The Yoga of Travel and … The Hero’s Journey

A sunset scene - country road in America's heartland

A private corn field near Utica Illinois bisected by a country road at sunset

The "Universal Eye Media" publishing logo - this blog shares about culture, travel, trucking and a simple lifestyle.

A blog and You Tube channel sharing about culture, travel and a simple lifestyle.

A winding road through the Jamaican sugar cane and bamboo fields.

Traveling through Jamaica we drive fast when the roads cooperate, feeling the wind, and listening to the crickets singing the song of the universe.

Black and white mage of white lines in highway blending into horizon.

Ultra smooth and new highway in Ohio early morning. Surreal feeling traveling on it almost like a sled in the sky.

Square photograph of a black & white country road

Rural Road in Virginia adjacent to a field and wildlife refuge.

Many Americans think of yoga as physical exercise, they know much of the practice involves a series of postures or “asanas” and narrowly focus on using yoga to be fit,  ignorant of the larger possibilities. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” which means “to join” or “to yoke.” The term was used to refer to the yoking together of horses and/or oxen but it came to mean the joining together of the body and mind for the purpose of seeking the divine (my personal interpretation and there are many).  Yoga involves breathing and meditation techniques as well as the discipline of physical postures and flows. Many schools exist with different orientations aimed at optimizing health and well being as well as guiding the student to consciously progress in the spiritual life.

Most of the seekers on the path to enlightenment acknowledge that this life is filled with the illusion of separation from the divine. Many spiritual disciplines aim to pierce the “veil” and bring us back “home” to our creator. We seek the literal “kingdom of heaven on earth” by embracing the great mystery and paradox that we must leave “home” or our own comfort zone to reunite with the essential self and shatter the illusions of the world. They say we forget the reality of our “true” – higher self, that we only remember in glimpses perhaps when we dream. The task of life is to remember, once again our true nature; to “know” it in our day-to-day reality. To “hear” this truth in the silent times that contain the seeds of all wisdom.

Travel necessitates leaving “home” and like Odysseus and others who Joseph Campbell said embark on “The Hero’s Journey” we must sometimes leave one world behind to find another. We may seek pleasure, adventure, gain or employment but most must strike out on their own in this life in the process of individuation, survival and/or evolution.

My “Hero’s Journey” involves a new career in commercial truck driving. In parallel my heart’s desire and gifts have led me to write an ebook for tourists to Jamaica with my partner, Fureus. Our book, Island Voices, Reggae and New Jamaican Music bridges culture and new music for the contemporary traveller.

Either in the air or on the road we who are moving from place to place are warriors and of an independent and odd tribe. I was forced to leave home in search of employment and have become a combination monk and American cowboy as a professional driver/nomad. Seeking to get to Jamaica as often as possible I am facing many challenges and having to live very simply. I experience much austerity and, often the gifts of random kindness while observing a full spectrum of humanity unknown to soccer Moms, cubicle dwellers and suburban commuters.

I practice yoga in my day to day life on the truck and maintain simple eating habits.  I am grateful for fresh food and water when I get it.  I discipline my body and especially my mind to maintain balance or otherwise be thrust into an emotional quicksand of sorts longing as I do for my home and missing the comforts of my lover, friends and animals.

Writing this blog and sharing my journey through photos and in the future video on my You Tube channel is one way I make sense of the hardships I encounter daily. My sense of the beautiful has expanded this year and my sensibilities as an artist are changing as I hone into the essential. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said in his great book, The Little Prince:  “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

It is a mystery and another paradox that we photographers and artists seek always to express what is in our heart through our work.  Visit this blog often to share my journey and in doing so the deepest recesses of my heart.

 

 

Waves of Snow on Interstate 80 in Wyoming

Driving across Interstate 80 at daybreak in Wyoming high winds rip across the road. Snow blows in ripples beautiful but scary powerful. Coming first from the southeast and then from the northwest, the wind blows. The waves of snow come like trails of a woman’s long hair. The big bright moon shines upon the wild world.  A moon at daybreak is always a special sight.

The scene is surreal.  I am taking the video as my colleague, Helena drives. We are both quiet and reverent, respectful of this force of nature. Wyoming is known for the dangerous winds and many times the speed limits is only 35 mph on an road that is usually 75 mph for cars.

snow_wyoming1

The Language of Trees

“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven,” said Rabindranath Tagore.

“God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying ‘Ah’…” Joseph Campbell.

Travel necessitates the experience of being encased in metal and steel: cars, planes and for me, eighteen wheeler tractor trucks towing trailers across America. Instead of walking barefoot in the sand of Florida’s or Jamaica’s beaches where I have homes, I find myself in dirty parking lots stained with oil and usually strewn with trash. My heart yearns for the natural places I love. It’s no wonder the images I most enjoy creating are of trees, nature, ocean and sky.

Lately I’ve been thinking about aging yet know we are immortal beings having a human experience. As a 21st century woman it is slight comfort, we who have been brainwashed to value our worth on youth and looks. The battle of the ego over true self is the task of life and I’m a dedicated warrior.

In the truck I listen to audio books and music as I drive.  I get most of the books from LibriVox an organization that provides audio books that are in the public domain.The books are free and have been recorded by volunteers.  I’ve been listening to Hans Christian Andersen, a favorite author known for his fairy tales and highly revered in his home country of Denmark; most people are unaware that he was a accomplished traveler. Wikipedia says “Andersen took heed of some of the contemporary conventions about travel writing, but always developed the genre to suit his own purposes. Each of his travelogues combines documentary and descriptive accounts of the sights he saw with more philosophical passages on topics such as being an author, immortality, and the nature of fiction in the literary travel report.”

Andersen’s stories are mythical fables woven with magic, tenderness and a universal view of humanity. He conveys a mystical understanding of the depths of human kindness and benevolence contrasted with our demon nature when we are overtaken with greed and striving.

As I planned to write this post I knew I wanted to share images of trees and I remembered the story by Hans Christian Andersen called “The Old Oak Tree’s Last Dream.” It is the story of a grand oak tree that finally “dies” in a winter storm being torn up by the wind. Before this, the tree has a magnificent dream, reminiscent of a stellar acid trip or cosmic moment when the one is united with the many and the universe is perceived as a speck of dust and all eternity united as one.  One part of the story is an interchange between him and a “May fly” – Ephemora, a species of fly which lives for only one day. They speak about the relativity of their life spans – the tree, “thousands of seasons and the fly, thousands of moments.

These musings prompt me to encourage each of you who has taken the time to read this post to give thanks for this moment and plant trees whenever you are able.

Stunning poinciana trees in bloom are enjoyed throughout Jamaica. This beautiful specimen graces the road to the pristine public beach in Duncans, Jamaica.

A stately Poinciana in bloom overlooks the road to the beach in Duncans, Jamaica. It is always a welcoming sight for both locals and tourists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This artistic expression of young trees in Oregon depicts their "bones" in the dead of winter.

A group of young trees taken in winter from the highway in Oregon.

 

 

 

 

 

A birch tree amid fall colors in Sundance, Utah.

Fall colors at Sundance in Utah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken in the neighborhood of Spicy Hill - Duncans, Jamaica the Tamarind tree has a sour fruit.

Tamarind tree at dusk in Duncans, Jamaica.

Tales from Big Sugar

A blue sky showcases the C&H logo on the top of their huge sugar distribution facility in Crockett, CA. A colorful train on the tracks moving by in the foreground of the image.

California & Hawaiian Sugar Company on an October day, 2013. In the 1920s the company employed 99% of Crockett’s population now less than 1% work there. It is a forbidding place with broken windows and dirty grounds. The company has been cited for 144 water-permit violations and 72 instances of records falsification since 1995.

Looking up from the C&H Sugar Factory arcs of the bridge

View under the bridge at C&H Sugar Factory

Industrial shapes and metal worn with wear decorate the landscape.

Shapes abound at the C&H Sugar Factory. Industrial metal colored by wear and weather.

I found myself at the C&H (California and Hawaiian) Sugar Company as a CR England driver, another adventure with Laura. We wove down a steep hill in the 18 wheeler searching for an entrance to the facility. When we did find an unmarked path into a dirt parking lot, the disgruntled guard directed us to drive through a maze before telling us we had to back up half the length of a football field. The shabby grounds were filled with other trucks who had been waiting hours to be loaded. Menus from take out joints in the area were posted nearby, a testament that we would be there for hours, hungry and waiting. It was a full moon and as the night closed in the broken glass windows and victorian looking factory took on a solemn and haunting feeling and one could imagine the ghosts of many souls having traveled through the place.

Consider that sugar was the oil of the 19th Century perpetrating slavery, war and colonialism. We all know the sweet stuff which is extracted from sugar cane and sugar beets. The C&H Factory makes their sugar only from the cane. It is situated along the waters of the Carquinez Strait a narrow tidal strait in northern California, part of the tidal estuary of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin rivers as they drain into the San Francisco Bay. The C&H sugar distribution factory manufactures 6 million pounds of sugar a day.

Sugar is recognized as an addictive substance and a major factor in causing obesity and chronic disease. Now many Americans are slaves to sugar based diets and this insidious manipulation of the food supply is spreading around the globe.

According to Wikipedia, “In 2005, the common stock shares were acquired by American Sugar Refining (ASR, better known as Domino Sugar), a company owned by Florida Crystals and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. Florida Crystals is a privately held company that is part of FLO-SUN, a sugar empire of the Fanjul family whose origins trace to Spanish-Cuban sugar plantations of the early 19th century.” The Fanjul family is famous for their pollution of the Everglades. They were parodied in Carl Hiaasen’s 1993 novel Strip Tease, which features a pair of Cuban brothers who own a large sugar conglomerate, that receives enormous profits from the exploitation of immigrant labor and the subsidies regularly voted to them by the United States Congress.

Now their spin is that they are the model of “environmental stewardship” for the cleanup of the Everglades but those of us from Florida know different. I recognized their name sitting in that truck searching on my iPhone for information about C&H. Beware Big Sugar in all it’s forms. It’s staggering to think after making billions of dollars from sugar causing war, pain, pollution and now human suffering. The C&H grounds are shabby and distressing. Still, as a photographer I was fascinated by the industrial landscape and as a human humbled by the contrast I find in this great wide world.

From “White Collar” to “Blue Collar.” How I found “The Weekend” or Getting a CDL in California

The image shows a blue sky, mountains, a layer of fog and a golden field. On the left one can see a highway extending forward.

Layer of fog in the early morning traveling east from California toward Salt Lake City, Utah

In September I entered a training program with CR England to get a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) in California. It was a fast and furious immersion into a new skill. I got a permit within a week and within another two weeks had learned how to operate a semi tractor to pull containers/trailers and had taken the exam by a California certified DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) examiner. The CR England program entails entering two phases of training culminating in driving 30,000 miles and staying on a truck for about 2 months straight. In December I graduated their program and now I’m working on the Relief & Recovery Fleet – finding my way and gaining experience and confidence. The program was not easy, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life…definitely out of my comfort zone.

My first trainer, Laura, is only 24 years old but a consummate professional with a great work ethic. Compassionate and funny she was a blessing. As a lover of music she introduced me to “The Weekend” aka Abel Tesfaye, a Canadian recording artists and record producer. He’s really hot right now and is often categorized as alternative R&B. His voice has been compared to Michael Jackson.

Learning about music is important to me as I market “Island Voices Reggae & New Jamaican Music,” written by Fureus and I. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to get a CDL – finding a corporate position has eluded me since being downsized by AT&T Wireless several years ago and making stable income with my consulting company, art gallery and other efforts has not been successful. Trucking for some reason is the door that continues to open now and I’m embracing it.

It has been a surreal transition going from a “white collar” corporate person to a “blue collar” worker. I have considerable investment in my education and spent the last several years gaining more technology skills, teaching certifications, etc. Those efforts were for naught in terms of employment but looking at the big picture – all good in terms of my interests and goals. My maternal grandfather was a teamster and I come from good solid people – father and brothers in the auto body business though my Dad was the mayor of our hometown, Leominster, MA. I was the first in my family to have the privilege of a college education, with my mother following quickly after (she graduated at the top of her class – I did not). As “smashing the ego” is a good thing all the way around, I welcome being on the open road instead of in a cubicle but as with all professions there are good and bad aspects. One feature of trucking that I love is my exposure to America – new vistas everyday and the ability to make images along the way and interact with a multitude of people. Some of them look sad at the truck stops but I think they are mostly tired and I am of the philosophy that a smile is a free gift I can give to all. I have decided this journey is in alignment with my publishing goals to create and market electronic and audio books about travel and tourism. In my blog and social media sites I’ll be sharing photos and reflections along the way.

This image taken on the truck with Laura is the early morning fog as we traveled through Utah on the way to Salt Lake City.