Southern State of Mind
It’s hard to believe how far we’ve traveled in the last two years. Vanlife (or trucklife) has presented us with endless opportunities and lessons.
Everyday is a transition, a lesson in letting go and welcoming the new. Awesomely, I’ve inherited a restless spirit with an affection for small things. I’m a nomad!
At the end of last summer Cota and I drove over 6,000 miles, from Alaska to North Carolina, to spend this Fall with our friends, Erik and Stacia. The Hamilton’s have been following Renaissance fairs for close to twenty years, and they’ve got it dialed! Last year they bought a charming house in North Carolina and before they even had a chance to move in, they invited us join them for the 2016 festival season. We were in love with the idea instantly! Hanging with these guys is always good for the soul.
Neither of us have spent much time in the South and we are always open to new adventures.
When I think of the South, I think fried chicken, good twangy music, sweet tea, pretty girls in dresses, moonshine- typical stereotypes. And truthfully, I’ll add racism, bigotry and religious zealots to the list. For perspective, I grew up with pagans that howl at the moon and wear crystals for their power.
Just this year, North Carolina passed one of the nation’s worst laws for LGBTQ, HB2 — officially the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, or, the bathroom bill. It mandates, among other provisions, that transgender individuals use public restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates, rather than the one they identify with. What the hell?!
I will say, an advantage to being a liberal in a red state is that it strengthens my dedication to being a liberal activist, standing against the ridiculousness of the Republican Party and ignorance.
We began embracing the South on the road here- swimming in a muddy river in Oklahoma, rescuing a turtle off the highway in Texas, camping with armadillos in the Ozarks of Arkansas and blaring albums ‘Southern Rock Opera’ and ‘The Dirty South’ by the Drive-By Truckers as we rolled into Alabama on Hwy 72.
Every road trip needs a soundtrack, right? Drive-By Truckers, who often sing about the South’s uncomfortable history has been the logical choice. Their music is provocative and prophetic. A haunting fit for this year’s election season too.
Only days before our arrival to the Charlotte area, the fatal police shooting of a black man sparked overnight protests that shut down a major interstate. Amid the recent string of police killings of black Americans, the DBT song, ‘What It Means’, which speaks volumes to the violence inflicted on African-Americans, has served to remind me how powerful music can be. I love the Truckers now more than ever.
America is a divided country and I come from the progressive Pacific Northwest. It felt weird to settle in a neighborhood where Trump signs surround us. I usually shy pretty far away from politics but this November shattered my senses. Who isn’t pissed off that Trump is president? Anyone? Anyone? It’s been a nightmare for so many of us hoping to see America move beyond hate, racism, islamaphobia, homophobia and the militarization of our police force. It feels like we’re sliding backwards down a slippery slope. Although, I should add North Carolina only narrowly elected Trump. I was surprised to learn NC is not as red as I had assumed.
As a highly sensitive empath the election affected me deeply, viscerally, along with what’s happening in North Dakota. The historic gathering of tribes, allies, and people from all walks of life, standing in solidarity to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline, is another decisive moment in history that feels perilous. I woke up one morning with tears on my face, wishing I were on the road to Standing Rock. Our truck would be perfect for giving out hot drinks to the water protectors. Instead, I donated what I could to a fundraiser for wood stoves being delivered to the reservation.
Each of us can help hold each other up, and what better way than through community? Preparing and sitting down to healthy meals every night with Erik and Stacia has been a blessing and their company has lightened my heart many times. Good friends are the key to health and happiness!
Taking the time to observe nature has also done magic to restore my peace. While autumn shows us how beautiful it can be to let things go, North Carolina has been perfect for breathing fresh air into my lungs and seeing the sunny side of life.
Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers – for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. – Osho
In Chinese medicine, Fall is the time of letting go, accepting the cycle of life and death. This lesson hasn’t escaped us. In a pretty spot with the sun filtering through the forest, Cota and I lost our beloved cat that had been with us almost as long as we’ve been together. Our travel companion and source of incredible comfort disappeared for two days before I found her body resting at the bottom of a dry creek bed. We grieved hard. We planted flowers in her absence and I even got a tattoo.
I didn’t have to look very far for a tattoo artist. One of my favorite aspects of the Renaissance Festival is how diverse the community is. Cota met Jen almost two years when she made the trip from Phoenix, AZ to Alaska on one tank of gas in a house truck her boyfriend had converted to veggie oil. She’s a talented violinist and a tattooist. She did my tattoo in her trailer, on the fair site, with pot smoke wafting through the air, dogs in the kitchen, her little boy watching tv, and our men swapping stories with the fervor of childhood friends. The trailer shook whenever anyone got up for another beer. It was perfect and my tattoo is perfect.
Our friends here in North Carolina have helped us weather the loss of Sophie and make sense of the world. Mostly, they’ve shown us a good time. We’ve been celebrating life since the day we got here and I can’t adequately express how fortunate I feel to have them as family. By forming a household with friends who share our interests and our values, life has taken a joyful and sturdy turn. I’m so honored and grateful.