Saturday, April 11, 2020

Texas Walkabout







     Between the three-day series on Mount Sinai Hospital that ended Friday and Sunday's 3,000-word Easter special, I'm pretty toasted. Lights on, but nobody home. So I'm grateful that my friend Caren stepped up with this stroll around her Austin, Texas neighborhood. Caren is one of the many folks I've met across the country through "Out of the Wreck I Rise," the book I wrote with Sara Bader. When she said that she is interested in finding an audience for her writing, I volunteered the readers of EGD as a test market. Thanks Caren for sharing your perambulations with us, and thank you readers for welcoming a new voice. 

     I walked over 23,000 steps today on what I am now calling my almost daily COVID Walkabouts. That’s over 10 miles of creeks, frogs, persistent Austin sunshine, searching for shade, lemonade stops, budding trees and popping flowers, making six-foot arcs around passers by, nodding and waving galore, confused puppies doubting their charm, ripe loquats plucked out of trees and eaten, their seeds saved in pockets, graffiti, Birkenstocks, blisters, grackles and choruses of frogs as dark fell. This epic walk also included a family Zoom perched on a curb and a lady walking down the street crying due to an abusive live-in boyfriend who has moved his mother and criminal son in with them without her permission. I wanted to help her but he came a-lookin’ and she didn’t want him to see us talking. At least I was able to show her the full moon and remind her to call 911 if she felt in danger.
     If it wasn’t for the blisters and tired legs I’d have kept going under this full moon, perhaps for ten more miles. Truth is I am avoiding my home that my seemingly callous and uncaring landlord is taking away from me at the end of June when my lease ends, despite the risks that will be associated with my looking for a new place during this state of emergency as well as a bigger risk of moving if shelter in place is still in effect at that time. 

      In cities and towns around the country and the 
world it is not allowed to end leases, use moving companies, or have anyone outside of one’s household help with a move to prevent spread of the virus, but just as Texas has been way behind the curve in getting on board with strict social distancing, tenants’ rights are just as far behind. Time will tell if she can kick me out or not if shelter in place is still in effect. I may even want to move on my own volition before that time just to get away from an uncaring and unstable situation. The thought of being at the whims of this young and unsavvy landlady had my blood boiling and my body shaking for days before I realized that I am tired of being angry and I am ready to let the sunshine back in.
     As a single person who lives alone with no pets my saving grace during this isolation has been biking and walking, as well as sitting outside on patches of grass or stone walls far away from others. I saw my first water moccasin in the arroyo the other day, while simultaneously discovering three beautifully built cairns—those rock sculptures often found in nature—in the flowing water. On another walkabout I met the cairn builder, a lovely neighbor named Lynna who I plan to reconnect with when we are again allowed to visit each others’ homes. I long for that day when we can sit around a bonfire and share songs and stories.
     When I was in my 20s I read a book called Always Running. I forget the author’s name and what the story was about, but that book title used to come to my mind constantly in my many years of running around the world from Belize to Africa to Jordan and many places in between. Many of my travels were local—I’ve always loved to walk from Rogers Park, my home neighborhood in Chicago, all along Kedzie past stores filled with hummus and cardamom and hookahs into Logan Square and then east to the lake where I’d sometimes end up at Tibet House off of Sheridan for a meal and then back home to Rogers Park. 
Caren
      Always meandering, almost always alone, the city streets my path towards and away from myself. Walkabouts seem to keep me out of my head that’s sometimes filled with fear and worry, and into my body, and connected to the earth in a very real way.
     When I was living in the closet of a studio apartment off of Jonquil Terrace with a felon on the run while a grad student at the University of Chicago that was a different kind of running. The running of an addict creating an impossible life in order to not ever have to think about the reality of life and of growing up and becoming an adult. Today I aim to walk closer and closer to a life of calm refuge so I can be a part of this world and see what I can pack into the stream of life as my mentors say. I hope that the solitude and time I’ve been granted to practice meditation, cooking meals at home, plenty of time for exercise due to sheltering in place mostly alone will continue to lead me closer to a life of sublime beauty rather than trying to catch up to the Jones’.

26 comments:

  1. That's my comrade Caren Jeskey! It's a powerful reflection on these crazy times. Keep on writing, Caren!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Neil. Thank you Caren. Reflection and connection and facing the truth of ourselves are needed tools for some of us who still battle addictions and/or are in need if coping tools for mental illnesses brought on by the stress and compounded by isolation.
    Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Paul- I agree. I am also a psychotherapist helping clients navigate all of this as I learn and grow simultaneously. I am also a yoga and meditation instructor and have those tools to pull from, but it was quite challenging for a week and half or so when it just felt the rug was pulled out from under the security I had built. I hope you have people to call and to lean on.

      Delete
  3. Promising start. A concluding essay in about a month's time might dovetail well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the suggestion! Things are changing day by day and I will update the story as it unfolds. Thank you-

      Delete
  4. Interesting and easy to read, Caren. You and your landlord have something in common insofar as you are both part of the trickle down effect. She is feeling pressure from whoever holds her mortgage. That company is under pressure from their investors. No easy answer. What comes through in your writing is that you are a survivor. Survive you will. Maybe even thrive. Best wishes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many people rent because they have no choice but to. Some such as myself are lifelong renters to escape from the responsibilities of property ownership. Property owners take the risks. Renters foot the bill indirectly . For taxes mortgage repairs. I have no sympathy for the gentried class. They always come out on top.

      Delete
    2. So true, although she did not lose income and I have not asked her but I believe (not comfortable asking) that her folks own the home and money is not an issue for her right now. I realize that she is a person going through this too, but she does not seem to have empathy for me and it was so scary to hear that she expects me to move even during a pandemic. I was shaking for days. She showed other uncaring qualities since I moved in last July. I am a lifetime renter who has had very special landlords up until now, and it's been hard to have a landlord who'd think having me move during a state of emergency is ok, since it would jeopardize my health and public health. That said thank you for your feedback! I do feel the thriving coming. I have received so much love and support I am no longer scared. I wish you all the very best too and hope to see you here again!

      Delete
    3. Les- not sure how I missed this point- I do not owe her any money and may be employed again soon. The ending of the lease was not financial, it's only because she may want to move into this house and was not willing to hold off on that and let me lease month to month even with state of emergency. My fear and anger were around my health and public health, and not so much the financial piece. Wanted to clear that up! Though 1/3 of Americans did not make rent 4/1 and it's still not safe for anyone to have a tenant look for a new place and move during distancing precautions.

      Delete
  5. Invigorating. I'm reminded of the Jeanne Calment, who was known for perpetually walking everywhere in her home town of Arles, France, and for dying at the age of 122. Here's hoping Caren will also persist for a long while.

    john

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you- yes, here's to living well, well past 100. I am so glad you were invigorated and hope you continue to enjoy any of my offerings that may show up here.

      Delete
  6. I love to read this - doing much of the same walking, biking during this strange time. Haven't paid rent yet. Thinking a lot about how it feels to navigate new, strange times sober. And how grateful I am for that and the people who encourage that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope this all shakes out very well for you John! A wise person (initials NS, hint hint) recently sent this Milton quote to me: the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. It was hard to hear in the throes of fear but over the weeks of seeing how much support there is in this world I am feeling that heaven may in fact be inside me.

      Delete
  7. Wonderful guide to walking as meditation. 13 years sober myself. Thank you Caren. Thank you Neil.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chris! We will walkabout in Chicago one day in the not too distant future. Thank you for reading.

      Delete
  8. Seems to me this is the exact opposite of "running on empty".
    Thank you Caren! Most inspiring in every way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Baruch! I hope to see you here again.

      Delete
  9. Caren, Reads like a journal or diary. Glad your demons are behind you or at least can now only be found in your writing. Wishing you peace of mind.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Beautiful writing Caren. A nice take on the southern landscape as Chicago spring springs blustery and gray. Thanks for bringing me with you. I know you are able to move through these moments with grace.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Walking is a beautiful way to meditate. How better to BE present in one's body than in movement. Yoga outdoors at a local park was what soothed my needy heart.

    Learning to be still by moving is a paradox, certainly, but I thank you for sharing your journey!

    May you enjoy many MORE simple things as you uncover yourself!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Says I'm logged in but posted as Anonymous. Caren, it's me, Carrie.

      Delete
  12. Thank you for sharing my journey with me. And oh yes, yoga. I will have more to say about that too.

    ReplyDelete
  13. loved reading your meditative beautifully descriptive piece. thank you bro for shining a light on her gift.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comment, which will be published at the discretion of the proprietor.