There’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I’m headed straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground
~ The Promised Land
As I prepare to leave Austin this morning and embark upon this Odyssey, the sky is pouring rain. Thunder and lightening flash and crash around my little home. Strong winds bend tree branches and drive hard drops against the windows. It’s loud. So loud, I turned off the music.
I’m finishing my last tasks with only the sounds of the storm around me.
There’s a rightness in this. I can hear the silence within the storm, like the heartbeat of all existence. It was that which brought me to this moment. Something called me, and has been calling me all my life. I can listen for it, and respond. Or I can give a million excuses why not.
After 50 turns round the sun, and however many nights and days that I’ve been alive, I am done turning away. Finished with it. I’m claiming my freedom, which also means surrendering to the Way that life will move me.
Following Bruce is much more than a rock-n-roll adventure. It’s beyond being a fan. It is easy to get caught up in the “form” of this journey. But my deepest wish is that I will focus ever more deeply on what this adventure really is: a voyage home, to deeper and deeper interiors of my heart. And that through this blog I will find some way to bring you along on that journey.
This past weekend I had the great good fortune to retreat for 2 days and nights with a group of people similarly dedicated to a journey such as mine. Led by Vanessa Stone, a beautiful sister and teacher on my path, we spent our time in circle and alone on the land, in silence and in talk and laughter, making new friendships and strengthening old ones. Vanessa reminded me, as time with her always does, that this life is a precious opportunity and perfectly perfect as it is.
As I wrote that, thunder crashed, punctuating the power of this truth. As a great poet once wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
And I realize, this Odyssey is perfectly prescribed for me.
The countdown in the lower right of my site says “5 Day to Go.” Til I leave to follow Bruce Springsteen around the South for 3 weeks.
Doesn’t seem possible.
Isn’t it always like that? Whatever we plan, however far away it seems—suddenly it’s here. Oh, how time rushes at us, continuously. Non-stop, like a freight train or the rapids of a rushing river.
And then it’s over. In the blink of a proverbial eye.
So, as I scramble these last days to get the house in order for the cat-sitter, wrap up work to the maximum degree possible, pack for the journey, purchase shit I absolutely must have (like a Canon 70D and car magnets that say “followingbruce.com”), make Airbnb reservations, find tickets to the shows (!!), and do God knows what else (eyebrows waxed, last-minute mammograms cuz for some reason it just can’t wait another second)…I realize that I don’t want to miss this fleeting experience of the scramble.
This is PART OF THE EXPERIENCE. This is the process. This is the gift of any given moment, of every breath, of every messy second I get to be alive as a human being. No matter how tough or weird or awkward things are, or how good or bad I feel, no matter what—I don’t want to miss it.
I want AWARENESS. I pray for it and I’m calling it in. Circling up, lighting the candles, crying to the heavens. “Let me be present to all that happens, don’t let me sleep through another second of being alive!”
And so, another day begins. Precious human life, and I don’t want to waste it.
Are you wondering…”What is going on here?” “Who is this Uma Bode?” “What is she blogging about?”
Well, allow me to answer your burning questions.
(Okay, maybe burning is an overstatement.)
I’m this woman who lived her whole life dreaming big and living small. Hiding out. Afraid if you knew the real me, you wouldn’t like her. Finally, with a lot of help, a fair amount of hard work and more than a small amount of grace, I’m out of hiding.
I’m starting to live as big as my dreams. Doing the bucket list, yes. That’s part of it. But even bigger—even more Wonder Woman-ish—is showing up to each moment. To each interaction, each relationship, each email, each work meeting, each walk in the park. Showing up fully and entirely. Experiencing you and letting you experience me. SEE ME. FEEL ME. HEAR ME.
This thing that many call “the spiritual path” has always been my life. There have been so many twists and turns, dances with addiction and depression, different teachers and different religions. But what is fundamentally true (and what I’ve returned to) is that my teacher is the god of my understanding and my practice is doing what I love to do.
One thing I love to do is write. Another is to make photographs. Another is to go on adventures.
Which brings us to…
I’m blogging about following Bruce Springsteen’s concert tour. For now. This site will likely grow as “umabode.com” in the future. But for now…it’s all about this journey into the Bruce-verse.
Wait – actually – it’s about this journey into the “Uma-verse!”
This blog is a growing collection of all that I have to say and share. I hope that it serves. Somehow. I pray that it reaches people who need to hear what I have to say.
And that, my friend, is why I’m blogging.
Because deep within me, perhaps the most passionate thing that I believe is this: it is our sacred service to respond to our deepest desires. Those inexplicable but oh so potent longings…to do or go or say or sing or play or draw or sculpt or formulate or program or research or study or have a baby or build a freaking supercollider.
THOSE are the things that if we do them, we will be living our truest life.
We will be WHOLLY FULFILLED.
And, as a byproduct, we will also, probably, very likely, make a better world.
And, also, believe me, listen to me: if what you long for is to go for quiet walks and write poetry and play with your cat, never doubt that such simple acts serve you and the world just as importantly and potently than the seemingly big stuff.
Trust yourself. Know yourself. I’m writing this blog because I now trust myself and know myself and want to grow those trust and know muscles. And encourage everyone else to do the same.
See you on the path.
In 1975, Born to Run came into my life. It rocked my world. This post is an attempt to explain what Bruce has meant to me—and why I’m following his tour and blogging about it.
I was 12 years old. Just starting 7th grade. My older brother gave the album to my older sister for her birthday. She was 20, and distracted, so once I borrowed it, I never gave it back.
From the first time I put him on my record player, Bruce’s lyrics spoke to my heart and hit deep in my gut. They brought me into contact with something that lingered just beneath the surface of my awareness, a longing that I hadn’t yet fully recognized.
Late nights in my room, the rest of the house dark and quiet, I huddled close to the record player and lifted the needle back to the beginning of Thunder Road again and again. I sang along in a whisper. Desire pulsed in my veins. Oh…I wanted to be Mary. To roll down the window and let the wind blow back my hair. To leave this town full of losers behind. To pull out of here and win.
The songs on Born to Run and, later, Darkness on the Edge of Town, strongly influenced my developing worldview and brought into sharp focus the life I wanted to live. Bruce did not give me my belief systems or my dreams. But somehow, he nailed them in his records. The lyrics and the music worked together on a mysterious level to bring me to my knees and to the top of the mountain, simultaneously.
So…flash forward to 2014. I am 50 years old. Much of my life, until recently, fell short of the dreams and longings of those nights by the record player. Bruce receded into the background. Embers of the longing for a life worth living smoldered on beneath the surface of my daily life, but I hardly realized it.
Then one day a few years ago, I woke up one morning and said, “No more! I’m living my life from my heart from now on.” As you can imagine, this is a story of it’s own and I won’t go into details here and now. But it led me to this moment where all that matters is listening more and more clearly to the path that life calls me to, and following it. I realize that the stories on Bruce’s albums speak to me because they are metaphors of the struggle in every person’s heart.
The only other thing I’ll say here is that what is most potent is that I am an artist in my heart, a creator. We ALL are. And the biggest self-betrayal that I lived all these years was not creating. So, I’m following Bruce’s tour to be inspired. And I’m blogging about it in words, photos and (hopefully) video, in order to inspire others.
So, here we go. Bruce inspires me because…
Haiku – a form of brief poetry. Seventeen syllables in three lines (5-7-5). An attempt to capture the essence of a moment.
The other morning, these Haiku came out…
living from the inside out
this moment explodes
whatever it is
surrender it to God’s fire
let it burn to ash
arise from ashes
accept what is offered now
see its perfection
let the burn cleanse you
arrive to this moment new
see now with clear eyes
a new baby born
arising from mystery
seeing with clear eyes
this is all I need
morning haiku and coffee
fog burns sun rises
I am moving rapidly but easily through layers that feel like gauze, but also like water. The light is shining and I see it above me through a kind of shimmering surface.
Movement is effortless and more graceful than the ungainly paddle of arms and legs. My body and mind are synchronized; forward motion happens just because I want it to.
Every day it gets easier, even as my tasks grow more numerous and endless ideas bubble up so fast I can barely contain them…things to do, art to create, topics to write about, more concepts for the Following Bruce adventure, visions for this website, for the journeys ahead, for my whole entire life.
I am fast approaching some threshold. It is approaching me. We are each on a locked trajectory, precisely aimed to crash into one another.
What this threshold is, I’m not sure. I think it may be the edge of the only atmosphere I’ve breathed in this life so far. An outgrown gravity that I’m escaping. An ancient boundary condition that I’m exceeding.
All I know is, nothing is going to stop us from coming together, this edge and me…
we are lovers.
My destiny is that edge.
Falling off it
is the home I’ve longed for.
I’m pretty self-sufficient…and making it happen is a specialty of mine.
That said, if you are inspired by what I’m doing and want to support me, please consider the following:
1. Donate to my Go Fund Me campaign.
2. Host me in one of my Following Bruce cities (Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Atlanta, New Orleans and Houston – also possibly Tampa and Sunrise, FL).
3. Give me or sell me a ticket to one of the shows.
4. Buy me a Canon 70D.
5. Send me more love than I’ll know what to do with. Actually, do that no matter what.
Thanks for everything. Seriously. Your visit to this site is the greatest gift you can give me. Anything else is just icing.
But he lives with a fabulous family in Santa Cruz. I have full visitation rights, but it’s a long way from Austin, TX where I now live and I haven’t seen him in almost a year. These photos make me simultaneously happy and sad.
He’s the best dog. Ever. And, WOW, can he jump.
I have no poems of light.
I have only poems of surrendering to darkness.
This world tells us “fight the darkness.”
But I have a different message.
Surrender to suffering
and allow your journey to REALLY begin.
Drop “affirmation” and “attraction” into the trash can.
Trust the Path, live the life you’ve got.
No matter the suffering…we all suffer…
when you are willing to walk through your own personal fire?
Rise up into your true strength
bestowed by flowing like water
down cool mountains
into a salty sea.
your own heartbeat
Flash Fiction, based on this photo by Vivian Maier…
I was told they were in an arts and crafts store one wintery day when it finally happened.
Both of them were relieved to be out of the freezing apartment, and although they did not have the money to buy anything, they were out shopping nonetheless.
Charley had on her warmest coat. Though indoors, she kept the hood on. Her father had cut her hair that morning. She looked boyish and was embarrassed by it, but could at least hide the worst mistakes with the hood.
She wore no undershirt, and the coat’s fuzzy material against her skin reminded her of what it felt like to hug a large teddy bear. Like the one three years before, at her Aunty Ella’s place, where she hugged her older cousin Andrea’s teddy while she waited for her father to fetch her.
* * * * * *
Twelve year old Andrea had been picnicking with friends for the day. After lunch, Aunty Ella tossed a book onto the kitchen table. She knew Charley could not read.
“I’m off to rest,” she said. “I need peace and quiet, so don’t dare leave this kitchen.”
A while later Charley tiptoed down the corridor. She needed to pee. Her thin legs momentarily collapsed as she inched past Aunty Ella’s bedroom. Through the doorway she saw the old lady sprawled on her back, gray hair splayed magnificently across white pillow covers, snoring loudly enough to raise the dead. Emboldened, Charley walked towards the loo, but found herself drawn to Andrea’s room instead. She caressed the brass doorknob on the closed door. It was cold and exciting to touch. Dangerous.
Charley held her breath. Aunty Ella snored. Charley turned the doorknob. A loud click echoed through the passageway. Aunty Ella snorted. In a sudden panic, Charley slid into the bedroom and pushed the door closed. She was afraid Aunty Ella would find her there, so she hid in the closet. Having fumbled her way past jackets, shirts and skirts to the deepest recesses, she sank to the ground, drained of all strength.
In the early hours of the following morning, the closet opened and her father’s quivering hands found his sleeping daughter clinging tightly to a teddy bear.
He woke her.
“Aunty Ella died in her sleep this afternoon,” he said.
The quiet sobs of Andrea mourning came from a shadow on the bed nearby.
* * * * * *
She peered up at her father who was dressed as a clown. He wore an enormous, wide-brimmed flat hat on his head and his usual make-up on his face. The sad clown with black tears running down his pale cheeks.
He pretended to read the instructions printed on a packet of face paint.
Again she was embarrassed.
“Yes, Daddy?” she asked.
He placed the face paint back on the shelf. Then immediately picked it up again before turning it in his hand.
“I can’t do this anymore. I’m leaving.”
He turned and loped toward the door. She ran after him.
He didn’t even turn his head. The bell on the handle of the glass door jangled as he pushed it open, bolted down the sidewalk, and pushed aside a woman with a fur hat. As Charley raced out the door, the fur-hatted woman turned to look after the tear-faced clown and the ragged little girl chasing him.
A half-block away, he suddenly stopped and leaned against a brick wall. She reached him, panting. He was crying. Taxis honked; the man selling hot dogs and pretzels on the corner watched as Charley threw her arms around him, wailing.
Her thin body pressed against his, her arms wrapped his waist. Desperation rang through the streets. The near-hideous clown slumped, his weight falling onto Charley. She released her arms and he collapsed in a pile on the hard sidewalk. His odd clown-hat fell off his sweating head and lay at a grotesque angle beside him.
People gathered around them, stood in mute silence, staring. Panic rose in Charley’s chest. When her father performed his strange, dark-clown, street dramas, she played her part silently, passing the hat, eyes downcast, invisible. She had to get him home, out of sight. It didn’t matter that it was freezing in that 5th floor walk-up, the refrigerator shelves were bare and they had to huddle around the gas stove to keep at least their hands and noses warm. They would be alone and together.
“What’s going on here? Make way, make WAY, I said. Police, make way.”
She hissed into her father’s ear.
“The police are here!”
To Charley, the illiterate daughter of an illegal street performer, the police meant one thing. Run.
Her father mouthed some words. She leaned in to catch them.
“I love you. I’m sorry.”
She started to scream and tried to twist away as the cop put his hand on her shoulder.
The woman in the fur hat stepped forward from the crowd.
“Please, sir, unhand my daughter.”
Charley stopped mid-scream.
The cop released his grip. “Ma’am, what is going on here?”
Charley didn’t move.
“Sir, I do apologize. This man has been taking care of my daughter. I will see to them both. I would appreciate it if you could move this crowd along. Thank you.”
The woman squatted down to Charley’s eye level.
“Hello, dear. What is your name?” She said very quietly.
“Charley.” Charley whispered.
“Well, hello Charley. I am Anna. What is your father’s first name?”
Anna stood and spoke to a man standing beside her who Charley had not noticed. A car pulled up to the curb. Her father’s eyes opened as the man leaned down to help him to his feet.
And that is how Charley and Willhelm came to live with us—Mama found them on the street.
To start with, I want to be clear. Very clear. About what spiritual is and is not to me, and what I do and do not mean or imply when I use this word.
What you are about to read is a personal definition. I am not imposing it on you. But if you want to read what I have to say (and I really, REALLY hope you do), it’s helpful if you know what I mean by certain words.
[This is an important and too-often overlooked aspect of communication. Get your definitions straight. Talk it out. Be clear.]
So, in the interest in clarity and open communication, here’s where I’m at with the concept of “spirituality” at the present moment:
I could go on…and on…and I probably will. But for now, this is a good start.
How’s that hit you? What’s your personal spirituality and path look like?
Comment away. Let’s discuss.
I’m going to follow Bruce Springsteen on tour around the South this spring. No tickets in hand, no set places to stay, not even 100% sure which cities I’m going to. It’s a journey of my heart’s longing and a return to the core of my soul. The connection to Bruce has been so strong for me for so long. I’ve seen him here and there, but neither of us are getting any younger and I want to see him a lot. Dammit. Who said you can only follow the Grateful Dead? I’m going to follow Bruce.
Stay tuned. More soon.