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“I don’t even know how I got here, really. I was in an Albuquerque Hilton two nights ago, sitting in a King bed under three plates of room service— a cheese quesadilla, Caesar salad, and french fries- food I had ravenously ordered after a ten-hour drive.
 
The heater was pumping, there was the hiss of Interstate 40 out the window, and I was watching Nashville, thinking, Connie Britton is really phoning it in these days. Is she bored? I wondered. And then I realized, holy shit, I'm bored. Which is something I have vowed never to be. And then I thought, fuck, how did I fall asleep again? 
 
How had I crawled back into my comfort zone like a dying animal? 
 
It was at that moment I longed to be in an eco friendly spot, awake in the wild somewhere, not contributing to environmental damage and general bloated excess and overstuffed comfort, nor did I feel as if the Hilton family was in dire need of my hard earned two hundred dollars. 
 
I had cried a lot that day on the road. That’s the thing about the road, there’s no hiding from yourself during ten-hour days alone in a car. On a journey as vast and storied as the cross-country trip you can't help but think about your own, personal journey. 
 
You can't help think of where you’ve been, where are you headed, who has hurt you, who have you hurt, how do you continue to hurt yourself, what you really want, and if you’re going to get it, if it’s even going to bring you joy, and shouldn't joy be found in the moment and not in some elusive future, and why, oh why, can't you be happy?
 
That was that day, that was that drive from Arizona to Albuquerque.  
 
And the next day I woke up in that three room Hilton suite, bigger than my cottage on Martha’s Vineyard, comparable to my cabin in Topanga. I was wandering through the rooms like a ghost when I was reminded, that, on the way out to California for the winter, I had wanted to stop at Ghost Ranch. But I hadn't, because I was rushing. As if there was any place to be but now. I tend to forget that. The road reminds you. That the only place to be is in our very own life. That there actually is no destination but right here right now. And that morning, once again, when I had found myself thirsty for something raw and wild, I felt the call of the Ghost Ranch. I knew that a heroine of mine, Georgia O’Keeffe, had been so inspired by the 21,000 sprawling acres that she had spent years living and painting there until she died at 98 in the red rocks of Santa Fe. 
 
Through the hum of the heater and the hiss of the highway I heard what I could only describe as her soul. 
 
I know now, two days into my stay here, that it certainly was. She's as alive here as the trees themselves, her voice is on the wind, her hand holds yours in the labyrinth, her fierce wild soul hovers over your desk.
 
I followed that thing I teach on but sometimes forget to truly trust, my intuition. 
 
I checked the map. It was two hours off route, north of Albuquerque and not east as I had planned. But I got in my old red jeep like mounting an aging mare and we headed north. I stopped in Santa Fe at the O’Keeffe museum. Her steely eyes stared back at me from black and white portraits, challenging my courage. Her canvases revealed how nature and the flesh of women blend together in holy union.  I was reminded of why I had loved her as an Art History minor in college, and then fallen in love with her love affair with Alfred Steiglitz. They fused together like artistic atom bombs.   To meet someone who sees the world through similar eyes, to fall in love with an artist who challenges and enhances and inspires your work and vision. Who gives you both freedom and comfort. 
 
A small film played in a dark room. She said her painting felt like "walking the edge of a knife. But if you fall off, who cares, you get back on. It's the only way to live." 
 
Walk the edge of the knife. If you fall off, get back on. 
 
Then, through a light snow, the first I had seen all winter having been coddled in California, I wound up through the red rocks to Abiquiú, home of the Ghost Ranch. 
 
The day I left California, I had an anticlimactic exit when I hit three hours of traffic near Riverside. “I won’t miss you,” I whispered into the gridlock. My friend Shakti had called me while I sat stuck, she was more in motion and alive than ever, fresh from a swim with the dolphins in Maui, headed out for a six-mile run. Her body, mind and soul were at their highest vibrations. She called to tell me she had extended her trip down there, because when something feels so good, you have to stay, you have to see where it takes you. You have to, follow your bliss.  I told her she sounded exactly where she was supposed to be, doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing. I told her how I missed that feeling, of knowing you are exactly where you are meant to be, doing what you are meant to. Our joy is our northstar. When we feel joy, we are right where we are supposed to be, we are home. When we lose it, we feel lost.
 
I had looked for that feeling in California all winter, but I never found it. I never hit that perfect pitch, that vibration that sang that I was right where I was supposed to be. I was always just outside of myself, just outside of joy. In fact I found myself isolated in my room and ego- the idea that we are separate and alone- far more than I would like to admit. But admitting things, constantly, is part of my work.  
 
It's this funny thing that keeps happening, this funny lesson that keeps knocking the wind out of me. If I look for something, I don't find it. When I stop looking, I find that what I need finds me. 
 
Three days later here I am, in the quiet as a tomb library of the Ghost Ranch, at a small window under a stainless steel lamp looking out at the crimson canyon. I “had plans’ to just be here one night. But I’m still here. And even if I wanted to leave the road is blocked by the crew of an Adam Sandler movie. Scores of movies have been filmed here for this staggering sprawling red rock beauty. City Slickers, Outrageous Fortune, All the Pretty Horses, the list goes on and on. You feel like an extra on movie set, you blend in, you become dwarfed by the rocks and lose your ego and become just another cog in the wheel of the miraculous machine of nature. And it's breathtaking. And you feel, part of it all, which is another way of saying, exactly where you are supposed to be. In California and Martha's Vineyard I isolate. Here I take meals in the dining hall with the staff and the visitors and other seekers, chatting about guacamole and God. "You cannot become real in isolation," Stephen Cope says. He is right. Here, I feel real. I hear myself speak, she, myself, is serene and calm, kind but clear. Cradled in the canyon, alone but all-one, she is someone I quite like. 
 
Of this land, O’Keeffe herself, who first stayed here in 1944, said to a friend:  ”I'm finally feeling in the right place again. I feel like myself – and I like it.”
 
I feel like myself, and I like it. 
 
I broke my coffee fast at the outpost this morning, after a sleepless night with all these new thoughts expanding in my mind like the land's endless horizon.
 “Mornin’,” said a blond girl behind the counter, as she scraped forkfuls of pie from an aluminum tray.
“Morning,” I said. 
“You with the movie people?” she asked. 
“No,” I told her. “Just someone who stopped for the night and now I can’t seem to leave.”
“That happens,” she said, “to women like you.”
 
I'll take that as a compliment.”
 
--
 
"Thank You for the Opportunity to Practice Love."
 
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