house, have a stable realtionship. I have never had a desire to have a domestic life, my own family, or to do yard work. I was just designed for something else. I found it and worked for it...but there are moments when I am alone, like now, between trips, where I trying to find the point of it all - was it to show I could do it? Is my life an example to someone whose afraid to "go for it" as my life shouts "go for it!" I am aware that I am not doing this travel to entertain or pleasure myself. Maybe I am doing it to fill time before going back to the Ice, or to have something to blog about, but hopefully there is a deeper reason, reasons I am not even aware of yet. The way I feel after a particularly good trip (this year: skiing) is a joy I never knew existed. And to have new feeling states has got to open up my world and touch those that know me. I love it when I find myself in a place where I can encourage someone to follow their passion, and I see that little spark in their eye. I am really feeling the difference of age too. When I travelled to Ireland in '84 it was about romance and drinking and being the brash Yank. Now I will be more attuned to subtleties (no drinking!) and most look forward to bonding with the people I meet in the tour group: my "family" for the week! So there are some pedestrian feelings amongst all this - I used to just envision my travel life like that scene from "Braveheart" where he is traipsing amongst the Highlands, shrouded in mist, being mythologized in voice-over. The nuts & bolts of planning temper the romance, but the underlying excitement of the unknown will always be my motivation. I don't know what this trip will be like, but I'm sure it will be full of new experiences, and that is one reason I don't feel bad about spending all this money on this trip. The money I "saved" last year has all but dissappeared, but the money I spend on travel will never be regretted.

I used to have a recurring dream where someone was handing me very beautiful jewels and I would run away & not take them. I did not trust that someone was giving me something so beautiful without a catch. The life I have now is the jewel I have let myself grab - and I cannot just say I am lucky...there is some luck, but mostly, I yearned for it, then made it an intention, and focussed on it until it became a reality. Mountains beyond mountains - step by step, anything can be made manifest.