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.

 

 

Kiss the Sky

Composite of Sierra Nevada mountains in California with New Mexico morning sky.

“Ghost” image of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the west combined with morning sky taken in New Mexico headed east.

 

Dramatic dark sky taken in June in Duncans, Trelawny, Jamaica - W.I.

Rain threatens the Jamaican coast in June creating a dramatic dark sky.

Unforgettable clouds create a painterly image of the Florida sky

Beautiful clouds above the Atlantic Ocean taken on a July summer’s day from a Jupiter Island home.

A perfect Florida sky reflects in the still waters of the Indian River amid the mangroves

A peaceful scene taken from the red bridge on Harbour Island, a private garden sanctuary on Jupiter Island, Florida.

Driving through North Dakota heavy fog dissipates as the sun pierces through the mist

A strange image of the sun reflecting through the fog in North Dakota – early morning.

“The sky and the strong wind have moved the spirit inside me till I am carried away trembling with joy.”

This quote is attributed to Uvanuk, a female (shaman) of the Greenland Inuit. It is thought that Knud Rasmussen the Danish polar explorer and anthropologist, captured her thoughts in the early 20th century. The legend of Uvanuk is that she went outside her dwelling to urinate and a ball of fire (maybe a meteorite) fell from the sky and hit her. When she revived her consciousness she began spontaneously chanting a poem:

The great sea moves me, the great sea sets me adrift! It moves me like algae on stones in running brook water. The vault of heaven moves me! The mighty weather storms through my soul. It tears me with it. And I tremble with joy.”

Whenever she chanted this song Uvanuk was said to have psychic powers and could tell the misdeeds of people in her presence. (From the book Mystical Experiences: Wisdom in Unexpected Places from Prisons to Main Street by Jack Farrell).

Under the great sky even the mundane can become magnificent. One can only imagine Uvanuk’s experience of the sky in a vast wilderness of ice and snow. There the sky and horizon become one. My experience of the sky is more as a constant companion with a changing temperament.

When driving I’ve come to anticipate the dawn and dusk and the changing colors so filled with light and subtle energy. The morning sky is especially welcome after a night of darkness when I must fight sleep. But always the intensity of colors and light is a gift for the eyes and the spirit.  In the United States, to the east and to the west as the sun rises and sets, the light changes by the minute and one learns to savor the quick moments the sky takes on personality at once calm and bright and then menacing and unforgiving.

Dark clouds become heaven’s flowers when kissed by light” said the poet, Rabindranath Tagore. Storm clouds and the sudden darkness of a summer’s day is welcome in Florida where rains come like blizzards in the summer. Those of us who live in the tropics like Jamaica or Florida know the summer brings the rain and sometimes lightning too – a dangerous combination. The purity of the air after these rains is to be remembered always.

The spring sky is filled with the movement of birds migrating north. Too long they have been away. They come with sudden, unexpected bursts into view and then are gone. What does it mean to “kiss the sky” like Jimi Hendrix said? Embrace the sky, taste the sky, study the sky, glad it’s blue, red and velvet. We haven’t even talked about the night sky. Another time…

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

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.