Saturday, July 5, 2014

Spiritual Superstition...... or Call Me Crazy!

You might really think I’ve gone mad after reading this post, but I can’t help but publish the most peculiar experience I had a few nights back with my host.  I’ve started a list of all the interesting professions my hosts have who I've met along my trip. The list includes everything from swat medics to smoke jumpers, jubilee dancers, and skydivers in the Slovenian army.  They rank among the most unusual!   I’ve stayed with hosts of many religions from Muslim to Mormons, Buddhists to Hindu’s, but I had yet to stay with a Native American spiritual leader, until I met Susan, a Lakota spiritual educator, as she likes to call herself.  Although frankly, I think she is more along the lines of a “healer.”  I’m going to give you the facts of the situation and tell the events as they unraveled and you can interpret them as you like.

The Black Hills are quite touristy, but it is an enchanting area

I arrived to Hot Springs, South Dakota for the day just after 6pm.   Once again I was completely famished (this seems to be a common occurrence for me recently).  I’ve learned from experience NOT to plop down at the first place I see when I arrive at my destination, because the chances are I won’t ever get up.  I did pull up to the first food stop I saw in Hot Springs, but I only let myself buy two items, rather than a bagful of snacks.  This way, I would have a snack while contemplating my dinner and camping options and move on.  I was out on the steps in front of the store when an older woman approached, entering the store.  She wanted to know where I had come from.  I told her the short version, Hemingford, NE, a good 110 miles away.  It had been a long day making up some miles for the windy ride out of Scottsbluff.

The Black Hills of South Dakota, they get their name from the pine trees that cover them that look "black" from afar.

I never made it to the river, but I'm sure it was nice.....

She looked local, so I asked her where the best place was to access the river for a bath. After all, Hot Springs was a unique town in South Dakota’s southern Black Hills with a natural hot springs running right through the center for all to access.  She pointed out a path to take and so I asked her for good camping places in town where I might be a bit hidden and off the tourist path.  I wasn’t expecting her to offer me her own yard, but she did, and I didn’t hesitate to accept.  I could get set-up and then go explore town.  I waited for her to go in and buy the ice cream she came for, and then I followed her home on my bike, just a few minutes away. 

When I arrived, she told me that I was more than welcome to her spare bedroom, so I wheeled my bike under the carport and brought my stuff inside.  She pardoned her messy house, telling me she just arrived home after being gone all winter.  This I believed because things were a bit scattered, and her suitcase was still in the living room, but it didn’t bother me.  I was appreciative of a roof over my head and couldn’t believe I had lucked out with a host in a town where I planned on camping.  After washing up and getting settled, I asked her what she did in town, although I thought she might be retired.  At 70 years old, she was still working, she told me she was a Native American spiritual teacher.  I questioned, “Oh, like a healer?” Susan doesn’t like to think of herself as a healer, instead she described herself more as a bridge between the divine and the human world. 

Susan, my host, the Lakota spiritual teacher

Yes, go ahead and say it,...... “Melissa, you’ve gone crazy!”  If it wasn’t for being on my bike pedaling 20,000 miles (30,000km) on my way home, I probably wouldn’t have given much time or thought to a “spiritual healer” and shrugged her off as being a crazy old lady too!  But the more Susan explained about her work and life, the more fascinated I became!  She was filled with wisdom and had an interesting perspective on life.   She believes that as long as you are doing what you are doing, “they” will take care of you. That is the way it works, it just does, Susan confirmed.  As long as you remain on the path that is dictated to you in your life, through free will and incarnations, everything you are suppose to be doing, the people you are suppose to meet, the experience that you are suppose to happen will occur.  Humans get in trouble, Susan believes, when we forcefully try to stop others from following their path.   But it is our own free will and ideas of spirituality that designate this path.  Susan’s role is to consult us along this path and help guide us, but rather provide a bridge for us.

That evening, Susan admitted that she didn’t even like ice cream. Her fridge was practically empty after being gone all year. Yet, she went to the store that evening and walked into the store and came out with ice cream that she didn’t even like or plan on eating?!?!?   She claimed that “they” had sent her down to the store because she was supposed to meet me!  This was “their” plan.  I tried to hold back my judgmental thoughts, but inside I though, “Oh geez, this lady is really crazy!  Good thing I’m only staying for one night!”  It’s probably good I only did stay for one night because I just about ate everything in sight that night and the following morning. I had the weirdest cravings that night at Susan’s house.  My body craved salty food first, eating anything in sight laden with salt, then sweets.  I couldn’t refrain from trying to satisfy my cravings, they were intense!  Susan joked with me and told me the more I ate the better because then she wouldn’t eat it! She didn’t touch the ice cream, but guess who did have their fair share?

That night we continued to have more thought provoking conversation about religion, the history and geography of the area, journeys, culture, and life in general.  Her partner was German and she’d ton a lot of traveling around Europe, which is always a good topic of conversation with me.  Susan was certain that my journey was all part of a bigger plan to be a teacher others and share my experiences with them.  For me, my trip is more about personal growth and discovery, but I guess I do have an impact on others.  In her words, I’m like a type of messenger, literally!  There are few religions that really captivate my interest, but I Susan’s spiritual beliefs intrigued me.  I pressed my luck hoping that she did a bit of fortune telling as well.  Not that I believe in that kind of stuff either, but at times I wonder what the crystal ball would say.  If someone told me five years ago I would be traveling from Barcelona to Oregon on bike, I would have thought they were crazy! Unfortunately she told me she didn’t do that kind of stuff!

We woke early in the morning and I was optimistic I could get a blog post written before hitting the road. She made a nutritious breakfast for me while I typed away about my experience in Scottsbluff.  After eating, I could there were some pills close to my computer.  I thought she had accidentally left her vitamins close to me.  Susan told me, when you leave here, you are going to come down with something strong and you will need these.  “You’ll be hit hard, but just take two, and then two more every two hours until you start feeling better.”  I recognized the words on the package as German and they seemed like some sort of homeopathic medicine from Europe.  Susan confirmed this fact.  They were homeopathic pills from Germany.  I sort of just nodded and said, “Ok, ok!” thinking, Lady, I’m not going to take some pills with ingredients I don’t even recognize from a lady I don’t even know. Politely, I put them in my bag anyway. 

The two things I left Susan's house with, a Namaste card and homeopathic pills (I ended up taking all but these)

I stubbornly tried to finish my post, but I could see Susan had her own agenda.  She was setting up some cards…..Wait a minute, I thought she didn’t do fortune telling?!?!?  They were Namaste cards she told me, all laid out face down on a tray.  She told me to pick one, any one of them.  I strategically went for the card that was the most hidden under the others.  I turned it over, wouldn’t you know, it said, “Sense Withdrawal!”  Crazy, here I had looked for the card that was the most hidden and out of the way.  For a few days I had been craving some “me time” a bit of down time all to myself, out of sight from others, cut off from the world, impossible on a bike tour!  She told me to keep this card’s message present in my mind as I continued on my journey. 

Then she asked if she could touch me.  Most, people ask if they can touch my legs, so I was used to it.  But Susan’s hand didn’t go to my legs, she put her index finger just below my collarbone, closed her eyes, and was silent for almost a good minute, longer than I expected.  She opened her eyes and told me, “You are going to be okay on this journey Melissa.  You will arrive home safely, but wow, a lot of interesting things are going to happen.  You are going to meet some really fascinating people and it is going to be a long trip!”  I know, anyone can say that about my trip but, at least it is good to know that a semi truck isn’t going to run me over or some crazy weirdo terrorize me, at least if I stay on the path my spirituality tells me to go down! I was hoping she’d say I’d meet my prince in shining armour, another cyclist on a shiny steel frame pedaling along on his long bike ride, but that didn’t come out of her mouth either!

At this point I thanked her, packed up my things, and she sent me off with some dried sage wrapped in Kleenex, which is a sacred herb for the Lakota people.  I was on my way to the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore.  Rolling away, literally two doors down, I saw another supermarket.  Interesting?!?!?  She could have walked 30 seconds and been at that supermarket to get ice cream last night, yet Susan had gotten in her car and drove half a mile down the road for ice cream……..I tried not to think too much into that. 

Follow the signs and you'll get there if you don't get hit hard like I did

Three hours into my ride I rolled up to a small touristy town, Custer, right at the crossroads to Mt. Rushmore.  I was starting to get hungry, so I figured it was a good stop.  Still stubborn and intent on doing a blog post, I looked for a restaurant with a strong wifi connection where I could chill for a couple of hours.  This is when it hit me.  All of a sudden I felt really weak and ravenous.  The feeling was strong and had come over me just after I sat down, taking me completely by surprise.  In the matter of minutes I ate the entire bag of groceries I bought to have that night camping.  Then, I had to go to the bathroom, not once, not twice, or three times, it was non-stop!  What was this? Where did this come from?  What was happening?  Boy was I lucky to be in a town, in a restaurant with a bathroom.  I was reluctant to admit that this was what Susan warned me about.  She told me I would come down with something when I left, but I thought this something, if it were to happen, maybe a day or two from now, NOT within a few hours!!!  Of course, being the stubborn person that I am, I didn’t take the pills she had given me, I just kept going to the bathroom until I couldn’t go any more!

Me on my last fumes trying to make it to Mt. Rushmore. I made to the sign, and kept pedaling all the way up, somehow....
I still had 20 miles to ride to Mt. Rushmore, so I needed to get myself on the road.  I felt okay at the beginning, but the longer I rode the more exhausted I felt.  I had eaten an entire bag full of groceries and drank a few liters of sports drinks, surely, I would feel fine?  But I didn’t!  And the truth is, I’ve never felt worse on my entire trip.  I was shaking, jittery, famished, as if I hadn’t eaten for weeks!  In the world of cycling they call it bonking, which to this day, I think I’ve only officially felt twice.  But at this moment, I was beyond bonking.  All I had left for food were the two chocolate bars Susan gave me as I set off.  I ate these, nothing.  I was still weak. I finally gave in and took two of her pills.  By then, I think it was too late.  I didn’t notice any immediate remedy.  I struggled to make it up to Mt. Rushmore.  I was on the verge of a breakdown, I could hardly pedal, somehow I found some way to keep the legs turning. What was happening to me? What on earth had attacked my system?  I arrived at Mt. Rushmore and if it wouldn’t have been for the thousands of tourists, I would have laid down in the parking lot and fallen asleep for the night.  I couldn’t go any further.  I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t do anything except wonder……Is this what Susan had warned me about?  

Mt. Rushmore, for me the best part of arriving was knowing it was all downhill to Keystone, SD, my refuge for the night

Managed to wheel my bike down as close as you could get to the monument....

Luckily, all I had left to pedal was a few miles straight down to Keystone, where I planned to take refuge for the night.  That night, every two hours I popped a few of her pills while I sought withdrawal from the world.  I was in no state of mind to interact with others.  As for replenishing the nutrients I had lost, luckily I found an “All-You-Can-Eat” burger joint and piled on as many toppings as possible on my Buffalo burger. I went back for seconds and thirds, and then did the same with an “All-You-Can-Eat” ice cream sundae bar.  I think the foreigners working the burger joint were appalled by my appetite.  What a reputation I gave Americans that night with my eating habits.  I have never felt so depleted on this trip, I can’t even begin to explain the sensation. 

Can you find the burger in this basket?

As if the waitress didn't think I was crazy enough with a basket this full, I made her take a picture (notice I'm all nicely bathed from the sponge bath in their bathroom!)

Like I said, you can choose to interpret the situation however you please.  I stayed with a crazy lady for a night, ate something that was rotten or spoiled, got bad food poisoning, and ended up with the worst case of the runs that I’ve had on my trip.   And let me tell you after all the food I ate off street carts in Asia and unwashed and unpeeled fruit, I never had an upset stomach there. Bad luck or do you believe in something else!?!?  You can choose to interpret the scenario as you like. In my opinion, Susan really was some sort of “spiritual bridge”.  Although I don’t think of myself as being a believer, I am a bit superstitious and I DO think she worked her magic on me!  If only she knew….although something tells me she is reading this post with a huge grin on her face saying, “I told you so Melissa……..”

PS. Ironically, I'm sitting trying to type this blog at Safeway, trying to "seek withdrawal", but the man next to me is soooooo curious about my presence it is rather hard! 

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