Are you the one?

Please Lord, help me get one.

I woke at 5a this morning, ready to rise and shine. I’m staying with my bff in Madison, Virginia, near the base of the Shenandoahs. The house is quiet at this hour. I tip-toe out the room and start the coffee. I tip-toe out the front door with Justice. Good morning, world.

The sky is still dark but alive with singing. Crickets, cicadas, frogs? I wish I knew the source of my serenade. I stand on the front porch and close my eyes. The singing fills the air and wraps around me, amplified. I feel it penetrate my tired bones and rouse me gently. I take a deep breath in, hold… and let it out again.

I tip-toe back inside and pour my coffee. I settle myself at the kitchen table with my journal. The TV is still playing in the window room beside me, and I recognize the scenes of Hacksaw Ridge. The battle is just beginning. I know what happens. It’s brutal. It’s ugly. And in the face of defeat, the conscientious objector calls upon an unseen force, “What do you want me to do?” and “Please Lord, help me get one more.”

I see the faces of women, their bodies strung out on the battlefield. Wounded. Alone in their suffering. My heart cries softly, “What do you want me to do?” and “Please Lord, help me get to one.”

I had no idea when I went on walkabout that my journey would produce a book. I had no idea when I began my book that my journey would produce a movement. But as healing comes, healing gives. The more I speak with women, the greater my resolve to hear more deeply, to help dress the wounds, and to facilitate a move to safety, where radical healing can take place.

Are you the one?

As the morning rises, the night songs give way to the day. Birds call. The pattering of rain drops on leafy green. The porch swing sways. The dew hangs on the air. I tip-toe barefoot in the grass and welcome what is to come. My inbox is open and ready to receive you.

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Just another #travel book?

My 50 states travel project for 2017 was born from a crazy, burning desire to write a book. I have always dreamed of being a writer. I know what it is like to feel a deep yearning inside that keeps you searching for an answer. This deep longing finally drove me to give myself the time and space I needed to actually respond. I was excited, and more than a little nervous.

  • Have you ever been in a place like this? Where you felt a deep desire to do something more creative in your life? Responding to that deep desire feels a little crazy, but not responding is kinda making you crazy anyway.

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So I embarked on my epic road trip. My journaling went great! Every day I filled three pages in my notebook with stream of consciousness writing. I was getting a blog post up about once a week. I even sent out a few fun newsletters.

But every time I sat down to work on my book, it just felt totally wrong. I had no idea how to do it. Do I just tell my story in chronological order? What is the point I want the reader to take away? The travel was changing me, freeing me, and I really wanted to write about that, but I didn’t want my book to be just another travel adventure story.

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As the weeks went by I became more and more frustrated. I was not satisfied to just put words on a page. I wanted to produce a quality piece of work, something of true value, something that could really make a difference in the world. (surprise, surprise :)) As mid-year approached, I grew seriously concerned that I would get to the end of the year and have nothing to validate my efforts. Plus, I was running out of money faster than I expected. I finally realized I could not do this on my own. I needed help.

  • Have you ever heard the old proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?”

I was meeting so many fascinating people on the hiking trails and in the campgrounds, even at the gas station. I started praying that I would somehow, someway cross paths with someone who could help me write the book I dreamed I could write.

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Then I met Dr. Angela Lauria, and I knew my prayers had been answered. Angela has been helping birth books since 1994 and has coached dozens of authors. She is highly selective about the people she works with, and with my application I was asking, Am I good enough? Is my idea strong enough? To my delight, I was one of a handful of candidates selected for her program, a kind of book boot camp that will help me produce a completed manuscript by August 1st!

<dramatic pause for applause> I know, right?!?

What a relief. I didn’t hesitate. I said yes to the call I could never quiet inside me.

I have heard the heart cry of so many other women who have also felt the Call of the Wild. Through this crucible I have discovered that the deep yearning to write a book was actually divine gift, and that I had an opportunity to use this gift in a much bigger way than I had ever imagined.

  • What is it that drives a woman to brave the dangers of solo travel? What is it that stops her? Would you ever choose to hop in your car and drive into the unknown? I am developing an idea that will help us answer those questions.

I am thrilled to say that one day very soon I will be able to share my finished book with you. Better yet, I will have a budding business in the creative arts that will allow me to support myself and other women as an author who makes a difference.

one decision

Turning my project back into a #journey

I caught myself in the mirror, and the sight surprised me. I stood there, squared into the reflection, my eyes wandering over and taking in what I saw before me. This is not the old, familiar image anymore. I can hardly believe this is me. I move a curious step closer, take a deliberate breath, and then I slowly let it out again. I see the face of a 44 year-old woman attached to this body, the lines of consternation and time are evident but graceful. I am drawn further in toward the mirror, toward the reflection of this face, tilting my head and regarding her more closely still. Deepening laugh lines play at the corners of my eyes. I smile and make them come alive again.

“You are doing this, Sonya,” I say out loud to the person behind my eyes. You are really doing this. I gaze deeply into her and catch the glimmer of the person I always wanted to be. I knew she was in there. I didn’t think it would take this many years. I didn’t think it would be this hard. I regard her carefully, looking even more intently into her eyes.

Bloodshot? I take a step closer, until my nose is almost touching the mirror. I tip my forehead forward, now looking from under my lids, rotate my head to the right, rotate my head left, and back to center again. I lift my chin and draw my eyelids wide and back. Tiny red rivulets run from the bright white outer edges toward the morning blue center. Why are my eyes so bloodshot?

I had turned this trip into WORK.

I have a dream

I have dreamed of being a writer all my life, and now I am chasing that dream with all that is in me. This trip is not a year-long joyride. It is serious business, and it has a deadline – Thanksgiving. I am reinventing my life, and there is no time to waste. I’ve leveraged everything I’ve got, so I’ve got one shot to get this right. My future is on the line, and I went all-in on the flop.

With so much at stake, I defaulted into tackling this trip like I had tackled every other lofty goal in my life. I was using all of my familiar masculine energy: being driven, gritty, strategic, relentless; wrestling my dreams into submission. I demanded the most of myself every day, marching my way across the country, monitoring my pace, cracking the whip at my to-do list. Morning pages – crrrack! Affirmations – sssnap! Hike the canyon – pop!pop! Fuel your body – crrrack! Choose the next destination – sssnap! Drive on – pop!pop! Make camp, Bunk down, Day complete, Now sleep! I said SLEEP. EXECUTE, SoldIER!

I had regimented myself to maximize my odds for success. I hated it when my circumstances would not comply with my regimen. I was frustrated if Justice was moving too slowly, or if she was stopping and sniffing too often. I was irritated if the McCafe did not supply the public outlets I needed to charge my laptop. I lamented when the Internet did not reach my campsite. I seethed when a technical hiccup erased the newsletter I had spent two hours working on.

Week 13 #1000Miles1Year #50States

Week 13 of my project (to log 1,000 foot-miles across all 50 states in 2017) took me into Texas. I contemplated the state mindfully, deciding where I wanted to concentrate my time and attention. I had never been to the Gulf area, so that was quite appealing to me. However, Texas is a BIG state, and I knew that the deeper I drove in, the longer it would take to drive back out. Did it really make sense to go all the way south to the border? I calculated my drive times and fuel expenses for several route options. It was entirely illogical to splurge on my resources and spend my time in the Gulf. But my heart argued with my head.

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I arrived in Corpus Christi, crossed over the Intercoastal, and continued several more miles out to where I would camp. It was a beach site, located on a thin stretch of sand, nestled between Mustang Island and Padre Island National Seashore. Under adverse weather conditions, this tiny strip of land would be fully submerged under the mighty Gulf waters. But today is far from adverse. It has been sunny, the temperature in the upper 60s, a persistent coastal current streaming over the shoreline. The orb of the sun is hypnotic, embarking on its descent behind the dunes, kicking up pinks and purples behind her. I study the high tide line and pitch my tent beyond it, spreading out my footprint amid the grassy dunes but maintaining a direct sight line to the sea.

The shifting sand is a baby-fine granule and feels silky under my feet as I load my sleeping bags and pillow into the tent body. Rain is not expected tonight, so there is no need to cover my quarters with the nylon fly. The mesh top alone offers a 360° view of what will soon be a starlit sky.

I bemoan the fact that my camera battery is dead, as my last three McCafe stops did not yield a single public outlet. Shame to miss photos of this amazing place, so I snap a few with my smartphone instead. Internet and cell service are totally sketchy here, so I sigh, and settle into the tent rather unplugged. I face south toward the crashing waves, sit up tall and cross-legged, and finally breathe in deeply, purposefully, trying to let it all go. Here I am, Gulf Waters. What do you have to teach me?

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#Sunriser

I rose with the sunrise the following morning, raised my head and my phone to catch a photo or twenty. I have spent leisure time on other beaches, Atlantic and Pacific, and I was anticipating the pacifying, rythmic echo of the waves crashing one after another: ka-churrrrr, ka-churrrrr, ka-churrrrr… But the waves sound entirely different today. Here the wind is blowing so relentlessly that there is no lull between the crashing of the waves. The current just pummels the shoreline continuously, so the waves ROAOAR more like a constant whirring jet engine. My tent concaves politely under its pressure.

I decide to spend the whole day right here and log our miles strolling up and down the beach. As the sun continues to rise, and with it the temperature, I throw the rain fly up and over the tent body, snap it firmly into place, velcro it tightly to the tent poles, and tie back the sides, creating a little cabana for myself and Justice. I envision reading and writing to my heart’s content in this retreat from the heat. This will be a productive day.

The wind increases early and steadily. Seawater hangs thickly in the air, such that I taste its saltiness when I lick my lips. The fine-grained sand is picked up easily and carried swiftly by the current, so a layer of grit clings to everything it graces. My sleeping bags are covered in it. My glasses, cell phone, lantern and car windows are filmy from it. I cannot bring any books or writing materials out into this. Work is thwarted once again. I spin the hair around my face and pin it into tiny buns to keep the ragged strands from blowing into my eyes. The dazzling sun, the warm, moist gale, the roaoaring waves lull me into near listlessness. I finally find the time to meditate, something I have been meaning to do for weeks.

A turning point

This time was a critical turning point for me. Obliged to slow down and truly drink in paradise, I frankly realized I had turned this epic journey into a project. I had even started *calling* it a project! And I had assumed the project manager mode instead of allowing myself to be a journeyman. I was not really nourishing myself. I was not giving myself time and space to be present, to be impacted, to be changed.

There were things I wanted from this journey, other than a career change. Beauty. Creative. Spirit. To become more connected, feminine, and free. To find my voice, my message. Where was I making time for these?

It was all too easy to stumble. I am all too good at being a project manager. I have no idea how to just let go and be a journeyman. What if I get it wrong? What if I miss some critical detail? What if Thanksgiving comes and I just end up broke, with no leads and no dream because I neglected to create and execute a viable strategy?

Then again, what if I gain the whole world and lose my soul? Isn’t that what I have been searching for? And wasn’t the land calling out to me?

I am venturing into new territory, on so many levels. I don’t know how to do this. The person I have always wanted to be is right here, making her debut. But I can’t make this happen. Intuition tells me this only comes about when I allow myself to be unmade. I need to stop following my regimen and start following my bliss, and permit that joy to do its own special work in me. It does not need my planning to accomplish this. It does not need my execution. It needs me to be more open, receptive, and paying my attention to Beauty. Creative. Spirit.

The *softer* side of New Orleans?

I came to New Orleans thinking this would be a fun place to log the Louisiana leg of our #1000Miles1Year challenge. I first visited New Orleans when I was in my 20’s, a young professional attending a convention with a few dozen colleagues over Halloween. I remembered the city as being sultry, electric, and pulsing with daring enthusiasm.

Twenty years later, now a solo female traveler with a pup in tow, I felt uneasy as I entered the city. New Orleans has a reputation for debauchery; as though the dark and the dirty make their home here. Where will I run? Will it be safe? What if it isn’t? What was I thinking???

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New Orleans can be seriously intimidating to a first-time visitor. The French Quarter streets feel incredibly narrow as you creep along in thick traffic. The sky above is squeezed between second-level balconies protruding from many of the buildings. Cars are parallel parked, mish-mash style along the street-sides, sometimes impossible for two vehicles to pass each other in between. Crowds of revelers roam the iron jungle with plastic frothing cups. A shop front displays Mardi Gras masks with creepy pointed noses and a sign that winks “Deurty Boys.” You get the sense that everything existing here is intent on invading your space.

I almost drive right back out. The little voice in my head was screaming, “Absolutely nothing in me wants to be here right now!” But I knew that was really just fear trying to take the wheel, and the something that kept me was the mantra that *fear is not my master*. I was intent on pushing beyond my discomfort and taking in the sights and sounds of this city.

A little sleuthing eventually uncovered a hidden gem called the Bywater District.

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I wouldn’t exactly call it soft, but The Big Easy has a more sophisticated side. Just beyond the French Quarter is the Bywater District. I first discovered Crescent Park, a 1.4 mile manicured masterpiece that hugs the mighty Mississippi River. With ample free parking and gates open at sunrise, Justice and I safely logged in our miles here every day. The park is popular with runners and dog walkers, but never really crowded at any hour of the day. There are water fountains, port-o-lets and a fenced dog run too. We stretched out our runs just east of the park to the Poland Street Port, where massive ships dwarf the dock as they gently come to rest.

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The neighborhood streets have names like Piety, Louisa, Dauphine and Desire, a bold and soulful stroll with houses dressed in royal blue, pastel pink, lime green, purple punch and every other imagining. White lights and gold beads and red tinsel adorn the otherwise staunch, ornamental wrought iron fences, balconies and doorposts. A sign reads, “No Air BnB! Save our neighborhood.” The locals voice concern that their treasured, quiescent lifestyle will be impugned by the more typical NOLA party animals. There are a couple of Bed and Breakfast Inns that welcome guests to the Bywater District, and they exhibit a debonair grace and sophistication. The Maison de Macarty is an 1860s Victorian home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It features six guest rooms in the main house, two private cottages, ensuite bath facilities and a mineral water swimming pool.

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The Bywater District also has its own share of amazing eateries with convenient, meter-free street parking. The Satsuma Café is a great place to start the day, featuring fresh juices, breakfast and lunch dishes using local and organic ingredients. On the patio, a decorated seamstress bust stands next to a guest in a top hat, the sight of it just quirky enough to satisfy your appetite for the unusual. A few blocks down, The Joint offers true wood-smoked meat, landing it on top ten BBQ lists in publications from Bon Appétit to Zagat. In 2008, The Joint was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” and folks still line up to dig in, with middle-aged professionals in button down oxfords seated at the bar next to free spirits sporting dreadlocks and nose piercings. Next to the shabby Bargain Mart is the classy Oxalis, a whiskey-focused gastropub where you can enjoy Happy Hour specials on small plates and drinks like the Sazerac, a local New Orleans variation of a cognac cocktail in a glass spritzed with absinthe.

I was delighted to spend three days exploring the heart of New Orleans without the debaucherous crowds and tawdry commercialism. Pets are welcome at all of the establishments mentioned above. As day three drew to a close, I concluded my visit at Piety Wharf. With iron pillars and concrete benches, Piety Wharf inspires with inscriptions that evoke the true spirit of New Orleans, like “Freedom: To move at will, to strive with confidence, to dream with a real expectation of achievement, and to be regarded with respect.”

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#Sunrise surprise – a visitor on Stone Mountain

I thought I had the mountain to myself. I had arrived an hour and a half before sunrise, unsure how long the steep, one mile climb would take me in the dark. I was blasted by the wind at the summit. So much for a warm welcome! The mighty wind was savage and relentless.I squeezed my hands under my armpits when I wasn’t swiping the hair from my eyes. Still, I felt pretty mighty too. Like the Wise Warrior. Like the Goddess of the Mountain.

I surveyed the peak to ascertain the best view of the coming sun. I hugged myself from under my armpits and scrunched my shoulders round against the wind. Why didn’t I bring a hat, for goodness sakes?! Why didn’t I tie my hair back? I longed for the gloves laying next to empty coffee mug in my console. “You got in a hurry again, Sonya.” I scolded myself… but gently, as I am a recovering perfectionist.

Then I heard a voice, and I saw a shadow figure ambling toward me. It was a woman. A black hoodie obscured her head, but I heard the female of her voice. She was trembling as she reached me, holding two flashlights out in front of her. Neither was capable of lighting her way. She had been there all night.

Kim had hiked up alone the evening before to enjoy the sunset. “It was so beautiful,” she tells me. She was lured into that beauty, and it was dark before she realized it. She stood up for the hike down, but she could go no further. She had carried two flashlights, but neither had the juice for the precarious trip back down the mountain. So she huddled beneath a tree to wait out the black sky.

What are the odds of my meeting this woman in this situation? I decided to hop onto her roller coaster. I crossed the distance between us. “Thank God I saw you!” She said. “I don’t know what I would have done.” I would not walk her down right away though. I was not leaving without seeing the sunrise. So we spent the hour together.

She led me around the back of the mountain, to where she had spent the night. The wind was not so brutal here. We sat on a large, flat stone, and she scooched right up next to me. As we sat together waiting for daybreak, she laid her head on my shoulder and curled her small body into mine. “I wish you would have brought a blanket.” I wished for at least that much.

Turns out Kim’s little nook had the best view of the rising sun. The cloud cover was thick along the horizon, so the colors were muted and we had to wait longer for her glory to make her appearance. The longer I sat on that frigid, hard stone the more the cruel cold seeped into my skin. I couldn’t imagine how she must have gotten through the night like this.

The sun rose and presented but few worthy faces for the film, and I struggled to hold the camera steady in my numb, stinging hands. Oh how my body wanted to make a run for it, but I held on. If she could make it all night… I refused to let the physical discomfort keep me from what I came here to do.

#Sunrise on the Chattahoochee Riverwalk

I am challenging myself to write a blog post every day. I tend to over-think my every move and I end up bogged down by it. In order to keep up with my projects for this year, and to maintain that raw and primal quality I have come to adore, I will need to adopt more of a stick and move strategy.

My 2017 Project

This blog will document my 2017 project: running 1000 miles in 1 year across all 50 states. I am learning photography and writing my memoir along the way. Travel is a void I have ached over my whole life. I am finally giving myself permission to pursue the desires of my heart.

Learning Photography

I woke up at 3a today with my stomach in knots over the decision to go for it. I decided to make the most of that early hour with a sunrise stroll along the Chattahoochee Riverwalk. It began as a pretty chilly dawn but warmed with the rising sun. I felt like a giddy kid! I must have taken 150 photos, just getting to know my new camera. I played mostly back and forth between the two lenses. I was having so much fun that I totally forgot about my f-stop. Dangit! Half the time I forgot to check my shutter speed too. Double Dangit!!

But I’m just learning, and I got some decent shots to share with my heartstrings. XOXO