Archive for December, 2011

December 28, 2011

Vagabond Mantra by Robin Baker

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

This is a beautiful poem written by fellow vagabond Robin Baker. She currently lives in Nepal and has her own website called nomadtracks.org. I encourage you to check out her website, as she’s a fantastic writer with enchanting prose and intriguing tales from the road.

Here is just one of her lovely entries.

Happy birthday, Mother

Happy birthday, mother.
This year, in your honor, I
wander the desert gathering
our memories like clues,
hoping that somewhere
I’ll find you.

It reminds me of the drive we took
almost twelve years ago, an early celebration
of my birthday.
Just us three; you, Papa and me.
You were sober then for the first time in
who knows how long. We
left behind nights when
you would slouch over and rest your head on
my shoulder, weeping,
“I’m such a horrible mother”.
We left behind charges of neglect and
screaming fights and lies and
empty stomachs and went
West. Thank you
for that birthday gift, mother.

There is a photo of you
days after our return, leaning
on your bed, legs thin and bare,
shirt raised, displaying ribs
blue, purple, blackening.
Now I know you didn’t do it on purpose.
Did you?  Because the night before
my eleventh birthday you moved
your things and yourself into my room,
raged fitfully in my bed all night while
my friend and I lay scared on the floor.
Your body
writhed beneath the moonlight.
You moaned and shouted.
And when I asked you why
you said you hadn’t said anything.
Your stick-arm shot
up from the  bed and,
grasped the windowsill as you yelled,
“please I have to get up!”
I stood, clasped your right hand
helped raise you from the bed. Then
whoosh—you were
too weak to stand.

In the morning Papa wrapped you in a blanket and
carried your body, draped over his arms like
an empty sheet, down the stairs
to the car.
To the hospital. I was told to
send my friend home and search
for anything you may have taken.
I reported my findings over the phone:
the Tylenol PM you’d been taking nightly
for weeks, your prescription, Antabuse,
which was supposed to save you
from the stuff in the small bottle I found
in a box high on the shelf of my closet.

Later Papa returned and
brought me to the hospital where
I wasn’t allowed to see you.
“Too much”, they said. I stayed
all day in the hospital waiting room with
strangers, nurses, doctors saying
“happy birthday, Robin. Happy birthday”.

You were moved to a bigger hospital where
we waited for
something to happen, for
the stomach-ache to subside.
I’m still waiting.

Your parents arrived. Finally
allowed to see you. We walked
down a hall and turned the corner to the
last room on the left, through
glass doors and curtains to find light
leaking through the drawn blinds. An outline
of the Rockies painted the backdrop of
your body swollen in the hospital bed, of
your yellow skin and the pinks of your eyes
bulging out between your eyelids.
Steady beeps and the gasp of your
breathing machine beat out
a jumbled melody.
I held your hand beneath
the sheet while
they extracted your
blood and cleaned it and
put it back inside. I saw it spinning
around in tubes next to your bed.
They shuffled you over to
the chair where you sat with glassy eyes
and gurgled and smiled while I tried to
talk to you. “Mom, I love you.”
You couldn’t say the words but
your lips moved.

And then away my brother and I went
with your parents to Michigan
to wait to hear your voice after
a surgery they said you’d die without (if
it didn’t kill you).
They wanted to stitch up
your insides which I saw leaking
blood into a box at your bedside.
The phone rang while I painted your get-well-sign.
It wasn’t you.
I watched from inside as Grandpa folded Grandma
into his arms and she cried,
“my poor baby, my poor baby”.

That night we flew back over the mountains,
landed in the airport with the white roof where
we were told the machines would be
unplugged. It was time to say goodbye.
No lights.
It was crowded.
I’m shy.
I held your hand and whispered, “goodbye”.
I’m sorry I didn’t say more then.
Mother, I’m sorry we didn’t have
a better goodbye.

In the morning the phone rang.
“Hello? ” I asked.
“Mom is with God now”.

Alone, barefoot, I stepped outside
greeted the early morning sky, where
part of me still lives today.
I didn’t see you up there.
You used to say that we were
connected. “Stuck together like glue.”
So when you died
a part of me died too.

Now I know you didn’t do it on purpose.
Okay, maybe I don’t. Because
when you died
a part of me died too.
I want it back.
I look for it here in the desert, among the empty
streets, in my car, in my lonely
tent and I look
in the sand and under the rocks and in the sky
and I want even more for you to be
there too. Because it would be nice to say
happy birthday, Mom.
Happy birthday.

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December 20, 2011

Let Go

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

Dear Wandering Soul,

I know that you once held dearly to comforts that kept you warm at night. I know that some of those comforts may have hindered your growth, blinded you from beauty, and stifled your essence.

It may have been beliefs about how you ought to live your life that you held on to. It may have been material possessions. It may have been a routine that you could rely on.

Then, one day, you let go. You started the journey of your life.

ocean_cerf-volant 

Here is a lovely poem about letting go. The author is unknown.

LETTING GO TAKES LOVE

To let go does not mean to stop caring;
   it means I can’t do it for someone else.
To let go is not to cut myself off;
   it’s the realization I can’t control another.
To let go is not to enable,
   but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means
   the outcome is not in my hands.
To let go is not to try to change or blame another;
   it’s to make the most of myself.
To let go is not to care for,
   but to care about.
To let go is not to fix,
   but to be supportive.
To let go is not to judge,
   but to allow another to be a human being.
To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes,
   but to allow others to affect their destinies.
To let go is not to be protective;
   it’s to permit another to face reality.
To let go is not to deny,
   but to accept.
To let go is not to nag, scold or argue,
   but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
   but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.
To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody,
   but to try to become what I dream I can be.
To let go is not to regret the past,
   but to grow and live for the future.
To let go is to fear less and love more
Remember: The time to love is short

 

Note: That breath-taking photo above was taken by a woman named Anna at: http://anna.ogcreation.fr/blog/ I encourage you to visit her blog to see more stunning photography.

December 19, 2011

Vagabondism Breeds Love

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

Man is born to live, not to prepare for life.
Boris Pasternak

This may sound like such a mushy, sentimental post. But I’m serious here. Something about being out on the open road liberates my spirit to such heights that altruism and kindness flow more readily from my being. I’m more inclined to smile, relaxed enough to let someone “go first,” and enjoy doing nice things for others that make their lives a part of my adventure and my adventure a part of their lives.

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When wandering freely on a vagabond trail, all the random flickers of possibility sparkle along the road. Everywhere, there is a glitter of “maybe” and “if the wind blows in that direction, then…” In this state of being, we’re elevated, in some ways. The constraints of a job, a long-term plan, and a routine are clipped from our essence. What’s left?

For me, I find that joy is what’s left. A pure state of self is left. Are we meant to have a job, a long-term plan, and a routine? Some might say this is the “responsible” way to live your life, but I might argue that it’s not what we were born to be. It’s not even living, in my opinion. It’s a kind of death, in fact.

“Lara walked along the tracks following a path worn by pilgrims and then turned into the fields. Here she stopped and, closing her eyes, took a deep breath of the flower-scented air of the broad expanse around her. It was dearer to her than her kin, better than a lover, wiser than a book. For a moment she rediscovered the purpose of her life. She was here on earth to grasp the meaning of its wild enchantment and to call each thing by its right name, or, if this were not within her power, to give birth out of love for life to successors who would do it in her place.”
Boris Pasternak

In this state of ultimate spiritual freedom, I’m the most altruistic. It makes me think that my fellow human is often chained to the belief that he or she must conform, and from this uncomfortable place, they express anger and selfishness. I want to ask: Have you not heard your own voice? Have you not been silent enough to hear the sound of your own breath? Did you feel it enter and exit your body? And then did you know what it really was? That was your life, that needle sharp awareness is everything that you are. Don’t belittle it and call it wrong for not being something more like the scenery all around you.

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When you hit the road, when you let go, you’ll see how rapidly scenery can change. But that little breath within you is all you are. Offer this to yourself, to your neighbor, to the world, and learn to love with every breath.

At our center, we are love, aren’t we? And how can we ever reach our center if we are bogging it down with lies all the time? Lies telling us that we must hoard loads of crap in our closets. Lies telling us that we must live in a space with central heating and have 2.1 children and keep up with the latest of techno-gadget electro-toys. Shush. Silence. Listen to your breath. 297192_286842384683661_237871249580775_973043_1975508857_n

There is nothing but a road.

There is nothing but a road and which way you will go today.

Doesn’t that make you want to smile? And if a little old man cuts you off in line, aren’t you more inclined to think something more like, “I wonder what his journey was like?” rather than, “Old jerk has forgotten his manners! I was standing here first!”

I really do think that the open road brings us closer to our true selves, which in turn makes us more loving, altruistic, kind beings.

What say you? Agree with me or not?

(Ajax, please let me know what Kierkegaard said about this. You were saying some great things about that today and I’d love to hear more.)

December 12, 2011

Vagabond Type of the Day: Pseudo-Citizens

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

Day 4

Pseudo-Citizens: My Nation is Humanity

I have no religion.

My religion is love.

I have no nation.

My nation is humanity.

– Yunus Emre

photo_4177_20100924

Pseudo-Citizens, by their very name, are international. They are short to long-term inhabitants of lands other than their birth country. These types often settle in a foreign country and learn the language, pick up the local customs, and integrate into the society. They may even pick up a university degree in the host country and will almost always add work experience to their resumes. They are not adverse to most norms of a dominant culture, are highly adaptable, and usually self-funded. This means they work as they go (English teachers, writers, travel guides, camp counselors, fruit pickers, etc).

They may stay in the foreign country for only a few months or they may eventually become citizens. Usually, they don’t stay anywhere long enough to gain a new citizenship—after all, they are Vagabonds! They need to move!

Whereas a Transient is motivated by a desire to live life in388585_309115029107997_160072314012270_1174770_853491106_n a pure form within a community, a Thoreau is motivated by a desire to live life in solitude, and a Nomad is motivated by a desire to move constantly, the Pseudo-Citizen is motivated by a desire to discover something new while expanding horizons. This is why they move to a country only for a time. They want to learn the language and get familiar with the local culture. Once they have accomplished this, they are often well into their planning for the next country. Sometimes, however, they do fall in love: either with the culture or a person living there. If this happens, they usually will settle for the life of a Frequent-Flyer or Back-Packer Vagabond (coming later). They may get lucky and marry a fellow Vagabond.

My good friend Left Eye Looking is a Pseudo-Citizen (as am I). She has lived in so many countries that I lost count, and she speaks so many languages that I’ve never been able to remember them all without asking her to remind me again.

December 4, 2011

This is what the open road sounds like…

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

The first time you break free, all that pent up anticipation, not knowing what “free as a bird” will really feel like, your toes tingling…your heart racing. You head to the train station, the airport, the bus stop, the designated car, or your feet. You’ve already said “farewell” to all those you knew for so long who will watch you leave, because they are all so darn content with staying right where they are.

But you can’t.

You need to go, move, break free, explore, see the world.

You versus the conditions–versus circumstance and change and a possible major accident and discovery and getting lost. You versus potential failure and ending up with some weird disease or hungry and stranded. You versus your own ignorance.

Goodbye, you say to them all. And you go.

That first moment when it’s all behind you, the last string is snapped, and nothing more binds you.

What is that feeling?

It sounds a little like this:

December 4, 2011

Vagabond Type of the Day: Nomad

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

Day 3

Nomad: Born for the Open Road

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.

(translation)

– Dante

They’re in the crowd; they’re back on he road; they’re here today; they’re gone tomorrow. Now you see them. Now you don’t.

Happy-Woman-In-Golden-Wheat-FieldNomad Vagabonds are a hybrid of the Transient and Thoreau Vagabonds in some ways, but with some added traits of their own. This type of Vagabond moves A LOT. They possess an ever-changing, ever-moving spirit that seeks to absorb more of the world and its inhabitants and more of the open road. They have very few possessions and are often found living their entire existence out of a backpack or less. They rarely feel attachment to any location or person, and they are comfortable both in groups and alone. They may travel alone for a time and then travel with a community for a time. It changes depending on where they are that day. They may take up a temporary job in a town they’re crossing through just to make enough money for more stashed food and a bus ticket to the next town. Christopher_McCandless_into_the_wild-2

They are unlike transients because they are often alone and don’t feel a need to be part of a social community. But they are unlike the Thoreau Vagabond because they are still often quite social, though in a detached sort of way. “Live for the moment!” one might exclaim if you are starting to get attached, make plans, or get them to settle down.

nomads

The Nomad Vagabond is in love with the open road itself.  They thrive on change, new experiences, a sense of total   freedom from limitations and expectations, and personal growth through their experiences. 21wild-600One might say these people are running away from or trying to escape something, but they will argue that blindly following social norms like cattle is a worse form of escapism. For a Nomad Vagabond, the open road and all the variables it implies is the ultimate test of their very fibers as a living creature, a way to transcend the limits that they feel a standard, by-the-book lifestyle would degrade them to. These are the Vagabonds that have wandered for a time with Transients, managed to stumble upon a Thoreau Vagabond in the woods, and have worked a few part-time jobs along the way.

Christopher Mccandless of Into the Wild is a Nomad Vagabond.

December 3, 2011

Vagabond Type of the Day: Thoreau

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

Day 2

Thoreau: The Lover of Solitude

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. – Thoreau

HDTHenry David Thoreau was an American philosopher and naturalist. He broke away from society, went out in nature, built his own house, and grew a garden to feed himself from. He pulled away in order that he might better himself and he used his experiences and insight to write amazing books and poetry. As he puts it:

Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.

I think there is a specific style of Vagabond that very much resembles Thoreau with regards to their beliefs and the way they live their lives. Therefore, I call this kind of vagabond a Thoreau Vagabond.

About Themalone-in-peace

The Thoreau Vagabond likes solitude, silence, peace, and  simplicity. They seek retreat from both people and social norms. They are drawn to experiences which allow them to be alone with their thoughts, where they may ponder life and reflect on themselves. Many Vagabonds like solitude. But the Thoreau Vagabond takes this to an extreme. This type of Vagabond may believe that he or she could live their entire lives without seeing a single person and not miss them much at all—if at all. They may pull away into the shell of a remote destination for long periods of time or even forever.

They are often writers or philosophers. They are very industrious, as they must learn how to deal with a vast array of human experiences with no one but themselves to rely on. This means health, food, hygiene, shelter, and entertainment must all be supplied by the Vagabond as an individual without help from a community of experts (no doctors, supermarkets, laundry machines, pre-made houses, or television). You can then reason that this type of Vagabond is staunchly self-reliant, independent, and brave.

alone3 Often their ideas are unique, as they are able to create their opinions, views, and beliefs without being influenced by masses and popular culture. Don’t be surprised upon meeting this type of Vagabond if they have no clue who Kim Kardashian is and, more importantly, don’t really care. However, they may know a thing or two about history that you don’t, because they tend to like books. I’ve known a few of these types. They abhor being tracked, so any form of identification would be against their nature (meaning driver’s licenses are out). They are also some of the most unusual characters, because they develop their personalities mostly in isolation, so they have very little idea what it means to conform to a social norm, for they aren’t fully aware of what the social norms are—again, they don’t really care, either.

If you think a Thoreau Vagabond just needs a little coaxing and some social practice, then perhaps they could quote Thoreau again in response:

Most men lead lives of silent desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

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