Our Eyes Meet

We cross into Reservation land in Northern Arizona. The desert before us, a desolate beauty with colorful streaks, glows beneath the pink hue of the setting sun.

On the outskirts of town the highway curves past hills. Gathered at their base, shanties and shacks form small a small line. Broken boards, torn roofs, tires, cars and trucks appear abandoned and disregarded. But I see there are children’s toys and someone walking into a shack and others sitting on steps and chairs out front.

We pass at 60 miles per hour. The extreme poverty fades into the rear-view mirror.

We stop at a gas station just after dusk. A man walks to the car parked next to me. He is, perhaps, ten years older than me. Our eyes meet on opposite sides of the window. A thought flashes into my mind — were his parents or grandparents among the stolen children, forced into Christian boarding schools in an attempt to decimate their culture?

The lineage of oppressors claim me as their citizen.

***

Early in the morning, a jewelry maker sits in a long line of artisans in Santa Fe’s town square; they’ve rolled out their wares and tell the tourists passing by, “feel free to handle.” The jewelry maker looks like he is sleeping, with eyes closed and arms folded around the large yellow “G” on his green sweatshirt. His porcupine quill jewelry has caught my eye, and I kneel down to look.

Amongst his jewelry, I find a feather pendant that is perfect for my niece.

“Excuse me,” I say.

His eyes open.

“Sorry to bother you.”

“No bother,” he smiles.

“How much is this one?”

He tells me the price. I say I’d like to purchase it and hand it to him.

An older white man stands above us and jokes that he would never buy from a Packers fan. “At least you’re not for the Cowboy’s,” the older man says as he continues down the block.

“Never a Cowboy’s fan,” the artisan jokes back as he places the necklace on a card, carefully stringing the chain through notches that will hold it in place. “Although my mother is probably smacking me right now for saying that.”

But the older man is too far to hear him.

“Your mother likes the Cowboys?” I ask, still kneeling, admiring the porcupine quills dangling from silver earrings.

“Oh yes,” he said. “All her life. Now she has passed and I’m sure she is angry with me for saying anything bad about them.”

Our eyes meet.

“I’m sorry you’ve lost your mom. I can only imagine what that feels like.”

He sighs. “She died on the fourth of July. It’s what she wanted. She was on dialysis for twelve years. My sisters convinced her to get the treatments when she first got sick. After twelve years she was tired. Every time she came home she was like this —” he rolled his eyes back, put his arms out, and swayed his chest like he was off-balance.

“That’s a long time to endure so much pain.”

“Yes, I understand her choice,” he says. He holds the little package containing the necklace in his right hand.

“Thank you for sharing that with me,” I say, looking up at him.

“I miss her. I think I will miss her for the rest of my life.”

I take in what he has said. “I miss my Gramma more now than I did two years ago when she passed.”

He nods and I ask about the porcupine quills.

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Tiny Homes for the Homefree

In the days after I talked with my friends about using self-care to enhance their creativity, I saw them internalize the message by eating more fresh foods, meditating as a group, and taking an afternoon off to swim in the Yuba river. In just a short time they were vibrant and joyous as if they had never fallen into a slump; more importantly, after they dedicated themselves to self-care, they accessed crucial, nuanced elements that brought completion to several songs. When they played me a few tracks I was spellbound by the gravity and emotion of the music; one song even brought me to tears.

Witnessing my friends gain immediate, fruitful vitality and accomplishment spurred me to nourish my inner artist with greater depth.

I began by writing a list of fun, compelling, and invigorating activities to feed my soul and refill my creative well (as Julia Cameron would call it). To my surprise, as I reviewed my list, I found many hobbies like gardening, juicing and playing piano that I couldn’t do often — or at all — while living on the road. I realized I missed them like long-lost friends.

I turned my inner eye to the loneliness, uncertainty, and aimlessness I’ve felt in the past year from living homefree. I thought of the time and energy I’ve lost from worrying about where I would go, which friend could host me, where to write, and how I could shift the moving parts to make it happen.

For the last few weeks I’ve taken a break from constant travel and have stayed in a cottage on my aunt and uncle’s property. It’s the longest I have stayed in any one place for the last year! But could I call it home?

Despite the difficulties of homelessness, I love the thrill and adventure of transience. I love the way it’s forced me to grow and stabilize in the present moment. Settling into one place felt like it could end my carefree, rolling stone lifestyle.

But what does my inner artist want?

I walked out of the cottage to a nearby pond. Standing beneath pines amongst lupine I felt the beauty of the landscape seep into my bones. I breathed deeply listening to the freedom of birds singing from the trees. Still water reflected clouds, and looking into its depths, my mind became quiet.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a home again? I thought of all the comforts a home would provide: a grounding place to go back to; a sacred space for meditation, prayer and writing; my own bed. I love domestic activities; they enrich my life and nourish me. With a home I could cuddle my cat, play my piano, plant some flowers, and create a space and momentum for words to flow. A home would make self-care easier and diminish my greatest stressors. It didn’t have to mean an end to my glamsient ways; if I wanted, it could make glamsienting more sustainable.

I turned back to look at the cottage — yes, I would make this my artist’s home.

Clouds Reflected in the Pond