“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” Edward Abbey
This quote had me in tears, and simultaneously feeling deeply seen and relieved the other day. Reading “May your trails be crooked, winding…” I expected the words following to be romantic notions of what it means to wander in life. Perhaps “beautiful, juicy, and exhilarating” would be the glamorous descriptions to follow. But “lonesome, dangerous”? Yes. Thank you.
Sitting atop a rock in Pinnacles National Park, looking down into a crisp and dry valley seared from summer heat, I felt my whole body relax and return to ease as I read this. Not only because I felt that a major part of my recent experience suddenly was placed into a meaningful context— but because this quote is formed more like a blessing or a prayer than a description. Edward Abbey isn’t just saying “my trail was like this” … he’s saying may your trails be like this. Why?
Perhaps because loneliness and risk are parts of doing something personally meaningful? Perhaps because a life that is safe, comfortable, and always filled with other people at our sides will not necessarily lead us to experience the strength of our own mettle, or the necessity of our own dreams?
Perhaps because these kind of experiences make us arrive at those amazing views on our hands and knees, tearful, and truly understanding what a gift it is to even have the opportunity to choose our own trail?
I don’t know exactly what this meant to Edward Abbey- but this is what it meant for me in that moment.
For those who don’t know me— after finding music, and launching a business (hub for the forms of guiding I offer, both mountain and life) I also “freed” myself from the overhead of a home and became location independent. Each of these three paths, (music, business and location independence), has been profoundly beautiful and deeply challenging.
It is beautiful that each part of my work is work I have chosen, work that has emerged out of my passions and talents. It is beautiful to me and I’m grateful to do work that I believe in. Sometimes my work even makes a difference in people’s lives.
The beauty and divine qualities of my musical path are that it gives me a textured language in which to express myself. It gives me infinite room for growth and learning. It provides some form for the artist in me that loves to create and explore. Music swims in the part of me that aspires to express the beauty I see and feel through the lens of my own unique life. Music humbles me and requires more of me than I am able to give it, which is frustrating right now. But the dream of it is exciting and beautiful to say yes to.
The dream part of being location independent has been experiences like living in an airbnb in Missoula, Montana for 2 months, getting to explore a new town and new mountains, making new friends, and even teaching a workshop in a new place. It’s so fun to explore a place deeply over the course a several weeks, to pretend to live there and get to know it like a local and then being able to move forward when work draws me somewhere else.
For example, after exploring Missoula and its surrounds I strung together several experiences in different locations without having to think at all about who’s going to water my plants or whether my bills were paid before I left. In May I left Montana and drove to a really sweet airbnb in Salt Lake City, then on to stay with some new friends on their farm in beautiful Paonia, Colorado. From there I met my cousins new baby in New Mexico and attended a course to recertify my Wilderness First Responder in Albuquerque. From there I went to San Diego to officiate my brother’s wedding, and then flew to Costa Rica to teach at an amazing horse therapy retreat near the Arenal Volcano. I drove through rain storms and under rainbows, saw new places, stayed with wonderful people, sang in strange cities, participated in important life events with those I love the most and got to weave it all together in a seamless month of life.
But while it is a life of freedom, fun, beauty, and liberation … it is also lonesome, dangerous, and a bunch of other unquote-worthy descriptors. It is also not being able to go put my fingers into the soil of my garden in the cool morning air. It is also not cultivating community at the local dance studio where I’ve been learning hip hop for the last year. It is also not taking singing or guitar lessons. Not having a music room. Not being at friends birthday parties. Not watching the sun move further north in the sky, and then trace it’s way back south over the course of the seasons. It is disorientation. It is lonesome. And it is, at times, dangerous and strange— like when I slept in the back of my car at a gas station outside of Bakersfield and awoke to a schizophrenic man staring at me most of the morning, certain that we knew each other.
It is this reality that I understand… and still struggle with. There has been no amount of knowing it will be difficult that has made those times less difficult. When I am feeling low out on the road there is no other time in my life I remember feeling as vulnerable. Questioning; what am I doing? Am I delusional? What am I creating?
Ultimately this post is simply to share a little of what my actual experience has looked like. To say to you that creating my own life has been the dream, and also not the dream. Or perhaps more accurately to say that the dream is always also a real trail with actual stones in it.
There is comfort in remembering that sometimes the path has to go through treacherous terrain to land us where we are longing to go. And that perhaps looking back at the crooked, winding, lonesome and dangerous path we’ve walked we may be able to see an amazing view, invisible from where we came from. The amazing view may be forward, but it may also be the view looking back from where we’ve come. Perhaps it must be both.
The path we choose leads us always to new trails, and the opportunity always to make new choices. Sitting on top of that rock in Pinnacles I sat with an emerging yet clear inner truth that I am ready in a new way to have that home again. To plant myself on the earth, under the sky, and to experience some of the limitations of movement that come with the beauties of rootedness. A trail which, I’m sure, will have lonelinesses, and dangers of it’s own. And will just as certainly lead to “the most amazing view.”