For Thanksgiving of 2000, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to spend time with family who had congregated there. It was a blessed respite from all the running around I seemed to be doing, and I longed to curl up in the corner and just be.

When I arrived, my sister-in-law, Amy, was just finishing reading a new book written by Shirley MacLaine called, The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit. There was a striking photograph on the cover: a small Shirley from a distance, with backpack and walking stick. We all passed the book around and devoured it with glee. As I read, I would spend long hours on the road with Shirley, and then copy passages into my journal, ways in which I connected with the thoughts she was writing about and the transformation she was undergoing. It occurred to me then that walking an ancient path along a holy energy site was something I would do, too. But the thought of traveling 500 miles on foot was daunting, to say the least. I said to myself maybe I’d do it for my 40th birthday, still five years away. It was a romantic idea and blessedly far into the future.

Funny thing about time: it keeps unfolding, and so five years passed. I kept wondering if I’d really do it. I was drawn to it as an idea, as a part of my personal story, something to tell people I’d done. The actual doing of it seemed frightening to me. But since I’m attracted to pursuing things that frighten me, I held it out as a possibility, if not a reality. I tried it on a bit, floated it as an idea among friends and decided that if I committed to the idea by telling people, there’d be no turning back. I didn’t tell a lot of people though, just in case. And I had an out. I’d broken my ankle, undergone surgery, and if I decided not to walk the 500 miles, I could blame it on chronic ankle pain.

There was another idea I was trying on, too.

Years ago, my friend Sandy was going through a divorce, and as a way of releasing the old in order to re-emerge anew, she decided to shave her head. I listened with awe to her process of shedding her identity and her feelings of empowerment by this act of defiance and strength. I felt myself drawn to doing the same thing. It was an idea, and as I traveled a timeline toward 40, these two ideas came together – shaving my head and walking across Spain.

Somewhere around August of 2004 it occurred to me that I could begin growing my hair as long as possible only to cut it all off and donate it to someone with cancer who had no hair. Another romantic idea, and the hatching of a plan.

I’ve never been bald before. I was born with a lot of hair and for the majority of my life, it’s been long and full and blond and lush. People have always commented on and coveted my hair. And so it seemed to be just the thing to give up, along with comfort and familiarity and language and responsibility and materialism. To expose my head as I exposed the deepest parts of myself in this month-long “journey of the spirit” seemed to root me into the reality and excitement of marking a transition, not just in terms of time and age but more powerfully symbolic of a new beginning within. And having told so many people was not just helping hold me to my commitment but also a way of understanding how vital it is that we share ourselves and our intentions so that others open a space and help us transform ideas into realities.

On Valentine’s Day of 2005, I pulled 18 inches of blond mane into two ponytails, braided them tightly, took a deep breath and cut them off.

I thought it was going to be a disaster and that the next year of my life would be a painful process of regrowth. I wasn’t quite prepared to be not just enamored by the way I looked, but completely in love with my bald head. It might be the first time I truly ever saw my face.

And I think it is my best look ever.

Before leaving for Spain, I traveled to New York to visit friends. The Christo exhibit of orange flags in Central Park greeted me. And one night, I did an amazing thing. I took a bath. At night. I had rarely taken baths at night because I didn’t want to deal with my wet hair before going to bed. But one night, late, all I wanted to do was soak in the tub and crawl into bed.

I lay in that water for a hour. It was so incredible. All the lights were off, only the flickering light of a candle lit the room.

There was a razor on the edge of the tub. I had used clippers the shave off my long locks, but it left stubbles and now there was new growth from a few days. So I sat in there in the warm water, and lathered up with shaving cream. I closed my eyes and just kept feeling the pattern of growth and all the different directions my hair grows out of my head. And I shaved my head to go against the grain, all the while keeping my eyes closed. It felt sacred. Beautiful. Some kind of rite of passage. It took me at least a half hour. And with each stroke, my head felt like glass.

The touch of my hand on my bare head. The transfer of heat. All the new sensations.

This head, mine. I lay back in the water and held my head, cradling it. I felt as though I was a baby coming out of the womb.