Sunday, May 1, 2016

Journeys / Being of use

Journeys bring power and love
back into you.  If you
can't go somewhere,
move in the passageways of the self.
They are like shafts of light,
always changing, and you change
when you explore them.

(Djalal Ad-Din Rumi)

Last Sunday, I drove nearly the entire length of the state of Washington to meet with a friend from childhood and her husband of at least 40 years (whom I had not met before) and their shy sweet Bernese Mountain Dog.  In order to adopt a puppy, they had driven up from their home in a small community which is located high in the mountains of southeastern California.  We met in Carson, Washington, a tiny town located on the Columbia River gorge.

My old friend and I met when we were 12 or 13 years old.  We used to walk to junior high school together.  In high school, we took long walks from our homes in suburban Redwood City, California, into the beautiful grassy hills to the east of Redwood City.  We walked there in the days before Highway 280 cut through those rolling hills, before the hills were filled to the brim with houses, while the Vietnam War was still raging.  We were not part of the "in crowd."  We were both odd and eccentric and enjoyed each other's company.  My family went to church.  Her family didn't.  I remember the time she brought me to a Buddhist festival in Palo Alto.  We belonged to a small loosely connected group of young women who lived within walking distance of each other and went to the same high school.  Below is a photo of three of us.  If my memory serves me well, the photo was probably taken at the 16th birthday gathering for my old friend.  That would have been in 1965.  We are all wearing "Beatle" hats.  Her father was a psychiatrist. Their home was filled with books.

Here are the senior yearbook photos of my friend and me.  Neither of us enjoy being in front of a camera:

My parents chose that photo of me because they paid for the photos. I'd love to see the rest of photos and see what was not chosen by them.

After we graduated from high school in 1967, one of the things my friend did was become a surfer, and she spent weekends surfing in Santa Cruz.  Another thing she did was go to Stanford University, following the tradition of both of her parents.  After graduating from Stanford with a degree in English Literature, she went to law school and had a long career as a lawyer.  Her husband was a conscientious objector and, as a result of his alternative service in a library which had early computers, he had a long career in the field of computers.

In 1967, I left Redwood City to attend the University of California at Irvine, studying Art and English Literature.  My friend and I kept in touch.  She visited Irvine.  I visited her at Stanford.  It was the time of protests against the Vietnam War.  The man she loved achieved conscientious objector status.  The man I loved was drafted in April of 1969.  He was a high school dropout and a surfer.  We considered going to Canada.  He met with draft counselors in Oakland on the day before he went to Vietnam but felt sure that he would not be granted conscientious objector status.  He did not want to go to prison (although he ended up in prison years later for drug and alcohol-related offenses).  He did not want to go to Canada.  He made the fateful decision to go to Vietnam, serving as a helicopter mechanic, returning as a drug-addicted war-haunted man in December of 1970. We lived together for nearly 5 months.  We separated in the first weeks of May 1971 after a terrifying episode where the violence of the war that haunted him was directed at me.

In 1973, in an attempt to go on with my life, I left California.  My friend and I gradually lost touch with each other, although I did visit her at her law office in the early 1980s, and she contacted me
in the early 1990s.

A year ago, during the December holidays, she wrote a note letting me know that she and her husband had moved from the San Francisco Peninsula to a remote place in the Sierras.

That note led to our respective journeys to Carson, WA.

What got me started on this post was reading this article about Daniel Berrigan who died yesterday at age 94.

You have to struggle to stay alive and be of use as long as you can. 
(Daniel Berrigan)

I've also been listening to George Harrison's final album and wanted to share these thoughts from
George Harrison:

Lyrics from "Brainwashed":

The soul does not love.  It is love itself.
It does not exist.  It is existence itself.
It does not know.  It is knowledge itself.
How to Know God, page 130

And then I've also been meaning to share Joni Mitchell singing "God Must Be A Boogie Man."

May Love bless and keep us always.


Nick said...

Thank you for all this - a fascinating start to my day. Regards, Nick.

am said...

You're welcome, Nick.

Anonymous said...

Oh these heart-tugging journeys, I am so struck by the paths we have taken in life up the coastlines in the west. I love that you met up with such a wonderful old friend. Your photos stir so many memories of that time in the late 60s and early 70s.

am said...

It's been a long journey up the coastlines of west. So many memories. Still more to come. Thank you for your thoughts and feelings.

Sabine said...

This was a lovely read. I have two female friends who have been with me for ages, one since we were ten and one since university. Some years we only write birthday cards, other times, a frenzy of mails and letters and visits.
And then there is a male friend, a strange person and we don't have much in common but he and I met when we were 4 yrs old and were play mates, school mates and neighbours in and out of each others homes until we left the city for university. We argue when we meet but we both know that we are the longest human contact apart from family to each other, our parents were friends of sorts, and I think our bond is almost like siblings but without the burden of shared parents.

am said...

Sabine -- Thank you. I hadn't thought of it that way but, yes, friends from childhood are like siblings in that we share so much history.

Anonymous said...

The internet has made renewing friendships so much more common. I am in touch with one or two people from my distant past with whom I had not had contact for many years. I'm very pleased that we are in contact now. People move about more than they perhaps used to... People are busy... People acquire (and unacquire) partners, have children... etc... In my case, certainly, it's been good to take up what we'd left off.

dritanje said...

A beautiful and poignant post. I have a friend too, who has suffered physically and emotionally from the effects of the Vietnam war. But so good to meet up again with someone from your past. The photos of you 3 are great!
Love the Rumi lines too.