Living in the Marta

I decided to pretty much completely unplug last weekend and live a dream I’ve been working towards for a long time: bike camping.

Fully recognizing the luxury of being able to turn off the news and go – acknowledging those who aren’t able, are sick, with loved ones, on enforced lockdowns, etc. Also thinking deep down folks in these positions would probably, and maybe more than anyone, say “Go biking into the country guy!”

I’ll spare you the pics of my bike on various nondescript hillsides but wanted to share something I learned from Marta, the women who owned the property next door to my campsite.

A most solid reminder to live in the moment

I used Hipcamp for the first time, which is basically like Airbnb for camping, and wound up on a beautiful piece of land with a water spigot, wildflowers, composting toilet, and some mesquite woods I could grab firewood from.

Unlike camping in the woods I was basically setting up in a little country neighborhood outside Mammoth, AZ. I had neighbors and one of them was Marta – a woman probably in her late 60’s or early 70’s, living on a big piece of property next door by herself.

I spent a lot of my time sitting, reading, staring at birds, the hillside, sunsets, the fire… just trying to stay there in the moment. My mind was running all over the place – thinking of people I wanted to reach out to, “I need to get a picture of [everything],” what I’ll make for dinner… Since I was without most of my usual distractions, it was a great place to realize how much work it is to try and stay present.

As I was reading and thinking I heard someone call out from behind me. It was Marta holding a chair. She said, “this will be more comfortable!” I was sitting on the ground on this new camping seat pad I got for bikepacking which is great, but not a chair with a cushion. I accepted the chair and we chatted for a bit. She said I could put it over on her side of the fence when I was done.

Sitting in Marta’s chair, in the same spot I was before, I felt this crazy sense of being in the right now. Everything else seemed to fade away – as it was completely wiped by Marta’s kindness and the fact that she existed right here – I was sitting on her chair – and everything else taking up space in my mind was miles away.

It pulled me in and I just sat there in Marta’s chair laughing and staring at the same beautiful landscape with a completely new lens. I was cracking up at how well this worked to get me really, actually, there!

I eventually moved back to the picnic table to start working on some dinner and was cutting up some of the greens Richard the landowner gave me when I heard another “Hey” from behind me. It was Marta – with a full bag of dinner. Bean soup, quesadilla, soda, an apple, and 3 dates which she called figs (so I did too).

Whamo. Right back into the moment. I was doing ok, better even, but just like in mediation, running, yoga, biking, cooking – anything you do where you try to stay focussed and your mind wanders – mine was starting to run around a bit again.

A new and even better now

Marta’s overwhelming kind gesture ripped me fully back into now – and into a new now. I left a news cycle (and world) in legitimate fear and pain. And here I was experiencing total joy from a complete stranger. Not something I’d seen on the news or thought I’d experience in the coming days through this pandemic.

Marta took me to the now – and changed it into something even better. So my question is where can we find these vibes in our day to day without needing to leave town?

I think if we look into the subtle things they are there. I’m trying to keep Marta in my heart and mind and stay on the lookout for these signs that may go against the grain of everything we’re feeling – but may make things feel way better.