Ohio to Maine -- at last!--the East Coast
Dreaming of lime shakes, beaches and autumn leaves
GAR--Revolutionary War!--marker near Steam Hollow, Troy, Pennsylvania
New England's famous autumn helped lure me "East"--finally. One by one, workshop, family, friends and places came to mind and a plan formed. Early October I flew to Ohio picked up thrifty rental and headed out to explore The East!
Trip began well. Loved flying over the Grand Canyon at sunset, then watching lightning flicker across the midwest, as I read about the fellow who dreamed up training whooping cranes to follow an ultralight to restore migration patterns. Since the plane was nearly empty, my long legged seat mate and I tumbled out of our seats as soon as the seat belt light went off, into the unoccupied front row without threat of seat backs lowering. In spite of myself, my eyes shifted towards up and over to the television screen--essentially a reverse color negative from my angle--following the silent, in-flight movie, The Animal. Having watched a few minutes before walking out of the bargain theater a few months back, I was hip. Soon I was laughing at the Silent Animal so loud my former seat mate, now across the aisle, looked up from her romance novel and watched too. I'd'a done good with silent movies. Thoroughly enjoyed myself!
An spiffy little Suzuki Swift, reminiscent of a goode olde VW Bug except with spectacular dome light, was waiting at 12:30am Ohio time (10:30 Idaho)! (The only rub was it took me all the way to the coast to realize turns were hell due to 4 extremely low tires! As they say, Duh.) No sooner had I headed out from airport when I exited at a college days vision of an all night Steak'n'Shake!! (No airline food due to terrorism--figure that one out--no food, no terrorism?) What if I'd known Steak'n'Shake malt and onion rings were waiting!. Revived, I headed into the night.
Following day, drove over hill and dale, through fields that felt homey, past woods that looked young and small to my now western eyes, recalling memories of college buddies who hailed from Columbus, Toledo, and a geology class jaunt to Cincinnati. Hadn't been back to the midwest in ages! Swifts (chimney?) plied warm fall air. First order of business was help gripping the slippery steering wheel. "No! I don't want a furry one", I told the young clerk in Wooster firmly!
Second order of business was tapes for the fine tape deck in the Swift! Where had all the thrift shops gone? The radio was weak; already I was tired of listening to the Reiki and Deep Forest tapes I'd tucked in "just in case". For weeks and hundreds of miles I flogged myself for not bringing books on tape! Late the second evening what to my wondering eyes appeared but an Goodwill open 'til 9pm!--unheard of--in a small Pennsylvania burg. Almost like one of those stories about Christmas presents miraculously being left by a stranger! Returned with assortment that included Best of Simon and Garfunkle (a real find), church choir from a NYC (mixed bag), a homemade tape with Greek like symbols (turned out to be my favorite--monastery sounds and chants), the final tape of Course in Miracles, Italian Opera and Chopin. Popular as Bonnie Raitt and the Indigo Girls are, they jarred my stranger in a strange land's nerves.
Loved heading east on blue highways (Hwy 6) across Pennsylvania, through old, old towns, decorated with flags, God Bless America and One Nation Under God (is that the same as Jesus, I wondered?) signs, and election posters. Gawked at huge old homes and churches, built right up to the edge of the shoulder-less (and passing lane-less) highway, cemeteries, fields of pumpkins, spectacular old oaks and maples and splashes of purple fall asters (guess what I'm adding to the yard!). Nooo, this ain't Idaho! The worn out country reminded me of Edward Abbey's last novel set in Appalachia. One beautiful afternoon I pulled off near Troy, PA, for cemetery photos (above). How blessed the Indian summer that accompanied me!
At first I was charmed by Reduced Speed zones (police conspicuously missing--not possible, I guess!) and small villages every few miles. Little did I know I'd have days of them and on the weekend... As I crossed from New York into Connecticut then Massachusetts, I was introduced to the gridlock of fall leaves sightseeing traffic, known by a quaint regional euphemism I don't recall. Horrible traffic by any other name. This added considerably to my angst over routes and wrong turns, dulling full appreciation of miles of gorgeous trees, valleys and small towns. Hours after I thought I'd be there, I pulled up a long, long drive past acres of mowed lawn to see what looked like a sanitarium looming on the skyline: my cozy retreat center, Kripalu, in the Berkshires of MA! Live and learn!
Still rattled from traffic, driving in circles and feeling like maybe I oughta admit self to sanitarium, I sat in a lounge plinking the laptop keys for the first time since waiting in the Phoenix airport. (Alas, no plug in in the Suzuki). A patronizing hand on my shoulder warned me, no computers! Hadn't I just overheard that same voice loudly asserting "I am NOT a control freak!!" on the hall phone? "Oh", I said, a bit shocked, for I'd observed folks circumambulating the building with cell phones in ears, "I didn't know". For the first time ever, I missed Idaho!
Soon, however, I rebounded. Not only, were the workshop presenters just what I came for, at the end of the weekend I was able to move to be by fresh air/open windows in the dorm. There I met super bunk mate Ana from the Caribbean to laugh and pal around with. When we found the windows closed, Ana and I reopened them. Then I learned no one used the tiled hot tub just below the dorm after the jets were turned off at 9pm. Scurrying down stairs in nightshirt, I became a regular late night soaker. Everyone seemed to hit the rack early for 6am yoga. Tried 6am class once but came to senses quickly, realizing watching the day begin from the wondrous panorama surrounding my bed or covertly journaling on the laptop under the covers was more my cup of tea. On mornings when the sun burned off the fog in the valley, I dashed about, futilely trying to capture the unattainable beauty of early morning on film. Good thing I keep trying; it's such fun!
Kripalu October magic
A bonus for staying in Massachusetts for the week, was the opportunity to meet one (of two cousins--sons of dad's brother) neither of whom I'd met. Jim and wife Laura drove up from Glastonbury CT that first Sunday afternoon. Enormously enjoyed meeting this delightful couple, talking olive oil with Italian Laura, and learning about the only cousins on dad's side. We looked at photos and laughed over dinner-- Italian, nat. Interesting how even though there's acutally no blood relation, we seemed comfortable with each other's life styles and values--perhaps more so than with my own blood brothers!!
Back at the center, manifestations of my old nemesis, "vegetarian" food surfaced quickly-- dreadful, familiar stomach aches due to strange food combinations, and over compensation with cayenne (kitchen, not me!). Although no one else admitted it, I know in my heart of hearts I was not alone in my gastric suffering. One welcome evening Nancy and her daughter came down from VT to rescue me from the cafeteria--we dined out at Friendly's (a Denny's like eastern chain featuring meals with Happy Endings--ice cream)! Although all I met professed to "love" the local cuisine, when later one of my fellow retreatants recognized me from the queue at the cash register at Friendly's, we both burst out laughing. At the end of my stay, a pint of Hagen Daz from the Lenox grocery store and I was as good as new. (Imagine, nearly a week of no desserts! For sale only at limited hours shop said, Kripalu The Business! "Sure missing an opportunity, not having a cybercafe, a businessman/ fellow Kripalu guest commented, pointing out the obvious, as we email-dependent, Kripalu short termers passed each other at the Lenox library computer!)
Ken Cohen and Richard Freeman's "Pearls of the East" workshop was grand, although I was acutely aware Richard was darn sick. Took voluminous notes from Richard, hoping they'd make sense someday. Managed to survive his much more athletic style of yoga--my biggest concern about the workshop. Good luck, Rebecca (Ken's wife)! She revealed that she takes classes from Richard when she can! As always, I observed with fascination the variety of bodies and backgrounds attending. Ken always says he urges his qigong students to take yoga. Easy to see why: most of us "professional" and "non professional" yoga, qigong and martial arts students and teachers are terrifically bound, misaligned, disconnected from our bodies. The effort during Richard's sessions was palpable!
I adored the coiling silk series Ken introduced. Feel fortunate to have both qigong and yoga in my life. Perhaps it's a blessing I don't have a local qigong practice group. Originally that forced me to focus on more accessible yoga. Now I have the blessing of 2 parallel master teachers uniting the incomparable joint and alignment practice of mind-body-spirit yoga and the strength and energy wisdom of qigoing. Although the opportunity to discuss the relationship between yoga's Mountain Pose and qigong's Standing like a Post, didn't seem to present itself, I returned refreshed and affirmed. I'll continue to explore those questions on my own. The pearls of the east are simple, sublime. My job: the discipline of practice.
Heading east to Boston, I saw a welcome "May Peace Prevail" sign, midst United We Stand's. Beautiful country. All too soon, though, the traffic I'd had a taste of crossing the Hudson River into MA paled compared to what began pouring out of Boston about the time I got to the turn off to Henry David Thereau's pond in Concord. Was so impressed with the miles of stop and go around Boston to get to Gloucester, I agreed without hesitation to Curt's suggestion to take the train to Providence. Yes, please, the train. I confess I did absolutely horrible things at the traffic circles in Gloucester. Terrible. I couldn't help it. Apologies to all who honked to let me know I was rude.
Gloucester. How good can it get? Very, very good! Since seeing "The Perfect Storm" and reading The Hungry Sea, I've been intriged to see that area, walk the harbor. Lo, The Hanna Boden was in! Additional plus: classed up my by now bizarre collection of cassettes--from Elton John to new age synthesizer--at Mystery Train Records with world beat, trance and Gabrielle Roth tapes. Curt found Henson Cargill LPs! Awesome store! The Cape Anne on the October weekend I visited was so balmy I waded up to my waist at the beach (only dogs and horses did likewise)! Mediator mentor and buddy Curt and I caught up over seafood extraordinaire at Woodman's of Essex! Sunday morning at mass at Our Lady of the Good Voyage, tears welled every time I looked up at Mary holding babe in left arm, ship in right hand. Loved walking the old streets of Gloucester. The contrast between Idaho's modern garage and vehicle centered houses was striking. Imagine, a time and place when houses weren't focused on vehicle storage, where a 2 or 3 car garage isn't the first thing to meet the eye! I'd like that! At the same time, ever practical, much as I'm charmed by historic homes and towns, the overwhelming maintenance challenges of collapsing streets and sewers shed light on a practical side of the
Cape Anne evening Curt about to tuck in at Woodman's! High Holy symbol of the East? Gloucester harbor
Monday on tender beach feet I followed Boston's Freedom Trail, through King's Chapel to Old North Church, and through the oldest American cemeteries I'd seen. Took train to wonderful reunion in Providence RI with Jacksonville high school friend Brenda. How good to begin to fill the huge gaps in years and quickly recall our common ground. "Do you remember sleepin under the stars one summer, watching meteors?" "Yes! That was Indiana, one of my very, very favorite memories!" And, "I love oatmeal too!" Helped Brenda and Charles move their new home's inherited dog house so there'd be room for firewood from the tree to be taken down. Chuckled because back in Boise, my front yard tree was being taken down and I'd just found a home for the old dog house!Spent entire return trip from Boston to Gloucester rooting through bags, looking for car key. God is good, the key for Suzuki waited in the trunk lock. Ach. Before leaving town I finally had time to check and fill the tires!! Eureka, a new car!
Saying 'bye to Brenda at the train station Breaking camp with Nancy
Nancy's directions to a lovely campsite near Freeport, Maine, were perfect. We met just at dusk, got her tent up in time for a night of wind and rain (and stomach cramps for Nancy). After a new battery for her Saturn and lunch of "wicked good" fresh crab at Day's Drive In (I ate most of Nancy's fries too), the sun burned through fog and we headed to N's favorite beach. While she rested (still enduring flu cramps), once again I padded on warm enough bare feet along sandy beach, humming Gordon Bok songs. Traveler's luck holding, what a day! Nancy headed back to the comforts of her real home; I followed leisurely, into the White Mountains. I'd return to Bok's coastal Maine in a heartbeat.
After a remarkably warm night car camping, the following morning I drove out of fog coming down, west, from the crest of the White Mountains. Suddenly trees were bare! As I stood at a pull out, admiring white birch branches against swirling fog, perhaps watching a final leaf waft down, I greeted a fellow traveler heading east, who also stopped--not many pull offs in this country. I was enjoying an ecstatic moment--sniffing sweet mountain air and artistically photographing the tossed Dunkin' Donuts cup (above) before the majestic scene--when he said something like, "Just too late... missed everything...!" "There's fog on the other side", I shared. "What do you mean by fog!", he snapped. I was appalled at his bitterness.
A wave of gratefulness for the ability to enjoy small things swept over me as I headed on, stopping in the middle of the highway--not much traffic for the moment--attempting to photograph the last swirls of leaves being blown off trees. I was having an exquisite time, waiting for the breeze that never returned--like watching for a kettle boil! No dice. The last leaves of autumn drift only in my mind's eye only.
On the lookout for maple syrup, leaving New Hampshire, I stopped at an old fashioned roadside stand. A fragrant crock pot of buttery spiced cider greeted the visitor--but no store tender! A cigar box held payment for purchases--on the honor system! No kidding! I signed the guest log, left with syrup, cider, frig magnets and warmth in my heart. Because a delivery truck stopped to ask where the owner lived (??) I ended up meeting Mrs. Thomson and learning a bit more about the family stand! The same day I drove out of New Hampshire, through rain showers, past rivers with names like Ompompanoosuc, stopped by Nancy and Alan's log home in Vermont and headed into New York!From the freeway or was it turnpike--easy to see why easterners pay tolls gladly!--saw last Dunkin' Donuts sign about Wilkes Barre. Spitting snow hustled me across Pennsylvania back into Ohio. With perfect timing, autumn was over: time to head home. Late, late, in rain/snow, near the end of my rope from wrong exits and no signs to Columbus, I arrived, waking brother Jamie at an impolite hour, having driven extra miles and confused time zones.
Thomson's Sugar Stop, Orford, NH Kathy, Lyndsay and Jamie in Columbus OH
Good to see Jamie and family's new habitat, their growing girls. Missed Peggy's band concert! Interesting visiting a model, planned community, with trash compactors but no recycling. By now smitten by lime shakes, I looked for opportunities to slip away and take advantage of being back in Steak'n'Shake country! The family laughed when I said that's where I wanted to eat. I was, of course, serious.
At the airport a bit sadly I turned in my trusty "Bug" sized companion even though I had a urgent sense of having stayed too long at the fair. I was desperate to BE home. Even a remarkable salesman seat mate on an oversold flight couldn't sooth me. How delighted and grateful I was at the first site of my new elm-free yard! Thank you Divine Oneness for wonderful travels. Good to be Home!
30th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival - Seattle
Eat, drink, make merry!
After missing the last two memorial weekend Folklife Festivals (I've attended religiously since '85 when I moved to Seattle and began to learn to dance, a passion on hold for 30 years) the cat went back. This time she was lucky not to subscribe to the don't look back theory. In a nut shell, Folklife once again was a superb, soul satisfying extravaganza. Any number of single events would have made the trip worthwhile. A whole list of them, well, bliss. Felt a bit guilty leaving my brand new, first home (less than one full moon old!) when there was soooo much to do, in fact, more each time I looked around. On the other hand, I was almost bonkers from trying to do it all, so getting away was an appealing escape.
Despite (old, erroneous) thinking I might not enjoy famous Native American storyteller Johnny Moses, Friday evening (opening night) I followed (new thinking!) Seattle hostess Marli! Surrounded by so many folks open to new things, it's easy to expand one's universe at Folklife. Although Johnny Moses' programs usually "sell out" (no fees at Folklife), we walked right in! Instantly I loved the way he started each long-ago-there-was-a story in its native tongue and wished he'd continue telling in both languages. Had the time of my life, chortling and snorting as Johnny told animal stories in a gentle way that tickled my funny bone like it hadn't been tickled in years. I squealed with delight, restraining myself from going berserk! What a pleasure to experience someone who has found their perfect niche (Johnny, that is, not me going berserk). Cudda gone home happy right then and there! But more was ahead.
The next morning Marli and I volunteered together at an outdoor information booth, making change, fielding questions about non festival events, meeting and greeting lovely folks. The biggest change in the festival besides relentless pleas for contributions, appeared to be the now large number of paid "inexperienced" (to those of us old timers) staff persons, doing much of which was formerly done by volunteers. Meow.
At the end of our hitch, Marli met a friend, and I dashed across the way to enjoy documentary films, my old '60s passion. A pair of traveling anthropological films about the blending of indigenous religion and dance with Catholicism in Cape Verde and in Rio, had me sitting on the edge of my seat, thrilled to the bone. My old interest in what I now realize is spiritual anthropology was refueled with high octane. Whow! I haven't changed a bit, only come full circle. Not only was I fascinated how comfortably so many of us walk in two worlds, but the answer to the fountain of youth was in the 80 year old dancing hips that were filmed! Yoga Class, we're workin' on hips! Another afternoon we watched "The Laughing Club". A visionary MD in India was inspired to establish clubs just to laugh, to compliment healing! Yes! Yes! The Woody Guthrie film was grand, but nothing could beat hooting with Indian seniors and factory workers as they practiced laughing!
By the end of the weekend it seemed like I'd laughed more than I had in years!
Seattle buddy and essential oil specialist Marcy gamely joined me to listen to a shakuhachi flute concert (we all fell asleep) and visited the shape note singing workshop I so look forward to each festival. No 5th chakra problems with those folks singing at the top of their lungs, Marcy and I agreed! Over the weekend I recharged my singing batteries. I can't sing enough, dance enough, or laugh enough, it seems!
What's unique about Folklife is its participatory nature (hence the falling asleep when one comes out of the hot sun into a cool theater!). Concurrent workshops, jam sessions and informal dancing everywhere, not to mention numerous performance stages. One can sit and watch, inside or out; but one can also do, dance, sing, move at every turn. Learn to cook Korean (this festival's highlighted culture) food with PCC (co-op) or sing with the Jewish community; it's all happening! At a sunny outdoor stage, we sang out old Beatles tunes. Beatles fans had aged notably-- last time the audience danced the whole half hour; this time all sat (singing) until the final tune brought us to our (well worn) feet! The musicians, who would never be mistaken for Beatles look alikes, have got better and better each year. Lines used to get hummed. No longer! Missed singing sea shanties under the night sky; this year's program was inside. Sang along with a huge community choir from Victoria BC; love and friendship radiated from the group. Their set closed with Stan Roger's fabulous Northwest Passage. I was flooded with goose bumps.
Sunday morning I listened to a local rabbi sing beautiful a cappella tunes in Spanish, one of which I had only heard Richard and Mimi Farina do way back when. Monday morning a small group of us stood during the end of a sudden wind and rain storm (I suspected most folks were more nervous about religion than rain--my buddies weren't about to join me), enjoying a gospel program that ran from Rumi poems set to music to contemporary praise dance. A true southern gospel group with its fine lead singer brought tears to my eyes. Sensational. A British woman sent to investigate an exchange was introduced; greater interest in gospel abroad. Maybe we urban folk forget mind-body-and spirit have been inseparable from time immemorial.
Time and again I was awed by the broad vision of this "free", participatory festival. Passion radiated from performer after performer. So many people doing what they love in one area, filled my heart!
One afternoon while crossing crossing the center I was drawn to the beat of the female cajun band that was just forming as I moved from Seattle. Although happily bopping around "dancing" on my own, I spied the silhouette of an old housemate. To my surprise Mike eagerly set down his omnipresent fiddle (he was a child fiddle protégé) and we danced away, while catching up on lives. With beer scented breath--I recall M's fondness for beer gardens--my former housemate and fellow draftsperson confessed he's been seduced back into the now computerized drafting profession out of which we both dropped. A former supervisor valued his hand drawing experience and was willing to train him. Mama mia. Another one bites the dust. Shared house/kitchen/1 bathroom for nearly 5 years with 3 folks I enjoyed more often than not; good to see one again.
Another Folklife moment occurred when I "bumped into" old dance friend Themma. Some years Folklife is just one bump after another. However, having moved away, there are fewer now. I'm more of an observor/visitor. On the other hand, my encounters now include Montana and Idaho folks as well! T's spouse (we both worked at the USGS in Denver in the early 1970s) has become a bit confused, but in this huge, understanding crowd, she knows he'll be ok; they have check in times. I was keen to share the awesome embroidery and photography at the Korean Showcase next door, so I we walked across the courtyard. T was as awed as I at the fine threads of embroidery floss creating milkweed seed heads and pine needles, and stunning huge format photographs of Korean mountains. Mind boggling.
Made a point of hearing an old favorite group, Croatian klapa singers, who, if I'm not mistaken, since festival #1, have sung fabulous a cappella--from sad Croatian sea songs to American doo-wop. At last they have a CD, though it's simply not the same as watching their subtle and not so subtle interplay, esp during The Duke of Earl (alas, not recorded!)
Was just going to listen to a few minutes of Balkan music Sunday evening. Ha. After 3 years, I was like Odysseus' men pulled to the sirens. Like old times I threw caution to the wind, abandoned my bag under a chair, wove my way to the floor, and began following behind the lines of dancers. Of course my feet were rusty and confused. So what.
Probably Eastern European music has done more to convince me of former lives than anything else (an inexplicable passion for sea shanties is a close second). Why ever would a girl from Illinois be so helplessly drawn to these strangely disharmonic and arrhythmic melodies with their asymmetrical dance patterns. I'm filled with goose bumps by the haunting tunes, strange instruments and singing styles, and the way a long line of dancers moves together. Ach! Bliss! After several years without hearing this compelling live music, I looked past the cold technical, competitive performance style of so many contemporary dancers and took my mind to a village where all generations--elders, kids, families and sweethearts--danced together. As always David, the most gracious dancer I've ever known, greeted me, as others, warmly. As we joined the line, out of the corner of my eye I recognized a cotton print that could only be Dikka's strawberry dress! When the dance finished we greeted each other fondly, before she dashed to meet an old Alaska friend we hadn't seen in 6 years! Aye, what fun! Miss that gal. Love that music wildly. Missed the 8:50pm bus... the 9:20... the 9:50... At last heading "home", I chatted with an Argentinean woman.
Heading east a day later, after purchasing a bamboo plant (weeds to Seattlites!) at an unconscionable price--my lips are sealed), Folklifes past drifted by: hearing the now famous Tuvan singers introduced by Ralph Leighton; discovering didgeridoos in a workshop; dancing outdoors with young fiddler Walt Russell who hid his problems until he could take no more and plunged off the bridge with his fiddle; dancing with men, women, kids, dancing, dancing, dancing. Beautiful crafts, endless creativity and artistry, woodwork, clothes, jewelry, hats, doodads. Every year Marli supports an artist by purchasing an awesome wearable work of art. Oh yes, scrumptious food: thai soup, curries, grilled salmon, thai tea, shortcake, amaretto fudge ... you get the idea.
This year I missed hearing Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band, with their mismatched band uniforms, a dead pan act that sends me into near hysterics. An advantage of growing older, is mellowing out, knowing it simply cannot all be experienced, try as one may! And I used to! My feet appreciated taking it easier this year. I've mellowed considerably--no more outlandish outfits. Ha.
How I enjoy the easy conversation of strangers, sometimes travelers or first generation English speakers, that is such a part of the spirit of Folklife. After 6 years in Idaho, I'm absolutely fascinated to watch the mixture of cultures that might be in one band. For a moment in time we are harmoniously One. Feels so good. I've a lot of history at Folklife; now and then there are uncomfortable glances with folks with whom there may still be unfinished business, shattered expectations. Now and then, conversation lifts an old burden, wounds heal.
Over the last decade and a half I've watched friends and performers (often one and the same) gray (far less dyed hair in this crowd!), lose hair to age, to chemo; gain weight; have children, divorce, marry and remarry, have more children. Several dancers have gone onto dancer heaven. It's rich to revisit both my dance roots and irreplaceable friendships left behind.
Over the Cascades and the Blues I reminisce. Back home it's time to sink roots into my new Idaho yard. Idaho! Who wudda thunk it!
Desert Roots and Shoots - Tucson
Following Venus south, under the Full MoonFebruary 15, 2001
Dear Dael and Pedro,
(Wordsmith that I think I am), words are inadequate for the Tucson trip. Whow! comes closest.
Thanks for welcoming your “Idaho” cousin with such warmth. Best of all, thanks for being Real. Sharing your lives, humor, adventures, sorrows, successes, memories. Food and shelter. Thanks for your desert generosity. (Several times I "flashed" on stories of the desert monks/fathers (early centuries A.D. Africa?) of which my favorite author Kathleen Norris (from SD) writes.) Your hospitality is worthy!
I'm not used to belonging or being accepted! Whow, again! Good for my heart and soul to see you. All of you. I think we all did our best, don't you!
Per your recommendation, camped above Roosevelt Lake, definitely my best stay on the road. Beautiful country--saguaro, cholla, a wash with iron sand. I was exhausted. My cold moved right on through my system. (I think the A&W root beer float helped. Power of opposition, ya know. I've never ordered one, ever! After years of hating RB, I now drink about one a year. Kinda like, after years of disliking catholics (like my folks did), most of my friends are, and I attend mass. My bumper sticker says Shift Happens. So it does!
The next morning I greeted the sun, boiled water for tea, then put on the walkman and did my shamanic dance thing, up and down the wash! At last a powerful earth moment.
Altho I saw the clouds move in, naively didn't realize that was my last shirt sleeve moment. Snow started around Globe or was it Payson. Planned to camp around Cottonwood or Sedona but was nixed by slick clay roads and nasty signs. Drove through the infamously spectacular area in the dark, barely seeing another vehicle, and NO pullouts, all campgrounds closed, with heavier and heavier snowfall. By Flagstaff I “couldn't” stop (or I wouldn't have been able to get going again). Headed west on the Interstate to official rest area—unplowed—dragging belly of car in snow. Figured plow would wake me to clear lot. NO one pulled in all night long!! Admittedly, it was real funky out, steady snow falling, few trucks and cars out and moving. Slept blissful and warm, 'til rest area snow machine began clearing paths, adding to my cocoon of snow! Never mind that road was still unplowed and no one could get into the rest area but me and a few trucks on the far side!
Dug out (handy dandy snow shovel from mom), shoveled tracks to main pull through (still unplowed). Somehow got onto freeway, headed west to Kingman. Snow was light, fresh, beautiful.
Retraced my route through NV. Had enough adventures by then! Only this time v. cold, snow covering everything but hwy. Drove through patches of fog, light snow falling under crystal clear stars and light clouds. Without much hesitation regarding traditional warnings, I turned around to see if I could help a truck flashing its light and smoke drifting across highway. Felt mechanically inadequate, but humanely nudged. Code of the West, no? A tough old mechanic immediately introduced himself as Charlie Wilson--probably startled that the only non truck on the road--and a woman at that--had stopped. He kept saying, "I'm safe; I'm ok". Perhaps he was embarrassed that, although pulling a trailer with heavy equipment, he seemed to be w/o flashlite or, it seemed, screwdriver! I dug out and handed him gear, down to anti-freeze and water, while he fixed radiator hose! He kept grumbling at himself, repeating "You saved me!" I was surprised no one else stopped--a few rigs lumbered by, not many. So many folks have bailed me out over the years, it was my turn. I was grateful not to be in a hurry. Twice he hugged me goodbye before he hurried on south for a job he felt lucky to have picked up.
Pulled into a borrow pit that night—couldn’t get far off the road. Really cold out, but I wasn't. Toyota started A-ok in sun. After running with temp needle hot all the while I was in Tucson and much of AZ, the Toyota's back purring with the needle “normal”, much happier. Kinda like me, it doesn't always appreciate summer.
Finished listening to Theroux’s "Old Patagonian Express" (again), train trip from Boston to Patagonia. Then onto "The Master of Disguise—my secret life in the CIA". Fitting I thought since the author grew up in Eureka, Nevada. Always adored espionage books. Bet the author knew one of my old college outdoor club buddies I’d like to find.
Don't know if you'll meet any more Hemphills—never say never—but I think you might see me again!! Once I recover.
The rose is a perfect reminder of our visit trip, Dael. Already I miss your humor--both of you.
* * * * * *As evangelist Tri might put it, this trip was Huge (meaning momentous). From driving through Nevada with a stream of travel trailers heading to Vegas, to setting up tent in Arizona, in a cousin's industrial storage unit next to a precious minerals reduction plant and fields of mothballed planes. Vintage planes were a fitting background for a reunion of 3 sets of cousins, whose fathers, and in Randy's case, also mother, were pilots. In Nevada I paused to sit in Ash Warm Springs with young, entwined hispanic lovers; on return, soaked with a Korean Presbyterian pastor and friends (en route from CA to, yes, Boise). Car camped under full moons in spectacular, wide open basin and range country; each clear night, Venus hung large in the western sky. Home of raven and eagle. Near communities with Walmarts, aqua plastic bags snagged on spiney desert shrubs. Heading south was a welcome break from the pressure of house shopping. My jaw relaxed with long miles to sit back (straight back, nat) and ponder the games we all play!
As the (Mexican) got closer, I passed more and more roadside altars and crosses decorated with plastic flowers and momentos. Suddenly remembered Clarissa Pinkola Estes calling these resting places, descansos, symbols that mark a death. In Women Who Run with the Wolves she suggests looking at one's life and marking where the small deaths have taken place, remembering them, blessing them. She suggests there's a time--usually mid-life--when a woman decides whether to be bitter or not. Goosebumps when I think of that. She goes on, "There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don't follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest." Travel is always a time of "making descansos", to use Estes' term, particularly this trip back to some of my earliest family memories.
When cousin Pedro (we're same age, both oldest) and I finally met face to face, he saw for himself I'd truly be happy tenting by his trailer and quickly offered space. I chose to set up by his superb cactus garden. Later I saw photos of some of the blooms--"not often, but awesome". When wind threatened to snap my tent poles, then rain and snow came, first I moved into one of his travel trailers, then relocated into their own trailer home. As it grew colder, wife Dael began lighting the kitchen stove for warmth. I stayed in the cat's room (as if the whole trailer wasn't Leo's). Somehow the waning, still-very-full moon rose dead center through the small window (once one of Leo's favorite lookouts). My last afternoon in the trailer, Dael thoughtfully covered parrot Ollie's cage early when his call grew unbearably piercing the afternoon I collapsed early from exhaustion. The family passion for animals, domestic and wild, for the native desert, and for freedom is raw, deep and powerful. It's the common ground that underlays the extreme differences in this family blood. I was tickled by how Dael carefully wiped down Leo with a wet towel after he rolled in the dust. "Like licking; he likes it", Pedro reminded me. Of course!
The only girl of my generation on both sides of the family, I grew up with 3 brothers. Suddenly, after decades on my own, I met and was enfolded by the rest of the men on mom's side, large, beer-bellied Harley owners, relatives I'd never known as adults, plus mom's sister. Everyone was delighted and surprised when Aunt Mona Ray and Randy joined us from LA. Four hitherto unknown cousins reunited, an aunt, plus 5 nieces and nephews! Fit and trim, septuagenarian Mona Ray, looking 100x more like the yoga teacher than yours truly (leaning more towards big man profile), was the only familiar face. We almost needed name tags. Physical family resemblance eluded me. I saw only unfamiliar, hard, red, desert faces. Character resemblance, however, abounded as we chatted, in particular: Iron Will. And little quirks, like, fellow root beer haters!
Evenings we ate in Mexican restaurants at long tables, a dozen or more folks, up to 9 of which I was directly blood related to. Quite an event for someone not used to having even one relative within 1000 miles! Despite the history of tension among cousins, all three brought entire families to one memorable evening. We laughed and laughed and laughed. For at least 15 minutes we attempted group photos! I pulled one of those tacky whoops-outa-film tricks after getting everyone all set. A vehicle crazed family, Mona Ray was still under the hood of a ... uh ... I don't recall ... sports car to me ... when we pulled out of the parking lot in Pedro's old truck to head "home".
Mornings, over boxes of donuts (thanks to the trim LA team) around the kitchen table in the trailer, we tried to piece together 50, sometimes almost 100 years of family mystery. First, when had we last seen each other? Who can know! 195_? I brought along grandmother Mann's photo album (found in mom's boxes in Minneapolis last fall) from 1913 to the early 1920s to share! Mom's sister held the only possible clues to unlabeled photos from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Canada; party after party, and big, old homes in Kankakee and Gilman, IL!
On many of our minds turned out to be: what happened to the family fortune? The chest valued at a million dollars? The Mexican fortune? Proceeds from sale of large parcels of valuable Tucson acreage? What happened to estrange mom's generation, sister from sister, and now, their children, one from another? I heard tales of a Cinderella like step mother. Although clues were dropped, mystery reigned. Whatever happened, the fabled fortune, like missing photo albums, kachinas, squash blossom necklaces, paintings ... is history.
I was intrigued how the cousins were able to describe details of the grandparents home inch by inch. However, when I asked, whose room was painted black? everyone looked blank. It was my strongest childhood memory--a room painted black--yet no one else recalled! The cousins lived next door, and I only visited once, or twice, or...
Not in this family, bygones be bygones; little laying descansos to rest. There may never be reconciliation between my mom and her younger sister. I'll never know if mom really told her sister not to bother to come to their mother's funeral! Or, if she gave away antiques to gain fame! With mom's mind slipped, the real story is more or less moot. I studied the lessons of masters before me: let go or else. From time to time I whispered to whomever was handy, Love is always the answer. I like that, Pedro said, still acting as godfather for the boys whose mother died young.
Days were packed with family visits, including a tour of the grandparents former desert home now urban subdivision and the second, beautiful former parcel. "That's part of the original desert", Pedro pointed out definitively.
Next day, excursion to Benson to see youngest cousin, Spanish speaking wife and boys's ranchero (truck and dog collections) they call Sky Acres (after our grandparent's former home). More good conversation and Mexican fare enjoyed at the local cantina as "unseasonable" snow fell. Yah, sure.
Back at Sky Acres in the dark I attempted to photograph the family herd of Harleys, all started up for our audio "appreciation". I couldn't get over the surreal experience of this modern Hispanic- American family brewing and drinking Kombucha tea, a television in every room, one of which was surrounded, like an altar, with Ming and Blue willow china pieces! I was agog. Born again Catholic wife Jan says she lay down her tarot cards. Cards are in the Bible, I commented; she nodded in agreement. Unnecessarily, her spouse of many years warned, "Six days a week I raise hell [ed. we noticed]; on the 7th, I take communion into homes of the dying, often Hispanics. I've watched spirits leave bodies." As we drove home, there was fresh snow on the desert; the still full moon peaked out between snow flurries.
TV altar, Southwest style
Following family visits, I scouted for misc. friends. Jacquie and her Kirk showed me their home and took me through the western section of Saguaro National Monument. About this time I began acquiring legs full of spines--never could figure out just when and where! As of this writing, spines are still working out!
The phone number I found under the name of old Illini hiking friend Bob--not even a rumor of his whereabouts had reached me in almost 30 years--turned him up. Knowing he'd spent time in South American, I figured... could be in Tucson... as I dialed! After meeting his family at their neighborhood Mexican restaurant (by now I was perilously overstuffed), we returned to their home, where a virtually unchanged Bob entertained me with stories from the '60s I thought I'd forgot. Thanks to his seemingly impeccable memory, more bits and pieces began falling into place, like the night of the emergency room visit in Tucson. While the family computer displayed fantasia like images ("synched" w/ slight delay with a Grateful Dead radio show) Bob filled me in on where are they now, fates of old climbing buddies. I was hungry for this! "Why bother [looking up the past]", he chided repeatedly, as he unfolded story after story. Bob still eats nails! Drove home shaking my head, high on his uniquely optimistic, fearless spirit. I would have known him ANYWHERE! 30 years has changed Bob not one bit (though he prefers Robert now)! "Why didn't we celebrate the new millennium", he asked repeatedly. Why indeed!
Saturday I took myself out to San Xavier Mission for mass with a taste of history. The church was full; the priest, old fashioned, imperfect. (Curiously, he reminded me of old zen-ish friend Alberto who moved to Arizona!--to reincarnate?) Lights were snapped off before I was able to look around at the incredible walls of historic, religious art. My most vivid memory is of the offering being collected in what looked for all the world like butterfly nets!! Poles with nets on the end were reached down rows to receive... dirty money?...by men standing in aisles!
In order to see the 3rd cousin for more than a short hello at one group dinner, I phoned and asked if I might meet them at church (reported to be the center of their lives) the next morning. "We didn't know you went to church", they mumbled (to one of the most enthusiastic church attenders I know!) Joined them at 8:30am for second service at their Lutheran church! It was so identical to the mass I'd attended the evening before, I was stunned. Another blend out there I wasn't aware of. Music and talk were outstanding, but speaking of standing, I'm sure I stood up and sat down 14x, pretty challenging with my newly developed cold. Surviving was all I was interested in by then!
It was an exciting, exhausting week; I overdid it and my latent sore throat surfaced. After breakfast with the third cousin and family I went straight to bed, completely spent, in the trailer, collapsing under a portrait of Andrew Wyeth's famous model (erily resembling both Pedro's mother and wife). Couldn't help feeling like the image of St. Francis lying in state that I'd glimpsed at San Xavier the evening before, photos and momentos pinned all over him! Originally planned to attend a yoga workshop while I was in Tucson. Luckily it was sold out (tho I didn't think so!) Can't imagine how I could have fit it in! The trip was full and overflowing!
Heading north after the weekend with draining sinuses, I stopped early for R&R; to camp in the desert and truly appreciate the amazing country the desert fathers hadn't had time to show me; to slow down and assimilate this adventure; and to finally absorb some sun. Loud and clear: too much Doing, not enough Being. Yes, M'am. For one precious evening and morning, I halted. In my own time, I prowled along the dirt road and washes with binoculars, at last appreciating this new ecosystem-- definitely not the West I know. Phainopeplas, curve-billed thrashers and cactus wrens sang, new-to-me woodpeckers called from holes in arms of saguaros; and of course, marvelous cactus abounded. Colors were vintage Arizona Highways, complete with occasional orange hillsides of California poppies. Later I curled up to read yoga magazine. Articles on drumming and dancing riveted my attention; that night under stars I danced through dreams of Easy Rider/Godfather like images from the family I found.
In the morning after making tea and saluting the sun, I "put on" Gabriel Roth (music), pealed outer layers off, and danced my rare earth dance, sprinkled with yoga, in warm Arizona sun. Up and down the wash, I admired wildflowers, stones, and tough desert trees. This was bliss! When I stopped, and stood one legged in "tree" pose, I rooted, quite unlike my unstable indoors experience. Throughout I kept an eye on clouds building over spectacular jagged peaks in the distance. Mercifully I didn't know that morning was to be my last warm, wild, sunny morning. No more dancing my way back to Idaho as I dreamed I'd be doing! Nooo. By the end of the day I was deep in winter wonderland, left arm reaching out the window, snapping wiper blade like in good ole VW bug days.
As snow fell, I smiled at the yellow silk rose from Dael on the dash. Lo, how a rose 'er blooming; from tender stem hath sprung... It came a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter. What a trip! Glad I made this one. Thank You, Great Spirit!
Seasonal Soul Food
Portland to Bellingham
Hit the road west the Tuesday evening before Christmas, under cold, gray solstice skies. Stayed over at my favorite rest stop in Oregon, the one where, years ago, crossing the country one winter, in a severely overloaded Volkswagen of some model, I had a flat tire (one of several, as I recall). Attempting to change it, the tire iron flew up and bashed one side of my face. Turned the rest of the procedure over to a helpful trucker, perhaps with a better jack. Could be why I sport a dead tooth. How I love the rolling hills of Oregon!
Breakfast at McDonald’s in LaGrande, then over the Blues [mountains]. Although roads were nearly clear, there was enough gravel left to acquire several more bad clonks and chips. As days and nights went on, one chip sprouted a crack which grew inch by inch, foot by foot along the bottom of my "new" windshield. Weather became noticeably warmer as I followed the Columbia River downstream. The Dalles was festive; there's a real gingerbread looking house there, with turned under roof edges—eaves. Drive into Portland was clear; despite terrible roads the past few weeks, I hit a window. The meditation on light that I hurried over to join turned out to be about colored Christmas lights, not the turning of long nights into shorter, the importance of which was very much on this desperate soul's winter heart.
Luckily the following evening at Breitenbush, a righteous--haven't used that word in decades-- solstice ceremony was held. For 15 minutes we sat in the lodge in total darkness. I could have spent at least a half-hour—but it was a family event—doesn't take a psychologist to know how kids acted! Darkness ended when folks bearing candles came into the room from outside. “Way cool”. After a cheer for the light, symbolic robed persons, one in black, one in white, stood on either side of the massive lit fire place while we filed up and broke off pieces of bread from beautiful braided loaves. One to eat, one to toss into the fire. The old lodge was exquisitely beautiful, decorated with pine and holly boughs and tiny lights. Magic. And, there were winged fairies of various sizes and persuasions. Use your imagination.
Got in my share of soaking in hot pools. As morning circle leader Jamshed explained, most visitors do little but eat- soak- sleep their entire stay, often to find their lives powerfully shifted. Meeting this gray haired community member did me a world of good also. I'd been contemplating how different the energies of maturity and youth are. My rhythms are simply not those of younger generations. The cold I developed for the duration of the holidays was probably a combination of wandering around in the rain in damp clothes and damp hair as well as being unable to keep up with too many changes— temperatures, climates, consciousness…. West of the Cascades is a totally different world. Not only milder, moist with green vegetation, but green thinking (read environmental awareness). All my systems were in shock. Suddenly after months of being around homophobes in Boise, I was dancing ecstatically among men in attractive dresses and women of extraordinary unaffected naturalness and beauty. Watching both men and women move, fully in their bodies, members of an intentional community, interacting with acceptance and respect, was food for this soul.
Still, amidst this earth based spirituality, I looked forward to heading to civilization for a traditional Christian fix Christmas eve. Lingered in the harmony and sacredness of the forest Shangri La as long as possible, then drove down to Wilamette Valley sat through two of Mary's smashing services. Audrey and family found me for the second. I joined them and a fellow coughing neighbor in the back. Afraid I won the booby prize with a hugh, explosive sneeze during the silent meditation. Mea culpa! Sharon's “O Holy Night” was so fabulous I might have stayed for the late service if somehow Audrey’s husband hadn't made their invitation to spend the night so compelling I just nodded and followed them out, driving a new way home, per Mary's suggestion, guided by Audrey. Thank you!
So instead of heading towards Seattle Christmas Eve, in the spirit of the evening, I was taken in by hospitable near strangers. Even the cats were delightful! I was in awe of the gift of meeting such a loving, modern, techno family. More food for the soul.
As the sun peaked through valleys of fog the next morning, I headed north to old Bellingham. Yet another scrumptious ham feast with good company, good food. While videos rolled evenings, I continued to sleep off my cold. The image I may remember longest, however, is Carl offering me the family mouse catching box, when the pantry mouse appeared! Relating as I do to felines, perhaps I too should be able to catch mice by hand! Katy and Carl said they do! I was not impressed that furry "mousers" Riley and Rachel watched the mouse with disinterest.
Visited premier storyteller Barbara Smith. She says she is writing up some of her 80 some years of stories in Spanish, for her Spanish class! She and neighbor Anne chortled like kids as they dredged up a series of old British jokes only they could appreciate. It was almost like that old scene where the mere mention of a joke by number is enough to trigger hilarity. Can't even remember the character that set them off! This visit Barb relayed her childhood story of the shocking theft of the Winnipeg zoo beaver and search for the culprit, a milestone in the lives of a generation of children. Always in search of keys to my mentor's zest for life and compassion, I gained insight when she told how her own Scottish mother practically pushed her out of the home nest to greener fields, as a reaction to her own disillusion at having traded the exciting world of Edinburgh, Scotland, for marriage on the dull plains of Canada. Barb is an unsurpassed raconteur. My own hospice stories, I learned, had to wait for willing ears in Seattle.
Why is it that west of the Cascades I have 100x more in common with nearly anyone on the street than back home! At Safeway in Anacortes, an express delivery fellow recognized my Latah County plates. I said Moscow and Boise. He nodded, "Me too." Within minutes we discovered the parallel tracks of our lives--from Illinois to the Northwest corner--and I'd met a fellow soul who understood the worlds I'd traveled and live in.
Our stories tumbled out directly. When I said Jacksonville, he said Springfield, and his eyes widened. Earlier in the week he'd called a friend in a state home back in my old home town! I was stunned. Not only was he familiar with Jacksonville, Illinois, and "IC" (Illinois College) but he cared enough to keep in touch with a friend struggling with schizophrenia, who quite possibly worked with one of my old classmates! I learned Dan (by now we'd made introductions) and his now wife both worked at scout camps in neighboring Springfield (where I endured years and years of orthodontist adjustments with Dr. Singler, also my father's childhood orthodontist!) A generation before Dan and his wife, my mother had spent what I suspect were the happiest years of her life, following college, Girl Scouting in Springfield. Last year I learned my father's twin is under 24 hr home care back in Springfield. The aid who answered my phone call mentioned she had a scout troop! Oh, the familiarity of Midwest values!
My life spun before me, as I shared bits of the past triggered by this stranger. He shared the old fashioned values that clearly gave him unusual balance and purpose. Stunned at the presence, ease and intuitiveness, with which this stranger stood, unhurried, relating to me in a parking lot, I searched for why this man was so different. Finally I blurted out something like, Where did you get your compassion and people skills!! Just when I started to believe the techno-world is the only way to survive, I met a stranger who walked his talk: lived his training as a theater major and clown for many years. "Clowning is the best thing I ever did, along with my girls", he commented. Clearly his heart was as big as grand as his very tall presence. "Call while you're in Seattle", he said! A few minutes later, with perfect timing, I got back in the toyota with my Chinese lunch and he climbed into his van, with his bakery bag. We waved as we pulled off in opposite directions! I smiled, grateful for another soul restoring meeting.
The lull between Christmas and New Year's turned out to be a good time to visit Seattle. This year folks were home with moments to spare. One night Marli lit the famous candles on her live tree. Over cups of tea I exchanged hospice stories with Grace, Marcy and Marli. Heard about Dikka's vision for a community center and unexpectedly met Janet in the Whole Foods Deli! More conversation from the heart plus inspiring church services fully recharging my depleted social and spiritual batteries.
Having lingered among the like-minded as long as possible, finally I headed home! Still recalling the unpleasant night encounter with police one winter, as well as the challenge of snow east of Snoqualamie Pass, I opted to retrace my steps, down to Portland and along the Columbia River. Hadn't intended to spend New Year's Eve on the road--somehow thought I'd already be back in Boise. Once I got past Portland, no one hung impatiently on my bumper nor did rap music drown out my choice. No one was on the road! At a pull off, I fell asleep, dreaming of the splendors of the Bellingham "train wreck" store Carl had turned me on to, visions of bins of teas and exotic sauces at bargain prices, danced in my head! Turned out Oregon state police are much nicer than Washington's. In the morning a pleasant trooper awoke me with "8 am; you need to move from DOT land". "Time to get up!" I replied groggily. With a "Happy New Year" he drove off, not waiting for me to dress and move the car like the WA chap had!! I love Oregon! When it's not dark, I'll learn better places to spent a night--had no idea where I was.
Heading east, after Pendleton, drove up, out of the valley fog, onto the Blue Mountains. Dazed, I watched silver balls dance through my vision, before bursting into sunlight. Ever since Portland I was deep into listening to Jane Goodall's Reason for Hope. Turned out to be a perfect blend of science and religion, something I've long looked for. Despite her fame, I'd known nothing of amazing life. She's got me thinking tofu seriously. Miles flew agreeably.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
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