A few years ago I flew into San Fransisco, and for two weeks I had $300. With those constraints, I traveled 500 miles up to Mt. Shasta and back, still managing to leave the west coast with $100 in my pocket (plus a few extra days to wander). When I returned to the east coast, a friend picked me up in NY, and we drove to Provincetown, Cape Cod for the weekend. I came home with $30.
Money is funny like that. Hitchhiking is free, and walking along the highways passing farm after farm thumbing my way north I met kind-hearted people who invited me onto their property to pick of their harvest. I stumbled into vineyards and picked of the grapes. There were apple orchards and pear orchards and I remember fennel growing 8 feet high, the smell so intoxicating, I felt like Odysseus wooed by the sirens.
I slept under stars, I slept under redwoods. I dreamt of coyotes surrounding me cackling like a bunch of card players smoking cigars. In the morning I found a coyote jaw bone with the teeth still intact. It made me wonder about the blending of waking and dreaming.
If money is funny, there are other constructs too that are just plain made up.
On the road, I learned about the State of Jefferson. A figment of the imagination. A parallel fiction. At one point in time, at the turn of the 20th century, there was a political platform involving something like 3 counties from northern California and 2 counties from southern Oregon campaigning to secede from their respective states to create the new state of Jefferson. A number of farmers pushed the platform; it made sense from an agricultural standpoint. But then WWI and WWII swept everyone into a fervor of nationalism and fighting, and the state of Jefferson fell out of conversation. It only renewed more recently when pot farmers re-established the land. The movement for independent statehood is called Cascadia. And now there is state of Jefferson radio and state of Jefferson newspapers. A few of the county seats even voted to secede from their states, but no new legal boundaries have been made. It’s funny to me this is happening at the same time people want to build a wall, at the same time an architect is planning to build a binational city on the border of US and Mexico.
So much of life is a play at make believe.
I met so many interesting folks on that trip. One night 15 of us camped out in Mt. Shasta and cooked a huge meal. “Good thing you ran into the pot smokers and not the whiskey drinkers,” they joked, “otherwise we’d all be fighting now.” They left their other encampment because of that, but that night we all got along, sharing local legends and staring into the fire. In the middle of the night we woke up to the moon spinning in circles displaying an optical illusion I still can’t explain.
In the morning I hitched a ride with them southwards. Someone gave me a book by Buckminster Fuller called “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.” It talked about synchronicity and time- the way seemingly random connections occur and create rich meaning from minutes expanding into moments into long-lasting memories. I finished the book as we pulled into Sacramento.
I walked with an old man who was also hitchhiking. He was a mix indigenous & latino blood. We grabbed a beer, tramped through the historic district and along a river. He talked to me about the movement of the great spirit in such a calming, knowing way. He moved slowly, so I moved slowly with him. We eventually went our separate ways, and I hopped a bus back to San Francisco.
I arrived in the city at 2 am. As soon as I hopped off, a homeless man in a wheelchair apprehended me and told me to take some of his food. I said no, no it’s okay, but he insisted. He said he had too much, that the Vietnamese place down the street leaves food out every night and he wanted to share it so it wouldn’t go to waste. He gave me 3 quarts of still warm soup, then told me I was glowing. Indeed, I felt like I was, especially after bathing in the alpine creeks of Shasta.
As the adventure wound down, it blossomed in my head, feeling quite like a pilgrimage, like a renewal of spirit.
I had been writing in a journal to document my days, and to my delight, I was marking the date down a day ahead of time. I had an entirely extra day before my flight. It made me laugh, grateful it wasn’t the opposite, that I was a day behind. The realization clicked something in me though: Sometimes we wish we had more than 24 hours, and after that experience, I often feel like I’m working with 48, like I live in a post-scarcity mentality with abundance surprising me at every turn.