Louisiana, Austin TX & The Forest

It was hard to leave Florida after 6 weeks in the glorious company of the Seerveld family, and all the essential physical therapy after my accident. Once I had finished the platform for the car, it was time to head out.

Equipped with my new sleeping platform and an intense, but more tolerable, level of driving anxiety, I hit the road on my way towards New Orleans.

The Florida to Louisiana section of the trip had a number of unpleasant realities in store for me. Mostly these amounted to unexpectedly cold and rainy weather, expressed infinity times by people I crossed paths with… (“I’m so sorry, it’s never like this here!”). The weather would unfortunately continue in this fashion all the way until New Mexico.

With my camping plans in the gutter in the 30 degree rain, I holed up in a Hostel. The most notable event of which was this discovery in my room..

I was staying in a four-bed dorm that no one had inhabited for a few days. Alone in this bunk, upon finding what amounted to $1500 and €380 I was momentarily RESCUED from the insanely tight budget and general financial terror I had been keeping at bay. Once I shared my discovery with friends however, I was kindly reminded that the rightful owner of all this cash should be sought out. But in an incredible plot twist, and extreme act of generosity, one of my dear friends offered to donate $1500 to my project if I found the money’s owner. Which I did. I truly do have some incredible, supportive, wonderful people in my life.

Also commissioned this awesome poem from a street poet in the French Quarter.

I love the part about capturing before you become confined, and time being placed in the frame of who you are becoming.

The final stop in Louisiana a small town named New Iberia,  where I spent a truly wonderful evening and breakfast with James and Susan. I had met these two a number of years back, and though we’d only spent one day together 3 years prior, I did not feel like a stranger. Truly wonderful individuals, and the best company for spending a drenching evening thunderstorm indoors.

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Arriving in Austin was like a second beginning for me. I arrived at Scott and Liya’s house feeling disenchanted and a little weary, I was also coming down from realizing that NOLA is not someplace I could live, which was unexpected and sad for me.

Scott is a writer and a poet, and is one of the invaluable creative friends in my life who pursues his passion as the core of his identity. The struggle I am engaged in now is all about how being an artist is my primary passion/goal/profession. It’s the difference between how I would introduce myself 5 years ago as opposed to now. It’s “I’m a teaching artist, and I also do photography.” versus “I’m an artist.”

The night I got into Austin, Scott and Liya had just returned from a lecture given by Jad Abumrad, co-founder and cohost of the Radio Lab podcast.

In his lecture, Abumrad focused on the role of the “gut churn” stage of any project, also referred to by him as “the forest.” You know, that moment (or series of interminable, extended moments) in any creative endeavor when you lose confidence in what you’re doing. The fall from the I’M-MAKING-IMPACTFUL-THINGS high, to the lying-on-the-floor-questioning-everything low. Losing your way in a forest of self-doubt.

In Abumrad’s talk, he views The Forest as an essential component of the creative process. Nobody likes it, but we can’t escape it. No matter how official you think you are or how much external validation you’ve been able to amass, from time to time The Forest will whisper terrifying, debasing things to you, and the only way to beat it is to keep making.

Ira Glass also talks about this concept here.

Ira Glass on Storytelling

The echoes of this conversation, and acknowledgement of “the Gap” and “the Forest” still resonate loudly, 3 months after my return to California.

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Like any Texan would be happy to hear, my experiences there were too big and significant to cram into one post. Here are a few last snapshots from Austin of Liya at the street food park and bits of my 30th birthday celebrating.

Before I left, Scott wrote me a truly meaningful poem, which lived on my dashboard until my return home.

“The rest of the trip
has already begun.
It is always further, though
never backward, always zigs
and zags– this is the way of things.

I’ve never met a corner I didn’t like
said the Future to the Past
What an optimistic bastard!
That shit can’t last…

And it won’t because it can’t–
but why would we want it to?
The road is not cotton candy
any more than it is a thunderstorm,
not love song more than muttering,not sunshine more than gravel road.

The road is the road, & it goes where it goes.
We are blessed to be on it,
put foot in front of foot,
tires revolving their eternal circles
as we learn our way along,
from start to finish to after finish
and start after start.

Ah, yes, cheers to the rest of the tri–”

-Scott James, 3/2015