Walking through my life. Walking has been a core theme for me since childhood. One of my favorite memories is a three mile hike I took with my dad when I was six. Swamp walking with my second grade buddy Joe is another. I started walking even more when we moved to Asheville. I joined the Boy Scouts there so I could go hiking and backpacking. My early love of walking culminated in a pilgrimage to Philmont Scout Ranch for an eleven day backpacking trip right before we moved to Kenya. While I was living in Kenya I lost touch with walking due to my blossoming drug use and interest in girls, plus the lack of nearby hiking trails. I neglected walking all through high school, college and my first career in Tallahassee. I started walking again after my first big act of surrender: leaving my cushy career behind to move to Boulder in 1979. My years in the Rocky Mountain West were full of hiking, backpacking and trail running. When I arrived in Seattle in the summer of 1991 the first new friend I made was Jeff. In the summer of 1992 we went on a weeklong backpacking trip. That became an annual event and a cornerstone of my early years in Seattle. Later, when I was able to feel what a mistake it had been to get married, hiking and camping became my escape from a marriage that had become intolerable through nobody's fault but mine. Walking became a meditation that helped me develop the strength and resolve I was going to need to move out and start a new life. As it came into bloom, that new life was founded on living very frugally in my cheap rented room, dancing, especially with Ruth, and drugs (booze then pot). I left walking behind; my goal was to dance every night. As it became time to leave that new life and get serious about making progress with love, Leela saw to it that all those props got taken away. In the summer of 2020 I started seriously walking again, to get back in shape and escape the increasingly awful feeling of living in someone else's home where I was no longer welcome. When I became homeless I fought off hypothermia by getting up and walking fast in the rain at night.
Sacrifice. Walking is the quintessential human gait. Standing upright and walking was the physical manifestation of our ancestors' transformation from natural animal to human animal, aka Homo erectus. Walking on two legs made it possible for us to develop arms and hands, so core to what being human is. We had to sacrifice the ability to run well. Any natural animal that uses running runs far better than we do because running on two legs is awkward and weak. Our legs are not meant for running, they're for walking. Humans who run are constantly fighting the injuries and distortions caused by running on two legs.
Hiking. I got into hiking when I lived in Asheville. The mountains have wonderful inviting trails. Florida wasn't like that at all. You'd run into a swamp whichever way you went. I walked in the woods in my neighborhood and went on hikes with my dad. Scouting ramped that up. I went on more hikes and did a little backpacking. Right before we moved to Kenya I went on the ultimate Scout backpacking trip: Philmont. My hiking and my spontaneous meditations went hand-in-hand: they both happened out in nature. It was early in the process, but I was on the road to self realization by way of walking and spontaneous meditation. This video was shot in Boulder, by the way. Not far from where I fell from grace.
Drugs. It all went up in smoke when we moved to Kenya. I lost all the magic I'd found before out communing with nature. Booze and pot shut down my spontaneous meditations for good. My new interest was drugs and booze. I was getting high for real now, or so I thought; I had it all backwards. I didn't go hiking at all in Kenya or in college or in Tallahassee. I forgot about spontaneous meditations. That's their great limitation: no conscious intentional effort required.
Jamestown. Once I recovered from my fall, TH came up with a new plan for me, an early version of his get manly program for the Bejurin the wuss. I liked this plan and so did Leela. I was to live alone for a year in a mountain cabin near Boulder, a mountain hermit. An old miner's cabin in Jamestown, a tiny hamlet northwest of Boulder was just the ticket.
It was a real log cabin with all the amenities: no insulation, drafty chinking, a tiny woodburning stove, an outhouse, and no plumbing. I had to haul water in a bucket. Elevation a little over seven thousand feet; it got cold in the winter. I'd bank my little stove as best I could, but it only lasted half the night. In the morning my water bucket had a quarter inch of ice on top. Firewood I gleaned from the hillsides. Most of what I found was slash, so I really was a gleaner. I cut the slash up with a bow saw, my chain saw days yet to come. The cabin was on James Creek. An old mining road followed the creek into the national forest, eventually forking off from the creek to connect with a road leading to the Peak to Peak Highway just north of Ward. About eight miles with an easy slope, just two thousand feet elevation gain. I became intimately familiar with that trail and many others that forked off it. I truly loved living in Jamestown.
Through hiking. While I was living in Jamestown I became fascinated by the idea of through hiking. My least favorite part of a backpacking trip was having to turn around and hike back out; it seemed anticlimactic, a letdown. Heading back to the grind. I'd done a couple of trips with a buddy where we took two cars and left one at each end, but that ended up being an awful lot of driving. Plus now I was on my own; spending most of my time alone was a key part of my rustic cabin regimen. I could have a visitor every other weekend, women only. TH didn't just encourage promiscuity; he flat out told me to sleep around. When I had a guest we spent too much time snuggled up in a dark cabin with tiny windows to go backpacking.
Hitchhiking. I went on two solo through hikes by hitchhiking: one that summer and one that fall. The first was in the Front Range. I wanted to leave my car at the cabin, so I geared up for a week of backpacking and hitched up Overland Road, dirt back then, toward Peak to Peak Highway. There weren't many cars on that road, but the people who drove up it were fairly likely to pick up a guy with a big backpack. I looked legit in context. I made my way north along Peak to Peak and hiked a route south of Long's Peak that went over the divide into North Park; I came out at Grand Lake. Then I hitched back home via major highways; lots of waiting with my thumb out on those roads. Now I really had the bug.
Grump. I adore fall in the high Rockies. It's brief. The aspen show is usually over by the end of September. But while it lasts, oh my. For my fall through hike I walked from Aspen to Crested Butte, and it was glorious. I got an early start and hitchhiked the scenic route: down Peak to Peak to Idaho Springs, I-70 to Copper Mountain, south on 91 through Leadville (moly makes your tool hard), then up over Independence Pass, the most spectacular drive I know of. I made camp in woods a few miles short of Aspen so I could sleep for free, then had an indulgent carbo loading breakfast in town before hitting the trail. It's a 38-mile hike, starting at eitht thousand feet and going up to well over twelve. I started out in gorgeous mature aspen groves with views of the Maroon Bells off to my right. The weather was kind and I was a happy camper except for one long day of bitter cold and blowing snow going over Pearl Pass. When I arrived in Crested Butte it was like dropping into Barcelona in the middle of La Mercè: I arrived the day the Grump got burned. Old hippies in Crested Butte put on pagan festivities every fall culminating in the burning of the Grump; read all about it. It was charming, and a lot less chaotic and bewildering than La Mercè. Not that I'd want to go to either again. But back then that kind of thing was kinda fun.
La Mercè. I dropped in on La Mercè in the early 2000s when I traveled to Spain with my wife and Gail and Billy. This was in the early years of my marriage, just as I was beginning to settle into a miserable ease. She and I had taken a three week trip to Italy a couple years before. Spain was our second and final European outing and Barcelona was our first stop. None of us had ever heard of La Mercè. We had no idea we were parachuting into a joyful drunken war zone. When we arrived at our bed and breakfast in El Born it was going on all around us. We were miserably jetlagged. Gail and Billy went to bed. But I wanted to find out what the hell was going on, and my wife gamely came with. We wandered out into smoke filled streets where correfocs were going on all around us. A couple of times right at us. We would have been run over as the clueless tourists we were but for the grace and good humor of the people around us, snatching us out of harm's way. It was an incredible experience. We wandered around happily lost for hours until the blinding smoke finally drove us back inside.
The one person in the world. In 2006 Leela spoke to me and I began making my way to realizing what I'm made of. The first thing she guided me to do was lose weight by changing my diet and walking. I took long walks every day after work and longer ones on the weekend. I soon added camping trips every other weekend. I got tired of all the setup involved in car camping and bought a beater 1971 Westfalia van, mustard yellow. I loved that beatup camper. It took me lots of sweet places. But it got unreliable, hard to start. One morning when I'd camped way up some Forest Service road I spent hours trying to get it started. It finally did and I limped home. The fix would cost more than the van was worth so I gave it to a kid who liked to work on air cooled projects. I needed something reliable and that meant a Eurovan. I found one at a dealership in Ontario. I flew down, bought it, then took my sweet time driving home. Along the way I stayed with Anna a few days. She had moved to Santa Rosa. We had a sweet reunion tinged with sadness. We'd never see each other again. I think we both knew it. When I started writing my first website about the spiritual quest I realized Anna was the one person in the world I could really talk to about it. Our parting before the Eurovan visit had been rough. It was on my way home to Seattle from New Mexico. I wanted to pick up where we'd left off and she was not interested. She thought I was falling into a miserable ease and she was right. Now I was back on the spiritual quest and she'd be an ally if I could reach her. I was camped at Fort Ebey State Park. I took my phone to the edge of the bluff for good reception. I dialed the number and there she was. The sound of her voice felt like home. She was the best ally. For years after that we corresponded and talked on the phone regularly. She read all my websites and made archives of them. She was unfailingly supportive. Anna was a one woman support network for me for years. She was my lifeline.
Walking meditation. The Eurovan put me back in business. I'd drive to a campground and walk from my campsite for hours every day. The extended low impact exercise helped me get the weight off in a slow even process. Walking became my main form of meditation. I let Leela guide me as to where and how to walk. Walking meditation was a key element in my life for many years. In my new life on Capitol Hill my walking has taken a turn for the mellow. Back in Crown Hill I was doing intense stair workouts. That's what my intense distance walking turned into. I was getting aerobic, even anaerobic exercise walking up and down stairs using the principle of fartlek. I continued that at first when I moved to Capitol Hill but I've come to see that dancing is my best active meditation. I get my exercise dancing on my lovely wood floor. When I first moved in I was still strolling, exploring my new neighborhood, but now I only walk to the grocery store or to get my covid vaccination or some other errand. I get my exercise at home. I'm going back through my dance DJ library, solo dancing my way through almost 8900 songs, picking out the very best ones for my new dance. Whenever that comes to be.
Hospital. What became my walking meditation started out as part of the weight loss program Leela gave me. I walked in my north Seattle neighborhood and slowly branched out on longer walks with a steadily increasing radius. My favorite route started near the Bikur Cholim Cemetery across the street from Evergreen Washelli. I would walk east from the cemetery and turn north into Northwest Hospital grounds, now part of UW Medicine. I was transported to the emergency room at Northwest Hospital once. I was having an especially frightening arrhythmia. For the first time in years I got sufficiently freaked out to dial 911. The Seattle Fire Department paramedics were there within minutes. A half dozen guys in full firefighting gear utterly dominated my little bedroom. They did an electrocardiogram, asked me a few questions, and transported me to the emergency room. My arrhythmia settled down, as they always did. I started having these episodes at Florida Presbyterian College in the early 1970s. In those days I went to the emergency room a lot. It was always the same story. I had an ongoing anomaly, an abnormally slow pulse that set off bradycardia alarms on EKGs and an extra beat. The episodes, well, these things happen. I was in no danger. Try telling yourself that when your pulse suddenly goes from its normal high 40s (I timed my resting pulse at 37 once) to 140 or so, waking you up sweating in the middle of the night. The episodes always went away, though sometimes they got pretty bad. Like when I passed out at the wheel driving for the Chili Olympics, and at Heart Lake. In 2002 I had an episode that didn't go away. I got a diagnosis: atrial flutter. I had great health insurance. After consulting with my cardiologist I elected to have an ablation versus cardioversion. Leela led me to that by pointing out that cardioversion didn't fix anything. It just propped me back up. Ablation worked like a dream. Wisdom overcame a genetic flaw that had plagued me for countless lifetimes. Thank you Leela.
Mercury. I'd walk along the eastern edge of the hospital campus, coming out at the corner of N 120th and Ashworth. I had to walk across the grass outside a physical therapy unit to make that connection. No one noticed even though I walked this route for years. I'd walk north on Ashworth to 130th, using pedestrian cut throughs that are still all there. Left on 130th then another left, now heading south on Stone past the King County Household Hazardous Waste Facility. I made a delivery there once. I found all kinds of weird shit in the garage at the house I bought, including a vial of elemental mercury. I hadn't seen elemental mercury for so long. As a kid I used to play with it. I loved how cool and heavy mercury felt in my palm. I'd use it to silver a penny. Now I was working for Windward Environmental and I wasn't about to handle mercury, even though I knew about the bioavailability of elemental versus MeHg and the like. What mercury does to humans is just too creepy. I took the vial of mercury to have it disposed, along with ancient rusting cans of pesticides. Stone ends at 125th but I kept going south into Halcyon Mobile Home Park, which I passed on the other side on my way north. If you zoom in there you can see it: a little pedestrian track that keeps going south in back of the driving range. I walked along that. It becomes Stone again in back of Home Depot. I'd come out onto 115th and go left to complete my loop at Bikur Cholim Cemetery.
Soymilk. I walked from home; I didn't like driving to walk. I wanted to walk, not be cooped up in a car. Nature is everywhere and Seattle is lovely. I'd gotten good at muscle testing, so I turned the reins over to Leela and walked wherever she guided me to. Some walks were traditional strolls in parks and nice neighborhoods; others weren't. I was guided to walk along the busiest streets, like Aurora Avenue North or North 145th Street or 15th over the Ballard Bridge to Interbay with traffic inches away. On one of my weekend camping trips I had my Eurovan camper set up at Millersylvania State Park only to discover I'd forgot the soymilk, critical for my breakfast coffee. There was a country store a mile down the highway from the camp. I did not want to take down the pop top so I walked. There were no sidewalks so I walked on the edge of the road. Trucks came whizzing by, forcing me into the weeds. It wasn't dangerous but it was nerve wracking. They didn't have soymilk, duh, so I bought whole milk instead. I never went back to soymilk. Soymilk. What was I thinking? Real whole milk is a miracle food.