Travel. It’s something I do these days. More than I’d prefer. If I didn’t HAVE to travel, I’d probably never go more than 30 miles past the end of my lane. But because it seems to be what’s required of me these days, I’ve figured out how to make it work for me. I’ve discovered it’s in the little things, the perks. A handmade travel case I adore. The snacks I prepare the night before. The books I get to read. The luxury of a quiet hotel room that’s all mine. The dinner I pack on ice that greets me when, travel weary, I open my suitcase the first night I arrive. Time to paint my toenails. Time to think. Stare out a window.
When I hooked up with my friend Jo in NC recently, she asked what I was doing for dinner the first night. I mentioned my little ice pack/dinner routine. She scrunched up her nose and said, “Of course you pack a dinner.”
It’s the little things.
Most of my flights out leave at 5:30 am, meaning my alarm sounds off at 1:55 am. Bathe. Finish packing. Load. I leave in the dark, but before I make my final ascent out of here, I always stop to say, “Goodnight, little farm. Goodnight, little family. Goodnight moon.” With my hand gripping the handle of my jeep, I do, I say it every time and then I take one last deep gulp of good, clean air before I turn my life, limb, and soul over to the airport gods. Come what may, I gave proper gratitude.
I have this notion that in that moment when I’m about to take a licking of some sort, far away from home, far away from all that’s familiar, I’ll have ONE thing to lean on. That proper goodbye. That out loud thanks I gave. I HAD time to say goodbye and I DID.
After each successful trip, I drive home borderline giddy but once I’m here and I’ve walked through my door, I feel undone, discombobulated, disoriented. Dang it, EVERY TIME. Mired in a loblolly.
Hot bath? A walk?
Because I’ve been unable over time to figure out how to make myself FEEL better in those first few hours back home, my friends have found the solution. My animal friends.
We need hay.
Our water buckets want a good scrub.
Our stall (litter box on a grand scale) needs to be mucked out.
There’s a burr in my tail.
Pebble in my hoof.
My mane is tangled.
Goober in my eye.
WE NEED. WE WANT.
It’s the little givings. It’s the non-verbal NEED. The snorting. The smell of animal. The ecstatic sound my milk cow made when I gave her a handful of green bean vines.
Because that’s where the energy is. The alive, fresh, before-society, primal, grounding, PLACE is. The you-better-get-at-it motivation that MOVES me to a better place, no travel required. Pulls me from my HUMAN what-I-feel-is-so-important place.
When I try to BE ZEN, I’m too human. When I’m with my animals, my human self disappears.
Animals REQUIRE that you accept them, as is. Out there in the world, it’s all about who I’m trying to be, think I am. When I’m with my animals, I’m generous. I’m calm. I have an open heart.
A Zen proverb says, Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
I get it.
It’s looking like I’m down with:
Before travel, give thanks, say goodbye. After travel, haul manure, pack water.
Pack a dinner.