Jostling in my seat like a rag doll as the bus navigates gaping holes in the road seemingly large enough to swallow us whole, I question why I have chosen this journey. I love traveling because it always opens up new horizons to worlds previously unimagined and brings out a sense of wonderment; but it can sometimes bring out the worst in me when physical discomfort sets into my aging body.
Although I’m feeling grouchy, a smile plays on my lips at the name Chicken Bus – an expression coined by travelers who have seen actual chickens on the bus going to market, as well as those who have had the most terrifying experiences of bus drivers “playing chicken” with other drivers on the switchback mountain roads which barely have room for one vehicle at a time! The rule of the road goes something like this: whoever wins at this game of chicken gets to drive forward – while the loser has to back up their bus (hoping one of their tires doesn’t slip off the unprotected edge of the mountain road) until they find a spot wide enough in the road where the two vehicles can pass with mere inches to spare!
As I shift in my seat for the hundredth time to transfer the pressure from one butt-cheek to the other, the poor little girl who had just about dozed off on her wedge of seat falls onto the floor! Awakened from my pity-party, my heart opens wide as I remember once again this journey – in life AND in Guatemala – isn’t all about me! The little girl looks up at me and her lip quivers.
Suddenly, I am filled with unprecedented Grace and something opens up deep inside – a fissure creating a splinter of light which warms my heart; an aperture reminding me of the quintessential journeying passages of life which allow us to grow and become more fully who we are. In a moment of uninhibited openness and compassion, I scoop up the child and place her in my lap – gently and hesitantly so as not to frighten her or her family – smiling at the mother and asking the question with my eyes if this is okay?
The woman looks worn out and gives me a nod of consent, smiling tenderly at the child and giving her permission to relax in the arms of this larger-than-is-customary-in-their-world gringa with a lot more cushion than the seat of the bus she’s been trying to sit on unsuccessfully. We all begin to relax – chugging along on the bus, thrown from side-to-side with a rhythm which lulls the child into sleep.
Something miraculous and unexpected happens to my sore, aching body. My muscles relax. I find myself swaying with the motion of the bus rather than fighting it stiffly to keep from bothering the others in my seat. Like the passing trees outside my window bending and swaying with the wind in order to avoid being broken and damaged, I find myself rocking with the rhythm of the bus.
I feel my heart open more fully to the scenery passing gently outside my window. There are fields of land which evoke childhood memories of the patchwork quilts of my grandmother’s generation. I see at least 20 different shades of green, brown and yellow with accents of red, purple and white thrown into the mix of colors – like the flowers I remember dotting the quilts that covered me as a child – and I am in awe.
The beauty of the mist hanging in the valleys far below the steep mountainous road makes the land feel magical. It reminds me of the mysteries of life I came here to explore. My existence had become dull and hazy like an old mirror – the sheen worn off so the image was dark and cloudy rather than reflecting brightly all that is good in this world.
As I shift slightly in my seat, my arm tingles and awakens after holding it in the same position for too long so as not to disturb the sleeping child. This prickly sensation reminds me my soul is now awakening in a new way as well. I have found the freedom my heart has been longing for right here – on an over-stuffed “Chicken Bus” with this endearing, sticky girl with mud on her bare feet who sleeps soundly in my arms.
About the Author: Judi Puckett, M.A. is a Writer, Life-Traveler, Spiritual Midwife and Soul-Based Coach. She looks for the opportunity to see the mystical presence in her everyday experiences and finds travel to be the magical doorway to experiencing the joy and richness life has to offer!
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