A visitor

My friend Nick Fox visited in September, and he’s written about it here.

I’ve known Nick about eight years, since we both attended writing school at Warren Wilson. Somehow, of the hundreds of memorable people I met at WW, Nick burrowed himself into a particular place in my heart. Meeting him again after, what, six years since we graduated (only that long?), I saw why.

Nick is the guy who would station himself next to the registration table during arrival day at Warren Wilson and personally see to it that every new student felt welcome and supported. He’s a true extravert, and he’s also truly humble — genuinely hail-fellow-well-met. You feel that he engages you because he wants to know you (not because he wants you to know him). He lives from the heart, and writes from it, too.

Some years ago Nick moved to New Orleans, and he’s made a happy home there, working as a tour guide — perfect job for him: he loves that town, and he loves to share — and now, being in his late thirties, he’s been feeling a growing urgency to make a settled home, start a family. When these kinds of feelings stir, what does Nick do?

He goes on a road trip.

I don’t mean this facetiously, much less sarcastically. No, this is just what Nick would do, and needed to do — because in his soul he’s a traveler. And he felt that he might have to give up this central element of himself, in order to shift to the next phase of his life. To find out whether this was true, to answer questions about what he really wanted, he needed to journey.

Nick set out in July and drove across the country in his Ford Ranger, from Louisiana through Colorado to California — then he hopped a plane to Hawaii — then back to L.A. into the driver’s seat to head to Arizona, where he revisited his old stomping grounds in Phoenix and Flagstaff. (Years ago he started Flag’s first poetry slam, the Flagstaff Poetry Slam, which is still running.) Then Chicago, and finally back home to New Orleans.

Somewhere along the road, one of my favorite people underwent one of my favorite storylines: the one where you realize that following your heart leads you to a good place. That your true desires are a reliable guide. That you can be happy. Of course, this changes your life.

For Nick, this meant he realized that he can combine travel and writing, and that being a travel writer, far from conflicting with them, will serve all of his other desires. Travel writing will be the way he connects and not, as he’d feared, an obstacle to connecting.

When people learn that they can trust their heart — when they let themselves feel their heart’s desires, and discover that they can believe in them — I love that. I hope to do the same someday.

Nick visited me on his swing through Arizona, and he spent a night at my place. Nick was my first honest-to-God live invited human visitor and the first person to sleep in my yurpee other than myself. In fact, he has the honor of being the first person to enter my yurpee other than myself.

I’d invited Nick to my place, but I hadn’t expected him to say yes! This precipitated a bit of a crisis for me. During the past three or four years, beginning when I first started to look for land and then as I chose this spot and purchased my forty acres and camped here in my truck and then built my yurpee, and all along as I have been dreaming my dreams about what could take place here, it’s all been something of a mystery to me. I can certainly feel the longing of my soul for a place like this, and for this place in particular — no question this is what I want. I’ve made myself dizzy trying to figure out just what my motivations and long-term purposes are. I have some ideas and some feelings. Some of them I can put into words. But to try to explain to another person … it just can’t be done. That person would have to know me as well as I know myself, before he could understand the words in which I would try to articulate why I’m here, what I’m doing. I knew Nick would be inquisitive, I knew I owed him some story. Not just a story, but the truth.

So I told him that I love the land, and that I need a lot of room — how I’d felt crushed in relationships and jobs and now wanted miles of space to expand into. I told him about dreaming of making the place into a garden, someday, and how I felt my soul might have something to do with that process. I told him also that I felt I’d painted myself into a corner, but that, actually, I like this corner. I don’t think I explained very well at all; I think Nick is still as perplexed as I am about what I’m doing here.

It’s a gorgeous, terrifying place to be, let me tell you — forging ahead in the fog, following a distant light and not knowing what the heck it is, not being able to explain, even to myself.

All I know is, it’s a story, and when a story takes charge, you don’t argue. You put on your boots and go where it tells you. Nick knows that, and I love him for it.

Another thing I have to thank Nick for. His visit turns out to be one of a series of steps — Dark Mountain’s publication (Oct. 15) of my little essay about building the yurpee; the deep-reaching shifts instigated by a writing class with Bayo Akomolafe; a Skype conversation with a new friend in Australia — that have given me what I must call a sense of belonging.

I write “must” because I resist and suspect this sense; it’s unexpected and is forcing me to revise many beliefs.

I’d always felt that my true self was strange and unsharable — this itself, I know, isn’t a feeling unique to me; we all build façades. As I’ve shifted myself to Somewhere it’s been with the conscious intent of shedding the façade — that’s part of my task, my dream for myself in this place. Consequently, I’d felt that what happened at Somewhere had to stay at Somewhere, that there could be little communication between my place — where I want to enshrine and enact truth and soul freedom and the purest love I can coax into life — and the “outside” world, where I’ve always felt these things weren’t possible, weren’t understood, weren’t wanted. I’d felt there had to be a strict separation between the worlds, that Somewhere had to have walls, had to be a secret garden.

Now I’m beginning to think that might not be true.

For Nick’s visit, I purchased a lawn chair, so that we could sit together outside and take in the views and the stars, and talk. We did that. For the first time in my two years at my new home, I had a friend there to talk to, and I told him my dreams and fears, and he took my hand.

Later, as we were starting our trucks and getting turned around to drive out, I backed into his truck, dinged his rear panel. Nick said, “You want to keep me from leaving.” Maybe there’s a little bit of truth in that! But no, I want Nick on the road, where he belongs, and knows he belongs.

I’m sorry, Nick — I’ll make it up to you! But I have to admit, I like the fact that whenever you’re on the road, even after you get that dent fixed, you’ll look at your truck and once in a while be reminded of visiting me at the edge of the earth.

5 thoughts on “A visitor

  1. Thanks, Patricia. It was such a treat to be out there with you.

    Two things:

    1. I’m not at all confused about why you’re out there. I can’t explain it, but it still makes perfect sense.

    2. That dent is staying. I love that dent.

    All the good songs,


  2. I followed the link from Nick’s blog to yours. I’m glad I did! You are on an epic adventure. I image you must be a very strong woman, which is easy because you have a strong voice.

    I’m also glad because this idea, “…when a story takes charge, you don’t argue. You put on your boots and go where it tells you.” is an idea I needed. I just did just that, but almost immediately felt upside down. I have a new perspective to consider. Thank you.

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your writing.

  3. Hi, GG! Thanks for coming over!

    Strength isn’t something we’re born with … I certainly wasn’t. It comes gradually as you do things that are hard. You might not succeed at first, but eventually you begin to, and in that process you develop confidence, as well as the skills that you discover you need, and the motivation that comes from tiny accomplishments, which gradually build.

    I don’t think there’s any real difference between me and anyone else, except that I feel I can probably do the things I want to do, at least enough to try. But this feeling didn’t appear overnight.

    When you say upside down, do you mean fearful? Or just having a new perspective? When I first realized that I needed to start allowing “the story” to guide me, it was terrifying – I realized that once I did this, I would really have no control over my life, like riding a wild horse. Fear is a price you pay. It’s worth it. Or did you mean something else?

    It’s great to have you here, and I look forward to chatting with you.


    • Please accept my apologies for the delay in my response. I missed your comment. I was looking in the wrong place for your reply.

      Fearful isn’t exactly it, though there was a fair share of it prior to the move. It’s part undeserving, part discomfort in the comfort, part resignation. I’ve lived a mobile life, moving from place to place, travelling at every opportunity. I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. I’ve had experiences good and downright terrible.

      One day last May I woke up to the decision to make a final move. To go to the place where I knew I needed to be. I’ve been avoiding this for three years, doing, going, and trying everything to procrastinate. I sat down with my boss on a Saturday afternoon, and over the next two months we hatched a plan to make this possible. Two months after the plan was finalized, I took position of a home I had secured sight-unseen.

      I decided when I was 11 that I would never settle. That’s a big decision for an 11 year old. For 26 years, I held fast to that notion. And now I’ve settled, and it feels great. Reconciling that has been the hard part. I am home. It’s not where I grew up. It’s not even a place I’ve ever visited. That feeling, of knowing I am where I will be for the better part of forever, is what has me feeling upside-down.

  4. I followed Nick’s post to yours and really enjoyed reading about your experience and how you are working towards building a special place for yourself. I wish you the best of luck in creating that beautiful garden that I am sure will flourish in time to come. Along with all that life has to offer. 🙂

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