Cascading

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.

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Travel Log Day 1

We hopped on the highway early, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and almost right away, decided to get off and take the back roads for the sake of saving money on tolls. Also, when I have my druthers, I tend to enjoy the back roads more- there’s something encouraging and aesthetically pleasing in seeing the decaying, abandoned, falling apart old buildings of middle America. The empty automotive yards, not a single soul in sight, strewn about with eaten up, rusting away cars and untamed ivy crawling over everything, all serving as a solid reminder: things die, structures fall apart, and new life finds a way.

Driving and talking, we continued on, overtaken by the mountains along the Susquehanna River. Slow, gentle behemoths, not so much jutting from the landscape, rather rolling along like the natural curvature of woman. The clouds puffed and billowed and made soft shapes in the sky, symbols of beetles and rhinos and horns, recalling a child in each of our minds.

In Pittsburgh, we caught up with friends, speaking outwards our inner beauty, calling forth stories and knowledge. Quite a meditation on words, we talked of health science and body chemistry, only scratching the surface on a hidden world, into the Evolver network paralleling a social movement but when it turned vaguely into gossip, we lost interest and switched back to exploring ideas trying to make sense of our coming together, a refreshed context, a new city, a new world.

Resting up and grubbing on leftover vegan eats, Paige and I recharged our wandering bodies and walked through a hospital campus, down a treacherous amount of stairs across a yellow bridge. The sun was setting, which is inherently normal yet so very romantic, so I picked a flower and handed it to her brusquely because we are rough and tumbled from years of silliness & squabbling yet gentle on the inside from years of holding one another sleeping dreaming and waking. She picked it apart and threw it into the Allegheny River. “He loves me… He loves me not… He loves me… He loves me not… He loves me…”