WWOOF Day 1: Embrace The Grey

Planning sucks, life happens and things tend to work themselves out.

Today was a long day of helpful reminders that no matter how much I planned things, that I should accept the fact that the universe isn’t meant to be ordered based on my expectations of it.

I started my first day at 4:13 in the morning, waking up to a sea of faces outside of my door telling me that I had 2 minutes to make it down to the shuttle to the airport.

Luckily, I had pre-packed all of my gear and my outfit for the day was hanging up in the closet. I rushed to switch out of my sleepwear and left the rest of it on the floor. Coincidentally my room mate was leaving the next day, so I asked him to donate everything I had left.

I toppled over the prepacked gear in the van and with the assistance of my team mates, packed my oversized pack in to the back of the 15 passenger Chevy Express. The breakfasts were catered bagged lunches and I shoveled mine down as fast as possible during the short ride to Sacramento International. The goodbyes were bittersweet, but not as much as they could have been do to everyone’s general attitude of being over the AmeriCorps experience after serving an almost fruitless additional month.

My airport was at a different terminal than the rest of my peers, so I was dropped off with one other at the Southwest entry. After a painless check in and helping him through the unfamiliar process of getting through the airport, we parted ways and I begun the two and a half hour wait for my 7:30am flight.

This gave me enough time to look in to scheduling a shuttle from LAX, my first destination to Union Station to take a train, since my sister who was supposed to grab me accidentally showed up a day too early. This was also painless and rather inexpensive compared to my mental estimates.

I was fortunate enough to have saved some potential costs of having to mail my second backpack home by stashing it in the ceiling tiles of the dorm building. I had planned to leave it with my sister.

I waited around trying to shrug off the mild inconvenience of having my work boots thrown away (left in the vehicle by a friend while they were being cleaned out) by trying to figure out to do with the handful of stuff I grabbed off my dresser last minute. I spent the wait perusing YouTube.

The flight was only about 45 minutes long and before I knew it, I was on a shuttle to take the train to take a car ride to the ranch. I spent my first day as a vegan walking past all the food stands, snacking on some old banana chips and trail mix I had stashed from left over fire line meals.

My interest in Zen flourished for the first time today also, my practice of mindfulness taking a serious turn as I barreled through How to Meditate by Pema Chodron. I planned on marathoning the short instructional book before leaving AmeriCorps so I wouldn’t have to carry it with me, but the several layovers provided me just enough time to become fully absorbed in its message.

The air was warm on the platform to the Amtrak train, the dry breeze filtering its way around the detached train cars. I took notice to the pigeons who eagerly watched me snack as I read and the sound of the incoming trains heading elsewhere.

When I finally arrived in Goleta after a three hour train ride, twice as long as the drive, I waited for another half hour on one of the only two benches at the station. These two benches were pretty much the only fixtures at the station besides a sign and the train platform.

There was a woman hiding behind a raised stone platform and the smell of weed coming from her general proximity. Her ride soon arrived as I watched the various vehicles come and go along.

Kevin showed up eventually, in a white Mercedes station wagon, older than I am, with a single backseat in the form of a cushion and a seat belt. He asked me if I was comfortable and having been faced with worse shocks than that, I made no complaint. It actually upset me (mildly, but even so), that he was so concerned about my opinion of them and there was no way for me to comfort him that I was really fine.

Of course, we were just meeting for the first time and I was city-folk compared to them.

Instead of heading straight to the farm, we went on a variety of errands in the Isla Vista area, the UC Santa Barbara established college town that surrounded the campus.

We stopped at the co-op, the laundrymat, and the Trader Joe’s where we picked up a few groceries to accommodate my  meal arrangement. I was excited to be living in an area as bustling and youthful as IV, before being informed that the ranch was actually around 17 miles outside of town.

No biggie though.

When we finally arrived, I was handed a rake and quickly cleared the rocks out of the platform I was pitching my tent on. I approached it with an AmeriCorps attitude of working quickly in order to receive validation, but it never arrived. Once I was settled in, I met Kevin in the back of his metalcrafting workshop on a little stone platform that faced the Pacific Ocean.

Together, we chatted for a bit and he told me about his adventures through India and how he inherited his yoga instruction through a direct lineage from B.K.S. Iyengar, who had just passed away last week. As he posed and meditated towards the evening sun, I sat quietly next to him and we watched the sun set over (one of ) the westernmost point(s) of the continental U.S.

Nipa had prepared us dinner and it was a delicious bowl of Thai soup, prepared with vegetables straight from the garden and cubed tofu.

As I went to bed, I realized that I was really learning how to and should continue to embrace the grey.

This was the start of what was going to be a transforming experience.

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