From the passenger's seat of Scout our valued Subaru station wagon I watched the generous body relax into the collapsible chair. Snacking on the contents of a cellophane-wrapped bag he crunched most of it, yet saved one tidbit for the small black pup leased not more than a foot from his slippered feet. His vehicle, an older black pickup truck, is filled with the trappings of his everyday. A canvas sheet covered the bed, a bicycle perched over the covering. He, like us, is a modern day nomad, blood kin or not to the Romani, we are society's new culture whether favored or recognized makes little difference really. We know who we are, and as the mortgaged middle class quickly suffers the weight of promises too heavy to keep, our nomadic tribe will multiple.
The town we have made our home over the past six months is part of the Windward community of O'ahu. Kailua is smaller than urban Honolulu by what? tree or four-fold, with buildings lower to the ground and streets more easily navigated in a four-wheel vehicle or a foot-pedaled cycle. This place is a parking lot miniature of her Honolulu sister's high-rise/underground, cemented parking structure reality. Those of the Nomadics who live from and in our vehicles come to know parking lots intimately. I remember the humiliation I used to feel early in my nomadic life. The ego still unwilling to accept the changes to her place in the cycle of my everyday. A steep learning curve characterize the rituals of the new nomad, and though similar for most, each is probably more unique than I know.
Within a week one will recognize another. We seem to be very solitary rarely engaged by the eye and rarer yet in conversation. As I write, now at a favorite library table positioned over one of the only uncarpeted floors, I spot at least three of the tribe; familiar by sight or by trappings. If I were more courageous or maybe, it is detachment. If I were more detached ... time will tell, I would be igniting my formerly useful interviewing skills from a recent past life to learn who my fellow nomadics are. What are their stories?
Nearly closing time. I hear, as well everyone else at this end of the library, the regular and even snore coming from a young brother. He has fallen into blissful sleep in the comfort of one of the dark blue upholstered reading chairs. Sleep. Glorious and restorative healing rest is not an every night given when you are nomadic. The first weeks are hardest when place and surroundings offer no reassurances. Society--societal regulation, the laws meant to keep genteel wall and roof dwellers safe and assure, view the Tribe as untouchables. The cast system in America is real.
Perhaps my journey as nomad is karmic, needing to experience first-hand, walk in the shoes of simplicity viewed and judged as I have judged. I have feared the people on the streets who wore faces like mine; brown or red-skinned in their flannel shirts looking to me for a hand (full of change, a common goodness). I crossed the street to avoid them. Now I watch as others avoid me when I roll from the back of my car where I have spent the night. Our car has become noticed...known in the neighborhood because we park on my cousins' lawn at night. No fence or wall shields our home/car from the dog walkers inches from my window. We live a public life. Ego? Recycled into informed doubter--I have new skills, nomadic skills which I have come to hold in great esteem.
This piece was written in 2007. The mostly handwritten musings were folded and tucked into a rose-covered box, a gift box that holds the notes and writing on coffee shop napkins during the months of living from our Subaru. I found the box and this writing when I pulled the wire basket out from its place beneath our vardo bed. I was cleaning house, a fitting task for the quarter moon cycle, or 'ole moons of the Hawaiian Moon Calendar ... times for weeding, repair nets, preparing ground for planting, and cleaning. These are skills I have come to hold in great esteem.
I am ever aware of how transient the quality of surety is. From these nomadic times on O'ahu, my place of birth, the medicine and magic of myth found a strong and enduring place in my heart. To make sense of nonsense deeply rooted qualities offered me the portable and simple magic of small joys, and my heart becomes more resilient, vulnerable and open; it becomes less afraid to be nomadic. Like the magic of a safety pin, I find the efficacy of a tool is in its being able to serve without being grand. For a time, the pin holds. Opened, there is the potential for something else. To read some of the myth that grew from these times go here.