It Wasn’t Meant For Me……….by Tom Newbill

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Years ago I was on patrol with a platoon of yard sailors surrounding a small town in Northern Idaho. It was early morning and some of us had just done a sortie up one of the roads outside of town. A big estate sale had been reported and many of us raced up miles of dust choked roads only to find a couple of dozen canning jars, some obsolete vacuum cleaner bags and an old pick up truck with no wheels. Now there are two kinds of yard sales; one where the folks just want to get rid of stuff and the other where the folks just need the money. You can find good stuff at either one but we all hated to spend the prime early morning hours at some worthless sale someone had lied about.

That said, I came back to town kind of flat and was in no mood. By now we had all lost the element of surprise. The sales had been cherry-picked and I was just on my way home when I saw a sign saying “Big Garage Sale” so I decided to pull in, why not; I was done, but….you never know. It was a plain little house, the kind they built after WWII, low rent but live-able. As I walked across the bone dry yard up the cracked driveway I thought, boy this is about as exciting as brushing my teeth. There were about five card tables stretching down the driveway with piles of women’s clothing and some toys for kids…oh swell…hold me back. Totally bored, I turned to leave when I passed the last table which had some cloth remnants, thread and a wad of patterns, odds and ends a seamstress might revere…oh…and some wicker baskets.

There were three baskets in all, stacked inside one another and on the top there was an unusually handsome woven basket with a lid. I picked it up in one hand and removed the lid with the other. There, nestled on a pillow of maroon yarn, was an exquisite small silver cross. I held my breath as I beheld this unusual manger. Now for the record, my target at yard sales was fishing gear, musical instruments and crosses. Most yard sailors have a collection of things they covet and crosses seemed to be my fetish at the time; this would be the centerpiece of my collection.

There I was, completely absorbed, gazing at my lucky find when out of nowhere there appeared a gnarled hand at the end of a skinny wrinkled arm, briefly hovering over my treasure and then without even an ‘excuse me’, an old lady snatched my cross right out of the basket. Startled, I recoiled at this most egregious act of larceny. This old lady, this old thief had copped my cross while I stood defenseless. This abrogates even the questionable ethics of the unwritten yard sale code, like someone barging into your cubicle in a public rest room and at knifepoint, stealing your last few sheets of toilet paper while your pants are down.

Mind you, I hesitate to criticize any old person, being no spring chicken myself, but I did briefly toy with the idea of kicking her butt on the spot….but…reconsidered because of the subject matter in hand….plus the fact that she might have won. Talk about robbing the cradle! I was left speechless by this brazen act of petty theft in broad daylight no less and before I could give voice to a long line of well deserved expletives..she screeched…”How much is the cross?”

Everything got real quiet and every head there turned and looked in her direction. The lady running the sale said “twenty-five cents.” What could I do?… What could I say? It was over! The barn door was open, the horse was on the loose, I lost my cross. This old grave robber then pulled out a small worn leather coin purse from her filthy oversized pants and slowly began counting: one dime, two nickels, one, two, three, four, five pennies. Oh sure I thought, take your time you old drama queen.

I looked back down at my empty manger…no…not a manger anymore, more like a crypt or a plundered tomb…and… the tomb was empty!…. Wait a minute I puzzled….what’s going on here? I quickly looked up in time to see the old lady in full swing, shoulders back and with long graceful strides she rounded the hedge and crossed the street, struttin’ like she had the whole world in her hand. She walked past the shadow of an old wooden storage shed smack into a beam of bright morning sunlight which lit up her frizzy white hair….it was stunning…it looked just like…well….a halo.

Beyond The Amnion

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How does one seek without seeking,

do without doing,

be without being,

ask without asking,

and who is there to ask?

The paradox confounds me.

I stare into the void of my not knowing

until trees grows before my eyes,

grasses sprout, mature, seed and die,

until I become a stone standing there

in the cleft of our formation,

until I forget the I who has asked,

and the stone crumbles into nothingness,

and the questions dissolve at last

into the air that bore them from my lips

as if never asked,

and then….

as if a light sparked

in the dark sea of my presence,

the universe is born,

the caul is broken,

and the unveiled answers are revealed.

for no reason.

Russell Rosander

2/23/16 Barrra de Navidad, Mx

Half Open

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The half opened flower,

a guadalajara, a magenta hued zinnia,

that began with a seed

that was carried here in the wild winds

of a raging hurricaine.

Look how the yellowish undersides,

still curl up at the edges of each petal

as they rush slowly towards

their determined positions,

revealing the mother’s struggle

in such poor soil, in such an arid place

of marauding insects and parasites

and tiny fungi

from which she is not seperate,

but bound in perfect harmony

with all creation,

arraying with brilliant color,

the unfolding, expanding, awakening

enevitable thus-ness of it all

fraction by fraction

into the glorious splendor

of light.

Russell Roander 2/9/16

Barra de Navidad, Mx

The Great Escape – Part Fourteen

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The Great Escape – Part Fourteen

Of course, The Great Escape 13 isn’t entirely true. There’s some bullshit in it. There are places where time has skewed my memory. Gaps and holes that I filled in with imagination. A place or two where I tweeked it a bit to make a better story. But overall, that’s basically what happened…..as I percieve it now, through this particular point of view, this particular, fucked up mental mess called a mind, the present one that is doing the remembering that is, not the one I had yesterday.. You know, the instant something becomes the past, it becomes fiction, and all knowledge is of the past. Which begs the question….What is the truth?

Well, I answer for you, “It’s what really is, or what really happened in this case. It reality, right?” I love answering questions with questions,……It’s so politic. So I ask, “Who’s reality. What you believe to be reality or what I believe to be reality or what the lady who lives down the street believes to be reality?”

And then you ask, because this is a real questionfest, “Aren’t they all the same reality, Isn’t there only one?”

And I say, “Well, I’m not sure about that, because things might look different from over there, where you are, for instance, than they look from here, where I am. Completely different angle. To know for sure, you would have to see what we are calling reality from every possible angle there is plus a few more including from inside out, and even if we both saw it that way, we still might not agree because I’m seeing through a different mind set than you are. The closest we can get to the true reality is to assume that every point of view is correct, no matter how much they differ. If it exists, then it’s true. And since my imagination exists and your imagination exists, then what we imagine must be true too, even if it doesn’t jibe with our exterior realities. So everything must be the truth. Just because you don’t like brussels sprouts doesn’t mean I can’t like them.”

“Wait a minute,” I say for you, “Truth is not an opinion! What about bullshit? What about out and out deception and lies?”

“Well if they were said, they must truthfully be deceptions and lies. Truthful opinions too. Anyway, those are merely different classifications, different labels we give to truth to differentiate aspects of it from one another so so we can compare and judge and sort them. It can get really confusing.”

So, as you can see, were back to that apple in the Garden of Eden thing. The fruit of knowledge of good and evil. All those good truths we like and all those evil truths we despise and hate. The Garden of Eden was Pandora’s Box….all those little imps. Reality is not always pretty. It’s like liking candy and Limburger. Whichever we prefer is really the best, but it’s in your head, not out here in my reality. Some people like limberger better. Some people like candy. Maybe it only matters to those marketing analysts that work at Facebook. And to think, until the apple incident, the snake was just a snake, a tree was just a tree, and “….a rose is a rose is a rose”, to quote Gertrude Stein.

This doesn’t help, does it. It’s kind of sad that your truth might not be my truth and vise versa. That much of what we believe and say might be bullshit. Hurts, doesn’t it? But of course we know that people have different view points than ourselves. That’s part of the wonderous, beautful, diverse universe we live in, no reason to get pissed off.

It appears we can only know the truth in the light of the God within us. It’s everywhere, from everywhere at once and beyond differences. Don’t sweat it.

To all my friends up in the frozen north, Carnival Costelegre 2016 in Barra de Navidad starts today. All out, wild ass, fun time, if your up for it. Big doings in the town jardin tomorrow evening if you can get your butts down here. One big party this weekend. Chynna’s still looking for Rey Momo contestants. Weather’s warm and sunny. Sea and sand and all that too. Real as it gets.

To be continued………..

The Great Escape – Part Thirteen

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Lost It. Sorry.

Sorry about the gossip, I mean. Sometimes I get so tired of my own misery, I’ve just gotta say, “Hey. Let’s talk about someone elses misery for a while!” Bad, I know. I need to change that someday.

So anyway, I’ve got this story to tell.

It’s not bad, I’m not planning on saying anything terrible about anyone or that I think is going to hurt anyone’s feelings or anything. I’ll try to keep the bullshit down to a minimum.

Ok, so here it is.

There was this art show at the Sun Valley Art Center I was going to be in. I don’t remember the year, late 1980’s, I think. It was January in Idaho and it had been snowing a lot. We had to get the art there. Rich Post was helping me put it together, but we were picking up Dave Moreland and his paintings along the way in Moscow. Dave was an art professor at the university there. My son Tai later graduated from there. Faith went to college in San Francisco. The reason we didn’t just ship it to Sun Valley is that the shipping companys won’t ship art unless it’s heavily insured and the insuance is really expensive. Most small museums and galleries don’t have pockets deep enough to pay for it. Most artists definately don’t have that kind of money, so we have to get it there any way we can. Art was a cause. So it was three of us on a guy’s weekend out, on the road. We were escaping. We were going to make this fun, right?.

We’d put all my paintings in crates and loaded it all into my old orange 1979 Datsun pick-up. It had been modified, turned into a four wheel drive. It was kind of beat up, but we were impervious to adversity and it was all we had. Actually, it was a big improvement over my previous pick up, a 1955 forest-green Chevy which was only two wheel drive and was sitting up against the garden fence gathering rust. The motor in the Datsun still ran which was the biggest plus, and the fenders didn’t flap going down the road, it went over 50 and the heater and windshied wipers worked too.

It was the weekend and the opening was the next day. I’d taken Friday off from work. We were going to be traveling most of the night, setting up the show in the morning and hoping to nap a little in the afternoon in this borrowed condo they had set up for us before the show opened in the evening.

By early afternoon, we were packed and ready to go. I kissed my wife, Cherie and the kids goodby and we pulled out of driveway in Hope, Idaho. I loved them. I still do, but they may not realize it. Cherie and I are long divorced. My fault, actually. We stopped in Sandpoint at the Gas-n-Go for snacks and gas and headed south across the long bridge on highway 95. Escapees.

The road was clear of snow. It didn’t start snowing hard until after we got passed the indian reservation, so we made Moscow in good time. We re-packed the pick up in Moscow to fit Dave’s work in, got it all tied down and tarped again and set off, the three of us crammed into the little cab. Smokin’ and laughing and stinking to high heaven.

Soon, we were past the stinky paper mill in Lewiston and were out of the Paloose country headed up into the Salmon River Mountains. It was beautiful, the mountains and the snow and the river, jokin’ and laughin’ and driving down the road. Then it was getting dark and it was getting colder and the snow was getting deeper, but the plows were out, we were in four wheel drive and we never even slowed as we passed all the cars putting on chains on White Bird hill.

Somewhere between Riggins and New Meadows, the truck engine started acting funny. All of the sudden, it would start racing. We would start picking up speed and letting up on the gas pedal didn’t do anything to stop it. It just kept going faster and faster. The only thing I could do was turn off the engine and roll to a stop. Then after waiting ten or fifteen minutes, I would start it up again and it would be fine for another twenty or thirty miles. Luckily, there was almost no traffic on the highway. Most people had sense enough to stay home on stormy nights like this.

Somehow, we made it to McCall. We found a restaurant and had some dinner. It felt good to stretch our legs and fill our bellies and we had fun flirting with the pretty waitress. We would have liked to have stayed longer, but we were on a mission. We decided against looking for a mechanic because the engine was running fine now. What would we show him, anyway? “Yep, it runs.” What’s the problem, right? He’d just fix something that wasn’t broke and charge us for it. Plus, we didn’t have time or any extra money. We didn’t even think twice about it. We just gassed up the truck and kept on going. Anyway, it probably had something to do with the high altitude and it was all downhill between there and Boise. What else was there to do?

We didn’t even stop in Boise. I’ve never liked big cities and I try to avoid them. The truck hadn’t acted up at all since McCall and we were tired and just wanted to get there. We still had a half a tank of gas so we just kept on truckin’. We were on the interstate freeway now and were making good time, it was clear, At Mountain Home, we left the interstate and started climbing into the Sawtooth mountain range on a windy two lane. The snow was deep here. The road wasn’t as well maintained. The only way you could see where the road was the white on white tracks in the snow and the occasional row of fenceposts. The falling snow was blowing and swirling in the headlights and giving me vertigo as well as making the tire tracks disappear. The windshield wipers were barely keeping up with it. We hadn’t smoked any pot but we sure felt stoned. Dizzy stoned. Swoosh, shwoosh, swooosh, swoosh, over and over, shwoosh, swoosh.

We went through a little town. We were getting low on gas. There was no gas station there. We kept going. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh.

Towns are not close together in that part of the country. This is an area of low population density. The needle on the gas guage kept dropping. My knuckles were getting as white as the snow outside. We still had maybe fifty or sixty miles to go. We weren’t going to make it. Nobody was talking inside the truck. Damn. Damn. Swoosh, swoosh. The gas guage was on E. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh.

Then we came to another little town. It was late. The gas station was closed. The only place open was a bar. We nosed into the parking lot with a lot of other pick ups and there we were, three hippy arty types walking into a redneck bar.

The door closed behind us. Everyone in the place had stopped talking. There was complete silence and they all had turned and were staring at us. It was scary.

We bellied up to the bar and Rich said, “We’d like to buy the bar a round.” God, I hoped he had more money in his pocket than I did, but the tension in the bar disappeared. Everyone was smiling now. They thanked us and went back to their coversations and laughter.

We asked the bartender if there was anyplace where we could get some gas. “Only gas station ‘tween here and Ketchum is here, and it don’t open ’til six.”

“Is there a hotel or motel in this town?” I asked.

“Nope. Not till you get to Ketchum. Twenty five mile fruther up.”

“How long are you going to be open?”

“Another half hour. We close at two.”

“Oh.”

We sat there glumly drinking our beers.

“Course I could try calling Fred, he owns the station. He’s prob’ly sleepin’ now though. He might come down if you offered to pay him something extra for the trouble.”

“How much extra? We don’t have much money left.”

“Oh, five bucks outta do it.”

“Would you phone him please?”

“Sure. Give me a quarter for the phone. We just got the pay phone here.”

A few minutes later he was back. “He’ll meet you there in ten minutes.”

We left our half drank beers on the bar, damn it would’ve been nice to get drunk, and headed back out into the snowstorm.

The gas station wasn’t really a gas station. It was more like a garage, it had no pump, but there was a gas station sign, and he had several five gallon cans of gas in there. Fred filled our gas tank grumbling about “stupid hippy skiers too dumb to stay home on a night like this”. We asked him about the engine problem. “Prob’ly ice. Maybe oxygen mix.” was the cryptic answer he gave us hippies too dumb to understand. “Ah.” we all said in unison.

We got into Sun Valley after the sun was up. The storm had passed. It was a beautiful morning. The craggy Sawtooths were glistening white jagging sharply into the clear blue sky. The engine had acted up maybe a dozen times more and we had to wait longer each time for it to run right again so it took a long time to go a short ways. We found a pay phone and called the gallery guy to come and unlock for us. We backed the truck up to the front door and unpacked everything. By noon everything was hung, the track lighting was adjusted and we were soaking in an outdoor heated swimming pool that was covered over by cloud of steam. We could dimly make out the shapes of several pretty girls in the mist. None of us were skiers.

When it was all over, neither Dave nor I had sold a single piece.. We were wined and dined and got our egos stroked alot, but to tell you the truth, it’s more pleasant to be the stroker than the strokee. And we didn’t make a dime. We were modern artists and this was cowboy country. And we were dumb hippies. There was another opening in a gallery next door that specialized in western, cowboy art. We all agreed that the art over there was crap, not original at all, but the artists that were showing there sold everything they had. The owner said it was the most successful show he’d ever had. We thought our show was a success too, and I never heard one complaint about all the trouble we went through to get there or anything about sacrifices or how lucky or brave we were. We didn’t think we had done anything daring.. In fact, we hadn’t yet thought much of anything about it. We thought it was sucessful and truely miraculous just to have gotten there at all. No one said a word. Not one word. It was a miracle just to be.

To be continued……

The Great Escape – Part Ten

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The Great Escape – Part Ten

……..and then there was that time, it was in the spring I believe. You know how undependable memory is. How time changes everything. There were still patches of snow on the ground and the old mining and logging road was muddy in places.

It was still kind of cold, but seemed gloriously warm after what we were coming out of. Winter that is. The pipes had unfrozen. It was morning, I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, it was a sunny day. A beautiful sunny day. We were in the Siskiyou Mountains on Althouse Creek, walking. Just walking. That’s all, just walking. Not talking at all.

We didn’t have any idea what was going to happen next, all the changes we would be going through. Permanence was not something we had sought or thought about yet. We were still so very young. We didn’t know that a year later bulldozers would come and obliterate any trace of our existence there, or our tenuous, experimental family would tear asunder, divided from within, or that it would reform into smaller circles, because love never dies. It just sleeps sometimes.

But the old ghost mining town of Browntown, once called Tigertown, was still standing and very much alive. It had no electricity, but it was electrified.

Anyways, I remember we were walking up the windy road and it was such a beautiful day, full of newness and beginnings. We had just spent our first winter in the mountians and we were feeling good. We would soon be living the summer of our lives. Later we would discover that it was henseforth, from that point, that all our lives would flow. At least it was that way for me. You’d have to ask the others to be sure. It was for Chuck too. We’ve talked about it many times. Chuck called it a school, and we learned more about life in that one year than all our years in public school. It felt like a lifetime.

We were walking, just walking, neither slow nor fast, up to where the bridge crossed the creek, up through the dark, wet, dripping fir and pine and madrone and oak trees. I don’t know who I was walking with but it was someone.. Funny that that fact, not knowing, doesn’t discomfort me at all, that it actually echos our state of mind at the time because we were so OPEN. We didn’t know anything then either. We were all so full of possibilies, and we were oblivious to any kind of suffering or loss.

We just stopped there and looked down into that springtime, roiling, tumult of rushing water. I can still feel water spray on my face and hear the thunder of it echoing in my ears, and I just stood there looking into it. Just looking into it. IN TO IT! I felt so incredibly high and I wasn’t stoned, not stoned at all. It was so beautiful. So wonderous. So so awsome, I felt as if I had stepped into some alternate universe, but it was still this one all right. It was just this amazing, totally unexplicable thing!

I don’t remember walking back or even if we did walk back. Maybe we just floated through the air, and then I was up in my funky little attic room above the double barrel woodstove, cozy and warm again and I wrote this poem. I’m sorry if it doesn’t quite catch it, that experience, but it is what it is, and here it is, resurected after all thse years:

Snow that cannot say they,

water that cannot say we

flowing together

as changes come,

always!

Come down to the river,

come down too!

It’s going so fast,

no one can see where it’s going.

SO FAST!

Someone says:

“He’s trying to damn it up,

but it still flows.”

The big stones never move,

could never confine a river,

it just flows through, around,

always,

Endless; Endless;

Endless.

Browntown, 1971

To be continued………..

The Great Escape – Part Nine

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1/21/16

Ram Dass is right. As soon as my illusion of seperatness is threatened, here comes my ego to reinforce it. This is war, damn it! And back into battle we go… How do I get out of this trap? What is my writing but grasped thoughts, plucked on their way through from the front door and out the back door? Certainly nothing worth defending. Others have written about this stuff far more eloquently than I. What do I have to offer except my personal, seperate, point of view? And then, I get upset when it seems a tad egotistical. Like it’s not keeping up appearences or something, it’s not as I expect it should be.

As I understand it, Ram Dass is saying in his piece on Karma Yoga, that for it to be dharma, It has to be done with no sense of self and no reward in mind. That basically, I need to write it without thought of some future benifit to myself and just let it happen, flow or whatever because that’s what’s appropriate to happen without ever taking credit or possession of the act. In other words, to give it up. Keep writing, but surrender it imediately, not mine to hold onto. Ok. so here it is. just so much dross for the fire. I give it to the universe. No more worrying about feedback, praise and all that. Just give it up to the winds of fate.

But how do I get from writing or saying this to the reality of it, to it really being so? How do I get it to be more than just some much hot air wafting through the window?

And then I think, Well, what am I but a passing breeze?, and you know, what if all there is is merely ego. What if there is is only that, then so what? Just this breeze wafting through the window of time. But, of course, ego wants it to be more than that. Ego wants to be important. Ego wants respect. Ego wants a big comfortable house. Ego wants more. Ego will cling to itself as long as it can because that’s the only existence it knows. Ego is our seperateness. You can’t stop that. The illusion of seperatness is still going to be there. So what is left to do but give up trying to change it. Accept it for what it is, an illusion. Give it up. It’s just a part of the universe. It’s just phenomenon. It’s just seperateness.

And this is what actually happens when we try to give up our seperateness. In meditation and in writing for me, I reach this place where everything is egual. Nothing is better or worse or more important than anything else, and at that moment, I love it all. I get this wonderful feeling and I want to hold on to that, but I know that’s not really possible to hold onto it. So then I go for a walk and all this stuff pops up. I see all these bad things happening. Problems with the bank screwing with my money that I need to pay my debts and to live on. Hurtful things, you know, and I say “Oh no! Not that! I can’t love that!”, and I’m right back where I started. And I’m suffering, panicing really. I tried calling my bank in Idaho to try to straighten out the problem a dozen times and none of the calls went through. All these old fears of mine rise to the surface and I retreated.. So I go to where I am loved and I order another beer and laugh and enjoy the company of friends in this safe place until I’m quite drunk, and then I walk out and I see someone I like and want to hug him and he waves me off, “I don’t mind talking with you when your sober”, he says…….. and I head for the bus and go home to lick my wounds and suffer some more. Because my desire to be free of ego has set up these expectations and they were not met and now I’m paying the price. Do you see the cycle here, he pattern? I ask myself? How does one learn to love suffering, this Veil of Tears? Just let it be? Give a good laugh at all this foolishness?

That was yesterday. This morning I tried calling the bank in Idaho and got through to the manager who is also a friend. She had gotten the e-mail and faxed information I had sent yesterday, and their phones were down all day yesterday which was why none of my calls went through. She was on it as soon as she saw the e-mail and had already taken steps to fix the problem. I may have to wait a few more days for my money is all. I talked to the guy I had promised to pay yesterday and he is fine with waiting. I gave him most of what was in my wallet and thanked him. I would rather be broke myself than allow him to be broke. I’ll be fine. What a relief.

Ok ego, I’m done messing with you. You’re just a dumb illusion, I know that, but I accept that you and I are not seperate…