Perhaps if I went by ‘Root’ rather than ‘River’ my life would be more stationary and settled.
It’s doubtful. True to my name, I keep flowing onward.
Life is movement, really. From a subatomic level to the molecular, from the constant firing of our nervous system to cellular respiration and life processes, from micro impulses to gross motor movement, everything is motion. Both literally and figuratively, when we cease to move, we die.
My name aside, I’ve spent the last several years learning to let go and flow. I am still learning. When at my little writing retreat on the central California coast, whether sheltered in the alcove of windows of the cottage, or sitting on the old wooden bench amid the gracefully windswept cypresses at the edge of the cove, I spend hours observing the ever-changing sea. At the studio, the ocean is a near constant presence in my life, its salty air and briny scent bathing me and suffusing my lungs, and I sleep at night and wander the Dreamtime to the rising and falling of its rhythmic, variable, continuous voice.
Apart from my writing work, my time at the little poet’s cottage has also been an apprenticeship to tides, currents and waves, as well as shifting moods of light and weather, wind and fog. All is movement. Perched at the ocean’s edge, studying the ever-changing surface with its undulating patterns, I feel the resonance and movement in my own body and breath, an entrainment of sorts. It’s a subtle opening and expansion, a similar feeling to relaxation, which is partly why so many of us love to be near moving water.
I think I have learned more about life from the flow of water than anything I learned in school.
Along with the sea at my cottage, I have spent long hours watching the California sea otters, delighted by their whiskered faces and antics as they swim, float, dive and eat. These adorable mammals spend their entire lives in the water, sleeping at night by wrapping themselves in greenish brown ribbons of ocean kelp, floating on their backs; they seek refuge in sheltered coves when the ocean is rough, but always remain immersed in the waves. Their life is one of constant movement, and I try to conceptualize what that feels like—never knowing solidity or stillness.
A Hawaiian spinner dolphin—wild, graceful creature of currents and depths who navigates with sleek agility and telepathic communication—has long been tattooed on my right deltoid. I have churning, bluegreen sea waves inked around my ankle. Recently, I had wings emblazoned up my forearms. All of it symbolizes motion and movement, I suppose.
I have been working on some new material for Book 2. Unexpectedly, as often happens in writing (and the creative process, in general), I found myself recounting my initial period in Taos, New Mexico some twenty years ago, when I resided alone for six months in a shaman’s adobe tower on the wild mesa. With that story’s emergence from my pen, I have been musing and reflecting on my journey since those days; a meandering path of nearly uncountable twists, turns, and unforeseen changes in direction and destination, crossing continents and oceans. A river flowing onward, never stationary for long.
For years my partner and I have joked about our “painted gypsy wagon” ￼(my British friends call it a ‘caravan’), ever rolling on to a new destination. Packing up and moving house once again, with a couple of imaginary horses, cow, goats, and chickens trailing along behind. (Don’t forget the beehive.) I have half-joked that Moving Day is a yearly event on our calendar, rather like Winter Solstice or Christmas, but with decidedly more boxes. Together we have relocated our primary residence 18 times in 24 years, and we each have a string of moves apart from that. I really should list ‘expert wrapper, packer, and remover’ on my CV.
What a grand adventure it has been, this roaming, far beyond anything I would have imagined for my journey at the outset years ago. Strange currents and unexpected opportunities have drawn us. Seldom have we moved for a work opportunity; much more often it has been some other summons—a soul whispering—pulling in a new direction, inviting us to step closer to soul purpose, authenticity, and relationship with place. Unexpected invitations have arrived, ones that we knew couldn’t be ignored, and we answered yes. Indeed, we have moved more than once to a location where neither of us had a job nor knew a soul. We have up and relocated a couple of times when we didn’t really have the resources to do so, yet knowing that such a move was important for one or both of us, and managed to find a way.
“Not all who wander are lost,” wrote J. R. R. Tolkien in his epic saga, The Lord of the Rings.
Thus, for better or worse, my life has been one of movement, always traveling on to the next place, reinventing my work and career, trying to build a bit of community; in more recent years, my aim has been to be in conscious relationship both with partner and place, wherever we are. Everything is relationship.
Honestly, we are weary of the painted gypsy wagon, of breaking camp and rolling on with our household goods to the next place. When we returned to Maui from Europe, in itself an unexpected move, I thought for certain we had come ‘home’, and that I could finally begin to root down amid the fragrant eucalyptus groves on the high slopes of Haleakalā––a place I had long loved dearly. It was yet another wrinkle of mystery to find ourselves propelled over to congested, urban O’ahu (a place I said I would never live), and from there to find myself spending considerable time in California—promoting my book and developing new avenues of work, stepping into the world in a new, highly visible way—two-thousand miles from Hawaii.
One cannot fathom the mystery. A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be spending considerable time away from the islands, my partner, and our dear English Whippets. It isn’t all tea and roses, this life in two locations, but it is a passage that feels inherently ‘right’ for my soul and the work I’m doing at this time. Doors are opening in the most unexpected places, opportunities that wouldn’t have manifested were I still in sitting beneath a coconut palm in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Most of us choose predictability. We settle into our ‘default life’ and cite the dozen reasons why we cannot risk breaking from the chains of our familiar routine––mortgage, kids, community, working for our pension, aging parents. As a society, we cling to the illusion of ‘security’ and the comfort of the known, yet that is seldom a path that leads to the fulfillment of our deeper purpose. As with everything in nature, the soul’s summons is to grow; it seeks expansion and interconnected relationship. It is always a process that always involves risk.
What is your soul’s deep longing? What seeks to emerge through you? What will you choose to bring to the world, and what are you willing to risk in order to deliver it? And where is the place or physical environment that draws you in order to somehow answer that summons?
It was a strange longing that propelled my initial visit to the California coast just over a year ago, and what subsequently unfolded was a powerful allurement to be deeper in relationship with this place. Again and again I returned, somehow sensing—feeling—that I needed to park my ‘caravan’ amid the ￼Monterey cypresses on a foggy coastline. From the comfort of our established life in the islands, it didn’t make much sense… not in a purely logical way. Yet I knew intuitively it was right, despite all the logistics, difficulty, stints of being apart, and costs. The new writing for Book 2 is complete, and what has emerged from my pen here simply would not—could not—have emerged in Hawaii. The words and inspiration were waiting for me at this semiwild threshold of earth, sea and sky at the edge of a continent.
Some of us search for home, others follow a wandering star.
Who can say what the future holds. I’ve learned not to look too far down the line. I know from my own experience that I’m seldom anywhere near where I projected I would be in even a year’s time. Flowing onward. I have a deep and powerful longing for a patch of earth where we can finally park the painted wagon beneath some whispering trees and let the wheels rot off. I hope to one day have a house that finally feels like ‘home’, where I tend the earth with loving hands, calling forth its goodness and celebrating its bounty through the changing seasons, as my dear mate and I root down into community with nature and other creative, soul-inspired individuals.
Yes, I hold to that alluring dream with wide open arms, trusting that when it’s meant to manifest that it will, and that in the meantime the task—for each of us—is to heed the creative summons of eros and allurement, offering fully what is ours to share with the world. Or to continue the soul quest to discover what that gift may be. We must seek the place(s) that inspire us to open, expand, and grow. There is value in being able to grow where you are planted, but you will only reach your true potential in an environment that most supports your innate nature—both in the biophysical realm and also in human culture.
Soul Artists know that life is movement and change. They understand that we cannot have growth and security both. Rather than cling to their familiar rock in the river for fear of being swept downstream, they let go and trust in the current, allowing it to carry them. They also realize that whatever they have envisioned for their lives is already too small, and our task is to continually open and say yes to growth, even when it requires a leap of faith. Especially then.
Gentle reader, here’s hoping that in your own way, you can apprentice to ‘flow’. The seasons continue their cyclical turning as our planet spins on its axis and hurtles through vast reaches of space, pulled by invisible forces. Our individual lives fare no differently, for we too are a part of nature and the cosmos. Will you resist movement and change, or conspire and collaborate…? There will certainly be loss in the process, but there will also be unexpected, undreamed of gain.
I wonder, to what are you clinging most tightly?