An Accident, and Two Hitchhiking Stories

Without change, there can be no adventure.
Without adventure, there can be no growth.
Without destruction, there can be no creation.
Without creation, there can be no life.
Life requires creation, evolution, revolution, change, adventure, and destruction.

He knows I enjoy rock-climbing, new places, and a certain element of danger and adrenaline to spice up an otherwise mild existence of simple daily pleasures. I am currently unemployed and in transition between lives. So we took a weekend pleasure- trip to the local climbing mecca. We left later than we thought we would, and entered the mountains well after dark, bumping along the rocky dirt road, climbing steeper uphill, and noticing the road getting bumpier and bumpier. Eventually, after what felt like a lifetime of almost painfully bumpy roads, we arrived in front of a locked metal gate, barring the path to where we hoped to camp for the night. Undeterred yet exhausted, we modified our plan, skirted the gate, found a different place to sleep, and decided to reorient in the morning.

Upon waking and exploring, we noticed a new path leading in the general direction that we wanted to go, to access the main path. Apparently the GPS had led us far off the beaten path, into a high desert of sharp stones, tire-popping thorny bushes, and small lizards. We opened the unlocked gate, entered the new territory, and finally, to our delighted relief, found our way to the paved main road. It led us towards the craggy cliffs that we wanted to explore, through a residential area. Noticing that in our haste, we’d left our filled water container in the kitchen sink, we decided to stop at a stranger’s house to ask for water.

I, being the small and unassuming female of our merry band of travelers (man, woman, and puppy), put on a shirt, tied up my hair, and jumped out of our truck to knock on the strangers’ door. Sometimes strangers are wonderfully nice, sometimes terrifyingly mean. But, I never know what to expect. I prayed for the best, as the door opened. To my surprise, an older woman with a welcoming smile opened the door. Not only did she welcome us to as much water as we needed, but she also went to grab us cold bottled water from her refrigerator, all the while engaging us in merry conversation. Apparently they’ve lived here for the last 13 years, are retired, and are looking to sell their home soon, to move closer to their grandchildren. I love the organic and surprising exchange of stories and information that occurs when I meet strangers. After expressing our thanks for the water, stories, and general kindness, Caleb and I continued driving up the road.

Eventually, we encountered yet another locked gate. We couldn’t find a way around it, so stopped at another house to ask for directions. This person welcomed me with a brusque, “How did you get here?” She proceeded to inform me that we were on private property. In order to access the wilderness area that we wanted to explore, we should go all the way back down the road that we came up, continue backtracking south, and then drive north again. In order words, she suggested we make a huge loop, instead of continue along the path that led through the locked gate, through the mountains, into her “private property backyard.” Put off by her abruptness and coldness, we decided to stop by the first house again on our way down, just to see if we could get a second opinion.

This time, an elder gentleman answered the door. After hearing our question, and without any hesitation, he said, “It’s complicated, “and, “Follow me.” Caleb and I surreptitiously exchanged glances of awe, as we got back into our truck to follow our new guide, Glenn, back into the mountains again.

When we arrived at the locked gate, Glenn seemed surprised and dismayed. “The homeowners, “he said, “are always causing trouble.” He made a series of phone calls, found the lock code, and opened the gate for us. We drove in, once again exchanging awed glances with each other, “We are so lucky.” Glenn showed us the way up, then said, “But I want to show you some historical treasures before you go.” Filled with local knowledge and gentle humor, Glenn was a true angel! He took us to an old post office, showed us where a battle took place between soldiers and Natives, and proceeded to take us up to a more remote “round rock” where he thought meetings would have taken place, “but there’s a great view, regardless.” We followed faithfully behind our enthusiastic leader, gratified to have such a wonderful tour guide.

Glenn stopped atop a small hill to survey the landscape, searching for the road. Apparently, the plants had grown so much during monsoon season, that they covered most of the roads. The landscape looked very different than when he’d last visited it, a few months ago, before he had open heart surgery. We curved up around the hill through the trees, to meet him.

Suddenly, I noticed Glenn’s truck sliding backwards. I informed Caleb, who quickly put our truck into reverse, to prevent a collision. Just as quickly, Glenn noticed his truck backing away gaining speed, and this 80-something year old man sprang into action. He sprinted after his truck, grabbed a hold of the door, slipped, and fell. The truck kept rolling backwards, over Glenn’s rag-doll like spasming body. We were still backing up quickly, filled with horror, yet also completely calm. We acted with a smooth flow, as if we’d rehearsed this before. As soon as we were safely out of the way, I jumped out of our truck, ran to Glenn’s truck, and stopped it from rolling down the hill. Caleb stabilized our truck, then dashed over to attend to Glenn. When I came over, Caleb was still inspecting Glenn for injuries, asking questions about pain, while gently palpating his limbs. I was glad that Glenn was alive. Watching him get run over by his own vehicle was terrifying.

Glenn survived this accident with mostly surface wounds that looked bloody and terrible, but were rather minor in actuality. Mostly his right arm, shoulder, and leg got run over by his vehicle. His arm looked mangled and bloody, as most of the flesh had been ripped and rolled off. We stopped the bleeding and removed the larger debris from his arm. Glenn’s foot was broken merely one month ago. Now, freshly injured once more, it was swelling radidly. But, there were no signs of broken bones there, either. It was probably just a sprain. We bandaged him up with what we had on hand: tissues and duct tape. Then, we assisted him to his vehicle, which just meant that he hobbled on ahead, while we walked behind him, watching awestruck as this old gentleman, freshly injured, just got up and walked. Caleb drove Glenn down in his truck, while I followed behind in our truck. It was a slow and solemn procession back down to Glenn’s home. I wondered how things were going in their truck, and if Glenn’s condition was stabilized or worsening.

Caleb told me later that he engaged Glenn in lively conversation the whole ride down, which wasn’t too difficult with such a spirited old man. Glenn had abundant life stories to share, as well as all kinds of local stories, gossip, and history.

Glenn’s wife was insistent that they immediately go to the hospital. Glenn didn’t want to go, but finally conceded. We were rushed out of the house. Leaving, something didn’t feel right. Before turning onto the next road, while debriefing this experience with Caleb, we agreed that we should turn back, and clean up Glenn before he went to the hospital. At the hospital, he’d have to wait for an indeterminate period of time before getting treatment, as his wounds, gaping, open, and dirty, remained as so, in such a gross environment. So, we turned around, went back into the house, and insisted on helping clean Glenn up, before they went to the hospital. I still feel like it was the right thing to do. But, I still question if there could have been a better way of doing it, as far as being efficient and not getting in the way of Glenn’s immediate transport to the hospital. Having worked with 7song at the first aid tent at two Rainbow Gatherings, I felt confident working with the kind of injuries that Glenn sustained, in a wilderness environment far from standard medical attention. Caleb had just finished wilderness first responder training just a few months ago, and was likewise confident in his skills, though this was his first “real life” experience with such a large acute injury. We worked well together, moving fluidly with ease, grace, confidence, and efficiency.

We created a small space to work, in the living room. We sat Glenn down in a chair, then pulled up two working chairs for ourselves, next to a table to set our tools, and a small table next to Glenn to place a wash basin. We filled a rectangular bucket with warm soapy water and enough salt so that it wouldn’t sting his wounds, then set his arm into the basin to soak. This softened the dead skin and debris, and made it easier to clean the wound. We then cleaned out all of his wounds as much as we could, applied antiseptic ointment, then bandaged them up with sterile gauze wrap. We also wrapped up his ankle to support it, with ice to reduce swelling. Then, off to the hospital they went, and we continued onwards and upwards back into the mountains.

Caleb and I parted ways that evening. He had work the next day back at home, and I was to continue onwards to a workshop two hundred miles away. From the roadside, I shimmied my way around a tall barbed wire fence and walked into a rocky desert, past the bright lights of a rather cushy rest stop. I walked until I could no longer hear the cars or see the lights shining as brightly, then settled into a bed of leaves below an oak grove, surrounded by coral bean plants. The gentle glow of the waxing moon cast long shadows from my surrounding plant neighbors dancing across my eyelids, body, and dreams as I slept. I woke before the dawn, well rested, and eager to set out on the open road again, before the heat of the day set in. I trekked back to the rest stop as the desert glowed golden, by the light of the brightening sky with its rainbow array of morning colors.

I stood at the intersection between where trucks and people pull out of the rest stop, brushing my hair, smiling into the light of the rising sun. I stopped brushing to stick my thumb out at the first truck that came my way. To my surprise, he awkwardly pulled over to the side of the road, right before hitting the highway. I rushed over, hastily sticking my comb back into my bag. “Do you have ID?” He asked with a heavy accent. Since we’re close to the border, I wasn’t too surprised or put off by his question. He once- overed both me and my ID, then handed it back. “Let’s go.”

Jorge came illegally striding into the USA in his 20s, under cover of night. He’s been here for 15 years, and is now a citizen with 4 kids, a home, a wife, and a stable job that he loves. It was a joy to practice my broken Spanish with him, though there were some aspects about him that were confusing and uncomfortable. He asked me not to continue brushing my hair in his truck, for fear of his wife seeing my long hairs in there, and misunderstanding. He couldn’t understand why I finished college then decided to travel the world, and am currently unemployed and semi-homeless. He asked me some awkwardly sexual questions about my boyfriend, that left me wondering whether he was interested in me, in that way. I hoped not, and tried to eat with my mouth closed, make non-suggestive remarks and gestures, and not smile too much. Our conversation was partly battered English and excellent English from him, the opposite from me, and lots of gesticulating hands from both of us. Jorge came to the USA not knowing any English. Even after 15 years, his English was still very choppy. He did understand, however, when I said that I was an “herbalista, practica medicina con las plantas.” And, I think he understood that I felt uncomfortable after he asked me about sex. We spoke briefly about diabetes and prickly pear, then he dropped me off on the roadside at the exit that led to my next road.

I walked into the nearest gas station to ask for directions. The next road was 9 miles away, through a small town. Off I go. The woman in the gas station came running out after me as I left, shouting, “Miss!” Me: “Yes?” She: “Can I give you a ride there?” Me: Incredulous, and deeply grateful. She’d jumped to my aid with no hesitation. Born and raised locally with a husband from that she met in high school, and now 2 kids, she was a true local. Multi-generational, her family’s been here forever. “The community revolves around the kids,” she said. It’s the middle of seemingly nowhere with flat dry desert shrub land ringed by mountains, right off Highway 10. This woman exemplifies community spirit and sense of place, something I’m always seeking or creating--- then, leaving. Perhaps I have far more worldly knowledge and experiences, but she knows what it truly feels like to be “home,” and completely woven into a place. I asked her if she could travel or move anywhere, where would she want to go? She thought about it for less than a second, then replied that she truly didn’t think she wanted to be anywhere else. All of her family was here, she knew the place very well, and had everything she needed right here.

I waited at the next on ramp for a while, sitting on my backpack, leaning against the road sign, eyes squinting into the sun to wave my thumb at passing cars. Most of the people driving by looked more financially well off. I rarely get rides from those who can actually afford to drive big nice cars. It’s a funny thing that usually those who have less tend to give more. That condition was proven true again, for after about 20 minutes of waiting, a junky car filled with literal trash stopped next to me. A sprightly middle-aged farmer-looking man with twinkly eyes and a familiar feel jumped out. “Let me move some stuff to the back, to make space for you,” he said. We get to talking about teaching art, primitive skills, community living, and farm life. Apparently, we have a few friends in common at the next town I’m heading into. What a small world.

I asked to get dropped off at the same place I’d hitchhiked to visit Julie, back in the spring. It’s rare for me to return to places. It’s especially rare for me to hitchhike from the exact same place I’d once hitchhiked from, before. As I get older, my circles seem to cycle both smaller yet larger. I waited here for a few minutes, before a car that could rival Sam’s car in rickety-ness stopped. A man in a construction hat and his son welcomed me into their vehicle. They asked me where I was going. “Oh, that’s just about an hour out of our way. We’ve got nothing better to do today. Son, want to take a little roadtrip, and help this lady out?” Josef, the son, agrees. Off we go. I’m amazed by my luck, and the generosity of these colorful folk. Jorge’s father is exuberant, filled with zest for life, and has 8 children, a smattering of jobs, and fascinating stories. “I started working when I was 7!” he declared, “For $3 an hour! Picking pecans!” He’s moved all over the country, and has finally found this part of New Mexico to his greatest liking: beautiful land, nice people, great weather and work that’s alright. “The pay’s not great, but everything else makes it worth it.” He started off as a cow-hand when he was a kid, then eventually worked his way up into learning carpentry, then construction. Josef’s working already, at age 13. He’s smart, with a wicked twinkle in his eye, and not much words. We stopped at their farm for a few minutes, and they introduced me to their pet javelina, Suzie. “We’re releasing her today,” they tell me, “She’s getting a little ornery.” They’d saved her from the wild as a baby. Too weak to suckle, Josef hand fed her. Now, large and strong, she was ready to go back into the wild.

They dropped me off on Julie’s doorstep. I shared with them some apples that Sam had given me, before they picked me up. I had a deja-vu moment, remembering being dropped off by other strangers on Julie’s doorstep, just months earlier. The kindness of strangers is amazing.

Fast forward to two weeks later, as I thumb from the southernmost point of Arizona up to northern Arizona. Caleb dropped me off at the nearest larger town, then I start thumbing. Perhaps the fourth car that drove by picked me up. We live in a small town, where everyone knows everyone. So by default, this was someone from our town who I didn’t directly know, but indirectly knew people that I knew. Yes, small world once more. Richard tries to drive only 1000 miles a year. He lives up in the hills outside of town, and tries to keep as minimal of an ecological footprint as possible. His son, Avi, had come to visit. “I haven’t visited in 4 years,” said Avi, “and that’s stupid. I won’t do that, again.” Avi has been traveling for about as long as I’ve been. He’s intelligent, but with some disillusionment behind his eyes. He’s getting ready to quit his job in New Jersey, and move again. “Got ideas?” I ask him what he’s looking for, what he likes. “Something juicy.” He’s drawn to cities. He enjoys watching people, and experiencing diverse interactions. Having grown up in such a small town with limited interpersonal relationships, he said that he had always been curious about cities. Since I grew up in suburbia always loving the mountains, now I choose to live otherwise. I wonder how our childhood shapes our adult lives, and why it is that some prefer to live as they grew up living, whereas others grow to prefer the polar opposite.

Unsure where to drop me off, Richard left me next to a gas station on an empty off ramp from the major highway. I thumbed in the hot sun for a while. Then, desperate, I went to the gas station to see if I could ask someone for a ride. The woman working there came up to me, as I was asking my first potential ride. She said, “No asking for money or rides, here. Go away.” I was hurt by her rude tone of voice; she did not speak to me as a human being. I walked away, “I am not asking for money.” After about an hour, the usual rickety car stopped and picks me up. Edward and his girlfriend just moved to Arizona from California. His son had just gotten in touch with him, after about 14 years of not seeing each other. He was here in Arizona to prove his worth to the government, duke it out legally with his ex-wife again, and then hopefully return to California with his son. “He’s a little confused,” admits Edward. Life is difficult with his son’s mother, since she got taken away by the psych ward. Edward works, and thinks he can take better care of his son. He says that even after all these years, they “picked it back up like nothing.” His story brought me to tears. Sometimes, life is so complicated. The government doesn’t always do the right thing. Children get separated from their parents. Love persists. “Love.”

We drove far past where they need to go, as there’s no good place to stop and catch my next ride. Eventually, away from the center of town but still in the vast sprawl of the Tucson suburbs, Edward and his lady-friend drop me off. “Be safe, and have fun. Keep doing what you’re doing,” he says. I bless him similarly, and off he goes to pick up his son for a basketball game; off I go to walk down the road in suburbia, where it’s the worst place to hitchhike, with my huge pack on my back, swinging my thumb like it’s nothing.

I get stopped by a cop. “What are doing?” He asked. I was standing by a stop sign with my pack off and book out, pretending to read, when he stopped me. Apparently, another cop had seen me walking down the road earlier, and had alerted this guy to come follow me. I learned that it’s illegal to hitchhike in the state of Arizona, and that if I lied, then I could be jailed up. Small town, nothing to do--- two cops stood on the side of the road asking me questions, and acting fierce. I, backpack out, thumb hidden, crying with fear, and with a world of stories and experiences in my being, was as honest as I could be, “I’m scared right now.” They softened somewhat, and offered me a ride to the next town. “But, no more hitchhiking,” they said.

The backseat of the police car was stifling and uncomfortable. The policeman ended up being kind. He opened up the central window for me so that I could feel his AC, and we could talk. I asked him about his job, and his life. He’s only been in this position for about 2 years, and “I love my job.” He says that he loves helping people. With my internal eyebrows raised, I asked him what he meant by that. “Police get called to do all kinds of things. Our main objective is to be of service. My favorite part of the job is when I feel like I’ve truly helped someone.” He’s doing the same thing that I’m doing, as an herbalist. My internal eyebrows dropped back down as my heart softened. He dropped me off at a mall. I sat under the shade of a small ironwood tree, not moving for the next hour. I felt paralyzed with fear, helpless, and at a loss as to what to do. I finally got in contact with two people: the friend that I was visiting next, and Caleb. Both readily volunteered to come pick me up, though it was a two hour drive away. Grateful, I moved to a more comfortable place to sit and wait.

One of the best hitchhiking days of my life was then followed by one of the worst hitchhiking days of my life. This was preceded by a life-changing accident of a kind stranger. Thus it goes, for life, and hitching. To say that, “I will never do this again,” or “This is a great way to go” is both presumptuous and overly simplistic. Hitching is a gamble, as is life itself. I am so grateful to all those who have ever picked me up, said a kind word, or offered gifts along the way. I wrote this story in a variety of different places, sitting under different trees. I am now sitting under the shade of an old palo verde tree in the middle of the desert, at the base of the Kofa Mountains. I drove here in my own vehicle, which I recently picked up from my parents’ home, after a series of rides and adventures with different people. After so many years of not having a vehicle, I decided to have one again for convenience, to facilitate scheduling, getting jobs, wildcrafting, and pleasure-seeking adventures. I plan to use my car only as necessary, and to rideshare as much as possible. And when I see hitchhikers, even if I am not capable of giving them a ride, or don’t feel safe to do so, I will stop to give them water, a few words of encouragement, a snack, or something of heartfelt value. I will conclude these three stories with an excerpt from a poem by Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky:

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Ofcourse you do not do this out loud, otherwise, someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying,
With that sweet moon language,
What every other eye in this world is dying to hear.


Journals for Sale

I made this book in winter 2007, while living in a Native Skills community in the Wisconsin northwoods. I've been using it everyday, since. I wake up and write my dreams into this book. I reference the book for my daily schedule, to check my moon cycle, and to record my daily activities and musings. When I finish all of the pages, I just make a new little book of pages, remove the existing pages from the leather cover, then attach the new book into the leather cover. This book has traveled with me all over the USA and Asia. It probably knows the nature of my thoughts and emotions of the past 8 years more intimately than anyone else. I'm so grateful to have this book in my life, and have now created off-spring from its original design. If you would like to buy such an off-spring journal, then please message me through email or Facebook. They are for sale! I'll make you one (or more), if you so wish.

The leather cover changes cover over time, darkening with age, through continued handling. It turns a beautiful dark brown, like wood that is continually touched: there is a dark glossy sheen, and the feel of old memories worn in place. The new books are more lightly colored than my book (pictured above). You will get to create your own memories and establish your own relationship with that book, and watch it grow and change over time.

I include a little note in the book that welcomes you to your new journal friend, and has instructions for how to make refill pages. For those of you who don't know how to make books, or who are interested in my (super simple) book-making techniques, I included those instructions, below. Have fun!

How to Make a 120-page Refill Book
1. Make 3 piles of 8.5 x 11 size paper, with 10 sheets in each pile.
2. Cut each pile in half, length-wise (You now have 6 piles of 8.5 x 5.5 size paper.)
3. Fold each pile of paper in half, width-wise. (You now have 6 little booklets of 4.25 x 5.5 size paper.)
4. Place the 6 booklets on top of each other, with the folded edges aligned. The combined folded edges is the book spine. Draw a line down the center of the book spine, and a line on either side of the center line, about one inch from the edge. This line delineates where you’ll bind the booklets together, into the book.
5. Cut a triangle, drill a hole, or directly poke a hole into the three points on each booklet.
6. Sew the books together. Using about a 1 foot length of strong string, start by inserting it through the central and top holes of your first booklet. Tie a knot outside of the booklet, leaving one end of the string about 3 inches long, and the rest as the long end.
7. Taking the long end of the string, thread it into the central hole of the next booklet. After pulling it all the way through the booklet, pass the string back out.
8. Pass the string through the corresponding hole in the next booklet, which should be the top hole. (Optional: loop it under the loop of the first booklet before entering the next hole, to pull it tighter first.)
9. Continue threading in and out of the booklet along the top and central holes of the booklets. When you get to the last booklet, continue this pattern along the bottom and central holes. (Make sure that you tighten the string after each booklet, and keep the string taut.)
10. Tie a knot when you eventually thread your way back to the beginning string.
11. Attach a different 5 inch piece of string to the top and bottom holes of your book. Your book is now ready to go into the book-cover.
12. Pass the three pieces of string attached to the book through your book-cover’s spine holes, then tie knots to bind them to the book.

13. Enjoy your new book! You can use this technique to make a new refill book each time you finish a book. Thus, this leather book-cover can last you a lifetime. 


A Sentence A Day (2014/ 08/ 26 - 2014/ 09/ 18)

I love the feeling of infinite possibility, like I can walk forever, and the wilderness opens to receive me, with endless new discoveries around every bend and minutiae. The canyon stretched before us like a twisted snake of mysterious bends, a richly rolling river, diverse plants, and gently towering cliffs looming above, topped by growling thunder and darkening clouds bearing life-giving rains. I love when I can skillfully ride my dosha like the bad-ass spirited human that I am, behind and through the dosha. I will return in one month; I know, I promise, I will. Sleeping under the stars in my mosquito net castle, serenaded by passing cars, crickets, and mosquitoes, I cuddle tighter into my wool blanket on my oak leaf bed, feeling at peace, at home, and completely embraced by the world. I am in love with his eyes, smile, being, and questions. The hitchhiking gods beamed upon me, yesterday. I love, love, love mountains, canyons, rivers, deserts, and ecstatic exploration. I’m letting go of preconceived notions and this chattering mind, and settling in, opening up. I’m not always this charismatic, but I’m having fun. I’m sleeping here for the final night, as clouds move across the full moon, and I question all that I think I know, and believe in. In five days, I’ve added so many things to my inner toolkit: heart-field expansion, inner child and inner infant work, inner vision council, and scanning awareness. There’s something I love so much about canyons that words just can’t describe. Walking away, I feel the heat of what I’m leaving, the tangible-visible-innate magic, mystery, and majesty of these labyrinth-like canyons, these echoing red rock cliff faces, and these ancient stones that say so much, with nary a word at all. Feeling my skin against his again is so much more delightful than just thinking about it. I am finding my internal middle ground, that perfect settling place of understanding that external perfection can only be found through an internal acceptance (and even enjoyment) of all things and life circumstances as perfectly imperfect. The individual stories either weave themselves into an elegant basket that breathes, flexible and supportive, or they create an impenetrable wall of protection that dulls sensory input and acts as a cage to the owner, and all they encounter. The Moon gracefully walked across the Sky, between the path created by the opening between the trees, beneath which we slumbered and dreamed delicious dreams. Everything that I thought I knew feels fake and empty, like I have nothing solid to return to, and nothing to look forward to, or live for. Although I feel a complete and utter desolation of my Spirit right now, I also feel glad to be on this farm with the morning cacophony of horny hungry geese, ducks, and chickens, and in the company of all these fruit trees, veggies, herbs, and my dear old friend that feels like the most inspiring and hilarious younger brother I’ve ever had. I want to know how to help someone--- how to help myself--- in those moments when the human Spirit loses all resolve, motivation, and excitement for life. This sunrise glinting through all the dewdrops that appeared overnight gives me hope.

San Gabriel Mountains, CA


September writing prompt: Plant connection

Walk into a natural area. It can be anywhere--- your garden, a favorite park, etc. Relax your mind and senses, and allow your instincts to carry you around in a small wandering walk. Eventually land yourself next to a plant. Just sit with the plant for a moment, then start writing stream of consciously. Note the sensory impressions of the plant: how does it look? Feel? Smell? Taste (if safe)? What surrounds the plant? What thoughts, memories, or ideas does the plant evoke? Keep writing until you have recorded all that you have noticed in the moment with this plant, and arising from this moment.