Return to TRAVELSOctober 2000
Autumn across MT, ND, MN, WI, MI (and Australia)
Part 1, Drive East. Just after fall equinox, I headed northeast in the Snow Leopard, through new territory. As Utah Phillips says (more or less), “Go out west where the states are square, to the Dakotas, to Boise, Helena, all the unknown places”. For months I'd been working to shifting my thinking to “oh goodie, an adventure!” from “uh oh, unknown country.” Although not much could be more beautiful than an autumn trek, I was uneasy about driving a new route, in a new car. to see my less than cozy family. Aside from the first very cold morning near Yellowstone Park (where I car camped with a skiff of snow on the ground from the recent storm) when the Toyota didn't start, all was smooth sailing.
Uh oh. Of course it was Sunday. I'd just have to take the sign on my dash at its word, “Relax, God is in Charge”. Bundled up and started walking towards the main highway. I'd just rounded a corner when hunters drove by. Had I really spent the night out! they exclaimed, confessing they'd gone to a motel. It was Very cold, I agreed, a real shock after mild Boise. One quickly diagnosed that it wasn't my battery (I sensed that) but a starter switch on the clutch. I needed to push the clutch all the way to the floor. Without turning off the engine, I drove all the way to West Yellowstone, where in front of a garage, yet another fellow told me the same thing, assuring me it was a minor adjustment. But the Toyota started ok so I pressed on, cautiously.
But not before making a U turn to stop at the small community church I'd noticed across the street, with a full parking lot. I was so grateful for meeting the perfect people to give me confidence in the Corolla, I went in to give thanks. In the full house the usher pointed me to ½ a folding chair with a fellow hanging off the end of a pew onto the other half. Joined him. Up front a robed man with colorful long "scarf", warm smile, burr cut gray hair and bright blue eyes, held the attention of the congregation. His spirit was radiant! He was describing how the following week the congregation would walk down the alley to [as it turned out] a new church. I joined the singing enthusiastically. The sermon was the shortest I'd ever heard. Although Bible based, it was positive, loving, and uplifting. This was new thought! At some point I noticed the pastor was missing several fingers. Bet there's quite a story behind his journey to the ministry.
When communion began—everywhere I go there's communion!—I asked the usher if I could use the kitchen to boil water for my thermos. Still hadn't had my morning tea! As I was boiling water in my camping pan, one man after another came down to check on me. Seems food on the burner made the entire church smell as though something was on fire. I left, full of gratefulness and the goodwill of a community church that let a stranger fill her heart and disturb their service by filling her thermos.
Hardee’s and Walmart Country. After skirting Yellowstone, I headed into what I dubbed Hardee's Country, eastern Montana and North Dakota. Hardee's fast food restaurants began appearing at exits. Fondly recalled their baked beans (alas, no longer carried) from living in Moscow. Cruel progress!
Since I crossed into North Dakota during daylight, I had a mission: Curt suggested I swing through his old stomping ground, Beach, (alas forgot to check out his one room schoolhouse, now the county museum!) Using the last of the lettuce and "real" tomatoes I'd brought from home, made a lunch salad in Beach city park. In search of water for the snapdragons lying on the picnic table, I walked around to the municipal pool, where I found a woman painting the bathhouse. As I asked to use a faucet, I casually mentioned Curt had asked me to swing into town and take a few photos. Quick as a wink, as though Curt had been there yesterday, she replied “Curt's not here!.” I was stunned.
Thoughts of hometowns, especially Barbara Kingsolver's novel Animal Dreams floated through my mind. About the only thing to cross the street in Beach was a cat. Several cats were out on this mild fall day, although frost had flattened the tomatoes and a datura I noticed. Looked at the churches and drove on to Medora, where I put up the tent for the night.
Sunsets with Strangers. As the sun set I drove the loop through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park badlands (or was it grasslands). As promised, one after another, buffalo, deer, prairie dogs, turkeys and grouse put in their appearance. How do National Parks do that! At a look out, an expansive Bismarkian greeted me and we chatted with unusual ease and candor, as strangers occasionally do. I mused at the contrast of a retired bureaucrat wearing a Korean veterans cap, chatting with a yoga teacher in theosophical society retreat T-shirt and old home made long underwear bottoms never meant to be seen the even the light of a setting sun (meaning, holes at seams). His gray hair was neatly cut; my home trimmed gray strands straggled from my rebellious braid. How wonderful to have the company of a kindred sunset appreciator, as the hills glowed to the west! I offered my hand to this Adventist Elder and widower who so thoroughly warmed my day as a traveler! The pleasure was mutual. The following day our paths crossed again at a rest stop.
Sunset at TRNP
That night by flashlight I read a bit in Cope's fine yoga book. An owl hooted nearly all night, coyotes howled from time to time and I was certain I heard elk bugling in the distance. Another critter I couldn't identify made a racket all night long. And, a pack rat carried one of my shoe liners off aways. A night of bliss, woven with sounds of interstate trucks.
Driving east on I-94 the next morning I was sublimely happy. I love the wide open spaces others abhor. In fact, there were too many farms and exits for my wild sensibilities--obviously most land was private, not campable! Rest areas became palatial! I love North Dakota license plates: Discover the Spirit. Alternatively I listened to music and books on tape. Music, like the old Wave Form tape I adore, have had for years, and never listen to. Perfect. After I finished Nicholas Daniloff’s story (Two Lives, One Russia) I contemplated my long time fascination with Russia, both as a child of the cold war and also, I think because of dad's love of the deep, dark, passionate music of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Moussourgsky, etc. This was good for hours! Created a list of music that weighs me down, to be recycled. Also got involved in Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, snorting and laughing at his drunken evenings exploring the great outback (North Dakota seemed like embarrassingly small potatoes) and his description of Australian peculiarities. This must be Bryson's best! After listening to several extensive lists of superlatively poisonous creatures downunder, it was almost too good to be true that the headline in the Billing's Gazette read: "Hobo spiders crawl into town". Montana will not be outdone! Tucking a copy under my arm, I left with my chicken sandwich special—oh for good old Arctic Circle.
Suddenly I remembered I'd also brought Kathleen Norris' Amazing Grace along to listen to yet again and this was obviously the moment. Dropped Australia and switched to Kathleen's spiritual journey as I drove across her plains backdrop. Awesome, that woman. Doubt is the seed of faith, she shares. I love her stories: “I have no idea why people show up on Sundays”, a pastor tells her, “It's a miracle.” And her lucid response to the woman at a conference, demanding she defend her "comfort in a religion that does so much damage!" “It saved my life, my husband's, and our marriage”, flies out of Kathleen's mouth; “It's not comfort; it's salvation.” In her own words, of course. She helps me understand how and why I too made my way back into church after even more decades and without fond childhood recollections of church. Hours flew. Rolls of bailed hay along what looked like the highway right of way interested me--not just fields, but right of way harvested! Both weather and company were divine!
Also thought about Linda Hasselstrom's stunning, succinct writing about her ranching experience in the northern plains. Her story of tending the family graves is right up there with my all time favorites. Wondered if Eve ever read that story?
Deep in unknown country, I ended up spending a funky night in a huge, empty marina campground, listening to urban sounds. In the a.m. I found a handwritten note from Chuck on my windshield asking me to pay the fee I hadn't seen in the dark. “Put in cubbyhole in white pickup at marina.” Decided to make a lesser donation—all I did was sleep, a tad nervously at that. Hope it's ok with Chuck—kind soul not to wake me. Sure enough a rusted out Mazda was at the marina which I'd passed in the dark. It looked abandoned, but was licensed. Used hole in dash per instruction!
I love the way thoughts have time to waft through consciousness while driving, with ne'ary a vehicle on my bumper. Time to finish thinking and digesting this busy life. The sudden, though not unforeseen, closure of one of the fitness clubs where I shared yoga, the very week I left, unsettled me. I'm uneasy with change and knew it to be a sign of much, much more to come. I was grateful for Verna's offer to research other places. I pondered how each person in my life enriches and teaches; the blessing and curse of my discriminating mind; the lessons in love that await in MN; the blessing and challenge of my growing faith. For the umpteenth time I compared the two coastal ministers who lead my spiritual journey. The safety I feel with one; the wariness, the other; and the HUGE gifts of clarity both share. And, always, thoughts of yoga, yoga, and more yoga.
Road dreams. During the long nights waiting for morning sun to warm world I practiced and dreamed of yoga. Dreams were neither pleasant nor unpleasant this trip. As usual, they are work. Sense I'm struggling with collision of old and new, past and present--change.
Part 2 Minneapolis. Finally one noon I saw a sign for Minneapolis! The afternoon was so gorgeous, I stopped for a break at the rest area at Iverson Lake. Read and even practiced a tad of yoga under gold, orange and red leaves before heading into the city, as the sun set behind. Suddenly I was there, but it could have been Chicago, I thought, as I drove a bit uncomfortably through blocks and blocks of ethnic areas. Finally recognized a familiar landmark. A call from Lund's reached brother Stuart, working late, who agreed to meet and guide me to his home. The phone book clarified I'd dialed a wrong number earlier. “Had this number since I started at the firm”, Stu explained. Gulf. I mean Gulp.
Three and a half years ago I'd inopportunely invited myself to stay with family, while attending my first qigong seminar with Ken Cohen. Simple couldn't recall how many years it had been since I spent a brisk Thanksgiving in Minneapolis--many [ed. 1983]. Little did I know one model home was on the eve of divorce. Clearly things were different now! Once Stu and I began the dance of reacquaintence of distant siblings, I almost forgot the focus of my visit (Mission A) was to learn how mom, living in her 3rd assisted living situation since the emergency move in 1996, was doing, and to see how I might use my hospice experience to complete unfinished business. My stomach tightened when late that first evening Stu warned me mom might not recognize me; she seems to think you're her long dead sister, Peggy. We discussed the possibilities: moving mom back to Colorado; to Idaho; into his home. I shared my guilt. Of course mom hates being locked up as well as her cell mates, but if she doesn't have someone with her 24 hour a day and locked doors, she runs outdoors, gets lost, takes off clothes, doesn't eat, etc. What's best for her, society?
The following day I contacted the nursing supervisor and learned mom is being treated as an Alzheimer's resident, and that staff understand her better than family. Both disorientated and uncomfortable, I waited until the following evening to visit mom with Stuart as guide through the city and locks into the "Memory Unit". We found mom pacing the common area, while other residents sat around a table in an activity. Yes, mom and I recognized each other! (I'll write more about the experience on my Hospice page.)
The following day I found my way back to Elder Homestead, with a pair of scissors in the car, hoping to cut her frighteningly long hair. The afternoon was mild. Managed to get mom to sit down, outside on the terrace, long enough to trim her hair between pacings. Hallelujah! Increasingly I saw that Stuart had "inadvertently" found as good a home for mom as possible.
One of the richest aspects of the visit was recognizing how the totally different personalities of mom's 4 children could be used positively. That none of us sees things the same and communication is light has been a source of much sadness on my part, over the years! As 3 of the 4 of us sibs talked late one evening, I nudged the bottomless political discussion towards my urgent, time limited, family mission. Mercifully, shift happened. Suddenly I saw clearly how our differing view points and skills as adults (while going nowhere in the political arena) complemented each other well in terms of caring for mom. Scott (not present) contributes great physical energy and passion for mom. Jamie has humor, balance and financial creativity. Stu has legal knowledge, extraordinary listening skills, patience and compassion. I have the other "stuff": right brained intuition, assignment to learn love, say the unsaid, plus passions for right death and hospice. Mission Love, underway.
Much easier for me to understand how mom's fuses have blown and channels switched; her inner agony screams at me. My brothers don't observe such things. Mom's mind hangs out on a childhood wavelength. What she sees and hears is not necessarily the same as what we do, I explained to Stu, but it's very real to her.
Stu's kids, mom and I, park across from Elder Homestead
Finally I began a new page on the laptop, mom's living medical directive--certainly a first for me--finally something that was easier for me to do than Stu, something I could help with. I was like a business woman with a mission, doing what she'd driven 1400 miles to do! Please give me as much time as you can, I asked the brothers; I don't come this way often. I'd love to know you better; you're always welcome to visit, my same old, same old.
Bit by bit, my mind was being set at ease. I even discovered that the number of boxes of mother's stuff stored in Stu's basement was modest . (I've yet to fully recover from yard sale-ing her Colorado home!) Realized my job was to be with mom while she lives, not worry about disposing of the stack.
At the end of the first weekend, I left Stuart with his s.o. and their kids to spend time together. Somewhat urgently I headed north to find Tahquamenon River country along Lake Superior, Michigan, while glorious weather and fall colors held. Ever fumbling with maps, I crossed out of Minnesota, across Wisconsin, into Michigan, through breathtaking country. Spent a lovely night tenting by Lake Superior. At least I think it was L. Superior. I barely knew where I was. Bit hard to truly see where one is in such flatlands--harumph! Fields, farms, woods, colors continuously shifting from pines to softwoods, back and forth. Greens, reds, oranges, yellows, browns of every shade and combo. Thank you, Great Spirit of Gitchigoomee (sp) for this mild weather, lavish beauty, time and ability to make this rich journey! Shocked myself by realizing I was wrong (again): I most certainly could live somewhere besides the West!
The 2 local gents creating Tahquamenon River Logging Museum (closed for the season) out of Newberry MI, opened their labor of love for me. They had fun recognizing some of the mills in grandfather Mann's (mom's father) glass slides, which hauled out of the Corolla, into the cabin to show them. As an anthropologist, I completely understood that without documentation or a magic lantern, they would have no resources to use them. (Back in Minneapolis a gracious connection of Stu's put me on the path to magic lantern slide collectors, and, in the mom stack, I found black and white photo originals of some of the slides.) Winter Project #?
Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan
Spent one more fine night camping by a lake I couldn't find again for anything. With beginners luck, the sun rose across the lake, directly lined up with the view from the tent. No loons called though! Gotta return!
As I neared the St. Croix River valley, the clouds lowered. Perfect timing. Again.
Back in Minneapolis I slowly learned to get around. After blundering around for hours, the used CD and book stores I hoped to find turned out to be only blocks away (though it still took forever to get there--what a puzzlement, Stu's neighborhood). After all these years, I finally had a White Castle burger--what a tasty snack! Where Minneapolis hides its grocery stores and post offices, I never discovered.
The second weekend, a second brother with daughter flew in; another sib reviewed the directive. Another backyard cookout with mom, this time too cool to sit outside. Followed by the productive late night discussion (above).
Part 3, Drive Home. My excuse to exceed the limit for guests and fish was the rarity of this journey. Likely a one time event, I assured all! The return west included an auspicious rendezvous--thanks to Marcy's cellphone--in Jamestown ND (home of the Mazda cubbyhole) with Seattle friend Marcy, driving a coast to coast, returning from a year in CT! She provided the perfect timing to head home and good company to exchange travel stories with. We sat on our hard motel beds and swapped a year's worth of stories until late, late. The following night, as if were a local, I showed Marcy through Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park! She helped me put up my tent before returning to her motel. I however, had to hear those nearly full moon night sounds.
Once again clouds rolled in and dripped as I got into Yellowstone Country, the north entrance to the park remarkably unchanged since my 1975 season! Treated myself to a soak in Chico Hot Springs pool. The following evening I found old fellow seasonal trans-a-home mate Linda still enjoying Yellowstone. In the interim she became a real park service employee and mom. My head spun with the contrast of Montana Libra parenting and the urban I'd just witnessed! "Don't like cereal? Nothing in the cupboard or frig you'll eat? Uhmm." The family dog however went bonkers at elk feeding in the yard!
Yellowstone NP class of '75. Linda front row, jeannie back left
The next day I drove through the park--first time in decades. First, a fine hot soak and chat with Bozeman students at Boiling Springs. As light snow fell, I passed acres and acres of burned forest. The fires of '88 are no exaggeration. Pulled over and fumed when I saw a VW van let out a german shepherd to chase a group of elk. One of the folks from the van walked over and stood to block my view of the elk. Nothing lost on me. In a nut shell that's why I got out of the parks. Couldn't stand it.
Swung down to peek fondly at old favorite, Hayden Valley. Then toured the old stomping ground at Norris--amazing number of others folks out on a dark day. World famous Yellowstone. Hobbled (feet are still tender; they enjoyed this vacation a lot) through Porcelain Basin. Sounds crazy but I love that sulfur smell!
In the morning I returned to the friendly church in West Yellowstone, now in their new, unfinished home. The radiant minister was vacationing (code for hunting I suspect). (See "ALL PATHS" page.) Mere "youth" gave the service. It was delightful.
Another hot soak and a barbecue before home. What a journey! It's gifts continue to unfold.
Revival, Oregon style
From Sunny Tuscany to the Stormy North Atlantic
End of August I headed west, over the Cascades, into Willamette Valley to revive body, mind and spirit. Out of the heat and smoke of Boise valley and eastern Oregon into the green fields of Oregon. Ever since reading about Amy Semple MacPhearson, I've been fascinated with revival meetings. A New Thought revival, dubbed "Soul Explosion", in a tent might be just my cup of tea! Late into the night, Barbara Caruso, one of my favorite books on tape readers kept me delighted as she read Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun. Spent a short night near the pass, at the lake where in June the night air had been filled with the roar of riveting of frogs. Late, late, the waning moon came up and dimmed the stars. In the morning I walked towards the now lily pad filled lake to check the frog population, never dreaming that I'd see bazillions of minute brown frogs. What looked like globs of mud were piles of tiny, tiny froglets perched on each other, the fruit of earlier all nights serenades in the swamp, eh?
Obliquely that reminds me of driving off onto an eastern Oregon dirt road one night, only to have to follow, for the longest distance a ...eek, now I can't remember what it was! ... deer mouse, I think, who ran ahead, along the center of the road in my headlights, for ever so long, before running off in the sagebrush. I felt silly creeping along in first gear, with the low slung car overheating, the smell of hot sage and shrubs as I scraped the bottom of the car, following a sprightly mouse! But I did.
The first night I skirted the big top. The speaker lost me with his opening joke about Madonna. Blech, I thought, hobbling off to decide where to spent the night. When I swung by the tent for a listen now and then, I could tell the overflow audience, some sitting on the grass around the tent, was riveted by the passion of the speaker's message. My mind was elsewhere.
The next day I met friendly folks from Bandon and began enjoying the fellowship of like minds. That evening I hesitantly joined a lighter crowd under the big top. By then I'd met a delightful woman from Oklahoma, anthropologist and animal rights activist, excited about the evening's speaker. Although I was equally gun shy about him, Alan Cohen opened with a marvelous anecdote about the vet who helped heal his overweight pomeranian (I was already laughing) and soothe him (Alan) saying, "Isn't nature wonderful!". Mercifully no Madonna quips. Loved his definition of insanity "Thinking things will come out different when we do the same thing over and over." We sang--well, I sang-- everything from "How Great Thou Art" to new thought chants like "God Before Me" and a "Kyrie". Having sung with evangelists this past 8 months, I felt right at home opening arms to the spirit of Jesus: at last a revival with my kind of new though talk! Stacy from Idaho recognized me and we had a grand reunion. During the final healing service, 4 of us chatted and chanted arm in arm for a wonderful long time. Revived--Yes!
The church is developing what they call "movement" ministry, but telling it like I see it as I'm prone to do, it's more like having go go girls, led by a seductive young beauty too young perhaps to differentiate between ecclesiastic dance and profane. I watched in horrified fascination, recalling The Emperor Has No Clothes. Bless her, she was poured into her deep red velveteen!
Although I'd registered to be in facilitator sessions, my soul yearned to attend dance and yoga workshops, to meet and laugh with folks. Dianne's yoga class was out of this world! One cool, starry evening (utter bliss to this Baked Boisean) folks from Redding CA welcomed me over to a campfire. We ended up howling with laughter at absolutely everything we said. When the spouse turned to ask his wife if he'd seen Ram Dass, "Honey, was I there?", we all burst out with another round. With such an incredible overload of information in these times, it's a wonder anyone can remember anything, no?!! I was inspired by 63 year old Joy pulling up stakes as I was by another "retired" woman, heading to India to work in an orphanage. Soaked up inspiration all around me!
After leaving LEC world, I headed down to Oceanside to spend two blissful starry nights sleeping on Kim's porch, listening to waves break below their cliff side home. When Kim offered her home, it was the answer to an unspoken prayer. Thank you Kim and family!
The second morning I wrote:
"I was a part of a local event this morning as I walked low tide. As I recall, anything and everything qualify as an event in a small community. A kind local I met on the beach yesterday mentioned the morning minus tide.
Seemingly the whole town trooped down the beach swinging plastic grocery sacks. Studying my companions for the beach prowl with my usual critical eye, I sniffed "tourist" at "gaudy" pinks and pastels. Then I consider my own heavy purplish stripped knit pants shoved up to knees, forest green, hooded anorak with longer denim shirt tail trailing below, green hat; hot pink socks and boat sandals. Binocs and camera strung around neck. Right. Look who's talking. Not many other cameras. Maybe I'm The Tourist!
Ever interested in foot gear, I saw birks; a tall pair of rubber boots; teva-like sandals; bare feet; tennies (now known as running shoes I believe). We wore everything from parkas and nylon wind breakers to T-shirts; shorts with pasty white NW legs (lending credence to this being a local crowd); running gear. Dogs dashed around enthusiastically sniffing butts. An old, gray muzzled dog on lead walked with a tall, graying man. Like Paul Theroux, I imagined this gent to have once been a CEO, now walking dazed, puzzling as to how is life came to this. Well behind, the little woman followed in broad brimmed hat.
Small children and adults carried what I call designer drinks, pricey drinks in paper cups with Italian color schemes, wrapped snugly with napkins as they're handed out from coffee shops. Italian sodas? Hot chocolates? Lattes? A senior lifted the lid of her drink and it sailed off like a frisbee. She followed briefly before abandoning chase. Now and then I stopped to sip tea from my usual canning jar. The current lid leaks badly. Next time I'm at the recycling station I'll upgrade!
Women showed off babies. Families, dads dangling backpacks and kids on shoulders, advanced together. Seniors plodded with horizontal necks and disappointed faces, jutting forward from bodies collapsed from worry. A perky senior smiled enthusiastically as she called out "Good morning! My kinda gal! With each drooping spine I straightened for the moment. When the sun peaked out and I could see my shadow, I pulled in abs, moved chin back, lifted crown of head and took a deep breath.
Along the walk we come to small rocky islands visitable only at low tides or by boat. On the rocks and cliffs exposed by the low tide we saw bands of gooseneck barnacles, giant mussels and green sea urchins, some oozing from their home bases like toasted marshmallows off sticks. Some children studied them with great interest. Others kids ran amok, chasing birds. Adult gulls and younger brown young ones stood around on the rocks. Occasionally a gull had a starfish stuffed in its mouth, like a kid with an oversized cookie, somewhat at a loss as what to do next.
As the tide moved in, the arch we could scamper under, began to fill with water. Some of us began to turn back. Others--perhaps more experienced or daring--pushed onward, racing the incoming tide. Walking back, I noted a few plastic bags swung with the weight of treasures; most hung lightly. Aside from polished rocks, what could folks gather? A clearly local couple hustled out as the tide began to come back, chopping, I think, the large mussels off the rocks, loading them into sturdy buckets.
I paused to find a sunny, sandy spot to practice yoga like I've fantasized doing for years, after watching lovely videos filmed on beaches. As I constructed a mound of sand on which to sit comfortably, I watched a senior with a pair of drooping dogs walk them back and forth near the cliff. When one dog anointed a rock, the other bee lined over to sniff and lift a leg too. What with the enormous quantities of rocks tumbling off these basaltic cliffs, then washing back in, they had their work cut out for them!
An hour later, I literally ripped myself away from the beach, having delayed heading home 'til the very last minute!"
Later, my hair combed painfully, reminding me of getting pine pitch in it. Fine sand fell on my shoulders, probably from the first after noon I braved the beach in a sandstorm, feeling a bit like Lawrence of Arabia. Mats of sand blew along shore, stinging ankles and calves. A small fleet of about 8 sail boarders circled in the distance, behind the breaking waves, tacking back and forth in the along shore wind, riding waves with amazing skill! Watched in awe when a sail boarder crashed and rose again.
Finally, I faced the inevitable and turned back, staggering into the wind and sand. Paused to cower behind a log long enough to read the last of Judith Lasater's new book. After several chapters, I realized I was reading while wearing sunglasses! No reading glasses needed by the light of the sunny beach! Fine sand ran down between the pages.
Coming back from the coast I noticed my face had color again; looked less like the dead fish I saw in the mirrors in the bunk rooms at church camp. Returning to inland heat and sneezing, I savored the memory of picking windfall apples and blackberries in Netarts. Never again will I stay so long away from the Oregon coast! Then I put on The Perfect Storm and cruised east with my mind on the opposite coast!
Oceanside, Oregon Aug 2000
Easter in Seattle!
For over a week Snow Leopard (new Toyota—see Journals “Car Talk”) was on the rack awaiting a new clutch (musta come from Japan!). I was frazzled from worry--would it be ready! What happened to my faith in “Father” Dan!
Late afternoon, eve of departure, I walked over to fetch the Corolla, home at long last! Quickly I wired on the Easter bouquet (plastic flowers) I'd acquired weeks before as a symbolic welcome (so enjoyed sporting a holiday wreath last winter—why not celebrate Easter!). Transferred trusty boombox from the Tercel cigarette lighter to Corolla—having a CD player is somewhat squandered on this Luddite/books on tape fan. Folded backseat down; stuffed essentials in back.
Driving west the next afternoon I inhaled Frank McCourt reading his own new book, ‘'Tis, the story of his return to NYC as a young, self-conscious Irish import. Steep slopes along the Snake River and I-84 west covered with yellow mule ears—maybe its balsam root—reminded me of my first trip along the same route, spring 1976, with a mad botany professor, who, to my horror was pressing endangered species into his collection. Early mornings I took it upon myself to hide delicate calypso orchids under leaves, hoping they'd escape notice. For decades I've hurried through the breath taking display of spring flowers on the green hills of eastern Oregon, not once stopping to dawdle!
Although it makes for good telling later, I'm relieved to report no encounters with the law this trip, no late night flashlight beam in my eyes. Don't think I would not have been as mellow as last winter. Recalling the scene of that late night rack out, drove on further. Spent what seemed like and probably was, hours, looking for the exit to the meadow I've enjoyed a full night's sleep in several times. Like a patrolling shark I cruised back and forth between exits above Ellensburg, getting off, dead ending, until I blundered up Taneum Road. Just too late to make sense of teeny atlas squiggles, even if I doubled up on reading glasses. Pulled into the meadow grateful, slightly unnerved. If a vehicle drove past in the night, I didn't hear it.
The next afternoon I drove into Seattle, exiting at the Arboretum. First order of business: admire the lush Northwest: spring trillium, magnolias, purple azaleas and rhodies; red camellias. Afterwards I traded books and tapes for the meditation rin gong I couldn't live without, thereby giving my Seattle hostess Marli time to see her son and family off to CA before knocking on her door! Benedictines have nothing on Marli's welcome. As I walked in, Marli was rolling out a quadruple batch of cracker dough, baking for a Unitarian style Seder (sp) that evening! Between cookie sheets, she greeted me with floor covered hands. Behind the kitchen counter, I peeled a strip of said dough off the floor. Slapping it on a sheet headed for the oven, Marli remarked she'd thought a piece was missing! Never a dull moment!
While her hospitality is changeless, Marli's home isn't. Her living room, which probably hosts more potlucks and gatherings than anywhere else on earth, was newly painted and a gorgeous wood floor newly revealed! More startling, Marli's family had just brought her their old computer and set her up with email! I chuckled when M. mentioned her son recommended she turn her jungle room into a home for the computer. Ah, children know best.
Staying with M. is definitely reminiscent of staying with my own mom, with different twists. First and foremost, the same enormous hospitality. However, whereas my mom used to throw out nothing, causing me no end of bruises and avalanches (of course I do the same thing now), M. rides herd on clutter, pitching before it even lands. Unlike my mom, M. is a Germanic housekeeper. Before I had a chance to use the bath water I'd eagerly looked forward to after a night on the road, M. came in from Seder-ing. Did she want a bath I asked? When I went in for a quick bath, the water was gone! Wondered why she said something about the grand kids must have taken a bath as she bustled around cleaning and cooking on her return! But M., it was hot!
The following evening I'd recovered from my drive enough to take Marli up on her offer to join her, back in the Unitarian kitchen, this time helping with a wedding. Just another wedding for Marli, supportive parent of one child with a same sex partner and family. However, my first gay commitment ceremony. (Funny, haven't been invited to one in Idaho--tee hee.) After a day of urban errands, headed over to meet M. in the kitchen—where she'd been there since noon! A jazz band was playing; celebration filled the air. M. was talking to the beautiful “bride”, who, to my surprise and delight I remembered from somewhere back in my Seattle days, probably folk dancing. (When I lived in Seattle I wasn't always aware of who slept with which.) Later, in the kitchen Marli remarked how traditional the ceremony had been, with folks standing for the groom (or was it bride—I know zip about weddings). However, when I saw Susan's partner in a man's suit…. I thought, well, what's a guy to do!
Had to chuckle at how terrifically different my lives in Boise and Seattle are. No comparison, socially or spiritually. People are the same everywhere says my thick-skinned landlord. I know what he means, but I respectfully differ. Not that Idaho isn't full of surprises. It most certainly is. However, could this scene have taken place in my Idaho church? I think not.
Seemed like the least I could do for the woman who gave me a key to her home when I moved from Seattle was help gather dishes and run dish washer. Walked back and forth from kitchen to party tables, nibbling abandoned shrimp. Meanwhile the amazing Marli taught folk dance to the party. I am so grateful to be able to pull into Seattle and have a home, and then be included in such joyful events!
The trigger for my Easter trip to Seattle the last couple of years is so that yours truly "I-will-never-go-to church" to attend Easter services. (At a church I never set foot in while living in Seattle, but fell in love with once I left the tolerant arms of Seattle—that's another story). Lo, Easter in the Opera House with Kathianne was once again, glorious, everything I'd expected plus the usual Seattle delights that so tickle me. The opening sextet sang a lovely Alleluia; the only skirt (long flowing) to be seen was on an attractive fellow! Thank you Seattle for turning my thinking upside down, helping me learn who I really am! It's challenging to remember at a distance. Former Idahoan Karen and I found each other just as the service started. At long last, the pleasure of sharing the joy of a service with a special friend!
Well into the busy pace of Seattle life, Karen slipped off to the airport before the close. A tad lonely I walked back up Queen Anne Hill to the car, watching folks talking on cell phones and hanging out in tight family groups. Crossed the street to join a woman alone, whose car, it turned out, was near mine. As we stood chatting under her umbrella in the sudden rain, she insisted I join her hostess’ Easter dinner! I gratefully accepted, delaying my beach visit. Thank you! Once again, how rich the gift of hospitality!
Later, Deception Pass was sunny and blustery. Crashing waves sent spray higher than I'd ever seen there, exquisitely beautiful and inspiring. At the end of the day I slipped into old friends Katy and Carl's familiar guest bedroom. Didn't I see the moon? The next day while K.&C. worked on their rental I returned to the still restless sea along Chuckanut Bay and, laying on sunny rocks, effortlessly slid into a blissful nap, to the sound of rolling waves nearby. A totally present moment experience, possibly the highlight of the trip! How primal, this inlander's connection with salt water. Afterwards, we ate simply, laughed and chatted about Carl's mission with Whatcom County Land Trust, Katy's thesis; 20 years of mutual friends and friendships! How good to sip green tea with these expresso drinking friends! And the next day, to stalk wild trillium and birds with our ageless friends Barb and Anne.
Back in Seattle, my first yoga master, Margaret invited me to class. Her beautifully balanced body defies all stereotypes of aging. Ten years later I'm still unable to follow many of the poses she instructs! Did class used to be easier? Or am I just more aware of alignment and not practicing my problems! Enjoying tea afterwards, at my still very British master's home, we talked of cabbages and…what is it? (Kings.) With an “ah ha” I realized a teeny misalignment in her finely tuned body causes vastly more pain and concern than my hips that have never even approached alignment! Experiencing greater pain by far, however, is the love of her life, Big Foot, a black lab, who stayed in his box all evening. Flamboyant dog no more, his health is of greatest concern to his owner.
For whatever reason, this trip to Seattle was easier than others, traffic milder. As I reminisced about the old Seattle days, I flashed on how, when I first arrived, I used to get so nauseous riding the Metro buses to my temp jobs downtown, I thought for sure I'd throw up. What had that been about? The shock of my first real city living and air perhaps? Eventually the nausea faded, as had my memory of those miserable rides until that moment. Changed dramatically when I moved to Seattle. Body has never calmed back down, to the sound, relaxed sleeper I was for years. Recall mom remarking what a remarkable sleeper I was; yes, I was! Perhaps in the big city I exchanged some physical peace for unfurling my creative right brain. At last I fulfilled a lifelong desire to dance and dance; met wonderful men and women who accepted me "as is" and modeled being true to oneself, setting me free. Also discovered alternative health, yoga, qigong; and through theosophy, spirituality. Hence the return to refresh roots, almost seasonally.
After nearly a week of sunny, if turbulent weather, the predicted clouds rolled in. Driving north to the ferry to the weekend yoga retreat—although it had only been 3 or 4 years since I'd been to Camp Indralaya—I had a moment of total uncertainty. Which ferry? Slowly it dawned I needed to head back up to Anacortes, not Mukilteo, for the 1am ferry. Oops, zoom.
Settling into my cabin I wrote:
"After almost 4 years, I'm back. Always thought I'd return, but one never knows! Indralaya is remarkably unchanged, although the kitchen/main hall door seemed to be locked, something new. Was there trouble?
It's gray, sprinkling, dark and gloomy. Absolutely beautiful. More often than not I remember sun at Indralaya, though I know I've gotten wet! So glad to be back! First thing I did after moving into cabin (per note on dining hall door) was scatter the box of rocks, shells, and tidbits (treasures it was time to recycle that I'd brought all the way from Idaho) along the trail. Must have been a lot of wind this week—guess I know there was—lots of branches across trail. Spread new (thrift shop) waffle foam on the hard bed. Oh, for the wonderful foam mattress that used to be on this cabin bed. Boo. Strangers hair be hanged, the bed'll be softer."
Tamarack cabin, Indralaya
With the change in weather, I was so cold by evening the only solution was the hot tubs at Doe Bay. Upon arrival, I helloed without response to the current occupant, and slipped in the second tub. Ah, the perfect temperature, warming to the chilly core, releasing the stress of travel. Unaccustomed to men, let alone those in birthday suits (its a noodle type of place), I ignored the stranger who had not spoken, even when more groups arrived and he ended up nearby. Later I was totally humbled—will I ever learn!—when I noticed him searching the ground and asked if he needed help. Only then did I realize he was deaf. Mea culpa.
Also in the tubs was a crew of young folk from Crested Butte, my old backyard (all western Colorado was my old stomping ground.) Eventually I just had to ask one of the gals if she knew an old—hmm…just what would he be?— who came to mind. Why, she'd just visited his spectacular new home! “Oh”, I responded, interested to learn he'd so flagrantly sold out his pledge to live simply. “Ha! Rascal”, I mused, “No wonder I never trusted you!” Hours later, as I headed "home", a new, warm woman, I again drove by the inn at Eastsound. This time I remembered how we (the aforementioned former old camping buddy and I) had shared a room with friends and we'd won the flip of the coin for the bed. Just like tenting, no problem sharing a bed. (Not ‘til years later, when the “real” couple parted did I learn they weren't married.) It was some time before my camping buddy and I tangled physically (or as Least Heat Moon says, skirmished), but that's another story. It's ancient history and I was pleased how very, very remote it felt.
In a moment of gratefulness, I thanked the powers that be I had no memory of that night while I spoke with the woman in the hot tub. One never knows!
Mind, body and spirit were further restored during Swami Pat's yoga retreat the following days. How inexpressibly good to truly retreat, restore, with the presence of yoga so perfect—everything optional. I was pleased to be presenter for the final morning's meditation and (an hour) of yoga. Just the basics, guidance told me (a little uncomfortable among long time instructors!) That's a story for Yoga Lessons! How reluctantly I leave Indralaya! This time, without a quick dip into the chilly Sound to seal the experience. A mere wade, this gray visit. And so, I must return!
Ellie and Pat
Back in Seattle, one more gift of hospitality awaited before I headed back over the Cascades: supper, including rhubarb crunch, with Karen in her lovely new home.
I'm heartily challenged to repay the wealth of hospitality lavished upon this Idaho traveler!
Qigong in Colorado
With Boise just a few hours away, I'm typing in morning shade of the huge ponderosas Brandie introduced me to a couple of falls ago, reflecting on this magical journey to Colorado. A strong breeze is turning over the cottonwood leaves along the river. Warblers sing in dense shrubs along the river. I've delighted in all the tiger and zebra swallowtails fluttering by throughout my travels! Just today I spied the orange of a monarch/viceroy out on an island--how many years since I've seen one of those! As I sit, an alert, pint sized, forest squirrel bounded by, so different from its big city cousin. Sandpipers call from the river and Canada geese sneak by.
Chapped lips are recovering from the high altitudes and/or dryness, as, I think, is the ultra sensitive left side of my fillings/teeth (2,000'-10,000', big dif). Thank you! This has been the hottest Memorial weekend drive to Colorado I've experienced. In far western Colorado I noticed a car with pillow cases hanging from the visors. Yah, its hot. No turbulent storms tumbling over the horizon, moderating temperatures, like the last few years. The Snow Leopard's air conditioning (my first) is a God send. Am I getting soft or sane? When 10,000' isn't cold, that's a heat wave. Up at night, legs bare, not even chilly as I tried to see stars through blurry eyes or watched the waning moon. Never more “perfect” in the high country. Afternoon clouds, breezes. No thunder-lightning-hail. Oops: second night in Colorado above Eldora, wonderful lightning storm early in evening.
My psyche rebelled at the thought of driving a new route. Doin’ Old Thinking, I reminded small self clinging to familiar turn offs. Instead I met freshly leafing aspen, meadows and pine groves, high above Heber, UT, coming and returning. As I neared Denver, gated roads reminded me why I moved from Colorado. A telling sight: a row of 50 some rural mailboxes, high in the mountains above Boulder. Colorado in a nutshell. Elbow to elbow in the wilds, public access to public land behind denied by the strip of development along every road.
Learning Ken's tendon series alone was worth the trip. Just what my arms and shoulders have needed all these years. Could feel shoulders release as tension focused on fists; watched long ago broken elbow learn to align with shoulder and wrist. Gently Ken reminds his grimacing students to relax our faces, unclench legs and feet. So perceptive, patient.
Ken's teaching so affirms my mind-body-spirit path. At the end of the sports qigong workshop he mentioned yoga is best for stretching and opening; qigong, best for energy. Verily, the Chinese are experts in directing qi. Yes! Relieved, I more clearly understand my focus on the physical aspects of yoga in order to align body in order to release and feel energy! Slowly, slowly, I wake those lower abdominals supporting lower back, so profoundly affecting neck and shoulder. After all these years, only now finding them! Stunning! Whatever. Not to judge. As I realized during the New Millennium retreat, I'll die in alignment! Maybe. Growing awareness of how to straighten spine, drop tailbone, lift crown, connected to heaven and earth. Same, same, qigong or yoga. A back issue of a yoga magazine I brought along relates a straight spine to release of fear! Whow, got it--mentally.
Fill own dan tian first, Ken says over and over. Bet mine's empty; no sense of center really. I like the partner pushing exercises that help us ground, feel our center of power. First order of business on getting back is to reach out in search of qigong community. Why do I feel like the only one interested in community!!
I get snagged by the politics of workshops, interpersonal dramas (esp my own), the hustle of professional networking. What got me through was the only (of 4) Don Miguel Ruiz agreement(s) I ever remembered: “Don't take anything personally”. Period. (Discovered one of Ken's senior students studied with Don Miguel!)
In Denver, between workshops, I slept in the cool of John and Lorrie's back deck, leaving the cats their accustomed home, getting me (I am my own cat) outside, where I belong (good weather only, of course). L&J have a second triplex unit now, the Club House. It's guest room and home to five felines, the occupational hazard of Lorrie's work at Max Fund. Henry, Harry, Molly, Puddy and Humphrey are the most agreeable, gentle, beautiful set of cats I've met—try putting 5 humans together! Lorrie is finely tuned to each, relocating them in various personality combinations between the two living units so peace prevails. Former rejects, they're now treated like royalty. One evening I noticed John shelling jumbo cooked shrimp for Henry. L. says John's sweet on Henry, often bringing him shrimp. John denies. No canned shrimp bits for Henry! Did I mention the gurgling cat drinking fountain? Yes? They still prefer drinking from floating candle bowls. Of course.
Humphrey looks out
Lorrie's become a crack vet tech aka cat care specialist. In a flash she put drops in newest adoptee, Harry's ears and his cloudy eyes. Lucky for me, she walked in just as I found a tick burrowed into my shoulder. Grabbing tweezers and alcohol, she expertly coaxed the rascal out, soothing me like the anxious patient I was. Arg.
To my delight, Lorrie was able to get an extra day off to go camping! We coaxed our low slung cars into a lovely campsite near Dillon, then feasted eyes and souls on fresh air and snow covered peaks, for 2 gorgeous days while reading, cooking and eating leisurely. Talked of dentists and cholesterol; strategies for dealing with others (surely not us!); what's new with who; and the challenge of balancing lives. I so admire L's passion; she's as fiery as ever. How utterly rejuvenating, we agreed, our wild get away.
Two nights only whetted my appetite for camping in this gorgeous weather. So I detoured up to the Flat Tops for another blissful night in the high country. My idea of dying and going to heaven is hanging out with aspen and views of the world. How easy to flee the high country when cold and wet! Not so, during spectacular camping weather! Reluctantly descended to the Colorado River.
Eve's Garden. Between chores and grandchild, Eve and I visited. In the morning, I tried to capture on film, E's spectacular, long row of lettuce varieties (which I find impossible to believe don't interest the deer per Eve)! Picked peas from long rows. I envy M&E's peace. While I run around doing, they grow spectacular food and model simple living for the grand kids.
Heading on north to Rangely, in spite of grumbling what a lot of sexist hooey, I got deeper and deeper into (listening to) Wallace Stegner's popular western novel, Angle of Repose (which I'd enjoyed reading while living in Colorado). Just as there was a double hanging in Leadville, I was startled to look off to the east and see a figure swaying on a rope from a lone tree out in a field! Honest! From the way it swung lightly, I assured myself it was stuffed. Sobering moment. Admit to being hesitant to stop and walk out and make sure--sagebrush rebels being very real on the Utah/ Colorado border. However, the further I drove, the more curious I got. One never knows.
High above Heber the following day I noticed a small pine tree in a “hunters” camp, filled with luger shells(?). Ah, the Wild, Wild West. I asked for it. On my own again, I had the luxury of reviewing qigong, notes at hand. Now, do arms pull back in #12? One morning after qigong I even had time and inspiration to put on the walkman and dance through the meadow. Now, that's a vacation, when I feel that free, the weather so irresistible. Nothing better for the dan tian!! How much better I sleep when I travel--sometimes (not always). One night I even dreamed of feeling a strong energy ball between my hands. How badly I need to ground during long drives, like the long stretch back into Idaho.
I'm putting Iceland on my calendar, summer 2001 (just in case). Ken's teaching on the Isle of Wight and in Iceland this summer! Yum, yum. I was blessed to have been included on staff of Ken's big workshop this year, one I would not have attended otherwise. Thank you, Rebecca. How easy to maintain the kitchen with a staff of qigong students whose fine tuned awareness led each to do what needs doing without mention. It was a gift to meet Ken's senior students, know them a bit. What an experience it must be to have Ken's classes available regularly!
As I sit tall by South Fork of Boise River, I declare it to have been a Magical Journey! From the drive out of Boise to the music of galloping Tuvan horses (how that CD got to Boise I'd like to know) to the heavenly music of thrushes in the mountains at dusk and dawn. Good workshops and visits; beautiful spring greens everywhere; butterflies, delphinium, forget-me-nots, and gilia; acres of mule ears(?); serviceberry and chokecherries all in bloom; lush rhubarb in the alleys of Boulder! And, on the last leg, intersecting with the only person I met the Millennium silent retreat at Subway at I-84, returning on his new cycle from the Veterans Memorial weekend rally in DC. Verily, life is good and very good!
West to I-5 Corridor
Following morning yoga classes, pointed the Toyota towards Seattle for Christmas Eve. Bless folks for coming out in the middle of holiday madness for a few moments of centering and grounding. How grateful I was! Headed out in high spirits, looking forward to a lovely drive under the extraordinary, now waning, full solstice moon (umpteen percent larger and closer than usual).
First adventure occurred under the freezing, foggy skies that hugged the Cascades all the way into eastern Oregon. So much for moon shadows! Tried not to be a poor sport--but I'd be fibbing to say I wasn't disappointed. The good news was weather was balmy, mild for December. For a stretch I sang along unabashed to an NPR broadcast of Handle's Messiah--absolutely a peak travel experience, night driving to The Messiah. One trip I (awkwardly) drummed with; this time I stabbed away at the alto line. When The Messiah faded beyond recognition, started a favorite tape series, Pema Chodron's "Awakening Compassion". Since I was driving in and out of the snow line, even though it was fairly early in the evening, figured I'd pull over at my first opportunity, along the Canyon Road--one never knows about changes in pulloffs. Judged the lightly snow covered dirt road was passable. Pulled past a no-no sign, through a maze of dirt roads. Found a huge ponderosa to park under (which turned out to be fairly close to the highway). Perfect. Traveling with unusual full cargo—bulky "new" meditation mat and pillow, cake sized glass pan of fudge; whole Christmas stollen I'd baked; long wool Sunday-go-to-meeting coat; a ton of stuff: leftovers from the frig; books; gifts.... Created trough for sleeping pad and bag, wriggled into nightgown. This was going to be a grand snooze, full moon or no. Humming strains of The Messiah, Pema's wisdom drifting, began my usual right side-belly-left-back-right-front, cycle a number of times before pleasant dreams took over.
My busy mind dreamed of yoga, the blessing of both morning yoga classes; cars for sale; friends scattered 'round the country; all the driving I'd be doing over the holidays; frustrations; hot springs, etc, etc.
Don't know whether I first heard the "State Police; get out of the car; I need to see your drivers license" or first noticed the bright light in my face. Perhaps because of the (formerly) blissful state of mind in which I fell asleep, I felt no fear, just a familiar sense of Oh, No, not again, what a Bummer; yah sure, dig out and stand in the cold in my nightgown. Glad to be wearing one; wish I'd slept in clothes this time. Mind shot back to replay near Cle Elum, 6 or 7 years back. Groggy and annoyed, light in my face, wound down the stiff back window with both hands, then reached out to squeeze door handle open (can't open from inside.) By now I was sitting hunched under the ceiling, in plaid flannel night gown (with wide spaced buttons), flabby bare legs, rather exposed. "Move slowly. I can't see in." The trooper explained. "Are you alone?" Are you kidding! I wanted to say. Look at this stuff! I don't fit! "Any weapons, guns or anything?", he continued, running down the check list. "Oh, no", I assured him--as the questions grew increasingly absurd. Meanwhile, on another mental channel I was pushing back the urge to offer fudge (if I could unearth it), and tell him about all the stuff I had along, which might have put the poor fellow at ease, let him now he'd merely hooked a weird one.
Horrified at the project of digging out my drivers license on the very bottom layer I stalled and explained, "It's on the very bottom, in my pack". Began rooting and tugging, under the pile--is this really happening! Under going-to-church long coat, red silk blouse; oh, it was a huge pile stuffed in the front seat--one of my worst ever!--couldn’t see out the windows whatsoever. "Where're you headed?", another inevitable query. My fellow beings who own nice warm homes, property and families all wonder at someone sleeping under a ponderosa! Sense they ask this, to assure themselves you are like them, with an address, purpose, identification; not one of the homeless. I hate the question. ("Seattle", I replied, again keeping it simple.)
All seemed a bit much, I thought, this racking out a sleeping dog, as it were, from her 15 year old toyota, looking smart with a lovely diamond shaped plastic wreath on the grill, facing the trooper's vehicle. Surely not a high profile crime suspect vehicle! Then again, the perfect disguise!
"Homicide right over there by some Hispanics", my waker-uper explained (so that's why the road was posted), "Didja hear about that?" Bless racists, I silently prayed. "Uuh, no, how long ago," I tried to converse. Besides admittedly being a little eerie, I was acutely interested in this piece of information, though didn't realize why until the scene was behind me (had been gulping down Ann Rule Northwest crime stories all week). "Just a couple of months ago," No wonder I don't follow the news. "Hmm. I was having pleasant dreams," I explained, "Surprised I didn't have bad ones." Rambled on that I usually stay a little further on, always check the feel of a place. Sticking to the facts, the trooper went on, "Followed the single car tracks in, past that large sign prohibiting overnights, knew there was someone in here somewhere. You'll have to move."
Why? So many rules! But I didn't ask. Piece of cake to find me, I thought. "Give ya a warning, rather than a $500 fine." "Good", I acknowledged. He said something about his boss; perhaps he'd a fined me full tilt. My patrolman was a cheerful, young fellow. "You're better off pulling off where we can watch", he offered, "Mileposts 11 and 14".
This was "good" news; had visions of driving beyond Ellensburg only to find the other overnight place I knew inaccessible, covered in slippery snow. How well I know it's easier to get stuck at 32 degrees, than colder. Pulled pants under night gown, got out, moved food and library boxes from driver's seat into back; stuffed coats and mat behind. "Have a Good Christmas", the officer called; I echoed the same, as I followed him out to the highway. On upstream, or was it downstream, for the second time I settled in, out in the open the way the officer advised. By now I was nervous.
Took some time to calm down after the relocation. Thought of Peace Pilgrim and Brandie's relative who has seen her since her death! Put Pema's lojung practice to work right then and there, breathing in the fear of all those, like myself, who are afraid, breathing in fear, breathing out peace. Talk as I do, glibly about no fear, obviously I have homework.
Would like to have detained the trooper and talked about Ann Rule's stories, asked about his involvement in the homicide—did the killed know the killer? Does the officer speak Spanish? Ask about night duty in Central Washington.
Was truly sorry I hadn't offer fudge. Late last Christmas Eve, a bored policeman had stopped and helped Brandie, Eileen and I brush piles of fresh new snow off our cars. Brandie sent him off with the rest of scrumptious mint brownies her daughter had made and we'd munched all evening on our churchathon of Cmas eve services. If I'd only had a few minutes, cudda dug out the fudge! Maybe even asked, Why, Why can't I sleep under the gorgeous ponderosa? It's public land! Like a good compliant woman, I moved. Don't understand the rules. Soon though, like Edwene Gaines, I'll be a woman of power and won't even be asked to leave!
The next day I passed Lake Sammammish where Anne Rule described how Randy Roth off-ed another wife.
The following weekend I spent at a Millennium Retreat I'd located on The Web. Taking the risk, I sent in my registration. Here's an excerpt from my experience with my Accidental Silent Retreat!
ACCIDENTAL SILENCE, B-52 BOMBER UP IN SMOKE, and other holiday tales.
Good thing I ate, drank and made merry before The Millennium Retreat I found on The Web. From my journal:
"... Challenged to keep thoughts on high ground... In 24 hours the only community I've sensed is the calico cat and I. She's mainly white, extremely friendly and cuddly, well balanced. Unlike everyone else here as far as I can tell. Affectionate, good boundaries. Meow. I talked to the beautiful leeks as I chopped this afternoon. And the tiny wren, as I always do...
Not smiling at or acknowledging those one meets just feels weird! Guess I'm the only one feeling this way. However, looking around at faces, there are not a whole lot of happy campers. Although I know better, someone who didn't might say we got some mean lookin’ mommas and poppas here. Kinda like being in a walled city—everyone has a wall around ‘em you bounce off. One gal though looks like she's really enjoying herself. What I'd give to peak in her brain!
How to be grateful for this experience? The first night I lay in the bunk for hours and yearned to sleep in my car instead. Maybe I'm retreated out. Tiny bunks, strangers; retreat food—celery and olives are NOT a substitute for meat, I fume!
In the morning I was forced to slump when I tried to sit up in the bunk. More opportunities to collapse, rather than open heart/body, the yoga student in me groused. Banged head on bunk above when I reached down to straighten sleeping gear. Buddhist designer humbling? Bunks remind me of the astonishing commuter shelf beds that so impressed my mind in the One Day in Japan photo exhibit years ago."
The following week, back in Seattle I was (to understate) keen to share my silent adventures with almost anyone. Luckily my ever welcoming local host, Marli, had just returned from visiting grandchildren. While she was catching up on paperwork, returning phone calls etc. from the couch, I rattled on about my adventures, the food, my frustration with meeting no one, blah, blah. As I rambled, idly I observed an astonishingly enormous insect slowly plying the air currents just below the living room ceiling. Since observing a forsythia shoot from an outside bush, blooming inside a bedroom window one mid-winter, I should know better than to let anything surprise me while at Marli's. I pointed, eyes wide, but said nothing as the B-52 disappeared around a corner.
When I came to the part about the amazing symphony of stomach rumbles and farts during group meditation, Marli perked up, saying "Really!", seeking details. At last I'd found an appreciative audience. Intermittently Marli described her own millennium adventures with the unitarians (which sounded much better than my choice).
Suddenly, while Marli was on the phone, I became terrified when I saw smoke curling above her torchiere (sp) lamp. Tales of those very lamps destroying entire homes flashed across my mind. Terrified, because I knew from many visits to Marli's charming home, the lamp switch was broken and wall plugs were few and far between, hidden behind items like couches. As I leaped to unplug the lamp, Marli looked up unfazed and wrapped up her call. "I'll call you back; the lamp is smoking", she said coolly, annoying me a bit. Her home! Simultaneously I smelled burning flesh and realized the B-52 was not overhead. Jerking the lamp plug from an extension cord, reality dawned. We both laughed as I fanned the front door to bring in fresh air and bug smoke out.
Marli re-dialed her friend. I realized soberly that, thus far, this was by far the most exciting and amusing event of the New Millennium. Starved for humor as I was following the accidental silent retreat, I laughed even more, spirits rebounding with each chuckle, grateful to my fellow flying brother or sister's for its harikari demise, brightening my sober millennium considerably. (Guess it's not fair to expect anyone else to appreciate how exciting and funny it was!)
By the time I'd soaked in hot springs on my way home, I was finally moving towards the New Millennium.
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