Lunacy

​Lunacy. A real thing.  Alone on the Wolf Moon in a desert I love,  like so many other nights.  Midnight. A truck full of screaming drunken men races up my dirt road. There’s metal banging.  The engine roars. I can’t tell if the scream is of pain or joy. I feel the fight or flight hormones rushing through. The truck is now open and I’m ready. I could run and hide up the hill.  I know this desert better than they do.  And leave my truck open to vandalism?  Never. What weapons do I have? 1 ice axe, 2 fire staffs. No gun. No need. I wouldn’t shoot. I know this. The screams are closer now. Pots and pans must be tied to the bumper. What feeling is this?  The opposite of feeling safe. Would I feel safer if Jim was here?  I can’t rely on others for my feeling safe. Would I feel safer if I believed I was safe? Yes. I used to believe. I don’t know why it changed. Would I remain aware and believing in a loving, kind universe if these men got here? Fascinated by the inner dialog, I feel it all,  like an observer and a potential victim both.  

They turn around less than 20 feet from the truck. I am parked on a muddy dead end road.  They never saw me.  I find their tracks in the morning. They drove back and forth through the thickest of the mud. They broke some trees and drove over cacti. 

I follow their tracks all the way to the paved road. They were on a rampage. Mayhem and destruction everywhere they drove. I knew their path before I saw it. As they left the desert, I could hear their screams and see their red fading lights for miles. I wished those lights stay red.  Don’t turn around. Don’t come back here,  lunatic wolf moon madmen.

[Reposted here from a Facebook post from a few days ago]

*the Wolf Moon is the first full moon of the year. 

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My first and likely only political post

[Originally written as a Facebook post]

I don’t engage in political debates, and for that I’ve been misjudged uncaring.  I don’t listen to the news. That doesn’t make me ignorant.

A madman walked into a gay bar in Orlando and killed innocent people, igniting a spark in a barrel of dynamite-loaded opinions. Whichever fears one already subscribed to were suddenly further justified by the senselessness of the act. The madman had a gun, let’s ban guns. The madman had Afghani parents, let’s exile all Muslims, and while we’re at it, all foreign-born immigrants.  The victims were gay, let’s point the finger to homophobia. Let’s point, let’s point … to something, to someone outside of ourselves. Let’s reduce our tribe, our family to that which was hurt, so that we can exclude that which did the hurting. We do this to feel safer. If we were to admit that a random madman walked into a bar and killed innocent people, then we’d have to accept that this could happen again, anywhere, anytime, placing us and our loved one in constant potential danger. But if there’s a greater cause, purpose or scheme, then the likelihood of it hitting home is perceived as less. A conspiracy theory is much more reassuring than an isolated insane act to the human brain.

Einstein said that a problem cannot be solved from the level at which it was created. Fear-based dividing and hierarchical categorization of the human tribe doesn’t foster peace, it starts wars. Review your history books, if you don’t believe me.

So, we must rise above and look from a greater perspective. Let’s say the whole world is our tribe, then the madman is our brother. Now it’s an inside job. It’s a family problem, a whole world problem. And I don’t claim to know anything, but from my perspective, it seems that fear is not born because there’s a problem, there’s a problem because we live in fear. It’s not healthy. It’s bound to crack.

“They” say I’m ignorant of the “facts” because I don’t watch the news, that I live a selfish life in Lalaland with my head in the clouds or in an opaque paper bag, that I’m heartless for posting happy posts in the face of tragedy, that I’m blindly delusional for going on long walks when America is on the brink of war. And I ask, how does my spending hours feeding my mind with the horrors of the world help anyone? Who benefits from my fear? (And yes, I could follow this question straight up the conspiracy ladder, but again that’d only redirect the fear-based finger pointing). Shouldn’t *somebody* hold this space here – where it is remembered that the world is a magical, beautiful place – for balance? And what if more of us turned off their TV and concentrated instead on finding and sharing beauty and love in the Right Here and the Right Now? What if our madman brother had grown-up in a world where the majority chose to keep their eyes open in the sunlight instead of staring at the darkness? Even if our brother was Muslim and had a gun, don’t you think the story would have had a different ending?

I value your diverse opinions. I welcome the whole spectrum on my FB feed and in my life. But do not measure my actions by the yardstick of your assumptions.

Not all bliss is born of ignorance.

My 32 square foot home – the bedroom

Some day, in a distant future, I might again live indoors, with a ceiling, running water and indoor plumbing. I imagine at that point I’ll look back on my current life and wonder “how the hell did I fit my entire life in 32 sq fit for all these years?” So, in case you are curious too, and since I am cleaning the truck anyway … here is how:

Bed of truck (bedroom)- 6X4 = 24 sq ft
Behind the seats in the cab – 2X4 – 8 sq ft

Part 1 – the bedroom.
20160610_155059Blank canvas. Almost … 6X4 truck bed outfitted with Vision high ceiling cap, 6 climbing bolts (3 on each sides), metal wire shelves and Tibetan prayer flags.

20160610_155238Side shelves, design of my own – plywood sheet cut and joined with piano hinges, rest on the wheel base, held in the bed liner grooves.

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Waterproof barrier. The shell has been leaking for a few years in spite of having the seals redone. This keeps my mattress dry.

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Ikea firm mattress, with zippered cover. Makes it easy to wash.

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1.5″ memory foam – the secret ingredient in the camping->home alchemy.

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Jersey cotton sheet stretch to fit. Regular sheet are almost impossible to get smooth in this setup. The secret ingredient in the home->palace alchemy.

20160610_175359_Richtone(HDR)Lower shelves. On the right, trash bags, winter hiking boots, stove and fuel box (alcohol stove, windscreen, lighter, funnel for fuel and spare straps), zero degree sleeping bag and winter camping pad. On the left, hiking poles, hiking shoes and sun shade for the side windows, bag of climbing gear and mountaineering bivy bag. Bedding goes underneath the shelves when not in use.

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Middle shelves. On the right, bedside basket (toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, pencils, headlamp, solar lantern, solar lamp, pocket knife, assorted crystals, bio-tune tuning fork, Ganesha statue found in the sea on Nantucket island), medicine box (lotion, vitamins, tiger balm). On the left, book shelf (books in progress, coloring books and pencils, local hiking maps, journal). On the shelf-above-the-feet, denatured alcohol (fuel), water ninja (1 gallon, in a tee shirt for protection), kitchen box (pots, pans, etc), food box (including a full spice rack and nice selection of oils and vinegars), nuts and seeds box, small suitcase of clothes. Welcoming mat for the tailgate.

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Top shelves. To the right, tea box (great assortment of green and herbal teas) and wolf-friend, utility box (scissors, batteries, lighters, candles, tampons, sage bundle, pins, compass, pens and pencils, spare reading glasses), towel, bathroom bag. To the left, hats and gloves box, socks box (I’m packed to be gone all winter, possibly for a couple of years), underwear and truck window curtains. Back shelf, jackets (rain and puffies), pants (yoga, work pants and 1 pair of jeans). Protective sheet of plywood slides under the mattress for sleeping.

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Driving mode – the boxes come down from the shelf-above-the-feet for a clear view out the back. Toys come in (2 fire staffs on the right, a hula hoop on the left) and cooler in the back for easy access.

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Final touch for New Hampshire departure. This time I’m also packing a bin of climbing gear (ice climbing tools, ropes, crampons, ice climbing boots, mountaineering boots, harness, helmet, etc …) and a pair of AT skis.

All that is left is to decorate.

“Courage cannot be tested cautiously” (with the sea horse).
“Follow your heart and know you are loved.” (note from Margaret)
The green bungee cord holds the recorder I use to create the audible version of Crazy Free. It hooks to the other side of the truck when in use, rests on the same side when not in use.

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This one is indispensable for extended stays in the desert. It has been on the wall of several brick and mortar bedrooms before gracing the side of the truck.

That’s the bedroom. Next, the living room (cab)).

My 32 square foot home – the living room

Previously, on the Roaming Bobcat … the bedroom.

Now moving on to the living room (the cab), where all sorts of hoarding addictions are revealed.

20160611_133456_Richtone(HDR)On the back seat of the cab, four wooden crates held by seat belts.
In the lower right, sewing machine and fabric. In the lower left, arts and crafts (drawing, jewelry making, and MORE fabric. In the upper right, a bunch of girly scarves, a few nice shirts and a jacket, in case I have a date – you never know – valiantly guarded by a tiger and lion, whom I’ve had since I was 16 years old. They came with me in my first suitcase when I came to the states (1992). The left top box is my “office”, padded envelops to send books, address book, business cards and solar charger for my electronics. It’s a bit empty at the moment, but I’m picking up a shipment of Crazy Free books in Colorado on my way through.

These wooden crates turned on their side, combined with the wood planks making the shelves in the back, can (and have) easily become modular furniture if it gets too cold to live in the truck, as happens in New Hampshire in the winter.

20160611_133837Left side, behind the seat. 5 different packs. And yes, I need all of them. There are two more stashed under the seat, along with a small tool box, car wax and rags. The top bag with the exotic print holds two yoga mats and a meditation blanket from India. My Mom made that bag for me years ago. It’s still going.

20160611_134946_Richtone(HDR)Right side, behind the seat. 3 more pair of boots and a spare pair of trail shoes (2 more in the climbing box, and a pair of climbing shoes in the climbing bag). And yes, I need all of them! Under the seat are chains, a snow shovel and ice scraping tools. Ready for winter!
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Tucked in between is my Appalachian Trail pack, ready and eager to go, and my laptop bag with all the chargers, cables and such.

20160611_140436On the passenger seat, a box of snacks for the road and a box with spare change, pens, more charging cables and love notes I like to keep close by. Usually, I keep my purse here too, and the water ninja when I’m driving long-distance.

The rest is all TREASURES!

Sedona rock, New Mexico heart, gift double-pointed quartz, Mt. Baker rock, lip balm, stick I picked up in Yosemite in 1994, heart from Java love cafe. And a stack of hoop earrings around the gear shift handle. And a rainbow-maker from my friend Lucy (to the right of the rear-view mirror).
The “All Powers” box holds a solar trickle-charger for the truck’s battery and about 50 quartz crystals I dug out of Payson’s “diamond point” – between the charger and the crystals, I’m covered for all emergencies. The fancy tire gauge was a gift from Dave, the Saline Valley Hot Springs caretaker, from the time when I got 3 flats in 24 hours.
The pendant on the window has my coyote bones (read about that here) and some beads made of Sedona red rocks. The turtle shows me the way (Maturin, the way of the turtle, if you’ve read Stephen King’s Tower series), the blue bracelet with rose quartz pearl was a gift of protection from my friend Margaret.

That’s it.
Loaded and ready to go … one more day of work and I’m outta here!

Cottonwood Sage, Sedona Red

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This is the view from my pillow, right now (7:15 this morning), at the top of a small hill above Cottonwood, overlooking the open plain between the edge of the Colorado Plateau and the Verde River. Taken to the sound of gun shots below. I’m camped right above a shooting range. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Sedona anymore.

I meant to leave. I needed a different color. Living in the red does something to my soul. Maybe the iron in the rocks seeps through my feet into my blood stream,  maybe the omnipresence of 450 hz (the vibration of red) activates my root Chakra. By whichever school of thoughts,  it affects me.
Feelings, like sunsets, are never pastel in Sedona.  Sadness tastes like despair. Unchecked unconscious annoyance can turn to rage. Joy feels like Universal Love and Gratitude bursting out of the heart and every pore. Oh, most delicious of feelings! That last one’s a bit addictive.

And it’s not just me.  Every guest I had on tour this week commented on this.  One woman had uncontrollable anger, hated her hotel and everybody in it on her first night.  By the time I met her,  the next day,  she glowed brighter than an Angel of Love. Another cried massive emotional release, then said she felt more energized than she’d ever felt,  and all I did was take her to the Creek.  Yep!  Sounds like Sedona.

Whenever I leave the red rocks,  I get depressed for a day. It took me a while to make the correlation.  I just thought Flagstaff was a sad place,  then I realized I felt the drop in energy regardless of my destination away from here.

And yet,  I have to leave often and sometimes stay away for years.  When I first came to Sedona,  a new friend from Flagstaff told me “You come to Sedona to heal,  then you get out. It’s too intense to live there.”
I don’t come to heal (that I know of). I come because I love feeling intense for a little while. It’s like my natural growth gets sling shot to the next level. And also, it’s gorgeous, I can work as a guide guide and live for free in the postcard. I have a few friends who live in Sedona full time and are perfectly grounded and operate at a “normal” level. I also have several who probably should have left decades prior,  when they still could. Like all things,  it’s what you make of it.  For me,  I can’t stay in the sling shot full time. After a few months,  it makes me crazy (er?). When I get that buzz,  it’s time to go.

And that time is now. I’m buzzing. Emotions run high and I might compromise friendships or expand energy solving imaginary problems if I linger.
In addition, summer’s here and it’s hotter than hell by 7 am. My face feels like it’s about to crack from dryness. I don’t have AC – I’m not sure I’d want it.  It’d only make the outside feel hotter. Yesterday, the Tupperware I left in my front seat, in the shade, melted into a malformed mass, and right now (7:44 am) the glue that holds the velcro on my truck’s curtains is failing, leaving me exposed to the ball of fire at the heart of the great desert oven.

I have a few more tours lined up for June, but I’m already packed.
Last month I left “for a few years” on the new moon, and returned two weeks later on the full moon.  In the 3D world it all made sense. There was work here and I needed funds.  But in Sedona-speak, the moon probably did it. This time I’m leaving on the full moon. I hope it sticks. I’m migrating north to greener grounds, meadows and snow capped mountains. It is time.

And then to the AT … 🙂

Xox.
Boiling Bobcat

Behold Pack the Second!

This is Pack the First, the beloved. packpct
It was born in Bellingham, in my friend Rose’s living room, after a painful 3 month stitch-destich-restich marathon. It was my first home-made pack, and I thought I had made all the mistakes in the book with it. I was wrong!

The first pack had a “Bobcat Blue” body and a “Hawaiian Blue” collar, a ULA belt (purchased) and a set of Arc’terix shoulder straps (gifted) – I did make my own shoulder straps, but felt they were too narrow and likely to become uncomfortable after some-thousand miles.

This was the pack that traveled to Rishikesh, India, walked the PCT, slept on or just below several of the New Hampshire 4000ers, rolled in the dirt of the Shaman’s cave, found some ancient ruins up Sycamore Canyon, rose up to Valhalla in BC, Canada, meandered on the San Diego Trail, hitchhiked from Florida to San Diego and couldn’t believe its good luck to get to explore Cuba – not in this order. It also got to carry ice axes and ice tools, climbed Mt. Baker twice, and ElDorado once. Not bad for a mistake-ridden first-time home-made pack.

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This is it today. The shoulder straps started to fray in northern California on the PCT – I was pleased that the first seams to fail were Arc’terix’s, not mine. The thin silnylon (~0.3 oz/yard) collar ripped in Washington from too much pulling on it to stuff more food in the pack (hiker hunger). Mice bent on getting my nuts transformed the mesh pockets into partial Swiss cheese. I fixed it all with Nylon tape. Both ULA pocket zippers broke in New Hampshire, conveniently half way, so I could still use half of each pocket. All nylon repair tape melted away in the humidity of Cuba. I repaired the pack again, with white duct tape borrowed from a trimaran captain at the Hemingway marina. I think he used it to repair the sails. The bright white made it look like a hobo pack, and I had to hide it under a pack-cover during the Florida to San Diego hitchhiking adventure because we were not getting any rides.

I considered repairing it more fully, somehow, and continuing to trust it to carry me through my adventures but feared the fabric had become frail beyond trust. I asked it what it wanted to do. It said “Oh, please, let me rest!” So I hugged it thank you and sewed another one.

Pack the Second was born in two living rooms, Lucy’s and Chris’s, both in Sedona. It took only about a month and a lot less destiching-restitching than for the first one. I might have taken less time still, if I hadn’t moved twice in that time period. Right after the back panel was done, I packed my machine and all fabric in the truck and moved to Colorado for a job. Less than two weeks later, I packed everything again, and returned to Sedona for another job. Some have suggested I use my transience to get free going-away party dinners. I have no comment on that topic.

The pack wasn’t my brain-child. I used a Ray-Way pattern and 24-pages instruction booklet. I bought the instructions, fabric and all notions as a kit on Ray Jardine’s website, after desperately shuffling all items in my storage unit in vain looking for the instructions I used for the first pack. At $95 a kit, I hope to never lose them again. I imagine this won’t be the last pack I make. I can find the fabric for $20-$30, so really the bulk of the cost is this set of instructions.

The thing is, I’ve never been good at following instructions … even $95 instructions. The Ray-Way pack is nice, but with every seam my imagination gets to the trail and adds its own flavor … wouldn’t it be nice to have compression straps, or a secret pocket to put my credit card, or a set of elastic bands to hold my Camelback upright, or a rigid piece of foam right on my back (the original design is for a frameless pack). So I dedicated much of the month of sewing to scratching my chin and muttering to myself, studying other “professional” packs and figuring out how to construct new things. That’s really the most fun part of pack-making, I think.

The other thing is, I’ve never been good at following directions … so, when the instructions say to keep the wide part of the fabric at the bottom to accommodate the sleeping bag, they mean it, and if the wide part is at the top, then the pockets are upside down (exhibit A above). That threw me for a “now what?” loop for a few days. My friend Miles said “keep it upside down (wide part up), maybe you’ll end up liking it even better.” I was dubious, but the alternative was to get a triangular piece of Tyvek and extend the sides. But then I’d have had an extra set of potential weak seams, ya da ya … not worth it. I sewed it as it was.
I’ll be hiking the AT with an upside down pack and nobody will know.
That wasn’t the worse … I also had to contend with a back panel 10 inches too short (because, it turns out no matter how many times I measured 10+15 = 35 (exhibit D above), it never was long enough), a sleeping bag compartment out of proportion with the rest of the pack (another calculation issue), and the fact that Ray Jardine doesn’t believe in hip belts. I modified the shoulder strap to accommodate a hip belt (Exhibit C above). It worked out.

This is good. I read that Native artists always leave a flaw in their art project so that the Gods understand the artist is not trying to compete with them. I think we’re all clear on this, I am not competing with any Gods.

A few people have told me “You’ve made this? That’s impressive!” – No. What’s impressive is that the machine I used did it. I call it “The Brave Little Machine that Could” (BLMC for short). A small Singer Featherweight II – I think it’s designed as an entry level sewing machine, for kids to learn to make pillows cases and such. I have it go through straps, foam, triple-quadriple stitches across 5 layers of fabric, then delicate seams through whisper-thin silnylon. Sometimes I have to sew by hand with the machine, turning the nob one punch at a time with many “you got this, good job Machine”, often I have to pull on the fabric to make it go through, and other times I just hold my breath and trust it knows what it’s doing. I always thank it in the end. It complains often, but it keeps going. And, it doesn’t sew that straight or that regularly, and that’s okay. The Gods are pleased with all our imperfections.

This is Pack the Second, here filled with blankets just to see how it fits. Its main body is “Bobcat Blue” again, but the collar is “Spring in New Hampshire Green”. It seemed appropriate to make a greener pack for the AT. The compression straps are from the first pack, so you know the adventures they’ve been on. The ULA hip belt was a gift from my friend Critter. That belt has already hiked the AT once, Georgia to New Hampshire (where he gave it to me – he had lost so much weight that this belt no longer fit him). The sternum strap comes from my North Face day-pack, and I’m not even going to list all the adventures that pack has been on. It’s been with me since 1995 – France, Yemen, Namibia, Tunisia, Tahiti, … – That little pack is indestructible. The strap is only borrowed, because I’m out of strap material. It’ll return to the North Face pack soon. Pack the Second is narrow at the bottom, but still fits the sleeping bag comfortably, and wider at the top, which I actually like better than the tall skinny collar of Pack the First (see above) … better lower center of gravity on my back if I have to load it with extra food – Miles was right after all (don’t tell him).

So, that’s it. All that’s left now is make a hole for the Camelback tube and take it on adventures.

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I’m already planning the color scheme for Pack the third, my future CDT pack. 🙂

Coyote – a story of Life and Death in the Sedona desert

I was once straight Bobcat. A totem animal master of solitude, stealth and curious navigation of higher realms of consciousness. Until a year ago ..

A year ago today, I woke up in my beloved desert to a glorious sunrise over red rocks. It was too hot to sleep past sunrise, and I had a tour that day anyway – 8 am pickup, just one client for a Sedona hike. I hula hooped to a few songs, read emails in the shade of my shell and ate breakfast with my feet dangling off the tailgate. Just another happy perfect day in the life of The Bobcat. When it was time, I packed the truck and drove down my dirt road.

Less than a hundred feet from my camp-home, an orange flatbed pickup truck and two young bearded men were parked near the water hole. I looked with interest – I rarely see people in my corner of the desert. I drove around the thorn thicket, over the cattle guard and into plain view of their truck. Suddenly, time slowed down to a trickle. In that trickle, I saw blood on the bed of the truck, a grey mass at the end of the blood, a gun in one hand, a look of surprise on a bearded face. In one swift move, the hand that didn’t have the gun grabbed the grey mass and tossed it in the thorn thicket. It was a coyote. Without a tail. Time resumed its normal speed. Both men stood by the truck and waved a friendly “hello”. I waved back and said “hello” – my brain hadn’t processed what had just entered it yet. The larger of the two men climbed in the truck and said to the other, “The fucker put blood all over the truck. Let’s get outta here.”

My brain caught up. The human “fuckers” had killed one of my coyotes and taken its tail – for a trophy, I suppose. My blood flash-boiled with anger. If I had a gun, I’d have shot the fuckers – shot them dead and taken their shoes. Oh, I was seething. And simultaneously fascinated. So, that’s how it felt. That’s how men kill men, families kill families (by whichever large definition), wars are started and massacres feel righteous and justified. Through the anger, I became aware of a new level of appreciation for the warriors of the world. As a self-proclaimed Buddhist Anarchist (one who aims to dismantle the System without harm to anything), I had never before understood the act of killing, except in respect for the purpose of feeding oneself. But I did that day. My heart screamed “Revenge!”, and yet, I drove on. It was 7 am in the desert, miles from any help, I was an unarmed woman alone, and these two had just shot a coyote for a trophy tail. Self-preservation prevailed over retribution.

My client that day was a woman about my age. She lived in Manhattan, New York, had manicured nails and had never been on a dirt road before. When she climbed into the truck, I realized I was unlikely to hold my tears for the entire tour, so I preempted with “Before we go anywhere, in case I cry, this is what just happened …” She had recently seen two black men gunned down in the subway. In spite of our completely opposite lifestyles, we understood each other perfectly. I did not lead a fluffy tour that day. We discussed heavy subjects – senseless killing, protecting one’s own and other plagues of humankind – as we hiked through beautiful canyons. She was a soulfriend, not a client, for a day. We must have both needed it. She later told the concierge at the resort that my tour had been the highlight of her trip.

After the tour. I called the BLM. Killing coyotes, it turns out, is legal, but with a permit. No permit had been purchased. If I had noted the truck’s license plate, they could have issued a violation and charged the hunters a fine. Fat lot of good that would have done the coyotes.

The sun was just setting when I returned to the desert, straight to the dead coyotes’s bed under the thicket. I thought the hunter might remove the evidence, but they had not even bothered. There were actually two coyotes, one slightly larger than the other. If it weren’t for the missing tails, I would have thought they were peacefully napping in the shade. My anger was instantly replaced by sadness. I kneeled at the foot of the larger one and cried. I cried for myself, not for them. They were long gone – I could tell. No lingering coyote in those bodies. I cried in frustration for my inability to protect my desert kin, for my cowardice cloaked in self-preservation, and for the loss of their voices in my nightly serenade.

Because of my upbringing, it felt disrespectful to me to just leave them there. I thought I should bury them and bless their place of rest with a cross or some other symbol. But the Sedona desert is packed hard and impenetrable. Digging a hole large enough for two coyotes would have taken several hours, but I would have done it.
Luckily, Benny, the man whom I called to borrow a shovel, is part Hopi.
“You don’t want to bury them.” He said. “If you leave them out, the desert can make use of their death. If you bury them, then their death is useless. Say a prayer to wish them well on their way, if it helps you, and know that nothing is in vain. We just don’t always understand Spirit’s greater plan.”

I spoke a prayer of gratitude over the coyotes’s empty shells. I had hoped to feel their presence as I thanked them for their company and their songs. Just a small sign of acknowledgement that I mattered to them as much as they had mattered to me, a sign of forgiveness for my wrongdoings – not protecting them – or at least a confirmation of a bond between us – any bond. They gave me nothing. There were no songs in the desert that night.

I stayed with the coyotes throughout the entire decomposition process. Not out of morbid curiosity, but because at the age of 44, I had never really been around death. I buried small dead animals I found in the woods out of view, and to this day, have still not seen a dead human body. I didn’t fear death, but neither did I understand it. This was part of the gift of the coyotes’s death. I got to learn. Every day, I said hello as I drove by, sent them loving thoughts, wherever they were, and sometimes I stopped to check. They never smelled, but gradually sunk flatter, as though they were relaxing more fully into the earth.

I left Sedona in mid-July on a book tour up the West Coast and didn’t return until September. The coyotes were my first stop back in town. I couldn’t believe how much the bodies had changed. Nothing left but two flat carpets, empty skins draped over a few bones, and everything else recycled. I continued to say hello daily and check occasionally. The October rains further flattened the remnants. Holes appeared in the coyote carpets, particularly over the bones and at the edges. Then it snowed, and I left again. I left January 1st, off on adventures for 3 months. When I returned, in mid-march, even the skins had been reabsorbed by the desert. The skulls and large bones were gone, but most of the vertebrae were left- beautiful little pieces of bone jewelry. I extended my hand to pick one up. I meant to keep one to honor their memory wherever I may roam, away from Sedona. But before my fingers could touch the bone, I heard a loud clear “NO!” in my head.

“What do you know about Coyote medicine?” I asked my friend Mikhael, who is part Choktaw and my go-to source for spirit animals questions.
“You do NOT want to invite Coyote medicine in your life.” She said. “Coyote is the Trickster. It will put your life upside-down, shake things up, and rattle your peace. Unless you’re ready for a wild ride, I’d leave these bones be, if I were you.”

So, I did let them be … but Coyote found me anyway.

About a month ago, I turned at the thorn thicket and over the cattle guard just in time to see a handsome male cross the dirt road toward the water hole. I was struck with excitement. He still had his thick winter coat, a healthy mix of brown and grey fur. He stopped to look at the truck, then continued, unperturbed. He paralleled the road leisurely for a while, so that I could keep my eyes on him while the truck handled the 4X4 terrain.
“Hello Coyote. You are BEAUTIFUL.” He paused and looked at me for just a moment, and that made my day. I giggled as I sped up to pick up a family for a Grand Canyon tour. Coyote energy was mine all day. Coyote energy – as in … my sandwich was lost, my keys disappeared three times, food spilled on my clean shirt, and so forth … I explained to my clients that this coyote energy was mine alone and that they were in no danger of contagion. We laughed at each incident, and the Trickster’s tricks became part of the tour.

Coyote energy lingered for days, backed by Murphy. Anything that could go wrong didn’t go completely wrong, but got just a little skewed, enough for a giggle and a sigh of inconvenience: “Oh! Coyote!”

Coyote even occupied my nights – not every dream, but at least one per night. In one of them, I was adopted by a pack of coyotes. They protected me from an evil javelina, and I helped raised some of their youngs. In another dream, one of these youngs had grown to maturity. We found each other again after years of separation and danced and yapped in joy. I then realized he was hurt. I held him in my arms against my heart and gently rocked him, asking “Please don’t die.” My friend Miles walked through my dream just then and scoped out the situation. “Maybe he didn’t come to die.” he said. “Maybe he came to heal.” I woke up crying in spite of Miles’ reassuring words.

Benny and I took a group of 17 people on a Sacred Places tour that day. It was just what I needed. As we stood in a circle under the towering walls of Cathedral rock, one by one we chose a spirit animal, and Benny described the gifts of each. When my turn came to speak, I chose, “I am Bobcat, but today, I carry Coyote.”
“Coyote. Wonderful medicine! Coyote teaches us the balance between wisdom and playfulness. It reminds us to not take things too seriously, to lighten up. Coyote is nimble, adaptable and resourceful. Coyote plays by its own rules. It is not concerned about the risk of falling down or getting ridiculed. It walks the land confidently and trusts in the magic in all situations. In some myths, coyote sang the people into creation. It takes care of its pack, of its youngs. And also, coyote mates for life.”

Today is the anniversary of the death of two friends who didn’t even know they were friends. I thought about them when I woke up. I was actually woken up by an unusually loud buzzing of bees. This is the first time in all three months of May that I spent in Sedona that the cat claw shrub next to the truck is in full bloom and the bees were AT IT! I sat on a wood log right next to the cat claw to photograph the bees, but it took an hour just to get one fairly decent shot. Last year, two coyotes died. This year, the bees get fed. Is that what reincarnation actually means?

I am Bobcat and I carry Coyote –  One bone jewelry piece from each of the pair, so as to keep them together still, picked up this morning, not to honor their memory – because let’s face it, they don’t care – but because I’m ready for it.

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One of my bees, busy busy this morning.
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Sitting on a log, trying to catch a bee, but taking a selfie instead. I sat there until it was too hot to pollinate and they went home. The scarf was to make a hood shade over the phone, so that I could see the screen.
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One of my coyotes’ vertebrae.
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All that is left under the thicket.
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The water hole nearby, where desert creatures gather when I’m not around. 20160529_091638a

Whose room is this? And how the hell did I get here?

I wake up indoors this morning. A lovely little room, with blue and orange draperies on the ceiling over the bed. Last night, I drove to the desert, but that van – you know the one – was parked in “my” spot again, so I turned around and drove elsewhere for the night … and ended up in this room, somehow.

The last thing I remember was turning around where the van was parked. What the hell did I do last night? Did I drive back to town? Go to the Oak Creek Brewery for open mic? Did somebody spike my water?

I sit up in bed with a fast and hard beating heart. I’m sure it’ll come back to me. I look around – hard! Nothing. I rack my brain trying to retrace my steps. Nothing. Am I dreaming? Nope. Wide awake. I check my phone. Dead. Damn – that’s like that time my friend was given cocaine and didn’t remember it the next day. Did I smoke pot again? At least, I figure whoever I followed home isn’t a guy. This is definitively not a guy’s room – not a straight one anyway. Some woman’s room, with good taste from what I can tell. One bookshelf, with some of the same books I own and some shiny rocks. Some climbing gear in the closet, and these big cool orange and blue draperies overhead. Okay, so I met some cool climbing chick and went home so we could go climb together? Doesn’t explain why I’m in her bed …

I turn around and my jaw drops. What the hell! I’m not even in Sedona. These are pine trees past the small balcony, and not Ponderosas either. Like big, mossy evergreens. By then, I’m getting dizzy and about to really loose my shit, when this girl gently knocks at the door.

She opens the door and leans in. I don’t remember her at all.
“Hey, sorry to bug you, but rent’s due today. Would you get your check to Pat before you leave.”
“Who are you? Where am I?”
Pat walks in. I know her. Patricia MacQueen – 2011, we were PhD students at Frasier University together. I never called her Pat then, she was Patricia.
What is this, the Twilight Zone?
“I’m sorry ‘Pat’ – huh … how did I get here?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why am I here?”
The girls look at each other.
“How the HELL DID I GET HERE?” I’m starting to really panic, like I completely lost my mind.
“Huh … you live here …”
“I live in my truck, currently parked in Sedona.”
“Sedona, Arizona?” They look at each other again. The girl I don’t know looks at Pat “Maybe she had a seizure from too much alcohol.”
I understand I’m in Vancouver. Mmmh mmmh. Hell no. “I left here in 2011 to walk the PCT, then I moved in my truck and have been living on the road ever since.”
“No, Love,” Pat says gently “you walked the PCT and you moved in with me when you got back, and you’ve been paying rent here ever since and we’ve been commuting to our office at school together every day, and Megan here moved in with us last year, and in 3 days when you leave to walk the AT, she’ll get your room.”

Speechless. Brain trying to catch up to facts. Too much to take in. But mostly – shit! I have 3 days to move all my stuff to storage before I drive to Colorado to see LB, before getting on the AT. Deep breath. Not all is lost. At least I’m still walking the AT. Wait, what? I’m still in school?
“Am I planning to come back here to finish my PhD after the AT?”
They look at each other again. It’s getting really annoying.
“Man, what did you do last night? No, you finished. You defended yesterday, that’s why you went out and partied your ass off … don’t you remember?”

No, I really don’t remember. But somehow it makes sense. Maybe I did have a seizure. I don’t remember anything of my life in Vancouver for the past 5 years. I’m lost in thoughts trying to piece it together, and can hear a van drive down our street, past the tall pines and right below my small balcony. Wait a minute … that’s a Westfalia. I know that van.

The puttering of the engine gets louder and grabs my consciousness out of my life as a Doctor in Geophysics, and drags it upward to the surface of this reality, where the rocks are red and there is no rent due today and I don’t have to move all my stuff to storage because I live in my truck.

The van drives by and continues onto 525, and I follow its sound until it’s faded to nothing.
Shit, that was intense, and so real.

As real as this one reality by my perception.

I’m having a bit of an existential crisis this morning, wondering if I’m going to wake up from this one somewhere else. At least, in all my realities, I’m leaving in 3 days to Colorado before walking the AT.

It really makes me wonder though …

parralel life

I pee in a Tupperware

I pee in a Tupperware because it’s too wet to step outside.
I eat dark sea salt chocolate for breakfast because I don’t want to set up my alcohol stove in the mud.
I hide in my shell and post photos on Instagram because I can’t hula hoop.
It’s too wet outside.
The edges of the shell leak.
The basket that holds my toothbrush, toothpaste, headlamp and crystals is wet.
The corner of my journal leaned against the window is wet.
My shoes tucked against the tailgate are wet.
A corner of my mattress is wet – Tupperware accident.
Everything else is dry.
I’m dry.
It’ll be really slick getting out of here this morning, but I know the truck doesn’t mind.
The rain plays a drum solo on my shell and nourishes the creatures of desert, and I can’t help but love it, in spite of all the inconveniences.

Slapped with blessings

My friend Peter always says “Whenever I complain, the Universe slaps me with a blessing.”
The same is true for me.

Just a few days ago, I posted a rant called “A day late and a few grands short.” I have since deleted it. It was too out of character. I mean, I do come with a full range of emotions. I’m not always happy, contrarily to what some of you seem to believe. But still, I felt that post didn’t represent the majority of how I feel or how I interact with the world, and most certainly it didn’t reflect my reality. I’ve included the original post below (Click here to skip to it), if nothing else, for the pleasure of having that flippant Bobcat walking away photo somewhere on this blog.

Here is the post where I set the record straight.

“How come I don’t get any financial abundance?” I whined.

Alright. Let’s look at this (in somewhat reverse chronological order). There was the time when …

  1. I had less than $100 to my name, when I met a Viking who offered to front me the cash to travel with him to Cuba. Work was waiting for me when we finally parted ways after adventuring for two months straight, to two countries and across the USA. Thank you Miles, my knight-viking in shining armor (or hiking skirt, depending on the occasion).
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  2. I returned to Sedona from a west coast book tour at 4 am, and with only $80. At 8 am – 4 hours later – I was woken up by a text from Benny of Earth tours saying that he hoped I was in town because he needed help for a special retreat with 4 Russian billionaires. The pay was good. The work was fun. The Russians tipped me $1000 for a day and a half of work.I didn’t need to work for the rest of that year. Thank you blood moon of 2015!
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  3. I left for a west coast book tour with less than $40. It wasn’t even enough to make it past Flagstaff, but I felt called to go anyway. I sold enough books in Flagstaff to get to South Lake Tahoe, sold enough books in South Lake Tahoe to drive to Ashland, sold enough books in Ashland to … and so forth. 6,000 miles later, I returned to Sedona with $80, having traveled to Canada, Burning Man, worked on a farm, kayaked, hiked, climbed, etc. (See the green loop on the roaming map) I never lacked for food or fuel. I even manifested some amazing free yoga pants along the way. Thank you, dozens of angels along the way.
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  4. After a few months in the Sedona desert, I was trying to finish the editing of my book, and was running really really thin on cash. I went to my storage unit to see if I had anything to sell, when a business card fell out of a box I was moving and landed at my feet. It was for Danita Delimont, an agent with whom I worked back when I was a photographer, almost ten years prior. I called on a whim, and she said “Melissa! Where have you been? We’ve had this royalty check here for you for years, but we didn’t know where to send it.” She Paypaled me the money within half an hour. Thanks Danita. Thanks business card for falling out.
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  5. One morning I woke up with $4, an empty fuel tank and an empty food box. I had $14 the night before, but went to a Ryan Montbleau show in Phoenix. It was worth it. I woke up thinking “Mmmh. I’m out again. Today should be interesting.” A few hours later, I met Benny, of Earth Tours, at a coffee shop. He had never successfully worked with an assistant, but he hired me on the spot and paid me a tour in advance. Boom! Money and a job, and a coworker better than any I could have dreamt. Benny has been part of much financial magic in my life since I met him. Thanks Benny! (and Thanks Ryan Montbleau for an awesome show).
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  6. I was in the negative in New Hampshire, worried about the approaching winter, when one of my yoga students introduced me to a rich lady with a 17.5 year old dog. The lady needed to travel to France but couldn’t leave the dog behind. I dog-sat that dog and lived in a small palace overlooking fields and the White Mountains for 7 weeks. She paid me well, and suddenly I had enough to drive back out west. I still stayed for another month in NH to finish my book, in the spare bedroom of an incredibly bright and loving Mother Goddess. She asked for nothing in return. She even gave me a private office to finish writing my book. Thank you Dawa (the dog) and Leah (the Goddess)!
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  7. I had $2.62 left (I took a picture of my statement) in New Hampshire, because I had just quit a job at a gear shop I didn’t resonate with and didn’t make enough from teaching yoga to cover my expenses, when out of nowhere a man I had met briefly at the gear shop but had never actually spent time with offered me $40/hr to help him clean windows of rich people’s homes on Nantucket island. I worked on Nantucket for two weeks, lived with Rich, and was spoiled with fresh seafood and friendship. When I returned to North Conway, I discovered that my tires were delaminating. I was able to buy a very nice set of offroad tires for exactly the amount I had made. It was like the Universe gave me the gift of new tires in a roundabout way. Thanks Rich!
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  8. Looking further back, there was the time when I found $184 in the trash can of a hotel in Big Bear City. Sorry thru-hiker who lost $184 while cleaning your gear. I made good use of it. Passed it on as magic to other hikers for the rest of the day, and only kept a $17 fee for myself. It seemed fair.
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  9. There was the time a hot air balloon landed on my truck in the middle of the desert and offered me a job. Say what? Yep. Thank you!
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  10. There was the time I walked the PCT on a credit card, and upon my return discovered the National Science Foundation had never reclaimed the $10,000 tuition funds deposited directly in my account. I also paid for my trip to India with that money. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
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And that’s not even the beginning of it. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. I mean read the book … sometimes, it’s just ridiculous.

My friend Carrot Quinn said that she feels the Universe is on a matching program. Whatever effort you put in, you will be met with magic of the same amount. I definitely get more than I put in.

So, now the record is straight. I have nothing to whine about. At all! I am, actually, exactly where I need to be. If I had been more successful financially earlier, I’d have missed out on all these juicy last-minute rescues, the dozens of odd jobs, the gifts, miracles and serendipities. I wouldn’t have been flooded with gratitude as I have been. Gifts are always more potent when contrasted to a stark background.

I just got a job offer last night. I’ll be taking off for Colorado in a few weeks. So, my “spot” in the desert is vacant and up for grabs. And my Appalachian Trail walk is funded (with potential surprises and detours along the way). All is well. As always.

XOXO
Roaming Bobcat.

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The original post:

A day late and a few grands short …

by the Roaming Bobcat

Here’s something out of character. I’m going to vent. I want to vent.

Let me back up, before I start … so, a few nights ago, I went back to the desert a little later than I usually do. It was already dark. When I got to “my spot” there was a van parked there. A man was tending to the fire, a woman was playing with a dog. It happens. Sometimes, I get home and I find someone in my living room. Usually, I don’t mind. Usually, I understand that the views from my living room are exceptional, that it is the only place on the whole hill with 3G, full bar cell-phone reception, and that the fire ring has some wood already stacked. The place just screams “perfect camp. Welcome!” Usually, the campers are weekenders. I turn around right at the spot – sometimes gracefully, sometimes less – and camp somewhere else. The next day, they go home, and I get my home back.

But this time was different. I knew that van. I had seen it in town on and off since last year. It had a big logo on the side: “Where’s my office now”. These were desert dwellers like myself, living out on the land, and they had just found my perfect camp. I turned around in front of their van with a sinking feeling. I parked just down the road a bit, because I wanted to stay close to see what their patterns were. You know, us, big cats, that’s what we do. We don’t pounce right away … we study patterns, and when we have established a fail-proof plan of attack we go for it. I wanted to see when they arrive, when they leave, and such, to be sure I can get there before they do.

Well, that backfired. For the first time in all the years I’ve slept in the truck, a mouse crawled in … I don’t even know through where … and landed between the truck bed liner and the truck bed. I could hear it. Poor thing was panicking. I was not much calmer. The only way I knew out of there was through the hole where the clamp to hold the shell is. I shone my light on the hole and waited. I even set up a small tub of strawberry jam to entice it out. FINALLY, after hours of waiting, I saw its whiskers. It saw me, got scared and turned around, pointing its tail out of the hole. All I had to do was grab its tail and set it free. But, well, it was a mouse. I stared at it. Didn’t move. It went back in. By then it was past midnight. I plugged the clamp hole and tried to sleep. I don’t know how the mouse got back out – presumably through the hole it used to crawl in. Bottom line was, I had an epic night and was exhausted the next day. I left the desert before the van did. No patterns learned.

The next day, I went to the desert by mid-afternoon. I was first in the spot. The van showed up at sunset, and with it another van. Great! Now they were inviting friends.

The next day, I went to the desert even earlier. I wrote the van-dwellers a note I planned on leaving, in case I couldn’t “beat them to it” the next day. The note said “You are welcome to stay here, but please don’t spit toothpaste on the ground, don’t walk on the flowers, don’t …” Once the note was written, I had to be honest with myself. I wasn’t welcoming them at all. It was a passive-aggressive note thinly disguised as a leave-no-trace reminder. They never drove by that night. I thought, “Good, maybe they’ve driven their office elsewhere.”

But as the next day progressed, I noticed an oppressing feeling on my chest. I was actually having anxiety about this. What if I couldn’t camp in my spot? So much for non-attachment! Luckily, that night – last night – I was first there again. The van drove by in the dark. I didn’t move, but I felt that anxiety again. So, I did what I do. I explored the anxiety. Since that’s what was up, I figured I might as well learn from it. What did anxiety feel like in my body? I didn’t try to intellectualize the whys or hows, I just observed it. I fell asleep holding sweet little Anxiety in my arms.

And here my post actually starts.

This morning, a lovely brunette – the woman from the van – came running by my truck. I jumped on the occasion to solve my quandary. If I couldn’t make them go home, I might as well befriend them. Of course, she was genuine, fun, friendly, and had all the qualities you’d expect in a van-dweller. She and her partner have been living in the van since 2013, she told me, embracing a nomadic life. How do they survive? They have thousands of followers on Instagram, and therefore are attracting sponsors. Wait. What? So, you post pictures of you living in your van, and people pay to see the photos of you living in your van? Yep. That’s correct.

WT .. I’ve been living in my truck since 2011 (with time off to walk long trails and travel, a few months indoors when I met Chris, and another few months indoors in winter in New Hampshire). It would have never dawned on me that people would care. I mean, aside from my friends. Would you take pictures of your bedroom and post them? No, well, me neither.

This got me thinking. About 5 months ago, I met another lovely, incredibly badass lady. That lady published a book exactly a month before I published mine. Her book is great, but so is mine. She is making a living from Kindle dividends now, and getting sponsors to hike long trails. Am I? Hell no! Not by a long shot. What’s the difference? She has 5000 followers on her blog. How did she do that? She just posts about her life on the trail, every day. Again, that would have never dawned on me. I just wouldn’t feel like I have anything that interesting to say every day.

“Dude! Just this year, you flew one-way to Cuba, hitchhiked back on a boat to Florida, hitched cross-country on I10, you live in the desert, and you’re about to go hike the AT on no money at all. And you don’t think your life is interesting?” my friend said.
My life is my life. It’s normal to me. I guess.

Instead of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – I’m having FOHMO – Fear of having missed out. What if I had kept a blog back when I walked the PCT? Oh, wait, I did. I lost my audience when I started posting spiritual posts. What if I had actually written about Cuba when I was there? Nah, I was too busy living that adventure. It required all my attention. What if I had Instagrammed my way across the country? What if I had learned about hashtags sooner? What if my book came out 5 months earlier, right when the wave of Cheryl Strayed Wild was still hot? What if …

There are people out there doing exactly what I’m doing, and making a living from it. WTF.

Yes, I could copy them … and I am. I’m Kindling like the badass lady with the blog, and I’m hashtagging like the lovely lady in the van. And I feel like a side character, the #2, not the Captain – almost as good. This is the movie of my own life. Why aren’t I the friggin’ leading lady? With the wild imagination I have been accused of having, couldn’t I be my own creative genius. Couldn’t I hit that secret jackpot that lets me be exactly who I am, and poof! abundance flows in because of it.

Or do I think too highly of myself? Humility – is that what I’m missing? Should I feel gratified to know that the Universe is placing people in my path to show me what is possible. And isn’t it my own blindness that instead sees in them lack by contract?

I know others in that boat. I know incredibly talented individuals who have dedicated months to years to building a social media dream, only to be ignored at best and poopooed at worse. What’s the difference? Intent? Am I going to have to fall back on spirituality for this one? Is this one of those … to every monk there is a path, and for some reason, you have chosen to explore living in misery, but it’s all for the Greater Good. Or worse … did you just see the sentence I wrote? These bad thoughts I’m having are creating the blockages that impede the oncoming flow of abundance that’s waiting right around the corner, and man, when that dam breaks, I will be flooded. Yes, I am rolling my eyes … more body language blockages.

Sigh … Hello Frustration. Hello Confusion. Hi Tinge of Anger. Welcome aboard. I shall be your bodily vehicle for the moment. Please be sure to express yourself fully, keep all hands and feet inside at all times, so as to not spill over onto my social media life. I have a reputation to uphold. I am the Roaming Bobcat.  #ilovemylife #asitshouldbe #abundance #iamenough #yadeyaah #whatever.

bobcatrear