Tuesday February 25th, 2020
My departure day
Back to my winter mountains
With joy in my heart
I slept fitfully last night and decided to sleep in a little past my alarm. Today is a big travel day for me and I want to go into it as well rested as I can. I’m looking forward to my travels and winged journeys today. I’m looking forward to landing in Missoula when the day ends, where my people and my sweet little house reside. I’m turning in ocean for mountains; warmth for cold; blooming flowers for snow – and I’ll tell you: it’s a good trade.
One moment, here.
One moment, elsewhere.
An imprint of energy,
a momentary lingering,
a reminding fragrance
of something long ago.
I am a guest in this place.
I will be a guest in the next.
Just passing through.
My mental landscape was very much angled in the direction of home this morning during my sit. Few and far between were the moments when I was fully with my breathing in the present moment. Sometimes that happens.
The rising sun is slowly alighting the hillside situated out the west facing bank of windows here in the DH. It’s a blue sky day here in southern California. When I lay my head to pillow tonight, I’ll be in my own bed, in my own dwelling place, in my own town. And I’ll need to adjust on a few levels: of being back in the world of stimulus; of being solo without Mike; of having many things to do and places to go and people to check in with.
The light is further down the hillside. Soon, the chill of evening’s leftover shadows will be swept away by the sun entirely and all will be revealed.
When I depart here, I will leave as both the same person as when I arrived and someone different, for it can be no other way. I have been nourished in this place and I will take this nourishment home with me in my heart pocket, ready to greet whatever comes next.
It seems fitting that I should be here in this empty Dining Hall; tea in one hand, pen in the other. It’s something in the way of closure. A bird sits perched on a metal folding chair just outside the window, seeming to take in the view. The sun has almost awashed the whole hillside in light. Shuffling noises emanate from the kitchen and the hot water boiler gently gurgles. A part of me is sad to leave but the biggest part is joyful and ready. My air-traveling sangha awaits – and I have a growing feeling that they need me.
11:55am (San Diego airport terminal)
Gate 44, waiting for departure. After a radio filled Uber ride, I am at the airport, ready to take flight. I made it through the long slow line at security with still plenty of time to spare. As I enjoy collecting state-related travel stickers from different states that I visit, I looked around for a CA sticker to adorn my Contigo. It’s a funny thing: travel stickers. Some states – like Montana – are chock full of stickers while others seem to be in a sticker dead zone. I went into one standard airport catch-all store and found all sorts of delightful products for sale (there was a whole Mister Rogers section and a bunch of fun socks!) but, sadly, no state stickers. Then I went to a second place and found something that I can make work. It’s basically a postcard-sized sticker. I figure I can cut out the small part I’d want to put on my Contigo and call it good.
When I was back home in PA in December, I discovered that PA is like CA: a sticker dead zone. In both cases, the airports were full of state shirts and hats and keychains and magnets and shot glasses but there was no love for state stickers. I find this quite peculiar.
People are starting to loiter around the gate I will depart from. Out the bank of windows, a blue sky rolls on and on. I will soon be on my way to Denver, where I will have a 3-hour layover before heading home to Missoula.
Monastery mode has me feeling a bit removed from this active environment but not in the way you might think. I don’t feel overwhelmed or inundated or unprepared for the stimulus. Rather, I feel it passing through me; not sticking. I feel energized and ready for travel, not so much in physicality but more in spirit; in attitude; in heart.
Sky high. Cruising altitude. I’ve been wonderfully assigned to a window seat with a front row view of landscaped beauty in sprawl below. Patchwork agricultural fields; fields of sand; textured hills and mountains; earth lines and designs; blue sky holding our metal bird in the palm of its hand.
Each seat has its own screen on this leg and most are up and running. After a bit of confusion and frustration, I finally figured out how to turn my screen off, as it was showcasing an action packed, violent-looking movie trailer when I sat down. It seemed at first to be a mandatory viewing situation until at last I discovered the screen controls on my arm rest. There was no obvious way to turn it off so I simply pushed the screen brightness button all the way down until it went black. Ah, relief.
A flight attendant just came by offering a few select snack options. On principle, I always decline complimentary in-flight beverages and snacks. There’s just something that doesn’t sit well with me about taking one-time use tiny plastic cups and tiny snacks in tiny plastic wrappers. Even if I were thirsty or hungry, the amount I would be given would not amount to much in the way of satiation. So programmed are we to drink and snack at the drop of a hat that it’s rare that I see anyone else ever decline such things. I reckon the airlines figure it’s a pretty cheap and easy way to serve as crowd control; sort of an ounce-of-prevention-pound-of-cure sort of deal. Give the people tiny beverages and tiny snacks, that’ll keep em docile till we land! I reckon it works pretty darn well too.
For quite a while now, we’ve been flying over uninhabited landscape. No houses or main roads, just swirls of browns and tans and the texture of unpopulated earth. Our pilot just turned off the fasten seat-belt sign and came over the speakers to tell us so. He instructed us to keep them fastened while seated though, in the event we run into turbulence. Apparently, some airlines have chosen to stick with the old school terminology of “turbulence” while others have updated to “rough air.” As far as I can tell, they mean the same thing. And who knows, perhaps other airlines have their own trademark signature handle that I have yet to hear. Choppy air (oh wait, I think I have actually heard that one at some point); fluttering pockets of air; loosey goosey air currents; tip-your-drink wing shakes; rump shaker mix em ups; tipsy turvies; or just simply: the shakes. I think I’m a natural at this turbulence renaming thing.
I’m guessing we’re flying over Arizona now, based on the landscape below. Is Arizona the state next to CA? Or is it New Mexico? Nevada? Anyway, some state is located underneath us. Small while tufts of clouds are on the scene now and there are distant mountains topped with snow. Swaths of sand and rocky rises, ruts, and plateaus glitter red in the sun. We are a lucky people here in these United States, surrounded by such beauty and opportunity to live and prosper.
What an amazing undertaking it is to fly. To leave one destination behind milling about in one season and to arrive in another location milling about in a different flavor of perhaps the same season, in the span of one day’s time.
The smell of my seat mate’s freshly acquired cup of java is making my stomach queasy. We’re also coming into some patches of rump shaker mix em ups (here’s to that one catching on and going viral!). Our captain has turned back on the fasten seat-belt sign. So this is me, signing off for now.
6:00pm (mountain time!)
Gate B15 at the Denver airport. One more leg to go.
I had some fries and a soft pretzel, hoping it won’t be too much too soon from having spent 2.5 weeks on a limited diet at the monastery. A small red-headed boy is zooming around our gate area, arms outspread like an airplane. Kids are truly the best.
The sky is turning dark outside the terminal window and still the airport city marches on. So many dear workers tending to the smallest of details to make our flights possible. It’s really quite something.
I’m tired. I can feel the tiredness making my eyelids heavy. I imagine falling into my bed when I get home, shoes still on.
Missoula bound, wings in the sky.
While waiting in Denver, I hopped online for a bit to check out my backlog of Facebook messages and notifications. I also checked in on my email. I had 375 unread emails. Many of them were easy to ditch, so I spent 15-minutes or so beginning to whittle them down to the ones important to keep. My plan is to have a home day tomorrow to rest, settle in, and ease into my transition back home. No emails, no home business, no sangha business. I’ll have to go to the market for some food but I’d like to keep it at that. Thursday is when I’ll delve into the turning of home business gears and email land.
Our captain announced that light winds are coming from the north in Missoula at 5mph and it’s 33 degrees there. Good to know.
A flight attendant moved me to an exit row window seat and I have the three-seat row all to my self, as does the guy she moved to the other exit row window seat across the aisle. I’m dancing wide with two seat back trays down and my shoulder bag situated on its own cushion with my shoes kicked off.
While we were on the tarmac in Denver, lining up to take our turn on the runway, I caught sight of the waxing sliver moon.
It was a breath of fresh air to fly over the Rocky Mountains of Colorado on our way to land in Denver. Thick snow and tall peaks were a sight for sore eyes. There’s something grounding about the mountains; something ancient; in sacred accord with simple living and the reminder to live life now and live it well.
Cruising altitude. The tiny drinks and tiny snacks have already been doled out. I’m tired but not enough to sleep. The energy of returning home is perking me up and I’m buzzing with anticipation. I’m on a metal bird with my people; my Missoulians; my fellow mountain dwellers. Good people, I’ve missed you. We’re all soon to land back in the land where we belong.