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Archive for April, 2010

I journeyed up and through Yosemite National Park . I have been here before, so what i experienced was not with fresh eyes. i was not only brought to this time and place, but had memories come up of my visits before and was taken to lands far away with thoughts that floated on through.

And i know this is the monkey mind that is refered to in meditation and other practices of consciousness, the mind that jumps around, from branch to branch and tree to tree. And as i experienced the wonder and all else around, i could watch this monkey of mine from a distance, let the thoughts pass on through, come in and out of consciousness. I began to wonder what we bring into our experience when we come to a place? Can we view anything pure? And what does experiencing a place bring up in us? So the story of my visit to Yosemite in April 2010 covers many years and miles and this is some of it.

My journey here really began when the bus pulled out of the train station in Merced. There i was leaving the flatlands behind and going to the mountains. The bus drove through town past older houses, some of wood, with porches and yards and trees, on streets with sidewalks, different from the new developments i had passed by (and which i remembered) and i thought of small towns with pedestrian friendly tree lined streets, towns up the coast and across the county where i have been. The streets were empty, a few cars on the road but devoid of people, a woman carrying a bag from a house to a car, a man cycling down a street, and then finally as we edged near the end of town, a lone figure sitting out on his porch on a warm sunday morning just after 11am – and i thought of suburbia and all those empty communities, housing people but devoid of life.

Outside of Merced strawberry fields dotted the road, baskets beside the rows of the low-lying plants waiting to be picked and i thought my times picking strawberries and how my back hurt. As we road towards Mariposa, past the flatlands into the foothills where black cows grazed on green hills, no trees to be found, i thought of Ireland, where cows grazed on similar terrain. When the grass and fields turned to majestic oak trees, i thought about driving up to Clear Lake with Robert on the way here in 2008. and the first time i saw these trees. And i thought of our drive here on route 49 where colored leaves still hung onto trees, feeling like fall in December.

As the oaks made way to pines i thought of the Sierras, not only here but further north, Sierraville – my time spent there, Lake Tahoe (though that does not look the same), and a hike near Armstong BC where there were a lot of pine trees, and other places with pines, and the way they blew in the wind when i camped at Sierra Hot Springs and other drier mountain ranges in general. We came to Mariposa, a gateway town with hotels, services and shops, and i thought of other mountain tourist towns. Fernie, BC and Canmore, Alberta – the gateway to Banff, came to mind though they are larger and much more developed near higher mountains and ski hills. And the landscape is harsher here than on the coast and i thought about places i had been in the Canadian Rockies. And i thought about Canada, and the north – places where the land is not always so kind.

I got to the Yosemite Bug Resort in Midpines, the place i was to stay. I got off the bus and remembered my previous time here, and getting off the bus then, and the month spent driving around California with my father and how frazzled i was when i had arrived. I had to lug my bag up the hill, and felt a tug in my back , and i remembered carrying it across Fishermans Wharf that morning – how heavy it felt, and how the strap on the back had snapped leaving Monterey so it was even less ergonomic than before, and how i carried extra food and the times i had done that before. I stopped to look at an orange flower that grew by the road, and thought of the California poppies along the harbour in Victoria. I looked at the view, the road below and remembered coming up here before and i felt the weight i and the heat of the sun, and i thought of longer uphill walks with my bag and how it seemed easier then – the four km walk up mountain roads by Kootenay Lake when i was hitching up from Nelson BC from Ainsworth Hotsprings to the campsite back in 2005, and then of my walk down 20 miles of the Oregon coast less than two years ago.

And when i got into the Bug Backpacker resort with the cabins and dorms, restaurant and “spa”, and saw their own tour bus, i thought of other places like this, in the Iguana Perida in Santa Cruz Guatemala and El Retiro in Lanquin, self-contained backpacker resorts, and i looked at the private rooms and fancier cars, and thought about Harbin. I walked a small trail down to the creek, and then up to the upper parking lot which provided a view, and it did not seem as clear, and i remembered there had been no leaves before.

The next day, i rode the YARTS bus up to the park, and remembered much of my journeys there before. The sun shone into the valley and lit up the mountains. Wildflowers of yellow and purple covered the sides of the hills and i thought about wildflowers in alpine meadows and realized i did not know any of their names and remembered walking by the shore in Monterey where the flowers had been as abundant but different, and i was frustrated because i did not know their names either. As i watched the rushing Merced river, tumbling over boulders with the spring thaw, i thought of other rivers, across Vancouver Island, and times on buses i wished we could stop and get out to look at them. And then as we passed the juncture where highway 120 merges in, i remembered i had been able to get out of the bus one cold morning at look at the river as the bus stopped, road construction or plowing up ahead. And i thought of how Robert and I drove in along the other route, and i thought about him.

Finally, i got into the park and Yosemite Valley. I looked at the views, and wondered if my eyes were jaded for i had seen it all before – but every time is different, and i saw some anew, still i know that i compared and contrasted much to my previous visits there. The sun was at a different angle as i made a hike – days much longer at this time of year. Snow was absent from the valley floor. Waterfalls ran full, powerful and mighty, and some appeared where they had not been before in the early winter before the snows after the summer had dried all up, or earlier in march when all was still frozen and snow packs up top had barely begun to melt. And i thought of the power of water and how it carved out the land. Of course it was much busier than before, and i remembered emptier trails and camping with Robert in the almost deserted campground. My mind flung forward, and i wondered what this place was like at its peak, overcrowded and more and was thankful that i was here on this perfect spring weekday.

But my mind not only wandered in time, but in space as it had on my journey here. As i passed through the village and saw the rangers in uniform, i thought of national parks in general and other places i had been. On the crowded shuttle bus where the driver stopped and paused for a while, i remember the free busses in Acadia National Park and how i had to show one driver his route, and how the buses were so empty in the Grand Canyon in February 2002. The bus was full with women from a seniors group in Roseburg Oregon, and i thought of the retired communities on the Oregon coast.

I was hot, still hadn’t taken off my coat, saw the dry landscape and for a moment i was transported to a hike outside of Radium hotsprings, the day much hotter, the grass crackled, and grasshoppers made their special sound. I looked at the falls streaming down cliffs, and thought of other that i had seen – and a ride near Hope BC (i think) where water fell down the mountains around.

I stood in the mist of lower Yosemite Falls, in their full glory,much stronger than before and i could not walk up on the rocks where i had gone and loved. The path and lookout at the bottom were wet from the spray and i thought of the mist at Niagara Falls and how it had been redirected over the years. And when walking up the Vernal Falls trail with the rocks and boulders all around, i thought of rocky trails on the Bruce Peninsula and the rock formations down in the Niagara Glen.

And i walked on the wide trail to Mirror Lake and the crowd petered out. Only a single couple walking towards me, so tiny it seemed, dwarfed by the majestic pine trees that grew especially tall in this place. And i thought for a moment of large trees, the sequoias nearby and the redwoods, the giant cedar, hemlock and spuce further up the coast. My feet began to hurt and i remembered the feeling I not had in some time.

And i thought of how this place acted like a springboard for memories, and i then thought of a professor in grad school who gave us one text and asked us to use it as a springboard to explore social theory. My background was limited and i did not know where to jump off. I realized that the more experiences we have had the more we bring into a place, knowledge and links to all that can be related. How difficult it is to see the world afresh, as if through childrens’ eyes.

I had been wondering how different it was for those who were here for the first time, or how it was for me my first time here when i saw it with fresh eyes. But are the eyes and mind ever fresh, especially here, for who has not heard of Yosemite National Park, and how many images of this place exist in the public consciousness. It was not only memories that came to me, but associations made far and wide. I brought in experience of similar places i had been, pine trees, mountains, dryer landscapes, national parks, waterfalls, people, and more. And do we not do this with all, often unaware. For it is how we learn (this is a tree (oak), that is also a tree (pine), a tree is a plant, this flower is also a plant and so on) and negotiate the world. Everything comes in to how we perceive a place, all that has happened, all that has been experienced, is brought forward and caught in place.

Being here also brought back memories i had long forgotten about, just below the surface, something in this place activated then. And is that why we return to, or avoid, different places, to reopen neural pathways in our brains, to experience not only what is there, but all the associations we have made.  Much of my usual chattering ceased, worries and cares, yes i still had some negative thoughts, worries, quick judgements and more. And thought about writing this.

A few times i caught myself, a few minutes on the path, when i got caught up in one of the images and stories and was no longer where i was, no longer in the now and here. And i thought, now that is the monkey mind taking over, removing me from the here and now. Was my monkey overactive that day? Or was i merely able to stand back and watch it at work? It can be tamed, or merely observed, but can it be erased? And should it be for it shows how all is so connected and interlinked, different and yet the same. And i think of another national park, Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica, where i watched the monkeys play in the trees.

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I sat on a boulder at the side of the trail and felt i was transported to another dimension. Though i knew that i had walked up there, all for a few moments felt unreal. And i wondered after the moment had passed, if this what Yosemite was really about, if this was why it was called a sacred place. If this connection to the beyond was what really drew people here, though many were not really aware of just what it was that brought them here.As i had not been myself.

I’d been thinking of coming to Yosemite since i arrived in San Francisco about a month ago. But at times the hostel was full, or rains and storms predicted, and i had other places i also had to go. But this time the doors opened up and i was on my way. On my journey here, in the night before in Midpines, and when i arrived in Yosemite village i wondered if there was something so special about this place or if i were caught up in myths or repeating journeys i had made before.

My body was tired, back pulled out a bit, but still I had to make my way up the Vernal Falls Trail – something called me there. I had almost got off at the YARTS bus stop in Curry Village, closer to the trail head when we first pulled into the valley. But i was hungry and made my way to the centre to get a breakfast sandwich at Dengans wondering if i should go to Yosemite Falls while it still basked in the sun. But the Vernal Falls Trail called as it had before, and i made my way back there.

I have hiked this trail three times before on my previous two visits to Yosemite and i knew there was something special about the place and remembered a perfect view. My first time here, two years ago, i had been up twice – once above the bridge and high up into the snow, falling down and almost spraining my wrist as i turned back on another barely used trail, Last time i was here, a warm December with Robert in 2008, i insisted that we make the hike, almost causing a fight for he did not really want to go to the special place i wanted to share. I know that his mood changed as we went up all the way to the falls, the Mist Trail had been open, the waters were low and the snow had not yet come, and it was he who pushed me further up and along. And raced back down, not wanting to pause at the stops along the way.

As i approached the trail head i remembered this and debated about going back there yet again, But it was a perfect warm day, the sky a bright blue and the sun shining bright, so despite my fatigue i slowly made my way up and up the paved trail. The park was more crowded than that it had been on my previous visits. It seemed that so many people were coming down – families, small groups and many in spanking new full hiking gear. A couple beside me oohed and aahed at the river rushing along between the pine filled banks.I felt disillusioned, thinking its nice here, but is it really so special after all. I kept on and paused at a place with perfect lighting where water trickled down a boulder covered with bright green moss and began to smile. Still, i was looking for a place along the trail, the most beautiful local in Yosemite from my visits there.

I turned a corner and the vista opened up, steep granite cliffs, the river tumultuous far below, crashing over and around boulders strewn in its path. Off it the distance on the other side, a waterfall streamed down the mountain, and a smaller on also appeared directly across that had not been there on my visits before. I saw the beauty of the valley off to the distance to my right. I took pictures and had my photo taken, and watched and listened to the water stream way down below. I felt much better, my body no longer tired though i had just walked uphill. Was it the ions in the crashing water, the bright blue sun, the steep granite walls and the mountains that surround?. This was the place i thought, and stood there for a while. But others came through, their turn to take pictures, and i walked on up ahead.

I turned yet another corner and stepped into a zone that felt like a bowl at the conjuncture of Merced river and Illilouette creek. A waterfall ran full down a mountain across the way, steep cliffs all around, you could no longer see beyond the mountains in any direction, not the way you came in or out.

A pile of boulders sat beside the path a result of a slide eons ago. It was a perfect place to sit in the sun, a clear vista across the path and i remembered that i had sat there before. I hesitated, which one to sit on, one looked good but hard to climb, so i picked another, just a rock and sat in the shade. A squirrel ran up to me and i chased it away. I looked across the path to where the view was clear and then it happened.

As i stared out at the breathtaking view – steep granite cliffs, skinny pines, waterfall tumbling down, snow at the top, sky of blue – the place was transformed. The mountains across suddenly seemed unreal, so crisp and clear like a photograph or backdrop to a film or upon a stage. The granite cliffs seemed almost flat against the blue sky. Actually everything beyond the trail that was in front of me appeared as but a glorious illusion, flat but with incredible depth, so close but so far away. They seemed light, only as dense and heavy as the air and the sky above. And although all appeared to belong to another world, i felt that if i could get there, i would be able to walk through what once was hard granite stone.

It seemed all stood still, though i heard the sound of the powerful falls across the valley and the stream or river that rushed down beneath, and saw the heavy flow of Illilouette Falls. But all else around, even the pine trees, was still, and almost unreal. Was this all real, for it felt like i was glimpsing another dimension. I an actor upon a stage, all else untouchable by me. Words cannot capture what i experience, they can only provide a glimpse.

The others who walked in front of me making their way up the path appeared in 3D but all around seemed as i belonged to some other world. I don’t know how long i spent in that zone, it felt like hours but was probably only a few minutes. I wanted to write it down, so i unzipped my backpack to grab some paper and the squirrel ran up to me, and i returned to where i was, but took some larger feeling with me. I looked up once again, i was back and connected to all.

Still i was unsure was the world but a collective illusion as some philosophies said, but i knew the mountains and all around were in the material realm. I had been up on the top of one at mountains at Glacier Point and looked over the valley below my last time here. But could it be both, both material and in the other realms. And did the circle as visible from here act as some kind of portal. And right then i knew that this was the very locale i had been looking for. And i remembered that i had a similar experience my first time here.

I got up and walked along the trail to the bridge above, passing out of the special zone, As i walked i one of the boulders along the trail to make sure that it was “real” it was hard and solid and felt like a rock. I touched a small patch of the bright green moss that grew on it, and that was spongy and soft. I reached out to the textured bark of a pine tree, and dug my fingernail in.

I made my way up to the bridge, and stopped where the mist trail was closed, ate part of a peanut butter sandwich and made my way down the same way. And stopped there again – and once again all stood still, only the largest pine tree, much larger than the rest seemed “real” and all else like a crisp clear picture again, a world apart from the here. I took several photos but the do not do it justice – there is something beyond the view. While hikers pause to take in the view on the way to somewhere else – the destination of Vernal Falls, i wonder how many have felt as i have here. And i saw why Yosemite is such a sacred place. And wondered what had gone on here so many years ago.

Yosemite has powerful energies, i’m sure in many places, and that is what inspires others beyond the sight of the Sentinal, Half dome and the waterfalls. That something you cannot put a finger on or capture in a photograph or purchase from a store.

But i also wondered about other portals, for as i walked along a bit further down the Merced River and sat down upon a log, a feeling a dread and agitation came over me, in a location similar to where it had before. It grasped onto me, came out of nowhere, and was difficult to shake off. Was that just memories, or another current of energy that flowed through the place?

Later that day i went out to Mirror Lake – a place i vaguely remembered as special. It too was busier, as people picnics and some kids swam. The water was a murky brown, and the creek that emerged ran slow. I walked beyond where the crowd was and sat on some steps and ate my peanut butter sandwich. The view was nicer from here, looking out at Werther point and Awhali dome across the edge of the pond they called a lake and i took a photograph. A woman stopped beside me, took out her phone, some pictures to send back home she said. as she walked away she said “it’s so perfect it almost seems unreal” and i looked up again and all across stood clear and still as part of another dimension.

It is just the places? Something special about Yosemite? It has been so often called a sacred place and has captured that imagination of so many. Even the “town” near the entrance gate is called “El Portal”. But i also know that i have had similar experiences in less grand, more unknown locales, each one different, but confirming to me that there is so much more beyond the material reality. And it does not exist somewhere else, but in the now and here. Does this place contain portals to other worlds or does the magnificence and wonder around merely help remove the veils and open my eyes so that i can glimpse for a moment what is all around. Is all but an illusion? Still, there is something very special about that place on the Vernal Falls Trail.

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My seat faces backwards and i look at where i’ve been, the road and place where i am coming from. I do not look forward, see the horizon, the place i am travelling to. It seems it is like how much of what my week has been spent in recollection and i ask myself how much of my life has been that way. Looking backwards.

I am on the way out of San Francisco, riding the Amtrak train. Actually, that is not entirely true for trains do not run into the city itself. i had left the city taking the Amtrak bus across the bay to Emeryville where the tracks run through.

I boarded the train, one of the last into the car, and had to wait awhile to put my baggage up on the rack downstairs, and as a result i was the last one up to the top where the seating was. As always, i wanted a window, so i could watch the landscape pass by. Now half the seats in the train faced forward, and half the seats faced back. All the forward looking window seats were taken, the only ones available were in the places for four with the two seats facing one another, and being a person alone i did not take one for myself, knowing that more people would soon get on. So i got a full window in one of the seats, and stared backwards as the train rolled along.

I watched the suburbs, empty lots and water as we headed in along the bay en route to Martinez. While the water and hills pleased the eyes, i could not but help feeling that something was wrong. I was looking backwards to where i had come from and could not see what lay ahead, did not see what we were coming up to. Looking backwards is like constantly goodbye and not hello, and looking to the past. In along the bay and more so in the valley you could look back a very long way. Still the landscape shifted, and things would drop out of view. In Martinez, the train turned away from the bay and left the water behind. But even in the flat lands of valley, with it’s industrial agriculture, the horizon slowly slipped out of view.

I became uncomfortable, i was facing the wrong way, our eyes are not on the back of our heads. I should be in the now, i thought, so i tried to turn my head aside, to just look at the moment and landscape as i passed through. Once in a while i would turn my head as far to the right as it would go to see what lay up ahead but i could barely get a view and from the little i saw it merely seemed to be more of the same. My neck felt best when it faced forwards which meant backwards on this train. I shut my eyes, fell asleep, and did not see anything for while.

I woke up a little while later, unsure of where i was. We passed a new housing development and the orchards had replaced the plots of dirt or low lying plants somewhere on the line. And i saw that we had moved forward and along, though at times my eyes were shut. i stared out the window, looking backwards for rest of the journey.

And i thought that maybe looking backwards wasn’t all that bad and was part of the journey itself. After all half the seats faced in that direction. I was on the train, moving along the tracks. The tracks that were laid out upon the ground and that led me to where i was going. I knew my intended destination, and trusted someone to take me there. For though i looked back, i did not cling or hang onto what was there, and kept rolling forwards to where i had to go.

I got to Merced and stepped on off the train, now in a new locale. I still had another transfer to get to Midpines. I waited outside for a little while, standing in the sun, then got on a bus, to my next destination. It turned some corners, then drove straight, then the road began to twist and turn as we climbed from the flay valley to the foothills and began the mountain climb. The seats faced forwards and i looked to that what lay ahead.

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I think i became disillusioned with San Francisco when i was here in 2001. I arrived at night on September 10th, and woke up the next morning to the incident that has shaped so much of recent history. And just as 9/11 changed the lens through which many americans viewed the world, my time here, changed how i saw this place. The rosy glasses that i had worn were removed, never to be put back on. As a teen i had fallen in love with the city, it was the place of my dreams, where i would run away to, a place i could be free and grow. I had built it into a place that i could never be, and never was, probably not even for me.

It was the first time i had been to the city in years. A lifetime had passed since my previous forays, 1989 for a few day and 1986, in my student activist days, was the last time i had really spent anytime here. Even then the illusion had faded, and glasses had become more clear, but still i remembered the dreams of this place and of that time in 1986 that i had hitch-hiked down here. In between a lifetime had passed, my more conventional years. I had just left my home five weeks before, my “career” not long before that, and had no idea what this journey would entail. Then as now i did not really know where i was going, and i had absolutely no idea how long the road would be. But it was here i awoke on that major day in american history.

It is hard now to remember that girl who i once was then. I was not really a girl, had just turned 36, but when i look back i seem so fresh-cut and fresh-faced. My journey to here had just begun, i was not ragged down and all was new. Though i think about it now, and even then i was revisiting many places where i had been through, reliving a trip of my youth. Though in those five weeks my spirited had awoken with god’s beauty shown on the coast, and stepping out of my confines, something was gnawing away underneath, and all was not quite as rosy as i imagined it would be on my trip on down the coast. I had unconsciously wanted to capture myself as i had been all those years before, but just as i will never be the person i was when i made that trip, back then i could not be the person who i had been on the trip all those years before. Too many years, events, and life unfolded in between. I had not understood what i was feeling or why i felt as i did, so i pushed on forward, onto adventure southward bound to San Francisco.

Truth be told i was not coming out here, did not really see San Francisco as a stopping point when i left. For close to a year i’d been collecting travel brochures – mexico, central america, new zealand and the southwest. But i told myself no, i was totally burnt out and initially planned to go to Colorado and journey from there. But as departure time was approaching, i changed my mind, and bought one to Vancouver instead. And slowly began my journey south along the coast.

I was supposed to come to San Francisco on September 11, but had caught a cold and come down one day early. I had been up in Klamath at the Redwoods Hostel on the northern coast several miles south of Crescent City. It was raining and i was feeling cold – back in the days before i had raingear, back before i was comfortable in nature, for i still was then a more of a city girl. I had spent a day walking a few short trails, but the season was over, there were few people and i heard some stories of bad bears, so did not venture much further afield. I walked and sat on the beach, mesmerized by the pelicans flying above and the waves that crash on huge rocks and the shore and the shapes and tones of the clouds that rolled.I walked down the highway to where i though i might find a more populated trail through the redwoods, but what i found was a giant carving was of Paul Bunyan and his ox and steep admission fees. I had come down the coast, to see the redwoods, and never really explored such a place. But the all day lockout from the hostel was long, almost the entire day, and i was chilled and the other trails seemed lonely and so far away. I did not wish to spent the day in crescent City that i had passed through to come down here, an hours and a half break in McDonalds in a parking lot of another strip mall and a safeway. The coastal towns were starting to blur, so much the same.
I changed my plans and decided to go one day early and got a refund. Those were the days when greyhound still had two buses that ran down the coast. The road twisted and turned in front of the hostel and i did not know where to stand. I walked past the stop on the road, the day was lighter as i stood there, past the time the bus was to arrive. I flagged it down and it almost did not stop and the driver chewed me out for standing in the wrong place. I did not have a ticket, but let me on the bus, and i bought my ticket in Arcata or Eureka. I did not know what i was thinking then, or was it still in many locales where there were no stations you could buy your ticket on the bus. It was a long ride down, passed through Garberville, a hippie enclave where i argued with a woman beside me on the bus – no idea what was all about. I had no reservations in the city and no cell phone. I spent breaks on the way down calling hostels, fisherman’s wharf, where i had reservations for the 11th was full that night, as were many others, i got worried and saw little more, but thankfully i found a bed at the Green Tortoise.

I arrived at the Transbay Terminal, tired and not sure where i was, and took a cab to the hostel. The hostel was different from those where i had been – younger and hipper and with a certain vibe. I got my bed, imagined my previous trip across the country back in ’86 and felt a bit old and kinda frumpy with my “proper” travelling clothes. It was a warm night and went and ate dinner, pasta and wine, at a street side table on Columbus street and all seemed perfect for a while. I went to bed early, slept poorly – across from the hostel were strip clubs and bars which kept me up at night with loud music – and got up early the next morning.

I went into the dark large eating area with the tv and the big screen a place where people were smoking. i had quit back then, and the stench bothered me. Had my free breakfast, feeling uncertain about the cleanliness of the kitchen. Sat down and wondered why the silence, all watching a disaster movie on the big screen, I watched as a jet liner repeatedly crashed into a large building and wondered what the hell was this. “watching big screen disaster movies at this hour of the day!”, i thought, “thank god i can soon move to the other place”

As i went into the lobby i had the feeling that something was off. I was going to the reception desk to ask about bus routed and the people just stared at little television screens, and i asked what movie was this. it was not a movie, an attack they said, the world trade building had just been hit. News was still breaking that day, rumours (still don’t know if true) about the areas near the wharf being cut off. I could extend my stay there, and cancelled my reservations down at fishermans wharf.

I stayed on just over another week – watched the news for a few days constantly – CNN on the big screen. I annoyed at some girls on the second day merely concerned about their flights, But that day i walked around San Francisco stunned. My lunch was a smoothie from jamba juice in the deserted downtown core – i did not wish to eat and most everything else was closed. I was staying near the Transamerica building, empty at first and then i watched them set up the barricades.

It was that day that i really noticed the homeless as all those who worked in the centre but lived outside did not come to town for a few days. That day the rich who lived nearby, the tourists and the homeless seemed to be the only ones out in the streets. I was shocked by the ragged bodies strewn in front of metal grates on shut down stores on Market Street. Wandered blindly, Columbus street and empty downtown core.
over the next week i walked around, the time a bit of a blur. A few days later i made my way down to fishermans wharf and it seemed like no one was there. But i heard a barking sound, and followed it and so i discovered the sea lions at pier 39. I watched the sea lions play, swim and climb on the decks, jockey for position and bask in the sun. Their barks were songs to my ears – and for a brief moment by worries and cares disappeared. I went down several times to visit them in that time there, and i still go back every time i pass through town. Seen them in many locales in the past nine years, and still smile when i hear their song. There have fewer here my last times through, but today the planks were full again.

I know that over the following week, i did many tourist things; rode the cable cars, went to chinatown, and visited Alcatraz, the long lines for tickets having disappeared. I went to a peace concert in the Yerba Buena gardens sitting on the lawn. Beautiful harp music played calming my frayed nerves . But concern for the nation and what would happen wracked away at my brain. a state of war? would we invade? would America turn to a police state, civil liberties stripped away? I could not make any decision, for several days no long-distance transport ran, and then for a while later busses and trains were sold out. I thought of going down to Santa Cruz, a planned stop on this trip, but ran back north across the border to Vancouver, Canada as soon as i could. I see now, that like the nation, a feeling of fear oozed into me. And i have spent much time in there and in victoria, it a place i looped back through and through again for so many years.

And so that day here put forth a path that i have followed for so many years. I have wondered, what if i stuck to my plans? I would not have made it down here, at least not at the time. What if i had stayed up there another day how would these last years of my life been so different, what path would i have ended up on? But there are so many other little factors that brought me here on that very day for i can ask myself what if the bus had not stopped or let me on without a ticket? what if i had been granted a refund at the hostel in Klamath? what if i had not caught the cold? not taken that long chilly windy walk in Bandon a few day before what if, in the many places i had been in those five weeks, plans uncertain, i had stayed one day less or one days more? I may not have come here that day. And what if i had not gotten on of the last tickets for the bus up north, would i have spent all those times on Vancouver Island? There are so many decisions and little what ifs, so maybe i was meant to be in san Francisco that day, maybe this long journey was meant for me.

That day in history changed the nation, and it also changed me. Some effects were immediate and dramatic, but others were more subtle, the true implications only discovered much later on. Some could have been predicted, and warnings ignored, but others could not be foreseen, the result of decisions upon decisions and events upon events, some large and others barely perceptible. But the USA is still here, and so am I, transformed over time, there is no going back, but the dreams do not all die and fear slowly fades away.

I think maybe how i resisted the signs for it was 9/11/2007 that i crossed back from Canada to the USA the last time, from Victoria. And found myself travelling up and down the coast, returning to this city again and again. And i have not been back to Canada since, but that is part of the longer story, whose themes are finally being revealed to me. But that day in 2001 changed my course and my perception of this place.

I began this story in the hostel in fisherman’s wharf, the place i had meant to be that day. Now as then some travellers wait stranded by smoke and debris in the sky. A natural eruption, the earth’s power unleashed, left many here for days. A volcano in iceland, so far away, temporarily stopped all flights to europe – and how many lives will be transformed by the delays of that day. The spew still continues, the future of the air unknown, but seems less fateful for the world. It is an act of nature, of god, not man, and does not lead to the fear. I finish this entry in another locale, left the city behind. And it seems that each time i am there, i find myself transformed, however subtly.

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I don’t know if this trip came easily or if it was hard. In one way it took me four months, one relationship and many thousands of miles to get here, and in another, it happened instantaneously in a single day. And the decision to come here was not all that clear. But looking back i know i was meant to come, not for an event that happened in the city, but of a decision i made on where to leave to – a decision that opened a new chapter of my life.

In some ways this journey started in Alaska, and with decisions i made, and did not make the summer i spent there. All i knew i that i no longer wanted to travel aimlessly, and when i left at the end of September, i never imagined that i would come back here. That summer is another chapter yet to be written, but one like many others ending with a future barely planned and a destination unclear. I thought of going to many locales, Hawaii, Colorado, or back to the Northwest. And as usual when uncertain, i turn back to paths i have tread before, and headed back to Seattle, out of which i had flown, and to where tickets were cheap, another point on a circle returned to yet again.

I spent no time in the city but went out to camp on the Olympic Peninsula. After a few days of more camping in the rain, i “realized my folly” and thought to go to Colorado, where i imagined maybe i could work for the winter, and to where cheap tickets could be found. That time is another entry of decisions and circumstance, but the road called me, i went down to Oregon, one last time i said. Another plan was in my mind to check out a few other towns, and also i had not lived my dream of walking and taking transit all the way down the coast, at least as far as Crescent Beach. I was wavering, i was unclear, but slowly i journeyed down. And my intension to make my way south to San Francisco was made late one morning in Yachats, Oregon – the library with a computer where i could book a ticket to Colorado, opened an hour later than i thought, and i would barely make the bus back up north, So i decided to walk on south. But that snap decision, made sitting on a log by the shore, brought a new adventure, and changed my life some more. And now that i sit here and write, i realize how many small decisions took me to that time and place, and the decision i made that day. I never made it down by bus and foot, but that is even a longer story. I arrived in San Francisco four months later, from the south, having travelled thousands of miles and having my beliefs, dreams, and emotions turned every which way, inside and out.

The day i actually arrived here, I came up here from Washburn campground, between Cambria and San Simeon, from that area below Big Sur to just south of Morro Bay, that had been my home for about 6 weeks, and almost all 2009. The story of how i got there is long and complicated, but the morning i left, the doors opened up and i made my way here almost seamlessly. As if i was meant to come that day.

I arrived to Morro Bay with Robert on January 3rd, the first two days of the new year spent driving madly from Elephant Butte and Santa Fe, New Mexico back out to the California coast. We camped together one night at Washburn early in the month, but this time i was there camping on my own. I had not liked th e campground when the two of us had been there, too open with too few smaller trees, and a long walk down a hill to the shore. I pushed us to leave never imagining i would find myself back there. But our trip had been stressful, our differences shown, and on one fateful warm sunny morning in Plaskett Creek on Big Sur, all came to a head, we got in yet another fight, i went too far, and he drove away to look at the sea (in Oregon). And so Washburn at San Simeon was the campground i made it to when i hitched out of there a few days later.

So the Washburn primitive campground at San Simeon State Park would be my home for 10 days and then another 7. And it became my home indeed, a place of rest, or recollection, and a place where i came to see the many angels in our lives. The first angel picked my up thumbing on the 101 and drove me all the way down, though his stop was really miles above, to catch a woman also named alice, who i met and sent her love. He drove me to town to the grocery store, said he need to shop (though he picked up just a few quick items), and then to the primitive campground up at the top. And there many people were so good to me, from some who gave me lifts to town, to the camp hosts and the park ranger, some of the fellow campers who were staying there with no place else to go, to the ex-police chief from mormon utah who found me my first lift out, was concerned for me a woman camping in a tent alone and there without a car, and Ron who drove me out of Washburn when i had originally thought to go back to San Francisco.

But i was not ready to leave, still in shock and feeling so lost, San Francisco just a place that came to mind, a familiar place to go back to, so when Ron suggested splitting the costs of the more expensive campsites in Morro Bay, i rejoiced at the opportunity. We shared a site for a week, him in his beat up old van and me in my little dome tent, sharing morning coffee, and a chat in the evening for a week, until one day the site we were on had been reserved, so we went back up to San Simeon, and the primitive campground at Washburn where i stayed just over a week.

Yes, I spent a month lost, not knowing what to do, just living day by day – slow walks to town to buy groceries and more walks on the beach, meditating and reading and taking life in stride. I also felt that i had stepped so far outside, sneaking showers at the pricier campground down below, days unbathed, boiling water for coffee in a scratched dollar store teflon frying pan and so accustomed to living outside, could i ever now make it back to the norm. But with the help of the angels, and the nature of the coast, i slowly came more alive. The stories of that time and the people and that place are valuable and many, and need to be told more elsewhere. And though i grew in my time there, seeing angels around, and a base in myself, the rains were coming in heavy and steady and i had to go.
The weather in early ’09 had been variable to say the least, from record hot sunny days, to periods of rain which turned to snow on the hills just above. The rains were coming in and the ground was becoming saturated, unable to absorb anymore. i had been in the campground for quite a while and my time was running out. A place where i had found peace, and a place where i did grow, but again a place i was not meant to stay.

How was i going to get out i asked myself, major storms were coming through, weather alerts all around. to go to the hostel there with its lockout? The hotel prices had skyrocketed for the weekend. i had been thinking san francisco off and on for maybe a week or several days – not a place of desire, or a place to be, but a major hub around, and i really saw nothing there for me, but then again, i did not see anything anywhere for me.

I barely slept that night planning to make my way out on the bus. Late that night a van pulled in shining its bright lights on my tent – a trailer different from the rest – created for the outback in australia. In the morning, a twenty something with dreads emerged and a curiosity and strange bond arose in me. we said hello and a little while later Ron came by and asked him where he was going. San Francisco or Monterey, and offered me a lift later in the day.

So that intention put out four months or so before, let me to san francisco – a circuitous journey and as i think of it, what felt like 10 years lived in four months, and age me it did do, older, wiser and more worn down. And that morning, valentines day, i was on my way up there.

God smiled, and the rains held off for the morning, and i was able to dry out my tent, and pack my stuff without all getting wet. We left mid-day for the drive up Big Sur, that scenic drive on the coast. We chatted a bit, he going north from LA back to his family, his business had crashed, designing specialty outback trailers, and he was going home for what he hoped would be just a little while. The sky opened up, rain poured down, bouncing back off the ground just as we passed Plaskett Creek. We stopped for coffee at almost $3 a cup on the way, he got a call and said he would have to stop in Monterey and would drop me at the hostel there.

When we got to Monterey the sun was out again. The traffic was heavy, and we both felt overwhelmed. i did not know it was the weekend of the major golf tournament. I had not called for reservations, and we found the hostel was booked full for the weekend. I breathed deep, and he agreed to drop me back off downtown – i guess i would go to San Francisco after all. The Amtrak bus to San Jose no longer stopped at the place it had a year before. I looked at the schedule and saw that it was due in just a few minutes, i walked up to the transit plaza, backpack on my back, and a policecar slowed to look at me. I made it to the stop a minute after the last bus for the day was to leave, but thankfully it was a few minutes late. It took me up to San Jose where i caught the Caltrain into the city and saw couples with flowers and remembered it was Valentine’s Day. I had no reservations, and it was evening when i arrived, but my hostel of choice, the city centre had plenty of room, and the rains did not begin until the next day.

I remember little of that time here, but i know i slept in a real (bunk) bed, alone – first time in a long while, and took a bath and washed my clothes and spent time in the library and walked around, and cooked full meals involving several burners on a real stove. The rains lasted several days, but the storm on Big Sur and below did not cause the landslides they feared.

I came down to the hostel at fort mason after a few days, still not knowing where i would go. The weather turned nicer, that i know, for sun was out the day i walked in the Marina district, and took the first cash advance on the visa card, taking money from my dad. I also know that i went to Ocean Beach and spent a day in Golden Gate Park with a guy i met who live there – yes in the park, a secret shrub, where he had spent much of the past two years. I had sat on a bench to eating a snack and he came up and talked to me – i remember his eyeglasses with bright blue safety pins – and something striped that he wore. He was schitzo he said, cut off from his family, his disability check mailed to them and they sent him the cash, just enough to get by, and from the amount he quoted, i could tell, they kept some behind for themselves. We talked of journeys, he’d travelled around, of retreat centres and energy. i met him another day outside his safety zone, for a coffee up on van ness another area i had never been, we spoke of life and became increasingly paranoid, feeling the edgy vibes of those who walked determinedly were directed at him. From our previous conversations i believed that he saw auras and human energy, but like so many in our culture had never learned to work with the perception he had, and then saw it all directed at him. I never saw him again but he sticks with me, for i had seen so many just like him, whose gifts in seeing more were dishonoured and denied, and rather than being a blessing, to be nurtured and refined, had it turn into a nightmare, distorted by the pain of having it denied.

Now sometime in my week or so here, i had picked up the free new age magazines from the boxes on the street. This is something i do all the time so there is nothing special about it per se. But as i browsed through i saw the ad once again for Harbin Hotsprings – hotsprings, yoga, meditation, sound and more with camping at a great price. now i had seen the ad a year before and it called out to me. Like many other retreat centres, of new age and alternative health and spirituality i was drawn to them but did not give myself permission to go. I almost went in 2008, but became afraid, and convinced myself it was too cold to camp and worried about the clothing optional policy. I had been looking at retreats for several years, yearning, but told myself no.

But this time, i dared to take a chance, i really had nothing left to lose. I would go though it was colder out than it had been the year before, but i was toughened up by 8 months of so of mainly living outside. I delayed leaving by a day, that is for sure, went with hesitation, but left to there, taking the ferry across the bay and a long bus ride up through wine country. And so began a period of healing and opening up, and trying to live – a spiraling circle that has brought me back here.

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On some journeys all doors open for you, tickets come cheap, a ride comes through, and all runs on time. And then there are other trips where delays stand in your face. My trip here to San Francisco in January 2008 was one of those. in fact, there were considerable delays. I came again this time from Oregon, not from Eugene from where i had come in the previous time less that three months (but seemingly years) before, but from Seaside where i had spent 40 days and nights and then some more. And in between those times, i had criss-crossed the country as well.

It was January (2008) when i arrived, and it was not until the middle of March that i would leave the area for a good time (until February 2009) not really expecting to come back again. But then again, the last time i was here, i did not imagine to be back so soon. In those three months i went south and north, alone and with my father. Though it became a time of frenetic movement, I did not leave California. But the story of my movement, the story with my dad, began and ended in San Bruno, a suburb of town near the airport, and will not be covered here.

But as i said, my journey was delayed, and i wondered if it was a good decision made, but it was an experience lived. I had been in Seaside over a month, and felt the slowness come over me, i felt like my time there was done. I wanted to start the new year in another locale, but i stayed the night and went to Portland new years day instead. The weather was Oregon rain, and despite the glitter of that city, i wondered why i came. My call was to go to San Fransisco, but i delayed and procrastinated for a few days, sitting in the public library, soggy, in front of the computers in the main hall, or one in the side room, looking at lands afar. By the time i decided to make the trek, the Amtrak fares had gone up high. My shoes were wet, i made a decision, i was going to go, so i went down to the dull greyhound station, a bought a ticket for 6:30 pm the following day, saving several dollars that way.

Now in Portland the greyhound and Amtrak stations are just next door to one another, but they are worlds apart, both are older, but amtrak is welcoming, has wooden benches and service with a smile, while greyhound is more concrete, with dim lighting, low ceilings, and a few plastic seats.

The day that i was to leave a storm came in – i spent the day drinking coffee, and at the library trying to keep myself dry. I went to the station early and got my baggage tags, but i felt something was off, i did not know why. The woman at the counter tagged my bags with what seemed to be hesitancy, but read me the gate and told me the time the bus would load. after i got in the security guard came in, and set up his table where he screened people through. I went out for a butt, heard some people murmuring about the bus and snow. I asked myself, was it delayed and when would it come, and then i looked at the ticket desk and saw some with bags walking away. I waited for a call to see if the bus was cancelled because of the storm. I looked around and the at the clock and then at 6:10 i went to the desk. The bus had just been cancelled, the pass has been closed due to heavy snow, there will be no more buses out tonight. my ticket was non-refundable, and the hostel was booked that night, i checked the time and then asked by chance, can i use it again at anytime. They stamped the ticket with the date the bus was cancelled, i could not get a refund, but could use it later.

I ran over to the Amtrak station where the bus to seaside departed i believe at 6:35. I had just a few minutes to buy a ticket, a couple dawdled in line, but i got the ticket and ran out to the bus just as it was ready to pull out. Now people in Seaside had told me i was crazy to want to go to San Francisco, a big city in California to the south. And i had wondered about my trip, somehow i was brought back to the place, something drew me back there. Another storm prevented my departure from Seaside, almost a month before, and now another brought me back there. I had thought that chapter in my life (still to be written) had ended with the year 2008, but like the circles back to San Francisco, circles had, and would again, take me back to Seaside.

I arrived, walked in and dumped my bags, your back rick said, now working the desk. The bus was cancelled i said in a rush, the pass was closed with the storm. I went to my old room, and to the familiar bed, and slept tight for the night, feeling like i had come back home, and glad now that nick had left. I got up early the next morning, to see if i would have to catch the bus, not really wishing to. I called the greyhound toll free number and got the recorded message that listed cancellations from the week before. i logged on to the computer before the front desk opened a bit worried the manager would discover that i knew how and checked the website. No buses were going south that day. I waited and waited and kept checking back, but for 3 days the message appeared, the buses were cancelled from Oregon to California, it had been another major winter storm.

The room was not to remain my own the following night, a girl came in and moved in there, a student on a winter break trip, but one with a car. the next day was nicer, the rain had slowed, and we went for a hike on Tillamook head, the wind came up and i caught a chill, but still went out to look at cannon beach and caught the bus back to seaside on my own. I had been feeling like i was catching a cold, had almost not gone on the hike the truth be told. But i had a chance, a lift in the car, to take me to the headland and more – and i missed the trees and the rocky vista, and after all what was a little rain. But that night the cold took hold, and though the buses started up after two days, i stay for over a week recovering, sleeping and reading in bed.

David, the sweetie despite his alcohol and methadone, kept warning me of the city and to stay away. He’d been to Portland, into the city for a few days, and was glad to get back to the serenity of winter in a coastal oregon town. Rick was working harder, and with Nick gone away, maybe there was place for me. I was lulling back into seaside zone but the dramas also pushed me away. I was tempted to change my plans, but i still had the ticket in hand, one that could not be returned. The dramas got stronger as the week went on, the young guy who lost his baby to social services after trying with his ex to raise it in a cheap motel room had his part-time hours stocking groceries at Safeway cut back even more, and there was talk of him having what work was around there. And then there was the crazy who looked at all with suspicion, she finally talked, became incomprehensible, and had to be taken away.

My last night a new man came in, from a sunnier place, to relive his youthful memories of summers spent in Seaside. We talked outside of many things, the chatted and drank cheap beer in his room with the young guy. The conversation got esoteric, and the kid left very soon. He fell into a trance and told me details of my past and drew a picture of a lion exactly the same as i had once drawn. he spoke of my future and called me a blocked artist said i need not go to San Francisco – that my future lie neither here not there. I knew i was leaving and so did he, and said maybe i would end up near there – near the russian river – but not right away, may take several journeys first. We more drank PBR, that awful cheap beer, and talked away till late in the night. When i got up my legs were wobbly, and i spent time over the toilet bowl throwing up. My elation turned to sorrow, it felt like my life were coming on up, and if i had come to hug a toilet bowl i just had to get away.

The next morning i peeled myself out of bed, said goodbye to seaside and got out on the road, taking the amtrak bus back to the city. The trip seemed long, my head did hurt, so i caught the first greyhound out of Portland. It was the schedule i avoided when i booked my bus, with a five hour layover in Sacramento in the middle of the night.

The bus had the usual cast of characters – a girl out of prison, another fighting for custody, a guy on a last leave from the army and more – and for much of the time i had to share a seat. I remember the break in eugene, got coffee at the starbucks but little else except that the pass over the mountains was clear.

We arrived in Sacramento just before 2am; the bus to SFO would not leave til 7. I sat out back and had a smoke, listening to loud rap coming out of a souped up car and looking around the corner watching a drug deal. I went into station, talked with one of the smokers who i met on the breaks, he knew the place, and me and two guys walked the deserted streets of downtown to a Dennys in the middle of the night where a middle-aged waitress with big hair kept filling our coffee cups. i forget their stories now, one out of jail to start a new life, and the other in a transition of sorts, and on the way back one smoking some crack. still it was he who digged deep and gave the man sleeping on the street in the ragged long coat $10 of his own.

I got to san francisco to the grisly greyhound station and walked to the hostel where i was to spend my time. It rained for several days i think, and was it this time i discovered the beach, went on more walking tours, spent time at the library and walked to golden gate park, discovering the city and remembered to meditate. The story of this time remains a blur, mixed up with my time here just months before. A time of transition, of calm and panic, for i no longer knew what i would do, and the polish of the city was gone. I made so discoveries but also lost some of the dream that was contained in this place. (that time here is another entry, written together with the time before)

I was out of cash, and began to worry and made my way down to santa cruz and monterey. It was there that I found out my dad coming out for a visit and i would meet him for a few days back here. i came back a few days sooner than hoped for I enjoyed my time in monterey and did not want to leave. The manager said could stay more than the allotted time – but one day he was not there an employee instead, and told me i had stayed too long. I came back up here to wait for my dad, staying down at Fishermans Wharf. Walks around, in the moment, a sense of calm, but a storm brewing underneath, i wanted to stop this existence of mine. A few days later i was picked up at the hostel by my father and headed out to the suburb of San Bruno, and another month long chapter of life on the road in a circle back to the suburbs again and then yet another phase of my life that led me back here again.

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I sit in Barnes and Nobles in Fisherman’s Wharf. I came here to write. Soft classical music plays adding serenity to the place. The cafe, Starbucks, is calm with others sitting alone in front of laptops or reading books. The sun shines now, clouds over the bay, and the light is good – both from outside entering in the windows, and from the large round lights hanging high above, from the high ceiling of exposed beams and pipes. Shelves of books are all around. The california and bay area travel books on my left, and i do not want to linger there.

I came here yesterday, and realized how long it had been since i browsed a book store, especially a large chain such as this. And as i made my rounds, i found myself stopping at familiar locales, differently placed here but the contents much the same. I stopped by the best sellers – fiction and not, the travel essays, sociology, religion, new age and more. And i remembered just how much time i have spent wandering these stores, browsing at titles but not much more. I have looked at these sections and more – history, fiction, self-help etc. and become overwhelmed. I walk around, and look and look, and then walk on out without buying a book. Yesterday i came into sit, but still walked around and browsed a bit.

Memories of not only places and times came flooding back, but of emotions i held, and that still linger on. For these bookstores, even under the different banners are so much the same. Or maybe it is i am re-engaging in familiar activity.
There is so much to read, but what do i want and who do i want to be. There are so many worlds sitting on these shelves, so many possibilities how do i pick just one? Stories of lives lived out, of adventures to all locales, of love and life, of ideas, and philosophies and analysis and of information about the world, and about the self. It is a place that contains so many worlds laying between two covers sitting upon the shelves, waiting to be bought and read. Waiting to become a part of one’s own life.

I look around, reading the covers; wanting to, but never really delving in – a page or two read here and there. I look for an answer – the question unknown. But i do not leap, buy just one, too expensive i say, and pass it by. Besides, what one would i pick? And i walk and i look and i don’t know why. Expecting an ah ha to come off the page, to magically appear from somewhere. I walk out of the store empty handed and drained.

I have been in so many of these places on my travels around north america. I look and look but cannot decide. Often i have gone in to the travel section, hoping that a destination would come to me. I browse through the listings, of places i know (believe) i will not go – yearning for what is out of reach or become frenzied and overwhelmed. i’d look at the travel essays, never really reading them, but desiring, thinking one day i would write that too. And the best-selling novels, and the popular analysis of culture that draw me in. And as i sit here i think of the Barnes or Borders or Chapters in Seattle, Boston, New York, Vancouver, Victoria and even more locales – it seems that i have visited them all, a stopping place along the way.

I think of my trips to Powell’s in Portland – the largest independent new and used bookstore in the land – hours browsing, different sections, occasionally reading a good part of a book there. I saw the people in the hostel and a the check out stand with piles of books in hand. But i was carrying my bag, and on the road, and had room for just one, or two at most. And with the thousands and thousands of titles on the shelves, how could i pick just one. I bought a book there once – the story of The Peace Pilgrim. I’d glanced through it before in a library just before closing time, and when i returned it had disappeared from the shelf. But it was a book i’d been wanting, and hard to find, had been searching for months, and there it was found.

During my long winter in Victoria which i spent lost and unemployed I would spend much time in the Chapters on Douglas Street, drinking coffee and scribbling away up on the second floor. I would walk on in out of the rain, and tour the bottom floor, best sellers and more – i looked at the tables of books marked down, and said, just maybe i can. But even at the marked down price i bought just one – not the book i had truly been wanting, but another i meant to read, and i felt guilty for doing so. It was new, it had not been used, and it cost $6.99.

And i remember before i started this wandering, a lifetime ago, how i would browse the stores in Toronto, and even Montreal and do the same thing. In Toronto i would go to the worlds biggest bookstore and wander its narrower aisles on a winter sunday afternoon, and would walk out empty-handed feeling depressed. i forgot about the one on saint catherines near peel, in Montreal, the crowded downstairs with the bargain bins, i would go in about once a week, I see myself going in out of the snow, slush in the door, and i would look at books, and tell myself no. There was a larger one, with carpeted floors, or had it expanded to the second floor. I have bought a few new books mainly with gift cards, even then it was difficult to take the leap. Often a journal bought instead. I remember buying one top-ten book 40% marked down, and i lay in my bed, curled up to it that night, transported in time and space. But often i spend more time looking at books, than i do reading them.

Once upon a time, there had been a small independent book store where i would go, less overwhelming with limited stock. I bought new books a few times, when i got back to Montreal and started a job. i’d buy one book every paycheck, a reward for doing my time. But my time i did in office walls, and bought fewer books as time passed on.

But once upon a time i collected books. I bought many and read many and they were my prized possessions – and how many have i given or thrown away? And just when was it that i became afraid of buying books, and have i ever bought many that weren’t second-hand, or marked way down? I know some came after i was out of school, and some came the second time around, feeling that i should buy more practical things. And i had given up on some dreams. And the times i wandered but did not buy, were often the times i felt like i had died inside. Or when on the road, i look and look but do not engage a few brief morsels but that’s all for me.

Don’t get me wrong, i read a lot and have read many of the books i wanted to buy – found in libraries and thrift stores. But why is it that i feel that it must be second-hand, and cannot come from a bright comfortable store. Or that i might read it through, but not take it away, use it, peruse it, but not make it mine. I have spent much time in libraries over the years, my second home of sorts, but that is for another entry, a genre of locales onto itself. I wander these stores like a library, except that i do not sit to read the gems i have found.

I no longer go to proper used book stores, seeking bargain bins, garages sales, thrift stores and book exchange shelves instead. I tell myself it is because the choice is more limited, and i will not become so overwhelmed. Sometimes i stumble onto a gem, the book i had been needing to read pops into my hands at the perfect time, providing the insights i need at the time. But just as often, i find myself reading some crap, or lugging a book around that i know that i will never finish; its story does not interest me.

And i carry that weight around with me, for all those times i go to places where the shelves sit bare or full only of cheap romance and detective novels and maybe a few used cookbooks – nothing that will fulfill. And i spend my time searching these stores in the desperate hope that just something will appear. It becomes a game, which occasionally i win, but all the more often walk out empty-handed and empty inside. I ask myself, why i go there looking for what i will not find. And why is it that is must be used – or borrowed, scavenged from a shelf? Previously owned by someone else? A bargain, on sale, not at full price? It would be so much easier to go down the street to the large new bookstore, and buy the book that i seek – but then again do i know what it is that i am looking for.

There have been times i have been called to a certain title, but cannot seem to spend the price of dinner on a book or give to myself. I say it is because i am on the road, carry a pack, and will need to leave it behind. Why spend money i ask, on what i cannot make mine. Even though Jesus did say you can’t live by bread alone. Yes, i eventually read that title i sought, but ask myself why i waited, or was the waiting and denial right, and it came to me at the right time. And though i don’t own the book, i carry its message inside.

And why it is that i have found it so difficult to buy a new book, even in the days that i could. The feeling that i should be doing something else instead? That i should be browsing another more practical section of the bookstore – though that i have done, a few years spent wandering the business shelves. That what i want to read is wrong, should be focused on something else. Oh i justified it, these stores are operated by big chains, so many deserving writers that barely make it here, but that is but a story i tell myself, a justification for my inability to take a leap.

For I also wandered more specialty bookstores. Once upon a time when i bought many more books, i would frequent the lefty political book stores. Then for years i avoided them all together, refusing to go on in. On my travels i have been through those places in many locales, though as i write I realize it has been a long while, for over the years the titles and feeling of those stores appealed less and less to me – for my focus had changed. Though i need not avoid all that was there as i did for years.

Another type of specialty book store has claimed me more these past few years – the new age, metaphysical, spirituality and natural health bookstore. And i think of my trips to Banyen Books in Vancouver, the first time in the 1980’s over twenty years ago. I had gone in to buy a book for a course. i think it might have been smaller then, but rows of books on dreaming, psychology, spirituality, healing, creating and more, and although my identity was still wrapped up in the other kind of lefty bookstore, which i frequented less and less, something called me forth.

And i have spent time wandering there, finally, after being afraid to enter inside. Too many times i would walk right by afraid to enter in, stand outside on the sidewalk looking in. I see myself walking up and down the block on Saint Denis – outside of Boule de Neiges, or on St. Catherines by Melange Magique, or in the annex in Toronto outside of Eternal Moments i think that is the name, and go on into the bargain bookstore instead. But when i think of it, i had previously feared walking in to those lefty bookstores, not knowing what i should buy, what section to perview, and it was only after someone took my hand, many years before, that i walked in and found a world unfold to me – social analysis, class inequality, social movements and more.

Eventually i did enter inside these new age bookstores, and look around, not knowing where to go. I’d feel so lost, which area do i delve in first? Healing – of what type? Chakras and energy systems? Spirituality – of the east or the west? Herbs? Creativity? Astrology? Dream Analysis? Self-help? I would look and look and tell myself no, this is not the area where you should go. It was so overwhelming, so new to me, and so much appealed and i did not know what direction to turn in. And i believed, this arena was forbidden to me.

It was a few years later in Kingston, that i finally entered in on a regular basis. Again there i had walked by so many times, and stared inside, or come in as far as the cash only to dash back outside. It was the time in my life where books filled my livingroom, my couch and my bed. They were there for a reason, and some spoke to me, and some i merely felt that i had to read. And i had to read yet another book, before i wrote, before i was sure, had a quoted the authorities and had all the references? And the books inside this store were not related to my thesis, the topic in which i no longer believed. But they called, and i did not buy them, or maybe just one. But i would go to the public library, not the academic one at the university, and take books out or sit there and read. And write, pages upon pages in my journal or on topics i had read in these new age books and other social analysis instead.

It was after this time, when i dropped out of school, that i stopped buying books, and wandered around instead. But over the years, many found their way to me. Each time i was in Vancouver how i went back to banyen books. but did i ever buy anything, yes, a journal and a card, but would sit there and yearn, or remain uncertain, and walk away with nothing. I made trips there on my way through, but could not reach out. Or i would play it safe – look at books on self-help and writing that were not to far from that i had read before. A few times i remember buying a book, that store on saint denis – a book on chakras marked down 50%, Carolyn Myss’s the Anatomy of the Spirit at full price, and Thomas Moores Care of the Soul in another locale, not marked down. But how many times have i browsed an just looked around.

Now i have read many books of this genre over the past few years – from herbology to perennial wisdom, healing of the mind, body and spirit, and energy systems, and philosophy and spirituality of east and west, and too many books on self-help and am feeling limited by it. I think my trip to indralya helped with that – a library full, and amazing collection – took out too many books and spent my time there a year ago, reading and reading some more. And i have come to know that all knowledge, understanding and wisdom do not come from books. There are so many gems, but so many that seem so much the same, and others that really say nothing at all. Like with travel to many places, repeating circles, and all seems the same, but there are areas that shine, those you come back to, and those that remain unexplored. And while i might branch out, now that i have given myself permission to go on there, i will not leave it totally behind, and cross a border of no return. Just as i still read the social analysis, fiction, travel books and herbs, i can draw it in to the complexity of me.

I know i will continue to read some of the genre and of others too. And the big stores, like Barnes and Noble, have selections from so many genres, so you do not need to limit yourself to just one. Like the libraries where i have spent so much time over the years – to not only browse out in different directions, but to sit down and take a bite of so many arenas of life and to take into yourself.

But at times, i no longer read, and do not branch out at all. And now i walk through the store, a few titles catch my eye, but i look on blankly knowing i will not buy, and no longer desiring to browse. I finish this entry in another locale and realize i did not even note the titles that were there. But now that i have written these words, i am ready to reach out once again.

It is the act of writing, that makes me want to expand. For that is the one true thing that i have felt forbidden to me, a pleasant diversion to be done in my spare time after i have found my call. And the feeling that if something i wrote did not make it onto these major bookshelves, it was not worth writing at all. But it has been my call, and is the reason why i browse stores of books and not something else. And maybe that is why i wander through, wanting to create rather than just consume. As with the books that i pick up, i must write it through line by line.

And my trip to Barnes and Noble brought all this up in me. In some ways it is like my travels, i wander about, seeking for who knows what and cannot reach out and grasp. there is too much and too little and i just look on, overwhelmed, not knowing what book to open. What chapter is to be written next in this book called my life? And do i dare to read what has been written on the pages, can i write it through? do i move a head without a look on what has been written before. But like opening a novel towards the end, you don’t always understand the theme and what has happened before. How did one get to the point on the page, what relevance does it have for the chapters to unfold? But it is a novel that must be written and read, not to remain unfinished, or put down half-way through, the first chapter read many times but you do not find your way beyond. And like the larger bookstore, there are so many sections that make up the whole. this entry is done, to be put out, another one to go, and it is through this writing that i might grow – and eventually buy a new book, maybe a book truly of my own.

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