On our road trips last summer, Scott and I developed an idea we called “spiritual congruence.” Every place, every direction we headed, every style of experience– from rough travel to luxury— moved either toward greater congruity with the flow or time or what was needed… or away from it. For example, spiritual congruence on a camping trip might produce a campsite like this one, on the Olympic National Park peninsula.
This was a campsite that “just happened” to be open in the busiest campground in the National Park, just when we needed it, without reservation.
We first invented the term when we landed at a cabin that looked great on Yelp, but felt really soulless. It was expensive and unsettling… it was supposed to be the “honeymoon cabin” but it was coldly over-decorated in black and grey, graveyard colors, an attempt at modernity and elegance that failed and became merely frigid and depressing. We had hoped for a cozy, kitschy, pine paneled little place. We were surprised at how disturbing it was. After all, we had weathered true travel crises with equanimity and humor. But the vibe was bad. We started talking about it. There was no congruity with who we were or what we wanted from the trip. We sacrificed a hundred bucks, took the hit, and checked out.
The last time we experienced this deep disquiet, an anxiety bordering on fear, was on another road trip when we were heading to the Badlands of North Dakota. We wanted to see Mount Rushmore. As we drove, an overwhelming oppression enveloped us. It was so profound that we decided to cancel our trip. We checked into a motel, where we both had nightmares all night, and turned right around the next day. Perhaps it was the blood-soaked, coal-ripped country around us, the country of so many Native American massacres. Or maybe the earth itself was bleeding from strip mining.
Spiritual congruence is a flow state where outer world and inner move together. We got up before dawn to go tidepooling on Beach 4; light, water, and tidal treasures.
Sometimes it doesn’t come too easily. We were only 10 miles away from Dungeness Point, yet could not find fresh, cooked, whole crab for a whole week. We only found overpriced restaurants with crab salads and such. I even tried crabbing, with no luck! We finally found a roadside stand after hard searching. We cracked our crab congruency and ate it without butter on paper plates… ahhh.
Sometimes you can make your own little snail shell world so you can be spiritually congruent on the beach even on a rainy day. This setup of campfire in a can, beach shelter, and lowboy chairs makes even a windy, cold day a beach day.
I am very interested in those states where, even where there might be discomfort, there is a larger flow or current of rightness, agreement, moving together: spiritual congruency. How can our little lives be folded in like egg whites to the cake batter of the wide and glorious world? I sense it more in travel than in my daily life. But it must exist everywhere, in minor and major states of grace. I think a lot about how to make my life more like the road trip it really is.
I am open for Art Trails this year in Studio 33 one more weekend, on October 17 and 18. Come visit. I have the Camino notebook pages up, and have decided to take the plunge and make a book.