17. California, Here I Come!

WHAT WAS YOUR MOST RANDOM NEW BEGINNING?

BLOG 17: June, 1997—I look up, from my car, at this beautiful house towering over me in the hills of Oakland, California. I’ve just completed 16 hours of driving, with a night’s sleep in between, and before me are three tall sets of stairs to merely enter the house. Once inside, I discover another two full sets of stairs to get to my new bedroom. It is beautiful, all of it—a house with glass windows that look out at the entire Bay Area—but my legs are extremely tired, and I have yet to carry a car-load of things up these steps.

Paula, my new housemate, helps me move in. It takes some maneuvering around her dog, a boxer that drools excessively and is fixated on licking Paula’s nylons. When the dog does this, her tongue sounds like a nail file, and I cringe.

By the time I’ve moved everything into the house, my calves feel like washboards, hard and unforgiving. I push through what I need to and then enjoy the view of my new house in the hills of Oakland. It’s a good life, if my body can handle it.

My new job with a temporary artist agency begins soon, and can’t wait to go into San Francisco to begin dancing at top-notch modern dance studios. I trust my body will relax in a few days from my long drive and I’ll be ready to begin my next life phase on the West Coast.

In the meantime, I look out these big windows that open out to the bay, and the hills in the distance, as the sun sets over this place that feels the most foreign and new I’ve ever experienced. I’m finally following through on my original plan to live in the San Francisco area, and now—after an eight-month spontaneous hiatus in New Mexico, and a groin-pull injury—I’m here. This place seems more like an Asian paradise of some past life (if at all, and if there is such a thing), but it has nothing to do with my current journey. It’s a new beginning, tied to nothing I’ve ever lived.

WHAT WAS YOUR MOST RANDOM NEW BEGINNING?

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16. Winter into Spring: Move On!

WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR RESTLESSNESS? (especially during younger years)

BLOG 16: January- June, 1997—The surrounding Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains, roads, and buildings that make up Santa Fe, this “City of Faith” in the high desert of New Mexico, are now covered in more than a foot of snow. This small city slows down, while inside homes, fires burn, warming old adobe walls, and filling the crisp, clean air with the scent of piñon smoke.

Days pass like this as I housesit, sitting by my fire, reading spiritual books and discovering a bit more of who I am—or more specifically, who I’m not. During the daytime, I take dance classes, turning, jumping across the dance floor with as much grace as I can muster. Mariko, a visiting dancer from Canada who used to perform with a modern dance group in New York City, watches me move, and at one point shares with my teacher that I am using too much muscle when I dance—not enough grace as I’d like. Her comments seem to sum up my life.

After dancing, I work in the evenings at a restaurant, but my groin and hips are getting tired. They are done with all my pushing, all my determination to dance despite having severely pulled my groin muscle months ago when I spontaneously stopped and decided to stay in New Mexico on my way to California. Working as a waitress seems to just make matters worse. I feel a dull ache as if I have an eternal bruise, and it’s tightening my muscles and making it more painful to sit and walk with each day that passes.

In order to stay in Santa Fe through the winter and into spring, I find another housesitting situation, and then rent a room during my final stay in this city. I move a carful of boxes from one place another, which puts more pressure on my back and hips.

I miss Albuquerque and the Sandia mountains, but I enjoy the solitude and time for myself inside this winter wonderland. I learn to be more still than I have ever been, and embark on spiritual journeys. When I hear songs or talks on the radio about Native American experiences in this country, I cry. I feel lifetimes—or past lives, perhaps—where I have lived as people here have lived. I feel deeply connected to roots of this land. There’s a familiar feeling here that opens my heart.

As spring approaches, though, so does my restlessness. I take a trip to Utah, but I’m disenchanted by the tourist playground there. I also spend time in Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains, camping, and completing my time in New Mexico as I promised the land I would do six months ago.

By late spring I’m ready to go to California as I had originally planned.  My hip hurts more than ever (even after going to a chiropractor and doctor that provided little assistance), but I have a job lined up in Berkeley and a house to share in the mountains of Oakland. I am excited for a new adventure, although I’m not prepared for the reality that lies ahead.

WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR RESTLESSNESS? (especially during younger years)

15. Sacred Rituals of Ordinary Life

WHAT IS A SACRED RITUAL FOR YOU?

BLOG 15: December, 1996—I’m sitting by the fire in my temporary Santa Fe home in New Mexico’s high desert. Back from a brief trip to California, I’m reading Malidoma Some’s book, Of Water and Spirit. Malidoma’s words transport me to his village of Burkina Faso, West Africa, where he grew up and was later kidnapped by Jesuits who attempted, unsuccessfully, to infuse their values into him before he escaped back home. I’m drawn to Malidoma’s description of his people’s rituals and their deep, deep connection to the unseen world that is intricately and magically woven into their lives. I know that feeling of running from a sterile environment that doesn’t weave the sacred into the ordinary.

I decide not to go home to the East Coast for the holidays this year. I don’t feel my parents are ready to accept the diversity in my life, and I’m not prepared to return.  So, for Christmas, my boyfriend Richard comes up from Albuquerque to visit, along with my friend Eric, who is part Jewish, and his mother who is visiting from Philadelphia. Our eclectic celebration consists of sitting by the fire, exchanging gifts in a silly Yankee Swap (where you pass out cheap, used gifts you don’t want and fight for the best one of the lot), and singing to Eric’s fabulous piano-playing. Eric’s mother has the fortune of getting the gift of a bag of condoms, of all things, and I decide somewhere during that night that I am no longer interested in having a relationship with Richard (it probably didn’t help that Richard, who drove up with Eric and his mother, actually asked Eric’s Jewish mother what she thought of German concentration camps!)

After our indoor festivities, we go out onto Santa Fe’s Canyon Road, a road of galleries that for Christmas Eve is lined with farolitos (paper bags with candles in them) and bonfires where people gather around them singing. Eric eventually gets tired of “baby Jesus songs,” as he puts it, but I’m in awe of the warmth and organic spirit of people gathering together to celebrate life as they have done for centuries. It takes me back to Spain, to when my family and I visited the mountains outside of Granada for Christmas. It was snowing, the smell of fireplace smoke filled the air, and the bells were playing in the distance. My father grabbed my hand, ran me around in circles, proclaiming that Santa Claus was coming. I knew that Santa didn’t exist, but I nonetheless enjoyed the innocent magic of that night that had nothing to do with the modern commercial way of American Christmas.

WHAT IS A SACRED RITUAL FOR YOU?

 

 

14. I Promise to Return

Have you ever felt that a part of you belongs to an ocean, a mountain, a river…that you are that place, and her spirit lives in you wherever you go…that you are made of that essence as you travel the world bridging the love of one far distant mountain to another, or of rivers seeking out the ocean? This Equinox, I was blessed to host a Peruvian Despacho in my home, with Sally Moon leading this earth-honoring, life-giving ceremony of renewal and balance. In honor of this time of planting seeds of love into spring’s softening earth, I didn’t send out a new blog. But instead, I ask this question, which came from beautiful comments by Alorah and others, in my most recent post, I Promise to Return. I share it again with you, looking forward to your experiences. Blessings of Spring and new life!

Michelle Adam

DID YOU EVER LEAVE A PLACE PROMISING TO RETURN?

Blog 14: November 13-19, 1996—I made a promise to these wide-open lands of New Mexico that I would return to them if I took off to California for a short visit. After all, I didn’t want to get into another car accident as I had done when I had tried to leave this state during my first weeks in Albuquerque.

So, with caution, I bid my new Santa Fe home a temporary farewell, and flew out to Los Angeles. My plan was to visit the City of Angels and then to travel up to San Francisco, my planned destination home prior to staying for an extended time in New Mexico on my cross country trip from the East Coast in September. I needed to find out what was there in California, and get it out of my system, if nothing else.

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14. I Promise to Return

DID YOU EVER LEAVE A PLACE PROMISING TO RETURN?

Blog 14: November 13-19, 1996—I made a promise to these wide-open lands of New Mexico that I would return to them if I took off to California for a short visit. After all, I didn’t want to get into another car accident as I had done when I had tried to leave this state during my first weeks in Albuquerque.

So, with caution, I bid my new Santa Fe home a temporary farewell, and flew out to Los Angeles. My plan was to visit the City of Angels and then to travel up to San Francisco, my planned destination home prior to staying for an extended time in New Mexico on my cross country trip from the East Coast in September. I needed to find out what was there in California, and get it out of my system, if nothing else.

Los Angeles felt like one big haze, all cars moving through fog, through pollution mixing with the sea air along multiple highways. While it looked nothing like New York City, it felt like the Big Apple I had lived in for a year. Where was everyone going? I visited a friend from high school, but there was no ground for me there. Nothing tangible to connect me to the land.

In San Francisco, I saw Jane and Geri, my two friends who had been partners in crime on our cross country trip. They were settling into life in the Bay Area as they had planned, but they understood my call to spend time in New Mexico. I looked at schools, at programs, at jobs, but didn’t settle on anything. With potential job offers, and a possible home to live in with a woman moving into the Oakland hills in several months, I had options.

I would be back to California, I figured, but only after spending the winter in Santa Fe under snow-filled skies and slow-moving days and nights that would give me a chance to be still in a way I had long desired.

DID YOU EVER LEAVE A PLACE PROMISING TO RETURN?

13. A Fire Inside

HOW HAVE YOU RETURNED TO YOURSELF AFTER LOSING YOUR WAY?

Blog 13: November 5-12, 1996—The fire inside my new home in Santa Fe, an hour north of Albuquerque, is bright and warm, unlike the night sky. It’s colder in this town, nestled inside the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains, about 2,000 feet higher in elevation than Albuquerque. But I’m here for two months, in a home I’m housesitting so I can be with my spirit and its magic buried under years of dust.

These days, I spend little time with Richard, my short-lasting boyfriend. I also rejected an offer to work at a Hispanic Radio Program—an unusual opportunity in this high desert town—because I’m more focused on taking dance classes during the day. It’s odd to have declined this offer, since I really need to rest my legs from the growing pain of walking that began with my groin-pull injury less than a month ago. But my determination to stay the course—to dance and be free—make it hard to receive the gifts I have been given.

I am glad to be here, nonetheless. The fireplace warms me, and the house cat keeps me company when I’m not working at the local restaurant, where I’m on my feet all the time. As I sit in front of the fire, I read spiritual books. I also recall the East Coast—all the innocence, all the romanticism of a mysterious world seemed unattainable to me there. Instead, I felt enclosed by suffocating walls. That little spirit of mine that had always believed in something magical, the unknown, had died. And nothing mattered. I had gone through years wondering why I lived. I wondered if my life was worth anything, why I should even try. I questioned whether there was a God, whether my existence had any reason. I used to sit in my room for hours asking why—why I was here on this earth inside the emptiness I felt with my family.

Here in Santa Fe, I don’t feel home, but I experience a sense of home inside of me. I am here to connect to myself and the unseen world that has always called me. I am here to wrestle to the ground that part of me that incessantly tries to prove herself; to let go of my heart’s lingering attachment to an East Coast dance partner with whom I had shared great joy and pain; and to move beyond the soulless material world I had been raised to value after leaving Spain as a child.

HOW HAVE YOU RETURNED TO YOURSELF AFTER LOSING YOUR WAY?

12. In Search of Magic

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?

Blog 12: October 22-28, 1986—I can’t keep track of time in this love bubble. What is happening to me? I am becoming completely lost in this place that feels oddly right. This space of nothing. Everything moves through it at an unusually slow pace—slow, but fast. It’s a contradiction, like when they say you have to go slow in order to go fast.

These days I ride on a prayer, especially since making a promise to this wide-open desert of New Mexico to stay here. Given my background as a journalist and photo-journalist, I decide to interview and write articles on Debbie Jaramillo, the first female mayor—and definitely the first Latina mayor—of Santa Fe since it was inhabited by the Spanish 500 years ago. I send my articles to major Latina magazines, which eagerly accept them. But for the most part, I am content living day to day, dancing, making love (with Richard), and going nowhere, really.

But then, suddenly this bubble bursts, and I scream out, banging the floor in rage, asking why in the hell I’m out here. I feel lost and uncomfortable with this feeling. I want something magical to happen, for some insight to explain this odd stop in the middle of the desert. I want to learn from a shaman or someone who can show me how to work through the blocks that keep me resisting the magic I believed in as a child.

From seven to eleven years old, I used to sit in the fields of Spain and pray to God. For some innate reason, I believed in magic, in an invisible world, even though I was raised with little religion. Later, in my mid-twenties, when I danced with my partner, Stefan, I also experienced how we are creators of the magic that exists between us and our relationship to the eternal. I lived that magic, but now, here, in a land so similar to the high mesa terrain of central Spain, I’m lost.

I sit still with myself and ask what it is I really want. I came out west because I longed for more land, more humanity. I wanted love. I had also hoped for home where I didn’t have to fight to live a spiritual life, and where I could find wisdom in the ancient ones.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?