When I backpacked in South America years ago with my friend Susan, I never worried. We got warnings from the US State Department about traveling in Peru, landed in Lima to a reception of armed soldiers, and were two gringas wandering alone in a country besieged by guerrilla warfare.
People thought I was nuts. But I wasn’t listening to them. Instead, I was guided by my heart. I know It sounds like a corny New Age mantra. Yet it was one of the first times in my life that I walked the Earth in a way that I felt connected to something greater.
With no itinerary, we climbed into the clouds on the Andes, trekked the lush jungle, roamed tiny inland villages, then headed for the coast. When we happened upon a wild-animal rescue center and archeological dig, we spent days sifting for Incan pottery shards and feeding droppers of milk to an abandoned baby ocelot in return for a room, running water and meals. Oh sure, we had bug bites, stomach woes and our share of grumpiness. But not once in all those miles did we feel fear. Every stranger we met showered us with kindness – from the young man who shared his cuy so Susan could try this roasted delicacy [yes, it’s guinea pig], to the shaman who blessed my surprise pregnancy.
It was as if the universe laid lanterns for our safe passage.
I’d love to report that my “walking the Earth” connection stayed with me when I returned to my life in New Jersey. Truth is, I lost it quickly after I started changing diapers and swirling in the pressures of motherhood, money and moods. I tried to wish it back. I tried to meditate on it. I tried to forget about it.
Yet that taste, that touch of being in sync with my heart, would fill me like a burst of sunshine when I least expected: while body surfing with my kids; while doing my digital art; while walking the beach with my old lab, Scout; while talking about Peace Pilgrim.
And it just happened again, on this full moon Valentine’s Day.
Normally when I run, I listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers or an audio book. But today I was mulling, once again, over what I’m doing with my life, and for some reason I instead hit “shuffle.” Suddenly Loggins & Messina’s Peace of Mind burst through my earbuds. I smiled, thinking “this is cool,” and started to jog. No sooner had it ended when the notes began for the Eagle’s Peaceful Easy Feeling. Wow! Now I was paying attention. My music library has over 1,000 songs. Funny to get two in a row about my most passionate topic, peace, especially as I’m wondering whether my efforts on behalf of Peace Pilgrim are making any difference.
When the next song shuffled on, i could hardly contain my joy. I can’t remember the last time I heard Peace Train by Cat Stevens, who isn’t even Cat Stevens anymore. But I rode that train all the way back to the knowing I had in South America: that the universe hears our hearts. And even when we’re too busy, distracted or unsure, it paves the way with lanterns.
Happy Valentine’s day!