En route to the Okanagan, Rosa climbs up the Coquihalla Highway, her headlights not as bright or straight as they could be, her modest engine pushing itself to go 45 or 50 km/hour up the pass. The snow is falling fast and sticking to the pavement as Rosa’s winter tires wait for her in Nelson. A transport truck barrels past and douses Rosa with heavy sleet and snow, like a rhinoceros running past a wombat while simultaneously shaking itself dry of a mud bath (a very athletic rhinoceros and a very lost wombat). For a moment the windshield is opaque until the wipers heave the sleet and snow away.
Nine years ago I moved to Nelson, BC to attend music school. During music school I fell in love with the town of Nelson, with its rich culture, vibrant community, and gorgeous surroundings. So, when I finished music school, instead of hitting the road as a touring musician, I settled down in Nelson. After roaming around for most of my twenties doing seasonal work as a river guide, kayaker, and fisheries technician, I was happy to find a place that felt like home. I realized that I didn’t want to be roaming anymore. I was ready to put some roots down.
I’m on the cusp of forty now and my roots are flapping in the wind. Once again I’m a rambling man, with my dreams teasing me towards unknown places. After eight sumptuous years nestled in Nelson, I’ve spent the last two years doing more driving than my neck, shoulders, and butt care to remember. Since early July of this year the longest I’ve been in one place is about three and a half weeks. During that time I’ve traveled to Washington State, North Carolina, Ontario, New York State, and to different parts of British Columbia to share Nonviolent Communication and to learn about and share Restorative Circles and Systems. Last year at this time I was also finishing many months on the road after extensive traveling around BC. It’s no accident that my business is named Road to Compassion. Maybe it’s time for a name change: Settled in Compassion-there’s a name with a relaxed ring to it.
I find it difficult to eat, sleep, exercise, and connect with loved ones the way I’d like to while I’m on the road. And I just happen to have a sensitive digestion, a huge love of good sleep, a body that is meant to stretch and move, and a heart that longs to be more connected.
Rosa, my van, is feeling the road weariness even more than I am, although she’s got a lot of heart for such a small van. With her four-cylinder engine she just wasn’t built for climbing over British Columbia’s mountain passes, especially at the age of 20 (78 in Toyota van years) but I haven’t given her a lot of choice in the matter. She gets so hot with all that climbing that twice in the last four months I’ve had to get Rosa’s coolant system fixed. And her poor lungs; she’s now making a whistling sound when going uphill, a whistling that sounds an awful lot like the whistling sound I had fixed several months ago when her exhaust manifold was leaking. This time I’m thinking about building a melody around her whistling so we can serenade the scenery as we crawl our way over the mountains. Maybe then the whistling won’t turn into squealing like it did last time.
But Rosa and I aren’t complaining, far from it. We feel very grateful to be able to do what we do, to travel to different places and share our passion for compassion. As difficult as the climbing is, Rosa and I do love to be in the mountains. Not long ago we were in the stunning Similkameen Valley where I was giving an NVC workshop in Holly’s Yoga Studio, which is part of Destiny Lane Farm (delicious organic carrots, horse-ploughed and seeded fields) on the flood plains of the Similkameen River. Holly’s Yoga Studio, built by her partner Destin, has huge windows that allow the sky, mountains and fields to expand the space. It also has lovely a hardwood floor, a wood-fire stove, antique doors, loads of space, and lots of small touches that added up to workshop warmth and aesthetic I will not soon forget.
And then there’s the inner travel of the workshop journey. It’s in the moment-to-moment sharing of NVC with others that I get to explore my inner landscape (hmmmm, that sound’s deep). I do my best to navigate through the old, mucky thoughts and beliefs about having to give a perfect workshop in order to be accepted or to be of value in the world. The more I trudge through this inner terrain, the clearer a path is worn into my psyche, a path that leads me to where it’s clear enough to show up just as I am. Fortunately, I’m often supported by some of the people who come to my workshops. People who are not only eager to explore a different approach to conflict and connection but who are willing to stretch themselves, even if just a little bit, back towards the openness and authenticity that our traumas and painful experiences taught us to fear. People like the ones who joined me on my trip through the Okanagan: at Holly’s Yoga Studio in the Similkameen Valley; in the lovely Eurhythmy room at the Kelowna Waldorf School; and at the People’s Place in Vernon.
As my workshop on Destiny Lane Farm came to an end, daylight faded away and rain began to fall, which meant snow higher up in the mountains. Holly was not slow to invite me to have dinner and stay the night, instead of driving over another snowy dark mountain pass-I love easy choices. After a wonderful meal, I played some of my songs while Destin jammed along on a piano that he had hauled all the way to Belize and back, a piano on which many music legends had played at the Vancouver nightclub that Destin used to own. Then Destin played some of his songs while I jammed/fumbled along on my guitar. The evening ended early enough for a restful night of sleep and some early morning yoga. What a wonderful antidote to the sometimes lonely, sometimes unsettling, life on the road.
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t miss Nelson, but I am trying to travel my own destiny lane, to follow that inner calling that can be hard to ignore, painful to hear, and frustrating to comprehend.
My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all who helped me with my Okanagan workshops and presentations: Cathy and Gayle from BCNCC, Doug Fomenko–thank you so much for sharing your home, Danielle Westlake, Angela Pretties and the Kelowna Waldorf Staff, Katrina Kaneda, Mary-Ellen McNaughton, Karen Fentiman, Andrea Hess, Holly and Destin, Kelly Terbasket, Dave Cursons, Margaret Clark, Dan Bianco, Sylvie Harel, all those who came to my workshops and presentations, Rosa, and the mechanics who got Rosa back on the road.
Leap of Faith
Standing before a fork
in the road
there is not a right answer
or truth cast in stone, there are
choices and plans and desire,
there is the heart of fire and
twist of fate,
there is the unveiling
of who you are and who you
This I have found after
bargaining with my hopes
and my destiny. There is only
a still quiet voice within
that tells me trust what you
know and then surrender,
leap if you must, let your wings
unfurl, let your angels play catch.
We drink dreams from a
sliver of moon.
~ Wendy L. Brown