There is a pattern that I’ve noticed in my travels. Often, for the last few days in a place I’m not fully there any more. Sometimes, like my recent travel from Glasgow, Scotland to Seattle, Washington, I am deeply torn about where my heart and mind and body are. And then I arrive in the new place, but parts of me take a while to catch up. When I mentioned to my friend what I was feeling, she called it “Soul lag”.
I find that when I first arrive in a place, it takes me days or even weeks to get back into a solid pattern of spiritual practice and regain a sense of connection. Part of that comes from the practical problems of getting my bearings, settling into new work and living situations, connecting with friends and family in the area, and simply finding a new pattern to settle into. The other part comes from that “soul lag”. It’s hard to be spiritually fully “on” when it feels as if your soul is strewn in bits back in the last stopping point and across a long route of travel.
I didn’t want to leave Scotland, but I knew that I needed to. Not just because of work and visa issues, but because I knew that I had important things waiting for me on the other end of my journey. Those last few days in the country were spent saying goodbye to my friends both human and not. I walked a lot. I asked the spirits if I had been wrong to think that I would be coming back to live there again, soon, and for a longer time. I asked again, and again, why the place feels the way it does to me. (This is a thing that I spent a lot of time asking the spirits. I had no known connection to Glasgow, and yet that place felt so very known and normal to me. I still don’t know why.) I left regretfully. Not fully able to let go.
And then I arrived in Seattle, one of my favorite cities in the world. There are few places on earth that I have more of a feeling of community and family. So many of my extended not-necessarily-blood-tied clan live in Seattle that it is definitely (a) home. It is one of the places that I come back to again and again, to rest and refuel and connect. But this sojourn in Seattle was only a stopover and I knew it. I didn’t realize it when my plane touched down on Tuesday night, but I was there for some ritual with a dear friend and her partner and to let my soul catch up with my body.The day after I arrived in Seattle, the thing that I thought I had come back for dissolved into nothingness. For three days I didn’t know what I would be doing next. I got a sudden call to travel to Israel. Another call pulled me north to Canada for a short visit. There were things that needed to be done in Eastern Washington. California tugged at my sleeve. Calls back and forth had me at the edge of my seat. Plane tickets were nearly purchased several times, and then not. Meanwhile I tried to get work done for clients in a place that wasn’t even one of the travel choices, and I tried to spend as much time with my local friends as possible. I prayed and walked and smoked tobacco and thanked the spirits and asked them again, “Why?” along with the other question hanging over my head, “What now?”
It was an amazing few days, really. The kind of days that only an itinerate modern shaman could experience, and right now I am laughing at myself for having been so worked up about the uncertainties and strangeness of it all. My intellectual mind never forgets how lucky I am to live this bizarre life of mine, but my emotional self still gets stressed when I don’t know where I’m going to be living in a day or two. Luckily for me, one of my wonderful mentors who lives near where I was staying reminded me again how the Universe keeps taking care of me in these transitions. A roof over my head. A belly full of food. Meaningful work to be done. Good friends to sit with. Stop worrying, he said. He was right, of course.
On the Saturday after I arrived in Seattle I woke up early in the morning and climbed onto a Greyhound bus heading south. I returned to Oakland, California, the place of my birth. It was the place I had least wanted to go of all the possibilities. (Such irony!) But the time in Seattle had clearly been intentional. It gave me a chance to pull all the soul parts together and be fully present. For once arrival didn’t require extra effort to find my spiritual self. It’s a good thing, too, because two days after I got here things got really busy.
And I bet it won’t surprise you to know, the things I’ve done this last week aren’t at all what I thought I would be doing when I climbed on that bus.