On the Road - Montana, Oregon, California, Arizona, & New Mexico Sept 13 – Oct 16 2010 John Calvi
Friday 9/10 Preparations Towards the West
In a few days, I will leave Putney, VT to drive across country to host the 4th Quaker Initiative to End Torture- QUIT at Quaker Center in Ben Lomond, CA September 24-26. I would very much appreciate it if you could during this time hold this effort in the Light and keep this important work in your prayers. It is our hope to begin turning a tide and in time, with much good work, save some lives. Thank you for your every peaceful moment of keeping us in mindful reverence. In gratitude, John Founding convener, QUIT
Sunday 9/12 Packing It All
I’ve been wearing too small underwear for a week and socks that don’t match and shirts with wingspan lapels. Why? Because- I’m going away for a month and have to save all my good clothes for traveling. I got the car checked out. 17” tires cost a lot more then 16” tires. Would never have guessed that extra inch cost so much. And two trips to the Laundromat. And now I’ve chosen favorite luggage, bedding, and cleared my desks of all the traveling parts, and the trunk hasn’t the room for an ant to pee. None. A computer bag, an office bag, a box of handouts, a bedding duffle, 4 suitcases each with 5 days worth of clothes, a shoe bag full of sneakers, a nice clean waste basket full of toiletries, a box of snacks, a lovely leather bag with journal & water colors & stationary & favorite pens & - it just goes on and on. This morning while packing clothes I was doing OK right through t-shirts, sox, underwear, robes, bathing suits, belts, and shoes. Tidy, well chosen, my best, such as it is. But when I got to pants and shirts cracks in my systems broke down for true. I had laid the various suitcases out in the bedroom and was stacking clothes there in piles of 5 days each. The shirts began to confuse me right away. Looking at the suit cases I say to myself- you only need a few in each suit case, a few long sleeve for evenings and a few short sleeve as it’s still warm everywhere you are going. But I’ll probably see snow in Bozeman. Fine. But then I walk across the balcony to the closet and I’m suddenly sure I need to bring my favorite shirts to look my best. So I begin to sort out my shirts by type. Why do I have 25 white shirts? Well, because I don’t like much to choose what I’m going to wear every day at home. So, years ago I adopted a “uniform”- jeans and a white shirt. I get up, I put them on, I don’t have to think about it- simple, tasteful, think 4-H/GAY, a Neanderthal fashion rut. Every time I see a white shirt on sale, it’s mine. Then of course I want to wear my blue shirts cause they bring out my eyes and when you have NO eyebrows because you took after your eyebrow-less mother, anything that sets off the eyes is very good. Besides, I love blue. So, OK the best blue shirts have to come too- the two dress button downs, that fabulous navy silk one. And then of course since I’m going to be in some very warm places I’ll need to bring the linen shirts too- that fabulous blue one, the 5 white short sleeve ones, the 2 or 3 long sleeve ones. And that’s how it went until the suitcases looked like stuffed pigs leaking sleeves and cuffs. I did put a few things back. But then I decided that instead of wearing schlock to drive in and save the good stuff for when I’m teaching, I just had to look like a gentleman while driving. Suddenly white shirts were put into position along with those wonderful silk/linen pants and the stylish Puma sneaks. Yes, I would look the part of a gentleman, a big old queen gentleman with a big black leather purse overstuffed with sunglasses and hankies and cell phone and maps. Marshall watches this like an anthropologist observing a new tribe- what might they be called? Marilynwannabes? Bigolqueensilk&linens? Can’tdecidetakeitalls? I’ve seen Marshall pack for 2 weeks work in Europe in 20 minutes, using one bag, and looking fabulous the whole time, natch. I will schlep enough suitcases for an airliner, wear 1/5 the stuff, and look nearly passable.
How has this happened that I’m going away for just over a month to work in 5 states and driving at least 8,000 miles? Usually I get an invitation to teach and travel for a weekend or a week and then come home. And I often make 20 or more trips a year this way. This was different. First there’s the QUIT conference in Ben Lomond, California. And when I’m out west I like to work at Dragonfly Transitions in Oregon and they are happy to have me whenever I happen to be in the neighborhood. And Marshall was going to have a week vacation at the end of the QUIT conference. Could he join me in California and we go south to see his folks? But that would mean renting a car and buying airline tickets and all this would cost so much, too much. Could I get work on the way going west and coming back east? Yes, 4 Quaker meetings- Missoula, Tucson, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque were very welcoming, way opened.
Monday 9/13 A Visit to Began the Journey
It was difficult to leave Marshall this morning in Putney, sad. A long hug and kiss good-bye only made me want to stay home more. But we both had full days and weeks ahead, cooking hot on the front burner, so off we went, he to his college and me to the interstate. I went over 400 miles today and the last person I saw driving the speed limit was Marshall.
Late in the afternoon the inter-net map failed to direct me to a retirement home where an old friend now resides. I wandered several towns in the area, having to back track some, stop and ask directions twice, and finally arrived hours late. She is a grand dame in the best sense- scholar, teacher, philanthropist, and pushy old Quaker lady. She had been a great mentor to me. Her recollections of her debut into society are of a time far past.
I was uneasy in making this visit, as I had not seen her since her mind began to leave. It was going to be difficult to see a razor sharp mind and energetic peace worker let out to pasture earlier than others due to mental and physical health. What would my old friend be like when not herself anymore? Would she remember me and us being friends for nearly 40 years?
Partly it was a delight and joy to be with her again- the smart naughty rebel from high society of decades past- still loved a good story, still remembered much of the past, still eager to know what is shaking the world from the bottom up. Her own court case almost made it to the US Supreme Court, but for the lawyer who choose the wrong defense, as she told him beforehand.
But the visit was also sad. Here she was hobbled, no short-term memory, easily tired and lacking intellectual vigor, and in one single room with a half dozen antiques. Her many rooms house gone now. Her charge into justice and peace work halted. Her finances, at one time lush, are now taken up with doctors and medicines and aides in an old people’s rent- a come down for true. And while she puts on a brave face and says how grateful she is for this and that, it’s clear that she is feeling somewhat demeaned by how life is turning out. She is well enough to feel how the diminishment has been sudden and without choice, though done as gracefully as possible. I tell her the best stories I can think of to make her laugh. She remembers more than I expected though she also covers well, pretending to remember sometimes.
The visit is a mix. I love seeing her again and what is still vital. It’s also sad, because she did not want a dotage. She wanted to work and struggle and help until it was over. Now she spends a lot of time sitting by the window.
Back in the car for another couple of hours going west. I sup in a bar with a sports network blaring and the guys at the bar doing regular guy talk. It reminded me of the years growing up with my father and older brothers and how utterly boring straight white boys can be when there is only talk of cars and football- yawn, yawn. I learned from two uncles that there was such a thing as a life of the mind where one wondered and sought to know more and understand how things are connected. My mentors have been seekers with great intellect who worked to untie the knots of pain and confusion in the world in various ways- strong minds, large compassion, disciplined and graceful- that has been a great gift, Light showing a way.
Thursday 9 September The Best Case
I suppose it began with the daydreams of running away. I dreamed about what I’d take with me, some sparse collection of things I could carry, and what would I put them in. That’s when containers first interested me- the sack, the suitcase, the large basket, the leather bag. When I left home at 18, I had an old wicker basket my grandmother had repaired with a piece of clothesline. And that was it. Soon, as I traipsed about from rent to rent while working in the bowels of Yale University’s Science Hill, I had a backpack and a very large basket that carried all my clothes- even when I lived in that first VW bus.
Then old suitcases began to show up, mostly Samsonite. One would appear and felt as though it would speak to me of a trip I was about to take, though I didn’t know it. I had about 20 of them and a traveling work before I gave most of them up to an AIDS auction.
It was maybe a decade later that my real addiction began to show- leather bags. It was a yard sale in Boulder, Co. A woman was selling a small leather backpack that was made of beautiful supple brown leather. I loved the feel of it and how it collapsed when empty and was so beautiful when full. Now I have a dozen leather bags and my favorite kind of trip is where I can pack all of them and load the car with them.
This makes no sense, least of all to me. I can’t even imagine what could have happened in a former life to make packing into beautiful leather bags such an extreme delight. It’s somehow akin to playing with Barbie dolls or trucks in the sand box for that matter- some object is infused by it’s possessor with a projection making it important beyond measure and thereby giving great joy. I do something similar with Joni Mitchell music, antique cars, and fine writing paper.
And now I am about to drive away for a month, enjoy several climates, and will need to dress for both work and play and heat and cold. Eh, viola- numerous leather bags are necessary. Today I packed 3 leather shave kits to go into 3 leather suitcases- all second hand found in numerous thrift shops across the land. I’ll probably use the small brown garment bag- good for a few shirts and pants, and the large black garment bag- good for a week of clothes with room for shoes and towels. Plus one more so that I can pack 3 bags for 5 days of clothes- I’ll probably use that oversized doctor’s bag- tan with long loop handles. Then a shoe bag- the big red tote with snaps that will hold more shoes than I own and a bag for jackets- sport coat, silk bomber, denim jacket and another to hold linens and pillows and blankets. There’s that great oversized black brief case for the laptop and other electricals. Other itinerant teachers/preachers worry about what they’ll say. What I’ve been given to teach is more certain in me than my bones. And so I am left wondering if I choose the best cases for this trip.
Tuesday 9/14 Best Parts
A favorite part of driving cross-country is the large open space where one's mind can wander. One is away from all routine and schedule. I love to have some time with no music, all the windows open, and just allow thoughts to blow through. I began preparing a plenary speech this morning as I drove through the Alleghany Mountains. The views of open wide valleys and long ridges were beautiful. And soon the landscape opens up to the wide beautiful farmland of Ohio. Saw several Amish carriages this day- it made me drive slower and wonder about life at such a pace as a horse and wagon. I wondered about old friends whereabouts unknown and how some news on neurology might be part of my understanding of torture, particularly sexual abuse. I saw many barns over the last 800 miles and find I like the old stone barns best. But if I ever build a dream house, it will be a wooden barn, grand and simple.
Hosted in Ohio this night by a friend who gives excellent hospitality- this is a gift that is so special on the road. She's made a small cottage house into a whirl of color and beautiful spaces and full gardens and a kitchen bursting with wonderful foods for catering and friends. And the rescue animals feel safe and loved here, as do I. She's made a life and a home that has all the parts and pieces that causes admiration and delight- a good balance of community, giving/receiving, and well connected/well used. No one would ever know the college chaplain used to be a Harvard professor of the history of science.
Tomorrow 9 hours on the road, more beautiful farmland, avoiding Chicago, and on to Madison. And a visit to 2 men I've never met but have been in touch with for almost 30 years via the Beethoven letter. My car goes too fast sometimes- 90 feels like 60, this is not good. Must learn restraint- at least until I get to bigger states.
Wed 9/15 An Adventure in Madison WI
A hundred years ago in 1981, I decided to leave being a Montessori teacher of young children after 10 years and go to massage school. I put a notice in the gay Quaker newsletter saying I’d appreciate any help. And lo, out of the mid-west came 4 bottles of massage oil from a gay couple. They had begun a business of soaps and lotions and oils and were very kind to me. There was some correspondence over the 30 years but we’d never met or spoken. Now I’d written asking to sleep on their couch as I rocketed through to work in Missoula. More perfect hosts were never known. They met in 1969 and have been partners in romance and business since. They are kind and sweet and fun. They feel like old friends very soon. They make me very welcome and give me a house tour after some visiting on the kitchen terrace overlooking treetops and the city. From the outside, the house looks like a very modern brownstone, a city house mostly vertical. Inside, the core is a stairway that continually brings you to new spaces on new levels. I lose count of the rooms, but it’s one of those houses that is so beautiful that you hear a voice in your head saying- I don’t care what they say, I’m not leaving. The care and attention to detail is beyond what I’ve ever known. I’ll just say that the built-in desk in the guest room is made of onyx- yes child, pure black quartz polished like a mirror. And for one accustomed to peeing outdoors, the guest bathroom with marble sink and granite shower made a lasting impression. Does one visit again with adoption papers in hand?
Friday 9/17 Beauty and the Beast
The Great Plains running across southern Minnesota and through South Dakota are beautiful. I can imagine Black Elk and a large group of Sioux moving along the horizon or great herds of buffalo. The land is so large and seems to go on forever off into the horizon. It is at once intriguing and overwhelming to me. Like the ocean without land, I want to see it and know it but with some sort of tether connecting me to something familiar. It would help to be 20 feet tall or to be able to fly. There is so much to take in and it calls one to go off the main roads and into new places. The scale makes me feel small, very small. It’s a good humbling. In some ways I feel like some gawking Yankee from the tiny, cozy Northeast lost in the spaciousness. The hours of driving pile up into half days and long evenings. The spaces are so much bigger here and the possible stops are few and far between. Doing 90 mph in South Dakota and in the slow lane.
The check engine light came on about 10 PM in the tiniest of towns with another 100 miles to Rapid City South Dakota. Made it fine. Maybe the light is nothing. Closest Saab dealer in Billings MT is 5 hrs away. Car runs fine. Need to get to Missoula by Saturday noon- on I-90 west for Billings, then friends in Bozeman, then Missoula. Car runs fine. How strong is Quaker Light around engine stuff? Pretending not to be anxious.
Sunday 9/19 Mountains, Snow, and Warm Welcome
What are the odds that one can be 2,000 miles in to an 8,000 mile trip, have a serious car repair needed, still able to drive the car before the repair, that the only Saab dealer in 3 states was on the way to my next stop, that they would have the part I needed and the time in their schedule to make the repair, AND I lost no time in my schedule of making 21 stops to teach in 5 states in 33 days? What are the odds? I think maybe a gazillion to one. But that's what happened. Car’s fixed, I'm on schedule, credit card is in shock, and I'm back on the road.
When one is going up a mountain pass and the temperatures suddenly drop and one wonders if the mist is going to be snow and ice at the top- this is a great time to reach into one's big old queen purse and pull out a Liz Chocolate Chip cookie!
A quick overnight in Bozeman where it began to snow as I entered the home of Marshall’s dear childhood friend. She and her husband have made a detailed and scholarly study of the geology, plants, and animals of Yellowstone National Park. They know tons of things about the history going back thousands of years and various stories about people as the land moved from exotic wilderness to a much visited site of awe. They are a delight to be with. I am made very welcome and my bedroom views a range of mountains that are just gathering snow. Yes, they say, I might run into more snow on the top of the “hill” on my way to Missoula- top of the “hill” indeed. In Vermont this would be our highest summit. I try not to take the snow as an insulting form of personal rudeness, but it is only the 3rd week of September for goodness sakes.
I’m now in Missoula and hosted in the most wonderful fashion with a lovely dinner and a great group from Missoula Meeting for 2 workshops + a QUIT Update this afternoon and evening. My host is a newish friend who has always felt like an old friend. Her home is very homey and I’d like to stay longer. So good to be in Missoula again. The welcome here is very warm. Coming from far away as a guest is treated as very special. When I attended North Pacific Yearly Meeting here last year, the setting of the town between peaks with several rivers washing down slopes and valleys seemed a perfect place to settle in from the open Great Plains. I can envision living here easily. And all the good people make it more so.
Missoula Meeting has a small former church in a sweet neighborhood of little ranch houses. The meeting room is almost square with 3 or 4 rows of benches facing in from each wall. The sense of good people meeting reverently is clear in this room with a high ceiling. Friends in the large western states, especially those states of low population, have a more reverent sense of the value each Friend- unlike very crowded brotherly cities where you can't throw a brick without hitting some mainliner. Yearly meetings in the large sparse states can feel more small town than other yearly meetings and this can make for a more intimate personal setting in seeking the way forward. In some ways it's similar with FLGBTQC in that we don't get to have meeting with "our own kind" in a large group until summer gathering or mid-winter. When Gypsy encampments were broken up by locals, the wagons were lead to crossroads and directed to go in multiple directions so as to break up the concentration. They always knew they'd meet later on down the road. But they also knew how precious time together was. There is something in the nature of small groups scattered that reminds us how sparse and fragile life is and how good to be together when we can.
Yes, took some pics with my iPhone but don't know where they disappear to. The phone is new and I haven’t had time to see how it works. I wish I were taking more pics of the wonderful people I meet along the way. Idaho tomorrow.
There's been a study in high contrast for me this trip. Certainly in the landscape as I've gone from Vermont to Oregon in a week. But there was also a deep contrasting chasm between two generations of gay men, which was striking and disturbing.
I stayed with 2 gay men in their 60's who met and fell in love 41 years ago. Their love is obvious and their partnership in all things has been a blessing for their professional lives, their community, and all manner of charitable good.
Days later I stayed with friends including a gay man in his 80's. He is in the closet and has had a lifetime of deception. While it may have been obvious to any gay man carefully watching, his family was shocked when he was caught him soliciting sex from a cop in a public restroom last year. There was little mercy for him among friends and family, no understanding that his generation and life among church people in the mid-west made secrecy a necessity and loneliness his constant burden. He married late in life to a woman heart broken and disappointed by losing first a daughter and then a near perfect husband in the prime of his life. She is embittered and carries this with arthritis deforming her hands and feet- a hardening of the emotions, inflexible and a hardening of the joints, inflexible, not an uncommon pairing. He is more bowed and carries his shame like a full load of bricks on his back. But nothing is said as they are mid-west Protestants of a reserve close to their British forebears.
I felt uncomfortable with him. On the one hand I had worked behind the scenes to push for understanding of his condition when news broke. But now seeing him a year after his court time and his attempt to be overly friendly and enthusiastic at my arrival, mostly I am aware and put off the oozing loneliness that pervades wherever his is.
I felt this loneliness too with the uncle I was named after. And as young man after I had some gay community and understood his plight, I made sure to always give him a big hug upon greeting and leaving. But initially his loneliness scared me. And here I was again, put off by the vast loneliness of a guy caught in a mostly boring life of nothing much and his biggest life headline was an arrest and subsequent shame that his secret was no longer secret.
The mercy I had for him was used in his absence with family and friends to help lessen the impact initially. But now face to face months later, I could only be cordial in shared conversation. I am accustomed to pain in others. But this combination of loneliness and shame was disturbing. And I had only a brief chance to see it and then be off. The task of healing such would be exciting work to do together but there is not time and no sense of willingness or possibility- witnessing a car accident and then no first aid sought or offered, ie hell. Blessings on the many generations of silent people who couldn't tell about their love, their rape, their longing, their lost child, their broken heart because the culture is silent on the topic. Maybe I can now give up the idea that I talk too much about anything as I am making up for all these others who never got to say who they are and how they felt. I will continue my personal opera to say quite loudly who I am and how it feels and take the consequences as ribbons offered from a species still learning how to live after all this time. By the way there is no direct route from Missoula MT to Klamath Falls OR but the scenery is gorgeous!
Monday 9/20 Best Travel Day
It was a perfect day completely all day today. First- my favorite playlist of personal favorites of Joni Mitchell was restored this morning to my iPod so my favorite traveling music was available. And it was a gorgeous day. And I only had to drive 250 miles. And the young man pumping gas into my car was handsome and was longing for a trip like mine to go far away. And I drove through desert and then abundant farm fields in south central Oregon. And the sky, sun, and clouds were beautiful and lush all day. And the landscape was extreme and beautiful and kept changing. And I had the best Bacon Cheese Burger at the Burger Queen in Lake something Oregon. And am now happily ensconced in my favorite cousins home here to work at his treatment center for young adults- Dragonfly Transitions. Tonight he told me I was one of 3 adults who mattered most in his growing up life- so good to have that love returned. His were the first diapers I ever changed. And now he and his wife have built a center that succeeds in saving lives of young people who are in last ditch efforts. It’s great to be of use here. Next weekend is the QUIT conference that I've been planning with others for the past year- finally the time has come! I love talking shop with this cousin- how might so and so be helped? My hands are already getting warm. Yes, it's very dangerous to drive and take photos of the landscape when one is driving near cliffs and scaring yourself and everyone in cars around you, very dangerous. I got some good shots.
Two days at a treatment center for young adults with addictions and other mental health issues and I got my hands on 15 people and taught anti-burnout work to a dozen staff. So good to visit a place over the years and watch it grow and the great welcome and anticipation of good things coming help the work to go smoothly. Mostly the young people needed deep relaxation, a break in the patterns of anxieties and depression. Energy work is surprisingly good at this. Hands-on work with staff was also very good. I love working with therapists. They carry a difficult witness, knowing so much intimacy, so many secrets shared. They need a special space to rest and feel only themselves and lay down the intake. Although the details and particulars are different with each person, in general, everyone has pain of some sort and everyone is in need of some extra help once they slow down enough to have some stillness and get more honest when there is a good possibility of relief in sight. Once relief is felt then some hope may be restored that more relief can be had, learned, stocked up for getting down the road. I am looking for everyone to have a good ride, a better ride- since we are going on the ride anyway, we might as well make it a good ride. Our lives are the masterpieces of all our efforts. And more Light makes for better rides. I'm so happy to be a big old queen with this life work- much work & much Light, what more might a Quaker want?
Now in California heading south to fetch Scilla Wahrhaftig of Pittsburgh, PA AFSC & Chuck Fager of Quaker House in Fayetteville, NC as the work horses of the steering committee of QUIT - The Quaker Initiative to End Torture from the airport Thursday afternoon and go on to Quaker Center in Ben Lomond, CA. After a year of planning, we come together for the 4th QUIT conference.
Sunday 9/26 The 4th QUIT Conference at Quaker Center in Ben Lomond CA
Thank you for all your notes and for holding the QUIT conference in the Light. The conference was excellent! All 4 presenters outdid themselves in presenting current information from their fields. Terry Kupers, author of Prison Madness, gave us clear information about how the use of torture in American prisons results in deformed people unable to live as whole humans. Fr Roy Bourgeois explained the history of the School of the Americas and the torture training for more than 60,000 Latin American military and police that continues. Scott Horton, lawyer and Harper's magazine writer of the No Comment column, explained the legal context in which Obama not only continues Bush policies but in some instances makes things worse regarding torture. And Hector Aristizabal, Columbian torture survivor and therapist, showed us how movement and play can help us integrate all the information and subsequent emotions after learning so much about torture. California has good and active groups working against torture and we heard of several actions taken in recent years- everything from clown protests to legislation. Friends from Durham, North Carolina and Bosie, Idaho and Eugene, Oregon along with mostly Californians attended, plus several non-Quakers joined us.
Tuesday 9/28 Rest and Restoration
Marshall was able to schedule a vacation to coincide with the QUIT conference and the week following. He brought 2 cameras and shot all the presentations at the conference- much patience and work. We left Ben Lomond for 2 days at the beach. I am quite tired from the travel and work and the QUIT conference is the culmination of hundreds of hours put in over the last 12 months largely by 3 people with me pushing all along the way. Now to be with Marshall and suddenly without schedule nor public demands is a delight with the Pacific surf pounding in our ears during long walks along the beach and all night long. Long beach walks are really my idea of heaven. Some year I must live at least part of the year where I can take these walks each day. To rest in his arms listening to the surf is a luxury beyond all I ever hoped for and for the level of output I’ve been doing, it’s the balance I need to restore and go on. Elephant seals crowded one beach like a parking lot of fat buses. The beach where we stayed had a continually rolling surf whose sound came in our room day and night like a comfort and cleansing at the same time. We had some long walks along this beach and studied the houses there to see how more and more light could be let in and might it be possible that each room have a beach view. Day dreaming about houses on grand sites is a favorite old pass time of mine. We napped a bit and went slowly. We were both restored with this time in a little quiet beach town to go slowly. Along with being luxury, this is also spiritual discipline because it means I can now do more, lots more.
Friday 10/1 A Short Visit in a Nice Town
John Pixley has a sweet little home in one corner of Claremont, California not far from the Friends Meeting House. Claremont is one of these ideal Southern California towns set up by Ivy League alums from the Northeast with streets like Yale and Harvard. It's beautiful, well governed, and has 5 colleges right smack in the center of town, plus a famous theology school. Two large retirement homes are full of clergy who are still very busy shaking up the world towards justice.
I got to visit John briefly the other day, maybe too briefly. John showed me his new talking machine. It looks to be a life-changing tool creating a better bridge between he and others. It seems almost magical that the tiny bit of silver on the bridge of his glasses directs a cursor on a computer screen to choose words or phrases. He now composes sentences and paragraphs with the careful movement of his head rather than needing to use his entire body towards the effort of clicking one letter at a time on a keyboard. I am only half way good at understanding his speech and when we struck an impasse John seemed to go still, almost trance like, but I soon realized that he was not in prayer for increasing the size of my brain but rather focusing on getting the word or phrase spoken by his Dynavox. It was a treat and made me feel giddy to see this liberation of his "voice", of his mind. It's a delight to be so happy for another's sudden freedom.
Friday 10/1 Going East into the Southwest
Now we've had a few days with Marshall’s folks in southern California and about to leave for Arizona. M will fly home and I will continue on to teach in Tucson, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. Email has been spotty here- mostly we have to go over to M's sister's house. And we took his dad out to see if his failing eyesight might like to use an E-reader as books and newspapers no longer work well. After several stores and machines, he tried an i-Pad from Apple, which is far and away the best tool for him. As his technology experience is no more than a flashlight, this is not an easy transition. Marshall did a great job of making it all less foreign.
After a few stores I got bored and wandered around. M's 16 year old nephew wandered with me. He is taller than me and built like a large refrigerator. We had a bit of fun when a salesman tried to sell us a Flip camera. I said this was my grandson- well, says the salesman if he does sports this camera would be great to make movies of his team. Well, does it work inside because he'll be doing a ballet concert of dances next weekend. The salesman's surprise, the absurdity of this dumptruck-sized full back in tights, and our bursts of laughter brought the game to a sudden end, but all were laughing. I reminded this nephew that he has to learn to lie better so he and Aunt John can have more fun out in the world. Responsibility for young people is a serious work and I'm so glad others are doing it.
There is something about large long trips that suits me. After the maps have been surveyed for routes and the packing of best things and the vehicle checked and washed and readied, the open road that goes out and a way engages me in ways I can't explain. Maybe some past life of wandering or being held captive makes for this excitement in me now. I'm about to pack up after a few days stay and go to the next stop- there are 21 stops in this 33-day trip. At least that's the plan- all plans should be in pencil, of course. The universe is very busy and can't always accommodate one's best schedule no matter how large the tantrum thrown.
Driving cross-country lets me see how really big the land is and how much it changes. Coming across the Great Plains I recall the memories of this land in Black Elk Speaks. In the Northwest the thick forests remind me of stories of all the great ships and barns built from trees larger than Europeans thought existed. The shapes of the land, the changes in the air and light, and how much land there is without human structures and how the open land runs on to the horizon free of our infection of civilization.
And richest parts of the trip are the encounters with people. Old friends, new strangers, co-workers and collaborators, and the waitress at the diner telling the busboy that his hangover is the result of dumbness and not studly are all a great show of humanity. In some ways, each day is so rich with people that it's almost like eating too much. One needs to give the belly a day of rest, of fasting. But the next day has many of it's own people and there is no off switch. The loss is mainly that I have no time to ponder or roll about in my affection for so and so before a whole new batch of lives comes into focus and contact. It's a richness I can live with. But part of me yearns like a painter to halt the loss of sunlight towards the end of day so that I might catch the light just right before it fades.
I have always loved my cars beyond my understanding. I had the same feeling of my first bicycle. Cleaned it, oiled and tightened the chain, adjusted the seat and handle bars. And road the poor thing more hours and days than metal and rubber could bear. All with huge delight and wanting to go farther all the time. Maybe it's the way Roy Rogers loved Trigger. Trigger came when called, broke Roy out of jail, spent more time with him than Dale- maybe I shouldn't go into that, and was an all round a good friend mostly taking him away and back home over and over.
Each of my cars has felt like more than a purchased machine. More like a co-conspirator making plans for some adventure, stepping out and away from the restrictions of civilized society, over busy schedules, and against staying in one place. Is all my Attention Deficit Disorder mere Gypsy longing to never be stuck in one place? And that makes the car the antidote, the medicine and relief? And what others thought of as mere squirreliness actually needed wandering a whole continent for calm?
3 VW buses, 3 Saabs, and an heroic stint by a VW Rabbit has had me on the road since I left home at 18. Oddly, I have gotten to beautiful places and even made a home in a small paradise but the draw to go is no less after 40 years of packing and going. I can't explain the affection I have for my car. I love that it runs so well, that's it beautiful, that it's safe, and that it takes me so far so comfortably. One loves a tool of ones work and life. But really, this is true love.
Sunday 10/2 Various and Misc.
Marshall's niece is in college. We go AZ and take her out to sup. The waiter is young, very cute, and friendly. I ask her opinion. Yes, he's cute but she's thinking more about her degree. A young Marine broke her heart last year and she now prefers control and practical realistic possibilities over flinging herself into adventure. She is tall and beautiful and smart and strong. A good man to match her will not be easy to come by. She'll be an architect in a few years and is a very interesting person with wonderful creative powers and a family devoid of pathologies- such a deal.
After sup we went to Frank Lloyd Wright's Biltmore Hotel to view the beautiful building and have a drink at the bar. It is a stunning work of art and feels gracious just to walk inside. We stroll a bit trying not to look too much like tourists. A drink at the bar is a lovely way to view details and relax after a long trip across the deserts. The barmaid asks if we are traveling and before I can stop myself I explain that we 3 are on our way to LA to buy an old family circus- lots of clowns and acrobats, no animals since that is too much trouble- bales of hay, de-clawing the tigers, etc. Marshall & niece laugh on the inside but hold the straight faces of conspirators. I filled in content much too easily. There's no excuse for this behavior really. I can tell a good story but I am not a good liar, too worried about being caught to be good at it. I'd like to claim I'm moral but really lousy liars should just stick to telling exaggerated stories and leave deceit to used car salesmen and politicians.
Marshall flew home this morning. I love traveling with him. He's so good at spontaneous. I traveled alone for 10 days. Then we had a week together. Now I'll see him near the end of October, our travels crisscrossing. It's always a bit sad to separate. I teach in 3 more cities on this trip and then head east. I will make stops to visit more dear old friends and this is always wonderful. I'm 4,000 miles into this trip and more people than I can recall easily- things begin to blur in my wee mind. Marshall will work in Korea next and then I’ll see him at home for a day before he work on the west coast for 3 weeks. We’ll be done with travel by Thanksgiving.
Sunday 10/3 The Very Big Desert
Pima Meeting in Tucson AZ has a lovely meeting house, an old brick house that is a bit grand, faces a park, and holds a wonderful meeting doing good works in the world. The people are friendly and I'm always surprised to see old friends transplanted to new places I wasn't expecting. And then there's the wonderful experience that I come into a large group of mostly strangers and leave a few days later knowing many names and recognizing all the faces of new friends I've come to know via teaching and touching.
Tucson in early October seems to cool down at night into the mid-80's and still heats up to high 90's and more in the day. My first afternoon there temps went from 106 to 86 today during the rainstorm. This Vermont child is melting and sweating like a pig while the natives don't even notice the 106 temps. They talk about winter gardens planted in January and how silly it is to plant in June as the new plants can't take the heat. They say the river runs sometimes after a rain and waterfalls are unheard of in these parts.
Mostly it feels foreign but in a way that intrigues me and makes me want to see more and go further into the desert to feel the miracles of growth and life that seem to come out of rock and sand and the rare rain drop. Both the north and south poles are more akin to Vermont than this outpost.
I love seeing the very old men and women here whose skin has been worn by the desert air into craggy wrinkles and small tight bodies that have no spare water in them. In my mind, it's a desert type here and the meetinghouse held several of them today as we worked together on both Goodness and Deep Relaxation. I envy their feeling of being solid and comfortable in this desert land. I can imagine visiting here, maybe coming in the winter to write, but living here seems beyond my imagination.
Tomorrow an old friend in Truth or Consequences New Mexico will make me welcome. And I'll have a bit of rest before going on to teach in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. This is such a luxury to see so many wonderful people and places. It's a luxury to feel so well used in the ministry. And a luxury to enjoy the work even though it drags me out of my shy person, which I sense is more original and organic than my in-the-spot-light teacher persona. It's the Light that made me do it!
Marshall is home and says the color is amazing and the fog from the river drifts up the valley in the mornings- all signs of autumn. So grateful that John Meyer stacked the last of the wood in the woodshed and that the new roof is in place for winter. And that our home is so good at cozy come the first snow- all a different world from here, weeks and miles away.
Tuesday 10/5 The Spiritual and the Material
An interesting question during a recent teaching- does the depth of my faith determine the depth in my healing work? Good question. Seems obvious in some ways that the answer should be yes, of course, yes. But here's what I think the real answer is- since the healing is a spiritual gift of grace it is not in the least dependant on me and my perfection but rather the experience of grace that moves through me engages me in a way that strengthens my faith. My imperfections make me the perfect student for conversion to deep belief in the spiritual. Better to use the fool who can move into ministry proper than the "holy" man who’s already convinced. At heart I am a rascal and bad boy, but the Light is so strong I have to go and see what's there and to do that there are disciplines that have to be learned and followed, as the waters are deep. But being "qualified" or entirely ready ahead of time is not an accurate look at me. I am better at preparations now, almost 30 years since beginning. But if all were built on my faith, there would not be a full calendar to show for it each year.
On the more material side- About noon today my right eye's sight suddenly had spidery lines across it. When I looked in the mirror and saw the external eye was clear I decided I'd burst a blood vessel inside my retina. I stopped into an emergency room off the interstate between AZ and NM and was referred to an eye doctor who confirmed my diagnosis- normal aging, no sight damage, no pain, will clear itself, more floaters will appear as the blood clears from my vision. I was trying not to be scared and had almost convinced myself. But the doctor's clarity was good news that brought great relief and made me very happy. I am not good at suspense. Reading a mystery is out of the question. Not knowing if I had something much more serious going on drained me of energy and made me weary. But all is well. Travel goes on and I'll be fine after some sleep. Fear while waiting in the hospital was made less by being in prayer for those around me clearly in more pain and danger than I was. I do so well with other people’s stuff. For myself, I’m a complete coward. Thank goodness for cute young doctors who need to be very close to see into ones eye. All distractions welcome. And the mercy of a simple diagnosis was an immeasurable relief. Makes me grateful for all life.
Next stop- a dear old friend in Truth or Consequences NM- she makes the best chocolate truffles in the country! www.sweetlifechocolates.com/. This dear friend I’ve known since I’ve been several people- the young gay hippie school teacher and now several people later the old married Quaker healer anti-torture crusader. She is talented and adventurous in some shared ways and in ways very separate. She’s mastered many things while I’ve polished one stone mostly in the 30 plus years we’ve known each other. We laugh a lot, mostly at ourselves. It takes a whole evening to remember all the times and places we’ve come into one another’s lives over the years. All of this makes life feel less extreme and slightly more logical.
Wednesday 10/6 Enchanted by Light
I don't know what it is about New Mexico but I always am so enchanted when I first see it. It causes me to wonder why I don't live here- this has happened with several visits now. It's beauty and feel and light, the spaciousness and land forms all speak to me of some unknown home in time that I recognize.
There was a time yesterday crossing the Arizona-New Mexico border where I was surrounded by flat desert lowlands for miles with high mountains in the far distance in all directions- amazing. There was a sense that my home state could be tucked up into one corner for storage.
I arrived in Santa Fe and got lost with the help of maps. This city has lots of roads and few straight lines. I only got a little lost for a long time, some sense of where I wanted to go but didn't find it right away. Ended up at the Santa Fe Friends Meeting where I was graciously let in and given a lovely couch to nap on. I slept about 2 hours, waking up more awake then I had this morning. Later found my lodgings across town.
It is so beautiful here. I-25 takes in much of the view from low and high- one can see all of Albuquerque coming from the south like some huge sprawling city gone low and green. And always mountains are in view in more than one direction. The scale and the light combine to create a constant show to engage the mind. I'm in New Mexico for 4 days and then off to Colorado- the ride up Rattan Pass is always a thrill- too thrilling in snow, but I should be safe as a heat wave has been through recently.
Wonderful to get the many good notes of folks enjoying the shorts bits of writing on this trip- much appreciated. I wish I could write the confidential stuff. Would like to describe what if feels like to see obsessive compulsive disorder leave a young person free for half an hour for the first time in years after a short session of energy work. Would like to say what it felt like to work on the incestuous rapist in his meetinghouse and feel all the self-hatred take a break from crippling his spine. Would like to talk about the torn rotator cuff, the broken heart from the old boyfriends suicide putting her back out, the gifted young healer who had no idea of such in herself. All this might be recent information or from another year, but is not to be shared because it's confidential. And so I tell you about what I can- a few people but nothing too over the top, how the trip feels, what the land looks like. But of course as seekers hungry for Light and as the mystical end of Christianity (which is where all the comparative religion books put us) you know that there are other travels going on for all of us and as my travels are often other people's travels, I can only say so much. I suppose I could do a book of stories and send it out 50 years after I'm gone. But in my heart of hearts I'd love to share it now and sit with you in awe of what Light makes possible even with mere schmoos like me who are the least important part of such transactions. When any person gets even a glimpse that their stone can be rolled away, that's a moment of awe, teaching them healing is possible and the worst doesn't have to stay as it is. Now that’s TV worth watching! Other than that, not much else is new. Weather here is more moderate than in the south.
10/8 Thrift Store Addiction
I’ve new levels of madness today for true. When I was packing for this trip, I brought too many clothes. I knew it and couldn't change. So here I am- over loaded trunk, freshly laundered clothes stuffed in suitcases preparing to go from Santa Fe to Albuquerque meetings and lo- the Goodwill was on the way to lunch! Now I've been hearing about the Santa Fe Goodwill for years- a tad pricey but good stuff and lots of it.
I don't need a thing. And I've too much of lots of things. But nature called and I was a magnet caught on steel. The only way to compensate was to be extremely picky. Any shirt must fit all criteria completely to be considered for purchase. First- only my colors: blues in medium to slate to navy not too dark or bright, red, some greens, bold not fine patterns. Next- only natural fibers and button-downs preferred, no knits- my tits are too big and I look like a wet nurse pulling overtime. Plus- no spots, missing buttons, or worn collars/cuffs. Last- I have to really love it and not already have two! This makes it a pretty safe bet even for me. (Marshall says I don't have to go to 12 step if I only buy from thrift stores once a week.)
So the navy blue silk shirt was just too wonderful. And the heavy hunter green cotton shirt had to come with me. I love heavy cotton. And the Hawaiian blue cotton too was just too fun to leave. Also Woody Allen's book - Without Feathers is good light reading for traveling. I scoured the place like Sherlock Holmes looking any nice leather bags or wallets- nada, zip, schmatz.
There were some jackets and sweaters that were good buys, fit, and were good materials. But I really didn't need them and the trunk is already overfull. So, I did show some discipline, a tad little bit. And that was a relief. My own madness has some limits- always a nice surprise.
I am staying in a new co-housing group with several buildings and some gardens and a common house with a big kitchen and dinning room with a fireplace, an office, and a guest room. I’ve two friends living here. They are the kind of old Quaker ladies that makes one happy to be getting older. Their lives have been full of adventures and travels. And now somehow, though they are each very different from the other, they both, along with several others in this adventure, are settlers in a new proposition- a very green shared housing planned neighborhood where they decide as a group their culture and lifestyles here amidst 10 buildings. I enjoy that they are strong, old, and clear of vision without the ambition of youth and with great care for their impact and intention. It’s feels very good to be here and to be with them. I do a bit of work in the neighborhood, but mostly I am left to rest, mercifully. I get my hands on one friend who melts into comfort and rests deeply. The lack of touch, the absence of hugs and kisses is a kind of starvation that comes easily to some older people in sneaky ways and hurts like hell in quiet ways. This must be guarded against. Be generous with hugs especially with the old, hold on, and make that moment lush.
Santa Fe Friends were wonderful in their welcome and careful listening tonight as I held forth on The Quaker Initiative to End Torture and then Goodness. I have to write about Goodness and get it out. It was a wonderful group of almost thirty people, good questions and deep seeking. I felt washed in Light as I preached. I probably say Fuck too much which I think is a sign of me being tired. But I did explain ideas well, at least by their feedback- enough humor to teach some serious stuff and enough medium stuff to not be overwhelmed. I received many kudos for the plenary I gave at their yearly meeting 5 years ago too. I feel held, well used, and appropriately tired.
Albuquerque tomorrow and that will be the end of scheduled teaching out west for this trip. I feel it's a great luxury just to be here surrounded by mountains and big sky and wonderful people. Hoping New England doesn't feel too small, already some feelings of missing New Mexico.
Friday 10/8 Santa Fe to Albuquerque
I had a long late breakfast with my favorite Santa Fe lesbian Quakers- Rebecca, Pelican, & Shelly (missed Martha this time). We talked for a couple of hours as friends must do when not seeing each other for a few years. I hadn't seen Shelly since Ghost Ranch Mid-Winter 2003 and Inter-Mountain Yearly Meeting at Ghost Ranch with R&P since 2005. So much goes on! Martha's folks visited for 3 months! Rebecca's doc changed his mind and said she'll live 5 - 10 years with a rare blood cancer and not 3-5 years. Which I think is much more than polite on his part. And how does she feel about a long slow cancer which only 1 in 2,000,000 people get? Well, she says, it's OK that I'm dying and mostly I feel OK and things will come up and we are all dying (it's actually not rude to point that out given the conversation, but the reminder at breky feels a tad bracing). Actually, I've never seen her Lights brighter all around her. Shelly is doing wonderful work with young couples newly parenting- teaching 16 year olds about taking care of kids is important and amazing work. They are blessed to have her. And she and Martha continue to rehab their old adobe home an hour outside of Santa Fe. Peli had stories about the womyns land and how the trust is now run by lesbian Native Americans (in Canada these are called First Nations People instead of Indians) who hold the Sun Dance sacred and annually. And Rebecca is writing and is about to reveal how Iowa Quakers have all been mistakenly branded Wilberites when actually a large number of them would have nothing to do with such uptight fuss budgets as they were Norwegian and knew about pushy people via the Lutherans they escaped from back home. And Shelly gave me a teeny tiny pumpkin to bring home. It's on the dashboard. So good to visit and hear what is new and how it's going as we each find the day a beautiful if difficult set of challenges and gifts.
Just now I am sitting at the SAAB dealer in Albuquerque getting an oil change. When one travels more than 6K and it's another 2 or 3 K to get home, the synthetic oil must be made anew. I'm getting 30 mi/gal and about to teach my last scheduled group tomorrow at the Friends Meetinghouse in Albuquerque. Then heading to Denver to see friends. (Marshall is in a Korean hotel and can't figure out how to flush the very modern toilet)
Monday 10/11 A Beautiful City and a Great Highway North
My time in Albuquerque was very wonderful. I was given a guest room that is the kind of room one hopes for. A wall of sliding glass doors looking out across lawn to a pool and not far from the table on the terrace where breakfast is served. Again I am thinking I should offer my adoption papers immediately. My hosts are gracious and welcoming. I had been hoping to see some of the hot air balloon festival but it happens at extremely early hours. But, my host says, if the wind is right they will come over the house. I can’t quite picture such a thing in my minds eye but try to believe her. Well, the next morning, immediately as I was out of the shower comes the call- quick, walk with me to the golf course the balloon are flying overhead. And there we are striding before I’m actually awake towards the more open area of the golf course. Up in the air every so often is a gigantic explosion of color looking more surreal than can be explained. Yes, the balloons fly over the houses and quietly seem like elephants or tear drop boulders the size of a small house just floating by like smoke. This is the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen. It makes me laugh. I wonder what it’s like from up there. It’s like a circus playing in the air. It’s silly and odd and friendly somehow. Wondering about the first guy who said- I know let’s fill up a bladder with hot gas and fly on the wind! Whom could one say this to back then? My host indulges my childlike delight and we stroll back for breakfast. She is a wonderful person to be with and the way she talks about her kids, one can feel she’s a good mom.
The Albuquerque Friends Meetinghouse is a lovely building with two walls of windows shining the bright New Mexico sun into the room and a stage along one wall with a piano. Something about a stage in a meeting room makes me feel something large will be revealed by and by. The people gather slowly on this warm sunny day and some have come from afar. Some are from the university and others have come in from the desert. As always, seeking is done in various manners with similar hopes.
I spent the first hour or more teaching about American torture and the work of QUIT – The Quaker Initiative to End Torture. Again people had some vague sense but didn’t really know that American torture began long before George Bush and hasn’t ended with Barack Obama. Their questions are good. And I trust some actions will come of this.
Then I teach about deep relaxation and it’s importance to a deeper spiritual life, that to lay down the noise of popular American culture is important to being open to messages and guidance of Light. I’ve a few old friends in the crowd and it’s very good to be with them. One old Quaker lady has a come hither look in her bright blue eyes that I’m sure has numerous stories to tell amidst other stories of loftier seeking. I get my hands on one old friend with serious illness and this is a comfort to both of us. Having friends all across country and some of them quite ill means that my touch is too limited unlike my heart, which stretches and reaches like some hound hot on the trail. This is frustrating. And so now, in the same room, I have the luxury of hands-on and we both bask a bit in the comfort of direct helping in person. One old friend breaks down into weeping from all the sad stories she’s heard from work. I hold her and encourage her to weep and be washed in her grief’s release and mostly, she is. Later she looks younger and not so tired and clear as a bell. We do get afraid of letting it go and the burden grows. I can see how opera is so easily done in Italian where they are used to being loud and big drama and no emotions are secret but rather compete in a crowded field- the tradition I know.
Soon after we are done, my car is rocketing along I-25 going north. I had hoped to get farther but I am too tired to reach Raton. I go not as far and am asleep soon after dark. The drive along I-25 is stunning to me at every turn. Especially in the north there are wide, open fields that go on for miles and miles that seemed golden in the afternoon light and behind them tall pines and beyond that rocky mountains looming higher and higher. This is too beautiful and makes me want to stay.
The long drive north, passing Santa Fe, and leaving New Mexico is a bit sad for me. I know soon I'll turn east and I will miss the drama of the landscape, the very large forms, and the light only New Mexico has. About an hour from Raton Pass along I-25, there are rolling plateaus going off into the distance just golden with hay and edged by higher plateaus of rock and trees and behind them mountains- always these layers of differing forms, always catching the eye, intriguing.
Scheduled work is now done and the travel is looser. I have work at home awaiting me and there are more visits along the way to make. But now that teaching/touching work is done- I am feeling the kind of tired you don't allow yourself to feel until after finals. I am physically tired and a bit peopled out. I need some solitude and rest alone time to recover- but none was in the plan. Memo to self- old queens who are itinerant teacher/preachers needs more time between weeks of work in a row.
I was to stay in Denver with a dear friend, but in truth I’m peopled out. I need some immediate solitude and alone time without even the kindness of good hospitality of a sweet person asking my favorite foods for breakfast. I drove on to Boulder feeling guilty that I would not see this friend. But I choose rightly as a grouchy John really is best put alone for naps and refreshment lest anyone see how truly awful I can be. I pass Denver and come to Boulder ahead of schedule. I was here for the largest changes in my life. From 1982 to 1985 I was in massage school and also beginning my work with rape survivors and people with AIDS before we had the word. It's here that I learned about my spiritual gift to release pain and here I surrendered my life to this blessing and here I began to live on gifts.
As I drive through town a flood of memory comes- faces without names, names without current idea of what's become of them, and memories of my own transitions from numb-nuts to a beginning healer thrilled and terrified of what was next. And my own healing from lonely skinny angry horny to empowered in all the same areas- deep friendships, normal body weight with new muscles from doing massage, a better knowledge of the anger I would study for years, and a full dance card- yipeeee!
I think I have the same feeling for Boulder that people have for their college towns when that time was good. This time of change and growth for me was very good, tho I arrived at 30 years old. I was a late bloomer, came of age here, and charted a new life. I have many friends in this part of the world. But just now, after all this work, I want some alone time and some rest.
I have some fear of turning east. It means leaving the mountains and by and by it will mean more crowding civilization and all the work that awaits me at home, and finally- winter soon, too soon.
I shouldn't be writing the obit of this trip just yet. I won't be home for almost a week. I suppose it's the fatigue of lots of good work and the many miles. It's also that the QUIT conference and this trip took months and months to organize and do. And now, these tasks are done. I am feeling full and good and needing a nap before bed.
I've had great delight in seeing so many old friends. And in reaching into the lives of many new people too. And I've seen the country in a way that let's me rejoice in its beauty and take great pleasure in its size. There are only 5 states I haven't been to, mostly in the south, and another road trip could take care of that. Not sure there are enough Quakers in Louisiana to get an invitation to teach there, but I could drive through.
Tuesday 10/12 Is this disaster or not?
Well, so there I was going into Kansas when the CHECK ENGINE light came on in the evening. The car was running fine but light spoke some unknown truth. Driving across much of beautiful Kansas going slowly as the car insisted, I am now on 2 days enforced hotel rest while car is repaired. I'm happy to not have been stranded and towed off the highway. And the repair is free. And I can use the time to rest some more after a slow day in Boulder. So I am more relieved than anything else. It does appear that I will miss seeing an aunt in St Louis who was going to give me a wood carving by a favorite uncle who died 2 years ago. The family asked me to give the eulogy, which was in the Catholic church where I had first communion over 50 years ago. And I probably will not see a friend in Ohio either as my current placement on the map and driving days to get home are now off kilter from original plans. I am wanting to get home efficiently so that I can really and truly be back after 33 days away before I pack the next Sunday to teach away from home, tra la.
So things are not always as we plan and everything should be written in pencil with erasers looming- the cosmic plan has more authority, in general. I'm going to do some thank you notes tomorrow and make some calls, but generally go slow. Since I wanted some slow alone time, here it is- just not where I intended.
Watching the Rocky Mountains disappear in the rearview mirror was sad for me. The great plains are beautiful, but I'd been so taken with the drama of mountains and deserts. And the whole east-bound part is a kind of farewell- to an adventure, to big beautiful landscapes, to the heat of summer, to friends far from me, to the freedom of travel and wonderful work and people in new places.
In Boulder I spent some time going through the phone book to see if some men were still alive. The time of AIDS early on in the wars meant many missing might be gone away or actually dead. Such memories come with wondering what became of .... And...... And...... Should I look at the AIDS Quilt website for them?
The SAAB service hotline 800# was kind and courteous. But when it comes to helping me get help along I-70, they don't hold a candle to Liz Keeney. She had map, Google, and numbers for me to call in mere moments. The nice SAAB lady couldn't use her computer the way I needed her too. I suggested she ask her boss for a map and paper list of SAAB mechanics. Meanwhile, Liz also makes cookies- which we all know is the real key to the pearly gates! Oddly, I called her while driving through Wakeeney!
There is an odd box here in the hotel called a TV. I'm going to investigate it and report on its contents. It will be hard to improve my low opinion. I have a hard enough time being open minded about people, let alone colossal productions of numb-nuts ninney-brained foolishness. But I'll take a look.
Wednesday 10/13 Belief and Faith
A quick note as I am off computer during rest days. Just wanted to make a note on the material and spiritual worlds intersecting in my slow ride across Kansas yesterday. I've been teaching about the two differing perceptions of "God" Friends often experience. The one is the Big Daddy God, old white guy on the cloud with beard who is the cosmic landlord who owns everything and is a real grouch, do not piss him off- Old Testament, a simplistic idea learned in early childhood and the early development historically of human seeking. The other perception is when we are in a deeply covered meeting and feel the presence keenly and become aware that the divine is more than any one concept and completely beyond language and much more pervasive than picturing some guy and not at all with anger or meanness. There’s an ocean of Light which we can rejoin any time and let go the noise of popular culture and enter into a flow that is on going. And yet when the shit hits the fan we commonly go running to Big Daddy God to fix it all forsaking all we know, all our power, and all our experience of being aspects of the divine. How might we stop responding like children and take the time to observe as well as we are able and seek understanding and join with the Light to have feelings and wonder in balance and not take it all so personally as only a child will do- me, me, me, me.
So, here's me yesterday driving across Kansas. Things to fear- breaking down and stranded on the interstate, cost of tow and repair, missing visits with dear ones, having to get a dozen of my favorite leather bags home without my own car, and the toll this fear takes on me physically- especially after a month of travel work. (And were the 2 storms to my NE & NW just rain or tornadoes?) But I didn't lurch into Oh Please Save Me, Spare Me, Help Me and hand over all my power to the childhood image similar to Michelangelo's painting of God and Adam- talk about an old boys network. Instead I asked for understanding and patience and wondered what I could know about what I needed just then. Yes, there was a SAAB dealer far from here. Was there one closer? What were the symptoms of the car telling me? Going slower helped a lot. 60 not 70 meant the car kept going and didn't lose power. The hard part was that meant hours more on the road in the state of fear and trying not to hand over reverence, seeking, wisdom, and power to fear and hysteria of which I am so very capable. It was exhausting. It was another experiment/trial in keeping with ones best and I am slowly better at it each year. The Light gives calm and understanding and this gives power to our divine connection and makes less use of fear. Wish I had known this better during early childhood violence and the loneliness of adolescence. It's a good thing life is long- there's so much to figure out and practice.
Thursday 10/14 Wondering
Late night musings - I've had fantasies of living in a hotel for years now. There are romantic stories of writers living in hotels and working while enjoying being anonymous in a city and the luxury of amenities without housework. My home is a bushel of distractions from writing and I can imagine a beautiful room in some lovely place with only writing to be done. That idea has a lot of order and simplicity to it, complexity alleviated. I imagine being productive and single minded and few things going on. Maybe I've made a life of too much. Even good choices can gather into a heap. Always a dozen undone projects, good ideas left in stacks that nag at me even though I am busy getting to some of them. I daydream going from my desk and office with its history and complexity to a room larger than needed and mostly empty with big windows and only one thing I am writing. No phone calls. No calendar and rushing to other places with tons of people and things to teach. No interruptions at all. Is this more luxury than I'll ever see? Or just some whining I have time for with the luxury of travel? Is it craving less due to age, wanting more depth in fewer venues? I remember in the early days of the epidemic coming home to Boulder from doing massage on dying men in Denver. I'd sit wearily on the back porch and watch the neighbor, Thelma Maydew, who was at least in her 90's doing the chores around her tidy yard and house. She was always in motion, but in a finite measurable world that was just her own. I envied her simplicity. Is my life such that I've gone waist deep into all I wanted to seek and now feeling a tad too old or tired to be this engaged? I am thinking this is a common feeling among seekers who have the time to wonder about this in their late 50's early 60's. Adjusting to another period in life- more mastery, less energy. Am I just selfishly wanting to have more time to write so that I am leaving more behind, wanting to be remembered and well remembered? That's kind of ego silly and kind of true. What's left behind of a life? My father built our house and now it's crumbling. My mother leaves nothing behind but 3 boys each in varying success of making lives they want to live. My mentors built good and great lasting things- books, institutions, departments of universities that carry a tone and direction they began- but mostly they left students who take the mentoring and turn it into beautiful parts of life. It's the making of Light that they share. Is the wanting to write more just selfish desire to leave something behind, to be well thought of? Some idea of more quiet seeking and less work in the field? Is this maturation? Is it an obligation of a seeker whose gone a different path to go out to the edge and come back to report in some way that helps those who come later? Or am I seeing myself larger than I am? Pretending some scale that is nonsense. What are my illusions of self? I suppose acting from the gut and making choices of passion and Light is all one can do and hope to learn from all the mistakes and how it all hangs together we'll see later on. Meanwhile, I'm going to do what brings more Light and that seems to have worked well, mostly, thus far. Today I answered the question- If one has a Krispy Kreme sugar-glazed lemon-cream-filled doughnut after a late lunch, will one need an afternoon nap?
Friday 10/15 On the Road Back
Departed Kansas City yesterday with a good working car. The repair part put in in Montana had to be replaced- same trouble as before but now fixed, again, we hope. Stayed in Terre Haute, IN and today drove to Erie, PA. Hope to get home late tomorrow to little Putney.
Along the way I am feeling the claustrophobic effects of leaving the large spaces of the west where fewer people live and coming into the increasing density of the NE. I am remembering that one of the things I love about VT is the few # of people per sq mi. Feeling a bit guilty that my basil in the garden is probably frost dead but ever so grateful that John Meyer stacked the last of the firewood in Sept.
My silk bomber (which is the most excellent shade of purple/blue found in a thrift store in Palm Springs) was splashed last night big time by the tray of juice holding the roast beef at the Mongolian Barbeque in Terre Haute. Took a shower with it tonight in Erie. Hoping for the best. Signs saying Dust Storms May Exist the Next 20 Miles so common in southern Arizona are unknown in Vermont. Must remember to tell people I tend not to eat beans or fish.
I saw two Adult porno store billboards side by side with billboards from the local church yelling about sin. All old signs. I think the switch from the 1950's of most porno being the province of the Mafia to currently being much more contracts of independents and most women only choosing this work for under 2 years for big bucks, while men are paid much less, and that porno makes only slightly less than Hollywood proper, in the billions, would be news to the hinter lands. With the inventions of the VCR and now the internet it has largely escaped the trap which currently snares US pop music which involves much more whoring and corporate control.
With the car back to full energy and rocketing along the interstate, I find my mind drifting between two thoughts- the many deep interactions with people during work this trip and the work awaiting me at home. I was especially happy to recall that one of the QUIT speakers, psychiatrist Terry Kupers, said that my description of mental health effects from torture was the most accurate he'd ever heard- overwhelming & underwhelming the senses to the point of deconstructing the personality. And a woman breaking down into deep grief from simple energy work. She finally relaxed enough to let go and let it rip, which I encouraged cradling her head as her beloved looked on. And the young massage student deeply in love and seeing how this love makes all his touch work deeper in it's power- amazing. And getting my hands on an old friend with serious illness as a demonstrator model during a workshop- sneaky yes, but what am I to do? Favoritism? The Light made me do it! I got my hands on a number of young junkies in OR and could feel that simple contentment was a missed floor of their elevator trips up high and down way low. And the work at home- presenting at another torture conference in 7 days, bring a box to the post office to get all the mail and sort it out and completely unpack and do laundry and a trip to the cleaners before M gets back from Korea and call the dears over the line in MA to see when I might get my hands on her as her breathing slows. And plan a QUIT steering committee agenda for November. Wonder if I have to build a fire tomorrow to warm the house? And what kind of gift shall I find for the couple next door who just got married and don't want things?! Chocolate? Feeling very blessed that all this work and home life, even when it's too much, is of my choosing and all of it good and worthy of all efforts.
Mostly I'm just ready to sleep in my own bed and so glad that this trip has been so good. I deeply appreciate that so many held the QUIT 4 conference in the Light that special weekend. It seems a meeting of torture opposing organizations met in DC and it was clear that our direction of education is the way to go.
Saturday 10/16 Home
After 8,476 miles over 33 days, it's good to be home. Built a fire in the woodstove, closed a few windows, unloaded the car of 15 pieces of luggage, and made a grocery list for shopping tomorrow. Most of the color in the Northeast seems to be gone. And coolish in the low 30's tonight, haven't felt that in a bit. Lovely moon. My eye sight has really improved in the last few days. Noticing our little house isn't as "nice" as the homes I've stayed in over the last month. Also noticing that it's very difficult to be "public" for an entire month and good to be home and let down. But mostly noticing how good it is to work hard and a lot and come home- gratitude. Thanks for sharing the ride with me.