Writing this blog is like repeatedly casting messages in bottles into the ocean. Even though plenty of people read my posts regularly, frequently they don’t comment or otherwise engage, so I forget that they’re here. Sometimes I wish someone I don’t know will open these bottles, read the messages, and send one back to me. Ideally that message will light me up, connecting with me a kindred spirit whose inner life is similar to mine, even if their circumstances differ significantly. Last July such a person left a thoughtful and detailed comment on my Coleman camp stove post. Curious to know more, I sent this reader an e-mail, asking him how he had found my blog. He had tossed some search terms (Feldenkrais, Camino de Santiago) into the Sea of Google, which had ferried him to the shores of à la carte spirit.
“I found your blog at a time when coincidences were becoming a continual occurrence for me,” he wrote.
Thus began our periodic correspondence. I confess, that he likened my writing to that of Paulo Coelho boosted my ego and made me consider myself a bit differently. More importantly, he said my words had helped him, a longtime trauma sufferer, “unstick” himself and be more comfortable with spontaneity. Reading that brought tears to my eyes; to have a positive impact on another’s life is humbling and an honor. He also wrote that my blog had perhaps talked him out of a journey to Spain.
“Oh, no!” I responded. I wondered what I had written to dissuade him, since I would happily go back. His answer surprised me.
“I could now easily imagine that my own life path or my own ‘choose your own adventure’ was right before me, always has been. It was less in a far-off land – my own surrounds are mystical in and of themselves,” he wrote. “I love to walk, and I suppose with my canine companion, that we walked from coast to coast several times.”
Suddenly, I wanted to be like him, content to remain in one place and be able to appreciate its beauty without longing, if not lusting, for the sights, smells and tastes of exotic lands. To be able to enjoy daily walks without counting the miles, checking it off a to do list, or thinking in terms of heroic or arduous pilgrimages. Granted, this reader had lived and traveled extensively overseas; perhaps his wanderlust had finally mellowed? Still, I asked him what he appreciated about his town. Could I, with one foot perpetually out the door, learn from him? Again, what he wrote surprised me.
“…the progress of the seasons – the way that time passes, and the ways it passes, in the clouds, in the sky, in the voice of the birds with the seasons, in the voice of the leaves with the seasons,” he wrote, among other things. He described his awareness of the place he calls home, not the place itself. His ability to be present and to appreciate his environment is what connected him, not specific attributes of his locale. And don’t many of us, when looking for a place to live, create a list of must-haves? What if all we needed was an ability to focus deeply on what was in front of us? That is what my Zen teacher advises. Still, I find it challenging to do just that, which is why I keep writing about it. Maybe, eventually, the message will finally penetrate. I will learn to be HERE, not lost in longing.
The more we corresponded, the more I trusted his take on things and valued his support and encouragement of my writing and my path. After I wrote about finally releasing my jewelry design materials to the world, he e-mailed me to say it was one of my most articulate and beautiful pieces so far. That he had been following along and made a point to let me know felt like a huge gift, reminding me that I have company as I write, a solitary and occasionally lonely act. So, when he later contacted me to say he was “disgusted” by parts of my post about graduations (in particular the opening quote: “Go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully” – John Waters’ commencement speech at RISD), my reaction to his brash honesty (which, he said, was not meant to be unkind), included equal parts delight and shock. Indeed, it was a post I almost didn’t publish because it came more from a wounded and disappointed (rather than inspired) place. But rather than censor myself, I decided to share it as an experiment and see what would happen. The lack of reaction let me know that it was, essentially, a dud.
The post was “so totally not the experience of Feldenkrais and finding one’s own gravity,” he wrote.
True. I had deviated from what had become a focus, and what had brought him here in the first place. While this blog is not exclusively about Feldenkrais, nor do I promise that most of the posts will necessarily be uplifting, I told him I appreciated the reminder to reset my compass. He, in turn, thanked me for not throwing my shoes at him. I suppose it was the least I could do.