Aug 232014
 

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Ah, home. The word means something different when we are days or weeks away. A driving trip to a distant place makes home far away, and I had lots of time to contemplate as I journeyed back with my Canadian flotilla. Here are some numbers: 6138 miles total on this trip, and the return took four and a half days. I drove 600 to 800 miles each day, except for the final leg from Reno on Saturday, when I got home about 1:30 in the afternoon.

Preparing for the trip, I had too many boats. It was possible to carry two kayaks and a canoe on top of the boat trailer and the Jeep, but not desirable. And I really had no place to use a fast, slender, tippy wood canoe in California; that’s a vehicle for Algonquin territory. Fortunately, my friends Urs and Verena wanted one, love canoeing, and so it’s now tucked away at the Mirror Lodge. And I have a great reason to return.

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It’s been something like 18 years since I’ve driven this far away, and there were a few surprises about the trip itself. One is learning all over again how wide the corn belt is. Half of Illinois, all of Iowa and most of Nebraska, something like 800 miles of pure cornfields. The other surprise was encountering 33 construction zones along the way. Michigan alone had 11 of them, and my friend Brian’s daughter Katie told me “Michigan has two seasons, winter and construction”. Boy, was that the truth. I had to deal with three severe detours and several 30-mile stretches of single-lane traffic because of all the roadwork. At least the work suggests that our economy is improving, and that we are investing in our infrastructure as a nation.

I was surprised to see wind farms in every single province and state. Ontario, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, and of course California. Energy was a theme for this trip, there were signs of the energy economy everywhere.

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There were trains too, both heading east and returning home. I must have seen a thousand oil tank cars in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, and more coming home through Wyoming. Fracking is a huge industry. This is eastern Wyoming, climbing into the Rockies at 6000 feet, just one of the 50-odd trains I saw on the trip.

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Overall, the trip was flawless, the Jeep was rock-solid, the weather was fair, there were no problems bringing the boats across the Canadian border, and…I didn’t get any speeding tickets. The Jeep never even needed a quart of oil. Amazing. What a great vehicle (Jungians, you can smile here. Jen and I bought the Cherokee together; it bodes well for us :) Here we are on the Bonneville Salt Flats on a rainy day.

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For much of the trip home, I was musing about solitude and overview. The journey out with Jen was connected and fun; a shared adventure that was never boring, spiced with both silence and great conversation, ease and spontaneity. Travel home was completely solitary, except for my first night with friends in Michigan, and the people I met in gas stations and motels and restaurants. The huge vistas invite reflection. I spent a lot of time considering and meditating on various parts of my life, relationship patterns, how we bond in partnership and marriage with another, and the qualities of that bonding. I’ve gained an almost visceral understanding of how we connect with the people we love. Tibetan meditation teaches how to notice a thought or feeling, and rather than dismiss it (Therevada) or bring compassion to it (Mahayana), just become still with it and let it flower and deepen and inform us of it’s truer nature. I had 50 hours for such contemplation, and took advantage of it.

I loved Nancy deeply, and I don’t doubt that she loved me as well. But I never really felt loved, our relationship was more competitive and fraternal than well-joined and respectful. We bickered, it was not good, I’m accountable for that as much as she. It’s a pattern we finally broke only a few months before she passed away. There is a fine book, A General Theory of Love, that discusses bonding theory, and I read it after Nancy was gone. Quite illuminating. I don’t think she learned how to bond well at an early age. Not her fault, it just is. But I’m happy to be engaging in relationship with someone who can connect like I do.

More generally, I’ve been feeling deeper into samsara, the way that we create our own pain and misery through attachment. Attachment is joyous for those of us who do it well, but it’s ultimately painful, as we always eventually lose whatever we are attached to. I built a lovely house and home with Nancy, and now she is gone, and one day the house will be gone too. I love Jen quite profoundly, and one day that will also end. So the blessing and curse of incarnation is attachment.

Enjoy it while you can. I love my house, I love Jen, I love the journey. It all ends. Love now.

 Posted by at 6:15 pm
Aug 182014
 

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Today is transition day, I’m feeling a ton of things, and letting something shift inside. Punctuated by Roxy Music.

Al and Kathy have put us up in a delightful cottage on their property on Duck Lake, and this has become my base of operations as we picked up Miss Powassan and put her in the water Friday, toured the lake, and polished the day off with an excellent dinner at the Old Mirror Lodge. Nancy and I had our wedding party there in 2006, and it was very sweet to come back, visit with friends and owners Verena and Urs Bärtschi, see table cloths we left there after our party, and see how good the lakes and the Lodge and other properties are looking. Some businesses have closed, so the whole area seems a bit subdued since my last visit in 2009, but maybe that’s just me.

The Jones cabin is in pretty good shape, after four years without guests. The dock has some damage from winter ice, but is still quite serviceable. The stairs need to be leveled, but the inside of the cabin seems undamaged, although mice have left nests everywhere. The canoe and kayaks are there, and so is my camping and fishing gear and a lovely piece of art that Kathy gave us for our wedding.

It rained all morning Saturday, so we stayed in and enjoyed the cottage. Jen flew out of North Bay in the afternoon to meet her sister in New York, and I have entered the solo part of my journey.

Turning off Highway 11 at Trout Creek, onto 522, I turned on music. Tried Fleetwood Mac for a few minutes, but that didn’t feel right. And Roxy Music seemed perfect. Loud. Very loud, in fact. Remember “Avalon”? Sink into it.

I could feel at the time

There was no way of knowing

Fallen leaves in the night

Who can say where they’re blowing

As free as the wind

And hopefully learning

Why the sea on the tide

Has no way of turning

More than this – there is nothing

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I am unwinding Nancy as I drive. 522 from Highway 11, the final 40 minutes to Duck Lake. Nancy always insisted on driving it as we completed our four-hour journey from Toronto each summer to arrive here. Now I get to do it alone. This is no longer her lake, or our lake. It’s mine.


My heart has flown away now

Will it never stop bleeding

Alone, I can feel the Nancy-sized hole in my heart, and my eyes are wet off and on all day. I’m not really crying, or even feeling sad – although I am sad that Nancy will never be here again. I feel surprisingly connected to this place, just as I have always felt coming up here, and I was not expecting that. Being here without Nancy feels much like it did with her, restful, quiet, heart-opening. Ah, I’ve arrived. Here is my destination, the Crowthers cabin, with the lake in the background.

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…and Miss Powassan (under the green cover) and my canoe, resting at the dock, with the Crowther Navy.

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* * *

This morning dawned bright and clear, the first warm and sunny day since we entered Canada four days ago. I sat and meditated, then Kathy and Al and I took Nancy’s ashes out into the center of Duck Lake in Miss Powassan, and scattered them with a bowl full of clipped wildflowers. I held the ritual from inside my Vajrasattva practice, which is all about purifying karma. So strange and mysterious to see each hand-full of her ashes fall into the water, and sink into the depths, trailing a cloud. I spoke the Tara prayer as I returned her to the elements. I was slow and deliberate. This is not-Nancy – I believe her spirit is in motion elsewhere – but it is the final physical remains of an incarnation, a very specific and special person that I and many others still love.


All the world, even you

Should learn to love the way I do

I was lost, can’t you see

Through the long lonely night

Heaven knows, I believe

You can take a chance with me

The jewel box where I’ve kept her ashes was surprisingly light in my hands as I removed it from the boat. And there is a lightness in my heart as well. A commitment is fulfilled, as is our marriage vow. I am delighting in the day, as I tend to chores, register the boat trailer, and pack for the journey home.

 Posted by at 11:33 am
Aug 142014
 

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We’ve arrived, after five-and-a-half days of easy travel, beautiful scenery, and happy coincidence. Our overnight stays have been in three hotels, two campgrounds and with my sister Camille in Idaho. Along the way, we’ve experienced a lot of trains, a fantastic bakery in Reno, a wonderful family dinner, more trains, booming oil economy in North Dakota, and what my friend Chris Olson refers to as Large Weather.

One of the best coincidences happened because we missed the turn off for US 93 to Twin Falls Idaho, and had to take a smaller state highway farther east that connected up to the interstate near Pocatello. This road, almost completely void of vehicles, took us through the middle of a thunderstorm. Our dusty Jeep Cherokee was pounded clean by the torrent, while lightening flashed all around us, once only a couple of hundred yards away. We don’t get these kind of desert monsoon storms in the bay area, and we both miss them, so we grinned ear-to-ear at each other as the thunder cracked and boomed.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

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Grand Tetons, Wyoming.

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Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. One of my favorite geologic features in the world, with one of my favorite people.

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10,900-foot pass in the high Rockies, on US 212 in southern Montana.

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Itasca State Park, Minnesota. This is what a visitor’s center should be! Amazingly informative about flora, fauna, CCC projects during the 1930’s, camping 100 years ago, etc.

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The Mississippi originates from Lake Itasca. So we crossed it right next to the lake, where it’s only 10 feet wide.

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Camping in Itasca State Park. Jen gave me a Biolite for my birthday, so we used it for cooking. This little wood-powered stove also charges your cell phone, and heated water for coffee and oatmeal quite quickly.

After we crossed into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie, it got cloudy, then started to sprinkle. By the time we entered the lake country south of Sudbury, we were hitting a steady rain. This part of Canada is gorgeous, unspoiled, and mystical. It’s as though the countryside is weeping as Nancy’s remains return. The rain continues without a break as we settle into our friend’s cabin for the night. I feel a little surreal; it’s my first time here without Nancy, and that makes it a different experience. Yet I have my own connection with this country, and that part feels the same. My heart opens and my body relaxes as I see the oh-so-familiar Duck Lake, with it’s islands and boats and birch trees. Tomorrow, I pick up Miss Powassan, and check out the Jones family cabin.

 Posted by at 10:54 pm
Aug 022014
 
prelude to transition

In a few days, I’ll be starting a two-week road trip to Ontario, Canada.This will be my first long driving trip in years. It is also a journey that will mark a deep change. I’m going to Canada to scatter Nancy’s ashes. There it is. And…I need to pick up some boats. And fishing gear. [...]

 Posted by at 6:14 pm
Jul 272014
 
another comment on the mideast

So much has happened this week in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, or more properly, Judaic and Islamic influence in the area. So many have commented, it seems like everyone around this conflict has gotten spun up into their polarization. It’s painful for me to watch. The pain is in the polarization, the [...]

 Posted by at 4:51 pm
May 312014
 
urban turkey trot

My mornings and evenings have been punctuated by some all-American sound and action for the last couple of weeks. My house seems to be home-central for a flock of wild turkeys. The action starts right around 6am, with a parade. This morning the parade started just up the street from me, and proceeded apace right [...]

 Posted by at 10:21 am
May 082014
 
love and fear and fearlessness

I had a whole epiphany the other day, sitting with a glass of wine, and I can finally put it to words. Fear is not present. Funny expression, you can read it a couple of ways, especially from inside the buddhist practice of learning to be present. I actually heard the phrase a year ago, [...]

 Posted by at 6:35 am
May 032014
 
las camelias

I have adored two restaurants in the last forty years. One is the Pacific Cafe in San Francisco, a haven of west-coast seafood since I was a young teenager. The other is Las Camelias in San Rafael, a Mexican restaurant on Lincoln Blvd. that has been a part of my consciousness since I wandered in [...]

 Posted by at 10:27 pm
Mar 262014
 
loss and loss again

I have a friend who passed away last night. He’s been fading for weeks under hospice care, after two years of cancer and treatment, gradually losing mobility and some awareness, but never his sense of humor. I never went to visit him in the hospital, but he’s never been far from my awareness over the [...]

 Posted by at 8:18 pm
Feb 052014
 
parting with roy

An era is coming to an end, my faithful steed Roy is going to a new owner. When Jen and I bought Mz. Parker last year, I knew it had to happen, and now it’s time. I’m just feeling the whole shift. As usual with my posts, there is a story in the background. Nancy’s-brother’s-wife’s-father [...]

 Posted by at 8:23 pm