As I sit here in Ha Long City on Christmas day, half way done with my travels, I find myself changed. It is up to the eye of the beholder to determine whether or not my transition is negative or positive. In the light of this travel blog, one will most likely assume a change for the better, but somewhere in my transit from Casablanca to Hanoi, I lost some items very dear to me, chiefly among them, Mother Bear. Sorry, Hawk.
This hit me pretty hard. My spiritual guide was gone, the symbol of my serenity in the face of inevitable opposition along my journey. In my mind, this setback perhaps perpetuated bad things to come, for as I sat down to apply for my Chinese Visa during my long stay in Vietnam as planned, I gradually discovered that it was a lost cause. Many different factors attributed to this, among them my own shortcomings of procrastination and ghosts from past. I could blame the Trump administration for its unwillingness to play well with others… true on a grand scale, but that would be disingenuous to myself personally. In the last month, everything felt like it was falling apart. I had already booked tickets to China, wrongly assuming that the whole application process would not be the red tape, bureaucratic nightmare that it is. I will not be visiting a shaolin temple in the Fujian Provence, an experience with the undeniable potential of being some much-needed spiritual insight. I will not be visiting my old high school buddy, Derek in Shanghai. Long sigh.
But its pretty difficult to stare at the natural karst monuments of Ha Long Bay as the Vietmamese sun rises on a new day, and not feel grateful for what I still have… and yes, I have seen at least one rainbow here as well. Throughout the course of this journey, my view of god has changed dramatically. Raised in the First Congregrational Church of Christ, I have always had some semblance of a relationship with God, ranging over the years from border-line agnosticism to full-on philosophical discussions with the man himself, call me crazy. I call it prayer. It seems for the last ten years that God and I have been merely roommates in a shitty, two-bedroom apartment… the occasional rendezvous in the kitchen to snap at each other over dirty dishes or the like. However, early on in this journey, we managed to share a passing joke that made us both belly laugh, the kind where you roll around on the floor because nothing else matters. It has spawned many other delightful interactions… being bathed by the afternoon sun of a Norwegian fjord island as untouched as a baby’s bottom… playing futbol with my new soulmates on the Tenerife beaches… watching the sun come up over the Sahara.
As I began talking to God again, I realized that his voice had changed. It had become higher in tone, more feminine, more nurturing. He had become she. Of course! Gaia! Terra (if you wanna give her a name… I’m just gonna call her Mother Bear)! It all makes so much sense! In my experience with the twelve steps, my higher power has always been nature… of course not God in the traditional sense. We had been in the middle of a falling-out for years. As I have eluded to, there have been times when faith has eluded me. Science and evolution seemed a lot more plausible. They still are, but personally, this just fits me like a glove. Plus, if you know me well, you would know that I’m a diehard environmental activist. Why had I not seen this before? I felt like slapping myself across the head and saying “Duh!”
I haven’t lost Mother Bear. She never left. Sure, her earthly avatar decided to ditch the road and settle down in Muscat or Bangkok (my layovers between Casablanca and Hanoi), but she is still with me. In fact, Derek an I have already made plans to meet in Denver on the way back where our mutual friend, Jud lives, our own little high school reunion… so everything should work out. It always seems to anyway.
Along with Mother Bear, I also lost my favorite watercolor brushes (I hope she takes up watercolor painting with her retirement as an expat in Thailand), but those are replaceable, and I will continue to paint the global landscapes for this blog. I will also continue to travel, and I believe that with grace and fortitude, I am ready to handle anything the road wants to throw at me.