A New Bohemia Birthday ~ Cedar Rapids, IA

cedar rapids

It’s been a week since I drove through Yellowstone, and I have felt a lurching my heart to write.  With each new experience, I’ve had to catalog and wait for later.  Or let it go. 

I remember early on, when I was headed from Seattle to Hayden, seeing a sign for Historic Wallace.  I looked at the oddly smokeless sky, and had an itch to go visit.  What’s in Wallace?  I’d never even heard of Wallace.  But I felt the twin desire to arrive at my destination and rest.  That was a day filled with smoky skies and sneezing, and I knew more than anything, I needed to be horizontal.  I wanted to see this town, this place nowhere near my to-visit list.  It could have been, probably was, remarkable.  But I kept driving.  That’s how it goes sometimes. 

I am sitting in a metal stool at the breakfast bar of the best Airbnb I’ve stayed in stateside (the heart house),  The sloped roof is covered in shiplap.  The bathroom is decked out with a clawfoot tub, and textured flamingo wallpaper.  The living room shelves sport roller skates, a typewriter, and a record player.  It’s no wonder I’m warming to Cedar Rapids. But I’m sitting here with a long list of things I’d like to write.  My fingers feel like sentences I’ve yet to tap into existence.

I didn’t write about these things yet because I been moving; making the events occur that I want to write.  There has been a tug of war between the drive to experience, and the drive to write.  Right now I want to slow down.  I want to stay in this apartment in New Bohemia all day.  I’m satisfied to know there are brewhouses and clothing shops all within walking distance.   I’m grateful as can be that the sun is shining, there is no lightning, no low hanging ominous cloud cover. 

Sometimes I think like every experience has multiple layers ~ the prediction/planning, the actual experience, and the aftereffect.  I guess that’s more or less past present and future.  Bear with me for a second here.  Take going to the gym.  Before you go, you think about it, then you go, sweat it up, and then you go home, shower, and bask in the endorphin rush.  The Zen masters may tell you the only thing that matters is the present, but I can’t entirely agree.  I am still planning parts of this journey, and I’m excited, for example, about seeing my friend Steven from Tbilisi when I stay in Madison.  Hasn’t happened yet.  And I’m still mulling over the impact of the drive between Sturgis and Sioux Falls, when I drove for four hours through the worst lightning storm I’ve ever seen. 

In the podcast “A Way With Words,” one caller last week asked about the phrase “this is academic” which seems more or less like a dis.  The idea of the phrase is that something is over, it’s a moot point.  There is no solution.  That just makes me think of the Collatz Conjecture, and other mathematic equations.  Really, how do you know if it’s academic, until you fall upon a solution?  The intention behind the statement “it’s all academic” is that after a certain point, discussion is merely for the sake of discussion.  Isn’t that analysis?  Isn’t that philosophy?  Isn’t the unexamined life not worth living?  I personally like a good discussion, academic or not.

As I’ve driven the highways to a near midpoint of the US, my mind has wandered plenty.  We could call it internal discussion.  It’s a great time to generate what I want to write.  At this point, I’ve spent more time on the road than in any one town.  As I’ve driven, my little dog Hoopla has learned a new word: cows.  Whenever we pass a herd of cattle, she runs back and forth across the backseat, as if it’s on fire.  She barks and barks and whines and generally tries to communicate that it’s time to stop so she can go chase the animals.  She doesn’t know that they are about a hundred times her size.  But she does know, because I keep saying it, that they are cows. 

I bring up cows because I think they are symbolic.  In The Odyssey it’s the murder of the cows belonging to Cyclops, Poseidon’s son, that earn Odysseus his major curse.  Cows are sacred in many religions.  In my own life, I connect the animals to the astrological sign of Taurus, a stable, persistent, caring earth sign.  Even if you don’t dig astrology, you can attest to the fact that cows are indeed, stable, persistent, and earth-bound. 

But lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that cows are always chewing.  Because of their multi-caverned stomach, and the difficulty of digesting, they spend over eight hours a day chewing cud.  It’s kindof gross.  Cud is the food that’s been partially digested, gone through round one of the stomach, and is sent back up to the mouth to be reworked. 

I feel like that’s how my mind works.  Maybe that’s how all our minds work.  I experience something, think about it, think I’m done thinking about it, and then it pops back up.  Here, analyze me, examine, solve.  But you can’t always solve.  There isn’t even always a solve for x.  Solve for happiness?  Solve for love?

None of life’s real problems work like math.  Everything that matters IS academic.  When you experience resistance, how do you know the difference between intuition for bad mo-jo, and simple knee-jerk fear?  You chew that cud for a while.  Or you figure a way to bypass it or let it go. 

I suppose a lot of this is just about decision making, and trusting yourself.  And I keep coming back to the same forms.  I have meditated every day of my journey in some way or another.  I have found my way to a yoga mat every few days in the US, and even landed in a class in Tbilisi.  I don’t always trust my mind.  My overactive imagination makes the present moment myth.  It can blur my vision.  And isn’t the world you see in front of you really just a projection of what you feel inside?

Today is my birthday.  I’m alone here in Cedar Rapids.  I’ve been alone in an airbnb every major holiday this year so far.  I don’t want to be alone always, but right now, this is good.  On a journey like this, I can’t get to every destination, despite how easy it is to imagine this.  I love how people misgauge the reality of a long journey to be inclusive of every destination imaginable.  Brazil?  Sure.  Alaska, why not?  It’s not like that.  The same thing happens as I write.  Some writers like to wait until after a journey is over to jot it all down.  They can’t write “hot.”  I don’t know yet when this journey will end.  And showing up here is one of my favorite parts.  I can’t always determine what I’m writing about.  I can’t visit every destination.  I can’t love every person I meet.  But I can love myself, I can show up regularly to write, academic or not.  I can let go, and trust who I’m becoming right now.