Hear Me Roar
Photography by Christian Lee
Hometown: Long Beach, WA
Lives in: Levy, SC
I am the dubbed the “rambler” because… Over the last eight years I have slept in a hundred different beds. The year I decided to travel less, I wound up in all four corners of the country: South Florida, Maine almost to Canada, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and the California/Arizona/Mexico line. In 2010, I forsook renting and started living out of my truck as a means to pursue writing and my spiritual path; in the early days, while brainstorming a title for the book I planned to write, I blurted out: “Ain’t a rambler’s life fine!” Had I known this would brand me for the next decade, I might have put more thought into it! Rambler’s Life has been an important phase of my career and personal development.
I am at one with… Change.
I love my life because… I am my own master, and no one is dependent on me.
My most memorable ramble is… A one-month road trip around the Deep South with my dog. What an odyssey! I witnessed thousands of people speaking in tongues at a megachurch in Birmingham, accidentally started a small riot in a Memphis barbershop, heard live blues at a juke joint on the Mississippi Delta, explored the Louisiana bayous by kayak, got taken in by a Cajun family, slept in my truck down dirt roads, camped from the mountains to the barrier islands, nearly lost my dog in the forest, plus my transmission went out in Tennessee.
My biggest accomplishment thus far is… Writing two books about my travels around the South! And earning a fifth-degree black belt in kung fu from Sun and Moon Martial Arts Studio, where I have also taught children for over 10 years.
Five things I always take on the road with me are… tea, notebook, Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap, plenty of clean white T-shirts and my adventure vest. (It’s like my purse.)
The road life has taught me… Humility—because having so little of my own has made me the recipient of kindness from friends and strangers. Gratitude—for every sound of rain hitting the roof instead of me, for every safe bed, for every meal provided by generous hands. Thoughtfulness—so I can pay it back or forward. Patience—to endure the hardships of a writer-rambler’s life. Equanimity—as I try not to get swayed by fleeting joys or sorrows, but understand that the highest happiness is peace.
Three dreams before I die are… Go to India on pilgrimage to visit sites of importance in the Buddha’s life, write a book about it and have my own little house, where I can live and work comfortably.
Solitude makes me feel… At peace. I love living alone, working alone, traveling alone, meditating alone, eating alone, sleeping alone, drinking my tea alone. Ninety percent of my time is in solitude, so when I do hang with dear ones, I can give them my full attention and care. And, I would like to give a big shout-out to my devoted best friend and man of the last 14 years, Mr. Anthony; although we don’t live together, his steadfast love and companionship has soothed and comforted me.
The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is… Try to make my writing take off while battling Lyme disease and living on low income in an 18-ft. travel trailer.
I could never live without… Vipassana Meditation, a technique of mental purification discovered and taught by the Buddha, which I learned at a 10-day silent retreat in Jesup, GA. It has helped me so much; I shudder to think of my life without it. I am also greatly indebted to all the family, friends and readers who have supported me with everything from meals, lodging and laundry, to cash contributions and praise—I wonder if I’d still be alive without you.
It’s about the inner journey now because… I have already been fortunate to see so much of the world; if I keep adding to my list, would it just be hedonism or narcissism? My lust for experience is fading. With meditation the adventure turns inward, so my most important work now is the study and practice of the Buddha’s teaching, then sharing the benefit with others. I want to be of service. But when I say the Buddha’s teaching, I don’t mean any religion! He was a scientist of mind and matter, and his quest for Enlightenment was to discover and remove the root cause of suffering in order to be happy. We all face hardship in our lives! So the universal, beneficial, methodically applicable truths laid out by the Buddha are what interest me, because I have personally experienced how they work.
My last Ah Ha moment taught me… What I thought I already knew: I need to follow my heart.
I am currently roaring about… The “Bodhi Stories!” Four years ago I fell in love with an obscure 2,000-year-old collection of ancient Indian folktales about the Buddha’s past lives, which I am now adapting and illustrating for children. This project is my heartstring; when I see kids getting impacted it’s so satisfying to me! “Bodhi” means awakening, growing the seeds of wisdom inside ourselves. The stories are adventurous, hilarious, inspiring, illuminating and full of compassion. They teach values like truth, tolerance, generosity, loving-kindness, respect, hard work and sound judgement, with the consistent takeaway that when you do wholesome actions you become happy, when you do unwholesome actions you suffer. It’s that simple! So don’t be good for anyone else’s sake, or because an authority told you to; do it for yourself. This is the honest message I would like to give children so that they grow up to live happy lives good for themselves and others. The first set of “Bodhi Stories” comes out this month! For more info please visit www.micheleroldanshaw.com