August 13, 2000
A few days later I pulled into the pine forest and parked for the night. The events from the YWCO whirlpool were still on my mind. The Post-It Poet scheme was in full swing and I was feeling more alive than ever before!
The interesting encounters had put me into a state of thoughtfulness as I pondered my life, the lives of others and how they are entangled in a web of experience I can only begin to recognize and fathom.
I skidded into my usual parking spot near the patch of ground I was beginning to know as home. I had been sleeping on that spot for a few weeks now and the contours of the land, the dead logs, pine needles, bushes and trees were becoming as familiar to me as any house I had ever lived in.
You know the feeling you get when you move into a new place and you bump into the walls when you’re trying to find the toilet, half asleep in the middle of the night?
It takes a few weeks until you know the lay of the house. Eventually, you can stumble around to the kitchen, the bathroom or any other place with the lights off. You can find the light switches in pitch black. You can maneuver around couches and chairs without seeing them. That’s how this spot of Earth was beginning to feel to me, familiar and comfortable.
When I pulled up I noticed a guy in a van next to my spot. I could see he was preparing a dinner of salad, sardines, bread, and cheap wine. He looked over and smiled. I was intent on recording my thoughts so I wouldn’t forget them. As soon as I had finished my writing I opened up the truck door to get my sleeping stuff.
He looked over and said “Hi.”
“How ya doin?”
“Great!” was his response. He exclaimed with exuberance I rarely see.
I could tell he wasn’t an average camper and I would even go as far as to say that something inside told me I should talk to this guy.
He offered me some wine and I accepted. It was a cheap Boones Farm kind of wine, blackberry flavored. It was cold. I hadn’t had that type of wine in years. It immediately brought back nostalgic memories.
Somehow we got into a pretty good conversation about life. It turns out that he was a brick mason doing some work in town. He was also living in his van (sounds familiar) for a couple of weeks until he went up to Pennsylvania to meet a woman he had connected with at a Rainbow gathering earlier in the year.
“I can’t stand to pay for hotels,” he said “unless it’s those really nice ones like a $100 a night or somethin’.”
“Yeah, I know whatcha mean,” I answered.
He argued that he was just as comfortable in his van. On top of that he could save 50 bucks a night rather that waste his money on a hotel. I couldn’t have agreed more.
He began telling me his story of how he used to use drugs but had found a different way. He claimed to have ties with Native American shamans that had shown him a better way. His stories reminded me a little of the books by Carlos Castaneda.
I thought to myself of the “many paths to the same truth” quote that I’ve heard many spiritual leaders refer to. Which to me means that regardless of the religion, spiritual path or vehicle of experience we choose, if we are seeking truth and remain true to our course we all arrive at the same destination.
I’ve met a few people that have lost themselves with drugs. A lot of them convert to Christianity or some other religion to help them find salvation, truth, or stable grounding. It seems that if that is the path that brings them to happiness and grounds them in the world then so be it.
Is there really a right way to find oneself or one’s place in life? I really don’t know if he was truthful or not but I listened to him with all sincerity.
He lit a few candles in his van. They hung from the clothes hanger slots on the inside of his van. He had some mellow Enya-like music going which complimented his story and enhanced the mood.
We continued to talk about our similar philosophies for life. He told me how he had danced in another part of the forest the night before because he was the only one around. He talked about his experiences with deer and watching the leaves shimmer in the wind. He was about 15 years my senior but had just now begun to find his path.
At the onset of my experiment and at times even still I consider my age and my career and a few self-doubts creep in about the practicality of being a Young Homeless Professional. He unknowingly inspired me to keep doing what I was doing.
I never conveyed to him the scope of my situation. He never asked. But he had encouraged me to keep going. He was essentially doing what I was doing. He would work in town during the day and then come to the forest at night to sleep. I thought to myself that if he could do it then so could I!
As we continued to drink wine he spouted out some poem that I’ll never remember the words to. I asked him if he’d ever heard of Rumi. He replied that he hadn’t. It just so happens that I carry a copy of Birdsong everywhere I go.
How many other people in this world walk around with poetry in their pockets? I have instant access to poems. What a great thing! I wonder how different the world might be if people went around greeting each other with poems instead of blank stares or avoiding greetings at all with down turned eyes.
I was tempted to give it to him as a gift but he related that he doesn’t read much. He did ask if I could loan it to him for the night for some bedtime reading. He promised to leave it on my truck in a plastic bag to protect it from the morning dew before he left for work the next day.
As we parted ways for the night we had one last exchange.
“Once you figure out that heaven and hell are here man, that this world is what you decide it is, or what you make of it. Then all you gotta do is have relationship with it.” He proclaimed.
He gave me this sagely advice with a large Cheshire cat grin. We bade each other good night and exchanged big unexpected hugs.
I slept on my familiar spot. The pine needles were broken and soft from regular use. When I awoke next to newly sprouted mushrooms in the morning I found the book under the windshield wiper on my truck in a plastic bag.
Stuck inside the book was the following note:
It was so good to share with you. Thank you for being in this life. You are a beautiful soul. Have a happy. Have a bunch of happies.
Of course, I felt good about the exchange. I think I would not have met him had I not been open to the endless possibilities this world offers through the Young Homeless Professional experiement. I probably would not have met him had I not jolted myself from my routine of living an everyday normal lifestyle.
My life is richer for this experience. I wonder how many other people walk around opened up? I wonder how many people wander around closed off?
I am a lucky soul, but it has been my intention to be so for quite a while.