I recently returned home to the Upper Peninsula after a week-long visit with my mom in the Thumb of Michigan. It’s a 550 mile drive from the western U.P. through the sands of the eastern U.P. through breaking-into-spring greens in the upper Lower Peninsula to the hummingbirds and cardinals near Lake Huron.
I drove alone, all those clickety-clacking miles with the tires strumming their traveling song. Although it’s always a different kind of pleasure to trek with Barry or the kids or a friend, it’s especially lovely to take the trip alone, steering the car left or right at whim, surrendering to the flow of life.
It usually takes two days on these solo adventures because, hey, who wants to travel 550 miles in one day? Only someone who wants to get there fast, right? But I’m of the opinion that the journey is equally important to the destination, so stops and side-trips sometimes abound.
You see, what traveling solo blooms for me is this–entering and realizing the flow.
You know how we so often remain in our heads, our thoughts spinning tale after tale about who-said-what, or what I should do next, or how to fix this problem? Thoughts can take over, mile after mile, minute after minute, until we’re buried in a grave beneath the earth without ever truly realizing that there’s another reality pulsating alongside the thoughts. Every single clickety-clacking moment.
The Canada geese winging overhead know that nature moves them in their amazing V-formation without thoughts about what’s-for-breakfast or who gets to be the leader right now or how come I haven’t been the leader since last Tuesday?
Nature moves life constantly. Spring knows when to spring. Winter comes, whether we appreciate her or not. Leaves gently rock on the trees at dawn. It’s all the motion of life, coming, appearing, disappearing, gone. And then it’s something new. Each moment is filled to the brim with the gift of itself.
I call it the flow because it’s life moving, and there’s nothing like a Buick heading south to watch thoughts move to the background and the silence of just-being-here to settle in the foreground.
The car almost drives itself with soft alertness at the wheel. The gaze turns to a rocky cliff and moves immediately to an old wheelbarrow beside a rickety cabin. It shifts to the radio and delights in “Put your head on my shoulder” and then there’s an upswelling of prickly tears because that was one of my dad’s favorite songs. There’s a thought about Mom, waiting all those miles away, and then a police car passes by, and now the stomach rumbles and the steering wheel turns almost effortlessly in the next town and you wonder “Where will I eat?” and the next moment it’s leafy spring greens and warm duck salad and you’re totally amazed that you ordered duck–duck?–because it’s so unexpected and you can’t ever remember ordering duck before because you even labeled yourself “vegan” for years. It’s a gourmet restaurant in Gaylord called “The Bearded Dog” and you bring half of it in the car, and they even give you a plastic fork, and you have no idea when you’ll finish the bounty.
On the way home I realized that flow is the very life-juice that makes me the happiest. For example, writing this little post is a surrender or engagement with flow. The fingers simply type and words appear like magic and it’s exquisite. It’s why I’ve liked writing since age eight.
It’s always been hard to explain my relationship with photography to anyone–but I finally understood on this trip. My personality does not really care about taking pictures very much. It’s possible to not take photos for days, weeks, years. But when the flow is ignited–when it decides to take pictures–it’s amazing. The flow moves the camera, the flow snaps pictures, the flow delights in every movement, every capturing, every angle, every new aim. Bystanders will watch and think I love photography, but it’s the flow that I love. The flow moving and creating and who-knows-where-it-will-move-next?
The flow is always unexpected. It’s a gift we’ve all been given–we are part of the flow. We often think we need to make so many decisions (shall I go left or right? shall I retire or keep my job? shall I stop at a motel or drive home? should I go to the doctor or not? should I should I should I?) but sometimes it’s possible to let go of the chattering inner thoughts and discover that there’s an underlying flow already moving. And it seems to sense or know exactly what to do next.
The flow doesn’t always seem to move in some kind of perfect la-de-da way, either. The flow moves into hard places, snowstorms where you can’t see out your windshield and you think you’re going to die, flat tires, broken glass, exhausted I-need-a-cup-of-coffee moments.
Yet, if you stick with the flow, it does seem to contain a wisdom. It gives us what we need. The next lesson, the next realization, the next ah-ha, oh that’s what it’s all about.
Between Munising and Marquette on Thursday, the flow moving Kathy along the road of life, I suddenly felt a desire to write this post. (The flow had not shown any inclination of writing a blog for a while.) Energy and thoughts zinged, inspiration ignited. And I looked up in the sky and a bald eagle flew just over the car, looking at the softly lapping waves of Lake Superior, his white head reflecting the sun.
The flow does that. It seems to reveal its presence in serendipity, in synchronicity. It gives nudges, whispering silently: Fly this way next…trust me…