Last night, again, I was asked “Where are you going next?” This time it was Jim, a sailor I had just met who was treating me and his girlfriend to Thai food in downtown St. Petersburg. Just last week another new friend, Catherine, asked the same question. It is a way to try to gain a foothold on understanding my lifestyle, or maybe just a way to make conversation. But as I have said, simple conversation is increasingly challenging for me. Where am I going next? The smoke from the kitchen was hazing the restaurant as I attempted to reply.
I can respond, and did, with the little I know about my upcoming itinerary. In late February I go to Seattle for a writing conference, and I stay for a week after the conference ends. Part of that time I am lodging in a hostel near the famous Fish Market, called the Green Tortoise. From there I fly to Denver to pick up my Ford Explorer and drive to Cheyenne for an event hosted by the Wyoming Arts Council. I fly to Spain for two weeks in late March. That’s what I know, or what I think I know. I do not know how long I am staying in Florida, where I am going afterward, or even how long I will be over here on the gulf side of the state. I worry that I sound so out-there that it makes others uncomfortable, and sometimes I try to appease people by taking a stab at predicting my future whereabouts.
So here is my life circumstance right now. I met a woman through her blog and web site. She left a public relations career in New York City to start a hula hooping business. She now owns several businesses, and is writing a book. I contacted her about hooping classes, and proposed a possible swap of skills—I could provide some coaching on her book project, and she could provide some instruction on hula hooping. She tells me she squealed when she read the proposal. I call it a Divine Appointment. So I borrowed a car, drove across Florida, and am camped out in Abby’s house, my backpack stashed in her spare bedroom.
I think of it a lifestyle tour, when I get to stay with people. Her dog, Nala, likes to hop up on the couch next to me, and is welcome to do so. (Nala seemed to like me, even before I introduced her to bananas.) I got to see Abby’s hoop business inventory, watch her fasten hoops together, and eat her home-made kale chips. We discovered we were both reading the same book, and took a meditation break, listening to Deepak Chopra guide us through optimism. She has taken me to the botanical garden, a paradise reclaimed from a sinkhole, and there we hooped together in dappled light in a brick-paved pavilion.
Over the Thai food, I learn that Abby’s boyfriend, Jim, lived for seven years on his sailboat before the two of them moved in together. Lest you think he is some fish-smelling, curse-word aficionado who rarely bathes, let me say he works a corporate sales job, and did so while he lived on board. I heard how, growing up in St. Louis, he became entranced with the boating lifestyle when he was eight years old, and everything he did from there on out to make sailing an integral part of his adult world. Because it is docked a short distance from the house, I got a tour of the boat (it can sleep six), and the shower house and laundry room provided by the marina.
So when people say, voices thick with concern, “You are staying with someone you met online?” I say yes, I am. I am staying with a radiant woman who says she saw me in meditation for months before I arrived. Yes, I am staying with Abby and Jim and Nala and I am safe and well and delighted and lucky. Did I know two weeks ago, or a month ago, I’d be in St. Petersburg now at a hooping/writing immersion program? No. I didn’t know of Abby then. So where am I going next? How long will I be in Florida? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.