All Hail the Power of the Mighty Flu! – and a bonus story

I enjoy the flu. It’s not like its politically-correct cousin the cold. It doesn’t make you sniffle for weeks or let you dwell in the illusion of being functional while slowly draining your life juices away. It doesn’t care that you have prior plans or commitments, responsibilities, duties, chores or a life. It walks in like a cocky Senior IT tech, looks around and says “Little lady, you’re about to experience a complete system shutdown. Grab what you need and stay out of the way. We’ll let you know when you can resume.”

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[That’s the guy – pretty, isn’t it?]

I got the notice on Sunday, but my magician of a mechanical friend, Richard, had dismantled the Catmobile’s leaky air-intake system, and the new fancy replacement parts weren’t due to arrive until 3 pm. I crawled in the back of the truck stranded in the grocery parking lot – One of Richard’s many “repair shops” – and let the man speak to my engine while I made mental plans to accommodate my imminent and unavoidable collapse. The way this one was coming on, I knew I’d likely be down for days.

In non-nomadic life, I imagine people prepare by arranging for their kids to be taken to school, for food to be available for their pets, for bills to be paid, and so forth. In my world, the key components are 1) Find a place where I can park for days without a ranger asking me to move. 2) Orient the truck so that it is not only level, but also with its head to the east and back to the west. If the back points south, too much sun beats on the bed during the day, and I get too hot. If the back points north, I get no sun, and I get cold. And because I grow plants in the truck (Mint, Rosemary, Sage and Aloe Vera) and they prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, there’s just really one orientation that works. 3) I need two gallons of water for about 3 days. 4) The moon is about to be an exceptionally potent blue-blood-supermoon, so prepare for moon-time-female shenanigans (and double it). 5) That’s it. Everything else is already built-in. I have my whole life with me.

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The Catmobile got its shining new parts in. I drove up a hill, parked at the top, with the bed level and the back to the west, overlooking a huge vista of desert expanse from the red cliffs of Sedona to the Cottonwood-lined banks of the Verde River. I lodged a large rock behind each wheel, crawled in my den, and was instantly gone.

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I ran out of water Wednesday morning. I don’t remember much in between. Or rather my memories of the interim days and nights are like a jumble of slides in a dusty box. There’s no date or time stamp on the slides, and the dust in the box is mathematical. My fever dreams are always mathematical in nature. My brain forms and gets caught in loops it must then exit. It believes its survival depends on it. And the only way out is to painstakingly attempt to organize the fractal nature of Life into clean, measurable, Euclidean shapes. The slides are those moments in between when I come up for air out of the mathematical madness, open my eyes to the world and take stock that it’s still there, in all its fractal beauty, and remember that it requires nothing from me.

One of the slides is of the blood moon, a perfect full lunar eclipse, positioned exactly in the center of my back window as viewed from my pillow, as though it were hanging on my wall, and the truck was its frame, and its shade of red had been carefully chosen to match the new comforter my friend Frieda gave me for my birthday last year.

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Another slide finds me angry, because somebody said I couldn’t have a Spirit Animal because I am a nonnative (A Facebook post from a few days prior). I see my brother Coyote, my companion of so many dreams and quite a few waking moments. It always visits when I need. It reminds me I’ve chosen to live nonsensically, and to just have fun with it. He’s a tiny shadow in the distance in a big desert, but I know his movement pattern. “Go ahead, tell Coyote he cannot be my Spirit Animal because my skin is white.” I think I say it out loud. And back to sleep.

Another slide is of gun shots. The gun shots are there the whole time, because at the bottom of my hill is a shooting range . There are acute metallic high pitch shots, others with drawls and rumbling voices, yet others boom up the hill and shake the truck and my bones with their shockwave. They’re at it all day. One man is less than 10 feet from his target. A puff of dirt to the left of the target. Half a second later, I hear the shot. Half a second delay between sight and sound, how far am I? The next mathematical puzzle. I check on the man a few hours later. Puff of dirt now to the right of the target. A few hours later, he’s hitting the target. Good job! At sunset, he packs and leaves. Quiet returns.

Another slide. My warm water bottle against my body keeps all the chills of the night away. I wake up at sunset for a few simple well-rehearsed gestures. Stove on. Water in pan. Boil. Water in Nalgene bottle. Put stove away. I can do it all from my bed, yet it’s the most exhausting set of gestures I’ve ever performed in my life. The Flu and the medicine run through my body. My heart thumps in my ears. My fingers tingles. I feel I am journeying elsewhere, out of my body. But the water bottle is my anchor in the waking world. Whenever I feel its warmth, I know I’m still here. I’m safe in the truck.

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I dropped down the hill on Wednesday. I wasn’t fully coherent yet, but functional enough to drive to the store. I filled up my two one-gallon jugs and bought a yogurt – first food since Sunday. Richard had settled in the parking lot of a long-gone Denny’s restaurant and boldly posted a Facebook invitation to anyone in need of mechanical consultation to stop by and visit. He’d check the leak he had repaired in my power-steering hose, he said, but only if I kept my flu at least 10 feet away from him. I stayed in the driver seat while he slid under the engine. But, Donnie Darko, his canine sidekick, did not understand why the usual petting was being withheld. He jumped out of Richard’s van and came to my door to demand his dues.
“Great! Now I have to disinfect my dog.”
Richard ran some alcohol wipes on Donnie’s coat where my infected hand had made contact, and sprayed a generous cloud of Lysol in both our directions for good measure. He made me laugh, which made me cough.

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I drove back to the desert to heal for another couple of days, but this time away from the shooting range, into the red dirt I used to call home. I found “my spot” was still occupied, by the same hunters. The large tent was gone, but a stinky pile of antlers and nondescript animal parts informed me that this particular “spot” might never be mine again. Even if all traces of them were gone, I’d remember that pile and the energy about it, and it would make me sad. So, I drove further.

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The first twenty or so spots I found along road 525 were occupied by either a van, a tent or an RV. In all the winters I’ve spent in the Sedona backcountry, I have never seen so many desert-dwellers. I finally found an unoccupied level area, but upon inspection discovered the prior occupants had pooped all around the campable spot, and left their soiled toilet paper for the desert maid to clean up. Same story in the next few spots. In fact, I hadn’t noticed prior, but there was toilet paper all over the desert – caught under the mesquite  bushes, in the juniper branches, and startlingly white against the red dirt everywhere – this is a different topic than the one at hand, but seriously, hasn’t anyone heard of Leave No Trace ethics anymore? Anyway, I finally settled on a little secluded piece of dirt, crawled in the back, and resumed sleeping for another day and one night.

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BONUS STORY:
I was awoken on the second morning by the sound of a man’s voice. A very close sound of a man’s voice! I had been out of it so completely that I didn’t exactly remember where I was, so I sat up to see whose voice that was, and how far from the next encampment I had set my home. There was a small city-type car about 500 feet away, but nothing closer. Then I heard him again.

He was less than 20 feet from my truck, a man about mid-fifties, with a grey hoodie over much of his face and cut-off jean shorts, sitting in the dirt. His legs were crossed and his hands in prayer position in front of his face, which I couldn’t see. His hands shook with each desperate incantation as though the man was pleading God to spare his very life. This was a new one … I wasn’t sure what to do, so I lay back down. He must have known there was someone in the truck, and this is a very big desert, so why pray right here, next to me? Out loud?

You’d think I’d have been more worried about it, but for one, I always feel safe in the truck, and for two, I was still sick and actually just fell back asleep immediately.

His prayer woke me up a second time. Still only 20 feet away. This time he had knelt in the dirt and placed his forehead onto the ground, facing the red rocks of Sedona in the distance. He whispered his wails, but I sensed he wanted to be heard. I turned my phone on, just in case, and got dressed with minimal movements within the truck, all the while keeping a discreet eye on him, but also allowing him some privacy for his prayer.

He finished his second round of imploration, walked a wide arc around the truck, got in his car, slammed the door, and stayed there for 5 minutes. He then got out of his car, walked a wide arc around the truck, sat back in the dirt, same spot, prayed, returned to his car … and so forth.

On his fourth of fifth visit, I decided my curiosity was greater than his need to pray right next to my truck. I waited until he was just within earshot, and pushed the back open to reveal myself and my home. He stopped dead in his tracks and stared as his feet with his hoodie pulled as far down as his nose.
“Good morning.” I yelled to him.
No answer. No movement.
“Are you okay?”
He shook his whole body “no”, then said “I go over there to pray.” and immediately turned around in place and still stared at his feet but facing away from me.
“Okay. That’s okay. You can pray here, I don’t mind.”
He shook his whole body “no” again, and walked away towards his car. He got in the car, slammed the door, waited 5 minutes, and came out. Same routine. This time he walked a very wide arc around the truck, then changed his mind, walked a very wide arc back to his car. With gentle, non-threatening nor fear-based gestures, I began preparing the truck for departure. I was about ready when I noticed him approach the truck with a large Tibetan singing bowl. I had crawled in the back to water my plants, so I met him right at the entrance – the tailgate.
“Hi!” my friendliest voice.
He shook “no” again, and moved his hand along the Sanskrit on his Tibetan bowl. I grabbed my notebook and a pen and handed them to him with an inquisitive look. Is that what you need?
“I broke my vow of silence.” He wrote very slowly in small caps, and I watched as he wrote trying to decipher the letters as they appeared.
“Ahhh. I understand.” I told him.
“I am not in a good way.” he wrote on the next line.
“Okay. I hear you.”
“I can only be friends with spiritual people.” on the next line. And upon writing it, he looked at me for the first time, with an apologetic look, as clearly, I didn’t qualify.
He then bowed and returned to his car.

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And I drove out of the desert, to Chris’s, to get a shower and attend to the aftermath of the flu – melted chocolate and wilted greens, fever-smelling sheets and clothes, and stories to tell.

The end.
For now.

XOX – Roaming Bobcat.

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Fractals!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Ugly Truth about Living Life to the Fullest

I hear it all the time … “YOU truly live life to the fullest!”
Yeah, way to go, Roaming Bobcat! You are such an inspiration. Way to be free from society, jobs, obligations and Old World expectations, roaming by the will o’ the wisp in your valiant Catmobile, all smiles, gratitude and high vibrations.

Well, I’ll tell you what: I DO live life to the fullest. And it is not all you’ve cracked it to be…

2 days ago. My facebook status read “Sometimes, I feel so blessed, that my only hardship is humility.”
Last night. A friend offered I sleep in his driveway because I was cold, hopeless, and crying.

Crazy Free - new cover from Scott.

“Hi. I am doing a study on the homeless population in Sedona. May I ask you a few questions.”
The lady with the clipboard picked me first. Maybe because I was standing nearest the entrance at the Food Bank, waiting for my number to be called for a free bag of food to sustain me for the week. Maybe because of my three layers of down vests and jackets, the classic look of those of us without a heated space on cold winter nights. Or maybe it was my matted hair – she couldn’t guess of my choice to grow dread locks to celebrate my passage through menopause. Or something about my unhurried pace – letting mothers and people with jobs get ahead in line. I have nowhere else to be, and nothing else to do.
“I’m not homeless.” I told her. “I live in my truck, so I always have my home with me.”
She had a checkbox for that on her form. Vehicle dwellers count as homeless.
“No, I have no income.”, “No, I don’t have health insurance.” “No, I don’t pay taxes” “No, I don’t have electricity.” “No, I don’t use any substance, no drugs, no alcohol” … She had a checkbox for each of my answers.
“Well, I’m not your typical homeless person though,” I could hear the defensiveness in my voice. I mean, I live the way I live “by choice.”
She had a checkbox for that too.

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2 days ago, the Catmobile and I pulled into Slab City, California. The “City” appears on Google Maps as a small cluster of square blocks, complete with streets (Loners on Wheels Rd, Tank Rd, etc.) and neighborhoods (East Jesus, West Satan, etc.) But, in fact, it’s little more than a haphazard congregation of  “homeless” people of the wheeled kind, a mingling (not mixing) of nomadic hippie artists, air-conditioned northern sun-seekers, off-season disoriented burners, and Alexander Supertramp followers.


I fall slightly in all categories, but mostly in the latter.
The first time “Into the Wild” landed in my hands, I was a National Science Foundation Fellow with more annual grant money for my geophysics research than all the paychecks and under-the-table money I have earned combined in the 7 years since I threw caution to the wind and leaped into this strange life I now call my own. That book sparked something wild and unstoppable in me. I didn’t see the tragedy of a troubled young man’s untimely death; I read of a vibrant explorer with the balls to go for it, explore the edges, and follow only his own footsteps, to whatever end.

In time, I’ve become my own Alexander Supertramp. I’ve lived as I pleased, following nothing but my own wishes. I’ve run out of money, repeatedly – to a documented low of $2.62. I’ve slept in the dirt (as a thru-hiker) and on sidewalks (in Cuba). I’ve forgone showers and piled hundreds of thousands of miles on my odometer. I collected friends all over the country, with names as strange as Last on the Bus, the Big Elf, Grey Wolf, Weathercarrot, Quest or Rapunzel. Enough money has always appeared when needed, and not once did I use any one of my 4 college degrees. I taught yoga, posed as a nude model for art classes, worked as a Grand Canyon guide, painted buildings and houses, restored historical windows, dug trenches, shoveled pig and chicken shit, weeded organic gardens, trimmed marijuana, wrote a book about my adventures, and lived off the royalties for a while … and, I’ve had to borrow money, dumpster-dive (mostly for pies). I’ve sung Hare Krishna songs for a free meal, and occasionally relied on food banks and the kindness of strangers. Like Alexander, I joined the ranks of society’s misfits, roamed the desert southwest, and even moved to Alaska.

But our parallel stops there. Because his life stopped then, and mine hasn’t.

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Standing on top of Salvation Mountain, I sent Alexander Supertramp my love and gratitude for the inspiration. gratitude for all the adventures, the friends and the overwhelming freedom inherent to living life this way – our way! I then parked the Catmobile among my misfit peers, and basked in the glow of a gorgeous sunset from the comfort of my pillow. I felt like the Grand Winner of the Jackpot of Life, and fell asleep fully contented about everything in my world.

Alexander was older now. He was walking through the desert, but only I could see him. The rows of RVs had their generators going. That was in the world. So, the noise from the world was in my dream. I was relatively sure this was a dream. I could date Alexander since I could see him. He’d be my invisible boyfriend.
“You died just in time.” I told him. “If you had continued on, you’d have run out of steam, eventually.” He wasn’t listening, but he held my hand as we walked. “All that freedom, it’s exhausting after a while.” Still not listening. “It’s like having so many options paralyzes you, because how can you choose when everything is available?”
There was a banquet for a wedding. A table covered with delectable meals. All of which I had tasted already. He sat and ate.
“Alexander, I think I don’t want to be homeless anymore. I want a kitchen, and a bathtub, a garden to grow my own food, a room for my sewing machine, and a yoga studio nearby where I can teach, and a steady income to buy gear and pay for adventures.”
“Then stop.” He kissed my temple just before I drifted elsewhere, to another dream.

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skinny slit separatorThere were no restrooms anywhere in Slab City, and no bushes thick enough to hide behind, so I left before sunrise, at the urgent request of my bowels. Then I drove 2 hours and almost ran out of gas before finding both gas and a bathroom.

“Then stop.” he had said. Well, but, I can’t. Just like I can’t stop in Slab City if I need to poo. There’s this urge to always move on. A fear of missing out if I don’t. I can’t go back to where I was before I got on this journey, because, at this point, it’s so far ago and I’m such a different person that I wouldn’t even fit at all “back there.”
And, also, I don’t want to stop for the sake of stopping. I want to stop because I find a spot or situation that I deem worthy of stopping. I’m not just gonna pull in the middle of the desert and say “I stop here. Here’s just fine.”

And what if I did stop? There were towns along the way where I’ve considered stopping, like North Conway, NH or Sedona, AZ. Would I build a peaceful hole to call my own? Get a steady job? A job would bind my daily hours, and the assorted taxes, insurances and utilities would bind my income. So I’d have the money for adventures and gear, and no time to partake in them. The eternal dilemma … I think I’d just shrivel up under the weight of a life ill-fitted to my particular genetic makeup. In fact, I’ve tried to stop in each of these towns. It didn’t take.

When I finally pulled into Sedona, and caught my first glimpse of Thunder Mountain, tears welled up in my eyes. Tears of sadness. An overwhelming sense of stagnation washed over me. I was here again. I always returned here when I didn’t know where else to go. Why? Why always Sedona? Because it’s easy. Because I know I can camp out in the desert, and get my mail at friends’ addresses, and meet people for tea, and hike trails I’ve hiked a hundred times without having to buy a map or ask strangers. I have a “spot” here. Just having this “spot” made me feel stagnant. So, not only I can’t stop, but I can’t return too often either. A pretty dire case of wanderlust!

Then I drove through town – for the first time in over a year. My favorite yoga studio is now closed, as is my favorite coffee shop. Most of the pullouts in the desert now have “no camping” signs, and worse … there is a “camping” sign on my secret road, leading straight to my secret spot – “My” spot, where I have spent months, where I know each cat-claw bush, coyote song and firewood pile. There was a massive camp in “my” spot, with enough water to last an entire season.

So, here is where it stands. The Sedona I always return to no longer exists. It changed while I was gone. So, I can stay here and pretend it’s a new town. and I know I’d discover new “spots” and meet new people. I could even find work here – I have contacts- and save enough to hike the CDT – my next dream adventure.

Oooor … I could go somewhere else, someplace new. Anywhere. I can go anywhere at all. I can go soooo anywhere that I don’t even know where I’d go.

And THAT is the ugly truth about living life to the fullest. How do you define who you’d like to be when infinity represents the boundary of what you can create? How do you narrow it down? How do you remain content with your choices when you can just look over the fence and see the green grass of a small home with a kitchen and a bath? How do you ward off stagnation when movement becomes your norm? How do you reconcile growing your own organic vegetables when you are addicted to the view outside your 32 square foot window to always, always, always be different?

What would Alexander have done, if he hadn’t died?

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P.S: So … I started writing this posted “The Ugly Truth about Living Life to the Fullest” intending to write about how, often, people think I live in a state of La La Land-happiness about how awesome my life is. And anyone on Facebook could easily think that, because I only post when I’m happy. The “Ugly Truth” I wanted to write about is that life comes with great joys and deep sadness, moments of despair and confusion, the whole gamut. The key to “living fully” is NOT to be happy all the time, it is to live everything that happens. Reject nothing, it’s all good … that’s what I came here today to write about, and then, my fingers wrote something else entirely. Probably something I needed to read myself, to know where I’m at. Live Blog Therapy, of sort.

And also, this morning, as the story was writing itself, I got an offer to go live in a cob house with a friend in Colorado. I’d still have the truck as a bedroom, but there would be a kitchen and bathroom, and a wood stove, and a room I could make into an office to finally record that audio book I started years ago. And it’s in a spot I’ve never visited before. So … ??? Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading! XOXOX

[drawing of the two ladies on the cliff by my friend N.Scott Driscoll as a potential new cover for Crazy Free]

 

 

 

 

 

Lunacy

​Lunacy. A real thing.  Alone on the Wolf Moon in a desert I love,  like so many other nights.  Midnight. A truck full of screaming drunken men races up my dirt road. There’s metal banging.  The engine roars. I can’t tell if the scream is of pain or joy. I feel the fight or flight hormones rushing through. The truck is now open and I’m ready. I could run and hide up the hill.  I know this desert better than they do.  And leave my truck open to vandalism?  Never. What weapons do I have? 1 ice axe, 2 fire staffs. No gun. No need. I wouldn’t shoot. I know this. The screams are closer now. Pots and pans must be tied to the bumper. What feeling is this?  The opposite of feeling safe. Would I feel safer if Jim was here?  I can’t rely on others for my feeling safe. Would I feel safer if I believed I was safe? Yes. I used to believe. I don’t know why it changed. Would I remain aware and believing in a loving, kind universe if these men got here? Fascinated by the inner dialog, I feel it all,  like an observer and a potential victim both.  

They turn around less than 20 feet from the truck. I am parked on a muddy dead end road.  They never saw me.  I find their tracks in the morning. They drove back and forth through the thickest of the mud. They broke some trees and drove over cacti. 

I follow their tracks all the way to the paved road. They were on a rampage. Mayhem and destruction everywhere they drove. I knew their path before I saw it. As they left the desert, I could hear their screams and see their red fading lights for miles. I wished those lights stay red.  Don’t turn around. Don’t come back here,  lunatic wolf moon madmen.

[Reposted here from a Facebook post from a few days ago]

*the Wolf Moon is the first full moon of the year. 

My first and likely only political post

[Originally written as a Facebook post]

I don’t engage in political debates, and for that I’ve been misjudged uncaring.  I don’t listen to the news. That doesn’t make me ignorant.

A madman walked into a gay bar in Orlando and killed innocent people, igniting a spark in a barrel of dynamite-loaded opinions. Whichever fears one already subscribed to were suddenly further justified by the senselessness of the act. The madman had a gun, let’s ban guns. The madman had Afghani parents, let’s exile all Muslims, and while we’re at it, all foreign-born immigrants.  The victims were gay, let’s point the finger to homophobia. Let’s point, let’s point … to something, to someone outside of ourselves. Let’s reduce our tribe, our family to that which was hurt, so that we can exclude that which did the hurting. We do this to feel safer. If we were to admit that a random madman walked into a bar and killed innocent people, then we’d have to accept that this could happen again, anywhere, anytime, placing us and our loved one in constant potential danger. But if there’s a greater cause, purpose or scheme, then the likelihood of it hitting home is perceived as less. A conspiracy theory is much more reassuring than an isolated insane act to the human brain.

Einstein said that a problem cannot be solved from the level at which it was created. Fear-based dividing and hierarchical categorization of the human tribe doesn’t foster peace, it starts wars. Review your history books, if you don’t believe me.

So, we must rise above and look from a greater perspective. Let’s say the whole world is our tribe, then the madman is our brother. Now it’s an inside job. It’s a family problem, a whole world problem. And I don’t claim to know anything, but from my perspective, it seems that fear is not born because there’s a problem, there’s a problem because we live in fear. It’s not healthy. It’s bound to crack.

“They” say I’m ignorant of the “facts” because I don’t watch the news, that I live a selfish life in Lalaland with my head in the clouds or in an opaque paper bag, that I’m heartless for posting happy posts in the face of tragedy, that I’m blindly delusional for going on long walks when America is on the brink of war. And I ask, how does my spending hours feeding my mind with the horrors of the world help anyone? Who benefits from my fear? (And yes, I could follow this question straight up the conspiracy ladder, but again that’d only redirect the fear-based finger pointing). Shouldn’t *somebody* hold this space here – where it is remembered that the world is a magical, beautiful place – for balance? And what if more of us turned off their TV and concentrated instead on finding and sharing beauty and love in the Right Here and the Right Now? What if our madman brother had grown-up in a world where the majority chose to keep their eyes open in the sunlight instead of staring at the darkness? Even if our brother was Muslim and had a gun, don’t you think the story would have had a different ending?

I value your diverse opinions. I welcome the whole spectrum on my FB feed and in my life. But do not measure my actions by the yardstick of your assumptions.

Not all bliss is born of ignorance.

My 32 square foot home – the bedroom

Some day, in a distant future, I might again live indoors, with a ceiling, running water and indoor plumbing. I imagine at that point I’ll look back on my current life and wonder “how the hell did I fit my entire life in 32 sq fit for all these years?” So, in case you are curious too, and since I am cleaning the truck anyway … here is how:

Bed of truck (bedroom)- 6X4 = 24 sq ft
Behind the seats in the cab – 2X4 – 8 sq ft

Part 1 – the bedroom.
20160610_155059Blank canvas. Almost … 6X4 truck bed outfitted with Vision high ceiling cap, 6 climbing bolts (3 on each sides), metal wire shelves and Tibetan prayer flags.

20160610_155238Side shelves, design of my own – plywood sheet cut and joined with piano hinges, rest on the wheel base, held in the bed liner grooves.

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Waterproof barrier. The shell has been leaking for a few years in spite of having the seals redone. This keeps my mattress dry.

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Ikea firm mattress, with zippered cover. Makes it easy to wash.

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1.5″ memory foam – the secret ingredient in the camping->home alchemy.

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Jersey cotton sheet stretch to fit. Regular sheet are almost impossible to get smooth in this setup. The secret ingredient in the home->palace alchemy.

20160610_175359_Richtone(HDR)Lower shelves. On the right, trash bags, winter hiking boots, stove and fuel box (alcohol stove, windscreen, lighter, funnel for fuel and spare straps), zero degree sleeping bag and winter camping pad. On the left, hiking poles, hiking shoes and sun shade for the side windows, bag of climbing gear and mountaineering bivy bag. Bedding goes underneath the shelves when not in use.

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Middle shelves. On the right, bedside basket (toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, pencils, headlamp, solar lantern, solar lamp, pocket knife, assorted crystals, bio-tune tuning fork, Ganesha statue found in the sea on Nantucket island), medicine box (lotion, vitamins, tiger balm). On the left, book shelf (books in progress, coloring books and pencils, local hiking maps, journal). On the shelf-above-the-feet, denatured alcohol (fuel), water ninja (1 gallon, in a tee shirt for protection), kitchen box (pots, pans, etc), food box (including a full spice rack and nice selection of oils and vinegars), nuts and seeds box, small suitcase of clothes. Welcoming mat for the tailgate.

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Top shelves. To the right, tea box (great assortment of green and herbal teas) and wolf-friend, utility box (scissors, batteries, lighters, candles, tampons, sage bundle, pins, compass, pens and pencils, spare reading glasses), towel, bathroom bag. To the left, hats and gloves box, socks box (I’m packed to be gone all winter, possibly for a couple of years), underwear and truck window curtains. Back shelf, jackets (rain and puffies), pants (yoga, work pants and 1 pair of jeans). Protective sheet of plywood slides under the mattress for sleeping.

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Driving mode – the boxes come down from the shelf-above-the-feet for a clear view out the back. Toys come in (2 fire staffs on the right, a hula hoop on the left) and cooler in the back for easy access.

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Final touch for New Hampshire departure. This time I’m also packing a bin of climbing gear (ice climbing tools, ropes, crampons, ice climbing boots, mountaineering boots, harness, helmet, etc …) and a pair of AT skis.

All that is left is to decorate.

“Courage cannot be tested cautiously” (with the sea horse).
“Follow your heart and know you are loved.” (note from Margaret)
The green bungee cord holds the recorder I use to create the audible version of Crazy Free. It hooks to the other side of the truck when in use, rests on the same side when not in use.

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This one is indispensable for extended stays in the desert. It has been on the wall of several brick and mortar bedrooms before gracing the side of the truck.

That’s the bedroom. Next, the living room (cab)).

My 32 square foot home – the living room

Previously, on the Roaming Bobcat … the bedroom.

Now moving on to the living room (the cab), where all sorts of hoarding addictions are revealed.

20160611_133456_Richtone(HDR)On the back seat of the cab, four wooden crates held by seat belts.
In the lower right, sewing machine and fabric. In the lower left, arts and crafts (drawing, jewelry making, and MORE fabric. In the upper right, a bunch of girly scarves, a few nice shirts and a jacket, in case I have a date – you never know – valiantly guarded by a tiger and lion, whom I’ve had since I was 16 years old. They came with me in my first suitcase when I came to the states (1992). The left top box is my “office”, padded envelops to send books, address book, business cards and solar charger for my electronics. It’s a bit empty at the moment, but I’m picking up a shipment of Crazy Free books in Colorado on my way through.

These wooden crates turned on their side, combined with the wood planks making the shelves in the back, can (and have) easily become modular furniture if it gets too cold to live in the truck, as happens in New Hampshire in the winter.

20160611_133837Left side, behind the seat. 5 different packs. And yes, I need all of them. There are two more stashed under the seat, along with a small tool box, car wax and rags. The top bag with the exotic print holds two yoga mats and a meditation blanket from India. My Mom made that bag for me years ago. It’s still going.

20160611_134946_Richtone(HDR)Right side, behind the seat. 3 more pair of boots and a spare pair of trail shoes (2 more in the climbing box, and a pair of climbing shoes in the climbing bag). And yes, I need all of them! Under the seat are chains, a snow shovel and ice scraping tools. Ready for winter!
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Tucked in between is my Appalachian Trail pack, ready and eager to go, and my laptop bag with all the chargers, cables and such.

20160611_140436On the passenger seat, a box of snacks for the road and a box with spare change, pens, more charging cables and love notes I like to keep close by. Usually, I keep my purse here too, and the water ninja when I’m driving long-distance.

The rest is all TREASURES!

Sedona rock, New Mexico heart, gift double-pointed quartz, Mt. Baker rock, lip balm, stick I picked up in Yosemite in 1994, heart from Java love cafe. And a stack of hoop earrings around the gear shift handle. And a rainbow-maker from my friend Lucy (to the right of the rear-view mirror).
The “All Powers” box holds a solar trickle-charger for the truck’s battery and about 50 quartz crystals I dug out of Payson’s “diamond point” – between the charger and the crystals, I’m covered for all emergencies. The fancy tire gauge was a gift from Dave, the Saline Valley Hot Springs caretaker, from the time when I got 3 flats in 24 hours.
The pendant on the window has my coyote bones (read about that here) and some beads made of Sedona red rocks. The turtle shows me the way (Maturin, the way of the turtle, if you’ve read Stephen King’s Tower series), the blue bracelet with rose quartz pearl was a gift of protection from my friend Margaret.

That’s it.
Loaded and ready to go … one more day of work and I’m outta here!

Cottonwood Sage, Sedona Red

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This is the view from my pillow, right now (7:15 this morning), at the top of a small hill above Cottonwood, overlooking the open plain between the edge of the Colorado Plateau and the Verde River. Taken to the sound of gun shots below. I’m camped right above a shooting range. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Sedona anymore.

I meant to leave. I needed a different color. Living in the red does something to my soul. Maybe the iron in the rocks seeps through my feet into my blood stream,  maybe the omnipresence of 450 hz (the vibration of red) activates my root Chakra. By whichever school of thoughts,  it affects me.
Feelings, like sunsets, are never pastel in Sedona.  Sadness tastes like despair. Unchecked unconscious annoyance can turn to rage. Joy feels like Universal Love and Gratitude bursting out of the heart and every pore. Oh, most delicious of feelings! That last one’s a bit addictive.

And it’s not just me.  Every guest I had on tour this week commented on this.  One woman had uncontrollable anger, hated her hotel and everybody in it on her first night.  By the time I met her,  the next day,  she glowed brighter than an Angel of Love. Another cried massive emotional release, then said she felt more energized than she’d ever felt,  and all I did was take her to the Creek.  Yep!  Sounds like Sedona.

Whenever I leave the red rocks,  I get depressed for a day. It took me a while to make the correlation.  I just thought Flagstaff was a sad place,  then I realized I felt the drop in energy regardless of my destination away from here.

And yet,  I have to leave often and sometimes stay away for years.  When I first came to Sedona,  a new friend from Flagstaff told me “You come to Sedona to heal,  then you get out. It’s too intense to live there.”
I don’t come to heal (that I know of). I come because I love feeling intense for a little while. It’s like my natural growth gets sling shot to the next level. And also, it’s gorgeous, I can work as a guide guide and live for free in the postcard. I have a few friends who live in Sedona full time and are perfectly grounded and operate at a “normal” level. I also have several who probably should have left decades prior,  when they still could. Like all things,  it’s what you make of it.  For me,  I can’t stay in the sling shot full time. After a few months,  it makes me crazy (er?). When I get that buzz,  it’s time to go.

And that time is now. I’m buzzing. Emotions run high and I might compromise friendships or expand energy solving imaginary problems if I linger.
In addition, summer’s here and it’s hotter than hell by 7 am. My face feels like it’s about to crack from dryness. I don’t have AC – I’m not sure I’d want it.  It’d only make the outside feel hotter. Yesterday, the Tupperware I left in my front seat, in the shade, melted into a malformed mass, and right now (7:44 am) the glue that holds the velcro on my truck’s curtains is failing, leaving me exposed to the ball of fire at the heart of the great desert oven.

I have a few more tours lined up for June, but I’m already packed.
Last month I left “for a few years” on the new moon, and returned two weeks later on the full moon.  In the 3D world it all made sense. There was work here and I needed funds.  But in Sedona-speak, the moon probably did it. This time I’m leaving on the full moon. I hope it sticks. I’m migrating north to greener grounds, meadows and snow capped mountains. It is time.

And then to the AT … 🙂

Xox.
Boiling Bobcat

Behold Pack the Second!

This is Pack the First, the beloved. packpct
It was born in Bellingham, in my friend Rose’s living room, after a painful 3 month stitch-destich-restich marathon. It was my first home-made pack, and I thought I had made all the mistakes in the book with it. I was wrong!

The first pack had a “Bobcat Blue” body and a “Hawaiian Blue” collar, a ULA belt (purchased) and a set of Arc’terix shoulder straps (gifted) – I did make my own shoulder straps, but felt they were too narrow and likely to become uncomfortable after some-thousand miles.

This was the pack that traveled to Rishikesh, India, walked the PCT, slept on or just below several of the New Hampshire 4000ers, rolled in the dirt of the Shaman’s cave, found some ancient ruins up Sycamore Canyon, rose up to Valhalla in BC, Canada, meandered on the San Diego Trail, hitchhiked from Florida to San Diego and couldn’t believe its good luck to get to explore Cuba – not in this order. It also got to carry ice axes and ice tools, climbed Mt. Baker twice, and ElDorado once. Not bad for a mistake-ridden first-time home-made pack.

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This is it today. The shoulder straps started to fray in northern California on the PCT – I was pleased that the first seams to fail were Arc’terix’s, not mine. The thin silnylon (~0.3 oz/yard) collar ripped in Washington from too much pulling on it to stuff more food in the pack (hiker hunger). Mice bent on getting my nuts transformed the mesh pockets into partial Swiss cheese. I fixed it all with Nylon tape. Both ULA pocket zippers broke in New Hampshire, conveniently half way, so I could still use half of each pocket. All nylon repair tape melted away in the humidity of Cuba. I repaired the pack again, with white duct tape borrowed from a trimaran captain at the Hemingway marina. I think he used it to repair the sails. The bright white made it look like a hobo pack, and I had to hide it under a pack-cover during the Florida to San Diego hitchhiking adventure because we were not getting any rides.

I considered repairing it more fully, somehow, and continuing to trust it to carry me through my adventures but feared the fabric had become frail beyond trust. I asked it what it wanted to do. It said “Oh, please, let me rest!” So I hugged it thank you and sewed another one.

Pack the Second was born in two living rooms, Lucy’s and Chris’s, both in Sedona. It took only about a month and a lot less destiching-restitching than for the first one. I might have taken less time still, if I hadn’t moved twice in that time period. Right after the back panel was done, I packed my machine and all fabric in the truck and moved to Colorado for a job. Less than two weeks later, I packed everything again, and returned to Sedona for another job. Some have suggested I use my transience to get free going-away party dinners. I have no comment on that topic.

The pack wasn’t my brain-child. I used a Ray-Way pattern and 24-pages instruction booklet. I bought the instructions, fabric and all notions as a kit on Ray Jardine’s website, after desperately shuffling all items in my storage unit in vain looking for the instructions I used for the first pack. At $95 a kit, I hope to never lose them again. I imagine this won’t be the last pack I make. I can find the fabric for $20-$30, so really the bulk of the cost is this set of instructions.

The thing is, I’ve never been good at following instructions … even $95 instructions. The Ray-Way pack is nice, but with every seam my imagination gets to the trail and adds its own flavor … wouldn’t it be nice to have compression straps, or a secret pocket to put my credit card, or a set of elastic bands to hold my Camelback upright, or a rigid piece of foam right on my back (the original design is for a frameless pack). So I dedicated much of the month of sewing to scratching my chin and muttering to myself, studying other “professional” packs and figuring out how to construct new things. That’s really the most fun part of pack-making, I think.

The other thing is, I’ve never been good at following directions … so, when the instructions say to keep the wide part of the fabric at the bottom to accommodate the sleeping bag, they mean it, and if the wide part is at the top, then the pockets are upside down (exhibit A above). That threw me for a “now what?” loop for a few days. My friend Miles said “keep it upside down (wide part up), maybe you’ll end up liking it even better.” I was dubious, but the alternative was to get a triangular piece of Tyvek and extend the sides. But then I’d have had an extra set of potential weak seams, ya da ya … not worth it. I sewed it as it was.
I’ll be hiking the AT with an upside down pack and nobody will know.
That wasn’t the worse … I also had to contend with a back panel 10 inches too short (because, it turns out no matter how many times I measured 10+15 = 35 (exhibit D above), it never was long enough), a sleeping bag compartment out of proportion with the rest of the pack (another calculation issue), and the fact that Ray Jardine doesn’t believe in hip belts. I modified the shoulder strap to accommodate a hip belt (Exhibit C above). It worked out.

This is good. I read that Native artists always leave a flaw in their art project so that the Gods understand the artist is not trying to compete with them. I think we’re all clear on this, I am not competing with any Gods.

A few people have told me “You’ve made this? That’s impressive!” – No. What’s impressive is that the machine I used did it. I call it “The Brave Little Machine that Could” (BLMC for short). A small Singer Featherweight II – I think it’s designed as an entry level sewing machine, for kids to learn to make pillows cases and such. I have it go through straps, foam, triple-quadriple stitches across 5 layers of fabric, then delicate seams through whisper-thin silnylon. Sometimes I have to sew by hand with the machine, turning the nob one punch at a time with many “you got this, good job Machine”, often I have to pull on the fabric to make it go through, and other times I just hold my breath and trust it knows what it’s doing. I always thank it in the end. It complains often, but it keeps going. And, it doesn’t sew that straight or that regularly, and that’s okay. The Gods are pleased with all our imperfections.

This is Pack the Second, here filled with blankets just to see how it fits. Its main body is “Bobcat Blue” again, but the collar is “Spring in New Hampshire Green”. It seemed appropriate to make a greener pack for the AT. The compression straps are from the first pack, so you know the adventures they’ve been on. The ULA hip belt was a gift from my friend Critter. That belt has already hiked the AT once, Georgia to New Hampshire (where he gave it to me – he had lost so much weight that this belt no longer fit him). The sternum strap comes from my North Face day-pack, and I’m not even going to list all the adventures that pack has been on. It’s been with me since 1995 – France, Yemen, Namibia, Tunisia, Tahiti, … – That little pack is indestructible. The strap is only borrowed, because I’m out of strap material. It’ll return to the North Face pack soon. Pack the Second is narrow at the bottom, but still fits the sleeping bag comfortably, and wider at the top, which I actually like better than the tall skinny collar of Pack the First (see above) … better lower center of gravity on my back if I have to load it with extra food – Miles was right after all (don’t tell him).

So, that’s it. All that’s left now is make a hole for the Camelback tube and take it on adventures.

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I’m already planning the color scheme for Pack the third, my future CDT pack. 🙂

Coyote – a story of Life and Death in the Sedona desert

I was once straight Bobcat. A totem animal master of solitude, stealth and curious navigation of higher realms of consciousness. Until a year ago ..

A year ago today, I woke up in my beloved desert to a glorious sunrise over red rocks. It was too hot to sleep past sunrise, and I had a tour that day anyway – 8 am pickup, just one client for a Sedona hike. I hula hooped to a few songs, read emails in the shade of my shell and ate breakfast with my feet dangling off the tailgate. Just another happy perfect day in the life of The Bobcat. When it was time, I packed the truck and drove down my dirt road.

Less than a hundred feet from my camp-home, an orange flatbed pickup truck and two young bearded men were parked near the water hole. I looked with interest – I rarely see people in my corner of the desert. I drove around the thorn thicket, over the cattle guard and into plain view of their truck. Suddenly, time slowed down to a trickle. In that trickle, I saw blood on the bed of the truck, a grey mass at the end of the blood, a gun in one hand, a look of surprise on a bearded face. In one swift move, the hand that didn’t have the gun grabbed the grey mass and tossed it in the thorn thicket. It was a coyote. Without a tail. Time resumed its normal speed. Both men stood by the truck and waved a friendly “hello”. I waved back and said “hello” – my brain hadn’t processed what had just entered it yet. The larger of the two men climbed in the truck and said to the other, “The fucker put blood all over the truck. Let’s get outta here.”

My brain caught up. The human “fuckers” had killed one of my coyotes and taken its tail – for a trophy, I suppose. My blood flash-boiled with anger. If I had a gun, I’d have shot the fuckers – shot them dead and taken their shoes. Oh, I was seething. And simultaneously fascinated. So, that’s how it felt. That’s how men kill men, families kill families (by whichever large definition), wars are started and massacres feel righteous and justified. Through the anger, I became aware of a new level of appreciation for the warriors of the world. As a self-proclaimed Buddhist Anarchist (one who aims to dismantle the System without harm to anything), I had never before understood the act of killing, except in respect for the purpose of feeding oneself. But I did that day. My heart screamed “Revenge!”, and yet, I drove on. It was 7 am in the desert, miles from any help, I was an unarmed woman alone, and these two had just shot a coyote for a trophy tail. Self-preservation prevailed over retribution.

My client that day was a woman about my age. She lived in Manhattan, New York, had manicured nails and had never been on a dirt road before. When she climbed into the truck, I realized I was unlikely to hold my tears for the entire tour, so I preempted with “Before we go anywhere, in case I cry, this is what just happened …” She had recently seen two black men gunned down in the subway. In spite of our completely opposite lifestyles, we understood each other perfectly. I did not lead a fluffy tour that day. We discussed heavy subjects – senseless killing, protecting one’s own and other plagues of humankind – as we hiked through beautiful canyons. She was a soulfriend, not a client, for a day. We must have both needed it. She later told the concierge at the resort that my tour had been the highlight of her trip.

After the tour. I called the BLM. Killing coyotes, it turns out, is legal, but with a permit. No permit had been purchased. If I had noted the truck’s license plate, they could have issued a violation and charged the hunters a fine. Fat lot of good that would have done the coyotes.

The sun was just setting when I returned to the desert, straight to the dead coyotes’s bed under the thicket. I thought the hunter might remove the evidence, but they had not even bothered. There were actually two coyotes, one slightly larger than the other. If it weren’t for the missing tails, I would have thought they were peacefully napping in the shade. My anger was instantly replaced by sadness. I kneeled at the foot of the larger one and cried. I cried for myself, not for them. They were long gone – I could tell. No lingering coyote in those bodies. I cried in frustration for my inability to protect my desert kin, for my cowardice cloaked in self-preservation, and for the loss of their voices in my nightly serenade.

Because of my upbringing, it felt disrespectful to me to just leave them there. I thought I should bury them and bless their place of rest with a cross or some other symbol. But the Sedona desert is packed hard and impenetrable. Digging a hole large enough for two coyotes would have taken several hours, but I would have done it.
Luckily, Benny, the man whom I called to borrow a shovel, is part Hopi.
“You don’t want to bury them.” He said. “If you leave them out, the desert can make use of their death. If you bury them, then their death is useless. Say a prayer to wish them well on their way, if it helps you, and know that nothing is in vain. We just don’t always understand Spirit’s greater plan.”

I spoke a prayer of gratitude over the coyotes’s empty shells. I had hoped to feel their presence as I thanked them for their company and their songs. Just a small sign of acknowledgement that I mattered to them as much as they had mattered to me, a sign of forgiveness for my wrongdoings – not protecting them – or at least a confirmation of a bond between us – any bond. They gave me nothing. There were no songs in the desert that night.

I stayed with the coyotes throughout the entire decomposition process. Not out of morbid curiosity, but because at the age of 44, I had never really been around death. I buried small dead animals I found in the woods out of view, and to this day, have still not seen a dead human body. I didn’t fear death, but neither did I understand it. This was part of the gift of the coyotes’s death. I got to learn. Every day, I said hello as I drove by, sent them loving thoughts, wherever they were, and sometimes I stopped to check. They never smelled, but gradually sunk flatter, as though they were relaxing more fully into the earth.

I left Sedona in mid-July on a book tour up the West Coast and didn’t return until September. The coyotes were my first stop back in town. I couldn’t believe how much the bodies had changed. Nothing left but two flat carpets, empty skins draped over a few bones, and everything else recycled. I continued to say hello daily and check occasionally. The October rains further flattened the remnants. Holes appeared in the coyote carpets, particularly over the bones and at the edges. Then it snowed, and I left again. I left January 1st, off on adventures for 3 months. When I returned, in mid-march, even the skins had been reabsorbed by the desert. The skulls and large bones were gone, but most of the vertebrae were left- beautiful little pieces of bone jewelry. I extended my hand to pick one up. I meant to keep one to honor their memory wherever I may roam, away from Sedona. But before my fingers could touch the bone, I heard a loud clear “NO!” in my head.

“What do you know about Coyote medicine?” I asked my friend Mikhael, who is part Choktaw and my go-to source for spirit animals questions.
“You do NOT want to invite Coyote medicine in your life.” She said. “Coyote is the Trickster. It will put your life upside-down, shake things up, and rattle your peace. Unless you’re ready for a wild ride, I’d leave these bones be, if I were you.”

So, I did let them be … but Coyote found me anyway.

About a month ago, I turned at the thorn thicket and over the cattle guard just in time to see a handsome male cross the dirt road toward the water hole. I was struck with excitement. He still had his thick winter coat, a healthy mix of brown and grey fur. He stopped to look at the truck, then continued, unperturbed. He paralleled the road leisurely for a while, so that I could keep my eyes on him while the truck handled the 4X4 terrain.
“Hello Coyote. You are BEAUTIFUL.” He paused and looked at me for just a moment, and that made my day. I giggled as I sped up to pick up a family for a Grand Canyon tour. Coyote energy was mine all day. Coyote energy – as in … my sandwich was lost, my keys disappeared three times, food spilled on my clean shirt, and so forth … I explained to my clients that this coyote energy was mine alone and that they were in no danger of contagion. We laughed at each incident, and the Trickster’s tricks became part of the tour.

Coyote energy lingered for days, backed by Murphy. Anything that could go wrong didn’t go completely wrong, but got just a little skewed, enough for a giggle and a sigh of inconvenience: “Oh! Coyote!”

Coyote even occupied my nights – not every dream, but at least one per night. In one of them, I was adopted by a pack of coyotes. They protected me from an evil javelina, and I helped raised some of their youngs. In another dream, one of these youngs had grown to maturity. We found each other again after years of separation and danced and yapped in joy. I then realized he was hurt. I held him in my arms against my heart and gently rocked him, asking “Please don’t die.” My friend Miles walked through my dream just then and scoped out the situation. “Maybe he didn’t come to die.” he said. “Maybe he came to heal.” I woke up crying in spite of Miles’ reassuring words.

Benny and I took a group of 17 people on a Sacred Places tour that day. It was just what I needed. As we stood in a circle under the towering walls of Cathedral rock, one by one we chose a spirit animal, and Benny described the gifts of each. When my turn came to speak, I chose, “I am Bobcat, but today, I carry Coyote.”
“Coyote. Wonderful medicine! Coyote teaches us the balance between wisdom and playfulness. It reminds us to not take things too seriously, to lighten up. Coyote is nimble, adaptable and resourceful. Coyote plays by its own rules. It is not concerned about the risk of falling down or getting ridiculed. It walks the land confidently and trusts in the magic in all situations. In some myths, coyote sang the people into creation. It takes care of its pack, of its youngs. And also, coyote mates for life.”

Today is the anniversary of the death of two friends who didn’t even know they were friends. I thought about them when I woke up. I was actually woken up by an unusually loud buzzing of bees. This is the first time in all three months of May that I spent in Sedona that the cat claw shrub next to the truck is in full bloom and the bees were AT IT! I sat on a wood log right next to the cat claw to photograph the bees, but it took an hour just to get one fairly decent shot. Last year, two coyotes died. This year, the bees get fed. Is that what reincarnation actually means?

I am Bobcat and I carry Coyote –  One bone jewelry piece from each of the pair, so as to keep them together still, picked up this morning, not to honor their memory – because let’s face it, they don’t care – but because I’m ready for it.

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One of my bees, busy busy this morning.
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Sitting on a log, trying to catch a bee, but taking a selfie instead. I sat there until it was too hot to pollinate and they went home. The scarf was to make a hood shade over the phone, so that I could see the screen.
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One of my coyotes’ vertebrae.
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All that is left under the thicket.
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The water hole nearby, where desert creatures gather when I’m not around. 20160529_091638a

Whose room is this? And how the hell did I get here?

I wake up indoors this morning. A lovely little room, with blue and orange draperies on the ceiling over the bed. Last night, I drove to the desert, but that van – you know the one – was parked in “my” spot again, so I turned around and drove elsewhere for the night … and ended up in this room, somehow.

The last thing I remember was turning around where the van was parked. What the hell did I do last night? Did I drive back to town? Go to the Oak Creek Brewery for open mic? Did somebody spike my water?

I sit up in bed with a fast and hard beating heart. I’m sure it’ll come back to me. I look around – hard! Nothing. I rack my brain trying to retrace my steps. Nothing. Am I dreaming? Nope. Wide awake. I check my phone. Dead. Damn – that’s like that time my friend was given cocaine and didn’t remember it the next day. Did I smoke pot again? At least, I figure whoever I followed home isn’t a guy. This is definitively not a guy’s room – not a straight one anyway. Some woman’s room, with good taste from what I can tell. One bookshelf, with some of the same books I own and some shiny rocks. Some climbing gear in the closet, and these big cool orange and blue draperies overhead. Okay, so I met some cool climbing chick and went home so we could go climb together? Doesn’t explain why I’m in her bed …

I turn around and my jaw drops. What the hell! I’m not even in Sedona. These are pine trees past the small balcony, and not Ponderosas either. Like big, mossy evergreens. By then, I’m getting dizzy and about to really loose my shit, when this girl gently knocks at the door.

She opens the door and leans in. I don’t remember her at all.
“Hey, sorry to bug you, but rent’s due today. Would you get your check to Pat before you leave.”
“Who are you? Where am I?”
Pat walks in. I know her. Patricia MacQueen – 2011, we were PhD students at Frasier University together. I never called her Pat then, she was Patricia.
What is this, the Twilight Zone?
“I’m sorry ‘Pat’ – huh … how did I get here?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why am I here?”
The girls look at each other.
“How the HELL DID I GET HERE?” I’m starting to really panic, like I completely lost my mind.
“Huh … you live here …”
“I live in my truck, currently parked in Sedona.”
“Sedona, Arizona?” They look at each other again. The girl I don’t know looks at Pat “Maybe she had a seizure from too much alcohol.”
I understand I’m in Vancouver. Mmmh mmmh. Hell no. “I left here in 2011 to walk the PCT, then I moved in my truck and have been living on the road ever since.”
“No, Love,” Pat says gently “you walked the PCT and you moved in with me when you got back, and you’ve been paying rent here ever since and we’ve been commuting to our office at school together every day, and Megan here moved in with us last year, and in 3 days when you leave to walk the AT, she’ll get your room.”

Speechless. Brain trying to catch up to facts. Too much to take in. But mostly – shit! I have 3 days to move all my stuff to storage before I drive to Colorado to see LB, before getting on the AT. Deep breath. Not all is lost. At least I’m still walking the AT. Wait, what? I’m still in school?
“Am I planning to come back here to finish my PhD after the AT?”
They look at each other again. It’s getting really annoying.
“Man, what did you do last night? No, you finished. You defended yesterday, that’s why you went out and partied your ass off … don’t you remember?”

No, I really don’t remember. But somehow it makes sense. Maybe I did have a seizure. I don’t remember anything of my life in Vancouver for the past 5 years. I’m lost in thoughts trying to piece it together, and can hear a van drive down our street, past the tall pines and right below my small balcony. Wait a minute … that’s a Westfalia. I know that van.

The puttering of the engine gets louder and grabs my consciousness out of my life as a Doctor in Geophysics, and drags it upward to the surface of this reality, where the rocks are red and there is no rent due today and I don’t have to move all my stuff to storage because I live in my truck.

The van drives by and continues onto 525, and I follow its sound until it’s faded to nothing.
Shit, that was intense, and so real.

As real as this one reality by my perception.

I’m having a bit of an existential crisis this morning, wondering if I’m going to wake up from this one somewhere else. At least, in all my realities, I’m leaving in 3 days to Colorado before walking the AT.

It really makes me wonder though …

parralel life