Miserable ease. The lake house was needed for other uses; we got booted out. We found a place with room for all three of us way out off Highway 90 east. None of the lake house's grand style, just basic digs more suited to our station. There were three buildings: a small two bedroom house, a big garage with a tiny apartment attached, and a small duplex. Steve lived in the garage. He and Marty were friends, sometimes lovers. He got us into the place as the previous tenants moved out. He was a gorgeous longhaired motorcycle mechanic, a bit like Ed but holier: dope instead of Tree Frog Beer. He was a cool dude about to hit his stride: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had just been published. Marty moved into the house and Linda and I split the duplex. It had interior connecting doors: we each had a door we could lock. At first we kept them open, but she and I were drifting further apart. I'd begun withdrawing into myself. I came to Tallahassee full of life and energy from my college adventures, and life in the lake house had been a blast. But I was beginning to get too comfortable in my cushy state job. I was headed straight into a miserable ease, the sad end of anyone's spiritual quest.
Mental muddle. I lived in my side of the little duplex about a year. In those days I was convinced I could read and think my way to enlightenment. I was keen on anything alternative, diligent but misguided. How could I be anything else, with only my thinking to guide me? My usual approach back then was to buy books. I collected all manner of books on holy and alternative topics. A few of these were actually helpful, nudging me in the right direction, like Blyth's four volume haiku collection and the Reps book. Mostly it was just a muddle. That's when I started getting into herbalism. I even bought John Christopher's absurdly expensive book, considered the absolute cat's pajamas of herbal wisdom in those days. I went on a cleansing fast once. To add insult to injury I drank Pluto water. Once I was all emptied out I gave myself a coffee enema. The misguided things we do for love.
Asshole. My half duplex started feeling cramped with all my stuff in it. It filled up because I'd become an obsessive thrifter. I went to garage sales every weekend, marking up the yard sale classifieds in the Democrat (I was a subscriber, god help me, a newspaper subscriber FFS) and planning one route for Friday afternoon and another for Saturday morning, agonizing over which sales sounded more appealing. I also discovered Tallahassee's thrift stores. All my attention went into collecting junk. I'd become more interested in stuff than people. I hardly had room to walk in my tiny half duplex so I moved into a spacious one bedroom in a shabby genteel fourplex on East Park Avenue. Except for a few months in my trailer, it was the first time I ever lived alone. I would not live alone again until I moved into my new home here on Capitol Hill. I wanted to live alone because I wasn't getting along with people. An nasty old habit had recrudesced: I started being hypercritical with people. Despicable. I was well on my way to getting locked in to being a comfortable asshole for life.
Mental and physical junk. My thrifting led me to become a connoisseur of junk. I furnished my kitchen with Noritake china, silver plate utensils, and etched glass goldrimmed stemware. I furnished my bedroom and living room with elaborate, heavy, dark antiquish furniture, including bookshelves. I furnished my bookshelves with theosophy, Sufism, and Gurdjieff. The new age church was all about the Far East: India, China and Japan. I rebelled against that by exploring Western esoterics: LaVey, Crowley, Blavatsky, Alice Bailey. I read Bailey's stupendously dense dull drivel with helpless fascination, hoping that etiolated fantasy could somehow save me, somehow elevate me out of my mind. But I couldn't think my way out of thinking. Right. I finally drifted on to the Sufis thence to Gurdjieff. TH was big into Gurdjieff, but by the time I met him I'd read Meetings and was making my way through the ever so much more stylish dense drivel of Bennett's Dramatic Universe. For most of my adult life I tortured myself by reading really dense crap like that. But I wasn't enough of a sucker to waste my time on Beelzebub. Ouspensky? What a load of crap. There was a limit to my gullibility. But my taste in almost everything was wretched. Gold rims? LaVey? Really? That's how Steely Dan got a foothold in this paragraph: my tastes have improved.
Cats. I loved living in my apartment alone. I would leave for work in the morning and return in the evening, and everything was as I left it. No messes left by housemates, no lingering resentments, no uncomfortable silences. After a while I noticed the same thing again only differently: everything was the same as I left it. No surprises. No greetings. Nobody cooking up something good. There was no life there, unless you count palmetto bugs. That started to feel lonely. So I adopted cats. They're so much easier to get along with than people. First a Burmese I named Sattvic, and then her daughter, a Tonkinese I named Bhakti. They kept me company; they were good at it. They both talked a lot; that's what originally drew me to those breeds. Engaging, quirky, funny: pretty good company. I wouldn't have cats again until I lived in Bridle Trails, decades later. By then I got along with people much better. The two Tigers were also a mother-daughter pair.
Sweet finale. I made my one and only sortie into political action in those days: I joined the local SDS chapter. I went to their meetings and SNCC meetings for a few months. Something was being protested in Atlanta, as usual. Tallahassee organizers chartered a bus and a passel of us headed north get our fair share of abuse.
Such a brilliant cover. According to the organizers, the idea was to get arrested. Somehow that would advance our cause. I was lucky enough not to unlock that achievement. Also lucky enough to miss the bus home because of all the confusion. I got a ride home in a beat up station wagon stuffed to the gills with tired protestors. I found myself squashed up against an absolutely gorgeous Black girl. We whiled away the hours making out, suddenly very awake and aware of each other among the dreary demonstration dregsters. I wish I could say it went on from there, but she was too far out of my league. I decided that was the best possible note I could end my political career on.
Confession. I was a book thief. In 1969 I stole two books of French poetry from the Mel High library, the one where six or seven of us met once a week around the trapezoidal conference table for Elaine Rankin's senior American lit seminar. There was no library security. I just took the books home and never brought them back. My thinking at the time was that the Mel High library patrons did not deserve these books. One was a nicely hard bound copy of Anabasis by Saint-John Perse. The other was a cheap pulp edition of Jacques Prévert's Paroles. I couldn't read French but I was drawn to it and studied it for a year and a half in college. M. Menard, the professor, complimented me on my pronunciation of difficult French sounds. That chameleon quality of mine. In high school I managed to work out a translation of Le cancre and could recite it from memory in both English and French. I loved that poem. The student felt like me. But that's not what I'm here to confess. I righted that wrong. I'm here to confess that I did a workshop in the late 1970s put on by the Institute for Self Actualization. isa, all lower case. They stole the lower case affectation from est, which isa was modeled on but don't tell them I said so. It was a human potential weekend seminar, again like est but you could go to the bathroom if you had to. I loved it and got a huge charge out of it that lasted weeks. Why am I confessing? Because that's what you did, that's what it was about. Confessing to each other one-to-one, and then to the whole room, your guilty secrets. isa provided a way for us heathens to receive the benefit of confession, the great selling point of the Catholic Church adopted to much better effect by AA, where I later rediscovered it. All the religions offer forgiveness and absolution, usually in exchange for nothing more than money. Catholicism makes adherents sweat a bit and own up to their shit, at least officially. How did I right the wrong of stealing books? By sending them back. One of the core liturgical practices of isa graduates was to right old wrongs, and I righted that one by mailing the books to the library, signing myself A reformed book thief. isa freed lots of energy among the participants, sexual and otherwise. That's what they were selling, the high you got from confession. Of course it didn't last. You had to keep signing up for more, getting another fix. But the high was great fun while it lasted.
Healing arts fair. Marty, Linda and I may have gone our separate ways, but our new age church was still a going concern, and eight or ten of us had become ministers. We were still putting on the weekly chanting + meditation. We added a new thing: an annual healing arts fair in the summer. That gave me some chops I later used for the Tilth Organic Harvest Fair.
TH. In the runup to our second annual fair I heard from an old college chum who'd gone off in search of enlightenment a few years before. He'd landed in Boulder and was studying with a guy named TH, which I later learned was jocularly said to mean The Homewrecker. TH taught a holistic healing system called Harmonizing, and my college chum said we just had to have this guy in our healing arts fair. We made him our headliner, bumping Swami Satchidananda, a big name in those days. Such rebels we were.
Mad psychopomp. In one of my many lost photos, TH is sitting in my Kennedy rocking chair, toasting the photographer with a beer, a mischievous gleam in his eye. He had that a lot; he was full of mischief. He was to be my guide to a new life. There's a word for that, one I learned in my mythology studies: psychopomp, the conductor of souls, the guide. Rilke has my favorite depiction of the psychopomp in literature, a poem called Orpheus, Eurydice, Hermes. Here's a translation I like. Hermes is a different kind of psychompomp that TH was for me, and the whole expedition turned out to be a fool's errand, but such imagery. A year later I ended up moving to Boulder to study Harmonizing, and it's a good thing I did. I needed to learn how to live with a lot more self-discipline, and life in Boulder was good for that. But for me, by far the most potent and transformative part of my relationship with TH happened while I was still living on East Park Avenue.
Words can't hold it. TH read my ticket right off: I was poised for spiritual growth. Everything in me was in great shape, there was just some little piece missing. TH made me dance that missing piece into being. My assignment was to dance once a day, alone, no music. Whatever kind of dancing I felt moved to do. I quickly felt moved to dance outside, and from then on danced in the back yard of my fourplex. I can't describe what happened in that dancing. It's not the kind of thing words are good for. It clearly sprang from what happened to me in college when I was studying comparative mythology. What I can say is the dancing really developed, very strongly, and as it did, so did I. Once I connected with that missing piece, I took off. Forty-odd years on it's easy to see that on a deeper level myths be damned: dancing itself was the missing piece.
Staying strong. That's the wisdom I got from TH; it would be 30 years before I was ready for the next step. Till then I better not kill myself, or make myself weak through lousy self-indulgent living habits. I also needed to stay connected with spiritual work. Keep my focus on making progress with love. Meditate despite my drinking. Boulder was excellent on all counts. In Boulder I had to study spiritual teachers and I got direct instruction from TH, which was great until he started to go off the deep end. I got to confront all my bad habits, my laziness, even some of my dishonesty. I spent the 1980s there. My living habits got better and I kept my focus on the spiritual quest.
I'm grateful to everyone there for putting up with me. There were also things about life in Boulder I couldn't accept. Nobody made a big deal about it. I got what I needed out of Boulder despite my contrary ways.
No one can mediate for me. The next step didn't come until 2006. What I had to do was reject all outside authority, all teachers books and systems, and humbly surrender to wisdom. Or as I now know her, Leela.