The day began wonderfully, as all of them have begun on this magical journey up the often cliff-edged highway 101. So spectacularly beautiful. Each little town edged by its own State Park both north and south. At least it seemed that way. So grateful for protected land! Not so much so that we humans can all enjoy the last remaining bits and pieces of “property” that is not “private,” but so that wild creatures great and small, rooted in or moving about, can breathe together and live together the way they have always done, beckoning us humans to remember, remember. Re-member how we used to be, communing in concert with “all our relations”? Not sure how far back you have to go to get in touch with authentic primeval mystery in this America that we Europeans wrenched, violently, from the more attuned native peoples who lived here. But I found myself thinking about all this from a future perspective, the possible new world we might bring in, the longed for harmonious world both young ones and elders at the Convergence are drumming up, the “Ecotopia” that Ernest Callenbach so vividly conjured in 1975:
Ecotopia was founded when northern California, Oregon, and Washington seceded from the Union to create a “stable-state” ecosystem: the perfect balance between human beings and the environment.
I have been traveling through Ecotopia, from the Bay Area to Seattle, where I am now, after a long day yesterday that began in utopian fashion and then suddenly turned somewhat drastic. I did survive. The story follows.
But meanwhile, on my wanderings north, I decided on the final morning of the Road Trip to take Rt 6 E rather than Rt 30 E, and thus bypass the northernmost stretch of 101 in Oregon. Instead, take the hypoteneuse of a triangle, and end up going around Portland on I-405 N to I-5 N.
So I did that, and as I wound through the hilly forested areas of yet another State Park in the interior, I decided to get out and take a short, steep walk, uphill — luckily, from a road, that I discovered a few minutes later, when a loaded truck came by, was a logging road, I came upon the short steep path I was seeking. So interesting that I took it right when I did. Because I don’t know if that truck driver, coming down and moving fast, would have seen me, or could have avoided me on the narrow logging road. But that’s the nature of this journey, both the journey of my long life, and the pinpointed journey of these two weeks. I do feel myself continuously surrounded, even crowded, by spirit beings, angels, guides, whatever you want to call these companions, an entire chorus merrily traveling along, enjoying the many wonderful encounters I have along with the way. So many beautiful human beings grace this planet! I do seem to run into all of them. Even those who might appear, to a surface glance, not to be. If we assume they are, then they are! We call that part of the being to be present, that soul! — the calling magnetizes this normally hidden part of the Other to pop forth. Result? We have a very good time, whether the encounter is mere seconds or longer. The clerk in the gas station. The clerk at the motel. The drivers who let me squeeze in. The clerk in the grocery stores. The man who holds the door open for me. The waitress in the restaurant. I have yet to meet a human being on this road trip with whom I did not have a warm, heart-lifting encounter.
Oh, and BTW: many, many, many of these encounters were with first generation immigrants, to judge from their accents.
Okay, back to the steep path. Here it is, right as I started to climb it.
Well, so what? You might say. First of all, it’s hard to tell how steep it is in the photo. And furthermore, this forested scene could be anywhere. It could be in the hills of southern Indiana, it could be in the hills of Siberia, or Alaska. Well, yes, and I have traveled paths in all of them, steep paths, into the wild. But what distinguishes the American northwest has to be shown with a different kind of photo. Here it is:
Yep, large ferns and dripping moss. Both. Where else? Nowhere I’ve been, that’s for sure. I would guess “Pacific Northwest” if someone were to ask where this photo was taken. It’s “Pacific Specific,” as a T-shirt proclaimed in a little shop called “101” in whatever little town it was where I stopped for lunch at “EZ Thai” the day before yesterday.
Okay. 40 minutes later, after my crucial short steep climb up and down to get the 75-year-old heart racing and blood moving, lubricating all of the otherwise aging muscles, tendons, bones, veins, arteries, I climbed back in my car, and got back on winding Rt 6, now ecstatic, as such encounters with the wild tend to leave me, and wound my way easily around Portland and up I-5 N, all the way to the last stop before I was to return my Payless car rental to SeaTac with its gas tank full. I decided on an exit at Tacoma. Okay. Got off, and at the very end of the exit ramp, just across the street from the gas station, I heard a strange clunk and swishing from underneath the front of the car.
Limped across the street and parked. Went to the front of the car, got on my knees and looked underneath. Yes. Something in front underneath had come undone, and was dragging. Something that goes all the way across, something bumper-like, made of plastic? that’s supposed to fit into little grooves all along its edge.
Hmm. Is this the result of that bump I crossed in the field when parking at the Convergence way back 800 miles ago? If so, then it waited to manifest until I was 23 miles away from my destination, at the very end of an off-ramp to I-5 — is that not a miracle? A manifestation of a higher dimension taking charge of the 3D world I am traveling through to make sure that I would not be endangered on the fast-moving, three lanes of wall-to-wall vehicles interstate highway?
By this time, being on my hands and knees in front of the car felt like a benediction, or a prayer — and supplication! Still on my knees I tried to maneuver the piece back into place, meanwhile, wondering whether I should even get back on I-5, given the danger of it happening again while traveling fast and bumper to bumper. Indeed, the clunk and swishing of the dragging bumper-like pieces had instantly put me on high alert, a familiar place where focus becomes lazer-like to the task at hand, all its implications, going from here to whatever the goal is, in this case, SeaTac, the rental car return area, 23 miles hence.
I remained in that, lazer-focused, hyper-vigilant state for the next 23 miles, going as slowly and carefully as I dared, meanwhile, calling upon all the spirits that have been accompanying me on this journey to make sure that, if it happened again, that it would be not on I-5, but afterwards, in the final two miles.
As I was exiting I-5, with great relief, oops! — I felt the sudden clunk and swish again, just as I was turning a corner from the exit onto a busy street. It wasn’t immediately obvious where I could pull over, until another couple hundred feet had gone by, but yes, there it was, another somewhat safe spot to park and get down on knees again in front of the car.
This little dance happened three more times during those two endless miles. And the final time it happened was right in the SeaTac rental car garage. I had just entered, when clunk and swish announced themselves. Again, I stopped, got out, and went onto my knees in front of the car. This time as I did this, another car came up, full of women. “Are you okay?” They all chorused at once, looking both frightened for me, and curious. “Yes!” I thundered, ecstatic: “”I made it to the garage!” And with that I suddenly reached through their open front window across the passenger to slap the driver a high-five.
This chorus of caring women and my exuberant action in response felt like the triumphant finale to a journey well done.
Luckily, I had insured the car. And I made sure to tell the two sweet female Payless clerks with their heads bathed in scarves about it, since, though not obvious unless you peer closely, clunk and swish will happen again.
I could go on, to tell you about the train ride from SeaTac to the University District in Seattle, where my brother-in-law John was to pick me up; I could tell you how fiendishly difficult it is for a weighed-down-with-luggage pedestrian in that rental car garage to negotiate both stairs, and a gate that didn’t appear to be a gate, and crossing a busy street, and then a sidewalk next to that street, for two blocks! to then finally, reach the train station. None of it marked. All of it pointed out by more encounters with kind, helpful strangers.
And then, there was the snafu of where to wait to be picked up by John, who was, of course, at that late hour (my ordeal had started at around 3 p.m., it’s now about 6 p.m.) snarled in Seattle traffic. But whatever. That took another wait of about 30 minutes for me, and then the two of us went to a Mexican restaurant for grilled fish tacos and a margarita for him, hard cider for me. Great tales to tell, all along, about life in the 3rd dimension, when you’re traveling alone, but not alone, not ever ever alone! — always surrounded by protection, and tested, once in a while, as to just how disciplined and focused I can be when circumstances require.
Today, Crones Counsel! Very much looking forward.