“What did I just see?”

My feet were in Madrid. My head was lost somewhere in the woods of America.

Technically I had no home, and for the better part of a month, I’d been on the road before heading to Europe.

I’d left the west coast. I’d grown to love it, but the world outside was calling. I started work on the songs that would become my first album, but the recordings didn’t sound right and I couldn’t figure out how to fill in the gaps, so I put it on hold.

I’d come to Los Angeles an old man and now I felt like a kid, staring back out beyond the San Gabriel Mountains. If and when I ever returned, I’d dive headfirst into the city and never allow myself to get sidetracked again. For now, the road to Spain beckoned.

One month later, I finally landed in Madrid, wandering in between Spanish haunts, old plazas and palaces thinking only of giant trees, mountains and deserts, camping with black bears and climbing down into Mammoth Caves in the swamps of the south. I stood in a place I’d been dreaming about for months, and now suddenly I wasn’t ready for any of it.

The road was still calling. Maybe the same voice I’d heard outside the San Gabriel Mountains just a few weeks ago and–funny enough–years before that when I first moved to Los Angeles. I might have lived in the city for the past few years, but part of me was always somewhere else, somewhere in that American wilderness.

The Road to Spain, via Sequoia National Park

I’ve driven through it more times than I can count. And yet every time I do, I always look back. Always. Like I’m scratching my head and saying to myself “Man, what did I just see?”

I was only beginning to learn the value of staying present. That night in Madrid, I thought about it for the first time, how I could use a few lessons in meditation or sitting cross-legged like some wise, bearded mountain main or a modern-day young Buddha. It would take time but I had to begin. At the moment, the best way I knew how was to get up and start moving. So I paid my bill at the cafe, said my last goodbyes to the American Road, and stepped out into the cool and misty Castilian night.

Of course the road went far beyond the borders of the States. It was ongoing, and the things I’d seen before would turn up once again, taking different shapes and different names, but still the same voice. Always there. The same moon, the same sun and stars. The world was bigger and far more connected than I knew that night as I started into town.

First Night in Madrid, ESP
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