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Blooming Where Planted – musings from vanlife

I’m on a journey. Back in the van, which I love by the way, and I’m driving en route to the midwest primarily to check in on my brothers who both have been struggling health-wise. I love them both and would miss them dearly if either of them should check out of this world before me. I spoke with my brother Steve on the phone yesterday while driving through North Dakota. Sometimes it’s challenging for us to find common ground in conversation but today we started talking about the old TV show Bonanza, one of his faves and one we both grew up watching. I asked who his favorite of the Cartwright boys was and he said Hoss. Hoss is a lovable, brutish guy, extremely loyal and with a heart of gold. I told him I probably identified more with Little Joe growing up. I asked what he thought of Adam, the oldest and most straight laced and responsible of the three brothers and he said, “I hate that fucker!” I laughed and asked why and he said, “He reminds me of you!” I’ll admit it hurt a little, but not too much. Steve simply speaks the truth as he knows it to be, and he’s not ashamed to acknowledge his love for me and his disdain as well. Both are true. People who act nice when they don’t really mean it are emotional blood suckers to me. Steve calls it like he sees it and rather than dividing us, it somehow makes space for us to relate within the realm of what is real between us. Although rather coarse and off-color at times, Steve has the most direct way of speaking his truth of anyone I know and I actually appreciate that about him. And truth be told, he is right, I probably am more like Adam of the three Cartwright boys, and of the three he’s the one that I least like as well.

I parked the van and slept last night in Northwest Minnesota and this morning went for my usual morning walk, only this time there was a pesky fly that absolutely would not leave me alone. I quickly found myself saying out loud, “If I lived here, I would move away just to get away from THIS fly!” So I started to run, which definitely helped to mitigate this particular fly’s audacity. I’ve never been much of a runner, but I certainly would be if I lived here. While passing another camper who was packing up his van, I said to him, “Don’t worry, I’m not exercising, I’m just running from the flies!” We shared a little chuckle.

I was asked yesterday if I get lonely being in the van by myself. The truth so far is that I don’t. I truly value time to myself so I can write, read, learn songs, and write music. Some things that I love doing truly require aloneness as fertilizer for their fruits to form. Writing music especially. I find that sitting by a river and playing and just seeing what comes out is the best way for me to get a new song flowing.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love having a lover/partner/companion to travel with too. When that grace appears, as it did for the latter half of last summer, I truly welcome it. Traveling with another and sharing life and adventure is a true joy to me. So, I take what comes and am truly thankful for whatever flavor of life gets served my way. On a related note, my friend Lori’s mother Lynn said something quite brilliant when I visited them in California near the beginning of this journey. I asked her if she missed tango dancing (she and her partner were avid tango dancers for years prior to the COVID-19). She simply said “no, I don’t.” But it’s what she said after that has really impacted me:

“I bloom where I’m planted.”

She takes what life gives her and makes the most of it. In the hundreds of times I’ve interacted with her over the years, I’ve never experienced her as less than joyful and enthused, and I think her “I bloom where I’m planted” approach to life helps to explain why.

So no, I don’t get lonely, at least not yet. I’m doing my best to learn to bloom where planted as well.

Now that I’m less than a day’s drive away from merging back into civilization, I find I’m a little ambivalent about diving into the world of being more social again. I’ll be seeing people I love, and I’m absolutely making this drive of over three thousand miles to spend time with people who are important to me. I really cherish my simple quiet time though, and through privilege, grace and deliberate concentrated effort I have managed to structure my life to keep it rather simple and free from too much complication. I’ve discovered for myself that I really value the company of simple people, people who feel their presence in the world by what they sympathize with rather than what they are opposed to. Some folks live within a vortex of drama they swirl around themselves. Other’s a vortex of misery. And rarely does a person who lives within these vortices have the awareness either to see the existence of these energetic swirls or their own role in their upkeep. While life does happen to us, what we make of it is ultimately most important. My friend Michael who runs the orphanage in Nepal where I serve at times wrote to me this morning and said “What you have done, and what I often try to persuade my children as an imperative to life, is to find happiness and joy in everything around them, all they have to do is look. Change your perspective and you change your life.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Victor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning” of his time in a Nazi concentration camp:

My brother Jeff, who I’ll first see on this trip is an exemplar to me of a person who chooses his attitude, who finds happiness and joy in everything around him. I recall being with him several years ago and after a long jovial conversation with a person named Gully who had bought something car-related from him, Jeff turned to me and said, “Teddy, isn’t it amazing how many wonderful people there are in this world!” That Jeff’s world view, and as as direct result, he inhabits a world of wonderful people. Not only that, he helps other people become more wonderful simply by seeing them in the way that he does. Others live in a world they see as populated by assholes and people who are out to make their lives miserable. As a result, they live in a world of assholes and people who make their lives miserable. Fortunately or unfortunately, we find what we look for. Give me the simple folk. They smile, they laugh, they appreciate, and they give of themselves in a simple heartful way.


9 replies on “Blooming Where Planted – musings from vanlife”

Oh my God Ted, but Teddy as your brother calls you, I needed to read this! Going to this pandemic, I am going through a lot of isolation, uncertainty, loneliness, even a little anger. You’re writing just changed my perspective to want to change my attitude. I loved this reading. I needed to read this. Life is what you make it truly. Thank you so much!!

Hi Lavella, you’ve actually been on my mind at times during this road trip, an especially thinking about your sons and how their lives have been so unnecessarily and painfully interrupted. I’m glad this writing reached you and is helping. Blessings to you and your sons….

Absolutely love this … yes yes … important reminder for me too … boom where I am planted !! I also love the siblings insights! As one or 3 girls, I am amazed at how differently we all see each other. Yep .. we all wear different lenses .. and my favorite to see with and be seen is like your brother Jeff’s!

Enjoy your travels .. and hoping for some Yuba snorkeling time on your return !’

My daughters and I rented your home in Fort Bragg a few years ago. A gift to ourselves, mother/daughter time. My youngest has been fighting Colon cancer for over 4 years now and is still fighting, even when the medical field said she has no hope and should give up. I’m writing this comment because renting from you introduced me to you and you have been giving to me ever since. Your words have been a great help in my struggle. Parents should never out live their children, it’s a pain that never goes away. I know from experience because I have already out lived a son. “Bloom where you’re planted”, thank you.
God Bless you and keep you safe. Look forward to more posts from you.

Thank you Kay for writing and connecting here. I wish I had something brilliant or cogent to share in response, but I’m not quite sure. It’s easy for me to write about blooming in place, or an attitude that helps to pave the way toward a different seeing, when my own life is fairly free of struggle. But your situation, and that of your daughter, that’s where the real work happens. The two of you probably have so much to teach. Sorry to hear of the loss of your son. Thanks for staying in touch.

Hi Ted,
This was such an enjoyable post. I was also a guest in Fort Bragg a few years ago. You impressed me so much with your style and your sunny spirit.
My own siblings have been important in my journey. My sister and I are very different, but our similarities have kept us in close touch across the miles all our lives. Our baby brother died of cancer 3 years ago. We were at his bedside, appreciating and honoring him, loving him. We love him still.
Grow where you are planted is beautiful advice.
I just got a minivan with the intention of hitting the road when it feels safer. Maybe we will cross paths again one day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and adventures.
Safe travels, Sharon

Thanks Sharon. If I remember right, you come to the coast for your uncle’s birthday (please forgive if I’ve confused you with someone else. Seems like you’re really good at cherishing family time. My van for me was a game changer. Perhaps your minivan will be the same for you. Yes, hopefully our paths will again cross. Take good care.

I received this email from a reader which was sent privately. I think their words have much validity and are important to share here:

“Hey Ted

I dunno… I enjoy reading your essays regardless of whether I can find an easy common ground in them or not. I think the blooming where you’re planted thing just works for some people, and not quite so much for others.

To put it in absolutes, there’s a lot of East Asians who didn’t make it until they left America, and made it elsewhere (this especially applies in Hollywood). And I think there’s a reason a lot of women form groups to work together.

There was actually an academic study a while back. They found that if a woman coauthored a successful paper with a guy, people would attribute the success to the guy. But if two women coauthored the paper together, only then would the women professionally benefit. So there’s a reason less-represented segments of society tend to be picky about where they’d be planted. I can tell you I wouldn’t never made it out of the ghetto, and probably have killed myself earlier in life, if I hadn’t found my own during a critical period of my life.

I think there’s some validity to what you say — maybe even something Buddhist about it too. There’s also some limit to it to taking it too literally, and also, I don’t think it’d do you any good to not point out what might be a blind spot for you.”

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