On the Road: Lessons of the Heart
by Isabella Vickers
Last week, my almost 13-year-old daughter, Abigail, and I took our dog, Scarlette, and went on our first girls road trip for the pure sake of being together and exploring unknown territory. Some of our favorite time together is driving here or there, but ultimately, arriving at the destination is usually the goal. This time was different, the goal was to truly experience the journey.
In the weeks leading up to our departure, we researched and looked at guidebooks and maps and talked about where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see, and how we wanted to get there. And we talked about the kinds of experiences we hoped to have. Before we left we were given the sage advice to approach this as partners in the adventure rather than maintaining our familiar mother-daughter roles. We talked about what this would mean and how it might change things and our shared experience. I also considered with some anxiety the truth that I have never camped on my own or navigated a long road trip in unfamiliar territory.
The metaphors were innumerable! This would surely push and pull both of us, individually and together, into new places. Yet I felt sensitive to not overloading our journey with too much processing or hope and expectation, and chose instead to allow it to unfold moment by moment, breath by breath, while listening and paying attention, always remembering that our relationship and time together are the priority.
Heart Lesson: Let our hearts’ connection be our Guide.
We set out from Oregon for the Redwoods Forest with sunshine and a full car! We were excited about all the wide-open potential of so much time and space together, we had packed art supplies, games, journals, dog toys, warm clothes, cool clothes, etc. The possibilities were endless! But seriously, how could two women and their dog possibly need so much stuff!?
Heart Lesson: Pack lightly. Take less than you think you might need and really use what you’ve carried.
We had decided to take the back roads and enjoy the scenery, and the drive south was amazing. We talked with animation and stopped frequently, all the while commenting about the beauty and newness. Being on unfamiliar roads meant we needed some strong navigation. Although we had prepared a notebook organized with maps and directions, it wasn’t until the way home we discovered that a big traditional state map was much easier and more fun to navigate our travel and track our progress.
Heart Lesson: Approach new places with openness and curiosity and practice navigating on short trips close to home using various tools and techniques.
We found our way to our first campsite and set up camp easily considering all our new equipment. (Note: Don’t pack the tent on the bottom!) Once we were settled, it was time to build a fire — another first! To our great surprise, we succeeded! We enjoyed dinner and roasting marshmallows for s’mores. (Here I have to admit that I had considered the campfire optional, having never built one myself and not sure about figuring it out, but it was Abigail who insisted we have one, and I immediately realized she was right! How could we go camping without a fire?!)
Heart Lesson: Building a fire and enjoying its centering warmth and protection is a valuable and timeless ritual.
Sleep on that first night in the darkest dark was illusive for me. My senses were highly engaged and although I was tired, I couldn’t seem to drift into slumber. When I finally turned out the light in a now very dark unfamiliar place, amidst the tallest tress, only a day or two into the new moon, in a small tent with active bear warnings posted everywhere, my mind whirled with the risk and danger all around. Another part of me recognized that we were among other campers (granted some distance away) and people do this all the time. I can’t help but to reflect on the metaphors here — the suffocating darkness, the frightening unknown, the present danger, the great risk, and there are other people doing this everyday — all things we are facing as we approach the adolescent years ahead of us. Eventually I managed a few fitful hours of sleep before awakening gratefully to the gathering dawn.
When Abigail asked me how I’d slept, I shared some of my experience. She asked me why I didn’t wake her up if I was afraid. I replied with another question: “How would you have felt in the dark in the middle of the night if you knew your mom was so afraid?” We both laughed and realized that it was funny the morning after, but in the moment it was essential for me to navigate my own fears and emotions.
Heart Lesson: Honesty and vulnerability draw us closer when we stay responsible for our own emotions.
The next two days were pure sweet bliss! Our drive was stunningly beautiful, the campsite was next to a sunny pond, and dinner was delicious. We even played on the beach.
Each moment was sweet and relaxed — exactly as a road trip wants to be!
Heart Lesson: Preparation and plans are helpful, but flexibility and spontaneity are what make the trip truly enjoyable. The heart needs time and space, fresh air, and sunshine without agendas.
We spent the weekend at the beautiful and peaceful home of my dear soul sister and fellow Color of Woman graduate, Jess Bowman. Her house is in a very special retreat-like setting surrounded by oak, juniper, and pine trees, high mountains, and lots of sunshine. I was excited and honored to introduce Abigail to Jess, and was delighted when they developed a mutual admiration and affection for each other. Connected by heart and soul, we played and talked and dreamed all things feminine and creative.
One day we spent in Jess’ Magical Apothecary creating lotions and potions, balms and salves with herbs and spices according to ancient feminine practices and recipes. As the fragrances mingled and wafted through the air, all three of us were transported to a timeless place of feminine wisdom and connection, heart and guidance. Jess is quite experienced with these apothecary practices and served as a loving and patient teacher. She shares her incredible offerings at www.magicalapothecary.com. For us it was new, and we were completely enchanted! So much so and so inspired by our time together practicing these ancient feminine arts, we have eagerly begun planning our own herb garden and can’t wait to delve into the studies and uses of herbs and spices!
Heart Lesson: Exploring familiar things in unfamiliar ways can reveal magic!
Another day we had a wonderful dialogue about the feminine heart and guidance. We reflected on our unique and common experiences of growing up female and what it means to be feminine and live by Heart. Abigail listened in with curiosity and reverence. In this shared sacred space, we reflected on and honored the triumphs and challenges our mothers and grandmothers have faced to bring us to this place now.
Jess said “I think as women we’re expected to hold the soft side of the heart, but we have an opportunity to make the heart whole. We have the right to make our own definitions of what it means to be a woman and how to be feminine. As a 6’ red head, I’ve never fit into the Barbie ideal.”
Abigail and I are also tall and outside the media’s ideals, so we all talked about owning and appreciating our bodies and our minds and learning to claim our space in the world. We talked about fierceness and gentleness and how each of us is often more comfortable in one place or the other, and agreed that we each must embody all aspects of our femininity to be whole. As two examples, I shared my process of coming into a softer side of myself and how it takes courage and strength to be gentle and accept the tenderness of my heart. Jess reflected that sometimes being fierce is the only true way of the heart and I agreed!
Heart Lesson: The Heart’s true centering and guidance provide grounding so that fierceness is proactive and doesn’t become destructive and that gentleness can be tender without passivity.
For all three of us, and we believe for women everywhere, creative expression allows and supports our exploration and embodiment of the fullness of being feminine. Through painting, dancing, singing, writing, gardening, and cooking we each learn more about ourselves, each other, and the world. As artists we are able to explore the various elements of the divine feminine from the fierceness of the goddess Kali to the gentleness of the goddess Quan Yin. And as Jess said, “Listening to intuitive art as guidance confirms you’re on the right track. So are the friends you meet along the way.” (You can see more of Jess’ beautiful and moving artwork at www.creativityandthedivinefeminine.com.)
Our time together held a luxurious expansiveness that none of us could completely explain. We wondered: Was it being completely absorbed in moment by moment? Was it a gift of the Divine Feminine? Had we entered into an alternate reality beyond time? Could it be that we released all conflict and pull toward doing something else? We concluded it was all of these things and more.
Heart Lesson: Our true heart connections open us wide to a rare time and space that deeply nourish and inspire each of us.
As we drove the ten hours home, Abigail and I were quiet yet still connected, each of us in her own way reflecting, processing, and integrating our experiences. We enthusiastically claimed this a new tradition, pledged to take annual road trips together, and have already started talking about future journeys we’ll take together. This journey was indeed a pilgrimage into unknown territory filled with adventure and danger and wholey metaphorical. If we allow it, it will serve us in this next year and in the future as we navigate our way to new places. Hours on the road together transported us not only 1000 miles but also to a deep heart space filled with sustaining connection that transcends time and space and makes everything sparkle and every breath sweet.
Heart Lesson: Trusting our Hearts’ guidance and maintaining a big sense of adventure, allows for more excitement and less trepidation as we approach new experiences.
Isabella Vickers is an artist, teacher, and writer. She is passionate, curious, and actively living a creative life with her poet husband and dancing daughter. She also practices as a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley where she utilizes creative and expressive arts to facilitate growth and healing. She offers Creative Bliss Art Retreats and Blossoming into Fullness Women’s Creative Groups. She and her husband, also a psychotherapist, offer Co-facilitated Couples Therapy: An innovative journey through the mysteries of dialogue, both within each individual and between, to cultivate the sacred ground of relationship. Isabella is the Managing Editor of Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine where she writes the column “Dare to Bloom.” You can see her art at: www.IsabellaVickers.com, learn more about her therapy work at: www.LivingAirDialogue.com, and follow her column right here on www.CosmicCowgirlsMagazine.com.