I have received your letter or message and it has been a salve to the craggy, scarred face of my heart.
To those of you who sent a letter or card or flowers (Melissa, Russell, Manjari, Chris, Ami, Ashton, Ellen, Ros, Kelsey, Chrysantha, Ben and Alice) I want you to know that your love and effort has moved us deeply. As I expressed to my friend Alice, when I receive a letter or card from you expressing your care and support, there is a sense of relief inside of me. This heavy weight in my chest is no longer only carried by me; I feel your hands holding it up as well, and it is that much easier to bear. To me, this is no small matter. Your kind actions mean the world to me. I believe that Addison feels the same.
Even just the act of sitting and reading what I write, taking the time to sit with me through each post, is something I appreciate deeply. I love seeing your comments or reading your emails. I can attribute much of my healing process to you being here—wherever you are—to receive what I am sharing. Thank you.
Here in Colorado the skies create a sapphire backdrop for the golden fields and orange or gray or white, leafless trees. I never knew dead grass and bare branches could be so beautiful. When I walk Zoso at dawn, his tracks are negatives across the frosty ground. There are sounds of crunching beneath my feet as I breath with my steps.
These days are spent working, writing, recording our album, and—for me—crying many tears. I am missing my daughter and I understand now that there is no end-date for this sadness.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a meditation retreat in the Rocky Mountains with Addison and my sister, Radha. We spent a lot of time in silence and in ceremony. At times I found myself prostrated on the ground, invoking my ancestors and spiritual teachers. I lay down on the earth, practicing letting go and asking for help. Chickadee was there. In a way she has become my ancestor, though I was the one who gave birth to her.
I asked myself a lot of questions during those five days and received few answers—but that’s too be expected in any spiritual quest.
One of the questions I continue to ponder is this: what is going to be my way of taking positive action and helping to ease the suffering of living beings on this planet?
I was reminded—during a powerful presentation given by a Lakota dharma teacher at the retreat—of the many issues which are swept under the rug and kept from public view.
I contemplated how I am living in a country whose native people have been massacred, imprisoned, lied to, and mistreated in innumerable ways by my political leaders, both past and present. The Dakota Access Pipeline was one incident that the native people and U.S. religious leaders and citizens brought to public attention. But there is so much that goes unseen. What can I do to balance the scales? Can I take responsibility for my ancestors’ actions without being crushed under the weight of tremendous regret and sadness for what cannot be taken back?
Larry Rowe, another dharma teacher at the retreat, is an African American man. He mentioned the unease he feels being in the United States, and how much safer he feels in other countries. It reminded me that someone with different skin color than me may not be treated as well. I don’t want to turn a blind eye on these things.
I do want to consider deeply where I can be the most effective in creating positive change; I know my own limitations.
What are some ways that you take positive action in the world? I’m curious to know, if you have a minute to share in the comments below (I may very well steal your idea if it really resonates with me—heh heh heh).
Yesterday we spent three hours recording my harmonies onto a 3 1/2 minute song for the upcoming album. It felt like a good use of our time, and it was also a reality check of just how long the recording process takes, not to mention mixing the tracks before sending them to be mastered!
The song we worked on yesterday is called “Chickadee”. Addison wrote it about our daughter. There is no way I would have been able to sing the song through, but he managed it beautifully. I approached my harmonies for the song by focusing on each sentence as a separate piece. I made myself concentrate on the words as syllables or notes which I had to sing in key and match timing with Addison’s voice. It enabled me to get through the whole recording process cheerfully. Listening back through the song as a whole definitely choked me up, but by then I was done singing for the day so that was fine.
My brother—who normally lives in South India—is currently in the U.S. due to a series of events, so Addison and I took advantage of his proximity and flew him out here. You may have already seen some of the photos he’s taken since he arrived in The Love Sprockets’ Instagram or Facebook feed. (the picture at the top of this post is his)
In the next week and a half we’ll be doing some photo and video shoots with him, and he is also revamping our website. It feels good to be “starting over” in certain respects to our music and as a band. We are really embracing our band as a duet, instead of wishing it was a four piece. And this next album will have a different sound and feeling from the last one we released.
Thank you for reading this update; I hope at least some of it was interesting for you. 🙂
Don’t forget to share your own way of creating positive change (big or small) in the comments below.
Big love to you!
P.S. You may have heard or figured it out—we extended the release date for our upcoming album, entitled “Chickadee”. If you haven’t gotten around to preordering it and getting your name in the liner notes, you still have time: http://music.thelovesprockets.com/album/chickadee
Are there things you wish someone would have just *told* you when you were younger?
Such as, “Everyone goes through breakups. It’s totally normal and you will live through it!”
Or, “I promise you, you are not the only person in the world going through this right now. You’re going to be okay.”
Or, “Many people wake up in the morning feeling depressed and anxious. Yes, it is really hard to get out of bed sometimes but it’s actually not going to get better *until* you get out of bed, so the sooner you get up the sooner you’ll feel better. I promise.”
(And while I wish that someone would have just told me these things 15 years ago, at the same time, I’ve recently tried telling my youngers these invaluable truths and so far they haven’t seemed to appreciate my aged perspective)
This morning I wake up with a ton of bricks sitting on my chest. Most of the time it gets better after I get up, but some days the bricks just stay there.
You’ll feel better once you get up, I tell myself.
But it’s running day today, I respond. I hate having to go running!
(“Running day” just means that today I go running rather than doing one of my Kundalini yoga videos. Unlike in my youth when I believed I had to love everything I did otherwise it wasn’t worth doing, now I view exercise as a necessary activity, like eating or drinking water, that I’d best get over with as soon as I possibly can in the day.)
I consider lying in bed all day, mourning my lost child and letting the bricks have their way with me.
That really doesn’t sound appealing though, so I get up.
I’ll bet there are a lot of people who are having a hard time getting out of bed today, I remind myself. I’ll bet they would be comforted knowing I was having a hard time too and they’re not the only ones.
As I wander around getting dressed, I tell Addison, “It’s running day today. I hate going running.”
He laughs, because I say this pretty much every other day.
Zoso huddles in his bed in the corner, hoping I won’t notice him. He hates running too.
I decide to leave him behind and walk him later. It’s hard enough dragging my own butt out the door.
As I begin walking down the street in my five finger shoes and exercise shorts, the familiar thoughts run through my head. It would be so much easier to go running if Addison would just come with me. I know, he can’t because of his knee, but still!
Overhead, a loud racket interrupts my internal racket. It seems a cicada and a grackle are having a showdown, about 30 feet above my head. Nearby a pack of blue jays alarm obnoxiously. Blue jays seem to like hanging out yelling at someone or something just for kicks.
Addison mentioned the other day that cicadas, unlike most insects, seem to have the ability to “scream”. He gained this knowledge the other night, when our cat Shiva brought a cicada into the house. Apparently, as Shiva tortured the poor insect, the cicada sounded a variety of distress calls. And, if it hadn’t been so loud and insistent, Addison may not have realized it was inside and may not have saved its life as a result.
High in the branches of a Texas Cedar Elm, the female grackle chases the cicada. The cicada, in turn, is shrieking in terror. I know when the grackle finally catches the insect, because as she flies from branch to branch, the sound of the screaming cicada accompanies her. She seems to be trying to figure out how to eat something so fierce and loud. Finally she flies away, over the houses and past the gang of blue jays. The cicada announces her trajectory to the entire neighborhood.
I take a deep breath and start running. I have a route through the neighborhoods figured out that will allow me to run for at least 20 minutes without ending up on a busy road.
I’ve run about four blocks, when I notice another runner overtaking me from the left. He isn’t running much faster than I, so for a few blocks we run side by side, before he takes the lead. I am smiling on the inside.
Someone else is out here running too! He’s all sweaty and his headphone cord is swinging around annoyingly like mine does! I’m not alone in my misery!
I admire his sweat-soaked T-shirt and shockingly white calves, his easy-going gait as though he is in no rush to arrive anywhere anytime soon. He doesn’t seem to mind running at all!
When he makes a turn, I realize he’s running the same route that I’ve picked out. So I follow, continuing to appreciate that we are running together, alone.
We pass a woman pushing a baby in a stroller, and ahead of her a woman walking her pit-bull boxer also wearing a sweaty T-shirt and a pink visor. See? They’re out exercising this morning too! I’ll bet they had a hard time getting out of bed too. Well, maybe not the mom with the baby, but still.
When my secret running partner turns again, I veer off in a different direction. A few mourning doves and titmice flutter away from a front-yard bird feeder as I run by. The cat who has been sneaking up on the birds, is poised behind the rise of a small hill in the yard. He sees me and dashes away, stampeding into the melee of birds and feathers and flying seed. The predator joins his former prey as they all flee from me, the apparently all-terrifying one.
Just then the pink visor lady and her pit-bull boxer overtake me, and we run together alone for a block or two. When we part ways I come upon a young Latina in black yoga pants, walking briskly, her hair swinging back and forth. I leave her behind and find myself on the final stretch of my run. Halfway up the hill ahead of me is a skinny blond woman in running shorts and a red tank-top. She’s running up the hill but she looks as if she’s faltering.
You can do it! I shout to her silently. You’re almost at the top!
She pauses to catch her breath, and I catch up to her. Then she takes off running again and now we’re both over the hump and I’m turning down my street and she’s carrying on down Cherrywood Road.
There are beads of sweat rolling down my face and I brush them away before they can land in my eyes. I open the front door to let Zoso out, wheezing and sweating. He and Shiva frolic around while I stretch out my legs.
I think about yesterday, because yesterday I was learning about how we are all alone together too. And because we were practicing for the show that’s happening today (are you coming? click here if you are and if you can’t make it, just go to facebook.com/thelovesprockets at 6 pm for the FB live show). It’s our last show in Austin and we’re playing a few songs with our new friend Arielle, who’s too cool for school and I’ll tell you more about her in a minute… 😉
So yesterday, my friend Nichole came to see me while she’s in town. She recently graduated from the Wilderness Awareness School in Washington. We haven’t seen eachother since she visited me in bed in November.
We were going to have lunch together, and I noticed I was feeling apprehensive about having to make “small-talk”, and perhaps having to try and “keep it together” so I didn’t make her uncomfortable.
Even though, if there’s anyone who’s okay with crying, it’s Nichole!
Once we were seated at the restaurant, we began sharing our experiences over the past 8 months. Eventually Nichole asked, “Why Colorado? Why do you need to move so far away?”
“Well, we need to get out of that house for one thing,” I told her. “It’s not doing me any good to stay there.” I told her about how liberating it is to be giving away and selling most of our stuff, and to be really examining what we truly need versus things we had just because we had the space in our house to have them.
I told her about Charlie Kern in Denver, CO and his school bus conversion operation.
I tried to tell her about having to go through Chickadee’s things and how sad that was for me, but I had to stop talking because I was on the verge of tears. Instead of a pile of “Congratulations on your new family member” cards, we have a pile of condolence cards, which we keep in the same box as her death certificate and her little inky footprints and her lock of hair. The quilt that her Nana made for her is sitting in our walk-in closet in a cardboard box.
Nichole was looking at me, and her eyes were filling with tears. “I could feel that,” she said, and we both just looked at eachother and cried. Someone brought our plates of food and set them in front of us. We wiped our eyes.
The other day my friend Liz sent a picture of some quotes, “Cry in public! Be a mess!” and we’d both laughed (in a texting sort of way). “I’ve gotten really good at crying in public this year,” I told her.
Nichole told me her own stories of suffering–not to complain, but just because they were experiences she’d had. She told me about one of her classmate’s brother dying, and how everyone in his class had surrounded him and held him while he sobbed. And she and I cried some more. And the waitress came to ask us how our food was and we hadn’t even tasted it yet.
The whole world has been laughing and crying with me. I’ve been suffering alone with all other beings. I’ve been running, together, with thousands of people around the world every other day. Even cicadas know how to cry.
As we were driving to my house, I told her that my musician friend, Arielle would be there to practice some songs with us. “I’d love to meet her,” Nichole said. I could have said more about Arielle, like, “Arielle is a badass girl! Her voice is like an angel! She rips guitar like Jon Mayer does in his dreams!” But I decided to let Nichole have her own experience in meeting Arielle.
Arielle is playing guitar with Addison on fiddle when we arrive. I’m so happy to see her. She’s been away, recording music with some bigwigs out in Nashville (or maybe it was Memphis) and just got back. Tonight we are going to accompany her on her song ‘Magick Again’ (which is amazing, you should listen to it while you’re reading the rest of this email). And she’s going to shred electric guitar on our songs ‘Robot’ and ‘Believe’.
We’re all sitting together in our living room full of boxes, and the dead cockroaches and dust bunnies that used to live under the furniture that is no longer there. As we play, I watch Nichole’s reaction to Arielle’s singing. I catch her eye and we both laugh.
We’re all three jamming, taking solos, and I’ve never jammed with a girl before. Nichole is sitting and smiling and clapping along. I love that Arielle is better at playing music than me. And that Nichole knows a lot more about the natural world in Austin then I do. And she’s better at being friends than me because she makes sure to see me whenever she can.
And tonight we’re playing our last show in Austin for a while and it’s so happy and so sad all at the same time.
I’ve been considering an age-old topic, a cliche question that perhaps musicians dislike being asked:
Why do we play music?
The question of “why we play music” can be grouped amongst the other fathomless questions such as…
Why is the sky blue?
Why does everybody die?
What is the meaning of life?
To assume that we can do any justice to any of these topics by trying to answer the question, is to perhaps assume too much of ourselves. 😉
But then again, what is the point of being human if we don’t get to sit around sipping fermented beverages and discussing ponderous concepts?
So grab your beverage of choice and pull up a chair!
…and imagine a time before we had electricity and internet, before we could watch movies and stream music endlessly via Spotify and Pandora (for scandalously low prices I might add, considering that musicians such as us only receive something like 0.005 cents per song-play on a site like Spotify… but I digress ;-).
I imagine that back then, before we could listen to music without the musicians themselves being present, we must have placed tremendous value on the person who would come sit by our hearth and tell us stories from faraway lands, or play us songs about the human predicament: love, death, hope, fear, desire.
We could listen to them and enter a trancelike state, gazing into the fire, and be transported above everyday life–the rigors and the doldrums–to a place of the imagination, a mysterious realm that songs can take us to, where we find solace for our unspoken pain, inspiration to carry on, or simply a moment’s respite from our belabored thoughts.
We were able to travel, to go on adventures, right from our homes. And the wandering bard who showed up in our village was our traveling guide.
Even now, you know that you are witnessing a pure conduit of music when you sit down in front of a musician (or musicians) and forget who and where you are as the music pours over you.
Even Pandora can’t always accomplish that.
And as musicians, this is what we aspire to… transporting our beloved audience into a timeless realm, holding space for them as they travel to a place where healing, joy and inspiration are all possible.
This is one of the best reasons I can give you for why we play music. 🙂
P.S. And if you’ve never had The Love Sprockets take you on a musical journey, it’s about time you experienced us firsthand:
It was 10:30 in the morning, and the sun was hot enough to make me feel as though my brains were gently steaming inside my head.
My bicycle was loaded down with enough gear to allow me to ride as long as their was land to keep pedaling across.
I had just arrived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and I was looking for an apartment number on Calle 20 North. As I rolled down the one way street, an older, extremely tanned American couple overtook me on their city bikes.
“Where are you coming from?” the man asked me, smiling happily at my alien appearance.
I smiled back. “Well, today I just rode down from Chemuyil. But I started in Austin, Texas.”
The man’s mouth dropped open appreciatively. “No kidding! Well, welcome to Playa del Carmen!”
We chatted for a few more minutes, than it was time for them to turn right and for me to re-assess my directions. I was pretty sure I had already passed the apartment I was looking for.
I pulled up a map on my iPhone and saw that it was back a few hundred yards from where I had just come.
Another American man was standing on the sidewalk, watching me. I hadn’t seen so many white people in months.
“Where’re you headed darlin’?” he asked, swaying slightly, a paper bag-clad bottle clutched in his left hand.
“I think I know where it is, I just passed it,” I began.
“Let me help you,” he said, waving me towards him. “Just show me where you’re trying to go. I’ve lived here for 11 years.”
I sighed, but humored him. Chances are giving directions to a cycle tourist would make this guy’s day, and I didn’t want to deprive him of the opportunity.
I pulled up to where he was standing and showed him the map. “Here’s where we are, and here’s where the apartment is.”
“Oh man…” he shook his head. “I’m sorry to say, but that’s all the way across town.”
“What? But the directions say it’s a 2 minute walk from here!”
He turned the map sideways, than upside down. “Oh ok…” he squinted his eyes. “Okay, it’s just down the street, back that way, on your left.” He gestured and pointed importantly, assuring me it was very close and easy to find.
I smiled wanly and took my phone back from him. “Thanks.”
In 2 minutes I was pulled up in front of the apartment building. I sent a Whatsapp message to my friend Watson: Hey dude, I’m outside your door.
Within minutes the broken, plastic door at the entrance of the apartment building opened, and Watson stepped out into the bright sunshine, his hair sticking up in gravity-defying directions.
“You got here fast! I just rolled out of bed like a half hour ago!” he laughed, and we embraced.
“I told you I was going to leave early this morning. Didn’t want to get caught in the heat. I was out the door by like 7:30 am. Rode like a bat out of hell.”
He was gazing at my bicycle and gear, smiling appreciatively. “Well, here it is! Your bicycle!” He looked at me again. “And you have a GoPro!”
“Duh,” I laughed. “How do you think I’ve been making all of those videos?”
“Watson,” I said, taking off my helmet. “I rode my bicycle across Mexico.”
“Yeah you did,” he laughed.
“And now I never have to do it again.”
We unloaded my gear and rolled my bike inside. Watson lived with three other housemates in a downstairs apartment. We shoved all of my belongings into a corner in his room.
“Well, this is where we’ll be sleeping,” he gestured to a rumpled, full-sized bed in the corner. “I get really hot in here at night–there’s no AC–so just stay on your side!”
That afternoon we walked to the beach. There were white people EVERYWHERE. Tourist shops, people jabbering in english, and the beach was packed. Every 30-40 steps we were invited to receive a massage by a guy or girl in a little uniform. They would wave and gesture us over to the massage tables under a tent or on a deck area, and we would politely decline. “No gracias.”
We eventually found a less crowded area, and dropped our stuff down in the sand. The ocean was a shocking blue.
I stripped down to the my bikini, and Watson, ever the faithful observer of women’s bodies, said: “Wow, your boobs are huge. Definitely bigger than last time I saw you.”
“Dammit!” I cried.
“Well jeez, usually most women are happy to hear that!” he laughed.
I had been traveling alone and there had been no one else who knew me well to stand back and look at me and say, ‘Jahnavi, your boobs look bigger than usual.’
Ever since I had arrived in Villahermosa (after taking the bus from Mexico City to there), I had noticed that I was having really intense PMS symptoms; but even after being a week late, my period still didn’t not happen. Every day I was sure that ‘THIS is the day’ I start my period and I would have to either ride all day bleeding or hole up in a shabby, Mexican hotel and wait for the storm to pass.
Finally, after weeks of ‘I’ll be starting my period any day now’, I gave up. I had officially missed my period, for the first time in my adult life.
I told my sister this over the phone. “Well that’s not a big surprise,” she said. “You’ve been exercising like mad. Your body just doesn’t have TIME to have a period.”
But why am I still having PMS symptoms? I wondered. I had been crying everyday, and had even begun to feel nauseous and tired over the past week.
I explained all of this to Watson.
“Oh!” he crowed. “Are you pregnant??”
“All the signs seem to be pointing to that, yes…” I sighed miserably.
We waded out into the blue ocean waters and I dove under a wave. Being in the salty water was incredibly rejuvenating. Watson continued to make ridiculous comments about my boobs, and I laughed for the sheer joy of laughing.
“I haven’t laughed in so long Watson,” I told him, jigging and splashing in the water, and laughing some more.
Afterwards we stopped at a beachside bar and jammed with a local musician:
That night, during dinner, we discussed my theoretical pregnancy. Watson gazed around the restaurant, resting his eyes on a chubby, curly haired toddler at the next table over. “That could be yours,” he whispered to me, smirking mischievously.
I widened my eyes at him threateningly. “STOP it. We have no idea if I’m pregnant.”
“What is Addison going to think?” Watson went on, staring at me earnestly.
“Addison would not be happy,” I admitted sadly.
“WHAT? Why not??”
“He just told me recently that he doesn’t even know if he wants to have kids. He seems to be reassessing everything right now. He doesn’t even seem to know if he wants to be with me at all. Well… okay, he says he does… just in the way that works for him, which doesn’t really work for me.”
Watson wanted to take me to his favorite bar after dinner, but I was suddenly reticent to consume alcohol. I had lost interest in drinking alcohol in the last month, and with how nauseous I had started to feel, it seemed even less appealing. And what if I WAS pregnant??
“Watson…” I began. “What if I AM pregnant? I shouldn’t drink alcohol if I am! Maybe I should take a pregnancy test first…”
We were both tickled by the idea of strolling down the street, buying a pregnancy test, and then sending me into the bathroom of the bar to check if I could drink or not.
“Ok, let’s do it.”
We walked across the street to a pharmacy. “I don’t even know how to say ‘pregnancy test’ in spanish!” I told Watson.
“Ha ha, neither do I.”
We approached the pharmacist at the counter. “Um…” I began. “No se el palabra, pero neccessito un… ‘pregnancy test’… para embarazada.”
She nodded, and mimed a big pregnant belly on herself.
“Everyone probably thinks I’m the dad,” Watson muttered, suddenly embarrassed.
“Maybe I should hold your hand,” he suggested.
After the pregnancy test was purchased, we headed to the bar. Watson got us a table and wished me luck. I clutched the pregnancy test close to me and found the bathroom.
I can’t believe I’m taking my first pregnancy test in a bathroom in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, I thought, looking at my reflection in the mirror in disbelief.
I read the directions in spanish, and looked at the pictures. I think I got this.
After peeing on the test stick, I waited.
Immediately, one line formed, and than a second, very faint line.
Hmmm… it says that if there are 2 lines, it means I’m pregnant. But the second line isn’t really a line… it’s so much fainter than the other.
To my surprise, I felt disappointment wash over me.
I’ve been fighting off baby fever for almost 10 years, and I suppose the idea that I was finally pregnant (and with Addison’s baby, someone I was truly in love with) had apparently been a small hope I had carried with me for the past few weeks.
I waited another 5 minutes, hoping the second line would darken and tell me that I was pregnant.
It stayed very faint.
I rinsed off the stick and tossed everything in the garbage. Sighing, I opened the bathroom door and saw Watson watching me furtively from his table. I walked up to him, smiling at the look on his face.
I shook my head. “Negative. I’m not pregant.”
Watson broke into a relieved chuckle. “Ha ha, alright!” He held up his glass of whiskey. “Here’s to you not being pregnant!”
I wasn’t feeling celebratory, but I appreciated his enthusiasm, and took a sip from his glass. Watson went to get us more drinks.
I looked around the bar at all of the tourists, imagining what their different stories might be, and why they had ended up in that bar.
I thought about why I was disappointed to not be pregnant…
I felt like my relationship with Addison could have been saved by a baby… but now… I didn’t know. Besides, having a baby as a way to save a relationship does not seem like a good idea. And I still need to get to Brazil. So this is for the better.
It wasn’t just my relationship with Addison I was feeling like saving… it was also the life I had left behind in Austin. Our band, our awesome pets, yoga, capoeira, meditation. I could still live in Austin and play music without Addison, could still have pets and do yoga and capoeira and meditate… but I liked doing those things WITH him. I liked our lives when they were combined. We were always scheming and coming up with new projects and ideas, and we loved going on adventures together, whether by bicycle or hitting the road on tour with a car full of musical instruments.
Addison was going to be in Playa del Carmen in just 2 more days.
…to be continued 😉
P.S. Here’s a bonus video of some of the inner-goings-ons of Watson and I’s time together:
“God is the love that moves the sun and the other stars.”
I sit at a table on a restaurant patio overlooking the ocean this morning.
I have been dreaming about eggs for days now, imagining them gliding around deliciously in a handmade tortilla, dripping with salsa.
And now, here they are with me, huevos rancheros, gazing solemnly up from my plate in their warm bath of red salsa and fresh, crumbled cheese.
The tortillas that my waiter presents me in a basket wrapped in cloth are, indeed, handmade and very hot.
Before diving into my breakfast, I sip my cafe ollo (coffee brewed with cinnamon) and look out at the three cormorants (badass birds that can swim underwater) who have set themselves up on the three available wooden posts that stick out above the ocean tide.
These three birds are facing the sun, which rose about an hour earlier, and are sitting silent and still, in worshipful reverence of the source of warmth and light for the entire Earth.
I stare at them, appreciation swelling in my heart.
Without water, I would die, I think, looking out at the vast body of lapping waves in front of me, and so would these three birds.
Without the sun, I would die, I continue in my head, looking at their peaceful, beaked faces pointed at the sun, and so would these three birds.
I feel my connection to the water, the sun, the birds and… without food, I would die. I gaze down at my breakfast.
I imagine the man or woman inside the kitchen who has carefully prepared my tortillas and huevos rancheros for me.
I feel gratitude filling my chest for this stranger who is making sure I have a delicious meal to give me energy for my day.
And I think about the chicken who has laid the eggs I am about to eat, and wonder where she is right now. Most likely she is scratching around in the dirt next door, chasing bugs with that vacant look in her eye that all chickens seem to have.
I take a sip of the freshly squeezed orange juice waiting in a tall glass in front of me, and imagine the orange tree reaching towards the sun, drinking in his rays and fattening up her crop of bright, sweet orbs of fruit.
After these contemplations, I promptly begin eating.
The waiter approaches a little while later, smiling at me good naturedly with his haggard teeth, and I thank him as he takes away my used napkins.
“Donde vienes?” he asks me (meaning, ‘where do you come from?’).
“Austin,” I reply.
“Austin Texas,” I clarify, silencing the ‘x’ in Texas so he can be sure where it is I’m talking about. “Voy a Brazil con mi bici,” I explain with a smile.
His eyes widen. “Con su bici?”
He wanders away, clearly needing some time to digest this information before his next question.
I have been traveling from Austin, TX by bicycle, bus and car for 2 months now, and in the last week it has now been solely by bicycle.
When I left Austin, headed for Mexico, I didn’t really have a way to prepare myself for the endless highways running through the endless desert, broken up only by cities that are barely navigable by bicycle.
I soon found that my comfort level allowed me only some short stints by bicycle, and then many more by bus and car.
The waiter returned, this time with a new question:
“No tienes miedo a viajar sola?” (‘aren’t you afraid to travel alone?’)
It took me a minute to decipher this question, because I wasn’t familiar with the word ‘miedo’ (‘fear’). But after repeating the unknown word aloud a few times, I understood.
I shrugged. “Un poco. Pero, esta bien.” (‘a little, but it’s okay’)
He laughed and walked away again.
I have come to know Fear over these past 2 months, more intimately than I had ever hoped.
Rarely have I actually been in any ‘real danger’. The fear I have been experiencing is mostly hand-made. 😉
After arriving in Mexico City in the car of a friend, I met Mestre Acordeon for the first time, practiced capoeira with Profesor Nao Veio, spent 5 days with Addison who came to visit me, got a new tattoo, and then finally got on a bus to a town in Tabasco called Villahermosa.
In Villahermosa I spent my first night sleeping in a hammock, something I’ve never done before. It was very hot and muggy, but after being bitten by mosquitoes I eventually pulled out my sleeping bag and somehow managed to wrap it around myself while not falling sideways out of the hammock.
I was at a Warmshowers host’s house. His name is Juan, and he was expecting two more cyclists the next day.
My first morning in Villahermosa I was awoken at 7:30 am by the sound of someone bashing a wall in across the street with a sledgehammer. I shifted around in my hammock, and then eventually sat up to greet my host and his friend.
They both left to work for the day, and I greeted my fear, who was waiting for my undivided attention. I meditated, journaled, cried, called friends, and cried some more.
During my walking meditation, I saw a little statue of Jesus Christ in Juan’s hallway. And I began to say to myself, over and over, “The Kingdom of Heaven is inside of me.”
Finally, I heard a knock during mid-afternoon and opened the door for the two cyclists Juan had been expecting.
Their names are Charles and Denise, and they are retired french canadians who have been cycling in South and Central America now for a year. They started in Peru, cycled down to the tip of South America (Chile), than back up into Peru where they spent four months, after which they continued north and eventually ended up at Juan’s house with me, in Villahermosa.
I was glad for their company, and Denise and I walked together to a nearby supermarket to buy food. I had a strange sense of feeling like a child again, wanting her to be my mommy, not wanting to lose her in the huge supermarket.
This kind of fear I experience is the strongest when I am transitioning into a new, unknown situation. This time it was the transition from Mexico City to now actually cycle touring again, and not knowing what it would be like to spend days on my own, sleeping at hotels in towns I knew nothing about.
But at the moment, I was safe, and I had a wonderful couple to spend the evening with. They made a pasta dinner for all of us, and drew me a route through the Yucatan on my map of Mexico, since they had just come from the area I was headed. This brought me some relief, as the unknown began to feel less ‘un’ and more ‘known’.
That night we pulled the hammock out of the way, and the three of us lined up on the tile floor and slept side by side with our sleeping bags and earplugs.
Sleeping with strangers has never felt so comforting.
The next morning we all packed up and made our procession out to the sidewalk. Juan was chatting with us amiably and helping us out the door.
Charles, Denise and I navigated through the city, and then, after a few blocks of riding together, they turned left and I went straight.
I took a deep breath. Here I go… I thought, watching the highway take shape out in front of me. I would be on Highway 180 for the next week or so.
After sitting and gazing out over the ocean some more, the waiter arrived to take my plate away. I was left with my coffee and orange juice (probably not the best combo for my digestion, but who cares), which I took as long as I wanted to sip and savor.
In Mexico they NEVER rush you in a restaurant. You can sit at your table for hours, maybe even days, and they’ll just smile and offer you more coffee.
But eventually I did raise my hand for the waiter. “La cuenta por favor.”
He bustled away to count up my order.
I’m doing it, I thought, watching a large, blue-black grackle making a ruckus in the tree next to me. I’m enjoying being alone.
It’s so hard for me to go to a nice restaurant, or hang out in a beautiful place and not be filled with the desire to share it with someone.
It’s not that I don’t feel like I deserve it, but I love sharing the world with other people. And maybe I’m afraid it’s as if none of this actually happened, if there wasn’t someone to witness it.
‘If Jahnavi hangs out in a fancy hotel and meditates by the gurgling pool in the garden out back and no one else witnesses it, did it really happen?’ 😛
I say good bye to the waiter, who wishes me luck and ‘cuidado’ (‘be careful’), and make my way back to my hotel room.
I’m taking a day off at this hotel, because since I left Villahermosa that morning with the french cyclists, I have been pulling 7-8 hour days, fighting a headwind as I travel alongside the Gulf of Mexico. My body wants a bicycle, wind and sun free day.
My first day back on the bicycle, from Villahermosa to Frontera, was 82 km and so easy, I was confused. It only took me 4 ½ hours, and there I was, in Frontera, booking a room at a cheap hotel at 2 pm.
I figured the next day, 99 km, shouldn’t be so bad.
But that’s when I hit the waterfront, and was reminded about the joys of a nice, healthy, headwind. At first I was more focused on the fact that I was being rained on pretty thoroughly for a couple of hours, but once that cleared, I began to feel concerned.
I was traveling so SLOWLY.
After 5 hours, I had only gotten halfway to Cidudad del Carmen, the town I was intent on reaching, where a Couchsurfer named Victor Hugo was awaiting my arrival.
It was like moving in slow motion for 9 hours straight.
When I finally reached the city–after crossing a mile long bridge and weeping copiously as my speed slowed to a crawl due to the even greater wind exposure–I had to cross through the entire city to the other end, where Hugo lives.
At one point I pulled over to look at my cellphone map, and a very excited, older Mexican man approached me, eager to practice his english and find out what in the hell I was up to.
I was so tired I could barely conjure up my good manners, though I appreciated his interest in my trip. Most people just regard me as an alien here in Mexico, so when someone actually treats me like a human being and asks me about my life I feel glad.
After chatting with him and explaining that I was riding my bicycle to Brazil and yes, I am crazy, I continued on to Hugo’s apartment.
Hugo was amazed to see me and my bicycle pull up to his place, and helped me inside.
The beer I drank before we ate dinner was like an elixir of life, and we talked about travel, my sister and her husband’s 6 month excursion across half the world, my mom and my brother living in India, and his part in his family’s business.
I had been planning on continuing on to the next place in the morning, but I had already arrived at Hugo’s much later than expected and was feeling rather knackered.
I awoke early the next morning, looked at some maps, and finally decided I would take the day off.
After a morning meditation session with Addison over the phone, I wrote this down from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book called ‘Fear’:
“If you are capable of living deeply one moment of your life, you can learn to live the same way all the other moments of your life.” -Thay
Sometimes I do need to live life moment to moment–any more than that can feel overwhelming when I am in a certain state of mind. And now I can just consider it a meditation practice, this one moment where I choose to live deeply.
“If you can dwell in one moment, you will discover eternity.” -Rene Char
Hugo took me to Walmart so I could buy supplies for my trip (and where, coincidentally, they were blasting capoeira music), and then we ate lunch under an oceanside tent restaurant.
We discussed jealousy (something Hugo struggles with, as do I and most people) and he asked me how I deal with it.
“Meditation!” I said. “It’s the only way!” I laughed.
He was intrigued, so we talked more about meditation and discussed the best way for him to get started on his own, since he’d never done it before.
That evening, my right hip and leg began to hurt so badly, that I was having trouble walking. I tried to brush it away, assuming I would feel fine in the morning and be able to ride.
I stretched, massaged the area, slathered myself with biofreeze (thanks again Diane!), drank a glass of water with arnica drops in it, drank magnesium, and then finally lay myself out to sleep. It took a while to fall asleep, because the only comfortable position for my leg was straight, so that didn’t give me many options for how I could lay down (and boy do I like to shift positions every 5 minutes).
I awoke at 6:30 am, eager to find out if my leg had magically healed overnight.
But when I stood up to walk to the bathroom, I was filled with dismay. It hurt just as badly… maybe worse.
I called Radha and Erik (who are in Thailand) and discussed the situation with them.
Finally, I decided I would have to take the day off. Even if I could manage to get on my bicycle and ride 80 km that day, getting off to walk around was agony, and probably not the safest situation to put myself in considering I’d be traveling out in the middle of nowhere, alone.
So I stayed, and spend some quality time with Fear.
I’ve been meditating so much on this trip that I told Addison, “I’m beginning to feel like a monk, like I’m in a monastery… but I’m on an epic journey at the same time… so it’s like I’m a warrior monk.”
The day off didn’t kill me, and I even got some practical things done, including making music with my mandolin.
“Art is the essence of life, and the substance of art is mindfulness.” -Thay
The following two days would be a blur of oceanside cycling, granola bars, sunburn, Harry Potter audiobook, hotels, limping around, whistling Mexican men, semi trucks, gray foxes, coatis, iguanas the size of cats, swamps, mangroves, beaches, albatrosses, eagles, hawks, fish, exhaustion, alone-ness, and more meditation.
Having spent so much time gazing at the ocean, I gleaned this thought from my reflections: “The ocean is not afraid of change. She never stops moving, never stops shifting, and changing the sands at her edges and the ocean floor beneath her.”
At another point, as I was riding past miles of mangroves and swamps and listening to Danny Malone’s album, ‘Balloons’, this question he asks stuck with me:
“They say the way to know yourself, is by yourself
But what if you’re someone you don’t really wanna know…?”
When I pulled into Champoton yesterday and saw the Hotel Posada la Regia on my right side, I didn’t care if it was cheap, expensive, new, old, had internet, or hot water… I just wanted to stop, and sleep.
But after being shown to my room and realizing it’s actually a nice place and a reasonably nice town, and taking consideration of my very unhappy right leg, I decided I was staying an extra night and that was that.
“The past is not me. I am not limited by the past.
The present is not me. I am not limited by the present.
The future is not me. I am not limited by the future.”
My goal right now is to rest, write, read, and (yes, you guessed it) meditate. Than it’s another three days to Merida, where a warmshowers host is awaiting my arrival on Saturday.
I’m learning to relish this alone-ness, to let it sink into my skin.
Because once I get to Playa del Carmen, I may be traveling with a whole lotta people, and potentially looking back on this sweet, quiet time wistfully–and then turning back to my large group of humans and reveling in their company all the same.
“The greatest suffering can be overcome through the simplest of actions…” -Me
In the past couple of weeks I have cried more and slept less for the longest stretch of time I can remember.
And whenever I would have a moment’s rest from the onslaught of pain, I would wonder… “How can I stay here? I don’t want to go back down. I need to stay above water!”
My sister brilliantly reminded me that I could listen to Thich Nhat Hanh on YouTube or podcasts whenever I wanted.
My own mind was struggling with creating and maintaining a positive thought stream, and I found it almost impossible to stay in the present moment.
So I turned to Thich Nhat Hanh to fill my head with the good stuff. 😉
It took a couple of days of listening to him, but finally, one of my bigger questions was answered and I had a tool I could use to make changes in the recesses of my consciousness.
Thay said, “If you are listening to a CD and you don’t like the music that is playing, why keep listening to it? Just change the CD.”
Simple, yet brilliant.
“If your thoughts are causing you to suffer, why continue to listen to them? You can make a change, right now. You can choose to stop your suffering, right now.
There are seeds in your unconscious. Seeds of love, of anger, of joy, of hate. If you water the seeds of hate, anger or despair, they will take root and grow strong. You need to sing them a lullaby, and put them to sleep. You need to water the seeds of joy, of hope, of love, and they will grow strong in your mind.”
So thank you for being part of my practice of watering the seeds of gratitude and love in my consciousness. I am going to share with you everything I have been grateful for and appreciated over the last couple of weeks here in Mexico.
This is my lullaby, sending the seeds of despair and fear to sleep. 🙂
The first thing that I think of when I feel this swell of appreciation in my heart are the people I have met in the past few weeks:
And there’s more and more…
I’m thankful for the sunsets here…
I’m thankful for the beautiful city of Queretaro…
I’m thankful for cute dogs… 😀
I’m thankful for the beautiful art of basketry…
I’m thankful for the mandolin and the ability to play music and heal…
I’m thankful for my noble steed, my amazing bicycle who carries all of my stuff and goes with me everywhere…
I’m thankful for capoeira, my saving grace, and Professor Marcego for saying, “If I check on you in a couple of months and I see that you’ve quit and gone back to the U.S., than you’re not my friend anymore.” 😀
I’m thankful for delicious Mexican food…
I’m thankful for walking meditation…
I’m thankful for handstands…
I’m thankful for finding random, inspiring quotes on the walls of a restaurant:
I’m thankful for Mexico City for welcoming me into it’s awe inspiring massiveness…
I’m thankful that Addison Rice, the love of my life is coming to see me here in Mexico City in just three days…
And I am thankful to you, dear friend, for reading this whole post and giving me the gift of your attention today. 🙂