I remember the night clearly. It was around 9pm in late September after my daughter Summer’s chaotic 3rd birthday party. I, standing alone in my driveway under our 25 foot high buckeye tree on an unusually clear starry night, honed in on the round red tail lights that just a few minutes before were MY round red tail lights. My niece and her husband were driving east down Sunset Drive. How apropos because, after all, this was a sunset moment in my life.
A pivotal transition and lesson in un-grasping. Attaching meaning within rather than without. But at that point I had not yet embraced finding meaning within. I was at that awkward stage of wondering if it is socially acceptable to go in for the hug or not. So, I just stood rooted in shock with stinging tears welling up and a house full of guests I had no desire to be around anymore laughing and meandering through brightly lit windows.
That 2000 white turbo diesel Volkswagen Beetle was my “coming out” party in 2002. It was the reflection of me finally acknowledging my “hippie”ness, poetic and adventurous nature, and ultimately cementing that the spark in me was igniting into an inward and outward journey of vagabonding. It also defined my desire to identify the missing “peace” in me, others, and the world.
The door panels became canvases for my peace expression. The driver’s side was adorned with five multi-colored 70’s daisies from my artist neighbor, Jacques. The right side was a billboard of my views on politics, media, goodness, kindness, and, of course, messages of peace, love, joy and balance. These last 4 attributes were my badge of honor and the definition of life ahead of me. In April 2004, I woke up in my apartment in Sacramento, California with the images of a peace sign, a happy face, a red heart and a ying yang burned and branded into my subconscious mind, as well as a town I had never been to or heard of: Prescott, Arizona. It was all as clear as day that I must be this and go there to continue to be this. The pendulum of my life rhythm had cumulatively shortened arcs which stopped like a magnetic force over this Northern Arizona mecca. A week later, I went into the job I loved and gave my 2 month notice and let them know I would need a few days off to fly to Arizona and find a place to live. In mid-June, I put my peace beetle on a trailer behind my u-haul to start anew.
Over the years, she and I went on a 2500 mile road trip through Utah and Arizona to heal from regret, shame and stupid mistakes. She and I spiraled around mountains and desolate roadways to visit hospice patients. She became an acoustical sanctuary as my musician date played “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on his guitar in her passenger seat. She drove out to rescue a boyfriend’s children who wandered off and fell into a lake. She and I got lost on forested back roads and hung out in a literal oasis. She opened her trunk to welcome my dog Preskitt into my life. In 2009, my peace beetle nestled my little Summer in her back seat safe and sound despite her wounds and cracks literally Tyvek taped together from years of adventures.
And then… my daughter outgrows the back seat… I feel a twinge of the breadth of commitment to my daughter over my white arched companion…”But she and I have been through so much together!!”…The loss creeps up from the middle of my chest like a parasite, poking a hole through my sternum causing me to swallow hard and gasp for breath…And then…the day of reckoning when I saw her round red lights one final time.
When I say it was like a sunset, it was really the feeling of the after sunset. The point where the afterglow fades into dark blues and dark grays. The moment when the quiet of night settles in and says to wind down, slow down, settle into the womb and be reborn when the new day comes. So I did, reluctantly, but I did. The next morning, I rebelliously dug my heels in as I walked up to the Honda CR-V…but I sat, I turned it on, and it moved me forward to that inward place of surrender, and I was free.
Sometimes we must stand and watch what we love drive out of sight and around a bend. For those moments, we all have the capacity to reflect, feel, and nurture the uprising of some kind of pain in the afterglow.