A Wonderful Gift from a Very Special Friend

One of the most wonderful things about my life is that I get to meet some truly incredible people who teach me so much about the world around me. A few months ago, one of those people went on to the great hereafter. I met V in Santa Cruz in 2002, and she let me use a very special motorcycle jacket for the long ride up to Oregon and back down to LA. Unfortunately, V contracted a rare case of cancer that the doctor’s said should have taken her out within months. Yet although it was often a hard fought battle, V managed to give us a few more years of her life before dying in April.

Her partner Dani recently sent me the jacket that V had let me borrow, and I have to say that it is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. I wanted to show you the jacket, but I also wanted to share a bit of how we met and a few of the many things I learned from her.

The following is a passage from The Rucksack Letters.

I arrived in Santa Cruz with Black Jack in my pocket, and the odometer on my biggest gamble in Reno rolled to 2121. I went directly to the boardwalk after parking the bike at a nearby beach. This everyday carnival of roller coasters and games, where hot dogs and pizza tempted a stomach lined with trail mix, led to the wharf. I window shopped a little, wondered what restaurants might be hiring and if I cared to work there, and watched sea lions play, waving flippers at tourists, hoping they would ignore the profusion of signs posted that stated, “Do not feed the wildlife.” Perhaps it was the signs that caused me to grab a newspaper and head for the woods.

I rode east down a solitary road until I found a place to park and a stream to camp by down below. I hung my hammock between two trees where there was a clearing between the ferns and redwoods. I read through the paper, looking for jobs and opportunities, when I glanced upon an ad for the Unitarian Universalist Church. Jonathon from Rowe had offered me a summer job at the UU camp in Massachusetts via email, which made me miss my old friends there. So I thought it would be nice to meet some new ones. I found my way to the church the next morning and rolled into a parking space at 10:01, just in time for an indiscreet entry in my three-day ripe clothes, carrying my motorcycle helmet. They soon asked for visitors to introduce themselves, and I stood up and did – first day in Santa Cruz all the way from Florida.

The message was on faith. There were two different women sharing their ideas on the subject. The first spoke of unwavering faith that Gaia would provide. The second was a bit more skeptical. I examined my own faith and how I had been provided for over the last year.

I believe in what I have experienced and have faith that providence will continue. And that’s not always easy to say with $19 in your pocket.

After the service, I was invited to stay for coffee, pastries, and conversation, which many of the parishioners shared with me, inviting me again and again to a picnic they were having at the beach. A tender fireball named V started talking to me, red hair pulled up and beaming smile.  She offered me a place to park my bike and a close place to camp. I followed the directions she gave me, met V and her wife Pam at the house, and walked on down to the beach with them. I found that several of the members of the church, including V, are practicing pagans. I’ve met a lot of pagans over the last year. I even went to the Pagan Pride Parade in Asheville on Samhain (Halloween). I thought it was worth knowing more about.

The idea I often associated with pagans (People Against Goodness and Normalcy) carried with it this spooky, occultist image of black robes, goat’s head soup, and conjuring demons. But that picture didn’t match the reality of the good-hearted, open people who I have met. V and Pam let me park my bike at their place, and so, as I camped in the nearby Nisene Marks Forest (just beyond the sign that says “No Camping”), I read a book called The Spiral Dance by a woman named Starhawk. I’d heard of Starhawk before, and when I asked V for a primer in Paganism, this book is what she gave me. I figured that the best way to understand someone is to understand what they believe. And from where they have come.

Over the course of the next few days, I began to talk more and more to Pam and V as I parked my bike near sunset before trudging into the woods for a good night’s sleep and heading back at five in the morning to find work. Pam, known as White Wolf to her friends – a longer story than I care to recount – is the butch in the couple as well as the breadwinner, providing for the family as a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church while V is a stay-at-home mom for their five-year-old son Parker. V said they are the only lesbian couple in the country who live like this – where the minister and her wife are both women. V is fully involved with the youth of the church and uses her gifts of nurturing and love to the fullest of their capabilities. Later in the week, they bought a camper called Scamp and said I could stay in it if I would help to clean it up. So, for the time being, I have a new family.

I’ve sat in a couple of times when V reads Parker his bedtime stories, which she reads or tells with such delight that I don’t want her to stop when Parker falls asleep. The three of us talk a lot about our pasts, our presence, and balancing the two. We talk about home schooling and conscientious parenting, social issues, and what we’re up to next. And by getting to know them better, and meeting their friends and neighbors, I now better understand the people they represent. Paganism is not the perverse order of Satanism I once imagined it was but a group of people who live by natural law, and find nothing more natural, for the most part, than love.

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Manual for Living – Are We Truly Rich?

For the past several months, I’ve been reading from a book, among others, called Manual for Living: A User’s Guide to the Meaning of Life – Reality by Seth David Chernoff. He has two more volumes of the Manual coming out soon, one in September called Connection and one next year called Purpose. Every time I read one of the 2-3 page chapters, I wish it were something that everyone could read. Today, as I read the chapter called “Are We Truly Rich?” I just had to share it.

If you’ve never heard of the book, I highly recommend it. Easy to read and very digestible, Manual for Living offers bite-sized morsels of wisdom that I believe more and more people are learning on their own journeys, but that Seth does an amazing job of capturing. Today’s chapter was like that for me.

I’ve been speaking to this notion of the release of money as an economic system for awhile, and while I know that I am probably a head-in-the-clouds idealist on the way I would like to see it turn out as a man longing for faith, hope, and love, I am also pragmatic enough to realize that’s it’s not just about changing the system, it’s changing the way that we think about the system. I don’t think that any of our systems are intrinsically flawed, however, I do not believe that we are using them in the capacities for which they are ultimately designed. Basically, I think we’re still evolving.

Thank you, Seth, for giving us a Manual to assist us in our transformation to the people we are capable of being.

I Love the Little Synchronicities…

One of the things I truly love about my life are those wonderful little synchronicities that I notice. Let me give you a recent example… Last week, I was walking down Main Street and decided to stop in Parker’s Used Books. I knew I still had credit there because of some books I’d brought in a few years ago, and I had a sudden itch to reread some Tom Robbins. When I first started reading Tom Robbins, I was on the road. And as I made my way from Colorado to California, as I finished each book, I would remarkably find another one that I hadn’t read at pretty much whichever used book store I wandered into.

Parker’s had Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, one of my favorites, and I immediately snatched it up. The last time I had a copy of the book was when I was starring in Hank Williams: Lost Highway at Manatee Players. In the show, where I played the iconic country crooner, Fred Zimmerman played my manager and his wife Laurie played my mom (which is also my real mom’s name). Fred and I got talking about books one day and I gave him my copy of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues so I was looking forward to reading it again.

I also recently did a little promo video for the Pastry Art Open Mic Night, and so Wednesday night I decided to go out and play again. I did my three songs and noticed some familiar faces in the crowd. Wouldn’t you know it… it was Fred and Laurie with their son Jamie. We chatted for a bit and they found it pretty synchronicitous that I happened to have a copy of the very book I gave to Fred in my bag on this circumstantial meeting. Since I also had my video camera in my bag, I bartered with their son to shoot his set in exchange for a CD.

What I find additionally miraculous is how wonderful a writer Jamie Z is. Although I’ve been trying to write and talk about why I’m doing what I’m doing with this most recent adventure of mine, Jamie’s song Make Me really hits the nail on the head as to where I’m coming from. I hope you like the song and appreciate this wonderfully creative intelligence we call Life.

Approaching my mid life crisis…

For the next month, things may get a little strange around here at InkenSoul. Not only is it the 10 year anniversary of the genesis of The Rucksack Letters, but I’ll be turning 40 in less than a month now so it will be interesting to see what a mid life crisis looks like on me. For my quarter life crisis, I took off for Alaska, which set the stage for a serious case of wanderlust. The way things are shaping up, the next phase is going to be very interesting indeed.

Obviously, what with my pending divorce and release of the capitalist system, I am going through some changes in my life right now. Also, through the course of the last ten years, there have been changes that I’ve wanted to make, but haven’t found the strength or fortitude to actually make them yet. They’ve been a constant sore spot for me, but I’ve refused to let them go. Nevertheless, if I’m going to let go of capitalism and try to inspire others to do the same in order to make way for a brighter future, I’ve also got to be willing to let go of old habits that aren’t working for me on a personal level as well. And that’s just never easy.

I’ll keep you abreast on how things go.