When I was riding through the San Carlos Apache Lands, one of the things I noticed was that names were not exchanged instantly and automatically. There were many people that I had conversations with and never learned their names, nor they mine. One of the reasons I noticed it as “a thing” was that I was frequently asked the names of the ponies, but it stopped there. On a Journey like this one, when I am meeting so many people that I will likely never see again, a person’s name is generally one of the least interesting things about them. I’m not going to remember a tenth of them; besides which it’s always been amazing to me how many people have the same name – years ago when I was in Oregon it seemed that every man I met was named John or Bob or Steve! The Apache pastor I stayed with said that he refers to his wife as “Woman” because he doesn’t want some other man to know her name and be thinking about her, able to call her by her name. There’s a logic to that which I can appreciate.
When I was living down on Vieques and doing a lot of snorkeling (and taking a lot of other people snorkeling) I was learning the names of many of the common fish and corals and other denizens of the reefs – people wanted to know what they were seeing. Then I met an amazing little bulldog of a fish – it had a flat little pug face, was all of two inches long and sat sturdily perched on its paired ventral fins (see how handy names are!?) defending a little knob of reef. I hovered over this wee fish, drawn in by the subtle colors of its mahogany body washing out into delicate orange fins fluttering like a fairy’s ballgown, returning day after day – until I learned its name. Red lipped blenny. All the mystery was gone. I swam by and said “hey, red lipped blenny, I know you! How’s it going?” After that I only really noticed if the blenny was gone from his perch.
A lot of people ask me if Sea is my “real” name. What does that mean? Sea G Rhydr is the name on my passport and my driver’s license (neither of which I have much use for lately) and it’s the name I respond to, the way I think of myself - it’s what people call me. So it’s my “real” name in terms of both government documents and common usage – how much more real do we need to be here? But there are people who push farther -> is Sea the name your parents gave you when you were born? There is an urgency to the question that unsettles me sometimes and I feel myself closing down, wondering what business it is of theirs what name I carried 46 years ago - and why they care so much. Honestly, it feels like a “power over” thing - as if that information will tell them something more true – as if it will help them penetrate my secret nature or something. My birth name is not a secret, it’s Carla Celeste Gieser, but what does that really mean about who I am in this moment?
In the Old Testament, when God (speaking from the form of a bush that was on fire but didn’t burn up) sent a message to the Israelites via Moses, Moses asked “When they ask me the name of the one who sent me, what shall I say?” The reply? “I Am. Tell them I Am sent you.” (How gangsta is that!?) The name doesn’t change the Reality. The burning bush wasn’t I Am - that was just a bit of drama to get Moses’ undivided attention. The form doesn’t change the Reality.
This Journey I am on is very much a Spiritual one – more than I’d ever suspected when I left the Apple Farm 7 months ago – and yet I find myself really hesitant to write anything in the blog that addresses things on that level. I mentioned that to a friend on the ‘phone the other day and she said “What’s the problem? That’s not what your blog is about anyway.” My first (internal) response was: who are you to tell me what My blog is about? But there is a level of this Journey that IS about a spiritual path. And there are times when that’s a delicate issue – on a pragma level!
Picture this: I’ve had a long day, gotten seriously lost twice, it’s getting dark and I’ve finally found a place for the ponies. The man who has opened his corrals is a bit inebriated and we’ve just discovered that he attends the same church as the people who “rescued” me and who are taking me to the safety and comfort of their house for the night. Religion is in the air along with the aroma of alcohol and the man holds out a $100 bill while asking “Are you a Christian Woman?” I absolutely don’t want to lie in a situation like this, nor do I want to offend anyone, and the money felt like a literal God-send at that moment in time. What to say? There’s no time for a long drawn out theological discussion, this isn’t a simple question in my world – and the easy, flip answer would have been to quote the line from Marc Cohn’s song ”Walkin’ in Memphis” and reply “Sir, I am tonight.”
What I did say was “yes – I believe in the Truth behind the words, but I feel like when we start putting labels on things they tend to get complicated and divisive.” Which was the short version – and served the purpose. I left on this trip with barely enough faith to pack up and ride out. I didn’t even recognize it as faith at that point of the trip. I’ve always wanted to do this and never believed that my dream could really come true. As the months have gone by and I’ve grown into this life I’ve come to feel that this is what I was designed to do – and that I’m being protected and guided and taught and loved and supported every step of the way. Some of the steps have been pretty rocky – but even getting frustratingly and dangerously lost has led to some pretty wonderful realities. Everything I have needed has been provided as I have needed it and I feel such a sense of blessings and grace and gratitude surrounding this trail that I’m riding. And I don’t want to fight about it or have to defend it – or be told I’m “doing it wrong”. And I don’t want to keep censoring myself around thoughts and experiences that are “spiritual” in nature. They are what they are – and I am what I am.
I end this post with a giggle – because I just received an e-mail from a dear friend who, not knowing what I was just writing, wrote: “Good luck, Sea. I’ll pray for you…..in a generic, non-denominational, no-obligation way, of course.” I could read that as my scar tissue showing – but instead I’ll chose to be grateful for such a wonderful human being who meets me where I am and makes me laugh!
PS – the photos in this blog post were taken by the Fox when he was over from Ireland. He really caught what it felt like to cross the Mojave – and somehow they never made it into the blog while that was happening – better late than never - so here they are along with a huge thank you to Ernesto Reynard!