VW Tattooed on my Back!

Tiny beads of sweat form on my brow and on my forehead. It’s early June and I’m standing in the shade at ArtFest, a yearly art adventure in Spokane. You know, those art festivals with booths lined all around the park featuring everything form handmade soaps to 8X6 foot original paintings, to mugs and plates, and glass blown shapes to float in your water element in the backyard?

I plan to buy nothing.

I don’t really need anything. In fact, I’ve been purging for the last 2 years and I’m just about to hit the road in a VW Camper Van for 4 months.

No, I tell myself. “Don’t by any THING.” I feel the pinch of pride rise with my resolve. I know I will walk away with nothing in my hands.

Until I see the table of watches.  I don’t even WEAR a watch. But these are recycled silver plated spoons, made into watches with a magnetic clasp.  I am like a bee to sweet nectar dripping from jasmine. I enter the trance as I stand in front of the table with at least 60 watches on it.

I pick up the one with a square face and bands made of recycled silver spoons. I have to have it. It’s the sliver spoon. It’s my childhood, cleaning silver. I come from silver spoons and table settings, thank you notes and gloves, and the right purse to match your outfit.

Yes, I have to have it. For my trip. I noted the irony immediately – a watch to be out in nature on a “chillin’” kind of trip.

I lift my head up out of the daze to focus on the woman behind the counter – Colleen. I tell her about my upcoming VW Camper trip, and mumble something about the sliver spoon, and my childhood and to my left, a man in his late 30s with two missing back teeth is listening with his whole body. Then he booms,

“VW? I’ve got it tattooed on my back. Big. Used to own a VW mechanic shop.”

I smile and feel the desire to turn away and continue my shopping extravaganza. But he doesn’t let go. He starts in with a line of questions – what year, water or air cooling, where am I going?

I’m with a friend and I don’t feel like answering his questions. He talks on, clueless that I’m not that interested.

“The ’82, well that’s an air cooling system, in ’84 they changed to the water cooling system. Hard to find parts when you’re out there on the road. Better take an extra belt. Yeah, an extra belt. ’80 to ’83 was a short window of the air cooling system,” he says as though talking partly to himself and not caring if anyone is listening.

I stop what I'm doing and turn to him.

“What’s your name?” I ask looking him right in his eyes.


“Matthew, ok, tell me more. I’m listening.

He has my full attention. I realize he is a gift – a messenger. It's one of those meetings with someone who drops just the right piece of information into your world that you might need later. I open up my iphone to take notes as he rattles on about the belt, the cooling system, the magazine I should pick up with all of the info about VW camper van meetings around the country.

I buy the watch. It fits perfectly. Matthew waits to talk to me more about the van and closes out saying, “Well, when you have VW tattooed on your back, you could talk about the vans for hours.”

I knew he could. And I knew he would if I were into listening to his vault of knowledge on the vans. But it was hot, and I was tired already. But I found that sweet spot in my heart full of gratitude for this quirky stranger whose passion far exceeded my own about the Vans, even though I would be leaving shortly to experience life on the road.


When is the Moment You Say Yes?

When is the moment you say yes?

Yes, I’m going to hike the Himalayas.
Yes, I’m going to run the marathon.
Yes, I’m going back to law school at age 50.


When is it?

When is it that all of the “nos” fade out?

No, I’m too old.
No, I don’t have time.
No, I’m not smart enough, I’m too out of shape, I don’t have enough money.

When do all of the road blocks fall away and you say yes to that seedling of a dream in the chambers of your heart?

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Well, I’ll tell you when it fell away for me.

The “yes” came for me sitting across the kitchen table from my husband and we asked each other the question, “What would you do if you had a year to live?”

The first thing that popped out of my mouth was “Travel.”

And I let myself wander into the fantasy. I’d travel in a Camper Van through the U.S. and go to the national parks.

I’d travel to Cuba and Rwanda and back to India.

Yes, definitely, I’d travel. I’d inhabit my free spirit wings and take to the road.

He followed up the question with a second one.

“And what’s stopping you?”

I was ready with all of my road blocks…

“Well, there’s you and the dogs. I can’t leave for so long. And my students and teaching. And, well, I have to figure out my business and how to make more money, not spend more. And I’m not really a camper. I grew up in the City.”

He just stared at me, silently challenging me. “Really?” His look said, “That’s all you’ve got?”

He pushed me some more.

REALLY, what’s stopping you?”

“OK, OK,” I bantered with him. I knew this practice. He never lets me off the hook. After all, our vows when we got married were about helping each other become free – both internally and externally. The last three and a half years we’d been in a rock tumbler together, buffing off all of the bull shit of our personas, our fears, our triggers. We’d been polishing the mirror we looked.

“Ok, ok,” I began again.

“Fear! There are you happy!

Fear that I’ll spend all of my savings and won’t have money to retire. Fear that I will disappoint people – my students, people I’ve made commitments to. Fear that I won’t know what to do if the Van breaks down. Fear that I will get lost. Fear that I will be perceived as selfish and people won’t like me.

I could go on, but lets just say: FEAR.”

His lips turned up at the corners, just slightly into a wry smile. It was his “There. That’s the real answer look.” I knew it well.

“And if you get to the end of this life and you don’t do these things, how will you feel?” he posed.

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All of the defensiveness melted out of my muscles and I sat there contemplating his question. What would happen if I never do this? Would I feel like I’ve lived MY life? Or would I feel like I’ve betrayed myself?

I knew the answer.

But could I take the steps to make it happen?

Despite the longing in my heart, all of the cells in my body twitched nervously. My mind spun like a hurricane….

But but but…

It feels selfish.

It feels scary.

Will people still love me?

If I don’t do anything “for” them?

Will I just be out there on my own? Being? And forgotten?

What if my Van breaks down?

What if?