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At Home Again

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We’ve been living in our new house in southern Maine for three weeks now. Our visit with my parents in California was cut short when we realized the increasing seriousness of the Coronavirus. The kids and I arrived at an empty house the morning of March 15th. After taking a nap in the parking lot of Cabela’s in our rental car, we bought the bare necessities i.e. air mattress to sleep on, towels, and a few kitchen items until Stephen arrived at the end of the week with our remaining things we had in storage.

We’ve had two snowfalls since we’ve been here. Zoey and Zane put on their winter clothes in the early morning following our first snowfall to go walk through the snow to make trails.

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Our backyard

We took a long three week spring break, one week during our time in California and then the first two weeks in Maine. It was a difficult decision whether to stay in California with my parents while Stephen drove our stuff across the country, knowing if we waited too long we might not be able to fly east and would be stuck in California for months on end but have food security, or fly to Maine before Stephen  and arrive to an empty house with no food in the pantry, not knowing how the grocery store shelves would look in Maine. We took the risk, and here we are settling into a new home that will take a while to furnish. As the weather warms up here to the 50s, I’m looking at our backyard thinking about growing a vegetable and herb garden. There is a raspberry patch and two apple trees in the backyard.

Our days here in Maine haven’t been that different than when we were traveling in our Airstream except that we aren’t traveling anymore. I am still homeschooling the kids, and we are playing endless games of Uno, Monopoly, Scrabble, and Sequence. Zane told me tonight that he really didn’t want to be my partner because I wasn’t a “winner.” Before we started our around the country trip last June, I was most looking forward to spending every day with Stephen and the kids. I would have to say that was the best part of our trip even though at times it was stressful and difficult. And here we are at home spending every day together again, but we have more room to spread out now.

I never had a chance to share photos of the last leg of our trip before we reached California. We spent three days in Sedona, Arizona hiking each afternoon.IMG_4932

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Outside the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ

After leaving Sedona, we stopped at Arcosanti for a tour and ate lunch in the cafe there. You can read more about it on their website.

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Last year, in the days leading up to the Epiphany, I spent some time each day writing and reflecting on a value to cultivate for each month of 2020. January was courage, February was creativity, March was discipline, and April is generosity. I haven’t observed Lent this year, but as Lent comes to a close with Easter on Sunday, being more disciplined in our consumption (we had 2.5 rolls of toilet paper when we arrived, and thankfully Stephen brought us a few more) and in our actions hasn’t been so difficult for me. What has been difficult for me is cultivating generosity–generosity of words, time, space, gifts, money, empathy, and understanding. Fear and anxiety usually get in the way, but I’m working on listening more to that nagging voice that moves me to action. I am inspired by stories from around the world, where people are reaching out to their neighbors and strangers in these difficult times. For me, that is Easter joy. We are all humans, vulnerable in so many ways, but we have an incredible capacity to be kind and generous to one another even in the midst of suffering.

I leave you with “A Verse for Our Time” by Rudolf Steiner.
We must eradicate from the soul
All fear and terror of what comes towards man
out of the future.
We must acquire serenity
In all feelings and sensations
about the future.
We must look forward with 
absolute equanimity
to everything that may come.
And we must think only that
whatever comes
is given to us by a world-
directive full of wisdom.
It is part of what we must learn
in this age,
namely, to live out of pure trust,
without any security in existence.
Trust in the ever present help
of the spiritual world.
Truly, nothing else will do
if our courage is not to fail us.
And let us seek the awakening
from within ourselves
every morning and every evening.

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Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ

 


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On the Road Again

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On Monday afternoon we left Grandmom and Granddad’s house after a 2 month stay to continue our road trip without our trailer. Stephen found a buyer for the Airstream while I was in Canada for my last week of teacher training. The day after I returned, we packed up all of our things that wouldn’t fit in the truck to be shipped to our house in Maine. Our first stop was Fredericksburg, Texas. We stayed in a lovely, old house that creaked at night. Stephen got up both nights we were there to check to make sure there really wasn’t a person walking around the house and was given a fright by the jackets hanging on the coatrack by the door. The following day we hiked Enchanted Rock. Stephen and the kids looked for the cave Stephen crawled through when he was in college while I waited outside to do some cloud gazing.

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On Wednesday, we arrived in Fort Stockton, Texas where we stayed one night. We spent Thursday and Friday in Fort Davis, Texas with a brief visit in Marfa. Stephen and I had a delicious kale and pistachio salad at Aster, a small cafe in Marfa where the local border patrol were also dining. We stopped briefly at Building 98, which was an active army base in WWII where German POW soldiers stayed. Zoey and Zane were eager to see the mural painted in the ballroom by a German POW that they heard about listening to the Sparkle story “Fifty: The Stars, the States, and the Stories” about Texas. Last night we drove up to McDonald Observatory for the Star Party. It was a cloudy night unfortunately, but we were able to see a few constellations and looked through two telescopes at the moon and Venus before heading inside for a brief show to look at photos of the Pleiades, Orion nebula, and the Andromeda galaxy.

On our drive today just outside of the soon to be ghost town of Valentine, Texas we did a double take while passing a Prada store in the middle of nowhere.  The store is actually just an art installation, and there are real Prada shoes and handbags from the Fall 2005 collection inside but no door to enter.  Pretty strange.

 

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We’ll be in Las Cruces, New Mexico for two nights, then a short stay in Tuscon and Sedona, Arizona before arriving back in California.

 


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Stretching Oneself

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A snowy morning at Benmore Valley Ranch Feb. 5, 2019

It feels like we are on an extended holiday as we pass the weeks at Stephen’s parents house. You might wonder how our time traveling around the country in our trailer might not also feel like an extended holiday, but it feels different. There is a heightened level of stress that we felt traveling from RV park to RV park, constantly finding ourselves in new towns and cities. Here we can rest in the familiar and the known and it feels really good to be with family.

Our Airstream trailer is in the shop getting fixed in preparation for selling it. We will likely be here in Texas until the end of February when I return from my last trip up to Canada for my teacher training. We’ve only had about a week at a time visiting with Grandmom and Granddad in the past, so this extended time together feels extra special. Even though we have shortened school days at home, Zoey said to me the other day, “I never get to see Granddad and Grandmom.” It was one of those moments where I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of her statement, and yet realized the depth of her feeling that we stopped our lesson so that she could go get a hug from Grandmom.

We’ve been staying fairly close to home the past month, hence the old photo from our ranch.  The weather has been mostly warm here, but we’ve had a few cold days. This morning we woke up to a sprinkling of snow and went for a walk after breakfast on the trails behind the house.

I recently finished reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave.  Stephen picked it out for me at a Goodwill store. It was one of those books that found me right when I needed it. If you want to feel challenged and need some soul stretching, it’s a good book to read.

I’ve been puttering around on this blog post for days now, searching for the words to write. And then Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes found me again. She writes in her Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times:

Mis Estimados: Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered, very concerned about the state of affairs in our world. One has to have strong cojones and ovarios to withstand much of what passes for good in our culture today. Abject disregard for what the soul finds most precious and irreplaceable, and the corruption of principled ideals, has become in so many places “the new normal.” It’s hard to say which one of these most egregious matters has rocked the people’s worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping, astonishment, and righteous rage over the last degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people. You are right in your assessments. The luster and hubris some have aspired to, while endorsing acts so heinous against children and elders and everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet I urge you, and I ask you, I gentle you . . . do not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially, do not lose hope, most particularly because the fact is: WE WERE MADE FOR THESE TIMES. For years we’ve been practicing, learning, been in training for, and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that WE ARE DEFINITELY THE LEADERS THAT WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR . . .

For a long time I chose not to read the news in depth because it felt too heavy to carry while also holding the stories of suffering of my clients. But now as I enter more fully into what it means to be an adult, I can no longer be ignorant of the world of today. Even though Dr. Estes wrote this letter years ago, the words still ring true in 2020. And it begs the question, what do we value in our leaders? And more significantly, what values are we instilling in our children who are observing with wide-open eyes all the so-called adults of the world today? They are watching closely.

 

 

 


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6 Months on the road

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Wormsloe State Historic Site near Savannah, Georgia

I forget every year how quickly the holidays fly by. Only 3 weeks ago I was in North Vancouver, B.C. for my Waldorf teacher training, but it already feels ages ago. And in 3 weeks we will celebrate Christmas with Stephen’s parents. I had no problem crossing the border into Canada, but my flight into Chicago was cancelled due to snow, so my Monday travel day turned into a Tuesday travel day and I spent several hours at SFO waiting for my evening flight. I joke about how I would love to spend endless hours reading, but whenever I am stuck on an airplane or inside an airport and could read for nearly the whole day crossing the country in a matter of hours, I weary of reading. A body needs to move after a time.

Two days before yesterday (in Zoey and Zane parlance), we walked around Savannah, Georgia and stopped in at E. Shaver, Bookseller to browse the books and visit with the three resident bookstore cats; all were very fluffy and big. We found an Advent Calendar (not the chocolate kind!) for the kids with an activity behind each window. Zoey requested we hide the cards each day for her and Zane to find just like the Martin and Sylvia Sparkle story. It’s a nice way to count down to Christmas without sugar. They’ve had plenty of that in the past 3 weeks and will be having a lot more once we hit the Cowan household, in Texas, that is. Just telling it like it is.  Nearly everyday around the 3 o’clock hour, Zane announces that he is hungry. Neither Stephen or I had packed a snack, so we ended up at the Gryphon Tea Room.

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Post-snack at the Gryphon Tea Room

The kids had a strawberry spritzer and I had a pot of cinnamon spice tea. The building was once an apothecary, a bookstore, and now a tea room/restaurant owned by the Savannah College of Art and Design. We ordered two sandwiches to share which felt like more than a snack, but two hours later, Zane was announcing yet again that he was hungry. We went to the Old Pink House Restaurant for dinner.

We left Georgia two days ago and arrived at St. Augustine, Florida. We went to the beach nearby, threw the nerf football around, and got our feet wet (or in Zane’s case most of his body) in the warm ocean water.

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I’ve been reading the book Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver over the past several weeks. I’ve always enjoyed her writing, and this book has made me ponder the big questions about our current political situation (don’t worry, I’m not going to talk politics here!) and how we live our lives here on earth. We’ve spent 6 months on the road, and I start to wonder how this trip has changed us if at all. How will we live our lives differently once we have settled and have a house again? I realize I can only ask these questions because we’ve lived a privileged life.

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I turned 42 in October and I told my friend Jen that I only now feel like I am taking up the reins in being an adult, or figuring out how to be an adult. And then I look at my daughter, and she gives me so much hope for our future. I’m sure you’ve noticed capable, young people in your own sphere of living. Our towel rack that hangs off the stovetop broke off on one side when we arrived at our RV park. Zoey noticed it and immediately went to the truck to get a screwdriver out of Stephen’s toolbox in the truck and went to work on fixing the towel rack. She fixed it in a matter of seconds. I beamed inwardly with pride that my daughter is so capable of fixing things, while simultaneously noting that I was going to leave it to Stephen to fix. I’ve lived most of my life waiting for someone else to fix things, but I’m awakening to a new consciousness that challenges me to do the things that don’t come naturally or easily for me. I wonder what it would be like if on a world scale we let go of inertia and fear and did the very things that were difficult and hard for us? Even if we just tried.

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Wormsloe State Historic Park

 


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Finding a New Home

In the past three weeks we’ve traveled from Lake George, New York to East Lyme, Connecticut, to Clarksboro, New Jersey, and then today we arrived at our RV park in College Park, Maryland. We are here for 17 days to explore around Washington, D.C. Next Monday, I fly back up to North Vancouver, B.C. to finish my second to last session of classes for my Waldorf teacher training.

On our way to Lake George from Vermont, we stopped with our trailer at the University of Vermont Morgan Horse farm. We had just finished listening to the audiobook “Justin Morgan Had a Horse” by Marguerite Henry, that tells the mostly true story of the first Morgan horse.  Zoey would have liked to have stayed there all day visiting with the horses.

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The horse barn

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Morgan foals

In Lake George, we hiked up the steep Prospect Mountain trail where there used to be the Prospect Mountain Cable Incline Railway that brought people up to the Prospect Mountain House hotel in the late 19th century. On our travels, we have managed to see peak fall foliage across several states in New England.

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On our way to East Lyme, Connecticut, we visited with cousin Carol and Auntie Flea in New York. Carol made us a delicious vegetable barley soup for lunch. Zane told me later that Carol makes the best soup ever!

During our stay in Connecticut, we traveled to Newport, Rhode Island and visited the Vanderbilt summer cottage “the Breakers.” Zane, Zoey, and I had a race running across the lawn. There are numerous summer “cottages” aka mansions here in Newport, but we only had time to visit one in an afternoon.

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The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island

On our last night in Connecticut, we had a chance to visit with my friend from college Diane and her lovely family. Zoey and Zane enjoyed playing with the cats and toys and asked if they could spend the night.

After leaving Connecticut, we stayed in Clarksboro, New Jersey about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. We took several trips into the city to visit the Mint, Independence Hall, the Museum of the American Revolution, and ate dinner one night at the City Tavern eating out of pewter glasses and plates.  The Tavern was where George Washington and other founding fathers gathered to eat and drink while deliberating on the formation of our country.  To maintain the ambience of the 18th century restaurant, it was requested that guests not use their cell phones so I didn’t take any photographs of the restaurant. We ate by candlelight and Stephen enjoyed a sample of ales, one of which was Ben Franklin’s own recipe.

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Independence Hall

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The room where the Declaration of Independence was signed

This was the first year that we took the kids trick-or-treating. In past years we have gone to the Waldorf School of Mendocino County for Halloween to enjoy the Enchanted Pumpkin path which has been a very sweet way to enjoy dressing up and getting a few treats. We took them trick-or-treating on Delancy Street in Philadelphia where there are several blocks of redbrick row houses blocked off from street traffic. The streets were full of children and families. Zoey enjoyed looking out for dogs dressed in costumes. Her favorites were a lion dog and a pretzel dog.

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A ninja and Wonder Woman

When I began writing about our around the country trip in June, it didn’t feel right then to explain why we sold the ranch and the reason for our big trailer trip. In light of the wildfires happening in California, it seems appropriate now to explain that in July 2018, the Mendocino complex fire burned around our property, right on our dirt road which was our one way in and out of our home. We had to evacuate for a week, and we were incredibly thankful to have a home to return to, but it made us think seriously about living in California as it seems that yearly wildfires is the norm now. We had found what we thought would be our forever home at Benmore Valley Ranch, but it no longer felt safe there after the fire. So we began our trailer trip across the country searching for a new place to call home.

We have seen so many beautiful places in the 24 states we’ve traveled through, but when we reached Maine we found what we were finally looking for–beautiful beaches, fine summer weather, clean air, and a great Waldorf school. We found an affordable city in Portland that has a vibrant downtown, great restaurants and culture, and affordable housing. We continue our trailer trip adventure, heading to Raleigh, North Carolina to visit my sister for Thanksgiving and to Georgetown, Texas to be with Stephen’s parents for Christmas. After that we plan to return to Southern California to see my parents and my brother’s family before returning to Portland, Maine and finding a house to settle down in.

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Candlepin bowling in Brunswick (another reason why we love Maine)


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School Days and Afternoon Adventures

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Shelburne Farm Storybook trail in VT

On Sunday we arrived at Apple Island Resort RV park by Lake Champlain in South Hero, Vermont. We had one day of rain, but it’s been sunny since then. This week we’ve been enjoying a large community center at the park for our homeschooling time. Zoey said it feels like home to her. There is a gym next door so the kids have been having recess in the gym. They hop on the treadmill or the elliptical machine and smile their way through exercise. Zoey says to me, as she sprints and I take my time walking, “This is so fun!”

It’s nice having a larger area to move around for school, but I have to force myself to go to the community center every morning. Since I started homeschooling the kids a month ago now, I’ve had a guilt complex about the kids not being at a school. I feel like I’m breaking the rules, and I try most of the time to follow the rules (unless the rules are inane and then it doesn’t matter so much to me). Ever since I met Stephen he has been trying to wean me from always being a rule follower. I remember doing grocery shopping with him and he left his cart unattended to walk across the store and I looked at him in amazement, not realizing you could do that. I know, pretty simple. I feel sometimes like we have to hide with the kids in the trailer until school gets out around 3:00pm even though our homeschooling schedule is very different. We have main lesson in the morning, snack/recess, and then two more subjects before lunch. We’re done with school by noon and we have the afternoon to explore around town or wherever we might be.

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Dress up and rest time in the trailer

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After we left Maine, we had a short stay at Danforth Bay Camping and RV park near Conway, New Hampshire. One afternoon we took a paddleboat out on the lake.

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Eating lunch on a trail near Keene, New Hampshire

After leaving New Hampshire, we arrived back in Williamstown, Vermont. It was quite chilly there, staying in the mid 50s and dropping down below freezing one night.

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Our view from our campsite at Limehurst Lake near Williamstown, VT

IMG_4377We drove up to Stowe, Vermont on Saturday. Stephen and I rented bikes and rode with the kids on a 10 mile trail that was quite crowded with other cyclists and people walking the trail.

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Bike trail in Stowe, VT

Yesterday we visited Shelburne Farm. Both of the kids had a chance to milk a cow, help feed pigs at a pig party, and bring the chickens home to their coop at the chicken run.

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Zoey milking a cow at Shelburne Farm in VT

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6 month old Butter eating at the pig party

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Chickens going to bed for the night

Tomorrow is our last full day here and then Friday we’ll drive to Lake George, New York.

 

 


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Coast to Coast

IMG_4326After almost 4 months on the road, we have finally reached the east coast.  We’ve  been at Libby’s oceanside RV park in southern Maine since last Thursday. Our campsite backs up to the rocky beach below. We’ve spent two afternoons now on the sandy part of the beach during low tide.

IMG_4342The kids have frolicked about, pretending to be crabs or horses, or played on the large boulders which is their ship. I had a chance to sit and read a little book I bought Stephen for his birthday, Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke. One of my WCI instructors mentioned this summer that she read it to her 5th grade class.

Last Saturday we went to the Fairy House tour in the Strawberry Banke Park of Portsmouth, NH. There were so many different, creatively constructed fairy houses. The kids loved it.  Strawberry Banke contains some of the oldest buildings in New Hampshire, dating to the 17th century.

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Luckily, the weather has been beautiful and mostly sunny during our stay here.  Many shops and motels close down at the beginning of fall in York, the town we are near, but it is nice to have an uncrowded beach right at our doorstep.

We spent a few days last week in Vermont, but didn’t explore much beyond our campground.  Next week, we will be heading back to Vermont near Burlington and Lake Champlain for more adventures.

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