Two years ago, I wrote a post about my roller coaster ride of a birthday / Summer Solstice weekend. This year, I got another bumpy ride, literally.
I was driving up Pacific Coast Highway, along a scenic stretch between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, where beach after beach awaits exploration. I’d taken the coast route because it was an exquisitely beautiful day and I wanted to gift myself some pleasure on my birthday. At the same time, having been away for eight days on a no-cation (meaning I’m off work and away, but attending to other business), and having been on the road the whole day prior, I was anxious to get home and “start my day.”
What’s up with thinking the destination is the point to the journey? What’s up with the notion that the fun begins when I retire, when I finish this project, when I have a certain sum of money (when I’m dead)? Oh boy, here comes the John Lennon quote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Yep, and my birthday is what was happening to me while I was busy trying to get home to celebrate it.
Because of my focus on getting home, it never crossed my mind to stop at one of the beaches, which is unusual for me. I was also easily triggered by the leisurely pace of some of the drivers on the two-lane highway. And so, with my hackles up and my sights on my final destination, the bumpy ride began.
It began with a ka-clunk sound that had me think something in the back of my VW Camper had fallen. But a quick look over my shoulder revealed nothing out of place. Moments later, the dreaded “thunk-thunk-thunk” noise and the way the steering wheel was taking on a mind of its own told me the ka-clunk sound was something I ran over and I had a blowout.
Picture, HWY 1 – minimal to no shoulder in many places, one lane each way, no divider, cars traveling 50 to 60mph … My first thought was, “where do I pull over?” I was gifted with a small stretch of sandy parking space across the road and no on-coming traffic. I tucked my van into the one spot left among five parked cars and assessed the situation; brand new tire, flat to the rim.
Pumping with adrenaline, I pulled out my AAA card and prayed for a cell signal. Prayer answered. I could not pinpoint my location, but AAA operators are very patient and the tow truck driver (who is local and knows the area) could call me on my cell if he could not find me.
As I awaited AAA, I took in the warm sunshine, watched fishermen catch rockfish and discovered I was at A Wit Bird Rock which is part of Bean Hollow State Beach. There was an abundance of wild flowers, birds and butterflies to enjoy. Life decided to have me notice it instead of my plans, and so I did. I got an hour at the beach. If I wasn’t going to go to the beach, the beach would come to me, in the only way it knew how.
I came to see the blow out (once I knew I was safe) as the call to adventure.
We often say that something like this is meant to slow us down and bring us present. Yes that and… it was the wildflowers wanting to be seen and the ocean breezes wanting to be felt. It was the fishermen wanting to be celebrated and the birds wanting to be heard. That’s what I mean by the call to adventure: those experiences and moments that are begging to be had and noticed, that take us out of our well-worn grooves and off our beaten paths.
To be with the unknown, to embrace the Great Mystery, we are called to be adventurous.
I realize I’ve been treating my birthday, Summer and Winter Solstices and New Year’s Day as heavenly oases in a desert of obligation, duty and struggle. On my birthday I celebrate me and on Solstice and New Year’s Day, I plant the seeds of intention.
That’s way too big a desert and way too few oases. I’m not a camel, though I can imitate one pretty well.
Life celebrates itself every day all day long. That’s what I want for my journey and my time on this planet to be too: passion, adventure, celebration.
I still got home in plenty of time to enjoy a last minute invitation to dinner at a friend’s home.
Oh and Solstice?
Another dear friend and I drove along country roads and over forested hills to an un-crowded beach where we delighted in the perfect temperature mix of sun and ocean spray, watched seals watching us, cooled our toes in the water and simply savored the longest day of the year.
At one point, I ventured to begin a conversation about intentions and my heart wasn’t in it. I was already living what I’d intentioned a few weeks back: adventure: taking off with a friend in her souped-up Jetta, hanging at the beach, watch-free, judging time by the angle of the sun and the tan lines on our shoulders, moving when the time felt right to move. We explored and found a place to eat when we got hungry and by the time we got home, the Solstice sun had set.
What’s different now from 2009, is that I am moving into experiencing life more and planning it less. Each moment is sacred and every day is another opportunity to assess, reassess and offer intentions. The signs and feedback, which I used to view as playful ways to make meaning, are becoming the constellations by which I navigate.
Something big happened to me when that tire blew out. I have felt altered ever since. I have felt more disconnected from the stuff that doesn’t really matter and more connected to that which does, as if that which matters most claimed me for its own. The stuff that doesn’t really matter was really high maintenance and took a lot of my time, needed constant vigilance and upkeep, required lots of planning, manipulating and analysis. It’s all just a big smoke screen; a huge distraction from that which really matters, including me.
So, dear reader, what, what adventure great or small, calls to you today? How will you respond?
Copyright (c) June 2011, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved