journal

Anatomy of a Leap

Monday, April 29 was the 2nd Annual Plant a Kiss Day. In the spirit of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's work, 18 bloggers set out to "Plant a Kiss" in the world on that day. We each did something we thought would spread a little extra joy, color, connection, poetry, or magic in the world. Today all of us are posting about that experience. My thoughts are below. Click here (http://www.simplycelebrate.net/plant-a-kiss-day-2013) where you can find links to all of the participating bloggers and hop around to see how each woman was uniquely inspired to celebrate Plant a Kiss Day.

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If we knew exactly where we’d land if we took that big risk we’ve been dreaming about for however long, we might not ever leave the house. Or else we might bolt carelessly out of it, seeing nothing but the end-goal of our desires but missing all of the interesting detours. Most of us, though, sit somewhere in the middle, plotting and planning and projecting and prospecting, imagining what-if scenarios and trying to place safe bets. The point is, we don’t want to fail. We do whatever we can to avoid disappointment, disaster, or despair. We dream lustily, with great gusto and anticipation, but we want nothing in our way. And so we begin the complex process of architecting this dream, building from the ground up and making careful adjustments along the way, refining and reconfiguring our steps with the hopes of getting there relatively quickly and efficiently.

 

At some point, of course, we’re confronted with the edge of the abyss, that necessary leap that brings from where we were to what we want. The dream insists: Take it. Make that leap. But we are oh-so-human, with pedestrian frailties and fears, and it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Something falters within us, flails, caves in. In our methodical map-making, we have forgotten to ink in that pit-in-the-stomach dread when faced with the cataclysmic drop before us.

 

Take Maude, for example.

 

We’d been combing the classifieds for months. A friend of ours had purchased a vintage travel trailer and was thinking of turning it into an art studio. Something in us sparked awake and arrowed in on a wild idea to create a mobile workshop space. Kelly B. and her Clementine were the first of many inspirations. Others soon followed. The Creative Capsule in Salt Lake City (art classes for kids), Constance in the UK (used for photo shoots), The Flying Ducks catering outfit, housed in a 1944 Carlight Casetta. How did their owners do it, we wondered, the wheels of our minds whirring. We are an artist and a writer. Outside of our own creativity practice, we lead workshops, retreats, and summer camps. We love to travel. And so, we were suddenly loopy over vintage trailers, smitten and yearning, clicking the links on Tin Can Tourists and Little Vintage Trailer obsessively, scooting over to eBay on occasion to see what the latest bids were. We were certain that this was something we could do, something we were – in fact – meant for. Born for.

 

Often, I’ve discovered, in any given couple, there is a dreamer and a doer. The magical thinker and the pragmatist. One looks toward the sky while the other keeps feet planted firmly to the earth. But with us, everything feels different. We are equally excitable, both capable of great flights of fancy. So we took to this search with an almost identical mania, and found ourselves trolling the tunnels of the internet in the late-night hours, bent on finding “the one,” the perfect little vintage camper to make our dream come alive.

 

But while we were taking great leaps in our imaginations, when confronted with the actual possibility of buying a trailer, we found ourselves surprisingly ambivalent. It was the “wrong” price, or needed too much fixing up, or it was too fixed up, or we’d have to drive through eight states to pick it up, or it wasn’t vintage enough, or it was too vintage. It turns out we weren’t as impulsive as our personalities dictated. In fact, beneath the surface, moving quietly and unobserved, a certain thoughtful, meditative, level-headed persona was living in each of us. What’s more, this clear-eyed being was – without our realizing it – shaping and sharpening our dream even further. We’d be surfing and staring with wild abandon at some new bright shiny trailer that had just come on the market, but inside, something within us was simultaneously fleshing out our plans, thinking intentionally about what we were doing, and even beginning to call forth a community around us.

 

We did find Maude – rather serendipitously – on the far outskirts of Boston, during a weekend visit to see my mother in Western Massachusetts. Robert Douglas, who sold us the trailer, has a business buying and selling them, and generally has a handful of trailers in his yard at any given time. We had driven prior to Bob to see a rare-ish 1970s Winnebago, but once we stepped inside we knew it wasn’t right. A few weeks later, we wrote to ask Bob about the 1965 Covered Wagon he’d recently picked up. And then, sight unseen but hopeful at the thumbs-up he’d given the condition of the trailer, we sent a check for a down payment and made plans to come get her. When we saw Maude, it was clear that she’d need some exterior repair work, some electrical rewiring, and new paint. But she was a beauty inside and had a great story to tell about how she came to be. We were sold.

 

Now that we’ve brought Maude back to New Jersey and she is there holding court at the far end of the driveway, I see quite clearly that the substance of our searching was not in the needle-in-a-haystack treasure hunt for the trailer itself but the surprisingly unself-conscious act of exploring, together, the figurative contents of that trailer. As we dove into the wonderfully wacky world of vintage camper restoration, it turns out we were simultaneously joining forces on a much deeper creative vision, delving into its contours, possibilities, and meaning, and designing a fuller, richer and altogether more substantial version of the wild-haired dream we’d started with. And so it came to be, on April 29, that this dream is now parked at our house, realer than anything we could have imagined.

 

It reminds me a lot of how our relationship came to be. Months of extemporaneous letter-writing and late-night phone calls and infrequent visits. Before we ever realized we were in love, we were thick in the process of discovery, filling each other in about our past, catching up our present, and making tentative stabs at our (separate) futures. I see, now, that while our lives were separately careening hither and thither – hers in suburban New Jersey and mine in small-town Massachusetts - something between us was nevertheless getting knitted together, inch by inch, word by word, day by day. Despite our distance, our life circumstances, our individual itineraries and trajectories, we were slowly and subtly coming together, unsuspectingly shaping ourselves around a collaborative story that would become manifest in a way we never could have anticipated.

 

I admit, I am a dreamer. I live in a world of curiosity and whimsy and imagination and musing. I like to contemplate the seemingly impossible, to envision the invisible, and to conjure up larger-than-life ideas brimming with bold potential. But underneath these unruly machinations of my mind, I see that I am also a creature of patience and purpose. I dream deliberately. Something inside of me understands that for the most part, leaps needs preparation. Yes, a part of me needs the freedom to move in dramatic ways, but another part keeps a separate time and schedule, quietly tending the field while my imagination is off sowing its wild oats.

 

What I’m learning is that these processes run in tandem – the magical and the mindful – and that I can lean into the unscripted energy of my dreams trusting that a story of care and vigilance and direction is still being written. I think of it now as a kind of survival instinct – one that kicks in even when I’m not aware of it – that tempers and guides, grounds and reinforces. It’s like a set of power lines that runs underneath, lighting the way even when I can’t see the wires.


And so, Maude is here in her vintage glory, and though there is cosmetic work still to be done, I am already seeing her as the creativity hub we’d envisioned. We’ve started a blog (www.maudeinthemaking.blogspot.com) to document her progress, registered a new business name, and even entered a contest sponsored by Intuit for new small businesses. Today, we went to look at upholstery and drapery fabrics. It all feels so incredibly…normal. Like we’ve been doing this for ages. And yet, at the same time, there is an indescribable sensation of living in the sweet spot of something. The rich, caramel center. It’s calming and thrilling and exhilarating and just right. Like this love. It’s as if we were dreaming, even though we’ve never been more awake.