TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 Releasing the Past
Chapter 2 We Begin Our New Life; The Family Celebrates Easter
Chapter 3 It’s Okay: Doing Nothing
Chapter 4 Nuts and Bolts
Chapter 5 Full-fillment of Dreams
Chapter 6 Rainbows Past and Present
Chapter 7 Oooops: The Downside
Chapter 8 Kaleidoscope: Changing Patterns
Chapter 9 Altitude and Attitude Adjustments
Chapter 10 You Can Return Home Again, But it’s not the Same
Chapter 11 It’s a Matter of Timing
Chapter 12 If the Lord be Willing
Chapter 13 Collecting Wood and Carrying Water
Chapter 14 Going Home is not Going Back
Chapter 15 Little Ralph is Growing Up Too!
Chapter 16 A Visit With Brother Gary
Chapter 17 Now It’s Little Ralph’s Turn
Chapter 18 Are we Having Fun Yet?
Chapter 19 Come to My House
Chapter 20 The Road Less Traveled
Chapter 21 “The Thing I Fear Has Come Upon Me”
Chapter 22 “Out of the Abundance of the Heart, the Mouth Speaks”
RELEASING THE PAST
I stole a fleeting glance at the treasures that had been the framework of our lives, as I viewed the queen-sized mattress hanging from above the cab. The load, packed by craftsmen, swayed securely around the corner and down the hill, as the two pickup trucks, belonging to the used furniture dealer, crept down the street with our lifetime possessions crammed between the bulging side-racks.
At least they were ours; exchanged for $500.00 (and that’s an increase from his original offer), now they belonged to the buyer, Harold.
“Uh, it’s been around awhile hasn’t it?” Harold had tactfully said, as he and his partner struggled down the stairs with the mattress. He added, “Do you realize how hard it is to get rid of these? I shook my head, and he conceded, “Fortunately, I have a Mexican contact who buys them and takes them to Mexico.”
This was only one humiliation, as I’d surrendered my lifetime treasures, which Harold viewed as junk.
I’d laughed as they carried out the solid wood executive desk with its legs sawed off, by the former owners, to allow access through their front door. For over thirty years, I’d imposed on my strong friends to haul my cherished ancient relic in and out of my apartments and homes, but in Haroldís eyes, it was worthless; not even qualifying as an antique. Time to let it go, along with our other superfluous possessions, as we now prepared for retirement life in our recently purchased 1990 Holiday Rambler motor home waiting for us in Colorado.
While preparing for this major life-change, I’d been learning about the stages of Transition: Beginning, Void, Ending. But, of course, each Beginning starts with an Ending: the first step of Transition. I believe that Preparation is part of all three stages; and that Completion, too, must bring closure to each stage.
In this Ending phase of Preparation for our new life, while completing the final stages of moving, I returned to the nearly empty rooms, and lamented my husband Van’s decision to release his inheritance: a like-new maple desk and chair, end table, lamp, and recliner (from his Aunt Maureen), and his mom’s buffet — all his worldly possessions, except for one box neatly awaiting its departure onto the 24ft. Ryder truck.
We’d asked for a 15 ft. rental truck to transfer my books, files, and keepsakes; but God seemed to know our needs more than we did, and we were offered a much larger one for the same price. When I called my daughter, Dottie, awaiting our arrival in Colorado, I told her about the larger truck, and offered to bring some of the furniture, since Harold wouldn’t give any more for them. She mentioned several large items, which I was glad to pass along to my family.
Once Harold’s trucks were gone, Van and our neighbor, Bob, began loading the Ryder truck while I continued last-minute packing and cleaning; a ritual done by all movers. I’d reached the place where I wasn’t willing to get rid of anything more, and I was tired, so I tossed the final odds and ends into boxes.
As nostalgia lead into the grieving process, I thought of all the family activities we’d shared in these spacious rooms overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Birthdays, graduations, business ventures, meditation groups, inner child workshops, births, and even deaths had been celebrated here. But now, most of the family had either moved elsewhere, were no longer alive, or weren’t in contact. The house seemed like an empty shell that we’d outgrown, or outlived. It was time to move on.
From these rooms, I’d written, supported, counseled, and ministered to felons, murderers, and the so-called worst of society, as I conducted my Inner Freedom Ministry to Freedomers (my name for inmates seeking inner freedom). And I’d created publications of their responses to my letters, courses, and books. This house had more healing energies than many churches or hospitals, and now I must leave it all behind and venture into the unknown.
The vestiges of my ministry, computers and files, were secured in the Ryder truck, and I contemplated my ministry-by-mail transforming to ministry-on-wheels as we looked forward to retirement, and being on the road, in our 35 ft. 1990 Holiday Rambler awaiting us in Colorado.
I didn’t worry about my ministry changing, because I’d rented a box at Mail Boxes Etc, in Golden, Colorado; and I’d already sent a newsletter, midst the sorting and packing, to everyone on my Mailing List, and anticipated the continuity of my ministry. Also, I would send the Freedomers copies of the book I now planned to write about our travels in our motor home, and our ongoing Journey to Inner Freedom, as it unfolded along the way.
Our house was barren as we loaded the last box, walked through the house saying “Goodbye,” and climbed into the Ryder truck filled with the remnants of our lives. Pulling our precious 1989 Volvo, we’d named Golden, on a flatbed trailer, we departed.
Leaving around midnight, Van shifted gears and we rolled down the hill for the last time, as we looked back to see Bob’s wife, Terry, waving from her upstairs window.
Viewing the world from our high perch, singing our version of “On the Road Again,” we left the familiar streets we’d driven for sixteen years, and rolled north on I-5 to Highway 76, the eastern cutoff that passed Camp Pendleton, on our way toward I-15.
However, within minutes, we’d encountered a detour onto side streets that took us into unfamiliar territory. Van negotiated the narrow roads masterfully, and shortly we returned to the by-passed road construction, and resumed our travels.
Because I’m a minister-writer, and I perceive life as symbolic, I saw the detour as a mini-version, if not a preview of the “Strange New World” that awaited us; filled with detours and unexpected route changes. And I realized that we must depend on God to guide us every mile of our new outer journey, as well as through the inner changes.
As we drove through the night, my thoughts drifted back to February, when my daughter, Dottie, called from Colorado to say that she and Steve (her husband) had seen some mobile homes they thought we’d like. She suggested that winter would be a good time to buy for best results, as homes don’t sell easily, and would be less expensive.
At this same time, the TV news had announced an air fare price war, so I took the coincidences as a sign to take action. The next week, we arrived in Coloradoís winter weather. We drove immediately to check out the mobile home Dottie had found. I fell in love with it, and we made an offer. However, because of our recent bankruptcy, and the age of the mobile home, financing couldn’t be arranged in the time-frame the owners needed it, and we needed to return home in a week. In the meantime, a cash offer was made by another interested buyer, and accepted; that ended that.
I always have affirmed, “Never a door closes, but a better door opens,” so we started looking for other alternatives. Time was running out, and nothing seemed right; until one morning, looking wide-eyed and enthusiastic, Van announced, “Let’s look at other options. How about a motor home?”
I’d been discussing motor homes for years, and had given up when he seemed adamant against the idea. Now, I said, “What a unique concept!” Within minutes Dottie was on the phone arranging with Steve, who sells RV’s, for our appointment at the lot.
We arrived there during an impending snowstorm. Steve was busy, so another salesman showed us around.
By the time we’d toured the lot, and returned to the first motor home that I’d liked (a 35 ft. 1990 Holiday Rambler; Imperial model), our previous tracks were covered with snow. Steve joined us, and said “I’m glad you like this coach, because it’s the only RV on the lot that I’d sell you in your price range.” And that’s the day, and the way, we bought Freedom, the name we gave our new home-on-wheels.
I again surveyed the plush mauve velour sofa and chair with matching drapes; the blonde, solid wood cabinets, spacious refrigerator, closets, and separate bedroom with queen-sized bed, and ample bathroom with room for Van’s six-foot height to stand up in the shower. And I especially noted the two tables (one for my computer setup), as I said, “We’ll take it.î
Steve then took us on an outside tour through the snow to describe added features: Van understood the mechanical and technical advantages, but my mind was satisfied when I saw the “basement” storage for my files and books.
Inside again, we noticed added features, such as recliner chair, TV and VCR, and a CB for Van, besides safety features installed when Harley-Davidson owned the Holiday Rambler company (for the short period of time this model was built).
We returned to California, and Van called his mom to describe the virtues of our new home and lifestyle. She fondly recalled when she and her husband had enjoyed living and traveling in a trailer. On an impulse, Van asked, “Would you like to invest in this one?”
After he explained about my inheritance, and being able to repay over three years, she said, “Yes.” Van offered to pay interest, and she said, “No, and I only want 1/2 repaid, so you can each have fifty percent invested.” What a wise arrangement, and a blessing for Van’s behalf. His self-esteem and confidence soared, and he now had motivation, and a dream with which he could find fulfillment: to enjoy life, and live in the Present Moment.
From that day onward, Van’s attitude returned to the joy and enthusiasm as I’d once known him. A modern-day miracle began to unfold from the moment we began the transaction. I’d wanted to drive Freedom home to California, load what we wanted to keep, and start traveling. But the finances weren’t complete. So we flew home, instead. Van asked his mom if she would loan us the money, which would be repaid from my yearly gift. She not only said, “Yes,” but without interest. She further offered that I only repay half, and the other half would be covered as an advance on Vanís inheritance; thus we would each have fifty-percent investment in the motor home.
For the first time in years we both felt relief, and hope for the future as we began arrangements for the move. A weight had been lifted, and we now headed back to Colorado full of anticipation for our new life in Freedom.
As we traveled through the night, the Hale-Bop comet served as our beacon, and to me it seemed like a God-given sign of promise; one we’d briefly seen the night before we left, through the coastal fog, for the first time. And it had reappeared, as we drove across the desert and followed its path all the way to Holbrook, Arizona, where we finally stopped for a few hours sleep, despite our excitement and anxiety to continue.
The next day we drove straight through to Santa Fe, New Mexico, intending to stay overnight with a friend. But again we were too excited, so Van drove through the night, following Hale-Bop until daylight, while I dozed off-and-on throughout the night, taking comfort in its guiding light.
In Colorado Springs, I couldn’t believe my eyes when we stopped for breakfast and read the headlines “Suicide Pact,” relating to this very same comet that was guiding us to a new life. Apparently, 39 members of a cult had been lured to take their own lives, believing that they would be lifted up by Hale-Bopp.
The incident reminded me that life is about beliefs and choices, and I knew this would be an important topic for the new book I was planning to write about our travels. It felt exciting to be at the beginning of a new lifestyle, and a new series, which would reflect our adventures along the outer Journey, plus lessons I would be learning that applied to the Inner Journey to Freedom.
God knows, I’d been on this Inner Journey through many twists and turns, dead ends and detours, and a few highways and freeways. Through my travels I’d studied and taught metaphysics, until I stressed-out. Then I took a major side trip into the realm of my inner child (Joanie). With the help of John Bradshaw’s books, videos and seminars, and the Twelve Step Program, Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACOA), I explored the highways and byways of healing my wounded inner child.
But I came to a detour when I learned that underneath the wounded child lurked a bigger issue, Codependency. So I began a new Twelve Step Program: Codependents Anonymous (CoDa). I tend to agree with the concept that these childhood issues are the basis of most addictions, money matters and relationship traumas.
But, for me, beyond codependency surfaced an even more insidious bumpy road, which I term Money Matters; and I pursued this healing process, along with Van, through the Twelve Step Program: Debtors Anonymous (DA).
All these programs served vital parts of my Recovery, and I’ve shared the process and results in my various books and courses (See Book List). They form part of my Belief System, and I share them for the reader to accept or reject along their Inner Journey. This is where your choices enter the picture. But my job, as teacher and writer, is to give you the information.
This book focuses on the impact of our travels in Freedom as we heal our inner kids, Joanie and Little Ralph, while having fun along the way.There’ll be places to stop, eat, sleep and play throughout the USA, as we explore the freedom of this lifestyle on wheels. And the frustrations of breakdowns and repairs of Freedom may be helpful, as they reveal that such a lifestyle is not necessarily all fun and games. And you’ll get an inside view of our Inner Journey too, as we learn to release the past, as we did with our belongings, and live in the Present Moment. So hop on board, as we continue our travels.
WE BEGIN OUR NEW LIFE
“We got here in time for Easter,” I jubilantly announced to Steve, when we arrived at their doorstep in Lakewood, Colorado, as he headed out the door for work. Dottie rushed to the door, as we alighted from the Ryder truck, and we all joyously greeted each other at this first step in our new life.
But soon Van headed for their travel-trailer to sleep, and I chatted with Dottie to catch up on the family news and share our adventures thus far, while Steve went on to work at the RV dealership.
Later in the day, Van awoke and the unloading process began. First our Volvo was unloaded, the car-trailer returned, and I drove Golden back, while Van returned with the rental truck. Then part of the load stayed for the family; and another part was unloaded in a storage unit, near the RV park (where we reserved space for a month), and the rest was returned to their garage to be loaded onto Freedom when it would arrive the next day, after the final details were completed at the dealership.
The Ryder truck was now empty, and we decided to take it to a different rental agency. In the confusion of departure, Van rattled off the directions, and I hastily departed in Golden to our rendezvous, while he drove the truck. Somehow I hadn’t heard the rest of Van’s words: “three blocks,” but from where?
After driving in all directions, asking questions in a service station, and returning to the main street, I asked at a convenience store, and was told “You can’t miss it, just keep driving, about seven blocks.” I repeated the words over to myself as I drove, and drove, and drove; long past seven blocks, until I finally spotted the Ryder trucks, and Van standing out front.
What I noticed about this scenario is that I reacted differently. I didn’t get upset with myself, or him; nor was he upset, so we continued about our day in harmony. I knew something significant was happening within each of us, and in our relationship. God truly had removed many of my “shortcomings,” as I’d asked in the Seventh Step during my Twelve Step Program.
Now, I began to look forward to each new experience, and each new day with excitement and anticipation, and I could see that Van too, was enthusiastic. Something had shifted; our energies had definitely changed for the better. Talk about being born anew; we seemed like two different people from the ones who left California.
I could see how all that we’d been through in recent years was preparation for this new phase of our life. Van, a non-social, non-communicating person, had transformed during his multi-level-marketing experience. We all had noticed this change when Dottie and Steve’s guests, Joan and Tom (parents of Arianna’s boyfriend, Jason), arrived on Good Friday for the Easter weekend. Everyone else was busy, so the job of entertaining came upon Arianna and Van.
Arianna chatted with Joan, and I soon joined them for light girl-talk. On the other hand, Van and Tom were in the front yard engaged in a lengthy conversation, which continued throughout the day, and all weekend, as if long-lost friends; a phenomenon that amazed everyone, because of Vanís past reticence to talk and socialize.
The Parade Arrives
Friday evening, Steve had gone to his dealership to drive Freedom home, and shortly before dinner, Tom announced, “The parade is arriving,” and we all rushed outside to witness the arrival. What a sight! Long and sleek with a dark blue stripe along the bottom. It looked enormous as it eased into the entire parking area in front of their yard.
I climbed up the stairs in happy anticipation of again seeing our home, and drew back in delight. I’d forgotten how open and light, luxurious and elegant it looked.
“Yes, this is our home,” I thought as everyone climbed aboard and admired our choice. I felt alive again as they sat chatting in our living room, surveying the recliner and matching front swivel seats: drivers and passengers.
I again noticed the tables: one for the computer setup, and the other for dining; a feature that convinced me to buy this coach. Of course, the bedroom with the queen-size bed, the ample closets, cupboards and drawers added to my decision; and the adequate refrigerator and freezer, micro-wave, and stainless steel sinks and stove helped too.
Van absolutely glowed with joy while showing Tom the features that appealed to him, including the CB, TV, and video. Later, when everyone had left, I rejoiced that the breach had been crossed: from a three-level home to our 35 ft. Freedom. Life could only get better.
I began to look forward to each new experience, and each new day with excitement and anticipation; and I could see that Van, too, was enthusiastic. This was truly an Easter Story of resurrection.
The next day, Saturday (the biblical day in the tomb) we loaded Freedom with our necessities (and put my files and nonessentials into its basement (storage area under the entire coach) where they would be readily accessible.
Easter Sunday we drove Freedom “home,” to our space at the RV Park in Golden, a nearby town where Van had lived as a young boy. This too is a resurrection to be remembered; a new life beginning for us both. For years I’d been affirming, “God has a perfect plan for good for us,” but I had no idea how it would unfold. And even as I write these words, I have no idea where the rest of the story is going. But I know that God knows, and I know that it’s for good, and I know that it’s a matter of choices, and I know we are being guided.
God Bless Them All; Near and Far
We then returned to Dottie’s to find a conglomeration of family and friends gathered at this Easter celebration.
Earlier in the day, when Dottie and I had started the day by attending the 7:00 a.m. sunrise service at Mile High Church, I had shed tears of joy being with her. And now it felt good for this much family to be together. In my heart, I felt a wellspring of gratitude for God’s guidance, and the choices we had made that brought us to this moment in time. During church, I had said prayers for the family members who were not with us, including my dad, who had passed on since last Easter; and knowing that we’d soon be visiting my mom, Valena, and my son, Marquam, in Oregon; and now, with our motor home, whenever we get lonesome, we can travel to see my stepmother, Arlene and other family and friends, including my brother, Gary (whom we had just left) in California.
Because our past family gatherings had been lived and enjoyed at the time, and I’m learning to live in the Present Moment, I felt no regret for the past family gatherings that would never happen again. Instead, when saying my prayers at church, I thanked Dad for making this present joy possible through his legacy, carried out as a monetary gift from Arlene.
But most of all this Easter Sunday, I celebrated the choices Van and I had made that brought us to this Present Moment, and I looked forward to each succeeding Present Moment, as I thanked God for making it all possible with His Infinite Love.
IT’S OKAY: DOING NOTHING
Time is Running Out
The first morning in the RV Park, I opened my eyes and reassured myself, “I can lie on my bed savoring the Present Moment, as I witness the miracle of the newly opened leaves on the tree, and listen to a young bird chirping and singing.”
And later in the day, I said, “I can sit in the front seat for an hour looking at the clouds changing shape in the electric blue Colorado sky.” And I actually enjoyed the unique concept of doing nothing. But, the truth is that even as I’m within a month of receiving medicare, and I probably deserve to do nothing, I truly don’t believe it. Why?
Because I have so much to do, and time is running out. I realized that once time was not an issue, like running water, or air, it was always there. But now it’s a luxury I don’t feel I can allow myself to waste. Perhaps the process of doing nothing is something we develop in our golden years, and I just haven’t gotten the concept, yet.
I don’t think I’m aging gracefully. I’m too busy. And for me, that’s okay. Yet, I realize I need to take more time to “smell the roses.” And I do — when I have time. In fact, I love roses; they’re even the flower for June, my birth month.
I agree with the old saying, “I’d rather wear out than rust out.” In fact, I feel like I’m just now getting my second wind; and I’m even more invigorated. Secretly, I believe that my best and most productive years are ahead of me.
But, as I’m approaching the New Beginning of our travels, and celebrating my “Big 65,” I’m willing to practice doing nothing.
I pondered this reality, another morning when I awoke, after a full nightís sound sleep, looked at the clock and couldn’t believe my eyes: it was 9:30 a.m. The morning was nearly gone, and Van was just starting his breakfast, a ritual that took at least an hour; sometimes two. He didnít have a problem with his retirement lifestyle. The night before he’d listed a series of activities that would take him away for an hour-or-so, in which I’d hoped to have quality, uninterrupted computer time to update my writing.
I opened the curtains to let in the sunshine, and noticed a fellow senior citizen: a gentleman in a red-flannel shirt and khaki pants, standing in front of the park office (across the drive) doing nothing; just standing there staring into space. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with him, he was just doing nothing. At first it bothered me, especially as I realized Van, too, had been spending a lot of time in recent years doing nothing.
As I’d been busy with my Preparations, I nagged at him for devoting so much time to his Game Boy. To me it indicated backsliding into his obsessive-compulsive behavior; and it seemed another ploy for blocking intimacy and communication. I suspected that it was a boundary bid for his own space as he adjusted to our confinement, even though he daily affirmed his pleasure with Freedom.
Van Enjoys Doing Nothing
Obviously, Van doesn’t have any trouble doing nothing, and he’s two years younger than me. So, I guess it’s something one evolves into in the normal process of life; like shifting from childhood into adolescence. It just happens. For men who have worked all their lives, and dreamed of the freedom, it’s a blessing; and theyíre emotionally ready for it. But in Van’s case, when “early retirement” is unexpectedly thrust on you one morning when you arrive at work, the jolt can be traumatic. Not financially or emotionally prepared, the natural evolution hasn’t occurred. Yet, after fighting, and then succumbing to retirement’s reality, Van is establishing a balance of doing — and not doing. And my part is to let him do — or not do.
I’ve processed through this issue with myself many times throughout the years: that it’s okay doing nothing. I would affirm to myself: It’s enough just being; just being me. I don’t have to do anything.
On the other hand, I’ve had to ask myself: “How much of my doing is related to an underlying need to feel worthy; that it’s okay to be taking up space on the planet, and breathing air, along with all the other benefits, without earning the right? On a conscious level, I know all the right answers: I deserve to be here; I’m a precious child of God, and I love myself the way I am. I’m just not sure how fully I buy that on the subconscious level. Even after ten years of recovery, I suspect there’s a deeply hidden part of me that says “Bullshit,” as a friend once reported that her inner child had proclaimed, after being bombarded with constant affirmations of peace, joy and prosperity.
In my reality, according to my belief system, the proof is in the money recompense. I’m quite sure that’s a belief that I’ve unconsciously bought from my dad, although my many years in metaphysical teachings say otherwise; and I don’t consciously believe his negative programming.
Happy Mother’s Day!
In the meantime, I decided to treat myself to an early Mother’s Day, on Friday, since the family would be celebrating Mother’s Day for Dottie on Sunday. So Van and I went to lunch at Pasta’s, the Italian restaurant where she’s a part time waitress. We hadn’t been there before, and delighted in the stucco building nestled in the corner of a strip mall. As we walked past the outside tables, Dottie greeted us, and ushered us to a cozy table for two adorned with three tablecloths, one for each of the colors in the Italian flag: green peeking out of the corners on the bottom, white across the top, partially obscured by the red, crosswise in the center. The traditional Italian decor complimented an exquisite lunch chosen with my Gemini delight in multiple taste treats: shrimp, scallops, calamari, clams and mussels in the 1/2 shell over pasta with Alfredo sauce. The specialty rolls: garlic knots, helped to offset the abundance of spices and olive oil. Despite all that, I couldn’t resist the chocolate mousse cake, which Dottie suggested I could “eat two bites and take the rest home.” Wrong! Van and I devoured every bite without one moment of remorse as the smooth tasting chocolate (not overdone with sugar) slid across our taste buds.
Dottie gave us as much attention as possible, but she kept busy attending the bridge luncheon of sixteen ladies in the next room, plus several additional tables. We didn’t mind, because we were involved in a so-called intimate tÍte-‡-tÍte: Van chose this time to discuss with me my upcoming Medicare program. Of course, my heart fluttered as I realized money is one way he demonstrates intimacy. Romantic, right? Well, not exactly, but since I’ve come to understand this phenomenon of his, that money is one of the ways he demonstrates intimacy, along with his helping me on my computer, it makes our relationship much more acceptable.
In the past I would have felt hurt, to say the least, and offended, to say the most. Learning to accept him, and how he relates, makes our life more tolerable, without my nagging and complaining in an effort to change him. I did, however, mention the inappropriateness of the subject, to which he gave a surprised look, and said, “Well, we need to get this handled, and we only have two weeks. Don’t you think it’s important?”
Well, of course, and Medicare goes so well with chocolate mousse. At least we were having fun, during this discussion of another transition period in my life: Medicare.
I fell silent as I remembered when Van’s lucrative job as a computer programmer concluded, and his medical insurance ran its course long before we reached eligibility for Medicare. I decided, “I’m not getting sick.” And I hadn’t for five years, so I certainly didn’t want to get into a negative health consciousness just because I’d finally reached the Medicare era. I’d seen so many people become dependent on doctors and hospitals, as their source of nurturing. Not Me! It’s all a consciousness thing, as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t need it. Thank you very much. I’ll get my nurturing from God, and more fulfilling opportunities, such as Freedomers.
We finished lunch in plenty of time to attend the Super Saver $1.75 movie, with the large size popcorn. How we had room to eat it is beyond me, but it’s part of our “having fun.” The movie, That Old Feeling, with Bette Midler (one we’d missed before leaving California) proved to be romantic and nostalgic, and a delight to top my Mother’s Day. Indeed, it was okay, and desirable to have fun.
A Nothing Day
The next day continued the fun format when we accepted Steve’s invitation to attend the barbecue for employees and customers at Windish RV, where he worked. We loaded up with hamburgers, chips, and sodas and sat at the picnic table visiting with other RV owners or buyers. As usual in such company, we learned a lot more about the joys and pitfalls. I groaned as one lady said she’d cashed in her $10,000.00 savings bond to buy a new engine for their motor home. Quick, where’s my Prosperity Support Group?
Another fellow who proudly proclaimed himself as “81, and been across the country fourteen times,” took advantage of the self-service, and cooked up their hamburgers, while his wife confided, “We’re going to sell our RV, because his back is so painful he can’t stand to drive it anymore. I’m sure glad we didn’t sell our home in ’83 when we wanted to live full-time in our motor home.”
I’d wondered what happened to old RVers, and this confirmed my thoughts to enjoy it while we’re able. Not that I anticipate infirmities, but maybe we do need to plan “life after traveling.”
The afternoon slipped away as we indolently basked in the sun, or shade of the umbrella, in the Windish parking lot. Steve sometimes joined us between customers, and I realized that for me socializing is a vital part of having fun. However, succumbing to Van’s non-social lifestyle, I’d retreated into his isolation policy. In recent years, however, while attempting to build his MLM business, he’d endeavored to become more social. Now, while standing around the RV Park, doing nothing, he’d become the socializer, and I stayed inside at the computer. I knew that balance must be achieved for my full-filament and well-being.
Balance is the Key
On Mother’s Day, I met Dottie and family at church. Steve and I sat at each end, Dottie in the middle, with her youngest daughter, Airica, on one side, and oldest daughter, Arianna, on the other. As Dottie said afterward, “This is my once-a-year opportunity to have my family at church, and I’m taking full advantage of it.”
After church, they departed for the planned brunch at Pasta’s. We declined, because this was definitely her celebration, and I’d already had my yearly Italian meal.
Besides, I could only take so much doing nothing, so I spent the afternoon writing, and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment.
As planned, we joined them for the evening meal, followed by a game of cards.
For me, balance is the key to my new lifestyle: some fun, some writing, and some family activities. And a spattering of doing nothing is good, too.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Taking Care of Basics
One morning, while still in our Void stage at the RV Park, before leaving on our travels, the guest speaker, Dr. Fred Voight presented his favorite sermon: “Taking Out the Trash.” It captured the essence of the essential Completion aspect during The Void. This is the time to take care of the basics, or deal with the nitty-gritty, before plunging forth into the Big Adventure of a New Beginning.
We’d eliminated a lot of trash during The Ending phase of our transition, and as we entered another Beginning phase, Iíd hoped the negatives were past. But God wasn’t through with us yet.
We were in The Void aspect of Preparation, and although itís okay doing nothing, when in The Void, it’s important to do something, anything. For us there were lots of little projects, such as a leaky faucet to fix, and my large picture of Jesus to hang. So we spent a lot of time between Sears and Hugh M. Woods, the handyman’s superstore.
Tools were not part of Van’s reality, but with the purchase of our motor home, they became a necessity, and he wisely chose to buy the best; the ones with a lifetime guarantee. So he shopped at Sears for his exciting purchase of Craftsman tools — a major accomplishment in this adult stage of growing-up his inner child (Little Ralph). Great care and time were taken, with the help of Charles, the department manager, in selecting a crescent wrench, needle-nosed pliers, and a hammer.
Charles explained that the Special Purchase tools were good quality, yet less expensive because they are purchased in such large quantities. As we talked, I commented that Van had been downsized from his computer programmer job, and that we were now downsized into a motor home. Charles told us that his brother had been caught in a similar experience, had nearly had a nervous breakdown from the trauma, but began doing home improvements. During the process discovered a new career: contracting, and that he’s happier than when in the corporate world.
Van and I were discussing the possibilities for his new career verses retirement, while walking out of Sears, and he said, “I’m retired, and I’m not really looking for another career.”
The day progressed as we went to Home Depot with the idea we’d find everything that we couldn’t find at Hugh M. Woods; but we didn’t. Costco proved more fruitful, as we selected the items we’d gone to purchase. Since Van had refused to go shopping in the past, I’ve learned to experience his participation as “having fun,” and he’s reached a level of tolerance for the adventure; especially when he gets to buy his favorite foods and big boy toys.
Another day, Van made a trip to Hugh M. Woods to return some wrong size screws, and purchase more items. Not only did he go by himself, which is unusual, but he stopped at two other places for information about towing our car behind Freedom. When he returned, we discussed the results of his research: a Volvo cannot be towed, but must be hauled on a trailer. If we wanted to take a car, we would need to sell Golden and buy a towable one. We made the decision to make this first trip without the car, and get used to the motor home, and life on-the-road.
We’d studied the problem of hanging the life-size picture of Jesus, with arms outstretched, that had once hung in our cathedral-ceiling living room. The only wall big enough was in the bedroom, so Van dutifully used Velcro and secured the picture. But we awoke one night to a resounding crash, as Jesus dropped to the floor.
Another trip to Hugh M. Woods searching through the bins of nuts and bolts finally produced a makeshift hook that would be secured to the picture, and lap over the top of the wall-paneling. With our combined efforts, Jesus would never fall again, no matter how much the coach bumped. And I felt good having our new home amply blessed with His all-encompassing presence, even if it couldn’t be seen, unless in bed. At least The Presence was in place.
One day, when my granddaughter, Christina visited, she said, “Grandma, this really feels like you. I can feel the spiritual energy.” I looked around, and there was nothing remotely spiritual visible to her, but I knew she was feeling The Presence emanating from the bedroom.
The First Travel Disaster
One day, Van needed to take Freedom back to the dealership for some more repairs. I drove Golden, in order to meet him there, and drive to Dottie’s, while the work was being done. When I picked him up, Van told me of his first travel disaster; one he had to face and handle by himself. He related the story:
“I heard a loud crash in the back of Freedom, like something falling. I couldn’t stop along the freeway, so I kept going. It turned out that the table collapsed, taking the computer down with it. I dreaded looking at the results, but fortunately the computer is okay. The bad news is that the leg on the table broke, and I have to find more hardware to repair it.”
Offering encouragement and support, I said, “Well, I’m proud of you for surviving the trauma all by yourself.” Then I added, ìLooks like we need another trip to Hugh M. Woods.
Now the nuts and bolts of Preparation continued. Van spent the next week fixing this-and-that, and I focused on integrating more of my files from the storage unit into Freedom, so I could continue my ministry and writing while traveling. Our readiness seemed to indicate that The Void time for staying in the area was about over, yet we still had several important matters to handle.
FULFILLMENT OF DREAMS
Celebrate in Advance
That Sunday Mile High Church of Religious Science was celebrating a milestone: the ground-breaking for the new Community Center, and we were part of the event, along with church and city dignitaries. Balloons festooned the sanctuary, and the music enhanced the festivities. In addition, this was kick-off Sunday for our annual month-long Prosperity Program. Rev. Roger Teel, our minister, selected the subject of Celebration, with the admonition to “Celebrate in Advance” the desired goal or dream. He told how they’d been preparing for, and celebrating this moment seven-years ago.
We stayed for the official outdoor ground-breaking ceremony, and munched a barbecued hamburger as we listened to the music and dignitaries “brief” speeches, and turning of the soil with their shovels. Rev. Roger gave himself the honor of using the gold shovel that had hung in the lobby the past months during the fund-raising campaign.
The ground-breaking ceremony at Mile High Church emphasized the fulfillment of dreams, and the message spoke deeply to me to take the next step of action.
In the meantime, Van’s life too, was unfolding. He’d long ago given up his “Dream,” and simply lived in the Present Moment, which is actually the best way for Fulfillment. But, his inner child had been relegated to an attitude of hopelessness, and he lacked a zest for life. Rather, he just let life happen. Thereís a fine line between living in the Present Moment and simply letting life happen to you and fulfilling your dreams.
When writing this chapter I asked him what his dream had been at various stages of his life. Other than the period of time when “becoming financially independent” had been a dream, he had fallen into the hopelessness of most of the world who are living the quiet desperation of trying to survive.
Yet, with his still limited awareness of his own feelings, and especially his inability to express them, how would I know what he was really thinking or feeling? It’s for sure he didn’t seem to know. I found that out when asking about his dream; during each stage — from childhood, until the present moment. His repeated reply throughout my questioning was, “I don’t know,” until we got to his present dream; then he said, “To live a good life, and just being.”
In the past I would have come up with a make-wrong, but this time I said, “I guess you are living in the Present Moment, and that’s not easy because we tend to respond to today with memories and reactions from the past, like control, and other issues.”
“Yes,” he replied, “wouldn’t it be great if we could just be.”
“That’s easier said than done,” I reminded him, “because we are usually responding to something from our history, rather than now.”
However, I wasn’t satisfied with his “no dream” response, and I was hoping to work into something more profound, so I prodded, “Remember when you were happily into our MLM (multi-level-marketing) with Matol; your dream was to build a big downline and help them become prosperous and successful?” He nodded.
Changing Money Patterns
“Well, don’t you think that traveling around the country and talking about your job-downsize-layoff and all that you’ve learned about Changing Money Patterns, during your Debtors Anonymous program would tend to fulfill that dream, and express a lot of your knowledge and abilities?”
I’d hoped this activity would fulfill Van, and give him a new motivation and zest for life. So far his interests were absorbed with his new toy, Freedom. However, I’m a visionary, and could see a future that could fulfill his dreams. In fact, it went much further:
Freedom would be an important part of the overall picture; a first step. I could foresee that teaching and relating with others, exchanging ideas, and seeing good results as they benefited from his participation would inspire him to begin to share his experience and expertise in the area of Changing Money Patterns. And we would travel around the country facilitating workshops, selling Knocking on Doors, the first book I’d written about our downward trend when he got down-sized from his computer programming job with a large corporation.
Of course, I would contribute my part in assisting people to change childhood patterns that still keep them in bondage and limitation, and which I discussed in my second book, Down the Tube With Him, about my codependency setback from his traumatized behavior, which neither of us fully understood until much later: after the MLM project had gone bad, and driven us into bankruptcy.
It was then that I realized our money patterns had gotten us into trouble, and I insisted we both attend DA (Debtors Anonymous). Van faithfully attended for a year, without ever sharing or questioning, yet absorbing everyone else’s. He read the books, How to Get Out of Debt, and Earn What You Deserve, by Jerrold Mundis, and understood the process that caused him to become traumatized, and he followed the suggested procedure for recovery: keeping track of numbers (spending), and creating a Spending Plan, among other positive steps.
The program worked for Van, as he began to feel better about himself, and to regain some of the confidence lost when he became unemployed, five years prior to retirement. These were the years he’d planned to initiate his savings program for our future. Gone! The six-month severance pay, and our retirement benefits, though wisely handled, were quickly depleted as he desperately tried to build the MLM business. Then the credit-card-loans began to arrive, and like so many others, he thought they’d “tide us over,” along with the credit cards, until the business kicked in. But we got deeper and deeper into debt and our lives gradually down-sized too, as Iíve already mentioned.
The rest is history, because it brought us to buying Freedom, and possibilities of fulfilling our dreams. However, further healing of our inner kids and simply enjoying our retirement and life on the road, for now, would be a prerequisite for any future plans.
RAINBOWS: PAST AND PRESENT
Back in the seventies when I began my ministry with prisoners seeking inner freedom, whom I called Freedomers, I named it Rainbow by the Sea, and my monthly newsletter, Rainbow Connection, served as a communication outlet from me to the Freedomers, and for their letters, articles, poems, and artwork. My first book, Pot O’ Gold, with its luminous gold cover, was the course I sent free to all Freedomers who asked.
But with the advent of such intense violence and crime, rainbows and pots o’ gold seemed passÈ’ so I changed the name to Inner Freedom Ministry, and my focus shifted to healing the inner child, and changing patterns, habits, addictions and limited lifestyles.
Included in this chapter are two Freedomers, Dal, from my original ministry, and Michael, the youngest and newest Freedomer, whose father, Donnie, was an original Freedomer, and his older brother, Adam, who has been in prison for over ten years. All their stories are included in my various books.
Through the years, I shared our family activities and trips with my “extended family,” in my newsletters, much like the following, which describes our Trial Run in Freedom to Colorado Springs.
A Letter to Freedomers Describing our Trial Run
As I’ve said, I want to take you with us through our journeys, so here’s how our trial run to Colorado Springs (about an hour-and-a-half from Denver) started. We spent the morning securing Freedom, which means anything that can fall or break is protected; either wrapped, stashed, or sitting on a sticky mat (holds item in place). I’ve come to accept that dismantling our home is part of the process, so I’m emotionally prepared. The first time, when we took Freedom from here to Windish, the dealership, for repairs, I wasn’t expecting to dismantle so soon, and I cried as I removed each precious item from its place. This time went smoothly.
In the meantime, Van disengaged the electricity, phone, water, and sewer line that are provided in most RV parks; my idea of roughing it. Believe me, it’s a phenomenon to take our home with us as we roll down the street, very slowly at first, while Van gets the feel of this 35 ft. rig.
Our first stop was the Highway Patrol, to get verification of the coach which we must send to Oregon, for our permanent registration. Van had already driven there in our car, and discovered there wasn’t enough room in front for Freedom, but a carwash across the street had a large lot, where we parked. However, the door on the Highway Patrol read, “Closed.” I panicked, because we couldn’t leave town without it.
Van returned to announce, “There’s been a bomb threat on all Federal buildings and offices, so he can’t leave. However, he said he would request someone else to come to the office, so he could leave. Of course, we didn’t mind waiting because we had our home with us, and could keep comfortable and busy. The reason for the bomb scare relates to the Timothy McVeigh trial which is going on in downtown Denver. Little did I know his actions would actually impact our lives as we endeavored to leave town on our Trial Run. Finally, the officer appeared, signed the paper, and away we went, very carefully backing up into the carwash driveway, and onto the street.
The officer had said that we’d have to extend our temporary license before leaving town, so we drove to the nearby county building, and Van went to the License Bureau. The parking lot was on the upper level, and as we started to enter, I read the sign: “No vehicles over 10,000 pounds. As Van drove ahead, I asked, “Are we over that weight?”
He said, “Yes,” and kept going. I was already stressed, because everything was a new experience. So sitting in this oversize vehicle on a hot day without air conditioning, I was scared the entire structure would collapse; especially when a car drove by and everything shook. I thought I’d escaped this sensation when I left California’s earthquake syndrome. However, I soon calmed myself down with prayers while looking at the white fluffy clouds rolling by in the blue skies with the green foothills stretching to the west.
Finally, Van arrived and reported, “They said they couldn’t extend our temporary, unless we wanted to pay the outrageous sales tax.” Since Van had a copy of the info he sent (by certified letter) to Oregon, we figured we’d take the chance of going without extending our temporary license.
But first we returned to the RV Park and loaded our propane tank. The manager said, ìItís required by law that you get out of the RV.” He continued to rattle off the requirements before filling the tanks. The thought of our home, and everything in it blowing up before my eyes, or with me in it, flashed across my mind. As I walked toward the office, to avoid the sudden rain, I reminded myself that I must keep positive, and not allow such negative images to occupy my thoughts. I kept myself doing a lot of this pattern-changing during this orientation process with Freedom. Everything was so new, and overwhelming; and each step took us further along our journey — even before rolling the wheels.
An Inner Child Named Big Mike
Now, with the preliminaries almost completed, we drove into Golden to our mail box. I smiled as I opened a huge envelope from Michael Martin, a Freedomer in Tennessee. It revealed a beautiful seaside scene he’d colored. I smiled as I read his note:
Hello There —
Just been indulging my inner child. I colored a huge picture last nite and slept like a baby (no pun intended). I now believe you; we do all have the inner child who must be appeased now and again. I decided to send you the picture — to show off, I suppose.”
I carefully placed the picture on my desk, by my computer, and while Van maneuvered his way out of town and onto the freeway south (with some support and guidance from me as navigator, I thought about my Inner Freedom Ministry, and how glad I am that I can continue it while on the road.
For instance, Big Mike, as he is called within his circle of bikers and other “tough dudes,” at only 27, has experienced more life than I’ve seen on TV. He’s written letters to me that would keep screen-writers busy for at least an entire season. Drugs, violence and crime were a daily part of his young life. Then one time, while drunk, he accidentally shot his best friend, Roger. Now he serves five years in prison. His youth will be spent in prison, and he’ll be in his early thirties when he returns to society. Will he be rehabilitated, or will he continue his life of crime?
Other than my books, courses, and letters, he’s exposed to no rehabilitation. However, within his tough exterior lives a child who longs to play, and cry, and live a normal life. And there’s a soul that responds to a gentler approach. That’s the Michael I know, and I rejoice that he’s beginning to enjoy the normalcy of life. As he continued in this letter (which is written with multi-colored pens of blue, green and red that appeals to his inner child:
“Did I ever tell you I’m the Assistant Coach of the Lumberjacks softball team? Well, I am and we played this morning, and won 13 to 7. Hurray! It was the first game, actually second, but the first got rained out, so we gotta make it up sometime. I’m doing fairly well as far as emotional feelings go; so I’m feelin’ terrific! Sorry if I bum you out sometimes, but I feel better after confidin’ ya know?
Mom says she’s comin’ to see me in June, which is good, as I haven’t seen her in a coupla years. I get the feelin’ somthin’ll happen, and she’ll not get to make the trip. Wouldn’t surprise me none. But it would suck! I don’t get many visits like I used to. I reckon comin’ to prison, even to visit your loved ones, would suck!”
I could see in this short note the hope and disappointment that had haunted Little Michael, and the conditioning that had caused him to steel himself against the possibility of hurt. Michael is the third member of this family with whom I’ve corresponded while they were in prison, and I’ve come to know a lot about their background. His dad, Donnie, was my first contact, and we corresponded for three years until he got released, returned to crime, and got himself shot by a policeman to avoid returning to prison. I’ve written the story of our relationship in my book, Not my Day to Die.
His oldest son, Adam, also involved in the crime, sat handcuffed as he watched his father run across the field, and shot down. About Michael’s age, at the time, he’s now ten years older, and in his early thirties. I’ve corresponded with him throughout the years, and seen the changes from youth to maturity, with the help of my influence, which has come through his relationship with God.
A Double Rainbow
Their lives have touched mine through the years, as have all the Freedomers. My letter to the Freedomers, with a little message about alternative options they can make, continues:
In the meantime, back to Van and Freedom journeying along the freeway. Somehow we always manage to hit the road at commute time, and this was no exception, but with his experience driving the Ryder truck from California, Van handled Freedom like a pro. I lounged on the sofa and watched the fluffy clouds and thunderheads roll by, while warily eyeing the dark clouds ahead of us. I finally got a glimpse of Springtime in The Rockies: lovely green Colorado scenery — even some white clusters of spring flowers in the fields. What a life, huh? Hey, if you make the right choices next time, you too can enjoy this lifestyle. We’re doing it on our Social Security Retirement.
I’m now writing from a rest stop where we stopped for a snack. I insisted that Van fire up the generator so I can describe the scene while it’s fresh in my mind. I took a picture, but this must be a word picture. Framed by the tall pines, a glorious double rainbow appeared in front of dark clouds, forming an arch at the other end. Straight ahead, and under the arch is a protruding rock-topped mountain with little trees dotting the slope, and a meadow in front (still framed by the pine trees).
To our right is a forest with the sunshine peeking through. On both sides are trucks parked in the lot. Okay, I think Iíve covered this scene, so Van has taken us off generator and turned on the engine, and is rolling down the highway. Boy, is this bumpy! I didn’t have a glass item secured earlier, so it fell over and broke; nothing too precious, but one of the hazards of RV travel.
As we drive south from the rock, I see it’s the back end of a table top. To our right is a glorious sunset over Pikes Peak — gold, peach, cream mixed with dark blue. The rest of the foothills look black, and create a stunning contrast. Because it’s stormy, parts of the sky are very dark, yet some reflect the lighter shades. Pikes Peak is majestic looming in front of that sunset. On the left are more green rolling hills and meadows, farms, forests, and mountains similar to the table top. As we approach Colorado Springs, there are more communities that have sprung up in recent years.
On the outskirts of Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy, easily recognized by its famous arches above the chapel, nestles in the foothills. Suddenly Pikes Peak looms straight ahead like a giant chocolate cake with marshmallow topping. In other words, there’s obviously not as much snow as expected, especially since we’ve had such heavy snow this year.
Darkness surrounds as we turn off the freeway and onto our first taste of city streets. Much bumpier and lots more rattles. Now I know what they mean about a camel being the “ship of the desert.” The computer is jumping, and skipping letters. It’s time to turn it off.
A Big Hug at Furrs
Our objective for this Trial Run trip is to meet our Freedomer friend, Dal, who works at a restaurant in Colorado Springs. He’s been on the Outside sixteen years, and I’d written him in prison two years prior. His story, too, is included in my book, Unmasked, along with Adam, Michael, and others. This book isn’t finished, as their lives are still unfolding. I’m happy to say Dal’s story has a happy ending, at least thus far. I’ll include more details as this chapter progresses.
Dal had been one of the first five Freedomers with whom I corresponded who also became friends. We’d always promised we’d someday “have a big hug” when he got out of prison in Huntsville, Texas. That was sixteen-years-ago, and we’d collected our first hug two years ago when we stopped by his workplace on a Colorado trip.
I visited him again when I was staying at the Inn of the Spanish Peaks in the Cuchara Valley. I loved that place, and hoped to buy the old, rustic resort surrounded by forest and aspen trees, as a retreat center for my writings and teachings. Dal was to have been one of my friends who I’d envisioned to assist with the operation of the place. I even featured the place in the second book of this trilogy, Down the Tube With Him.
The letter continues to describe our first journey:
Our first destination for the night was the parking lot where he works, as heíd arranged for us to park there for the night. Then began our ritual of clearing off our bed (depository for sliding objects, such as our tape and video collection), closing curtains, and settling down for the night in an unfamiliar environment — street light outside the window, helicopters overhead (either searching for someone, or patrolling the area) gave me an uneasy feeling, but I prayed myself to sleep, and slept through the night after asking to be protected in White Light.
Opening the curtains the next morning reveals Pikes Peak smiling in our window, at a discreet, but very close distance: the sun shining brightly, and quiet surroundings in the empty parking lot.
The Challenges of Parking; and Unparking
My letter to Freedomers continues to describe our Trial Run:
After discovering no phone in the mall, Vanís attention was occupied negotiating Freedom along the narrow streets to find a phone near Dal’s apartment, so I could let him know we were here. Finally, Van found a large parking place where he could easily get in-and-out without getting trapped, and I called Dal. Soon he joined us in our home on wheels, and then we continued on down the road.
The next challenge of Phase II, on our Trial Run, was getting turned around, and again heading south. We crossed through Hugh M. Wood’s (hardware supermarket) parking lot toward a street; only the street ended, so Van jockeyed through, and back to the main street, which Dal assured us would lead to another route that by-passed town and put us onto I-25, the Highway we’d been coming south on. Now we continued south, and stopped at Pueblo for fuel. First we spotted a Truck Stop, and Van skillfully drove Freedom into the proper lane, filled-up, and out again. Yeah Van! Another first victory.
Getting our fuel (lunch) at Boston Market wasn’t quite as easy. I mistakenly guided him into a driveway that would go through to another parking lot, but it didn’t. OOOps! We surveyed the situation, and discovered the only way out was through the small parking lot, and back to the main street. We decided to eat first. The challenge seemed easier on a full stomach, so Van easily negotiated between the parked cars, and back to the street, made a left turn onto a side street, and returned to the main highway.
For almost sixty miles we watched the clouds shrouding the Spanish Peaks far in the distance. I was surprised they too, had retained such a small amount of snow despite the large amounts that had fallen. But the ninety-degree weather probably had melted much of it.
We exited again at Walsenburg, and drove the sixteen miles to La Veta. The Spanish Peeks, which had been somewhat hidden in the clouds, now towered beside us as we headed West, and the heavy-snow-covered, but also obscured Sangre de Crista Mountains began to take shape up the canyon south of La Veta. As much as I wanted to show Dal the Cuchara Valley and Inn of the Spanish Peaks, I’d promised Van we wouldn’t attempt the narrow, winding mountain road this trip; until he felt more comfortable driving Freedom. However, he said that he’d be okay, so the challenge began.
Dal had already become more alive, as I always do, when we neared La Veta’s energies. I’d been told, when here before, that some spiritually inclined people feel the metaphysical energies, and are drawn here, much like the folks in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” so I wasn’t surprised that Dal felt the attraction. He grew very quiet as we passed the cows grazing in the meadows, and progressed up the mountain slope. Van pointed to the amazing phenomenon called the Dakota Ridge, rock formations that look like a dinosaurs back, rising out of the mountainside. No one really knows what caused this ridge-appearance that occurs off-and-on for thousands of miles through several states, and beginning in the Dakotas. In fact, the Dakota Ridge RV Park, where we live, is a small portion of this ridge. I spotted several deer grazing along Cuchara Creek, the same one that flows in front of Inn of the Spanish Peaks, and winds its way down the mountain, through La Veta, and the surrounding valley. With the spring runoff, the usually peaceful creeks ice cold waters gushed through the forests and meadows forming miniature manmade ponds.
I stopped the letter here, and saved this part for the chapter:
ìMy Idea of a Perfect-sized Townî
Earlier in the trip Dal had said, “My idea of the perfect sized town is when I can close my eyes and walk across the street without worrying about getting hit.” As we approached the town of Cuchara Valley, with its one unpaved street off-the-side of the main paved road, I said, “Dal, this is the perfect town for you.” We slowed, and Dal looked out the window at the quaint buildings, and said, “Yep. It’ll work.” He studied the wood frame cabins along the road, and I knew he’d found his perfect setting. “But how would I earn a living?”
“I don’t think you need to worry. If you were here, there would be a job for you. After all, you started as a dishwasher, and went from fry-cook to vegetable cook, which gives you weekends off. You’d find a job.” By this time we’d arrived at the Inn of the Spanish Peaks, which had been sold and now bore the title “Orphan Valley Ranch,” after Huerfano County, which means orphan; not nearly as picturesque as Inn of the Spanish Peaks. I laughed as I read the sign: “Grub, Booze, and Bed.” a Far cry from my dream of a spiritual resort.
Dal suddenly sat bolt upright as we spotted two wranglers working with about ten horses in the adjoining pasture. I said, “Can you see yourself in that picture, Dal?” I didn’t know until later, but Dal’s new dream had been born, yet he repeated, “But how would I make a living?”
“If you’re serious, why don’t you call and ask if they need any help? I know they need cooks and restaurant help, and maybe more wranglers. I know you can do it.”
I still wondered why I’d been given such an intense desire to own this place as I surveyed the valley surrounded by mountains covered with evergreens. The aspen trees still hadn’t budded, though the lilacs were blooming at lower levels, and I realized that spring comes late at this 10,000 ft. altitude. As we drove by, I could see that the old lodge had been painted, and a new building had been added. Other than the wranglers, no one else was visible; indicating that they still weren’t open for business. We definitely weren’t going to drive Freedom down the steep drive, across the creek, and into the gravel parking lot, so Van drove another 1/2 mile to the turnaround, and parked.
We got out and inhaled the fresh air as we strolled to the roaring Cuchara Creek that came down a canyon from the snow-covered Sangrie de Crista Mountains, partially visible at the back of the canyon, and stretching far above. Dal stooped down and scooped some water into his cupped hands, then drank a sip. He brushed his hand against my arms, as he said, “That is really cold water.”
An Unfulfilled Dream
The weather had been sunny and pleasant in La Veta, but we could see the dark cloud behind the mountains moving closer, and Van said, “We have about ten minutes before the rain starts.”
I grabbed the camera and took some pictures of this memorable event, and then we returned to Freedom. “Please stop at the top of the driveway, so I can take some pictures.” Van obliged, and Dal stood up for a long, last look as I snapped two shots of the scene. And again we left my former dream place. “Maybe I had the dream of this place for you, Dal,” I said. “If you end up here, let us know, and we’ll join you.
He laughed, “Yah, when I win the lottery,” he said. When we returned down the mountain, to La Veta, we parked on a side street, and went into Charlie’s, the General Store, where we bought ice cream cones for “30 cents a scoop.” Dal bought a local newspaper and a lottery ticket. “I could live in this town quite comfortably,” he said as he surveyed the old buildings and relaxed stride of the locals.
“I knew you’d like it here, Dal,” I said as we returned to Freedom. “You know, I dreamed of establishing a metaphysical church here, and it’s the only place I’ve felt that urge. Who knows, maybe someday it will still happen, and we’ll all be here.
Of course, Van said nothing during these exchanges, because he’d been against the idea from the beginning. It’s just not his lifestyle, and I’d made my choice to return with him when we’d come during an April blizzard several years before. The wind had blown so hard that when he tried to stop the whistle from its blowing, he stuffed a napkin above the glass doors onto the balcony, and it blew out, and across the room. I laughed and laughed. He finally taped it in place. In the meantime, I’d noticed that the wind had blown the snow under the door, and created a snowbank inside the room.
We could see the snow blowing so hard that it never hit the ground, but blew sideways; no doubt hitting against the bank at the end of the box canyon, where we turned around. The only alternative would have been the road that zigzagged up another 5,000 ft. A choice we didn’t wish to experience this time with Freedom, so returned to Colorado Springs the way we’d come.
Dal said “Goodnight,” and we stayed again in the parking lot. He returned the next morning for a short visit, and then we said “Goodbye” as he had other activities on his day off.
Dal had spoken so highly of their food, some of which he cooks, that Van and I decided it would be appropriate to have Sunday Brunch where he worked. We also thought it would be a nice “Thank you” because we’d enjoyed their hospitality on the parking lot. Fortunately the line was just beginning, but Dal said it sometimes extends clear around the building, and takes hours to feed at the rate of 67 people every 15 minutes. The food was delicious, and we understood why they drew such crowds.
An Unfamiliar Loop
For our Sunday return to Golden, we decided to make a loop from Colorado Springs east across the prairies about sixty-miles to Limon, then circle back on I-70 to Denver, and right to our doorstep in Golden; all new country to us, and giving Van opportunity to travel a two-lane highway with traffic.
As we left town, I took a picture of Van in front of Freedom with Pikes Peak in the background. However, the threatening dark clouds nearly obscured the view. In addition, we noticed more dark clouds to the east. Would our trial run offer us the opportunity to deal with inclement weather?
Not far from town we passed an attractive RV park, for future reference, and then began the terrain that would extend eastward through Nebraska, if one kept going. In the meantime, we kept a watchful eye on the clouds while Van gripped the steering wheel to offset the wind blowing across the plains.
There’s Got to be a Rainbow
We congratulated ourselves for a successful trip, and looked forward to next week when we would be on the road again for our Big Adventure.
I concluded the newsletter to Freedomers:
This letter began with rainbows, and I thought “How nice if we could end with one. Yet, when we got into our car to drive to Dottie and families for Sunday dinner, there wasn’t a rainbow in sight; lots of clouds of all shades from white to black, but no rainbow. Wait a minute, as I squinted my eyes toward the white clouds, I could detect very faint, but distinct rainbow shades; then clearer and clearer. “Yes,” I shouted as we drove along, and then the other half of the arch appeared against the dark clouds, with the city of Denver framed beneath. “Look at that,” I said to Van, “the end of the rainbow is right over our familyís house. What a blessing.” And I remembered that Dottie had once written a series of articles for the Rainbow Connection titled, End of the Rainbow.
Indeed, this had been a reminiscent time of rainbows and mountain peaks, memories and dreams, and completions. Before us were New Beginnings.
OOOPS! THE DOWNSIDE
The Wilderness is a very major part of Transition, as demonstrated by Moses and the Israelites, and recorded in the Bible as our guideline. The recorded “40 years” symbolizes however long it takes to complete the pattern changes. It’s another term for The Void, and our process was no exception.
Once we’ve moved through the experience, we always say, “It wasn’t really about ….” (Whatever the triggering device may have been). In this instance, it was Golden, our name for our prized 1989 Volvo.
From the beginning, Van said the car was too heavy to pull behind Freedom. So now the considerations we faced were whether to buy, rent, or leave the car; or to sell Golden and buy a lighter car, such as a Saturn. Throughout the two months in our Wilderness, we vacillated between the choices: rent a trailer for seven days cost $279.00. We’d planned two weeks for the first lap of our journey, but would be gone all summer. If we made it to Portland, Oregon in a week and returned the trailer, then rented another each time we moved on, the cost would soon exceed the price of a new one: between $1200.00 and $2,000.00 (money we didn’t have).
Therefore, the decision had been made to leave Golden with Van’s Aunt Betsy. But as time progressed, more people said, “You must have a car for extra transportation.” One man said he’d brought his motor home and car from Wyoming to Pueblo, Colorado, and in addition to the motor home miles, he had put 300 miles on the car just driving between RV parks and elsewhere. The more I thought about it, the more I knew we needed our car, so Van pursued the idea.
However, ultimately the fact boiled down to not having the money to pay for any alternative, but to leave the car behind. I resented having to impose on family and friends to haul us around, and the inconvenience of no car. Not only that, but after listening to horror stories of the costs involved. The more I thought about our financial situation, the angrier I got.
When Van revealed that he’d been planning on selling the car and buying a junker and a car caddie, I blew up. I refused to sink this low into the financial pit. Our car was paid for, and could only be sold for about $6,000.00. Another used car — even a Saturn, would not have the safety features and other qualities of a Volvo, which couldn’t be replaced at twice the price.
In addition, I’d been seething over the fact that the windshield had cracked forming a tic-tac-toe design on the driverís side, while we sat here during the cold weather, and now was another expense to replace; which must be done, because it’s illegal to drive with an obscured view; not to mention unsafe. Although Steve had the dealership replace many worn parts, we were discovering more things every day that needed replacement, such as a battery. I became terrified over the escalating repair expenses. The leaky faucet, which Van still hadn’t repaired, became the last straw. I finally concluded that we couldn’t afford this lifestyle.
The next day it rained, adding to my depression, and I stayed in bed and cried all day. Everything added fuel to the fire of depression, such as the sign on the oven: “Warning: it’s not safe to use cooking appliances for comfort heating. Cooking appliances need fresh air for operation. Before using, open overhead vent, or turn on exhaust fan, and open window.”
That reminded me of my constant anxiety about the possibility of the propane blowing up. When Van had the tanks filled, the attendant told us to get out of the vehicle, and make sure everything was turned off.
All this built to a crescendo that rainy day, and I wasn’t even able to get out of bed to take Van to get the Volvo from its repairs, so I hollered “Ask Steve to take you and you can also tell him we’re going to return Freedom.
He was recovering from the burns of my blowup, so he’d been playing Game Boy all day, and meekly replied, “All right.” I couldn’t believe that’s all he said about the prospect of giving up his beloved Freedom. But I didn’t care. Besides, I was convinced he’d relapsed into his money disorder patterns, and that threw me further into hopelessness as I realized that he’d become secretive about his money management, had begun charging again despite our recent bankruptcy, and he wasn’t keeping track of our Spending Plan, therefore, we were not living within our income; nor would we be able to if anything at all needed repairs on Freedom. I began to question if we could afford the proposed Big Trip.
I’d figured that as he became aware of the costliness of owning this vehicle, he would be motivated to get some kind of job, but no matter what suggestions or job opportunities came up, he showed no interest, and sank further into his retirement mode. I’d noticed that his former underearning patterns were flourishing: “more- less is good,” “don’t have, don’t need,” and “get along without.” When he attended his DA (Debtors Anonymous) meetings, he realized the depths of his disease-addiction, but now he seemed complacent, and he certainly had no interest in further recovery programs.
As I mulled over Van’s relapse into old patterns, I realized that I too, had slipped into my codependency patterns of hypervigilance, control, and anger. This syndrome, like partnership with an alcoholic or addict, is predictable and deadly.
Taking Van’s Inventory
By the time I got to this stage of relapse, I certainly had resorted to “Taking Van’s Inventory,” a sure sign of my relapse. For instance, his incessant playing Game Boy scared me, because I knew that his inner child, Little Ralph, was in control, and not Adult Van. I recognized the value of Little Ralph being freed from his “hole” where Van discovered him when he first endeavored to make contact. However, the time it was taking for this healing and integration process was difficult for me to endure. Yet, I knew that when we are in The Wilderness, it takes however long it takes for the transition. Though I know this, my patience was wearing thin, especially in my depression mode.
I hate when Van isn’t himself, because it throws Joanie (my inner child) into memories of my mother, when she “went crazy,” after Gary, my baby brother was born. It was actually post-partum-blues, but in those days they didn’t understand, and as her behavior got more unstable, she was placed in a mental institution. I don’t consciously remember, but Joanie does, and it scares her when someone I’m supposed to be able to depend on changes their behavior. This kicks in my pattern: I’m supposed to take care of things, it’s all up to me, and I can’t do it, because I don’t know how.” As a child I’d felt helpless and hopeless in this situation, and I felt the same now. I didn’t even feel God’s presence when I begged: HELP!
In the late afternoon, Steve came for Van and they left in the pouring rain. While Van was gone, Dottie called. She chit-chatted about family activities, such as she and Arianna having lunch at a new Italian restaurant opened by the former partner where she presently worked. He offered them both a job; and Arianna is taking him up on it. Dottie said she’s thinking about making the change, because it’s much closer to home. I figured she’d called because Steve had called to alert her of my threat to return Freedom, and soon she asked “So what’s happening?”
She patiently listened as I unraveled most of the above. Fortunately, Dottie’s good at listening and making appropriate comments without taking it on. As I unloaded my story, I began talking to myself, which is a healing part of recovery. That’s why “calling someone” is one of the tools of any recovery program.
Someplace between that night and the next morning, I began coming out of it. Dottie had said, “I don’t think it’s about the car or returning Freedom; so what’s up?”
I knew she was right, so I admitted, “When I talked to you about my it’s all up to me pattern, I realized that I was feeling the panic, fear, and overwhelm of the unknown aspects of taking this trip, especially since I’m supposed to navigate and plan where to stop at RV parks, and I don’t know anything about the RV parks. I know there are good parks and bad parks, and lots of undesirable things that can happen, according to some of the horror stories I’d been hearing.”
“Well, that makes sense,” Dottie said. “Now that you’re talking about it, everything should be okay.”
After we hung up, I realized that subconsciously I’d been reverting to Joanie (at two-and-a-half-years-old) having to “take care of your mommy,” and when she “went crazy” being told “It’s all your fault.” I didn’t want the responsibility of selecting the sites, so I came up with all kinds of reasons to avoid it; even going so far as wanting to return Freedom, and not taking the Big Trip. What a break-through!
The next morning was a new day, and the sun was shining brightly. However, I was still angry at Van and silently resumed preparing my monthly newsletter to mail to Freedomers, which had gotten interrupted the day before. Fortunately, he’d helped prepare and print out my return address labels. As I sat on the bed with the folding door closed and my meditation music playing while I placed labels and stamps, I began thinking about all the good things Van does to help with my ministry. I felt ashamed of myself for being so unkind and unforgiving.
Finally, I joined him and began talking out some of my realizations about my fears. Then I said, “Okay, since you don’t like my ideas, and your passive-aggressive behavior ultimately turns it around so we do what you want, you come up with the plan.”
Don’t You Like Freedom?
Still concerned about my threat to return our motor home, Van said, “Don’t you like Freedom?”
I said “I love Freedom, but we can’t afford it.”
He said, “I think it can work.”
I talked about my concern over his relapse into negative money patterns, and that it scares me when Little Ralph is running things instead of Adult Ralph. I asked if he could tell the difference, and he said, “No, I’m still not that much in touch with myself.” That didn’t give me much reassurance, but at least we were talking about the issues. He agreed that we should sit down together and work on our Spending Plan in order to stay within our income.
Then I explained that my upset began when I looked through the huge book which listed RV parks, and the responsibility of making the choices scared me. He agreed to help with decision-making about where we would stay, and we’d work it out together; if one wasn’t okay, we’d keep going. We both acknowledged that we were nervous about leaving our safe space where we’d been staying for two-months, and that we were equally excited about starting our trip.
We discussed the car, and agreed that we’d best not take it this time. I said, “Maybe this should be an Extended Trial Run, and keep it simple. Most of all we’ll let go and let God guide us. It’s not really up to us, but God, and He is our Tour Guide.”
A turning point for our Wilderness experience came when Steve and Dottie invited us to join them for the Mile High Church outing to the Rockies baseball game that night. It seemed totally off-purpose for us, but I said “Yes” and it felt good riding along with the family. Even though our tickets were in the very top row, at least they were under cover, and offered protection from the threatening rain, which never came, and we watched a glorious sunset as the game unfolded.
The outing took us out of ourselves, and offered FUN as we yelled and cheered the Rockies to victory; a fitting conclusion to our Wilderness experience.
The next morning, while in prayer, I again asked God, “Please remove the negative energies from my patterns of fear, panic, overwhelm and ëIt’s all up to me, but I can’t because I don’t know how,í and return them to Divine Substance (God) and transform them into positive and productive energies for good. And please remove Van’s patterns too, and transform them into positive and productive energies for good.î I got up and gave Van a big hug, and we went about our countdown preparations.
Then I walked to the RV park office, and talked with the managers, because they had made the trip we’re planning, and had recently returned from Florida. I asked them about “good parks vs. bad parks,” and other hazards of the road. She showed me how to use the codes in Trailerlife, the RV guidebook that serves as a bible to travelers, and which we had already purchased. Her husband suggested: “Make sure your rig is in good condition. Only drive 200 miles, and stop by 4:00 p.m., so you’ll be sure of a place. And stay in RV parks, rather than parking lots, to be safe. Then just do it! Take one step at a time, rather than worrying about the overall picture, and have fun!
Leroy, an old-timer RV owner, who helps with everything around the park said, “God is with you, don’t worry.” Advice I already know, but needed to be reminded. I now felt ready to forge ahead.
In the meantime, a friend of Steve’s, who works in the service department, came and completed the necessary work for Freedom to be in good condition.
When one reaches this place of faith, and realization of Oneness with God, it’s getting time to leave The Wilderness; the preparation and completions are handled, which includes important and necessary pattern changes. Now we are ready for that next Big Step.
With Moses and the Israelites, the Big Step is described as stepping in faith into the swollen flooded River Jordan. Once they started, God stopped the river, and they walked across on dry land to The Promised Land.
We too knew that it was time, and we must start the journey by moving forward in faith.
KALEIDOSCOPE: CHANGING PATTERNS
Life Reflects Our Focus
The Prosperity Program for Mile High Church, titled Kaleidoscope: Changing Patterns of Abundance inspired this chapter, and the universe provided the usual experiential aids to enforce the lessons. Of course, as with the kaleidoscope, life gives us a myriad of constant changing images.
I am convinced that life is a result of our patterns. I’ve often said that life is beliefs, which is true. And I’ve said life is thought, which is also true; because our beliefs and thoughts about our experiences form our patterns.
I had this reality brought forth as we prepared for our BT (Big Trip), added to the old axiom: life doesn’t always seem to give us what we want. Actually, it gives us exactly what we want: according to the patterns of what we believe and think; and therefore what we project. I brought with us, in Freedom, my kaleidoscope to remind myself of the concept being presented. Mine picks up the colors and images of whatever it’s aimed at, and mirrors them through the prisms.
Life too has given us the reflection of wherever our attention has been focused, and then it’s perceived through the prism of our thinking and believing, and we respond accordingly, just as my kaleidoscope reflects what it aims at, and filters through its prisms.
Little did I know how life would reflect when I awoke on the day we had set for our departure. As usual, I acknowledged God’s presence in the universe, and in my life: “Thank you for your presence in, as, through and with us guiding, protecting, prospering, healing, and blessing us in expected and unexpected ways.” Then I said my “Thank you” to God, and turned my day over to Him: “Thank you, God, that you are in charge of our lives, and that all things are working together for the highest good of all concerned according to Your Will, Your Way, Your Time, Your Plan, Your Guidance, and Your Inspiration.” Therefore, I should know that whatever happens, somehow there is a blessing of good.
Will the Real Me Stand Up?
Am I me, or am I my patterns? Would the real me — without the things that are running me — please stand up? For instance the patterns of thoughts and perceptions that give me the message “Life is holding me back.” Instead I want to start telling myself, ìLife is always asserting greater good through me.”
Because I believe that God gives us what we want, and we truly are receiving what we want (on some subconscious level), I’ve learned to bless everything in my life, and say “Thank you,” while making every effort to recognize and change the patterns that brought forth the experience.
As we got ready for our departure, Van completed the usual disconnects: phone, electricity, sewage, and propane; and I secured everything that might fall, break, or rattle.
Then, to get a completion, I walked over two sites and knocked on the door of our neighbor’s Safari. I introduced myself, and said “I’ve been admiring the computer setup on your dashboard, and wonder how you secure it when traveling.”
Pam introduced herself, and invited me in. I couldn’t believe the elegance and spaciousness they’d managed to capture within the four walls: only 2 ft. longer than ours, and with the same basic furnishings. Her fold-down table was a dark wood, and she had crystal hanging upside-down from the glass holder — like in a bar. The layout was different too, with the sofa and kitchen along one wall. They even had a washer/dryer and dishwasher (desirable luxury features that cause many mechanical and technical problems).
After Pam explained their computer setup (on a specially built desk attached to the passenger’s side of the dashboard) I walked over to the Office to say goodbye to the manager, and I almost cried. This had been our nest, our cocoon, our safe space. Now we were going out into the world, but this place would always be special to us. We hugged, and I returned to our dismantled home.
The next door neighbor, Paul, stopped by and we exchanged addresses. Finally, Van fired up the engine, and we slowly glided to the entrance to I-40.
What’s Wrong ?
I said to Van, “Don’t you feel sad leaving our nest?”
He said, “Not really.”
I prompted, “Maybe you’re happy to be getting on the road?”
He replied, “No, I’m concerned about Freedom.”
Shocked, I said, “What’s wrong?”
“The radiator’s leaking,” he replied without any emotion whatsoever.
Of course, I went into panic and disappointment. “What’s that mean?” Images of being separated from Freedom and staying at Dottie and Steve’s while waiting for parts flashed before my eyes, and I immediately said, “No.”
“I don’t know,” Van said, “we’ll have the mechanics take a look.” Fortunately we’d made an appointment at Windish RV dealership for last-minute repairs: cruise-control (Van wouldn’t leave town without it), and several electrical problems. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get in until the next morning. Since I turn the days over to God, and His timing and the morning was already taken with our Prosperity Group, I had planned the rest of the first day away from the RV Park to handle errands, and then park in front of Dottie’s for the night to make our 7:00 a.m. appointment.
As Van drove toward the church for our Prosperity Group, I remembered his Diversionary Tactic when we’d made changes in the past. Now I asked, “Do you think it’s possible that this radiator leak is a result of your pattern? You know, it’s happened before when we made changes.”
He didn’t say anything, so I continued, “Remember when we were going to leave California the first time to stay in Colorado for six-months? That’s the time you suddenly got involved with your Matol business, and didn’t have time to help with our move?”
Silence, so I prodded, “Maybe you don’t want to feel your emotions now, or deal with the unknown factors relating to our going on the road. I realize it’s unconscious and not planned, but perhaps your feelings are too intense, and you’ve resorted to the Diversionary Tactic to avoid them, or delay the unwanted event.”
I knew that although we’ve discussed this before when they triggered, he’s still not consciously in touch with these issues. Usually, when I verbalize the possibilities, he doesn’t respond, but he does make note. Although I’ve endeavored to stop “fixing” Van, I decided to pursue this one, “Maybe you could ask God to remove the pattern, unless you feel you still want it. Otherwise it will continue unconsciously. I realize you are not planning the unfoldment; it’s automatic.”
Nothing Going as Planned
We’d arrived at the church, and he was preoccupied with selecting a place to park Freedom. My lengthy “good-byes” at the RV Park had caused us to be late, so we rushed inside and joined the group, already in progress. The class passed quickly, and during the lengthy meditation at the end, I prayed for Van’s pattern change, and for Freedom’s speedy repair.
After the group, Dottie went home, but Van and I walked across the street and each had our last haircuts at our favorite beautician, Shari. She’d just returned from a white-water-rafting trip, and related the adventures; among which they’d run out of gas in their motor home on a lonely stretch of road, and had to wait hours for help. Fortunately she had a cellular phone to call AAA. I hate these negative stories, but the day was going this way, so I decided to bless and give thanks for it. You never know when such information will be helpful.
I certainly had no conscious control over the events, and if it was Van’s patterns playing out, then I’d keep doing what needed to be done.
Yet nothing was going as planned; the local supermarket was out of stamps, so we walked across the street from the parking lot to the post office annex in the mall and got my stamps.
Now I was feeling a time crunch, because I’d planned to go to our mail box in Golden for the last mail, but Pat, the technician, was planning to come to Dottie’s and fix our windshield, so we revised our schedule and rushed to Costco. When we came outside it was raining, and I knew Pat wouldn’t be able to fix the windshield. Sure enough, Pat had called Dottie to say he wouldn’t be coming. This meant we had to make the trip to Oregon’s Rain Belt with the possibility of a flood in our home.
Even our favorite card game, played later that evening with the family, didn’t go according to anyone’s expectations; but we had a good time before retiring early in order to make our early appointment.
The Day at Windish didn’t go as planned either. I’d hoped for an early detection of the problem with the cruise control, and then drive the short distance to the Mail Box as we left town. But no such luck. Buzzy, the Service Manager, detected nothing wrong with the radiator, and it wasn’t leaking; much like the toothache stops when going to the dentist. The cruise-control presented another problem that would take time to solve. In the meantime, he showed us how the gas stove works. Up till now, I’d avoided it, and used my microwave, because I’m afraid of gas.
While we waited, I finished writing personal notes on each newsletter, and with Van’s help they got folded, stuffed, sealed and stamped. Then I studied the Good Sam Trailer Life book to plan our trip. Steve arrived at work, talked with the mechanic, Tim, and reported: Tim is our best man for cruise controls, and he’s working on it. Just relax, it takes time.”
Later in the day, we walked to International House of Pancakes (IHOP). At least here things went well, and we rejoiced that the waitress made sure we got exactly what we wanted. All we had to do was tell her our choices on their special $2.99 breakfast, and it was done. I liked that, and tipped her accordingly. Needless to say, we lingered over our meal, and strolled back to the dealership.
And when we finally sauntered back, Steve had no further report on Freedom, but he did announce that our friend, Janet Champion, with whom we’d lived (in her basement apartment while in Colorado several years ago), was coming over to look at larger RV’s to replace hers. I was delighted, because I’d felt an incompletion at not being able to contact her; she’d been cruising around the country in her Class B Winnebago: a combination of Class A (like ours) and Class C (over-the-cab).
Let the Travel Bug Bite
Janet arrived looking relaxed and happy; definitely her inner child was enjoying this lifestyle. We toured her miniature home, neat as a pin, and I met her cat, Peaches, part Himalayan, and part Alley Cat. Janet and I sat down to visit, and she talked about her adventures traveling alone from park-to-park. She loved it, and I could hardly wait to get on the road.
Steve selected several models in her price range, and according to her criteria. But when his boss took her RV for a ride, he’d only give her $2,000.00, which meant the only thing she could afford was not what she wanted. Disappointed, she went home to get more clarity before making her decision: sell her home and buy the RV she wanted, take a 3rd mortgage, or settle-for-less. Janet said that she really wanted to sell her dream-home, but she didn’t want to stay in one place long enough to get it ready and sell it. She’s really bitten by the travel-bug.
All I wanted, at this point, was a chance for the travel-bug to bite me. I’d been dreaming and talking about life on the road for years. Now I had the vehicle, all I needed was to get out there on the road. However, at 4:00 p.m. Steve announced that we needed a part from a RV parts warehouse across town, and it closed at 5:00 p.m.
I was determined to change these Diversionary Tactic patterns, so we wouldn’t be delayed another day. Steve suggested that Van use his Suburban to get the part, and get us back in time for our scheduled departure. Steve called the parts place and had them give Van directions. He was concerned about the timing, and they reassured him they would wait, so we jumped into the Suburban and headed through evening traffic, took a tour of the warehouse with its maze of zillions of RV parts, got the part, and rushed back. Whew!
While Tim installed it, we drove to the Mail Box, Etc. and got our mail, ate a hamburger, and filled Steve’s gas tank and arrived breathless to return Steve’s Suburban for another appointment.
Climbing into his vehicle, Steve said, “If something happens, and you need a ride to our place, Jeff, who lives nearby, will bring you. He’ll be here until 8:00. Oh, and Pat is at a meeting. He is supposed to come fix your windshield afterward.” Whish, and he was gone. I looked at my watch: 7:50.
We sunk into a chair in the waiting room, and waited. Soon Tim appeared looking like a doctor about to tell the family that his patient died. “The part didn’t work. I’m really sorry. I don’t know what else to do. Here’s the old one, you can use it to have one ordered. I’ve left the used one in the coach. I’d suggest you return it for your money back. We’re closing now, and I’ve got to go home. I’m really sorry, but there’s nothing else I can do.”
The lights were being turned off, and Jeff had already left. “It’s time to go!” I said. So we walked out the door and got into our waiting chariot. The night attendant said, “There’s a chain across the front exit, so sure as God made little green apples, if you go that way you’re going to run into it. Better turn around and come out this back exit.”
We knew it was time to begin our journey, and without the Cruise Control, or the windshield fixed, Van maneuvered through their lot, and we headed north on I-70.
I’d already called our friend, Helena, in Loveland (about an hour north) to tell her we might be late, or maybe tomorrow. She said, “Okay, either way. I’ll be up until 1:00 or so. Just park in front, and knock on my door. I’ll be glad to see you.”
For a day that hadn’t gone as planned, her easy-going response seemed to be the open door, so we decided to step-out-on-faith, like the Israelites, while the River Jordan was still flooded, trust God, and head West. Just go!
On the Road, Finally
It felt good to finally be on the road, even though our first jaunt only took us an hour up the road, to Helena’s. There we pulled in front of her tiny basement apartment, and I went inside to visit, while Van decided that he needed sleep to recover from the traumatic day.
Helena’s gentle energies soothed my shattered nerves, as I sat amongst her plants and herbs and discussed the events in our lives. And the next day she gave me a massage in her new office, at a spa, which included a hot tub and shower. Yes!
That night she treated us to dinner at The Parsonage, an elegant, but casual dinner house where she is a waitress; but this was her night off and she sat with us, and we dined in style.
The next day, I felt truly pampered and refreshed, as we took to the road and traveled through Wyoming. I passed the time along the flat, somewhat boring I-80, writing this chapter on my computer (strapped in place on the table with a bungie-cord).
Home Away From Home
In retrospect, our last day (before leaving Lakewood) reminded me that sometimes completions, and changing patterns (between Endings and Beginnings) can be like a Rite of Passage, and we must push through the obstacles to prove that we really are ready to leave The Wilderness and continue the Journey to The Promised Land.
In Rawlins, Wyoming, our first night on the road introduced us to our new freebie home away from home, Flying J Truck Stop: noisy, but cordial; and a convenient place for meals, too.
Finally, our kaleidoscope of life was reflecting the pattern changes that we had programmed, as we began our life on the road: The snow-covered Rockies, barren plains and green meadows reflected through our windows as Freedom zipped through Wyoming.
Weíd hoped to add more colors to our kaleidoscope, when we attempted to take a side-trip to Flaming Gorge, but about twenty-miles down the road, the pavement ended, as part of the road construction, and Van carefully backed into a side road and turned around. No way was he going to drive his precious Freedom over those bumpy roads. Besides, weíd passed a sign that requested permits, and we didnít understand the procedure, so decided to stay with the familiar for this trip.
Eventually the sights and sounds of a big city reflected, as we selected the freeways that by-passed Salt Lake City. I observed this Sunday by playing the tapes of recent sermons on “Kaleidoscope: Changing Patterns” given by our minister, Rev. Roger Teel.
Now our changing patterns were reflecting the beige and tans of the Salt Flats along the Great Salt Lake, and a subtle change was taking place within our inner kaleidoscope prism: Joanie and Little Ralph (our inner kids) were emerging, and a new day was dawning.
INTRODUCING JOANIE AND LITTLE RALPH
The Kids Make Their Appearance
Dottie, who serves as my editor, brought to my attention that I hadn’t mentioned much about Joanie and Little Ralph, up to this point, and she suggested that I should talk about them more, in earlier chapters, but the truth is that they didnít really make their appearance, until now. So, just as the travels didnít begin any sooner, neither does the antics of our inner kids.
These names were given to us by our inner kids, usually known as the inner child, popularized in John Bradshawís Homecoming: Healing the Wounded Inner Child. Actually, I learned about my inner child from my masseuse several years before Bradshawís book. When she told me to become acquainted with my inner child, I thought it absurd, especially when she suggested that I hug myself, to show love for this inner being. But, I followed directions, asked her what she wanted to be called, and she gave me the name, Joanie, that my biological motherís family called me, before I was adopted by my paternal grandfather and his second wife.
It took many years of inner work, while healing this wounded part of my childhood, and I attended ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families). I eventually discovered and unearthed the childhood issues that had left Joanie traumatized. The wounds began when my momís first attacks of schizophrenia caused her to be hospitalized. Her illness lead to Dad divorcing her, and my adoption; thus the dissolution of my biological family.
Now, Joanie is an integrated part of who I am, as a compatible relationship developed between me and this wounded part of myself whom I learned to honor and support. Sheís fun and impulsive and creative, and she keeps me young. Sheís my Fountain of Youth, and she loves to travel and have fun. But the patterns formed from those childhood issues are well-established and they are easily triggered, under similar circumstances, which are recorded, as we continue our inner and outer journey.
Little Ralph made his appearance when Van (Adult Ralph) began his inner healing program, and found the traumatized inner child hiding in a hole. The process of his recovery is also ongoing, throughout our travels, and his inner child is still reclusive, suspicious and reluctant to emerge from his safe hiding place, in the hole; wherever that may be.
Van never attended inner child healing groups, such as the one I facilitated for a year, so he depends on me for guidance in his inner child recovery process, which manifests in an entirely different way than mine; a realization that has taken me awhile to recognize and understand, because his patterns and survival mechanisms are more covert and complex, and less recognizable. This is because the wounds from his trauma are so deep, and his psyche so badly damaged that he is not able to deal with them, unless I bring them to his attention. Then we talk about the childhood issues that caused them, and options for changing the patterns. And, somehow, he processes the information within himself, and makes the necessary adjustments.
However, this recovery process is cyclic and the issues will reappear when they are triggered, and then we go through it all over again; but we are closer to healing our wounded inner kids. However, our relationship becomes strained when Vanís issues are manifesting in the form of his money disorders and other characteristics that surface throughout our travels.
Little Ralph also loves to travel and often makes his presence known, especially when weíre having fun, and when heís happily driving our motor home.
Although Joanie and Little Ralph are featured in this book, they do not make their appearance, until we actually begin our travels. The first chapters are about our changes and preparations for the Big Trip. But once we get on the road, they come out of hiding and the fun begins.
ALTITUDE AND ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENTS
Joanie and Little Ralph were very apparent, now, because Joanie had been looking forward to Wendover, Nevada, ever since her last trip, four years ago. Of course, she judges her trips by the good meals, so the buffet at Peppermill Casino is her idea of perfection. Not only that, but she actually won at the slots too, which added a dimension to her silver-box memories.
With much anticipation, as we crossed the Salt Flats, nearing Wendover, she hauled out her favorite playtime outfit, a white T-shirt with shades of blue, and silver cord designs with sparkles. Her matching light blue denim pants with a gold and silver waistband finished the ensemble. Lipstick and eyebrow pencil added the final touch, and she was ready to go when we pulled into town.
Like any kid, she could hardly wait for Van to park in the free casino lot, with a special area for trucks and RVs. We located a spot at the far end, hoping that the trucks wouldn’t park too close.
Once stopped, she grabbed her purse and rushed outside. The hot temperature and barren terrain brought home the fact that we’d changed altitude from the cool, green Rocky Mountains to the desert.
“Hurry,” she called back to Van, who was making sure everything was secured. He was still into his adult mode, so Joanie knew it was her job to get Little Ralph to come out and play. Heading across the hot asphalt parking lot for the Truckers Lounge, she asked Van, “Do you suppose they have a shuttle to the casino?”
“I don’t know, but I saw one parked when we came in.”
Within minutes, Joanie had found the restroom, asked someone about the shuttle, and was on board; with Van still trying to figure out what was happening. However, once inside, with the sights and sounds of the casino blaring against our senses, Joanie made a dash for the Buffet, and Little Ralph caught up with her, grabbed a plate, and helped himself to the array of food, including prime rib and ground filet.
Joanie Starts to Celebrate her Birthday
We no more than sat down when the unmistakable singing of “Happy Birthday” wafted across the room, and Joanie knew it was in honor of hers. She always celebrates her birthday (June 21st) at least a month before and a month after. With this being June 1st, there was no doubt, especially since Van had already given her a birthday present (she’d selected at the Factory Outlet in Fort Collins), the singing was for her. Now, she was in a festive celebration mode.
Joanie finished her heaping plate in record time, then wandered through the maze of rain-forest decor to the dessert bar and selected an apple strudel for later. Then eyeing the potato salad, she loaded another plate, adding fresh peas, sliced beets, and other vegetables; carefully choosing “good-for-me” items.
Little Ralph was fascinated by the bikers; in town for a motorcycle Road Run. Their unique garb and appearance presented ongoing entertainment as he and Joanie chatted about the food, decor, and people passing by their table
Little Ralph Gets to Play
Thinking back now, probably another big reason Joanie liked this place (from a previous trip), is because it’s one of the few times Little Ralph gets to play. She recognized his presence by the many trips to the food bar; and later, from his enjoyment of the casino activities; although Van didn’t let him play his favorite, Black Jack. He did, however, ask about Baccarat, only to learn they didn’t have any, because it wasn’t popular in this town. Van is a compulsive gambler, once he gets started, so he doesn’t start; and contents himself watching me, and others.
As usual, when Little Ralph gets to play, he makes many trips to the food bar, selecting favorite delicacies each time. Joanie, on the other hand, through years of discomfort, had grown-up enough to know her limit (much like a recovering alcoholic), so settled for a few more nibbles from his morsels, while he continued filling his plate.
After dinner, we searched for the slots where I won last time, but they weren’t anyplace to be found, even after asking. For some reason, I’ve never won much at slots, and now with our limited funds, Joanie was satisfied to play a few enticing ones, such as Triple Diamond, which paid triple if it ever landed with other payoffs. I wouldn’t know, because it didn’t happen. Her favorite, however, was the Candy Bar slots with a candy cane over a bar, or a sucker over two bars. If one landed above the line, it slipped back to the line; and if the other landed below the line, it jumped up to the line; thus increasing your chances of winning. I tried to stop her, after she’d won more than she’d played, but the gambling bug bit, and within minutes, she’d gone through her one’s, and asked Van for his; which she also depleted. Time to go home!
By this time we’d utilized the shuttle to go across the street to the Rainbow Casino. Then we strolled home, across the parking lot, in the warm evening air, appreciating Freedom’s convenience and comfort without added expense.
Little Ralph wanted to go back to the casinos, and Joanie tried to oblige, but the altitude changes had caused the usual pressures in her head, and other body discomforts, so she said he could go back, but she’d better not. He didn’t want to go by himself, and Van decided he was tired.Phooey!
Relaxing in our favorite chairs, with the door open and the gentle, warm breeze adding to our comfort, we discussed the next day’s itinerary, deciding to take it easy in Wendover, perhaps return to the casinos before ambling down the road. Van said he wanted to take his first shower in Freedom, and I added that I would take one too. No TV, no phone, no distractions, and not even going to bed early. In truth, we were enjoying intimacy, a rare commodity in our lives. It felt good.
Van had mentioned, the night before, that we needed to discuss my Medicare to finalize the Plans we would choose. Money issues have been a scary, if not forbidden topic between us, because of our individual money disorders, as I call them. But now, feeling relaxed and safe in our newfound relationship, I said, “Is this a good time to talk about my Medicare?” I knew Joanie and Little Ralph were sticking-out-their-tongues, but Van quickly responded with a rundown of options. We quickly arrived at the one for us, and the subject was over without pain or fuss. Van said he’d need time in the morning to fill out the forms, and also to handle some other paperwork. In the past, while traveling, we’d rush onward to get to our destination; never having time to absorb each place. Now we realized this is our life. We’ve got to take time to live it.
Both kids understood that this is our home, and the details of life must be included as well as our fun time. So the money issues were completed without any upsets. Perhaps the harmony between our kids having fun, and letting the adults work out the money issues brought about a greater degree of integration and wholeness.
Before we went to bed, a truck pulled in next to us, but its generator was quiet, and it seemed that new patterns had been established by our changes of attitudes. We slept soundly that night.
Something was Changing
We both awoke around 6:00, which is when Van usually arises. However, this time he allowed himself the luxury of sleeping-in, and we went back to sleep. When I again awoke, he was going through his morning routine. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to write, while not in motion.
The weather had cooled, and a peaceful calm prevailed as I wrote. Eventually Van settled into his paperwork, and I went through my morning routine. Although Joanie had anticipated a breakfast buffet, we’d learned they’re only on the weekend, and this was Monday. Joanie watched Van eating the sticky bun we’d brought with us, and decided she’d settle for one. “It’s better than any breakfast buffet,” she announced. Something was changing. Perhaps the kids were growing up.
Later, we walked across the street to the Rainbow Casino, and Joanie headed for the Candy Bar slots. Someone else was there, so she played a few other 5-cent slots and watched her dollar bills disappear. Finally, the lady moved, and Joanie rushed to the machine. She had so much fun watching the candy canes and suckers go up and down that she didn’t mind losing.
However, Little Ralph soon announced that he was hungry, so we headed for the Buffet, only to discover that they don’t serve lunch weekdays.
Little Ralph made the call to the shuttle this time, and we were at the Peppermill’s Lunch Buffet. Little Ralph made a beeline for the food bar and loaded his plate with his favorites. Joanie, on the other hand, headed for the salad bar and discreetly selected Romaine lettuce, added some alfalfa sprouts, marinated mushrooms and frozen peas, then headed for the food bar and got a piece of grilled herbed chicken breasts, which she added to her salad for a healthy meal, which she slowly ate. But Little Ralph returned to the various food bars and filled up his plate several times. Later, she chose a fat-free, dairy-free frozen desert with coconut and nut topping, and M & M’s for flavor. This discretion in her food choices was an altitude change of the highest magnitude for Joanie, and it indicated cooperation between her and Joann. Normally Joanie can be compulsive with food, as she uses it for inner nurturing when feeling insecure or threatened, but now she felt happy and relaxed.
In the meantime, Little Ralph, too, seemed to be integrating with Adult Ralph, and his attitude was changing. In the past I’d noticed definite symptoms of dissociated personalities, but as the trip progressed, the wonderful person I knew was returning. Hooray! Traveling is the best therapy for us.
Where in the World is Jackpot, Nevada?
It’s said “Laughter is the best medicine,” and believe it or not, we found An Evening at the Improv, in person, at Jackpot, Nevada. Look it up on your map. It’s a wide-spot-in-the-road on the border of Idaho. And Cactus Pete’s, a full-fledged casino, brags of its four-diamond rating by AAA with top entertainment and food.
When we learned that the comedy program was scheduled for the next night, Joanie insisted we stay over to celebrate her birthday. This time we again parked free, but on an unfinished RV site in their extended parking lot; and it was quiet, with a beautiful view of the valley, and mountains in the distance.
We arrived late, but toured the impressive, modern casino with its southwest decor, and enjoyed a snack before the Snack Bar closed. I’d convinced myself that the fellow sitting at the next table was one of the comedians, so asked him. He said “No,” and laughed when I said “Well, you look professional.” Still chuckling, he said, “I’m a truck driver.”
We chatted about the rigors of his job, as he explained that he hauls boats from North Dakota. Imagine, they build boats in North Dakota! Of course, with all the floods they’ve had this year it’s probably a good place. He said that they’re moving part of the town of Grand Fork, which not only flooded, but burned. Itís amazing the distance truck drivers cover in their travels. Almost at his destination, Elko, Nevada, he said he’d been all across the U.S. and had even been to Alaska, but always on a deadline; not like our leisurely schedule.
The next day we took our time with our morning routine, I wrote a letter on my computer, and then we walked around the town, from one end to the other, within an hour. We found another casino featuring an authentic looking Saloon and had lunch. We split a turkey sandwich, so we’d be hungry for the dinner show later. The memorable part of the meal was potato salad made without mayonnaise. Talk about low-fat! This featured partially mashed, and some chunks of potato, onions, and tiny pieces of ham. That’s all. It could easily be warmed and served as a skillet meal. Good though, once we got used to the idea.
We searched the three casinos for another Candy Bar slot machine, but none was found, so Joanie abstained, preferring to spend her money on a sure thing: the dinner show. The three top-notch comics, from LA, entertained with hilarious routines. The first two incorporated local flavor of Jackpot, Nevada, into their acts, but the third only appealed to the six entertainers from the Klass I act, performing in the lounge, who caught this show during their intermission. They laughed so hard that the young “Tony Danza look-alike,” as he referred to himself, figured he was doing okay. Little did he know that he went over the heads of most Idahoans in the sparse Tuesday night audience. Maybe the weekend crowd, who would have to drive for an hour from the nearest town, would respond better. The only other’s in attendance were RVers, mostly seniors.
Nevertheless, we laughed throughout the routines, and enjoyed a delicious ribeye steak dinner in this Twilight Zone setting: a 300 room hotel-casino celebrating its fortieth year, in the middle of nowhere.
Obviously the owner knew what he was doing to build an oasis, with an Olympic pool, tennis courts, and 18-hole golf course, not to mention a styling salon and gift shop that we’d expect to find in Las Vegas.
After the show, we entered the casino, which was buzzing with action. Where did all the people come from? We discovered a full parking lot when we left, including a dozen or more RVs. In the meantime, we waited for the seven Klass I Las Vegas lounge entertainers to return to the casino stage, and then watched high quality routines from the seventies, including my favorite Louis Armstrong number, It’s a Wonderful Life.
It’s a Wonderful Life
It sure is a “wonderful life” when you’re retired and on the road in your self-contained motor home with free lodging from Denver to Oregon, and can enjoy high quality entertainment, excellent food, and fantastic scenery.
From the Rocky Mountains, across the Salt Flats and deserts to the Columbia River Gorge we’d traveled from a mile high to almost sea level, and our attitudes had shifted accordingly. Little Ralph and Van merged into a pleasant integration of wholeness that I welcomed back with delight. And, as a result of his return, my inner child, Joanie, as part of Joyanna (a composite name I’d created to include my three-selves: Joann= conscious; Joy = subconscious, and Joanna = Superconscious) felt safer and happier.
Further altitude — and weather — changes offered more pleasurable opportunities for attitude changes throughout Idaho and Oregon.
Thousand Springs, Idaho
After the Flaming Gorge incident in Wyoming, I was clear that this trip was not about side trips. But as luck would have it, the most direct route from Highway 93 to I-84 went along the old highway 30, which we’d taken before to the Thousand Springs along the Snake River. As we came to the site, and I got out to take pictures while Van had a smoke, it began raining. However, we didn’t allow it to dampen our enjoyment of the view.
The rocky cliffs above the river poured out water trapped in the underground wells formed during the volcanic flow, this created a myriad of waterfalls as the water forced itself through the openings. Not spectacular like Niagara Falls, but thousands of varying sized cascades flowing down the face of the cliffs into the Snake River below. Because of the quiet, tranquil locale with its green hillsides, and the shrubbery and trees along the banks, this area is one of my favorite places, if it’s possible to pick one amongst nature’s beauty.
I’d planned to prepare lunch a few miles up the road, at a rest stop we’d also discovered on the previous trip. However, I’d neglected to tell Van, so we went through another familiar scenario. Because he’d snacked at the falls, he wasn’t hungry, so my codependency kicked-in, and rather than say, “I want to stop here,” I began to acquiesce to his preference. Fortunately between the first turn-off, and the second, he realized how important this spot was to me. So despite the rain, he exited into an oasis of trees, shrubs and greenery, and easily parked along the curb near the restrooms, but overlooking green lawn.
We’d saved some of our Cactus Pete’s leftovers, so I slivered the steak and warmed it in some beef broth, and served it on a saved piece of French bread with some sliced cheese for my version of a Philly sandwich. Not bad for a Rest Stop taste treat. I marveled at myself preparing these meals in Freedom with such ease, almost bordering on enjoyment. Cooking hadn’t been one of my joys in recent years, especially since Van’s eating requirements are quite simple. But somehow, with our attitude changes, preparing meals became a pleasant diversion of the trip.
Convinced there was a river across the driveway on the other side of the picnic tables, Van braved the rain and went exploring while I quickly did dishes. Soon he returned and invited me to join him. Okay, now for a big attitude change. Although I’m from Oregon, and I know that if you want to do anything, you do it in the rain, I hesitated to leave my comfortable cocoon. Yet, why not? So I put on my Colorado shoes and a waterproof jacket, and ambled across the street while he filled some jugs of water.
I followed the sidewalk past the picnic table, and rejoiced to discover that under the trees it was dry. Even the grass that lead to the bank wasn’t wet, and as I scrambled up the dirt embankment, I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
Suddenly before me, and all around me, it was like a different world. A cattail-filled tranquil lagoon separated this shore from the peaceful meadow on the other side. Birds created a chorus of pleasant songs, and I spied several black bodies with yellow heads flitting from limb to limb high above, and out in the cattails; all this with just a sprinkle of raindrops wending their way through the high labyrinth of trees. I stood still and savored the quietness midst nature’s chorus. When Van joined me, we walked along the trail beside the lagoon. Several ducks joined the choir, punctuating with their quacks, and in the distance a soft “mooooo” added the baritone. Such peace! I hated to leave, but I knew I’d always carry the moment with me, and return in meditations.
Flying J in the Rain
But for now we must move on. The Flying J Truck Stop in Boise listed Exit 50, but coming into town the sign indicated Exit 54 as their Fuel Stop, which came first, so Van overcame confusion and decided to take it. However, in the heavy rain he zipped right past the necessary turnoff (3/4 mile), so we experienced our first time in Freedom, at commute time, trying to rectify our mistake. In the past this would have inevitably led to a major upset, but this time we both had more understanding of why our inner kids reacted badly when faced with responsibility and decisions in unknown situations. It was a pattern from our childhood when we were in similar experiences and expected to know what to do, but didn’t, and often got into trouble from our wrong choices. Now, logically, we turned right onto a narrow thoroughfare, then right again at another stop light, but found ourselves suddenly in a residential area that headed in the wrong direction.
Now, with our new attitudes, we maneuvered through the unfamiliar streets. I’m not saying I don’t still react under the same pressures, because I do, but I understand what’s going on with Joanie and Little Ralph: and so does Van. Again, in an unfamiliar situation, I felt the former panic return, but this time Van kept calm. Finally, an opportunity for another right turn presented itself, and down the road we saw the welcome Flying J sign.
As advertised, it was only a Fuel Stop, rather than the Plaza that offered full services, so in the pouring rain Van filled the gas tank and dumped the waste tank. Surveying the bumpy dirt parking lot, with humongous mudpuddles of unknown depth, he opted not to stay here, but to drive on to exit 50. Again, we made a wrong turn and passed the street. I felt the inner terror at being responsible for the mistake, but as adults we again surveyed the options, turned around, and retraced our route; this time taking the right turn. Also learning from the past, we selected a quieter spot, away from the trucks, to park for the night.
My inner child needed nurturing from all this trauma, so Van microwaved us some popcorn. While munching away, with our curtains still open, we noticed the sky changing. The rain stopped, and the heavy dark clouds began to part slightly, allowing the sunshine to burst through from the west, creating gold and silver lined clouds; and to the east a deep pinkish curtained effect in the high clouds. Arched in front of this phenomenon was a glorious rainbow in shades of pink; pink rainbow over the Flying J Truck Stop. Surely it must have been some kind of omen. Like Noah’s promise from God, this rainbow too, contained a promise: Flying J Truck Stops were our safe sanctuaries.
Roses Smell Better in Oregon
We crossed the border, and stopped at the Information Center and Rest Stop in Ontario, Oregon. The sun was shining, and the roses were sending forth their glorious fragrance midst the green lawn, trees and shrubs. I took pictures of this Oregon Rose Garden. I’d forgotten, but it’s true, Oregon’s roses smell sweeter, and are prettier than any others. When smelling roses elsewhere, I’d thought my smell-ability had diminished, but sniffing these Oregon roses reassured me that it’s not my nose; it’s the roses.
We lingered awhile so that Van could stretch and smoke. I went inside and selected some maps and pamphlets of Oregon. I laughed, but knew just how the fellow felt when he rushed in, took a deep breath, and said, “We’re finally here.” The attendant asked where he came from, and he said, “Florida, but we’re moving back to Salem, Oregon.” His wife joined him, and they too, selected some maps and pamphlets. When we walked outside I spotted the Ryder truck he’d been driving from Florida, and I felt empathy for his travels.
Then I paused in front of the historical markers to study the stories of the pioneers who had come through this very spot enduring unbelievable hardships. Many died, and others lost everything, but their hardy spirits persevered and those who prevailed found their new life. As I read of their hunger and privations, I gave thanks for Freedom’s comforts.
Reading an account by one pioneer of the incredible hardships going over the Blue Mountains being worse than The Rockies, I wondered what she was talking about. I didn’t remember any mountains in eastern Oregon. But, I soon found out.
The next part of our journey, which followed the Oregon Trail, took us through endless canyons snaking through rolling treeless mountains with a heavy headwind pushing against us. We took advantage of the three Rest Stops to give Van a break from the pressure of driving against the wind, and were thankful for these modern conveniences, not available to the pioneers.
At one stop, I combined the remaining leftovers, wild rice, steak and corn, and broth from the beef I heated for the Philly sandwich into a scrumptious soup. As we ate, we were delighted when an identical coach parked next to us, but disappointed that the older couple failed to return our wave, so we moved on.
Much to my amazement, we finally emerged from this terrain into a beautiful valley with snow-covered mountains on both sides, and eventually passed Baker City, a good-sized town boasting an historic hotel that we could see above the tree tops. This looked like an area one could spend some time, but we forged ahead, and soon found ourselves in the Blue Mountains. In all my years in Oregon, I had no idea there were mountains and forests in Eastern Oregon. I thought it was dry, hot plains and rolling high hills, but as I studied the map, I could see several mountain ranges; and we were definitely in one. However, with the modern I-80 and Freedom, we moved onward enjoying nature’s beauty.
Joanie Pioneers at Emigrant Springs State Park
At Emigrant Springs Park we had a new challenge to overcome: how does one get into a State Park? Our friend, Janet, had said they were low cost and comfortable. We followed the signs and came to an entrance. The sign said: Select a site, fill out the Registration Form, and return it with your check, within 30 minutes.
I got out and took a form, and then we drove around the park. My first fear, no room for us, was quickly relieved as we spotted many vacant spaces amongst the thick trees. Then I worried that we couldn’t fit between the trees into the narrow slots, but Van said, “No problem.” Now it was up to me to select a space.
As Van circled past other RVers, I again found myself filled with fear, but I figured it was the old pattern. Yet, these feelings seemed different. Van kept asking, “Do you want to stay here?” As we drove through this beauteous paradise, and passed the showers and rest rooms, we were running out of places. I felt frozen, and couldn’t identify the problem.
Thankfully, at the narrow road’s last turn, an open slab of asphalt next to a picnic table and open fire-well appeared before us. The trees weren’t too close, and I couldn’t think of anything wrong with it, so I said, “Okay, take this one.” Van easily pulled ahead as I felt these frantic apprehensions, and wailed, “We won’t fit.” But we had plenty of room.
Still not able to identify my feelings, I only knew I needed to eat (Joanie’s way of offsetting heavy emotions), so I fixed the turkey sandwiches from fresh supplies we’d purchased in LaGrande, and I thought about how much fun Van and I had had at Safeway. He used to hate shopping, and in fact, wouldn’t, but this time we enjoyed another form of intimacy as we selected items from their Coupon Book, which I’d requested from the Customer Service counter, explaining that we’re traveling and don’t receive them through the mail.
The shopping had gone well, and Van had asked directions to return to I-84, which made the drive through the Business Loop much easier. Now, as I opened the potato salad, and we sat down to eat, I began to understand my feelings, and tried to verbalize them to Van. “It was so beautiful here, and something I wanted so much, but I was afraid it wouldn’t work out, or that you wouldn’t want to stay, so I tried to sabotage it, because of that deeply buried, but subconsciously remembered feeling that ‘what I want, won’t happen.’ I think it relates to after my brother was born, when my mother ‘went crazy’ and my natural family broke up. It was such a jumble of feelings, but I’m glad they surfaced, and I could explain them. I know it’s going to make a big difference as we’re traveling to understand them the next time it happens.
I also understood that Van’s past passive-aggressive pattern of withholding had been changing too, as his attitude was shifting. In the past, our two patterns would have worked off each other, and we wouldn’t have stopped here. I knew this was a major breakthrough.
After dinner, I left the dishes for later, so we could walk through the forest and experience the cathedral-like setting midst the thick, tall pines and other evergreens surrounding us. The large green ferns formed a blanket over the earth, but a nature trail lead into the woods from our site. However, we decided to leave that till morning, and stayed with the asphalt road as we walked to the log cabin “bunk house,” and surveyed the covered wagon sleeping accommodations. In this cool setting, we were glad for our comforts, and knew that the other RVers scattered throughout the park also enjoyed theirs. However, several groups were sitting around their campfires.
We stopped and chatted with Kathleen, from Washington, who was taking her new 17 ft. mini-camper for a trip to Salt Lake City to visit her daughter and family. She invited us inside to see her complete setup with stove, microwave, good sized refrig, sink, and even a toilet-closet, along with four seats, and the usual table and benches that make into a bed. We exchanged stories, and returned home.
When we returned to Freedom we discovered new neighbors in the adjoining space had built a nice bonfire. Our TV didn’t work in this secluded spot, so Van selected a video: The Prairie Home Companion — Lake Woebegone. We left the lights off, and enjoyed our neighbor’s fire as it sent sparks into the night air. What a setting! And how unusual for us to be able to relax. Soon Van fell asleep, and before I knew it, as Garrison Keallor droned on, I too, dozed. We eventually roused ourselves as we grew chilled in the night air, and went to bed, with our electric blankets turned on. Bet those pioneers would marvel at these modern conveniences in the midst of the hazardous Blue Mountains.
I’d left the curtains open on purpose so we could see this woodsy setting from bed when we awoke. Van got up first and started the heat, as I looked out the window while saying my morning prayers. Looking into the deep woods, I thought surely this is as close to God as one can get. I looked up and through the window behind the bed at the tops of several tall pines waving in the gentle breeze against the floating clouds, and felt a deep sense of peace; strange, but welcome feelings. Again, I hated to leave, but it was time to move on, after I finished entering this portion into the computer. A writer’s paradise as I peer out the window into the feathery green ferns reflecting the sunlight and shadows. Itís time for the promised morning walk.
Again Joanie felt like Alice in Wonderland walking along a Magical Path into the unknown adventure of things I’ve never seen before. At least not here in this setting at this time with ferns and green foliage forming a carpet throughout the forest under the towering evergreen trees. Truly a sanctuary as the unseen birds flitted and sang in the branches.
Each new turn brought more woodsy splendor as we followed the path: purple and blue flowers interspersed with the greenery. As we reached our destination at the water tank, something small and red took my attention, and we climbed higher to see the cluster of blooms, and then kept going until we came to a meadow with a tapestry of yellow flowers. And suddenly we were at the top, and could look through the trees to other mountain tops in the distance across the valleys. Such quiet and peace; a treasure to be enjoyed and remembered.
Along the Oregon Trail
The return went all too fast, and then it was time to secure Freedom and continue our westward trek following the same trail as the pioneers. Only they didn’t have the comfort and convenience of full refrigerator and cupboard, nor a Safeway at LaGrand, before ascending the Blue Mountains, or built-in bathroom facilities and comfortable bed.
For awhile we remained in the mountains savoring the sights, but the signs to warn truckers: 6% grade, check brakes, runaway truck exit indicated our mountain high was about to end. And then we wound downward on much of the same route the pioneers endured as wagons and animals struggled over the rough terrain, but with Van’s cautious low speed, and light foot on the brake, we marveled at the spectacle of the vast valley below stretching to mountains in three directions, and eventually leading to the Columbia River ahead.
We didn’t stop to explore the Pendleton Woolen Mills, or the famous Rodeo grounds. Instead we continued onward until we reached a pleasant Rest Stop along the banks of the famous river that separates Oregon from Washington all the way to the ocean. Here I fixed lunch with our fresh supplies, and relaxed in the warmer climate while observing other travelers: the young couple embracing on a picnic table, several RVers and truckers, and the many in cars taking respite from the long trip.
We even had an entertainment committee: many seagulls that frequent the waterway, and seek food from travelers. I tossed a potato chip and watched the flutter of wings as they fought for the victory of the one morsel. Jonathan Livingston Seagull would have looked in disdain at the scene while flying high above, seeking the finer things in life. I thought about his story of attitude and altitude adjustments; moving out of the flock and seeking one’s own path, which we were definitely doing in our new lifestyle.
A Mini-Winnie, Class C camper (with the bed over the cab), pulled next to us and a man with a tiny dog got out and headed for the Pet Section. When he returned, I struck up a conversation. He’d been on an overnight jaunt from Portland to the John Day area. I listened in amazement as he described the beauty of the mountains and valleys, and the fossil beds. He pulled out a map published in The Oregonian, and showed me the route he’d taken, as I made note to visit the area on our return trip.
The conversation gave me another opportunity to re-examine my attitude about eastern Oregon, which I’d thought of as dry rolling hills, canyons, and plateaus. Wrong! As we headed west along the Columbia River, I began to wonder how mistaken were my other outlooks and attitudes, especially about things I really didn’t know anything about, but only made judgments based on others’ opinions and comments.
Make note, Joyanna, to avail yourself of the facts before making judgments, and be willing to change your preconceived attitudes. A good lesson learned while seeking inner freedom through this journey of life.
YOU CAN ‘RETURN HOME AGAIN’; BUT IT’S NOT THE SAME
The Carefree Years at Bonneville Dam
By evening we’d reached the Columbia River Gorge, which begins between The Dalles and Hood River. As a child, I’d lived at Bonneville Dam, about thirty miles west of Hood River, when my adopted dad (my paternal grandfather) was the physician for the Corps of Engineers during The Great Depression. I had no awareness of its impact on the nation, because the Government provided us with a white Cape Cod home, surrounded by well-kept lawns and yards, and his salary was guaranteed, so I felt safe and secure during those carefree years in my otherwise traumatic life.
I was in second grade when we moved to Bonneville, and we lived there until I was ten. Those were the best years of my childhood, as I played paper dolls with my friend, Jean (whose father was an engineer), or sometimes we would walk to the nearby fish hatchery, or play hide-and-seek with the boys (whose fathers also served in various government capacities). We took a bus to the nearby school, and felt safe in our protected world. My only anxiety came after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and I realized the dam could be a target, and I hid in the garage when a plane would fly overhead.
Now, as we drove on past, I remembered a pilgrimage to my roots in 1987, when my daughter, Dottie and her family lived in Oregon. We’d driven from Portland along the magnificent Columbia River that flows through the scenic gorge, and stopped at the famous Multnomah Falls, where we walked along the path overlooking the falls.
Later, as we drove under the train trestle, into the community at Bonneville Dam, we made the turn toward the residential area, and past the Administration Building. I waited in anticipation to show the family the cluster of homes where I had lived, but to my shock nothing was there but grass and a few trees. I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone. That’s when I realized we can go home, but it’s not the same; this time non-existent.
Later, while walking through the fish hatchery, I asked an attendant ìWhat happened?î and I learned that they planned to put the channel for the new locks through this very area that had once been my home and playground. He also told me the homes had been auctioned and were in various locations around the area. Joanie felt sad, and wished we could have bought our home. But, of course, it wouldnít have been the same.
When Van and I took the same trip several years later, there was a cavern almost equal to the Grand Canyon, which would be the channel for the locks. Way down at the bottom we could see little specks that looked like toys: tractors, bulldozers, and trucks hauling dirt from the hole that was once my community.
I laughed when I saw this apparition of miniature toys, because I remembered that Bobby, the captainís son, had a magnificent miniature train setup, which I had always coveted. To this day, when Joanie sees such a display, she complains that she didnít get to have one like his. One Christmas Santa brought a wind-up train that went around the track in a circle, but it wasnít what she wanted, and it created a tremendous incompletion.
Another time we passed by, and I looked over to see water rushing through the locks, but I didn’t feel an inclination to stop. Instead, I felt a big void in my life, but I knew that life goes on, and itís rarely the same, as we remembered. Sometimes, itís better; and sometimes not.
Back to the Present
After this brief synopsis of my early years, let’s return to the present time.
Driving through the awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge, with the mighty Columbia’s waves forming whitecaps in the wind, with the sheer rocky cliffs and mountains covered with myriad evergreens on both sides of the gorge, creates energies similar to the ocean or Rocky Mountains. It’s always breathtaking, even after I’ve seen it many times.
But itís not the same. Nearing Bonneville Dam, the highway now by-passes Cascade Locks, the nearest town where Mom Freeland (my adopted mom, who was Dad Freelandís second wife, and therefore not my paternal grandmother) grocery shopped; and the highway goes through the place where the school once stood. Now, one must look quickly to glimpse the new locks that pour water through the new channel, where our community once stood.
Onward we drove in Freedom, past Multnomah Falls, viewing a glorious panoramic sunset over the Columbia River and finally leaving the picturesque gorge. We were jarred back into reality, when we reached Troutdale, where we stopped for the night at another Flying J. I should have known we weren’t through with them; after all, they’re free, but this was truly the worst so far, because of the congestion and confusion; mainly because the entrance was blocked for repairs. I wanted to leave, but Van headed for the truck parking and stopped by a loaded flatbed without any cab, thinking it would be quiet. However, when we returned from our phone calls, the cab had returned and hooked up to the flatbed, and vibrated loudly all night.
That was only the first incident that jolted us back to the present. Iíd been looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, and to celebrate my biological mom’s 84th birthday, within a few days.
However, the phone call to my cousin, Marilyn, confirmed my uneasy feelings about my natural mother. When told we would coming to see her, she had slipped into another schizophrenic episode: wringing her hands, muttering “Oh God,” or “Lordy, Lordy,” and not eating or sleeping, and sometimes shouting. I’d hoped that her anxiety about our visit wouldn’t build up, but the patterns of so many years won over, and she regressed. Iíd reassured Marilyn that she would be okay once we arrived, and her birthday was over to relieve her built-up anxieties.
Mother had been living at Marilyn’s adult foster care home for about a year. Because of the stress, Marilyn’s health had demanded that she quit. Now Mom lived with Marilyn’s daughter, Karen. Within a few minutes, I heard a barrage of bad news involving these relatives, most of whom I hadn’t met until a year ago. I promised that Mom would soon return to her usual cheery self, relieving some of the chaos.
Reconnecting With Family
My second call, to my son, Marquam, had given me good news that he would be home until 2:00 PM the next day, and there was a vacant site two spaces over from his mobile home. We arrived the next day in time to see him standing in the driveway on the cordless phone. I had a feeling Dottie had tuned in, from Colorado, and knew the exact perfect moment to call. Sure enough, it was her, so I hugged Marquam, and headed for the phone while Van gave him the grand tour of Freedom.
The two weeks on the road had been a respite from family activities, so the visit with Dottie updated me on the news: Airica was going to a wilderness camp and Rascal, the family dog, was worn out shepherding his new flock: the five kittens that were now quite active.
Marquam left for work soon after our arrival, and we spent the day getting settled, and making decisions: rather than paying for this site, we would move to a vacant parking lot behind his mobile home. First we asked permission from the manager of the adjoining business, who said we could stay a week. That would give us time to repair the cruise control, and visit family and friends. By then we’d know our next step.
Happy Birthday, Mom
In the meantime, Mom’s birthday arrived, and Marquam had time before work to go with us to visit his grandmother. In her condition we knew a short visit would be best, so we bought some flowers and a “Happy Birthday” balloon. Karen said she’d been awake all night with Mom’s groaning and saying, “Oh God!” Now she was still in bed when we arrived about 11:00 a.m.
I apologized for the upset our visit had caused, and said ìThat’s why we came early: to put everyone out of their misery waiting for the birthday visit.
I then explained, ìI’ve learned in the past not to tell Mom the plans, because she can’t process her emotions. In other words her feelings of excitement and anticipation get mixed-up with apprehension and anxiety, and she can’t cope. But when she almost died around Christmas, and Marilyn said weíd better come say “goodbye,” I’d promised her we’d return if she got better. Well, of course, she got better as soon as Christmas was over, and until Easter was due. Then her condition returned, which confirmed that with her schizophrenia, these episodes are seasonal, and of course, the episode went away after Easter.
Karen nodded, and I continued, ìBecause Iíd already promised to return, if she got well, I told her on the phone, before we left Colorado, ëNow don’t get messed up because we’re coming.í She was doing good, at the time, and replied cheerfully, ëOh, I won’t.
Karen said, ìYeah, but look what happened.
I replied, ìI know she doesn’t do it on purpose, and perhaps she can’t even control the attacks, but it’s not because she doesn’t know. When she lived in a convalescent home in San Diego, I heard her psychologist explain to her about properly recognizing and processing her feelings. And when she’s okay, she completely understands; until next time.
Now, we walked into Mom’s room and sang “Happy Birthday.” I could tell she was excited, but I didn’t know if she’d pull out of it, or go deeper. I’ve seen that happen too. But this time I could see the glimmer of excitement, and when I gave her a T-shirt with her favorite colors of blue, and with sparkles on it, she got up, and Karen helped her dress.
While waiting, we watched their five kittens (a few weeks older than Rascal’s flock) romping all over the house, and I marveled that they were the same combination of colors as Dottieís cat, Angel’s kittens: black and white, or gray, and one tabby. Talk about family ties, and they don’t even know each other. But this connection made me feel closer to Dottieís household, and helped ease the pain of separation.
Eventually Mom appeared looking pale and shaky, but alive, and even responding to my questions, and commenting on some of the conversation. And she was delighted to see Marquam, who fussed over his grandmother.
Whew! As far as I was concerned, the birthday party was a success. I’d learned in the past not to overdo these events; cake, or even cupcakes would have been a bridge too far, so we stayed about an hour, and left to get Marquam to work on time.
The next day, I called Karen to see if Mom had come out of her episode, and she reported ìShe ate her entire dinner, slept good, and stopped saying, ëOh God.
I said, “Iím glad we made the trip, because I know that our presence means a lot to Mom.
Another Family Gathering
I’d promised Mom that we would return in a few days. I’d told Karen we’d be arriving, and they were sitting at the table by the window, as we walked by. “Hi Mom,” I said, as Marquam and I gave her a big hug. She was her usual cheerful self, but seemed apprehensive.
Karen greeted us with “I’m getting a divorce, and moving.” Shocked, I listened as she unraveled her story, concluding, ìI’ll get a home for your Mom and Aunt Betty” (Mom’s housebound sister, who also lives there).
Mom looked anxious, so I put my arms around her and said, “You’ll be okay. Don’t worry. It’s not your problem.” Then I laughed, “Well, it probably does feel like your problem too, but don’t worry. Karen will get everything handled.” My mom doesn’t handle change and upheaval well at all, so I said a silent prayer, and wondered if she could live with Marquam; then shelved that insane idea, and decided to let Karen and God work this out, and not take it on myself.
In the meantime, Karen’s Mom (Marilyn), arrived, followed shortly thereafter by Russ (Mom’s ailing brother) hobbling in with his cane on the arm of his wife, Charlotte (Karen’s grandparents). They were there to support Karen, but Joanie was excited to see her Uncle Russ, whom she remembered from childhood (before Mom and Dad divorced), when living at her maternal grandparent’s home. We’d seen them last year when visiting Mom, but Joanie loves family gatherings, no matter what the reason, so hugs and chats abounded while Karen told her story again to everyone.
What in the Sam Hill!
Marquam went along to visit my granddaughter (who prefers not to have her name mentioned), and she drove us along the Washington side of the Columbia River to Maryhill Museum where we wandered through the collection of gold-leaf furniture and other artifacts (or replicas) that had once belonged to Queen Marie of Romania. In addition, three stories of various collections were on display in this fascinating former home of Sam Hill, and named after his daughter, Mary.
Sam Hill had been friends with Folies Bergere dancer, Loie Fuller, who suggested he open a museum of art, and she helped him acquire the Rodin collection. Another friend, Queen Marie of Rumania, helped with his art museum. After Sam’s death, a third friend, Alma and Adolph Spreckles (the sugar heir), assumed responsibility for completing the project.
The grounds outside the building were manicured and stately, but the view of nature’s Columbia River and gorge in both directions were the most captivating extravaganza. A short drive south brought us to the recreated Stonehenge, which pacifist Sam Hill had built as a memorial to local men killed in wars. The most fascinating aspect of this former mystery, the original Stonehenge, was the explanation of them both being complex sundials. I felt disappointed that the mystery had been explained, but it did make sense.
Things that go Bump!
After the altitude and attitude adjustments I’d been experiencing along the trip, this adjustment, too, seemed to shift my thinking. I couldn’t see where all this was leading, until a few days after we’d returned to our home, the parking lot behind Marquam’s mobile home.
When at Marquam’s I’d observed two young boys throwing rocks, and formed an opinion about them, their family, and their situation.
One day, while writing at my computer, I heard a thump against Freedom, and looked out the window in time to see the two boys running away. I jumped up from my writing and followed them to the yard of one of the mobile homes near Marquamís. I saw them busily preparing something, but I returned to my writing, and kept alert as to their activities. Soon I heard another thump against the side, and ran after them shouting “Why are you doing this?”
The younger boy, holding a blue water balloon in his hand stopped while his brother made a getaway. I started gathering pine cones and rocks, while I said, “Why are you doing this to our home? What have we done to you?”
“He looked nervous as he said, “Nothing.”
“Where do you live?” I asked.
He pointed to the coach next to Marquam’s, and I said, “Well, I’m going to throw rocks at your home. How do you like that?” He shouted to his brother, “Michael,” but he was long gone.
“Who’s taking care of you?”
He replied, “My great grandmother.”
I started toward the coach, as I said, “I want to talk with her.” Once inside, I spotted Michael sitting on the sofa as a little, old lady came toward me looking confused. I explained what happened, and she said, “I don’t know why they did that. My kids never got into trouble, and neither did my grandchildren.”
I looked at the boys and said, “It isn’t fair to your great-grandmother that you cause this kind of anxiety. I’m a minister to people in prison, and if you keep up this kind of behavior, you’re going to end up in prison too, because it starts right now. It’s up to you to make your own decisions and take responsibility for your lives. It’s not about your parents, or your great grandmother. If you end up in prison, it’s you who has to serve the time, not them.”
By this time they were looking nervous, so I looked at Michael and said, “What kind of an example are you to your brother? You should be giving him a good role model.”
I was on a role, but finally stopped, and their great-grandmother said, “Thank you for talking to them, and I’ll tell their parents exactly what happened, and what you said.” Again I repeated, “It’s not fair to your great-grandmother to go through this kind of experience. So make some other choices what to do with your time.”
I couldn’t understand why this had happened when Van was at Marquam’s taking a shower. But, as I told him later, “Maybe God used me to make a positive difference in their lives. And he readily agreed, and always optimistic he added, “They’re just trying to find something to do this summer.”
“Well, they don’t have to keep busy at our expense,” I complained. I knew I’d been processing through a victim pattern, and thought it was handled, but the fact that this happened indicated there was still something I had to change in my thinking.
As the day progressed, and evening approached, I began to notice my negative programs starting to play: What if their parents are vindictive? What if they, or the kids, come over here and do something bad to Freedom while we’re inside? I began to panic. Then I realized what I was doing, and I knew I had to release my negative thinking, so I asked God to remove the negative energies and transform them into positive and productive energies for good; especially to help the boys see their actions in a different light. I went to sleep, and was happy to awake in the morning with everything intact.
I didn’t see the boys during the day and later in the afternoon Van and I went for a long walk to the post office and store. Despite my efforts to remain positive, I fretted about leaving Freedom. When we returned I rejoiced that Freedom was safe, yet I even considered leaving, as I no longer felt safe or happy being here.
Although we had permission to stay a week, I’d begun to feel uneasy about our makeshift RV Park. I enjoyed the isolated aspect, but I also felt unprotected and vulnerable.
I’d already decided it was time to move on, so I got the maps out and began planning our trip, still feeling victimized and upset with myself for my negative attitude.
While preparing dinner, I again asked God to remove the negative energies, and bring about positive results, but discussed with Van our next travel plans while we ate.
The Night Visitors
The evening was interrupted by two police cars. Van stepped outside, and they questioned him, “Have you seen anyone in the abandoned trailer over there?”
“No, officer, I haven’t seen a thing,” he responded.
They searched inside with flashlights, and then explained, “We picked up a transient who said he’d spent last night there.” The other officer added, “He seemed mouthy, so we might hold him in detention overnight. No telling what he’s on.” They returned to their cars and drove away.
I shivered at the thought of someone staying there, and said to Van, I wonder how many other activities are going on during the night.”
He replied, I don’t know, but we’ve seen a number of people stop under the trees for lunch, so it’s not an unknown spot.”
I prayed myself to sleep, and turned our lives and home over to God, as I again put aside my fear and anxiety. Trust is the answer, if we’re going to live this lifestyle, and I must put my faith in God to withstand the unknown factors.
The next morning I again discussed the situation with Van, ìMarquam announced that he’ll be spending his upcoming days off with his dad, since he hadn’t been with him on Father’s Day. And besides, heís become preoccupied now that heís beginning to focus on his upcoming move, so how much longer are we going to stay here?”
“I want to remain in the area to collect our next mail forwarding so that I can pay the monthly bills,” Van replied.
“Okay,” I said, “I realize they still must be handled despite our gypsy lifestyle. But let’s take five days at the beach, and then return. This will give us our beach-fix for this trip.”
Van agreed. So I added, “Since you haven’t seen the northern Oregon beaches, and I haven’t been there in many years, let’s drive West along the Columbia River to Astoria, and then south along the coast until we are ready to head inland.”
Suddenly I saw the two balloon-tossing boys zip through the path on their bicycles, and I alerted Van for any possible retaliation as they stopped by our open door.
I looked out through the screen, and the younger brother, Robert, said, “We came to apologize for throwing water balloons at your home yesterday.”
I almost cried as I opened the door, walked over to the boy and gave him a hug, then moved toward Michael and asked “Do you mind hugs?”
He said, “No.” We chatted for a long time, mostly them telling me that their folks had bought property, and they were going to move in two months. In the meantime, they’re grounded; not only for the water balloons, but because of another neighbor complaining about their actions.
I talked again about their responsibility in making good decisions. Michael said, “Yeah, my dad said if we caused any damage, they would have to pay for it.”
Later, after the boys rode into the parking lot, their dad came out to check on them. I congratulated him on the responsible way he’d handled the situation, and what Michael had said. Jim, the dad, said, “Well, I told them if we had to pay for any damage they caused, we’d have to sell the truck we’re fixing for Michael when he gets his driverís license, and that hurts.” I laughed, and asked, “How old is he?”
“He’ll soon be thirteen,” the dad responded, and continued to proudly talk of their plans, and the boyís part in them.
I felt thankful for the positive outcome of this potentially negative situation.
Somehow, this homecoming to visit my mom and other family members, had not only been a family connection with my own, but I had also been given the opportunity to touch other lives. I had come home, and indeed, it was not the same. But, thankfully, life moves on.
“IT’S A MATTER OF TIMING”
Let’s Have a Snack
Preparing for our trip to the Oregon coast, I gritted my teeth when Van announced, ìI want to stop at the Flying J in Troutdale to give Freedom a drink.”
Remembering our last ordeal at that Truck Stop, I rebelled, “I hate that hectic place. First of all, the off-ramps are backed-up for about twenty minutes due to the construction. Canít we find another place?î
ìItíll be okay; I’ll take the detour route,” Van offered. He drove back across town and then wound through the back roads to the partially closed entrance (due to driveway repairs). It was only slowed for ten minutes.
I silently endured the energies of that place with the frantic truck drivers (also battling the congestion), who were annoyed at the delays. Not only that, Van’s overly cautious maneuvering, skyrocketed my stress level. When he stopped (before realigning with the pump and dump), I left him to fend for himself, and nurtured my shattered nerves with a hamburger.
I’d intended fixing lunch while here, but I’d gotten so frazzled with the noise and zippy drivers that I pleaded with Van, “Please, just get me out of here. I’ll fix something for you along the Columbia River. I’m sure there are viewpoints.”
We’ve been through this routine before, but fell for it again. It’s a matter of timing. Before getting to the Columbia, we had to take the two freeways, cross a bridge over the Willamette River, negotiate our way through the northwest part of Portland, and onto Highway 30; all through an area with which neither of us was familiar, and as usual, at commute time; despite the fact we’d left home early.
I said, “Just follow the signs to St. Helens,” which he did, but suddenly I thought he was taking a wrong turn, and shouted, “No, take the other lane.” So, we hit the Industrial area and wandered through a maze trying to find our way back to the highway. I still don’t know how I misread the signs and arrows, but I did, and all I could do was admit it, and rectify the mistake.
Once again on Highway 30, I could feel Van’s tension mounting, as his appetite alarm had gone off at the Flying J, and thereíd been no place to pull off for miles. Indeed, we were now driving along the Columbia River, but there was only an industrial site with docks, railroads and shiploading; no viewpoints.
This fiasco reminded me of the time in Colorado when we’d gone too far before finding a place to fix lunch. Then we found an historical site marking the place where Vice President Colfax and party had been attacked by Indians. Happily, this time, we finally, we found a historical marker, and stopped. This one marked the site of the early traders along the Columbia River. It was first of many historical locations we’d see in the next few days.
A Little Peace and Quiet
But for this day, after lunch, we drove under dreary gray skies through farmlands and timber, sometimes catching glimpses of the Mighty Columbia as its waves crushed against the current, forging onward toward its destination: the Pacific Ocean. Having lived overlooking that ocean in southern California, I’m aware of its energies; and living in the foothills of The Rockies, I felt their energies.
Now, I could sense the powerful energies of the Columbia River, which we’d followed from the beginning of its Oregon border in Boardman. We’d seen it gain momentum as the many tributaries, such as the Deschutes, and more recently the Willamette, emptied into its bountiful channel; at least three miles across. Some of the scenes with vast farmlands, meadows and pastures on both sides, I’d seen in a collection of posters I’d saved as a youngster.
After the recent stresses, we sought an early refuge of peace and quiet, so selected Hudson-Parcher RV Park near Rainier. Tall evergreens in a parklike setting greeted us, and we quickly settled into our easy-access site. Then we walked around the grounds and noticed that there were only a few other campers. Other than the cawing crows, it was definitely quiet and peaceful, as we walked around the baseball diamond, picnic areas, playground, and large camping and RV facilities.
Crossing the bridge over the creek, we paused to look closer; the water was bluish-black, almost like ink. And the railing was literally crawling with hundreds of yellow and black caterpillars. They’d move to the side, or end, stick their heads forward, then turn around and go another direction in an endless parade. Some simply stopped and died. We knew there must be an explanation to these two phenomenons, but it would have to wait until morning. We slept well that night with the intermittent patter of rain on the roof.
The next morning Van braved the cold to take a shower in the public facility. He reported, “It’s okay, kind of a push-button, but it ran out of hot water before I finished.”
I reminded him, “Like I always said, ëmy idea of roughing it is when room service is ten-minutes late,í but now it’s using our own facilities in Freedom.”
“Oh,” he added, “I have a report on the black creek and caterpillars, but it’s not very conclusive; it seems that after a big storm last month, the creek turned black. They think the storm must have stirred up some kind of mineral or other sediment. And ‘this is the year of the caterpillars’ is the only explanation the manager had, and they’re all over, not just here.”
With those mysteries more or less solved, and the sun peeking its way through the trees, we walked across the road and followed a public trail across a meadow and through the woods, and partially along the black creek. Onward and upward we trod with proficient wild salmonberry bushes on both sides of this nature trail. And then I smelled the unmistakable fragrance of wild roses, which soon appeared along the way. But they were crawling with those caterpillars, and laden with thick webs filled with the squiggly creatures. The deeper we looked into the forest, the more intensity of them appeared. “It’s a plague, My Love,” I said. “Maybe the creek, too, is part of the earth changes we’ve been hearing about. Perhaps these predictions are coming true before our eyes.”
Despite nature’s mysteries, the walk was relaxing and peaceful, as we concentrated on the flowers, such as pink or white foxgloves and purple wild sweetpeas. However, the morning was passing quickly, and soon we must move onward, yet the trail continued. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but we’ve experienced on a regular basis, that someone appears just as they’re needed. This time two boys on bicycles passed by, and when asked, said “The trail soon comes to a fork; the one to the right goes by a pond, and comes back to the high school.” So we, of course, took the one that would get us back fastest. We passed the black pond, and laughed as a bullfrog, hidden midst the cattails, bellowed forth a sound like a bull.
And the Rains Came
Soon we came out of the woods, and within view of the high school, and also the sky became visible; dark clouds were forming from all directions. “We’d better hurry,” I said to Van, as we quickened our pace. Through the high school fields, and across the meadow, and under the trees we rushed just in time for the heavy rains that deluged the area.
Our timing had seemed divinely guided, as it does so often on our journey. Beyond coincidence or luck, I’m sure it’s a matter of working with the divine laws in our thinking and actions. Not that we’re special, but this energy is available for anyone to use. It’s not only a matter of timing, but of right thinking and action; so that what we really want is what we get. For instance, do we want trauma and challenge on some level of consciousness, so we can conquer the problem? Or do we truly want for things to work out smoothly? For some, this would be boring, so they create chaos. I’m quite clear, and so is Van, that we don’t mind the so-called boredom. This frees up energies that can be used for life to work smoothly and peacefully.
Little things start to fall into place, such as our need for a Safeway to replenish our favorite Tiramisu ice cream, and several other items. We don’t like the hassle of getting into difficult parking lots, so were delighted to find a Safeway by the road with ample parking spaces to accommodate our 35 ft. Freedom. Not only that, but the rain had stopped, and the sun sparkled in the puddles while we crossed the parking lot. Then it rained while we were inside, but stopped when we returned to put our groceries away. It rained again while we were inside, but stopped while we went to the hardware store, and stopped for our return. It was almost like a game of God saying, “What do you want/need? I’ll provide it for you.” Thank you, God.
The Magnificent Columbia River
As I look back on our travels that week, of the many spectacular examples of God’s gifts, Van tuned into the best. As we approached Astoria, which is near the mouth of the Columbia, he suddenly turned onto a side road that indicated: Tongue Point Naval Training Station. I thought he’d flipped, but he said, “I’m looking for a good view of the river and ocean. This may be a good place.” Around the bend we came to an entry point closed to other than military personnel, so Van did a quick turn, onto another road, and kept going. Sure enough, we came to an unsurpassed viewpoint which encompassed the long bridge across the river from Astoria, Oregon to Washington. Spectacular! But something even more enthralling to me was the incredible energy generated from this magnificent river, gaining momentum as it reaches to be enfolded by the sea.
Van interrupted our awed silence as he said, “I’d hoped we could see the mouth of the Columbia going into the ocean, but it seems to turn; something blocks our view.”
“I’m sure we’ll see it tomorrow from Ft. Stevens on the peninsula,” I offered. “But let’s get going now, because we still have to drive through town, and as usual it’s getting to be commute time, and I still want to find a Costco. I have no idea where it’s located. We may have to stop and look at a phone book.”
Reluctantly we settled back into Freedom, and continued along the side road with no idea how to get back onto the highway. Suddenly, we came around a turn, and there was the highway. Amazing how God guides us, when we let Him; and follow His guidance, as Van had done.
Again, we followed signs and made our way through Astoria, across another long bridge, and into Warrenton as we headed toward Fort Stevens. Somehow we made a turn that we weren’t sure about, and there before our eyes was Costco, and next to it Fred Meyers, Oregon’s super supermarket. We marveled at our impeccable timing, guided by God’s wisdom, and completed our purchase in time to avoid the next rainstorm before reaching Freedom, parked in the outskirts of their large parking lot.
Fort Stevens State Park Campground
By this time it was getting late, and we were getting tired, so we happily found Fort Steven’s campgrounds after missing the turnoff. Sometimes we get confused by the impersonal methods of checking in, such as this one that posted a sign: Express check-in, drop card in box. What card? We had no idea, so began circling this enormous state park. My first concern became whether or not we would find anyplace at all, with no reservations.
Once I discovered that we had lots of choices, finding the perfect one became the new game: easy access, quiet (not too near someone else), and close to the showers and rest room (for Van). After our first circle, we narrowed down our choices and selected a site that fitted our criteria: another cathedral-like setting with tall trees and underbrush of varying shades of green accented by white blossoms and berries ranging from yellow to red; all on the same bush. We later learned they are aptly called salmonberries, because of their predominant colors. And standing in stately attention by our bedroom window: a pink foxglove, partially obscured by surrounding greenery.
After dinner, we felt so revived in this peaceful setting that we took advantage of the long evenings and went for a walk, in search of the beach, or river; but our trail went on endlessly through the woods, and the mosquitoes were rapidly decreasing our peace, so we retraced our steps as evening began to set in. Campfires had begun to appear, and the nightlife of parks brought out marshmallows and evening camaraderie. We attempted to watch TV, but again got no reception. Instead, Van spotted a rapid movement from bush to bush that he discerned to be a fox. While I tried to spot it, a raccoon waddled along the path; much better entertainment than TV.
I slept so soundly that I didn’t hear Van get up for his shower the next morning, but I’d gotten up and was writing on my computer when he returned. I asked “How did it go?”
His reply gave me the title for this chapter, “It’s just a matter of timing.” He continued, “When all three shower stalls are in use, the one at the end, which I was using, gets lukewarm water. If one stops, mine gets warmer. If all stop, I get hot water. But, if someone else starts, mine gets cooler.” I laughed, “I’ll have a hot shower right here. I’m not into roughing it, or testing my timing factor.”
I thought about his response as I continued writing, and realized that timing had been a crucial issue during this short trip. And it continued as we journeyed onward. First we stopped at the entrance to pay for our night’s stay, and I asked the attendant at the espresso stand several questions only to discover that Mary, the park ranger would return shortly. And she did; just in time to give me some brochures that answered many questions, and a map that would have helped last night. But, she marked the places we wanted to see, which saved us much time.
A Spiritual Experience
High on our priority list was seeing the mouth of the Columbia, as its water became one with the Pacific Ocean. A viewing tower at the tip of the peninsula gave us the full view, and I stood in wonder as the rain again stopped for our venture.
To me the entire scenario depicted a deeply spiritual, esoteric enactment of the process of Oneness. As we rush toward the experience (like the mighty force of the Columbia), God is waiting with open arms to enfold us, to make us One, when our energies merge with His (as when the river waters become one with the ocean) in an almost erotic, sensual union. The forward moving river is literally engulfed by the forceful, undulating waves of the waiting ocean. Yet, as with God, it does not force itself upon the river, but rather, waits for the river to become one.
I’d never experienced the idea of Oneness with God as I did while watching this phenomenon from atop the wooden platform high above the tremendous rock wall that withstood the thrashing waves dancing over the rock jetty. Far across the open channel, the north jetty went through the same process.
How Could You Lose a Big Ship That Fast?
While we watched, a ship appeared from the ocean, and laboriously made its way across the bar into the mouth of the Columbia, fighting the thrust of the ocean’s waves and the momentum of the river’s current. We’d returned to Freedom to watch the scene, and I prepared lunch while the ship had turned around and continued its efforts, puffing billows of black smoke into the air.
At some point Van said, “It’s turning around again. Something is wrong with this picture. It’s going back out to sea.” While fixing ice cream, I asked him to keep track of the ship, but when I sat down, the ship had disappeared. I chided him, “How could you lose a big ship that fast?”
Little Ralph clearly replied, dumbfounded, and almost apologetically, “I don’t know. It’s just gone.” He silently ate, and then said, “It doesn’t make sense. Why did it turn around and go back to sea?” More silence, then enlightenment as he asked aloud, “I wonder if it’s a dredge?”
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Mary, the park ranger, arrive in her pickup, and alight, then peer into the sky with her binoculars. “I’ll be right back,” I said to Van as I clamored down the steps and walked toward her. “You’re just in time,” I said, “We have a question.” I explained about the ship, and she agreed, “It’s a dredge, and then added “There’s also elk and deer in this area. I saw some yesterday.”
Her attention was taken by a birdwatcher, questioning the whereabouts of interesting birds, so I headed back to Freedom and gave Van my report, and remarked about the timing factor of her appearance. As we talked, she left. Then as we prepared to turn around, Van spotted something brown in the grassy fields leading toward the evergreens. With my glasses on, I recognized a cow elk, and soon two calves romped toward her, and then disappeared into the brush.
Little Ralph’s Ventures at Fort Stevens
Such an exciting time, which passed too quickly; but we had other sights to see, so headed to the Fort Stevens Historical Site. Goodness, what a change of energies, but Little Ralph was fascinated with the enormous cement bunkers and cannons; once used in the civil war, and actually defending this country from a Japanese submarine attack in 1947. The sun shone brightly, and the slight breeze felt good with our jacketís protection, as we wandered through the fields and buildings. While standing atop a high observation deck, we spotted a cargo ship coming up the Columbia at a fast speed. I waited for the right moment, and snapped a picture. I’d attempted a good shot at the viewing deck, but the dredge had been too far away. This one seemed almost on top of us, and then quickly disappeared around the bend. I rejoiced at the completion of being able to get such a close picture; another matter of timing.
I love roses, so I’m sure it was no coincidence when the gentleman park attendant brought to my attention the rose garden beside the museum and gift shop. There’s no fragrance like Oregon roses, and the colors are exquisite, so I gladly lingered while he discussed the various species, such as the Peace rose.
Fried Clams and a Bowl of Clam Chowder
All too soon we knew we’d best be leaving in order to reach Seaside for dinner. Joanie had her mind set on fried clams, and had selected Doogers from a brochure. However, while walking to the famous turnaround on the promenade, I spotted Shilo Inn, and followed God’s guidance to go inside and ask at their restaurant if they had fried clams. The hostess asked the cook, and reported that they did, though not on the menu.
Van still had his mind on Doogers, only because that’s where he thought I wanted to eat, and he felt I was selling out for some reason. As we sat in the luxurious restaurant overlooking the ocean, turnaround, and promenade I tried to explain: “I just wanted good fried clams. My heart wasn’t set on Doogers. God guided us here, so let’s enjoy it.” He finally relaxed, but when the waitress arrived and said the hostess had misquoted the price, and they were five dollars more per plate, he didn’t know what to think. I explained to her that Van thought I wanted to eat clams at Doogers, and she said, “I’ve worked there; believe me, this is a better meal. You won’t be disappointed.”
After she left, I said to Van, “It’s my birthday in two days, let’s just consider this another birthday celebration. You know how I love to celebrate all month.”
When the clams arrived, and I took the first bite of the five giant razor necks, I said to Van, “This is the right place. I’ve never eaten such tasty, tender clams.”
He agreed, and we both ate as if God had prepared them especially for us. He did!
I felt so in flow with God that I knew we’d find the perfect RV Park later when we drove on to Cannon Beach. And we did. Van had his mind set on a freebie, but these beach towns don’t accommodate RV’s at night. Oh, they provide special parking spaces for them during the day, but at night you’re on your own.
By the time we finally settled for a RV Park, it was dark, so I
got out to guide Van’s backing into the site. I felt something behind me, and turned around to see a raccoon’s bandit mask staring at me, and walking toward me. I didn’t know if they attack, so I left. Yet, I was thrilled to see this creature of nature so close. When Van got out, he brought my attention to a black rabbit. “Oh,” I said, “this must be why they have a sign out front that read: ëBe careful of children and rabbits.í”
This place too, suited us perfectly, and I spent the next morning updating my chapter while Van did his chores in the warm morning sunshine. Soon I heard voices, and overheard a fellow from a neighboring RV chatting with Van. He’d come from the south, and I knew he’d be the one to ask about the highway. I’d been apprehensive after the waitress had warned us that there had been mudslides from the heavy rains, extensive road construction, and delayed traffic. She’d also reported that the Archcape tunnel was deteriorating and would be closed for repairs soon. Was it coincidence, or Divine Timing that this gentleman gave us reassurance for the road conditions?
More perfect timing the next day brought us through the area with no stops for road construction. Thank you, God.
I could see a wonderful new pattern unfolding during this trip; not only for me, but for Van too. It seemed to be a deeper level of trust, of letting go and letting God.
Even the things that seemed to be going wrong, actually turned out to be right. For instance, Joanie’s priority is food, and she’d anticipated her fried clams. She’d also been wanting a good bowl of clam chowder, preferably at Mo’s in Cannon Beach. But she’d been disappointed when the same informative waitress had remarked that Dooger’s made an extra creamy kind with lots of clams and no potatoes, which didn’t appeal to me, since I’ve had to cut down on my fat intake. I seemed to remember that Mo’s too, was very rich, which doesn’t agree with me, so I’d about given up the idea. However, Joanie hadn’t given up the idea of her clam chowder.
The next day, while walking along the shore in Cannon Beach, I remembered that, as a child, when traveling with my adopted parents, Mother would leave me at a favorite restaurant in Portland for a bowl of clam chowder, while she shopped. Nowadays that sounds like child neglect, but it was safe then, and I loved to eat, because food has always been nurturing to me. I cherished my clam chowder stop while Mother stocked up on food at Fred Meyers, to take to Kah-nee-ta Hot Springs, the resort where we lived in the summer. The nearest grocery store was ten miles away at the Warm Springs Indian Agency; and the nearest town was twenty-five miles away. In the early days this was over dirt roads that became muddy in the inclement weather.
So, of course, Joanie hadnít given up on clam chowder, while walking along the beach toward famous Haystack Rock, seen in many Oregon beach photos. Joanie thought we should walk up to the road to find Mo’s, but then I decided not to, as it would be a long walk along the highway back to Freedom. Instead we returned along the beach toward Ecola Park (also featured in Oregon photos, and the spot where the Haystack Rock pictures are taken), in the welcome sunshine and gentle breeze.
I chatted with Van about having visited this beach during my first marriage (to Randal, the father of my three children). His parents had lived down the highway at Archcape, a tranquil setting consisting of a combined grocery store and post office building. We’d often walk there from his folkís home along a side road to the mill by a stream that rippled toward the nearby ocean. When the girls were young we always stopped and waded where the stream flowed into the ocean; nothing spectacular like the Columbia’s entrance, but pleasant fun on a sunny afternoon like this day.
It seemed strange to me that memories of this era had faded, as I told Van, “It’s like this was Randal’s territory, so I stayed away.” His parents had long ago died, and I could enjoy the Present Moment here with Van.
Later we walked back along the highway, trying to find the Mo’s, but learned that it’s much further south, so we went to Freedom and drove on down the coast. In fact, it’s in the town of Tolovana Park, which must have incorporated through the years. In any event, when we left Cannon Beach, Joanie was sure we’d somehow missed it. She was disappointed, but I’d waited too long to eat, and was feeling irritable, so had resigned myself to fixing lunch. I told Joanie I probably wouldn’t like it anyway. However, Van hadn’t given up, or maybe it was Little Ralph; and then we saw Mo’s along the beach with a gorgeous view. Needless to say, we parked in their ample lot, and enjoyed delicious clam chowder; just the way I like it, in a sourdough bread bowl; which we also ate. It had all turned out perfectly, once I got clear on what I really wanted: a good bowl of clam chowder at Mo’s, and it wasnít too rich.
No Cheese in that Tunnel
One reason traveling works for us is that our inner kids enjoy the scenery, and we prefer driving on through areas, rather than stopping to explore or shop. The drive from Cannon Beach to Tillamook abounded with one postcard view after another: past the grocery store and post office in Archcape, through the tunnel, and coming out high above the ocean’s coastline to another spectacular view far below (though Joanie felt scared, because the waitress in Seaside had said the road was eroding), so we moved right along as Van maneuvered the narrow, downward-winding roads.
Many small beach towns south of the tunnel and Neahkahnie Point have remained much the same due to inaccessibility to the larger cities, such as Portland; and because the logging and fishing industries have waned through the years for various reasons. This is bad news for them, as their incomes are affected; but nice for the traveler to view the quaint towns, such as Manzanita, Nehalem and Rockaway, Garibaldi, and Wheeler along the Nehalem Bay, and others along the Tillamook Bay.
Yet, the cheese industry flourishes in Tillamook, as anyone who enjoys their famous cheese could surmise. And our destination for the day took us to an RV Park, across from the Tillamook County Creamery Association. Since they’re open until 8:00 p.m., we walked across the street to their facility for the grand tour, which is self-guided as we watched the cheese-making process. Now this really fascinates Little Ralph, who spent much time studying each step, until he understood it. On the other hand, Joanie took a fleeting look at the maze of vats, tubes, and conveyer belts as the cheese was processed and packaged, and then she looked for the free samples.
What a disappointment; tiny pieces of medium cheddar cheese and a toothpick. Not even a cracker; probably too expensive. Everything at this plant is designed to cut costs. For instance, one person had multiple jobs, so a minimum of help is necessary. I doubt if there are many job opportunities, unless it’s in the gift shop, deli, or ice cream section, where the money is generating.
The brochure said they gave a free ice cream cone, which appealed to Joanie, but they didn’t, much to her disappointment. So to appease the inner child, we bought one, and Little Ralph had a few tastes with a spoon. Actually, we didn’t mind, because we had tiramisu ice cream at home. So we returned to Freedom and ate our own Tillamook cheese and crackers; but saved the ice cream for the next day, since we’d already had an ice cream cone.
Finding the Fountain of Youth
When I awoke Friday morning, Van sang, “Happy day before your birthday to you,” and it jolted me into saying, “That’s right, today is the last day before I turn 65. Funny, but on this trip I feel like a young girl. Making contact with Joanie in recent years, and especially while traveling, has been like finding the Fountain of Youth.”
“That’s right,” he said, as Little Ralph bounded out of bed in anticipation of his visit to the Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum. This would be his day. The one thing he truly enjoys is airplanes, and they are housed in the largest clear span, wooden building in the world; big enough for six football fields and covering seven acres.
Little Ralph had been coming to life more every day on this trip. I’d thought he’d like Fort Stevens with all the military displays, but he was more interested in the Columbia River merging into the Pacific Ocean. He likes to study things, and figure them out, more than looking at history. For instance, the dredge had occupied much interest on his part during lunch.
He likes challenges, and he even helped Van with the leak in our wash basin. However, ultimately Van had to figure out the solution, and that’s part of the inner child recovery process; knowing when the task is beyond its knowledge or ability, and letting the adult handle the situation.
Little Ralph at the Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum
Joanie was more excited than Little Ralph as she climbed down from Freedom in front of the Air Museum, a humungous blimp hangar, and rushed ahead to the door. She knew how much he loved airplanes, and that Van had taken him to the local Palomar Airport several times when we lived in California, but he didn’t follow through in his new connection with his inner child, and the breach continued until we began our lifestyle in Freedom. Little Ralph truly enjoyed it, and the merging of the selves became more apparent every day.
He took time looking at each plane, because he recognized them from having been in the service and knowing about airplane recognition, and because he was interested and wanted to learn more. If he didn’t understand something, he’d stay with it until clear, and then move on.
We spent several hours in the museum, as he pointed out special features of the planes or structure, such as the catwalks high above the ground, or the giant doors that had allowed space for the blimps to pass through. In the exhibit room he spent considerable time studying the pictures that showed how the buildings were constructed; his engineering mind cherishing each detail.
Though a computer programmer in later years, he’d studied in college to become an aeronautical engineer, before computer technology was available; and then transferred when he worked for United Airlines, and stayed with the computer industry deriving great satisfaction until his downsize-job-layoff in 1992. While he attempted to regain his life, the computer world moved rapidly ahead, and he felt unable to catch up. In the meantime, he pursued his interest in the fast money of multi-level marketing, but eventually realized he wasn’t equipped for sales and people. He did, however, overcome his non-social and non-communication patterns as he developed skills in those areas.
The Naval Air Museum featured many navy related items, which appealed to his having served on several ships as a frogman. We enjoyed our time at the museum, and sat in Freedom outside the giant hangars while preparing and eating lunch.
Not Quite Enough Information
Then it was time to move on, as we planned to be home before Marquam moved on Saturday in order to get our mail and say “goodbye,” before heading toward California. But Little Ralph wasn’t ready to leave, so Joanie readily agreed to take the scenic loop around the Three Capes so we could see the ocean one more time before heading inland.
The scenic loop signs forgot to mention the narrow, winding road along Tillamook Bay and overlooking the ocean from the mountain twists and turns. Nor did they mention that due to heavy rains through the years, the roads were sliding away. I cringed every time we went over a patched area, and breathed a sigh of relief when we passed over the last one. However, the scenery was worth the anxiety as we could see across the bay to the roads we’d taken the day before; and at times we could see through the trees to the ocean, when we got to the seaward side.
We didn’t take time to visit the two isolated beach towns, but zipped on by so fast that Van missed the turnoff for the extension of the ocean views, and we didn’t realize it until we were almost back to Tillamook. In the meantime, we got behind two bicyclers and weren’t able to pass in the narrow lanes, without fear of hitting oncoming traffic, so we crept along awhile, then stopped at a pullout and ate our ice cream dessert.
Once into Tillamook, we headed south a few miles before following our selected route to return inland over the Coastal Range of mountains. On the map there are red lines and black lines, in addition to double-red lines. The map also showed green-shaded areas to indicate forests. Using our logical minds, we selected a black line through a relative short green area, assuming that we’d have less mountains and trees. Wrong!
We should have known there was a reason why not many cars were using this road that followed Nestucca Creek, but after the scenic loop, the narrowness seemed to be okay if Van drove slowly and carefully. However, at the first fork-in-the-road, he approached too fast, and had to back up to read the signpost. Since we didn’t know the name of our road, nor the cities listed, we selected one, Carlton that happened to be on the map. All went well for about twenty-miles, until the road narrowed. Our next concern about our route came with the sign: Last Outpost, and the middle line disappeared. Not only that, but the store was closed.
“What are we getting into?” I asked, but Van optimistically forged ahead until we approached the single-lane bridge. “I think I know why this road isn’t used for through-traffic,” I added.
I kept looking at the map, and reassuring myself that we would soon be through the forest, but asked Van to stop and ask some campers at Alder Campsite. My anxiety heightened when I noticed they were drinking, but we needed answers, so Van got out and studied the map on the signboard for this Recreation Area, which lasted about fourteen-miles. He asked about the roads, and they said, “Oh, there are a few rough spots, but just drive slow. You’ll be okay.”
Feeling better, I settled into enjoying the scenery of trees and the creek along the road, which sometimes was far below as we climbed the mountains. We passed a few more campsites, and a rough spot in the road. “Not too bad,” we commented. As the man at the campsite had said, “It’ll work.”
By this time we were about thirty-miles into the trip, so when Van saw the orange sign, “Pavement Ends,” he continued, despite his reluctance to travel gravel roads. I don’t do well in these situations, but there wasn’t much either of us could do other than surrender into it, and go with the flow, much like the Columbia flowing into the ocean. “Hang on for a bumpy ride,” as Bette Davis once said in a movie.
Actually, the road was quite good, but how many miles? According to the map, we should have been out of the forest and mountains, but we weren’t. “Okay, God,” I said, “What’s this all about? As our Tour Guide, You’ve guided us so well, with no mishaps. There must be a good reason, or a lesson involved here. Please let me know what it is.” In the meantime, I let go and let God, and enjoyed the scenery: orange, purple, yellow, white wild flowers, and lots of greenery. Sometimes the creek flowed along the road over rocky rapids, or in still pools; and other times it was far below as we continued winding along the gravel mountain road.
At one point Van said, “Okay, I’m ready for the pavement to return,” and within several more miles it did. But there were still patches of graveled roadwork from time-to-time as we wound onward. We were excited when we passed along an obvious reservoir that looked more like a lake. Surely we were near civilization, but nothing appeared for many, many miles of winding up-and-down through the forest; the one that isn’t indicated on the map.
I glanced back at a sign for the opposite direction, and read: Nestucca River Road. Expect Road Closures from July 7 — August 31st. The same sign we’d seen coming our way, but thought it didn’t apply to us on June 20th. However, the good news is that the double lines reappeared, and we figured the same distance we’d come in (before the sign) may be equal to the distance ahead, which would still be a long way.
I could see where timing was a factor here: at least the road was open. And the sun was shining. We sure wouldn’t want to be here in the rain, which happens frequently in Oregon.
At last we reached the summit, and could see the Willamette Valley, our destination in the distance — far, far below.
As we descended through many more upward and downward mountains, we began to see homes with newspapers and mail boxes. Cultivated fields began to appear, along with pastures of grazing cattle. Finally we came to the first town, and continued onward through the valley on the country road until we came to the highway that eventually took us to Marquam’s mobile home.
But our experience in timing wasn’t over. I walked to his front door, which was open, but he wasn’t there. Instead, three people stood outside. I learned that they were interested in buying his place, which he wanted to sell, and that he’d already talked with the one lady. She said the man inside said Marquam wouldn’t be back until the next day, and they left.
We went inside and discovered Gary, Marquam’s roommate, in a trancelike state; not unusual for this strange fifty-something person, who would be his renter, until the place sold. I could hardly get him to talk, but he said, “He’s out.” I was disappointed to hear that Marquam had already moved earlier, and wouldn’t be back. Here was a case of bad timing, though he had intended moving on Saturday, so it wasn’t my timing that was off. Apparently his plans had changed; perhaps he had to work.
Later, while watching the news, I learned that rain was forecast, so I figured that could be the reason for Marquam movin
g early. When the forecaster said it could snow at higher elevations, I also appreciated the timing factor for our trip over the mountain. But why had we so strongly felt the urge to take this route rather than the more traveled one? Was it a timing factor? Perhaps time would tell. It could be that we needed the experience in preparation for future travels.
“IF THE LORD BE WILLING”
Happy Birthday Joanie
I awoke on my birthday morning saying my prayers for the day, thanking God for getting us safely home, and for making it through another night in this parking lot behind Marquam’s mobile home.
However, I didn’t feel safe there, anymore, after the police had talked about the transient staying in the abandoned trailer next to us. But, since surviving the mountain roads the day before, I figured I would simply surrender it to Godís Will, and trust that we’d be safe.
But that wasnít the high priority of my prayers. Since it was my birthday, I suggested that a great birthday present would be freedom from my heartburn reflux, and I asked Him to remove that stress-related discomfort. Once requested, I trusted that Godís timing would, no doubt, be required to solve the problem.
However, I knew that issues from childhood were surfacing, and also stuff going on with Van and me (as a result) that needed solving; though I hadn’t intended to get into these issues on my birthday. Surprise; God had different plans.
Even as I prayed, I remembered that the condition had originally started when Van had been out of work several years prior to his job downsize, which had led to my stress-out, and the beginning of the chronic heartburn reflux symptoms.
It came to me that the childhood pattern — Dad out of work during The Depression, Mom’s mental illness (after the birth of my brother, Gary) — had been repeating, while in the Portland area. To the subconscious, thereís no difference between then and now; this time the roles were played by Van (as father figure) and Marquam (boy child). Of course, Mom was still on the scene, in her same role: incapacitated Mother. And my inner child, Joanie, still reacted as the child.
Through the years, when similar conditions appear, the pattern triggers. I realized, for instance, the recent factors of the pattern that triggered my reactions: Marquam gone, his tenant, Gary, acting weird, and a situation that I felt required to handle, but didn’t have the knowledge or ability (as when required to “Take care of Mommy and baby Gary”).
And money is always part of the scenario, such as now: I was concerned about getting our mail, so Van could pay the bills; but it wasn’t here and we didn’t know if Marquam had taken it with him, or whether it had even been forwarded.
Though it wasn’t really my fault, the Responsibility Factor triggered, and our financial situation again became the issue that caused my anxiety about staying on the deserted parking lot. It all tied together, and I started explaining the scenario to Van. As I talked, I could see how the mountain-route-trauma was part of the healing process.
A flashback to our recent trip will help set the picture and clarify the issues I’ve mentioned. Hereís how the factors of the scenario unfolded during our beach trip:
Every evening, when time to decide where to stay, I’d study the Trailer Life book for the best location at the most reasonable rate, and we’d start in that direction; but Van’s idea was to find a free place, such as a parking lot. However, at the beach there are so many RVers and campers that the towns have ordinances forbidding overnight parking on lots or streets. In fact, they even provide designated areas for RVers to park during the day, which means they aren’t allowed on the streets of the small beach towns. I felt hassled much of the time over this situation.
So, it seemed that my so-called wins at finding a suitable parking place were overshadowed by Van’s preference for a freebie. In fact, because of his childhood issues, his criteria for our lifestyle has become more-and-more-less-and-less. In other words, for his reality, more-less is better; a symptom diagnosed as underearning, an addiction-disease that he attended Debtors Anonymous to understand and hopefully heal. However, during that time he never shared in the meetings, nor did he reveal the nature of his disease. Although he recognized his condition, he virtually remained in denial, rather than recognition, identification and recovery.
Basically, he put a band-aide over the sore, and ignored it, while hoping it would go away without performing the surgery of introspection and change.
It didn’t go away, and I knew that the Flying J Truck Stops and the free parking lots were symptoms of his disease, and indicated his slipping back into the old pattern of the disease-addiction being in control, rather than Van. I also knew that he was healing in many ways, such as his relationship with his inner child, Little Ralph. But full recovery takes a lot of work, and a long time.
Usually we’re not able to recognize the patterns and backward slips, without someone bringing it to our attention. However, it’s best if other than a spouse or significant-other makes the communication. But in our relationship, I’m the only one available.
My Worst Birthday Ever
Somehow, as I unraveled my own realizations this birthday morning, one thing lead to another, and we were deeply into the discussion. I could see that with Van in denial, and his pattern in control, I’d slipped into my codependency patterns: make-wrong and fixing.
Little Ralph became on the defensive, which is unusual, because he usually withdraws or hides in his hole (where Adult Van first reconnected with him). So I viewed our argument as a good indication of healing, because he was, at least, expressing feelings when he said, “I guess you don’t like me very much.”
However, Iím not used to his rebuttals, so when he resorted to this obvious childish defense mechanism, I shouted back, “That’s a bunch of crap, and you know it.”
The conversation ended, because we now needed to drive to Karen’s, where we would get directions to drive Freedom to Uncle Russ and Aunt Charlotte’s home for a joint birthday dinner with their daughter, Marilyn. Joanie was very excited about the prospect of being with her mother’s family for this first-time gathering.
However, despite my objections about the time factor, Van decided that nothing would do, but he had to drive to Flying J for gas. The fact that I was looking forward to my birthday celebration, and would probably miss it, didnít matter. His passive-aggressive behavior persisted, and he went anyway.
This was becoming my worst birthday ever, and my anxiety had increased when Vanís return extended so long that I knew we wouldn’t be able to make the birthday celebration. Joanie was devastated, and felt beaten up by his passive-aggressive actions. In the meantime, while he was gone, I visited with Mom, who was more responsive now that the anxiety about our arrival for her birthday had passed.
Eventually Van returned, and we arrived two hours late for dinner; everyone had left, but Aunt Charlotte warmed up our food and served it, anyway. But Joanie felt hurt and angry at being deprived of this special family gathering. Thankfully, Marilynís brother (also my cousin), John, returned for dessert, from his house next door. And Joanie felt happy to be with this part of her family, for the first time, on her birthday.
The celebration, though chaotic and disrupted, and disregarded by Van, concluded happily when Charlotte played the piano and Russ played his harmonica and sang.
This family camaraderie reminded me of scenes around the piano when I lived with Mom and Dad Freeland. Before her marriage, she had been an organist for silent movies, and had been a concert pianist, and had taught piano using a system she’d designed. Dad often sang during these gatherings, and they gave a warm glow to Joanie’s heart; then, and now, with her new family.
ìIf the Lord Willsî
We’d been made to feel at home, and when dinner was over, we were invited to park along the driveway on this acreage owned by John; and where his folks, Russ and Charlotte, live in their thirty-year-old mobile home. The country setting of strawberry and raspberry fields and pastures was usually enhanced by Mt. Hood’s snow-covered appearance in the east, but the rain and clouds kept it undercover for the first two days.
However, in Oregon, the rain is seldom a deterrent to plans, so on Sunday, I joined Russ and Charlotte for a ride further into the country to attend their Community Christian Church, where she’s the pianist, and he and his partner played several duets on their harmonicas, concluding with Jesus Loves Me. Again, the music touched my heart, and the sermon’s message left a lasting impression.
The pastor’s informal talk was based on James 4, and he spoke of integrity and judgment, but the part that spoke to me was based on verse 15: “If the Lord wills, we shall live, and do this, or that,” which concluded a dissertation about the inadvisability of making plans without God’s guidance, or thinking we know what God has planned. In other words, it’s another way of saying “Turn it over to God,” or “Let go and let God.”
Godís Plan Prevails
I knew, without doubt, that the delay of our mail was definitely part of “the Lord’s will,” though I didn’t know why. I suspected that Van was learning a lesson about giving up his control, and especially using money and the lack of it as a control factor. It’s part of the money disorder syndrome, and I’d been praying that God remove the patterns that were keeping us in financial lack. Somehow the mail involved lessons that only God can teach. But most of all we were again remembering that God’s time is the best time.
So nothing more to do, but enjoy this time together with my new family, as Charlotte prepared leftovers for lunch, and then we all four went for a delightful drive along the Clackamas River.
Russ, who is nearly blind from the ravages of diabetes, and Charlotte, reminisced about their enjoyable fishing ventures along these waters, as we passed quiet pools or roaring rapids. She stopped at a picnic site, and despite the rain, we got out and walked to a vantage point where we could view the raging white water, an especially good fishing spot.
Russ smiled happily during this trip, and I suggested that they could return later in the summer, and perhaps again fish by parking close to the river. He began making plans, and Charlotte agreed, though we knew he may not live to fulfill them, because he’d been having strokes on a regular basis, and could only walk with a cane. And the worst news came when the doctor had recently said his medications could not be increased to thin his blood, which was basically a death sentence. So this time together was very precious to me. And I thanked God for the opportunity, even if it meant the mail didn’t reach us when weíd planned. God’s time prevailed.
This is More Like it!
We knew God was handling plans when Charlotte announced that she would be driving to Tualatin on Monday for lunch, with a longtime school friend. I asked if we could go along and check Marquam’s mail box, and she agreed; a blessing for her too, when she got lost trying to find the unfamiliar meeting place. With Van’s help, and my support, we were only a half-hour late.
And to Joanie’s delight our destination was the Country Buffet, owned by the same corporation as Home Town Buffet, a favorite restaurant of ours. Now, as planned, the ladies shared girl-talk, while Van and I ate at another table. Even though I’d been celebrating my birthday all month, Joanie was still disappointed about her aborted birthday celebration, so she allowed this to be a completion, and she felt happy.
The Missing Mail
When we got ready to go back home, Charlotte was still overwhelmed by the long trip, so I volunteered Van’s expertise at driving us back, much to her relief. More of God’s plans worked for us when she agreed to stop at Fred Meyer’s (where Marquam worked; along the way), and I asked him about our mail.
He didn’t have it, but he wanted us to see his new apartment, so we made a date to meet the next day at his old home and help with his final loads, whether or not our mail was at his old mail box when we checked it, on our way home. It wasnít.
By this time Van had become concerned about bills that needed to be paid, and I was anxious to hear from any Freedomers who were trying to keep in contact with my ministry-by-mail.
Morning Glories and Marionberries
Back home, in Freedom, we rested awhile, then pulled some morning glories that had wrapped around the marionberry bushes. Unraveling the beautiful flowerís stranglehold seemed therapeutic, as we wrestled with the mail dilemma that had us in its grips. We wore gloves to protect our hands from the thorns on the bushes we were trying to rescue, and yet we took care not to damage the fragile branches laden with unripe fruit.
By dusk, when we quit, I looked toward Mt. Hood, and the clouds had lifted. Now, a golden glow reflected the sun across the middle, with a sea of clouds below, and a crown of clouds across its peak; a glorious sight to behold. I was convinced the storm was over and that we’d have our mail the next day, and would finally move onward.
As Iíd predicted, we awoke to a clear, sunny day with Mt. Hood clearly visible in the distance. I grabbed my camera and took pictures to remember this scene, and the good times we’d had with my newfound family. As I aimed toward the mobile home, I spotted Uncle Russ sitting in a chair in the yard, so wandered over to get a closeup. He was pulling weeds, and soon Van and I were again pulling morning glories from the berries, as Charlotte joined us, and we chatted awhile before saying good-byes.
John and his wife came out too, and we thanked them for their hospitality at letting us park there.
He said, “That spot’s yours for life.” Later, as Van and I recalled the events, we remarked about the impact John’s offer made on us. We felt accepted, and that we belonged, and we were both happy that we had reconnected with this part of my family.
Mom Visits Joanie’s Home
I’d arranged to stop and visit Mom, on the way to Marquamís, and she greeted us in a pretty violet-colored dress, her hair combed, makeup on, and a smile. It felt good to see Mom doing so well.
I took Mom’s arm, and escorted her outside to Freedom, and helped her into my home. I took her picture, and Joanie rushed around getting favorite items to show Mom. It meant so much to her that Mom actually visited our home. Joanie said “Isn’t this fun; you’re visiting our home-on-wheels?” Mom smiled, but began looking uneasy. She doesn’t handle new experiences too well. I asked, “Do you want to go back?”
She nodded, so we helped her back to her familiar home, but while going down our two steps, she panicked and let go. Fortunately, Van lifted her down to the ground, and we each held her arms, as we escorted her inside.
We would be moving on, after today, and I felt sad as we said our good-byes, because I had no idea when we’d see Mom again. She had had several diabetic seizures, and almost died, so each visit could be the last. But with Freedom we could return soon.
The Mail Mystery Continues
When we arrived at Marquam’s mobile home, he wasn’t there; but the door was open, so Van went inside. Gary was sitting on the couch in a drunken stupor, and muttered, “He’s not coming back.”
Van didn’t bother explaining our plans to meet Marquam here, but asked about our mail. Garyís mumbling indicated that there had been no mail or UPS shipment for us. With that report I went into confusion. “Now what? And what about Marquam?”
We decided to eat lunch, while waiting for the day’s mail; and to figure out our next step in our travels.
Later, Van returned empty-handed from checking the mail. However, I spotted the UPS truck parked across the lot, so wandered over and asked about our package that was supposed to be delivered to Marquam.
“I gave it to your son several hours ago,” he said.
The mystery deepened, so I returned to Freedom, and said to Van “I don’t think you asked the right questions to get all the information from Gary. Go back and ask if Marquam left any message for us.”
Van asked Gary, “Is Marquam at his apartment?”
“Did he say for us to meet him there?”
Marquam’s New Apartment
We left that parking lot for the last time, and drove to the address of Marquam’s new apartment. We stopped at the Rental Office for directions, and I asked if there was someplace we could stay in Freedom for the night. With permission to park in front of the Rental Office (after 6:00 p.m.), we followed the directions and parked. I spotted Marquam waving from his balcony, obviously expecting us. I knew God must be assisting us through all these mix-ups; and at least we persevered.
Marquam smiled happily, as he showed us through his new apartment with its two bedrooms, open kitchen, Jacuzzi-bathtub, and view of trees, valley and distant mountains. What an impressive change! I felt happy for my son, as I fixed dinner in his new kitchen.
More Mail Saga
Then, because his phone wasn’t yet installed, he drove us to a phone booth. I asked Dottie to call Mail Box Etc. (in Colorado) about our mail, and then I called our friends, Gail and Eldon, and arranged to visit the next night. Assuming we’d have our mail, I called my brother, Bill, and arranged to stay at his place the following night in Salem.
In the meantime, Marquam asked the Office Manager about our UPS package. He learned that it had been refused and returned to the sender, because no one knew who we were.
I was devastated, because our much-needed products were now back in the company warehouse, and I had no idea where or how to receive them. It wasnít until later in our travels that the MLM company discovered the transaction, and we finally had them sent again; this time to Vanís mom in Santa Clara, California.
We didnít make contact with our missing mail, until then, because Bill, the Mail Box, Etc. person, hadnít sent it. In the meantime, another package of mail was forwarded, and got lost between Salem and Bend, Oregon. We eventually picked it up, when we returned to Colorado, where it had been returned.
We were learning that these were the hazards of traveling, and the lesson involved was simply to surrender it all to God, and deal with priorities, as ìThe Lord be willing.î
We finally moved forward to visit our friends, and then on to see my brother, Bill, in Salem. After leaving him, we spent more time in Salem awaiting the mail that never came; and even retracing our steps to Marquamís mobile home; all to no avail.
Finally, we released the mail to Godís time, and Van called our creditors and arranged payment of our monthly bills; and I wrote all family, friends and Freedomers with an explanation of the mail delay, and asked them to be patient, and to continue writing to the Golden, Colorado address.
The next mail forwarding didnít catch up with us for another month, when we eventually arrived in Santa Clara. But, in the meantime, we had many miles of wonderful travels before us, and visits with more family and friends.
COLLECTING WOOD AND CARRYING WATER
Joanie’s Fire Fears
The first evening of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, at Indian Ford National Park, in the Deschutes National Forest (in the Cascade Range), I talked Van into lighting the already laid campfire (thanks to the previous camper), and Joanie gleefully gathered pine cones to add. Little Ralph hovered by the fire rubbing his hands to get warm, but soon began to gather wads of pine needles and carefully arranged them in the rock enclosed fire-circle.
Both kids enjoyed the burst of flames, crackling fire and shooting sparks. Joanie, however, cringed in memory of another July Fourth, as a child at Kah-nee-ta.
Visitors had invited Joanie (then about five-years-old) to walk up the river to shoot fireworks: her first experience with them. At first it was fun, but someone shot a rocket into the night sky, and it landed on the dry hillside setting a fire. Joanie ran to the house as fast as her little legs could go, holding a smoldering punk in front of her, yelling “Fire! Fire!”
The hired men grabbed gunny sacks and shovels, and ran back to the hillside. The fire was soon extinguished, but the fear remained. Fireworks were never a favorite for me, unless a controlled display seen from a distance.
I’ve always had a deathly fear of fires from living at their mercy on the Indian Reservation with no readily available fire department. Once lightning caused a fire across the river and downstream from Kah-nee-ta, but within sight, and near enough to quickly destroy our home and the other buildings. I watched in terror from the house as the flames raced toward us. However, the men again faced the hazard and put out the fire.
Another time in dry pine woods similar to these at Indian Ford, near Bear Springs, Mother drove through a perilous fire raging on both sides of the narrow dirt road. We were like a moving bake-oven on wheels. I don’t know how we survived. In some ways, I didn’t, for the fear of fire remains with me.
Yet, it now seemed healing and somewhat safe to be sitting by these fire-ring-contained flames. And as Van found a poking stick and began fussing with the embers, I could see Little Ralph emerging from his cocoon. But as the fire died, and the cool evening air set in, we retreated to the comfort of Freedom, our home, parked nearby where we could enjoy the fire from our living room window. We discussed our trip plans, and I outlined an ambitious itinerary through southeastern Oregon and northern California to visit my brother, Gary, and then to Napa to visit our friend, Julie, and on to Santa Clara to spend time with Van’s mother.
He went to bed, but I sat and watched the fading embers. At first they seemed pleasant, but as one exploded and popped outside the fire-ring, I again felt fearful. As the old hyper-vigilant pattern took over, I sat up watching until the last spark died down to darkness. How powerful are these fear patterns, and how easily they take us from the joy of the present moment into reliving the past. But I managed to bring myself into the moment to enjoy the pitch black night with only the star’s brightness giving light. Solitude!
Little Ralph’s Coming Out
The next morning I awoke late to a bright sunshine, with the tall pine trees waving gently in the breeze, as I lay in bed looking upward from our uncovered window.
ìHow I love this place,î I thought, as I glimpsed Black Butte peeking through the dense trees beneath a deep blue cloudless sky. As I got up, I could see that Little Ralph had collected two plastic bags of wood and was piling them beside the fire ring. Later he made a stockpile of needles and cones.
When I asked if he’d enjoyed the previous evening, Little Ralph said, “Oh, campfires are kind of nice.” I chuckled at his apparent indifference, belied by his next comment, “There’s a kind of fascination with the burning.”
I was excited with this revelation, after Little Ralphís long hibernation ìin the holeî (prior to Vanís contacting his inner child), and slowly coming back to life.
I pursued further by asking why he’d collected the wood, and he replied, “Oh, it seemed we oughta be ready for the next night’s fire, ’cause there wasn’t enough left from last night. Remember, we were trying to keep it going by gathering needles and stuff. I thought it was kinda fun and was looking forward to it again.”
I rejoiced that the fire was also thawing-out Little Ralph. That’s the most enthusiasm I’d ever seen from him. This must be some kind of turning point. Yeah!
I felt so peaceful that I said to Van, “Let’s stay here, until after the Fourth Weekend?”
“Okay,” he responded over his late breakfast.
“In fact,” I added, “the trip I outlined seems exhausting. Let’s just go to Kah-nee-ta on Monday, and then take a direct route to Napa. We can do southeastern Oregon on our way north.”
“Sounds good to me,” Van answered munching his muffin while I watched a chipmunk dart from ground to table to bench and back to ground in an eye-blink, while a monarch butterfly glided by. All this accompanied by a nearby bird chirping his morning song.
A Casual Day in the Woods
The day passed pleasantly, and was having a tranquilizing effect, as we took two walks in the woods, chatted with passers-by, and walked across the narrow bridge to visit with Donna and Mervyn, the Camp Hosts.
The passers-by, grandparents taking their ten-year-old granddaughter for a summer tour, had stopped outside the campground for lunch in their motor home. Typical of RVers and travelers sharing information, they told us about Salome, a small town in Arizona, as an inexpensive place to winter, “If you don’t mind driving 55 miles to the supermarket.î
As the girl quietly cuddled against her granddad, content in this bonding time, we exchanged stories, as RVers do. We told them about our horror-story with mail forwarding that was already three weeks overdue, and I added, ìWith my ministry-by-mail we need a change.î They told us about Escapee for mail and message service. I hated the hassle of a change, but I liked the lady’s idea to do it gradually. We thanked them for the information, and bid farewell.
By then Donna and Mervyn had returned from Bend, so we sauntered over to talk with them. She showed off her new glasses, which she picked up in Bend. Joanie got a kick watching their Rotweiler dog, Reba, on a long chain (according to park rules) drooling as the chipmunks skittered across the driveway. To make matters worse, Donna kept tossing them potato chips, and the disciplined Reba could hardly contain herself. She’d cock her head to one side, and sometimes jolt involuntarily forward, as the chipper darted in front of her for another morsel.
Joanie was also entertained, as the Hosts (both talkers) offered ideas and experiences of their motor-homing. Donna gave us two croissants from a huge bag they’d bought at Costco, and I gladly accepted. I knew they’d be great with my unending roll of sliced turkey from Costco.
After a late lunch, we wandered through the forest and collected choice pieces of wood from the vast selection of fallen trees, branches and bark; in all stages from newly felled (in last winter’s winds) to old and rotted trees. The Forest Service had provided several marked trails and access roads that appealed to my need for variety, without worrying about getting lost.
Neighbor campers had arrived earlier and had gone bicycling, so I was startled when they knocked at my door and asked if we had coffee. I didn’t, but offered herb tea, which they accepted. We chatted briefly, and I invited them over later to our bonfire. This would be our first camp socializing event, and I realized that I’d become uncharacteristically non-social, while married to Van. I had, indeed, taken on his reclusive traits, especially as I isolated into my writing mode. He, on the other hand, had become more outgoing and social from his multi-level-marketing era.
Later as we sat by the campfire that Little Ralph had made, Lisa, Ed, and their Golden Retriever, Elwood, joined us for a pleasant evening of chatting while they sipped the borrowed tea. We learned that they’d driven from Pocatella, Idaho, for a few days break from their respective jobs: Ed, an ER doctor; and Lisa a hydrologist, who studies water and its flow, drainage, and properties. They loved hiking, biking, and camping as a respite, though Ed was tired from the long drive, and they still had before them a long trip to Salem, and back home. So as the fire died to embers, they said goodbye.
I’d earlier carried a pan of water from the creek, and Van poured it over the fire to end another day in the woods; and keep me from worrying about the sparks setting a fire.
An Unpleasant Trip to Town
Our tranquility came to a rude awakening the next day, when we drove the thirty miles to Bend, in search of forwarded mail that wasnít there. However, the trip along the way was enchanting, as we passed through the small, congested tourist town of Sisters, and then came out of the woods to view the snow-capped mountains of the forested Cascade Range: Three Sisters, Broken Top, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington, and the partially covered Ollalie Butte, which would soon lose its winter coat.
A serene setting as cattle grazed in the foreground pastures. But as we neared town, the land became dotted with large homes built by the California escapees, seeking relief from the recession, crime, and natureís disasters: earthquakes and fires. I wondered how long before they would recreate these conditions here. Already their consciousness had increased local crime and gangs, and they’d endured a terrible forest fire. As the old saying goes: wherever you go, you take you along. In other words, you must change within if you want outer changes. The Californiansí exodus reminded me of the joke about the newcomer to town who asked the local: ìWhat kinds of people live in this town?” The local asked, “What kind of people lived where you came from?” The newcomer replied, “Oh, wonderful people, good neighbors, and good businesses.” The local reassured him, “That’s the kind of people who live here.”
A few weeks later another newcomer approached him with the same question, and the local asked him same question. This newcomer replied, “Oh they were terrible. I hated my neighbors, and we didn’t even speak. And the business people were unscrupulous.” The local replied, “You’ll find the same kind of people here.” The truth is you can’t run away from yourself.
Iíd felt peaceful and optimistic as we traveled through the serene countryside, but I soon found myself facing myself, as we approached town to collect our mail forwarded to General Delivery.
But first, we were gleaning wisdom in our travels, and we had learned to stop at the Information Center for directions and local maps.
At the Post Office, I anticipated the long-awaited big package of forwarded Priority Mail, but my mouth dropped when the clerk returned empty-handed. We knew the mail was there, so sent her back to look again, and she returned with nothing but a kind smile of support, as I almost cried.
Returning to Freedom, I felt as if we had no control over something so vital to our lives, and I didn’t know who to blame; so got angry at Van, since he was nearest, though I wanted to blame Bill at Mail Box Etc. However, this time he really had mailed the package. So what had happened?
I issued orders to Van to call the Salem PO and see if the package had been forwarded from there; and to call Bill, in case he’d addressed it incorrectly.
As a matter of self-defense, Van’s first concern was to get me fed in order to sweeten my disposition, while figuring out the next step. We’d gotten directions from the Information Center, so while I fumed, he skillfully maneuvered through Bend’s hectic traffic (which added to my frustration), pulled up to the Original Pancake House, and hustled me inside. Nothing like a mushroom omelet and buckwheat pancakes to soothe shattered nerves.
In order to feel some degree of control in a no-control situation, I moaned, “Oh well, you might as well call Bobî (the driver from Beaver Motor Home Manufacturing, whom Steve had referred him to, as a job opportunity), ìto see about driving a coach for them to a dealership. Maybe we can get something beneficial from this Bend ordeal.î I paused, and then added, ìWhile weíre in town, you can fill out that postal form to start tracing our lost mail that was guaranteed two-day delivery.î
Van’s call to Bob was also thwarted, because his wife reported that he’d be back around 4 or 5, so another door wasn’t opening. I said to Van, “If this is “the Lord’s Will,” then I wish He’d let us know what’s going on.” Van nodded as he began filling out the lost letter form that heíd gotten at the Salem Post Office.
I took advantage of the time to call my brother, Larry, an electrician and one of the locals who deeply resent the exodus of Californians. I’d talked with his wife, Terry, from Salem, and learned that they didn’t have room for our motor home; but I still wanted to make the connection. However, when I got an answering machine, I felt that another door not opening in Bend must be telling me something: Get out of Bend.
The only positive result of our Bend expedition had been a reservation Iíd made for Monday at Kah-nee-ta Hot Springs, once owned by my adopted parents, and the scene of many happy childhood memories.
In fact, the phone call had been quite healing, as a pleasant receptionist handled the transaction. When I said that my father was Dr. Freeland, who once owned the resort, she gushed, “It will be a privilege to have you with us. Enjoy your stay.”
Wow! This was the first time in all these years that anyone even cared that my folks were the former owners. The Indians actually resented that there had been white owners, even though, as their resident doctor at the Warm Springs Indian Agency, he had been highly respected by them. This receptionistís friendly acknowledgment made my day.
I felt better now, but it was getting hot, and all I wanted was to get back to our forest and brook, so I reclined on the sofa, rubbing my head to relieve the tension, while Van chauffeured our chariot past the glistening snow-covered mountains. Soon the tension eased, and the trip passed quickly, as we pulled into our precious campsite.
Slow Me Down, Lord
Quickly, I took my new foldout chair down to the creek and sat in the ten-degree cooler shade and comfort, as I read my new book, An Alternative Lifestyle, about full-timing in an RV.
Soothed by the gurgling brook, chirping birds, and fluttering butterflies, with the sweet scent of wild roses wafting in the gentle breeze, the lost mail didn’t seem as important anymore. The pure fragrance of the stream reminded me of another time when I sat in this spot, and I drifted into euphoria recalling an article I’d once written, describing the aroma, as a realization of the Presence of God. The minister of our church, Rev. Ross Goodman, had published the article in our church bulletin, and my writing career had begun that Sunday morning, as I saw everyone in church reading my words.
Van’s appearance brought me back to reality, as he suggested we take a walk along the stream in the cool forest. With plastic bags in hand, he gathered more firewood to add to the unused portion. I filled my arms, and suddenly stopped in my tracks as a deer leaped across the path ahead of us in the evening dusk. What a thrill!
My arms ached by the time we returned, but I happily deposited the load, and took the plastic pail (which replaced the cumbersome pan) to the creek to fill for dousing tonight’s fire. Little Ralph lit his perfect fire that he’d laid before we left for Bend. The evening hours slid by, as we watched the flames slowly turn to embers from fast-burning pine cones, needles, and bark-covered branches to the slower burning blocks and limbs of hardwood. Indeed; a perfect fire and a pleasant evening to end the frustrations of the day that had already been lessened by the tranquility of the woods.
Yet, none of the frustration seemed important, as Van and I enjoyed each other’s quiet companionship, while watching the fire, smelling the pine trees, and watching the stars appear, as the embers faded. In time, though the two hardwood pieces continued to burn, it was time to put it out, so Van poured the water I’d brought earlier. I rejoiced as I realized that a teamwork effort created this intimate evening.
Surely, God was using this time to mend our relationship, in His own mysterious way. Perhaps this is the reason for the lost mail and delays; to slow us down and bring to our attention the true values and priorities in life.
If so, it was working; as the days flowed together over the July 4th weekend. I’d dreaded the impending crowds; but on the contrary, only a few campers came and went, otherwise our entire side of the campground remained empty. Some groups were settled behind us, and on the other side of the circle, but every place I looked, from our living room, was nothing but pine trees; and toward the creek the aspen trees rustled in the wind, and the wild rose bushes sent their sweet scent. We might as well have had the campground to ourselves. And we liked that.
Back to Basics
I began Independence Day with a meditation, then caught up on my writing, took a shower, and began to prepare a leisurely breakfast. I combined the leftover cottage-fried-potatoes and veggies (from the restaurant) into a stir-fry and placed in the microwave. However, I soon realized that our failing generator, which had already affected the inverter and electric blanket during the night, had stopped. Now our microwave was kaput, leaving me with cold frozen veggies.
I tried twice, and then asked Van to fix it, but he said that it required a professional mechanic, so this was the day to try our propane stove; and I had to face another of my fire-fears. What a day to push through this limitation!
Recalling Tim’s instructions at the RV dealership, Van lit the pilot light, and the burner, and voila’: fire. But no danger, especially with the two vents and windows open.
We enjoyed a delicious breakfast, which I topped-off with bagel and cream-cheese to begin this day to celebrate freedom. But I wonder: how many celebrate inner freedom? I could see that God was using this week to give me freedom from my fire-fears and other limitations, thus to open more levels of recovery.
The Silent Spectacular
Earlier I’d regretted not being able to watch the Washington D.C. July 4th Spectacular; but now, as we sat by our evening campfire, we enjoyed a live, Silent July 4th Spectacular (no fireworks), as we watched the clouds high above, and some poking through the trees, turn to soft golden, and then muted orange, and finally rosy pink; and the birds harmonious songs became the choir, and airplanes overhead added a dramatic climax.
Later in the evening, the blazing glory took place in our fire-ring: flamboyant oranges, golds, blues and greens sputtered and shot into the darkness. Not too much to be scary, but enough to be thrilling.
The entertainment was topped off by a special aerial show, given by a helicopter-like spider that descended from a tree high above, but appearing to hang suspended in mid-air. I swished a stick under the fierce-looking gray and red striped visitor, and he quickly retracted. However, we kept a watchful eye on him, and soon he’d landed on the table. When I poked a pine needle toward him, he zipped into the air. What a magical acrobatic performance! David Copperfield could not be more elusive with his illusionary mystique.
Finally, I begged Van to move our performer away, in case he retaliated with a fateful bite. Even as Van escorted him, waving beneath the stick, the performer fought his departure. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the eveningís events much more peacefully, and we remained outside until the stars appeared with their Grand Finale. What a Happy July 4th!
Saturday Morning’s Home Project
The morning passed quickly, as I continued writing, with a pen (since the generator no longer worked), and Van tackled a plumbing project under the wash basin. We were each doing what we enjoyed: my creating and his overcoming challenges — and both in our home with the lifestyle we loved.
As I wrote, putting into words the week’s events, I was gaining a better perspective on God’s purpose for our so-called challenges; the mail delay, the generator stoppage, and even the leak in the wash basin.
For instance, the mail delay gave us the opportunity to stay in one place and get our priorities aligned. I could see that our mail had supplied our drug-of-choice for our individual addictions: for me, the letters from Freedomers feed my codependency; and Van’s bills give him the opportunity to perpetuate his money disorder by providing financial challenges for him to overcome. This is fulfilled by his juggling the money and credit cards.
I’d been concerned, because he’d recently renewed several credit cards; a no-no in Debtors Anonymous. But he gave the logical reason that they make it easier to keep track of our spending. Yeah, we can watch more go out than comes in. This had already happened during our first month on the road. Now we were again faced with credit card debt.
Both of us knew adjustments must be made to continue this lifestyle. But I’m not willing to downsize any further, and I’m clear that my idea of roughing it is enjoying all the conveniences in Freedom. In other words, I was willing to put up without the generator, until we could regenerate the batteries; but not as an ongoing condition that means going without a microwave, computer or electric blanket. One of us, or both, would soon need to generate more income. Maybe thatís the correlation: generate/generator.
In any event, Van emerged from his plumbing project to announce, ìI’ve found the problem; now to fix it.”
“Congratulations,” I ventured, and looked up from my writing pad, atop the bed in the morning sunlight. Then added, “It’s getting so late; let’s eat brunch in town.”
“Okay,” he mumbled while attempting to repair the increased drip with duct tape, which he later complained, “Didn’t work,” necessitating a future visit to a hardware store; or possibly a plumber.
I finally reached a stopping place, and my fingers were numb, so I came up for air to find Van completing his project with a plastic dish pan under the basin. Having been married to a plumber (the first time), I smiled. I could still hear Randal’s comments on do-it-yourselfers, ìThey usually end up in a worse mess, and then pay much more to get it fixed than if they’d call the plumber in the first place.î
But I appreciated Van’s efforts, as he was quickly learning what other full-timers told us, ìYou’ll have to learn plumbing and electrical mechanics; often jerry-rigging with temporary measures, such as a dishpan or duct tape.î
A Little Drive to Sisters
Earlier in the morning Van had announced, “We’ll need to take Freedom for a little drive today to recharge the storage batteries.”
“Okay, let’s go to Sisters, it’s only five miles away, and I can get a few groceries, then we can survive on sandwiches, salads, and deserts.”
So, once our dayís projects were completed, we drove to Sisters. I’d dreaded the venture to this tourist packed town, because through the years I’d allowed my limitations to include avoidance of crowds, especially with the Saturday Afternoonís Vendor’s Fair in progress on this holiday weekend. I knew it would be crowded, yet I also knew it was one more God-opportunity for me to overcome another anxiety, discomfort in crowds, which Iíd developed in recent years, probably from my association with Van, who is non-social.
The small community, surrounded by pine trees, sits in full view of the Three Sisters Mountains, and other snow-covered peaks that glisten in the afternoon sun; truly a picture-postcard setting.
We were surprised to find plenty of space in front of Ray’s supermarket, proudly a member of Western Family grocers, located at the north entrance to town. Joanie and Little Ralph loaded the cart with chips, cheese and crackers, and apple pie (on sale for $2.50), while Joyanna grabbed a head of lettuce and some drinking water.
It was fun shopping together now, but for most of our marriage Van wouldn’t even enter a store. It was one of the many positive changes of retirement that I now enjoy.
Though the supermarket hadn’t been crowded, I felt anxiety and wanted to go back to our woods, but we decided to push through our resistance to crowds, and go into the heart of town, three blocks further.
To our surprise, parking was easy on a side street, probably because it was getting late. We were getting hungry, so we immediately headed for The Gallery Restaurant, even though it was the busiest; but the hamburgers were worth the wait. And the busy waitress took time to answer our questions, such as where to find almonds: at the liquor store. She also told us the Saturday Flea Market closed at 5:00, and we probably wouldn’t make it.
We didn’t, but Liquor Plus was a touristís delight with everything from candles to T-shirts, and some fancy wines, but no almonds. However, the clerk referred us to Apple Jacks, two blocks away, at the end of town, where we found raw almonds at this folksy natural foods store.
Then we rushed two blocks west to find the Saturday Market taking down tents and loading their vehicles. Actually, for us it was more fun watching the vendors scurry about and quickly disappear, after a long day. We didn’t want to buy anything anyway, and this activity added to our adventure in town.
We recognized the rewards of changing our pattern of isolation and pushing through our limitations to enjoy several hours in town.
The Headwaters of the Metolius River
But the day wasn’t over, and we needed to push a little further in our new lifestyle, by overcoming our tendency to avoid the unfamiliar, as we began our search for the dump site. We’d been told it was at Camp Sherman, five miles northeast on a paved side-road.
As we wound along another mountain road, Van mumbled about the distance, but I finally said, “Well, I wanted to see this area, and we agreed that since we didn’t bring our car, we could drive Freedom on short side trips. Anyway, I want to circle around to the headwaters of the Metolius that’s mentioned on the sign.”
Van looked muddled as he asked, “Why didn’t you tell me that? I didn’t know you had all that in mind.” With the further information, he relaxed as we kept going and going in pursuit of the elusive dump. After asking two different people, we finally found it, at least ten miles from our campground.
This woodland Mecca of summer homes, campgrounds and RV parks teemed with people, as it proved to be the destination of many travelers, campers and RVers. But, we readily concluded that we liked Indian Ford best.
After dumping, I said, “It’s still light, and I want to take the loop to see the headwaters of the Metolius, as I said before.î I guided Van back to the turnoff, then I made sure he had all the information, as I added, “It’s about two miles, then we park and walk to the springs.”
“Why are you just now telling me this?” Van asked with some hostility.
“Because I just found out from the man who came to the dump, after us. I asked him while you were putting away your hose.”
As we approached the parking lot, I realized the importance of this conversation. It was an honest-to-goodness communication process. Not unusual, but Little Ralph was letting Joanie know that she hadn’t included him in all the information. He was expressing his need to be given more details. Hooray! What a breakthrough, and more healing in our relationship.
Walking along the paved path to the headwaters, we suddenly came to a clearing, and before us spread a green meadow with the Metolius River flowing through. Towering beyond the scene was snow-covered Mt. Washington, in the distance. Awestruck, we stopped and absorbed the beauty. But that was only the beginning of this awesome place.
A few steps further, revealed the headwaters of the river, actually flowing out from under the hillside, and becoming the Metolius River. Silence is the only way to grasp nature’s phenomenon. I thought about our feelings at the mouth of the Columbia River when it emptied into the ocean. Now we watched this spring form into another river.
I realized that it’s all too vast for our understanding. We try to comprehend the wonders of God, but like the psalmist said: ìSuch knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain itî (Psalm 139:6).
It’s Hard to Say Goodbye
As I write on this last day in the forest, the campers and RVers are packing up and leaving. A fleeting sadness of loss overcomes me, but vanishes as I look forward to our next encampment, Kah-nee-ta Hot Springs.
But the chapter isn’t over yet, and as I read it thus far to Van, I asked, “What do you think is the message?”
Taking life at face value, Van replied, “Traveling Information? I don’t know; I don’t get messages.” An honest self-insight.
I clarified my question, “So what’s the point? I mean other than God slowing us down by delaying our mail and incapacitating our computer so our drugs-of-choice are gone, and mending our relationship.”
He looked blank, so I said, “Okay, that’s what I need to write, but the day isn’t over, and so I’ll wait and see what God gives me to say.”
I got dressed, and put out the bowl of fresh cherries, and ate my breakfast bar. Just then the unfriendly neighbors pulled out in their 32 ft. Coronado coach with their white pickup in tow, and the sadness returned. As we waved, and they didn’t respond, I knew that I needed to pursue this feeling.
Yes, the abandonment syndrome surfaced, with deep pain that brought tears as John and Katrina, the friendly overnighters, with their two small boys, pulled out. It seemed important to go to the front of their Itasca camper and wave. Unlike the others, they responded, and drove off.
Again I felt the overwhelming sadness. I could see why God prompted us to stay one day beyond the short-term vacationers, so we wouldn’t be engrossed in our own departure and would miss our feelings. I knew that Van too, felt the loss, as he came inside and sat down with his Game Boy, while I wrote. Little Ralph sniffed loudly as long-held feelings surfaced.
The other family behind us had been taking down their tents, and were now ready to leave. No longer would we hear the gleeful laughter of the little boy racing around the circle, or playing with his Dalmatian puppy. I watched as the adults sauntered toward their vehicles, reluctant to leave. Little Ralph asked, “What do you see?”
“They’re about ready to leave,” I replied.
“I know,” he said, and shifted to another chair where he could watch their departure; and resumed his Game Boy.
“Time for a walk,” I said, and he readily agreed.
As we prepared to leave, a pickup headed down the road. “Oh, maybe it’s someone new,” I said in anticipation.
“No, it’s hooking up to the fifth-wheel where the guy was working with his generator. He said that he once had the same problem as ours, and that we need new storage batteries,î Little Ralph confided, as he slumped back into his chair.
“C’mon,” Joanie urged, hoping to change his sullen mood, ìLet’s go talk with Donna and Mervyn awhile.”
“Okay,” he said, jumping up from his now abandoned Game Boy.
Joanie walked down the red dirt road, while Little Ralph got ready. As I approached the departing family, I said, “We’re going to miss you. It’s sad to see you leave.” It helped to heal the sadness by verbalizing my feelings.
“We’re sad to leave,” one replied, and another said, “Bucky is crying. He doesn’t want to leave.”
I smiled and said to the little boy, “We’re going to miss you running around the circle.” He rubbed his eyes.
His mom said, “We thought you’d wonder what kind of mother I am, but he sure slept good.”
I laughed and said, “That’s exactly what I said to Van: ‘Run another lap, son.’ He’ll sleep good tonight.”
Van caught up with me, and as the four vehicles began their trek around the circle to the exit, we headed across the bridge toward Donna and Mervyn’s site.
We exchanged final waves, as the four vehicles filed by, while we chatted with our Camp Hosts; thus replacing a negative feeling of someone leaving, with a positive feeling of continuity, and serving as good therapy for changing the abandonment pattern.
The Wayward Campers
Donna was collecting from a newcomer, and Mervyn immediately started talking about the wayward campers we’d just passed.
ìYeah, I noticed two cars and a tent at one space, but no one in sight. Just beer bottles, a stereo, guitar, and other belongings strewn about the place,î I said, and added, ìIím glad I hadn’t known this wild party was going on so close by.î
Mervyn continued, “They said they hadn’t paid because they’re waiting for their friends to wake up, and some other friends in the campground would pay for them.”
We laughed, as Donna and the newcomer approached. The fellow amiably reported, “We’ve been over to Peterson’s Rock Garden. I haven’t been there in thirty years. It’s beautiful.”
“Itís been over 40 years for me,î I said, and I looked at Van as I added, “It’s one of the places I wanted to show you.” We all discussed the fabulous collection of rocks, and the fellow gave us directions, then left.
Donna said, “We wanted to tell you goodbye, because our managers are treating us to pizza tomorrow, at our weekly meeting in Sisters. We’ll be back late, so if you leave early, we’ll miss you.”
“Don’t worry,” I said, “we won’t be leaving early.”
The conversation returned to the tenters, and Donna said, “I went over to the other group and said, ‘Your friends said you’ll pay for them!’ The guy took out his wallet and handed me ten dollars from a large wad. So, at least they had money. I told them they had to leave by 2:00 p.m.”
She stopped the conversation, as she spotted an unaccounted- for-vehicle and horse-trailer parked near their site. “They haven’t paid,” she said, “I’d better leave them a Courtesy Note.”
As she and Mervyn tended business, we walked to the entrance to read a Historical Landmark. It said that Indian Ford was mentioned in John Fremont’s travels, and also by a Lieutenant Abbott of the survey team for Pacific Railroad in 1855.
By the time we returned to our site, it was noon. When passing the tenters, where nothing had changed, I said to Van, “At least they got our minds off our sadness.”
Suddenly my mood switched to anxiety, and I said, “I hope they leave before Donna and Mervyn go to their meeting tomorrow. Van didn’t seem concerned, so I said, “Let’s go for a walk by the creek.”
A Tapestry in the Forest
Knowing this would be our last major walk, I mentally noted every detail: sight, sound, aroma.
Even now I can close my eyes and see the tapestry of brilliant colors: flowers, such as orange Indian paint brush, and wild lilies, adding their riot of color to the more abundant yellow ones: some small daisy-like, and others that were bell-shaped, with an abundance of cluster-types; and at least three varieties of purples: mostly nameless to me, except for the purple lupine, whose rare brilliant tiny blue blossoms were like treasures. And of course, the scented, pink wild roses along the creek, adding their aroma to my senses. Another pink blossomed bush also bloomed along the gurgling brook; and the prolific white herb, yarrow, blossomed everywhere.
The sound of birds singing, chirping, or flitting through the trees touched my sense of hearing, and also sight; especially the red-winged ones, possibly robins.
Donna had said that some frequent bird-watchers said the rare white-headed woodpeckers had been spotted in these woods. I did hear a woodpecker, but didn’t see it. The scolding bluejays were more predominant; not to be outdone by the gray tree-squirrels, who chattered loudly when we got too near their domain.
And wherever we walked, the sight and smell of the pine trees permeated our senses: the lime green moss on the limbs, and the rippled brown bark formed maps along the trunks, with the long, sharp needles, and the familiar pine cones. A sightless person could recognize the many facets of the pine tree; or the wind rippling through the light green aspen leaves shimmering in a ballet above their white trunks. And who can forget the sound of the wind whispering through the pine trees?
The sights and sounds of the forest linger; I can still smell the pines, and roses, the brook, and the campfire. Fortunately, one aroma missed my memory bank; that of a black and white skunk waddling to the creek one morning for a drink. Nothing interrupted his journey, and he was given no reason to ward off with a raised tail. Another soundless animal that appealed to Joanieís sense of sight was the golden-headed tannish chipmunks with spotted stripes going down their back, while frisking in the sunlight, or shade, or almost anyplace.
As we walked through the forest that last day, I marveled at the myriad stages of wood; from the tall, stately living trees to the dead, decaying ones. Some had been dead so long they literally returned to the earth as mulch in colors from white to brown; and others, fallen from the last winter’s storm, were still quite green. Sun-bleached white tree corpses also accented the trails.
When it came to collecting firewood, we experimented with various stages to see which burned the fastest or longest. We selected from all sized limbs, branches, stumps and trunks. Some, in advanced stages of decay, literally broke apart when we picked them up. Others stabbed into my arms when carrying them back to the campsite.
Now, we followed the path along the creek, until it ended, then we moved to a designated trail with little markers to keep us from getting lost, and finally we returned on the “Roads to Trail,” formerly a road, now relegated to walking and biking, but no motorized vehicles. The Deschutes National Forest map shows this obscure road goes six-miles, from here to Sisters, but we didn’t pursue that route.
It’s Not My Problem
Soon after we returned from our walk, I noticed Donna and Mervyn parked at the squatterís camp. It was 2:30, and they hadn’t left, so the Camp Hosts couldn’t leave for their 3:00 pizza till the stand-off, or sit-in, was resolved.
We watched the events, while I prepared our late lunch over the campfire to conserve electricity. Ordinarily this is pushing roughing-it too far, but Joanie viewed it as fun this time, especially because Little Ralph built the fire and was helping. I improvised camp pots from throw-away pie tins, and heated the spaghetti in one, french-fries (left over from our Sister’s lunch) in another, and apple pie in a third. I added a touch of elegance with Parmesan cheese and butter on dark rye bread, and warmed it.
Keeping an eye on the neighboring activity, I went inside to prepare a tossed salad, adding the leftover coleslaw from Sisters, and olives for a garnish. We ate royally with ample entertainment, as Donna and Mervyn left, and soon returned with Reba on a leash, joined by the newcomer from across the circle, whom they had enrolled to help. Much to my relief, they stayed until the squatters left.
I didn’t realize, at first, that another pattern had been surfacing: someone who’s supposed to be in charge leaves (either mentally, as my mother going crazy, or emotionally as a result of alcohol, as Mom Freeland, or physically, as my biological Dad; and now Donna and Mervyn leaving the camp unattended. What if the squatters returned to seek revenge? And I’m left to “take care of,” but not equipped, as too young, or not having the knowledge or ability to do the job.
But this time the pattern was changed; it was handled before they left, and I turned my fears over to God, and spent the afternoon heating water and doing dishes, then writing. Van kept busy fueling the fire and playing Game Boy.
It’s surprising how quickly time passes without our addictions to occupy our time. Part of the afternoon was spent watching five or six ants move a huge dead bug across several feet to their ant hill, where the entire colony pitched in to work it through the hole.
Later in the afternoon, I heard Donna’s camper coming our way. Mervyn was collecting cigarette butts and paper with a pointed stick, and Donna was collecting rent from a newcomer. I couldn’t stand the suspense, so I asked, “What happened?”
Stabbing at a piece of paper, Mervyn said, “Oh, not much, after I brought Reba, and the other camper; heís a deputy sheriff with a gun, and wearing his badge. Once he spoke to them, they left!”
I thought, isn’t it amazing how God handles things when we turn it over? Imagine, the only other camper is a deputy sheriff.
Donna arrived to add her part, “Before Mervyn and Reba arrived, the squatter took one tin can to the garbage can, then came back and got a piece of paper and took that over; like to show me he didn’t have to hurry. But their pace sure changed when Mervyn, Reba, and the Deputy Sheriff arrived.”
We agreed that they were acting out childish behavior that would ultimately mess up their lives, if not already.
Mervyn added, “Well, it’s not our problem.”
I said, ìIt could have been, but you thwarted it.” And I noted to myself, ìItís not my problem, either. Isnít that nice, Joanie?î
She agreed, as I returned to Little Ralph, still watching his fire.
Recounting the report to Van, I said, “That’s the behavior of wounded inner kids, who haven’t healed their inner child.”
He nodded, and stirred the fire, as I added, ìIím thankful for our recovery. Remember, John Bradshaw calls the healed inner child the Wonder Child?î
I paused and asked, ìHow about if I heat the apple pie over this nice fire, and we have some cheese with it?”
Of course, he agreed, and stirred the flames higher.
An unusual evening chill drove us inside early this last evening, and Van poured the bucket of water he’d carried from the creek over the dying embers, as Joanie watched with no fear or painful memories; only joy for the happy time in the pines at Indian Ford National Park.
GOING HOME IS NOT GOING BACK
You Can See Forever
The brownish dead juniper trees stood as sentinels of doom attesting to the disaster caused by the fire that burned out of control, over 10,000 acres of this Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Nearly a dozen homes were destroyed, and Kah-nee-ta Hot Springs, my childhood paradise, was nearly wiped out.
I felt a sense of foreboding as we drove along the familiar ten miles toward my beloved former homeland. Perhaps it was the sudden temperature change from the shaded forests of the Cascade Mountains to this desert domain. Or perhaps the altitude drop caused my body reactions: head pressures and irritability. Or perhaps subconsciously I knew something deep within me would be changed forever.
Mt. Jefferson’s majestic snow-covered peaks reigned in the distance across the plateaus to the west, and I said to Van, “Remember when we stayed at the lodge at Kah-nee-ta and hiked up the hillside? I was so surprised to see the mountain peaks visible through this pass.”
He smiled, but kept focused on the road. We passed the former Council Chief, Isaac McKinley’s home, burnt to the ground. I remembered another time, as a child, when the men from the Hot Springs had come to save his home from another fire. This time, even with all the fire crews helping, nature finally had her way, and returned everything to ashes.
We dropped over a rise and the imposing Kah-nee-ta lodge could be seen in the distance to the east. Before its presence filled the scene, I’d always loved this view. As a child I’d thought I could see forever, and I now said to Van, “I’ll bet we can see 60 miles across those hills to that furthest plateau.” Then I fell silent, as reality brought to my attention, that it’s only about ten miles to the Deschutes River which flows along the bottom of that table top; an obvious lesson in perspectives.
A Glimpse of Joyanna’s History
The reality of the ten-miles, to the Deschutes River, had come to my attention many years ago, when I met my first husband, Randal. He and his friend, Don, had come with Randal’s parents for a vacation.
We’d been swimming that afternoon, and at eighteen, fresh out of high school, I’d set my cap to gain his interest. He’d been too indifferent, even when his dad forced him to get out of the water and drink a soda that I sold at the pop stand.
As evening came, and darkness set in, with Don still not returned from a hiking-fishing trip to The Deschutes, I used the situation to get better acquainted with Randal. I said, “I’m going to drive the jeep to find Don. Do you want to drive us down?” Oh the wiles of women. The handsome older (26 years) man, a plumber with his own business, didn’t have a chance.
Once we found Don, plodding along the dark road, I snuggled next to Randal, in the front seat, to make room for him to scoot into place. And that’s how it all began.
Cooling Off in the Hot Springs
But now, as Van and I passed the pasture where the three horses and several cows, we once owned, had roamed, Van carefully maneuvered Freedom down the steep, winding adobe hillside into the canyon that followed the Warm Springs River into Kah-nee-ta.
I’d been apprehensive about taking this switchback descent in Freedom, but Van had now become proficient at negotiating mountain roads, so I concentrated on the view. To the left, the river cascaded through a narrow gorge surrounded by high colorful rock walls and formations, with several caves.
These canyons and hillsides evoked more memories. For instance, while still in high school, I’d left my adopted parents and returned to my natural father, Barney, and his second wife, Ermith. Along with my three brothers, Gary, Larry and Bill, we’d camped in a huge cave at the upper hot springs hidden in the secluded valley visible only from the mountain above (where we now wound down the road).
We’d hiked into the cave, along the trail that followed the river, and set up camp. We sought respite from the summer heat by walking across the river on a natural rock-bottom. At first, we carefully walked across the dangerous looking rapids, rushing over the rocks, but we soon discovered that we could sit in the middle and cool off, while the hot sun beat on our heads. Much to our surprise, we discovered hot springs bubbling through the rocks, which became our favorite spots.
This had been a memorable time of bonding with my natural family, but now the area is fenced-off, and no one is allowed on this tribal-owned land.
Tonka, the Wild Horse
As Van continued our descent, another canyon (to the right) brought more memories. This very scene appeared in the movie, Tonka, The Wild Horse, which we watched being filmed one summer, when Dottie and Gail were about five and six.
I remember arriving in the area, as Sal Mineo, playing an Indian lad, was riding across the hills with the Calvary in hot pursuit. I’d always imagined such a scene being filmed in these hills, and before my eyes the dream was being enacted.
Suddenly, to the shock of everyone watching, he fell from his horse. Attendants rushed him to a waiting ambulance (part of the entourage) and drove to the nearest hospital in Madras. We later learned that he’d broken his ankle, and a stand-in, Junior LeClaire, a local Indian, filled in for the distance shots.
Now, at the bottom of the hill, as we crossed the river and turned down the valley floor of the third arm of the canyon, I could still imagine the catering tent setup, where the actors lunched. One of them, Raphael Campos, had invited us to join him for watermelon and sandwiches. What a magical time!
But now, with Van at the wheel of Freedom, I watched a mother duck and her brood sitting on a rock in the river where I’d once sat with Raphael to cool off between takes.
In that 100 degree temperature, Jerome Courtland, another actor, had walked from his trailer-bus/dressing room, which was parked along the side of the road on the hillside, and cooled off by swimming in the refreshing river.
Another Fire Story
Every turn and every direction held memories, mostly happy ones, of that idyllic life. But as we drove along the final stretch, before entering Kah-nee-ta, the house across the river reminded me of a sad memory. Mom Freeland had begun drinking as the stress of life burdened her, and it culminated one Memorial Day weekend, at the lovely home they were having built by the beauteous bend in the river (where this one now stands).
We’d again made the laborious journey from our home in Lake Oswego, near Portland, so that Randal could continue plumbing the four-bathroom house with two walk-in bathtubs, where he had spent many hours over many weekends.
While he worked, the girls and I had gone to the river so I could relax while they played in the water; and to quiet the house while Dad Freeland napped.
When I returned, I learned that Dad had walked to the hot springs to look for me. I realized that Mother had been drinking, and she was preparing to leave. We argued, and as she stumbled along the walkway to the car, she reached to the ground, picked up a rock, and threw it at me.
I ducked into the house, and it missed, but I yelled at Randal, who was working at his noisy lead-pot and didn’t hear the raucous, and said, “We’re going home!”
The next day, Dad Freeland had again gone to the hot springs to see the new owners. Mother had still been drinking and raging, and when he returned the house was ablaze. It burned to the ground, and everything they owned was destroyed; except for a tapestry, which I gave to my brother, Bill, during our visit in Salem, and her beloved tigers-eye ring.
As I’m writing, I realize that house was in the same location where the July Fourth fireworks had set off a fire. No wonder I have such an aversion to fire. And these memories reminded me of the violent side, rather than the idyllic Kah-nee-ta that I dearly love.
Disruption and Chaos in Paradise
Bringing my attention back to the present, while crossing back over the river to the RV Park, after checking in at the entrance, we saw further evidence of nature’s violence. The most recent disaster had been a flood in February 1996 that wiped out every building in “The Village,” the area of Kah-nee-ta where our family home and the cabins had been (before demolished to build the luxury resort that no longer exists).
The Village had been closed during the 1996 summer season, but they had rebuilt the dressing rooms, and refurbished the swimming pool, adding a waterslide. Other buildings, the restaurant, game room, gift shop and bath house were under construction. But a feeling of loss and disruption prevailed as bulldozers, trucks, and workmen scurried about their business of rebuilding.
To accommodate guests, a high priority, the teepee village had been replaced, and the RV Park was reinstated; so we could bring our own accommodations. However, a 25-room lodge was due to open in August, and another 25-room building would be built next. For now, the grounds around the first building were cordoned off, and inside, completions were in progress.
But for now, disruption and chaos seemed to prevail, and for some inner reason Joanie was devastated. While Van set up Freedom, I collapsed on the bed, where I could see the hillside I’d roamed as a youngster. Nostalgia took over as Joanie’s silent prayer seemed to be, “I’m here, and itís enough.” She was too lethargic, in the heat, to do anything.
After five days in the woods, I’d been looking forward to hooking up at Kah-nee-ta and enjoying the luxury of electricity: air conditioning, TV, microwave and computer. Instead, soon after the hook-up, the air-conditioning stopped. Van tried to determine the cause, but his only clue was the inverter was hot. He already knew we needed four new storage batteries, but opted to buy them after Kah-nee-ta, thinking the hookup would be a temporary solution. It wasn’t!
I finally managed to trudge along the construction areas, but I knew something was happening, as Joanie mumbled with turbulent feelings, “Disruption, chaos, everything topsy-turvy. Nothing the same. I hate it! I hated it then, after Mother started drinking, and I hate it now. I always hate it.” Nothing more surfaced, but I just wanted to lay on the bed, so I returned to Freedom, but with no solace.
I felt hopeless, angry, hot, short-tempered and incapacitated. Though I tried to convince myself that God’s Time is the best time, life seemed chaotic, disrupted; just like Kah-nee-ta. Nothing seemed to work: no mail, no phone contacts, no electricity. For every forward, positive step, I seemed to be on a treadmill that goes no place.
When I bottom-lined the problem, I concluded that Van’s underearning pattern kept us locked into lack, and he seemed content with the situation.
Needless to say, I wasn’t. I wanted to enjoy our lifestyle; with some extras. For instance, I wanted to stay longer at Kah-nee-ta, but knew we couldn’t afford it. Everything reverts to money.
The downward spiral was spinning, as I wondered why I couldn’t get my writings published. I couldn’t even generate a nickel from my writing, so it must not be all Van’s fault. What then, is the answer? Is it all a matter of the Lord’s will, as Iíd concluded in Portland? And exactly what is ìthe Lordís willî?
In the Cool of the Evening: More Memories
After dinner, in the cool of the evening, we walked along the river, back to a special place I call Heavenly Paradise, because of the sandy beach, two pine trees, and the gurgling river that seemed to talk to me. This place also had memories of the first time Randal (my first husband) and I spent time together having a picnic and getting acquainted.
Van interrupted my introspection, “My Love, I don’t think your special place is here anymore.”
Van and I could see that, since the flood, the dike had been built higher, and we could see trees and debris still caught in the branches. However, as I peered into the darkness, over the bank of rocks and gravel, I still heard the gurgling river.
“It’s got to be here,” I said, as I walked ahead and scrambled down the bank. Sure enough, a small remnant of sandy beach remained, but a dead, uprooted tree covered most of it. I stood a moment, and then moved on.
Just then, in the dusk, a young boy appeared along the path. “Are you fishing?” I asked.
He held up a 12 inch trout. “Yeah, I caught it right here. It’s a great spot. I could have caught more, but they kept eating my worms.” His dad and uncle walked by, and he joined them.
“Congratulations,” I called after him.
I could feel his smile in the darkness as he shouted back, “Thanks,” and disappeared into the night.
Walking back to Freedom in silence I thought, “Maybe this is what today’s about: changes, and life going on; not staying the same. Once a girl named Joanie played here; then a young woman named Joann became engaged. Another era, and she brought her adult son to this spot, and shared the memories. And today a young boy caught a fish. I shed a tear as I write closure to this chapter of my life.
Life goes onward. We grow older. We grow up. We’re not the same. We can remember the past, and revisit the places, but we must let go of those stored feelings and live in the present moment.
A Different Point of View
The next morning, the shuttle picked us up in front of Freedom, and the driver, Gordon, filled in the details of the fire and flood. He said that the flood had reached the eaves of the roofs of the cottages, so everything was ruined and had to be demolished. He also said that he had been trapped here, when the fire blazed all around.
I shared with Gordon my memories of the floods that I remembered about Kah-nee-ta. The first one, when around five, I’d been carried out on horseback to our home at Warm Springs, where Dad was physician for the agency. Another time, the entire dam and new waterwheel was wiped out. I explained that I wasn’t there that time.
Nor was I there, years later, when history repeated itself, and Dottie (about the same age Iíd been when rescued) got stranded by a flood here, when staying with her grandparents. That time, a hired hand hiked out over the hill, hitched a ride into Warm Springs, and called me. Since it was almost Christmas, Randal and two of my brothers drove from Portland to the hilltop and hiked in to retrieve her and carry her out to the waiting car, and back home for Christmas.
Gordon reminded me that another flood occurred in the 1960’s, after the tribe owned the hot springs resort; but this one had done little damage.
Inside the dining room, the Belgian waffle tasted as delicious as when Van and I had stayed here and paid the price for the luxury view. Now, from our vantage point, we could see the burnt junipers across the river, and within yards of The Village below.
I began to realize that our lifestyle too, had changed since Van’s retirement, and we were dealing with the after-effects of his downsize reality. However, now, living in Freedom, the pain of growing up is a matter of accepting life as it is, while moving forward.
Joanie now was learning and accepting these lessons, as part of her growing up process. For instance, she’d also wanted another breakfast selection, but rather than gorging on two, or taking some home, she said “No.” And again when Van suggested we stay another night, she said, “No.” Likewise, she passed through the casino without succumbing to temptation.
And, at first, she had been reluctant to allocate her short Kah-nee-ta time to laundry; but, after her Belgium waffle and huckleberries, she willingly looked forward to it, and once back with Freedom, she willingly gathered up the soiled clothes, and with Little Ralph’s participation, the laundry was done, as a team effort. She liked that, and felt good about putting away the clothes and making the bed.
With all the chores done, she readily fixed lunch and secured Freedom for the departure from our space into the parking area, where we could stay while she went swimming.
Whereas at first Joanie had felt deprived at staying only one night, and fell into a pattern of “I can’t have what I want,” her new growing up attitude resorted to acceptance.
Part of her “I can’t have” pattern had been to deny herself anything she wanted, such as “There’s not enough time, so I won’t even go swimming.” But with her new attitude she enjoyed the allotted hour of swimming, felt complete with the experience, and was ready to get out.
During this process, a major pattern, and realization evolved which added to Joanie’s further healing.
I read in John Bradshaw’s “Homecoming” book that when a child isn’t allowed the opportunity to be a carefree, protected, nurtured child, and is burdened with too many responsibilities, too soon, an underlying resentment and anger takes place; a feeling of having been ripped off, without consciously knowing why.
This realization surfaced as Joanie’s resentment at “having too much to do” and “no time to play” manifested as an almost paralyzing effect of not able to do anything, unable to function; when we first arrived at Kah-nee-ta.
God’s Infinite Wisdom
With God’s wisdom at allowing me to re-experience the events and feelings, similar to childhood: Mom Freeland over-taxing me with “go here, do that,” which is part of the too much to do syndrome, my adult-self understood Joanie’s rebellion, and more healing took place.
God contributed more miracles, during our short Kah-nee-ta trip, by having the extreme heat minimized when a cool air system clouded the area.
Though I’d flourished in the dry heat during my childhood, and sported a tan so dark that I was accused of being a blue-eyed Indian, in my adult years I’d developed a low-tolerance to heat, which resulted in body discomforts. Therefore, the cool weather aided in the completion of the necessary chores; and also avoiding uncomfortable sunburn, while swimming.
Returning over the route from Kah-nee-ta, I felt grateful for the lesson: You can go home, but you canít go back.
Of course not, thank God; because we’re always learning and changing, as we move on through life. So we can go home, but we don’t go back. We move forward!
LITTLE RALPH IS GROWING UP TOO!
Watch That First Step
Zipping along Highway 97 toward Bend, Van read a sign, “Crooked River RV Park,” and asked, ìDo you think we should stay there?” By the time we decided, we had passed the turnoff.
“I think we should call and make sure there’s space,” I replied, “it’s probably down a long, winding grade.” I was elated that Van had made a suggestion, and I wanted to support his idea.
We stopped and called the RV Park, and once the reservation was confirmed, we returned to the turnoff, and headed down the winding grade.
Even at dusk, on this overcast day, the view of colorful rimrock along the canyon was spectacular. We were following all the signs, but soon came to a point of decision: two RV Parks were available. We chose the second, River Rim RV Park, which offered a closer space to the edge and wasn’t as crowded, plus the manager offered us a reduced rate, and we thanked God for revealing this idea to Van, or maybe it was Little Ralph who knew this place was special.
Too late and windy to explore our surroundings at night, we anxiously waited until morning. After I’d finished writing my chapter, we walked a short distance to the edge. I mean, there was nothing but air between us and the 500 ft. drop to the Crooked River snaking along its course below.
Little Ralph refused to go closer, but Joanie held onto the last fencepost and peered over. Whew! She drew back a respectful distance and followed the path with Little Ralph; and took some pictures, as she teased, “My Love, stand over here by the edge so I can take your pictures.”
“You gotta be kidding. No thanks.”
Soon our fun was over, so we left the RV Park and drove to nearby Redmond to tackle the adult tasks before us: 1. Fix electrical system. 2. Add air to tires. 3. Find mail. 4. Contact Bob at Beaver Manufacturing about a possible job for Van to drive coaches to dealers (Little Ralph didn’t mind that job during his retirement).
While at Kah-nee-ta he’d talked with Ron, the Camp Host, about the electrical system, and learned that Les Schwab would test the batteries and install new ones for a reasonable price, plus test the tires for air leakage. So, that was our first stop. While Van explained the situation to the attendant, I fixed lunch. But within an hour the attendants were testing the batteries and tires, with Little Ralph and Van watching every move, asking questions, and offering input from his observations along the way.
Soon the diagnosis and solution were given: a tire-valve stem was loose, and had been tightened; and all four batteries had been individually checked by two courteous, knowledgeable fellows who announced they were okay. Furthermore, to our amazement they didnít charge us! That was the good news; the bad news was still no solution.
But they referred us to nearby Gibb’s Alternator Shop, where owner, Keith Eager, a friendly fortysomething fellow immediately attended our problem, and pursued every avenue, with Van’s constant observing eyes eagerly learning more about our vehicle/home, for future reference. Unfortunately, after several hours, nothing significant was discovered, even with several other mechanics offering their expertise, so Keith put things together and sent us on our way, after charging only $50.00 for their evaluation/elimination fee, and referring us to Wayne at Auto Electric, where he made us an appointment for the next morning.
I could see Little Ralph becoming Big Ralph before my very eyes. His previous resistant behavior was being replaced with a willingness to learn and cooperate. He’d even called Bob (about the Beaver RV transportation job) while waiting at Les Schwab’s, and learned that he wouldn’t be needed for transporting motor homes, at this time. I could hear Little Ralphís silent ìHooray!î The truth is that heís retired, and really doesnít want a job; but the fact is that we need to augment our income for these expensive repairs, unless God has a better plan.
Van is not consciously aware of Little Ralph’s growing up process, so does not verbalize what he’s experiencing. I have to go by observation or intuition to understand his process, but I felt he deserved acknowledgment, so I said, “Little Ralph, I’m really proud of you for making such clear communications of the problem to the service people, and giving them all the needed information to do their job.” He smiled.
A Thumbnail History: Little Ralph
The motor home gave Little Ralph and Van the opportunity to have his new toy, and enjoy the big boy fun and challenges without the three r’s: resentment, resistance and rebellion; and to accept the responsibility of taking care of it when necessary and appropriate.
I realized that he too, had been deprived of his childhood, with too many early responsibilities, such as paper routes at age 10, lawn and snow-shoveling (as part of his parents lease agreement). Then there was the ill-fated magazine sale; Little Ralph spent the money heíd collected, from the sales, to buy candy for his friends.
After paying the bill for him, his dad had said, ìIf you can’t do it right, don’t do it.” Thus was born Van’s perfectionism. And while still in high school, he left home, got a job at United Airlines, and had his own apartment
With this thumb-nail sketch of his money-associations, itís easy to see how Little Ralph’s early patterns of resistance, resentment, and rebellion were established, resulting in his passive-aggressive behavior.
But, as Van has healed his inner child with recognition, communication, and understanding, Little Ralph has moved through the normal, natural process of childhood, freeing the ages where he’d been blocked, and now moving forward into adulthood with its responsibilities as the natural course of events.
The second day in Redmond, during the repairs, I noticed that the days had been overcast, cool, and windy, as the cool front shrouded the Cascade Mountains. This entombment seemed significant, as Little Ralph processed through his metamorphosis. However, as Van drove Freedom into the shop the next morning, the clouds had begun to lift, partially revealing the lower portions of the snow-covered peaks. I’d read this chapter, up to this point, to Van; and it met his approval. But I knew there was more to be revealed, as with the mountains.
Big Boy Duties
We’d called Steve with an updated report, and he agreed to discuss it with Tim, the Windish mechanic who had worked on Freedom the day we left Colorado. Working with Wayne at Auto Electric in Redmond, based on information from Keith at Gibb’s Alternators, and input from Ron, the Camp Host at Kah-nee-ta, the inverter charger was thought to be the culprit. Steve had reminded us it was still under warranty, so Wayne spent several hours pursuing that lead only to learn that wasn’t the problem.
We walked across the street to lunch, and returned to hear that the capacitor had rusted; so he replaced it, then cycled (timed) it, and checked to make sure the inverter was charging the batteries. That was it! And with all that, he only charged us $55.00. Thank you, God! You truly are providing for our financial needs; one way or another, such as guiding us to lower repair charges.
We were on the road again in bright sunlight with the mountains in full view as we headed south. Yet, I knew there would be more to Little Ralph’s story as a result of our visit with his stepmother, Ruth, in Grass Valley, whom he hadn’t seen in over twenty years.
But in the meantime, we had more adventure as we journeyed through the Cascade Mountains in southern Oregon, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California.
Decision-making at Paulina Lake
I marveled, as the merging of Van and Little Ralph became more apparent, and he participated in the decision-making. For instance, heading south from Bend, rather than pushing on through, he opted to venture thirteen-miles into the unknown by heading east on a paved side road to a National Forest Campground at Paulina Lake. We didn’t know from the black lines on the map that the road winds up the mountainside over 7,000 ft. toward Paulina Peak.
Based on his former resistance to such steep grades, I was apprehensive, but Little Ralph gleefully pursued the unknown as we zigzagged higher and higher, until we could look directly across to the tops of The Three Sisters Mountains as the sun began to sink behind them. What a glorious scene!
When we finally arrived at the park the question came up as to where to stay. The choice had always been up to me, but this time Little Ralph talked to the gate attendants, got the necessary information, and selected Little Crater Lake, recommended as the “best view.”
“Which site?” became the next question. This time it wasn’t up to me, as he selected a perfect space along the lake’s edge with a postcard view of the sun setting behind the trees across the 2-3 mile lake.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Little Ralph repeated over and over as I glanced out between stages of creating a fast tuna fish sandwich so I too could enjoy the view. Quickly I sat down at our table and looked out the window to an unsurpassed lake view of rippling water, golden sunglow through light clouds, and several boats gliding across the lake. Perfect! And Little Ralph-Van had made the selection.
From our back bedroom window we could see the pink reflection against the rocky Paulina Peak, remnants of a volcanic eruption. We sat in darkness long after we’d eaten and the sun had set. Soon the quarter moon spread its glow over the waters; and the stars began to add their bright lights.
Earlier Van had said, “See the evening star,” and I spotted a brilliant light to the west, but it slowly moved toward the horizon, and I said, “It’s not a star, it’s an airplane.”
“No, it’s a star,” he insisted.
As it continued slowly changing positions over the next 1/2 hour, I said, “Your star is moving. It’s about to land; but maybe it’s a flying saucer.”
“No, it’s just going below this high horizon.”
I was about to object, but I noticed the moon too had shifted positions. “Okay, you’re probably right,” I conceded. But secretly I preferred the idea of it being a flying saucer.
The next morning fishermen silently cruised the lake patiently awaiting their catch. Canoes glided over the rippling waters oared by bundled bodies shivering in the morning chill. “Frosty visited Freedom last night,” Van offered as explanation of the temperature.
With our electrical system now working, I snuggled under my electric blanket while the furnace warmed the inside. “Ah, my idea of roughing it,” I said, as I later spread cream cheese on a heated bagel, and savored a fresh bing cherry.
Van was already through his morning routine, and was even writing a check for our storage unit in Golden, Colorado, without his 3r’s (resistance, resentment, rebellion) from Little Ralph. Of course, with such a view, how could one be disgruntled?
Even Joanie, who had balked at writing, decided to take Little Ralph’s lead and cooperate in recounting the miracles of joy, resulting from our newest levels of inner freedom.
As we contemplated our next venture, we discarded the idea of taking the short, fast familiar route to Napa. Instead we plotted an itinerary following red lines, through the National Forests into unfamiliar territory via Lakeview and the Sierra Nevada’s to visit my brother, Gary, near his lookout, and then on through the mountains to Grass Valley to visit Ruth. At least Van was now willing for this contact, which was another part of his healing.
But first we walked along the lake; and to Joanie’s amusement Little Ralph took the lead on a return route along the lake’s edge, finding perfect rocks and logs to walk on. A whole new fun-relationship was developing on the outer journey as a result of the inner freedom journey.
Van had once told me that he and his dad didn’t do things together. There had been no bonding experiences in his childhood, and therefore not in his adult life either. This revelation gave a good insight into his inability to maintain intimate relationships, or even lasting friendships.
The Big Obsidian Flow
The next adventure, a few miles down the road, meant climbing 3/4 mile (round trip) straight up along a trail of glass substance — silica formed obsidian. The incredible chaotic mass of rock-appearing forms looked like something from a Star Trek set. Some were bleak and drab, others shining black; all sizes from boulders to dust. Along the trail, at appropriate resting spots, informative boards explained the history of this volcanic eruption, and the aftermath.
We were so high that snow remained in some spots, even in July. From the top of the trail we could see all the way across the forest; from Paulina Lake in the foreground, to the tops of Mt. Bachelor and the southern Sister mountain. Van was savoring every aspect of our climb and view, with Little Ralph’s enthusiasm always present. What a delight. In the past he probably wouldn’t have gone at all as part of his resistance pattern: Don’t give them what they want; another ploy of the passive-aggressive personality for staying in control.
Time got away from us by the time we ate lunch, in view of the sun reflecting across the obsidian flow. So we shelved our ambitious Lakeview route, and opted for Crescent Lake, forty miles south on Highway 97.
Steve’s Old Stomping Grounds: Crescent Lake
The minute we arrived at this mountain resort I rushed to the phone at the old lodge, overlooking the lake; and standing on the porch, I called our son-in-law, Steve, at his work in Colorado.
“I just wanted to share the energies from your childhood stomping grounds,” I said, describing the lake in front of me with fluffy white clouds in the blue sky.
“I’m glad you called,” he said from the Windish dealership where we’d bought Freedom.
I could tell my call was a reality shift from his daily routine. As I described our stay at Paulina Lake, his thoughts returned to the idyllic days of childhood. “Have you been there?” I asked.
“Sure, I fished and hunted all over that area,” he said as his voice softened, and he took a momentary mental vacation.
“I have a question: why didn’t you settle in the Bend area, instead of Colorado? It’s got the snow-covered mountains, and trees, and streams, but better weather, and it’s closer to your family; and Dottie’s too.”
“I may be coming there,” he replied.
His response jolted me, and I quickly asked, “How come? Is it your job?”
“I have an offer to work in sales at Beaver Manufacturing, and I’m thinking seriously about taking it.”
“Steve, it’s booming out here, and I felt my Higher Power Guidance to call you NOW! This must be the reason.” As I talked about Crooked River Ranch, he said, “You’re tempting me. I almost bought property there at one time.”
“Are you seriously considering such a move?” I held my breath for his answer.
“You bet. I’m about ready to rent out this house and head West.”
“Well, if you do, get enough property for our motor home, and we’ll be glad to hang out when not traveling” I added.
“If you do, maybe Dottie will go for it.î Steve said, adding, ìhowever, she loves it here, and says she doesn’t want to live in Bend, Oregon.”
A line had gathered to use the phone, so we concluded our conversation.
Walking across the dirt dam at the end of the lake, I excitedly recounted to Van the news. He didn’t say much. Finally I said, “Don’t you think the Bend area is better than Colorado?”
“No,” he said, “I grew up in Colorado. I think it’s better.”
I thought to myself, now that’s an honest communication from Little Ralph, but I said, “I mean for them it would be better to be closer to both families, and for us to be with them between trips.”
“Yah, probably,” he conceded as we reached Freedom, perched at a terrible slant on a hillside campsite. Little Ralph had selected this space for the lake view between the trees — nothing like Paulina Lake.
As he tried to level Freedom without success, I ventured, “I know you selected this one, but it’s okay to recognize that it doesn’t work, and make another choice. Maybe we should take the flat spot next to the Camp Hosts, as they suggested earlier.”
“Reluctantly he said, “Okay. You go wait there, and I’ll drive around.”
As I waited, I again marveled at this entire scenario, and how different it was from our past actions. In the first place, I would have had to select the site, and in the second, it wouldn’t have gone this harmoniously. Freedom appeared from the one-way road, and Van backed into the level space with me guiding from outside.
Usually he did quite well, but the sun in the rear-view mirror blinded his right side, and he didn’t see a group of trees, so he relied on my directions. This took several attempts to get situated. In the past he would have beaten himself up for “not getting it right in the first place.” It seemed he had been tested twice — at the first and the second sites — and with Little Ralph’s help, he passed both times. Now we were able to enjoy another evening in the woods without either of us harboring dissension toward ourselves or each other.
“My Love, I think we have a mystery,” Van announced in Crescent Lake, “unless you left the crackers open and nibbled.”
I looked at the crumbs on the counter and chunks from the open cracker container lying on the counter. “No, I didn’t do it. Looks like a mouse, or maybe a chipmunk.”
“Do you think we have a stowaway?” Little Ralph asked wide-eyed with a smile.
“I’d hate to think so, but I did hear something at Lake Paulina, and again last night. Darn! Now I feel our safe space has been invaded. What should we do?”
“We’d better buy a mousetrap,” Van responded.
“Golly, I hate to kill a cute chipmunk, but this can’t go on.”
“Right,” Van said resolutely in his adult take matters in hand tone.” I like that. I feel I’m being protected by my man.
Driving south through the woods and along Klamath Lake was pleasant on the summer Saturday afternoon, and we’d already gone further than on any stretch since Portland. But we wanted to get closer to Gary’s lookout, so Van filled up the gas tank, found a Post Office to mail a check (he’d decided to write one-a-day), and we sped on to new territory, south of Klamath Falls.
We still hadn’t bought a mousetrap as we drove through Klamath Valley, which is famous for potatoes, along with Idaho and Deschutes, because of their sandy soil.
We followed lush green fields, some with purple blossoms, for several hours. Snow-covered Mt. Shasta loomed over the valley with forested mountains promising cooler travels later in the day.
This same terrain continued from Oregon into California, where we stopped at Tule lake, a pleasant, small town that looked like a deserted movie set: Saturday afternoon, and no one in sight. However, a sign on the Main Street indicated a dump site, so Van fulfilled another responsibility, at a little park with a convenient dump provided by the Optimist Club for travelers.
When he finished, he said, “I’m going across the street to the True Value hardware store and buy a mousetrap.”
Other than a small grocery store, it was about the only other business in town. Despite the deserted appearance outside, a friendly clerk sold us a two-pack mousetrap set.
Back in Freedom Van studied the package in amazement; an artificial cheese-bait-holder with directions stated: no cheese needed. “Okay, we’ll try it tonight,” he said as he put it aside and continued our journey into the mountains with more beautiful wooded scenery.
After settling into a National Forest Campground that cost only $3.00 with our Golden Age Card, I looked into my snack drawer and discovered two more packages of nibbled crackers. Upon examination of another drawer, I found rice and other staples had been invaded. While cleaning the mess, I said to Van, “Now I know why Barb (Alternatives Lifestyle co-author) suggested plastic containers, not bags, for storage.” After dinner, Van dutifully set both traps before we played cards.
One problem was being resolved, but another had appeared at this campground: mosquitoes. So many, in fact, that to open the door meant instant invasion. I killed four, after Van’s exit; but a fifth escaped my swats, and began its noisy bombardment after we went to bed.
I covered my head in hopes it would go away, but no such luck. I turned on the light and sat on the bed, but only silence prevailed. Van tried to ignore the disturbance and go to sleep, but I kept hassling: lights off, lie down — bzzzz. Lights on, sit up — silence. Fly-swatter in hand. Silence. I’d talked to God, “Please, make it go into the other room.” Lights out — bzzzzz. Okay, I’ll cover my head and go to sleep — bzzzzz. Lights on. I’ll sleep with them on all night. Silence. Okay, lights out, cover head. Rattle, rattle.
“Van, listen,” I whispered.
“It’s the stowaway.”
“Get up, go look!” We both got up and opened drawers, empty of any additional baggage. Van left both drawers ajar, and we went back to bed. I covered my head and finally fell asleep after all that commotion.
Next morning, while still waking up, I heard Van in the kitchen. “What happened to the stowaway?” I asked.
“Well, he came back, and the trap worked.”
“You caught him?” I came to life, “What was it?”
“I don’t know” a combined Van and Little Ralph responded.
“You mean, he got away? Did you hear the trap?”
“Well, yes. Then I heard flop, flop, as he tried to get away.
“Why didn’t you get up?”
“Well, I thought about it. The stowaway was squealing in pain, but it was cold out there, and I didn’t know what I would do if I did get up, so I didn’t.”
“Oh my gosh,” I said, “It must be big, like a chipmunk to have gotten out of that trap.”
Van, obviously shaken by the ordeal, said, “Let’s hope he took the hint and got off board.”
That seemed the end of that episode, so we decided to go for our morning walk in the sunshine, once I peered outside and noticed the mosquitoes had subsided.
We started down the road in the direction of our only neighbors; in a fifth-wheeler. The senior citizen was standing outside, so we began to chat alongside a pleasant meadow by his site. I was relieved to meet Michael, a retired military man, and his wife, who had been RVing for twenty-years. Though I like the privacy of an uncrowded park, I also get apprehensive about the unknown factor — drugs, drinking, or whatever — until I meet them. Then I’m ashamed of myself for such little faith.
These folks were talkers, and a wealth of information; everything from a book about low-cost camping to how to get rid of stowaways. Michael said, “Yeah, it’s probably a chipmunk. They get in through the wheel-wells. They also like to nest in the cotton padding under the seat. Just spray some ant and bug spray around both places, and maybe in the drawer. They don’t like it, and will leave.”
Lisa, who had been cooking beans and onions that permeated the woods with a delicious aroma, joined us as the conversation turned to medical insurance. They extolled the virtues of Secure Horizons, and gave us good input.
As we continued our walk, I realized how nice most folks are, just as we’ve always heard about RVers. I’d asked Michael if they’d had any bad experiences in their travels. He said, “Only once in twenty years. A drunk Indian thought he’d have some fun, and drove around our rig while parked in a deserted gravel pit. We stayed inside, but I had my gun handy. He finally got tired and left. You don’t have to worry. It’s safe.”
I said, “I’ll remember your words. Thank you. I’d asked God to remove my fears and panic of people, and I thanked Him for bringing these people into our lives to help teach me this lesson.
Somehow, I knew that the stowaways, too, were part of the healing process. I’d said to myself during the previous night’s onslaught, “It’s a consciousness thing. I’ve got to change mine; yet this fear is deeply ingrained, based on my having been abandoned as a child. It’s one of those patterns only God can remove. And somehow, He gave us the stowaways to learn the lesson.
Van, on the other hand, had no such problems. Despite his abandonment issues, he trusted people, and life, with a childlike innocence that I admired. But he was working on other issues, such as the Responsibility Factor, and breezed through it with his navy lingo: It’s like being on board ship. You can take on some animals from shore, mostly rats, so you put up a rat-guard on the lines that you use for docking. Here, we spray the wheel-wells as a preventative measure.” Simple, no more to it. End of subject for Van. I wish life was that simple for me. I seem to learn the lessons; then I get to learn them again at a deeper level.
In any event, we moved further south, and that night we pulled into the perfect campground, midst tall pines, along Hay Creek, a babbling brook (cherished by fishermen), outside our window; much like Indian Ford, only a lot smaller, and with no Camp Host.
Fulfilling his new responsibility role, after seeing a sign reading: No Trailers; No Turnarounds, he’d parked Freedom by the entrance and walked through the seven-site National Forest Campground. Good thing, as it was so small that he had to carefully plan and negotiate his way into the site.
As a preventative measure, I’d decided to meet our neighbors first, if the situation was questionable. A young man sat beside the campfire next to our site. He seemed safe enough. But when the two motorcyclists came in after us, and parked on the other side of the campground, we felt scared, so we walked along the creek-side path.
Suddenly a biker appeared, and I didn’t know whether to run, or what, but he extended his hand and said, “I’m Jim.” Pointing to his partner standing by his bike, he said, “This is Gary.” A brief chat with this pleasant fiftyish fellow assured us that all was well, and we settled into our site.
Van set up my folding chair by the creek, and I was busy writing when two fellows with several fish came by and headed toward the adjoining camp. I said, “Hi, what kind of fish?” and one replied, “Rainbow trout.”
The other added, “Yah, we caught seven for dinner” and they headed on to their space and joined the third member.
Jim had walked with us to look for water, and discovered there was no faucet; only the creek, so I offered him some of ours, and he filled his bottle. Later, Van took the gallon bottle to them, which they appreciated.
Around dusk, Jim returned with the jug and stood outside visiting with Van while I relaxed inside listening to the gurgling brook. This is a magical place, I thought, as Van and Jim chatted. I can feel something remarkable happening — a shift — with us both tonight.
I thought to myself, ìOkay, let everything be okay. Let go and let God. Enjoy this idyllic place. Change your anxiety pattern.î And I did, right there on the spot. I let go and let God, and we had a delightful evening.
In the meantime, the three young fellows cleaned and cooked their trout. Later a family in a camper parked nearby.
After dark, I heard the van next to us start up, and the three fishermen left. The family next door had gone to bed, and Jim had returned to his site.
I felt peaceful as I drifted off to sleep. “God,” I said, “let me sleep soundly and restfully, and when I awake, let it be time to get up in the morning. No more disturbances.”
I awoke in the morning to a motorcycle roar, and Jim’s pleasant voice shouting, “Bon voyage.” And he was gone. The family, too, had left, and we were alone in Paradise.
“My Love,” I asked Van, who was already up, “did you hear our stowaway last night?”
“No; he must have left ship.”
“Did you hear any mosquitoes?”
“No, I slept soundly.”
“Let’s stay here until check out time,” I said, “and then move closer to Gary’s lookout.”
“Okay,” Van said, and spent the morning rearranging our basement while I updated my story. The bluejays chattered and scavenged for goodies from the fishermen’s camp, and the creek rippled by my folding chair. Van and Joyanna were becoming real RVers.
A VISIT WITH BROTHER GARY
The drive from Honn Campground to Bogard Ranger Station took us from 3500 ft. to 5700, which necessitated a very drastic upward climb further into Lassen National Forest midst more tall pines and woods.
At the Ranger Station I asked Wendy, a fire crewperson, how to contact my brother, Gary Freeland, and she walked me to their office where Rich, a crew captain, let me use his CB. He made the initial contact, and said, “I have a special visitor who wants to speak to you.”
Rich showed me how to use the CB, and I managed to convey to Gary that we’d meet him Wednesday, his day off, at Bogard Campgrounds (suggested by Rich), unless we left a message with another location.
Gary characteristically said he’d planned to go to Burney Wednesday, but finally conceded that he could meet us later in the day. He complains that no one visits him, and then when he does get company he’s so focused that it’s difficult for him to change his plans. Atop his lookout for five-out-of-seven days a week for five months, he’s isolated, and his loner personality flourishes, so unexpected company puts him in a quandary at first, then he talks continuously, after having little conversation otherwise.
Later Rich said, “I like to surprise Gary like that once in awhile, it takes him off guard.”
“I know,” I offered, “It’s like he’s going forward in one direction, and something takes him completely in the other direction.”
This was our third visit with Gary at his lookout. The first two times we drove the seventeen miles up the washboard gravel road that turned into a bulldozed trail the last several miles straight up Harvey Mountain, but this time we had no intentions of taking Freedom up that road, so were perfectly willing to wait for his day off.
You Can’t Miss it!
With Rich’s directions, we zoomed up Highway 44 looking for an indication of the campground. He said there might not be a sign, but a little tent on a post should give us a clue. After several miles we knew we’d gone too far, so turned around. This time we spotted a gravel road with no sign, and ventured along the washboard trail while everything in Freedom rattled. Though Van drove about 5 miles per hour, the red dust followed us for the mile that we endured the torture.
If you can imagine our luxury designed Freedom tiptoeing over the bumps with citified computer programmer, Van, verrrry carefully easing on down the road, you can understand why my codependency goes nuts. I couldn’t stand the torture anymore. Finally, I said, “This must not be the right road. We should have spotted the turnoff into the campground by now. Let’s go back and ask Rich.”
The return creeping wasn’t quite as bad, because we at least knew where we were going. “Let’s see if the Rest Stop across from the Ranger Station has a map, so as not to bother Rich.”
No map, but a forestry truck pulled in, so Van asked the driver, who hauled out a detailed area map. “You were right, My Love,” he said as he got back in Freedom, “we were on the right road, I just didn’t figure the distance quite right. Let’s go back.”
“Oh no,” I moaned, “I can’t stand it. Let’s find another place with pavement.”
“Oh, this will be fine now that I know we’re on the right road.”
As we again plodded over the same torturous road, I realized that Little Ralph and Van were going through another phase of the growing up process, so I shut up and read the front page of a newspaper I picked up at the Rest Stop. Amazing, a feature article about work programs in prisons reminded me that I hadn’t had time to write a newsletter in almost two months, and with my computer fixed, maybe I could stay at the campground and get it ready.
“There it is, big as life,” Van said as he spotted the campground sign — not by the main highway, but 2 miles off the beaten track. He turned onto the dirt road, and said, “Now this is a good road,” and picked up speed as the red dust flew into the air. We both laughed when we looked ahead at the paved interior roads of the campground, made the loop to discover only one other group in the 22 sites. We selected one near the entrance, away from the others, and settled in for the night.
One of our evening rituals, besides card-playing, has been to look over the map and determine our next stop, unless we change our mind. After spotting several others in the area, especially at Eagle Lake, we began to think we might change for the next night.
Also, I began worrying that Gary might not be able to find us here. Van said, “My Love, he’s a woodsman. I’m sure he won’t have any problem.”
“Well, I think we should arrange to meet him at the Ranger Station, and then there would be no mistake. Gary does tend to misinterpret messages. I don’t want a mix-up.” I fretted awhile, and then realized that I was again playing older sister, Joanie, taking care of baby brother, Gary, though I’d processed through this pattern. I explained my feelings to Van, and said, “It’s time to let go. Whether we stay here or go to another place must be decided on the basis of what we want to do, not me caretaking Gary.”
“Good decision, My Love,” Van said, and we got busy with our evening card game. He won, but it was a close game, and fun.
As usual, after spending a night in a spot, I begin to feel at home, and want to stay longer, but I asked Van, “Do you want to stay here another night, as long as we’re here?”
“Oh, I think we want to explore Eagle Lake, don’t you?”
“Okay, but we’ll need to get a new message to Gary, so we’ll stop at the Ranger Station.” But first we walked around the loop and got into a conversation with Sylvia, who with her husband, Ron, were enjoying the company of their five-year-old grandson, whose name we missed. “He likes to wade in the little creek with his boots on,” Sylvia offered. Soon we got into a discussion about the various campgrounds, and she hauled out a detailed area map that helped with our plans. They’d already been here for a month, and loved every minute. Personally, I couldn’t stand the bees that sounded like an anvil chorus, or the perpetual flies, mosquitoes and other annoying flying insects; some of which had already bitten us. I was ready to move on.
After inching our way back out of the gravel washboard, we reached Gary with the new plans, “We’ll be at the Ranger Station at noon,” again with Rich’s help, this time relaying the message on his cellular phone. Gary said, I’ll be there if I can make it,” and Rich relayed my message, “They’ll wait,” but Gary’s reply got cut off. “That often happens between here and Harvey Mountain,” Rich explained, as he walked us back to Freedom.
I was pleased with the adult way I’d been handling this visit with Gary, so far. In the past, somehow Joanie got confused with her earliest admonitions, “Take care of your baby brother,” and the recent times we’d been together had been on a new level as a result of processing through this unfair request of a two-year-old.” I’d asked God to remove that short coming, and it felt good.
Steep Down Grade
Now, with the rest of the day and night, we launched onto our new adventure. The first part of the drive was familiar, and we enjoyed the woods and two reservoirs, but then we came to a steep downgrade: “That’s the one we remembered from our last trip, and thought we’d avoid by turning off to Eagle Lake,” I said. Van, busy negotiating the long, winding three-mile downgrade, said, “Yes, how come?”
“Guess we miscalculated,” I replied. That was only the beginning of steep grades. Soon after we turned onto the Eagle Lake road, which thankfully was paved, we began a series of steep upward, and then downward grades. I thought I could handle them after the Paulina Lake trip, but these were worse, and lasted longer. After a few yelps from me, I finally said, “I hope you’re enjoying this trip, because it’s the last time we’re going on this kind of road. I’m really scared!.”
“I know you are, My Love. I’m sorry. Maybe you could sit on the sofa.”
“It doesn’t matter. Not seeing where we’re going is worse than seeing. I’m scared in this big coach on these narrow, steep roads.” Whenever Van pulled off to the edge to let passersby around us, I’d yelp while looking straight down. Even the breathtaking view of the huge lake that appeared far below didn’t ease my discomfort. “The worst part is that we have to go through this tomorrow on the way back,” I moaned to Van. “But at least we’ll be on the inside near the bank. I just can’t imagine how so many vehicles come in here. There are several large campgrounds, you know.”
“I know. Why do they do it?”
“Recreation,” I replied. “You can be sure there aren’t many overnighters.”
We finally reached bottom, and found a site near the Camp Host. “You’ll like it better up here,” he suggested, “away from the lake. It’s quieter and there aren’t many mosquitoes.”
“We’ll take it,” I ventured. ìI’m not into searching for the perfect site today.” As usual, once settled, I began to like the place; and enjoyed a walk along the lake; with no mosquitoes as yet in the day.
Before we’d left Bogard Campground I’d put a crockpot full of bean soup on to cook, and it had ridden in the sink without mishap. This extent of cooking had been another first on the trip, and we enjoyed the soup despite the hot afternoon and evening. Actually, we indulged in another first — eating on the always available picnic table. Usually there are too many flying insects, but we swatted them away as we ate. “I’m not sure how much of this roughing it I’m up to,” I said to Van. “I’ll admit the woods are cooler, and they are pretty, and we save money in the National Forest Campgrounds, but I’m getting about ready for more comforts. Maybe I’ll feel better once we get back to level ground, and stay off of these high-country roads.
Despite my complaints, we enjoyed the cooler evening; and a game of cards after I used the computer for the first time in several weeks. I must admit, I appreciated its convenience, though the times along the creeks were precious, and I’m sure I’ll do so again along the way. As usual, the next morning I felt good about the location, and the return trip went smoothly, with no upset on my part. In fact, I truly appreciated the fantastic view of Eagle Lake with its surrounding forested mountains. And further back toward the highway, about the place where I previously thought we would fall off the road, we could see the nearest town, Susanville, nestled in the foothills and sprawling outward across the valley with its rapid growth. And far in the distance, like a mirage, we could see the desert country north of Reno.
Wait Till You Hear What Happened
The pleasant drive took much less time returning to Bogard Work Center (we’d allowed three hours for our rendezvous with Gary), putting us there at 10:30. The time went quickly while I used the time to work on my newsletter, and soon after noon I heard Van say, “There’s Gary.”
I rushed to the door to greet my brother with a big hug. Still handsome, and looking robust from his rustic lifestyle, he said, “I didn’t see you sitting there. I’ve been here since 8:30. I was over in the kitchen area.”
“I had a feeling you were here, but I didn’t see your RV? Where is it?”
“Oh, it’s parked around the corner by the kitchen,” he replied. “Wait till you hear what happened.”
Here we go, I thought. There’s always a story, and it takes hours for them to get finished, because he interrupts himself with side stories. Because I’m a writer, I understand his raconteur. I figure if I just wait patiently they’ll unfold — if I have enough time. With two days before us, I knew I’d hear them all.
“Well, I was rushing down the hill so I could get to Burney for a haircut and mass in time to get back here and meet you at noon. I know you are always prompt. Suddenly I came up to a huge pine tree lying across the road. It had just snapped off, and there it was. Well, I knew I’d never make it, so I scrubbed Plan A, and went to Plan B.
“I returned to my lookout, got on my radio, and asked them to get a crew up here to remove the log. But I knew it could take hours, and I wouldn’t make it on time. You’d already been waiting two days, so I went back to the tree and began sawing it with my little whip saw. You should see the size of that thing, and it was loaded with thick branches. I could hardly make a dent, and my arms were aching from using that little saw. I wish I’d had a chain saw, but mine was broken. I finally got it cut, but I couldn’t budge it out of the way.
“I knew Harry <relief lookout> would soon be here to relieve my duties, and sure enough, he finally arrived. We hooked the tree with a rope to his powerful pickup and pulled it out of the road. The work crew still hadn’t arrived, so I drove through. I knew I wouldn’t have time to go to Burney, so Plan B was to come here. I’ve been waiting here ever since.”
“You know,” I said, “I had a feeling you were here, but I couldn’t see your RV, so I didn’t pursue it. We’ve been here since 10:30”
Van got a word in, “My Love, you didn’t mention anything about your feeling, or I would have looked around for the RV.”
“I know, I replied, ìItís another lesson in communications.” Gary had come inside and sat down. Some place during the story I managed to find out he hadn’t eaten. In fact, he had a pan of Ramen sitting on the stove, and forgot to turn it off. Before he rushed off to rescue his meager meal, I asked, “Would you like some bean soup?”
“Bean soup, sure. I just cooked up a pot myself yesterday.”
“Do you mind another meal of beans, or would you rather that we go to Chester for lunch?”
“Oh no, not at all. It’s too far to Chester just for lunch.”
I prepared lunch while Gary returned with his pan of waterless, but not burnt noodles, which I added to his bowl of beans. In the meantime, he began several other stories, which continued through lunch and the rest of the day.
At some point I mentioned that we’d gone to Eagle Lake.
“Eagle Lake! That’s where I lived last winter above Harry’s garage,” Gary interjected.”
“Are you kidding? I can’t believe it. You mean you drove over those terrible roads in that record snowfall in the pictures you showed me?”
“Yep, eighteen inches. We were snowbound for much of the winter. I managed to get out to spend Christmas with you guys at Ar’s. It wasn’t easy, as you recall my story.”
“Well, yes, but I thought you were someplace around Lake Almanore. I had no idea it was Eagle Lake. I’m amazed.”
“As you know, it didn’t work out with Harry, so it’s been an ordeal getting my engine I rebuilt while there, and my Volkswagen bus that was Dad’s, and all my other stuff back from there.” At this point he launched into another lengthy story, bottom-lining that his bus, canoe, and some other items were stored right there at Bogard and his engine was at a friend’s garage.
A Place of Your Own
“Gary, you need a place of your own,” I suggested.
“I know, but I just don’t know where to settle. I thought about some land at Borrego, and I could build a garage for a starter, but they won’t hear of it. It’s getting so controlled that you have to build a full home on it within a given amount of time. I can’t even live in my RV.”
“Speaking of that,” I interrupted, “since you live in it a lot, are you looking for a larger, self-contained one?”
He launched into another story of various RV’s, but all too expensive; at least for him. Somehow, because of his early abandonment, and the messages given from Dad about money, Gary had developed a miserly approach to money. He could not give himself permission to own a large, luxurious motor home, though he could probably afford it with his equal share of the inheritance from Dad. It’s just not in his reality. It grieved me to see this part of his nature, and I longed to share some of the insights Van and I had learned while resolving his conservative approach to money, which also didn’t allow him to spend money on himself, or indulge in the typical lifestyle available to those in his financial position.
As a writer, minister, counselor, especially dealing with Money Matters, my job is to understand the underlying cause of these patterns, and to assist anyone interested in changing them. But first the individual must recognize the patterns, and be willing to make the changes. It’s been a difficult path with Van, even with his enlightened attitude, so I certainly don’t wish to impose my knowledge and abilities on anyone who is basically in denial, or otherwise satisfied with their lifestyle, which seems to be the case with Gary.
As his sister, my part is to listen, and offer support, but otherwise allow him the right to choose and live the lifestyle of his choice, based on the experiences that have brought him to those choices. I don’t know how much further than that I can go. I can live my life, based on my choices, resulting from my experiences (which were definitely different from his due to my having been adopted and raised by our grandfather and his second wife). If he decides a similar lifestyle would work for him, then so be it.
In retrospect, I think this is one of the big changes I’ve made as a result of my codependency recovery program. In the past, I would have tried to fix him, or encourage him to change. Now, I am more able to understand his position, and allow him to be there, which accounts for an improved relationship between us. I’ve also let go of the ingrained childhood message: Take care of your brother, Joanie. I don’t have to take care of him. God is doing a good job of that, or Gary would have died from the following two incidences.
He Made it Without me!
One of Gary’s ongoing sagas relates to his hives, which again had been plaguing him since his last trip to Australia, in April and May. He recounted the treatment and medication given by Australian doctors, and their concern for his health at the peak of the attack. And he reminded me that they’d originally begun after he’d been hit by lightning while holding a microphone on the lookout. Alone at the time, he almost died, but miraculously survived. Part of Gary’s nature, (resulting from those early months in the orphanage), is not wanting, needing, or having, so he didn’t get any care or treatment, but simply allowed time and life itself to heal him after that traumatic event.
The fact is that Gary survived without any help from me, and that’s of tremendous importance for Joanie’s realizing that it’s not up to her. She can release her baby brother into God’s care, knowing that He’s been doing a good job so far when Gary has been faced with death more than once in Australia.
One of his stories relates an adventure at a seemingly abandoned Australian Station in the Outback. Because of the great distance between Stations, travelers often stay at them. This time, because the vibes didn’t feel good, as though something illegal was taking place, Gary first surveyed the area from the safety of his vehicle. He noticed a long airstrip, large hangar, and two ferocious dogs barking, growling, and baring their teeth, as if having been trained to protect whatever secret they guarded. He commented, “The dogs behavior was unusual, because of the infrequency of visitors, the pets usually welcome them, and are friendly.” He called out, but no one appeared despite a motorcycle parked outside one of the buildings. He didn’t stay at that Station.
Later, when talking with the truck driver who had delivered fifty-five gallon containers of chemicals being sent to the place, he learned that the Station had been purchased and developed by some Japanese with a large cash outlay.
There was suspicion by the authorities learning of these large shipments that the religious cults who were spraying chemicals into the subways in Japan may have been using this as a base of operation.
Gary’s stories of his adventures in Australia always remind me of Indiana Jones. Both appear mild-mannered, and Gary too had been a teacher, then counselor, but always the adventures lured him on: either to Mexico, South America, and finally, his first love, Australia, where he returned most winters after finishing his lookout duties.
He’s a Loner
Gary’s main interest is searching for gold in the Outback, and he travels alone, other than the time his son, Robert, went with him.
Robert’s death, at age 19, is the tragedy of Gary’s life, from which he has never fully recovered. His greatest therapy was writing a book about their relationship, and the father-son bonding when together on the lookout, and their trip to Australia and other places. Before Robertís death, Garyís divorce by his beautiful Mexican wife, Mildred, had been devastating, especially since he is a devout Catholic and didnít believe in divorce. As a result of the divorce, Gary and Robert were only together on these special outings. And then Mildred died, and teenage Robert remained with his older sister, Millie (who was Garyís step-daughter). But he grieved his motherís death, and soon developed similar cancerous symptoms, and died very quickly, leaving Gary grief-stricken and desolate.
After the divorce, Gary seldom saw his beautiful petite daughter, Valena Sue, named after our mother, and their estranged relationship caused her to lament over his seeming indifference. I tried to console her with the explanation that he had been abandoned by both parents when our mother was placed in a mental institution when he was only three weeks old, and he’d been placed in an orphanage. It’s a fact that children who are not given the normal nurturing of a mother, and natural environment, are loners, and do not relate well; intimacy is non-existent.
Fortunately for Gary, Dad divorced Mom, and married Ermith when Gary was about a year old, and she is the only mother he recognizes. Not without reason; he’s only seen our natural mother a few times in his life, and to him, she’s not his mother. Itís a fact that brings heartache to our mother, but the natural result of his early abandonment. Ermith was his mother, and he still grieves her death which occurred in his late twenties.
And, as he says, he’s never been able to move beyond these devastating losses. The hives are one repercussion. And again he almost died within the month prior to our visit, when they caused his tongue, eyes, and face to swell. This time he did go to a doctor at a nearby clinic when he was in Chester. After they saved his life with shots, the doctor said, “If you had waited another twenty minutes, we couldn’t have saved you.” That incident seems to have also affected Gary, and his appreciation of life has become more intense.
Much of Gary’s conversation this visit revolved around the death of our dad last year, and of their frustrating relationship. One with which I could easily relate. Now talking about it together, for the first time, was healing for us both, as we trespassed the family “no-talk” rule explained in many books relating to the wounded inner child syndrome, mostly from parents who are addicted; but also applying to other dysfunctional families, which certainly included ours. Gary cringed as I related some of the most recent family revelations, and brought to his attention that diabetes is a fact to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately, recognition that abandonment is a multi-generational factor from our father’s side hasn’t offset Gary’s inability to relate with his daughter, so I urged him to write despite the fact that she doesn’t respond. He balked, but I insisted that he make the effort. These patterns are so firmly established with them both, that I doubt if they will change without persistent effort on both sides. Yet, they both desperately need each other’s love and relationship. However, in my own recovery, I knew that I could only suggest, and then leave it to them.
Gary and I traced the non-parenting father syndrome to the fact that Dad’s Father, whom I know as Dad Freeland (my adopted father), did not relate with him. As Dad often said, “He kidnapped me from my mother, and then didn’t want me.” Sad. On the other hand, his mother, who got him back, smother-loved him, which was a mixed-blessing, but the combination accounts for Dad’s complex personality.
I said to Gary, “At least he didn’t drink or use drugs. And in many ways, Dad was a good parent. We just have to recognize how he showed love, and know that he did love us.” We recalled some of the good times we’d each had with Dad, and many fond memories, such as Gary’s breakfasts with Dad at the local surferís hangout, Captain Keno’s, where they spent many hours together. Yet, Gary remarked that there was not that much closeness in their conversation. I agreed that Dad seemed to have a line that no one dared crossed, and if done, the barriers were up, especially if it disagreed with Dad’s opinions. Gary recalled, “He’d say, “Don’t you argue with me,” and shake his finger at me, if I dared to disagree with him, or raise my voice. I’d just back off.”
“I know the feeling,” I soothed. “There was always that distance, and as much as he loved his kids, he had an inability to show intimacy. I guess it’s because there wasn’t the balance of both parents love; and his mother’s love was actually crippling, and gave Dad a sense of wanting the world to revolve around him. It was always one-sided.”
It’s good to talk about these feelings, and I know it did Gary a world of good, because he hasn’t been able to vent or heal them; and talking it out is the best medicine, especially with someone who understands.
The afternoon passed pleasantly, and I realized that this time we were enjoying more of a conversation, with us both talking, and Van listening, rather than Gary giving a monologue. It felt good to Joanie to be sharing this rare time with her brother, without her need to “take care of,” or fix, but simply to listen and share.
Parking in the Cow Path
Between stories, I managed to learn that Gary planned to return to the lookout that night, and at my suggestion, he would join us again the next day for breakfast at my favorite place, the Kopper Kettle in Chester, where they serve huge portions. “But only order a half portion,” Gary warned.
Van began getting antsy, and again we interrupted Gary’s stories to determine where we could stay for the night. I knew he’d have a freebie in mind, and sure enough, he knew a perfect place on the way to his lookout on Harvey Mountain. Van and I both balked, but Gary assured us that the roads had been improved, and were as smooth as the highways. Neither Van nor I could believe that, having held our breath on our last two visits in our Volvo while we bounced over 17 miles of dusty washboard gravel. “Never again,” we’d firmly stated.
“No, really, I’m not kidding you. They resurfaced them with rocks and oil for the logging trucks that have been working up there.”
“Okay, we’ll follow you, but if it’s bad, we’ll honk, and you stop.”
To our amazement, the roads were smooth, with very little dust, so we followed Gary seven miles to the abandoned site where the loggers had set up camp. Nestled in the pines at the side of the road, with a gentle slope onto the cleared area; it was perfect.
“No one will bother you,” Gary said, but don’t be surprised if cows come by, or a bear, or coyote. And early in the morning the loggers will come by on their way to work. I’ll go by about 7:00 on my way to mass at Westwood, after my shower at Bogard, and you can meet me later at the Kopper Kettle.”
With those logistics handled, the conversation continued, while I prepared canned chili and tuna sandwiches. My supplies were about out as it was time to shop, but the guys delighted on the feast, topped off with our last four cookies, and Gary managed to bring his sagas to a conclusion for the night, and went away smiling.
Honk When Passing by
The next morning, as promised, he honked when passing by, and we soon left to keep our appointment in Chester. He arrived feeling somewhat down, and explained that since the hives had only recently left, he still has these low-energy days. He’d decided to stop drinking coffee in hopes that would help, so ordered decaffe. The Kopper Kettle, though tops in food and service, is crowded and noisy, and Gary explained that he has trouble dealing with noise and people. Again, as had happened the day before, he complained of headaches and vision problems. Again, I suggested he see a doctor to test for diabetes, as an elimination step, if nothing else.
Because of the bad acoustics, conversation was difficult, so we concentrated on eating as Gary shared a card from our former MLM upline, Venus, announcing that she’s again involved in the business, and hoped to hear from us. Since Gary had been involved, and had benefited from the herbal product, I suggested he resume using it, despite the cost. He agreed that he’d felt 100% better when using it, and that after he’d stopped, he slowly began noticing the return of old symptoms that had disappeared. We discussed the MLM business, and as encouragement for him to order the product, I gave him a small bottle.
I was disappointed at the change in Gary this day, and especially after we left the restaurant. “I’m really feeling dizzy,” he said. “I felt okay before drinking the decaffe. I’m thinking even that affects me.”
“Well, if you’re used to coffee every morning, maybe you’re going through some withdrawal symptoms. They can last three or four days, you know.”
He groaned, and I said, “Come out to the motor home and take a swig of KM.” He brightened as he swallowed the familiar nasty tasting black liquid-gold, as we define it, and then we went across the street and did our separate shopping at the Holiday market.
Gary was still drooping and dizzy, as he quickly finished his brief shopping and returned to his RV. When we joined him, he said, “I’m feeling terrible. I’m going to have to return to the lookout, but first I’ll show you the Helitech where the firefighting helicopters are parked.” He gave us directions, and we agreed to meet there after we put away our groceries in Freedom, another convenience of having our home with us wherever we go — immediate refrigeration.
When we arrived, Gary was slumped in his RV under the trees, but joined us to explain that the local airstrip was being resurfaced. Then between the trees he pointed out the helicopter blades, and said, “Nothing happening now, but you should see the activity when there’s a fire. People line up to watch the choppers in action.” He rubbed his head and blinked his eyes as he talked. “Do you mind if we go inside? The sun is bothering my eyes.”
Joanie was having trouble dealing with her ailing brother, as it brought back memories of “Take care of your brother, Joanie.” But she was holding her own, as she knew there wasn’t anything else she could do. Gradually he again began talking about Dad, and their relationship. Eventually I brought out the pictures of our travels, and he became interested in pictures of our brother, Bill, and some of our travels. He stopped complaining about his health, and stayed, much to my surprise.
Let’s Have a Picnic
Early in the afternoon we heard the helicopter warming up, and take off with a canvas bucket dangling beneath. Gary perked up, “Oh, maybe there’s a lightning fire,” but soon it returned and landed, then took off again. By this time a crew of about a dozen yellow-jacketed firefighters appeared, and Gary explained that theyíre the special team that accompanies the helicopter. “They’re practicing,” he explained, “in case there is a fire. We haven’t had any fires yet, so they need to be ready.”
For about two hours we watched the landing and taking off, with each firefighter taking a turn below giving signals. Gary stayed outside the entire time, never mentioning his health. In the meantime, Van said, “Are we going to have a snack?”
I said, “Since this seems to be a park, and there are picnic tables here, let’s have a picnic?” Within minutes I hauled out a roasted chicken, potato salad, pork and beans, potato chips and root beer. We had a picnic, and thankfully the noisy chopper stopped. However, several small planes landed, and the tractors and bulldozers were busy on the field. “Isn’t it nice to have all this entertainment with our picnic? And,” I added, “There are no ants, flies, or bees. Gary, you sure know how to entertain your company.”
He smiled, and added, “And you know what? I’m feeling good. That KM must be working. I’ve got to order some right away.”
About that time one of the firefighters walked by on his way home and I asked if he’d take a picture of our picnic, explaining that we were visiting my brother, Gary, the lookout of Harvey Mountain. He gladly agreed, and I thrilled at having a picture of this memorable picnic.
Before long the sun was beginning to fade, and Gary said he must get back to his lookout, “In case there are any lightning fires.” We agreed that we too must find our campground for the night, and we said our good-byes.
I’d said, “Goodbye, I love you,” but Gary was preoccupied with getting his RV started, and apparently didn’t hear me. Joanie wasn’t willing to let it go at that, so I walked back, stuck my head around the open door, and said, “I love you.” He looked surprised, but wasn’t able to return the greeting.
Reflections in the Sunset
After leaving Gary, we stayed at Lake Almanore, only a few miles further south, with its miles and miles of shoreline. At sunset we watched the golden clouds in the west, reflecting across the lake, and Mt. Lassen and the other mountains to the north with Harvey Mountain peeking its head above them. “Hi Gary,” I said, “Weíre still here. I love you, and I know you love me.”
Soon the giant thunderhead across the lake turned pink with the appearance of flames beneath. The entire spectacle reflected its beauty across the lake.
While parked at Lake Almanore, and updating this chapter (a difficult one for me to write because of the emotional issues), I asked Van: “How do you relate to Gary’s patterns that are similar to yours?”
“Oh, I can see them very clearly, and I’m asking myself what I want to do about it? As soon as I find myself agreeing with what he’s saying, I realize that I have the same thinking pattern along those lines. So I’ve gotten to the point where right away I question ìWhat are my other options to that pattern of thinkingî? I come up with alternate ideas to see if those would work for me, realizing that for Gary, where he is, they are okay. So, if I want a different lifestyle, now I have the options to alter that. Knowing that God is going to give me whichever I desire. Then I can decide if the desire is strong enough so that the first time any obstacles get in the way to achieving that lifestyle, I will continue to come up with additional options to continue on to achieve that lifestyle. So then I know that the desire is strong enough to go ahead and achieve it.î
An example of a short-term, within an hourís time, of how this comes about, is Gary’s story of getting off the mountain. At first his desire was to fulfill his original plan to go to Burney. But once he discovered the tree as an obstacle to that intention, his priorities became clear: his true desire, realizing that we’d come this distance to see him, was to see us. The desire being strong enough, his option was to go back to the lookout, get his only saw, call in for the work crew, come back to the tree, and cut it so he could get through. Part of his option was to convince Harry to help remove the tree so they could both get through to fulfill his purpose of meeting us in time.”
I interjected, “But Gary’s underlying desire was the need for connecting with someone, in this case, us, who care enough to come see him. Even though he’s a loner, there’s still that basic desire for belonging. I believe it’s innate whether or not it’s been thwarted by the circumstances of life, such as his sojourn in the orphanage that setup so many of his lifetime patterns.”
“Right, in the steps toward reaching anything you want to achieve, a strong desire is the key to fulfillment. If the desire isn’t there, you’ll allow the obstacles to deter you. When it’s an innate desire, it can become a compulsion. And a compulsion is a good motivator.”
“Okay, so with Gary, when Dad was alive, his motivation was to get Dad’s approval, or participation in his projects. Now that Dad is gone, Gary’s left with only himself to please, and he really doesn’t have a clue, because his pleasure has never been his motivation. His strongest desire was Dad’s approval; now he’s left with nothing, and his dilemma is to re-motivate his life.î
Van said, ìI can relate to that, because ever since my layoff, the predominate question has been: What do I want to do? I didn’t have a clue, either.”
“So how has that changed for you?”
“Freedom has allowed me to come up with new options. At first I didn’t have any desire. Now, this lifestyle has allowed me to see many new opportunities, such as ‘From here, shall we go to Reno or Napa? Shall we stay in the mountains, or take the freeways? And I have choices. To me that’s more than freedom, it’s a lifestyle.”
“It’s a life, My Love.”
I thought about Gary, and realized that he too, was processing through the seemingly endless maze that Van had been wandering through in recent years. And I knew that no one could do it for Gary. It would simply take time, but knowing that someone cares enough to come this far to see him does make a difference; as he said to Van when we left, “Thank you for coming. It really helps.”
My visit with my brother had been such a blessing for Joanie, and I knew it touched her on deep levels with inner healing.
Several nights later, at an RV park in Quincy, Calif. with full hook up, for a change, we watched a brother-sister reunion on Unsolved Mysteries. Siblings who had been separated since a very young age were finally reunited in their sixties, and both cried as they explained how deeply they had been affected by the separation, and then by their reunion. I said to Van, “In many ways I feel this meeting with Gary was an inner reunion on a soul level, after a lifetime of separation.î
NOW IT’S LITTLE RALPH’S TURN
Little Ralph Prepares to See his Step-Mom
Van, too, has difficulty with relationships, much like Gary. By the time we reached Quincy, in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains of northern California, within a day or two from the visit with his step-mom, Van became uneasy. I don’t know if it was my own physical reactions to the emotions of being with my brother, or if it was Little Ralph’s anticipation of getting closer to the meeting with his step-mother, Ruth, after twenty-five years, but his energies shifted, and I was feeling the repercussions. I felt wiped out and irritable, so I went to bed early to regroup my own energies, whether theyíd been affected by his underlying emotions, or the altitude change, or the hot weather.
I don’t understand his reasons for family estrangements, but I rejoice whenever he makes another forward movement toward reuniting. For instance, he hadn’t seen his father, or other Van Camps, in over twenty years, when I finally forced the issue by insisting on a trip to Denver, Colorado, from our home in San Diego, California. Van refused to make any prior connection to warn them of our arrival, so when we pulled in front of his Aunt Betsy’s house, she was in the middle of a garage sale, and almost fainted from shock.
Van had been the one shocked, earlier, when he looked up what he thought was Aunt Betsyís name in the phone book, knocked on the door, and discovered another woman, Mary. Apparently his uncle had divorced his Aunt Betsy, and remarried. The surprise served him right for not keeping in touch, but fortunately, Mary gave him the address of Aunt Betsy, and we heard the sad story of his having had an ongoing relationship with Mary for over ten years. The divorce had devastated Aunt Betsy, as she found herself trying to start a new life, after thirty-years married to the same man.
When we were ready to look up his dad, near Pueblo, on the return to San Diego, Van okayed Aunt Betsy calling Ralph Sr. to forewarn our upcoming visit. To Vanís surprise, Aunt Betsy had informed him of a half-sister, Kim, who lived with their dad. So, when we walked into the Fowler Drugs and saw the pretty 21-year-old reddish blond (like Van), we werenít surprised; but she was shocked. She had no idea she had a brother, Ralph. What a reunion that was! It warmed my heart to see the two Ralphís reconnecting, along with Kim. And we spent time with Ralph Sr. again the next year; only a few months before he died of pneumonia.
Later we made contact with his half-sister, Sharon (Ruthís daughter), and slowly the parts of his life were coming together.
Now, he’d finally okayed a visit with Ruth. We’d been corresponding for several years, thanks to the address from Aunt Betsy, and Ruth, who is over seventy, and not in the best of health, delighted in reconnecting. So this visit, (to heal their relationship), seemed essential.
I’d purposefully mentioned Grass Valley throughout the trip to prepare Little Ralph for the reunion, but the next morning neither of us felt much better, so I suggested that we stay another day in Quincy, thus avoiding the hassle of hunting for another place to stay over the weekend. He readily agreed, and the minute he headed toward the RV office to make payment, I felt better; whether from his relief at putting off the inevitable another day, or simply giving us time to get our inner and outer house in order.
I knew that inner preparation was in progress for his meeting with Ruth, and I too had to deal with meeting another member of his family. We worked together to clean up the drawers where the mouse had stowed-away, and I made a chicken-rice soup in the crockpot, while Van handled a myriad things that needed his attention. I’d begun to notice that we did much better when on our own, without demands or expectations. But relationships and responsibilities are part of life, and part of the growing up process.
Nevertheless, Van seemed happy as he tended the needs of Freedom, and pulled the awning down for the first time by himself, and then got the air conditioning and cable TV working properly. I appreciated him getting the projects done, as I happily updated my chapter, and felt like I was living with an adult again, rather than a rebellious kid.
Little Ralph Calls His Mom
At my suggestion, while our clothes were washing, Van called his mom in Santa Clara. When he got off the phone, he said, “She’s going to pay for us to stay on a site in her mobile park that will be available August 1st. We can stay as long as we want, but she’ll reserve it for a week.” Then he added, “She says she’s just putting in time.”
I thought he looked unusually sad, so I asked, “Is she sick, or tired, or has she given up?”
“It’s hard for her to get around.” He looked up as he added, “She’s not planning any more cruises.”
I knew he was referring to her pain from arthritis, and asked “You mean she’s not going to use the refund from her cruise to the Caribbean that she canceled when she got food poisoning?”
“I guess not.”
“That’s serious, My Love,” I said as gently as possible. “Her message is pretty clear. She wants you nearby, so we’d better plan to stay in the area for now.”
“She even called other RV parks to see if there were spaces, and there weren’t. But that’s unusual for her; contrary to her past behavior.”
“I know, her message always indicated ‘don’t stay.’ Like when we offered to live in Napa to be near her. And that was only a few months ago.”
“Well, My Love, she’s 84, and she’s never depended on anybody. She’s been very independent. Look at the contrast between her and my mother, for instance, who’s the same age. Now’s the time when she needs you, and we’re in a position to be there, so our plans for the immediate future are now clear. We’ll visit Julie in Napa and get our mail, and then be at your mom’s on August 1st.”
“Yep,” he said with a mixture of relief and apprehension.
I could see a shift as Van recognized his responsibility, and made the silent commitment to fulfill it. The time was right, and he was ready. We were both ready for whatever part we needed to fill in his mother’s life. It’s for sure he’d supported me with my family responsibility, now it’s my turn to support him. And now I knew why I’d felt such a strong pull, the past six months, to remain in that area.
The next morning I asked Van, “How are you feeling about your mom?”
“Oh, I’m okay,” he replied.
“It’s a major shift in your life.”
“Ah, yes,” he replied, but he sounded confident.
“Well, we’ll have time for you to adjust to it while we’re wending our way there.”
Though we continued to enjoy our mountain travels southward, there was more of a sense of urgency than before. And we still faced the reunion with Ruth.
Whatís Happening with Little Ralph?
When I say “wending our way through the mountains,” little did I know the magnificence and magnitude of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains; on-and-on-and-on through narrow, winding roads that followed one steep, forested canyon after another — often high above, and then alongside a river: Feather, Indian, Spanish, and Yuba. Twice we crossed single-lane bridges carved in the side of solid rock that had collapsed from the last winter’s rains. The Highway Department created an ingenious method to facilitate the traffic in these places: a Stop sign, with another notice: Stop, then cross when clear; simple, and it worked, except for those individuals who feel they are the exception, and won’t allow the next person on the other side to cross, which happened to us.
In fact, this Sunday in the mountains we experienced several such instances of questionable behavior that caused Little Ralph pause for reflection. The first two happened at the 6700 ft. summit of Yuba Pass. We’d stopped to let Freedom cool-off after that terrific climb, and parked beside a camper. When Van returned from his smoke, he said, “I wonder why the guy moved his camper away from us?”
I looked outside and noticed that he’d loaded his belongings, moved across the lot, and then put them back outside. “I don’t have a clue,” I replied.
Little Ralph was helpful, “Maybe Freedom smelled bad from the exhaust; or maybe we blocked his view.” While I fixed lunch he went for a walk toward a nearby campground, and then as we ate, and still questioned the reason for the move, he said, “Maybe he’s watching someone in the campground.”
I offered, “Maybe he’s trying to sleep, and felt we were a disturbance.” In the meantime, two bikers, whom we’d passed pedaling up the mountain, arrived and stopped to rest and refresh before continuing down the hill. As the fellow prepared to leave, he waved, and I waved back, and then wished him a good trip. He stopped and asked for water for his bike jug. As I started to get it, Little Ralph, having spotted a faucet while on his walk, tried to be helpful by passing along his newfound information, “There’s a faucet over there at the entrance to the campground.”
I couldn’t believe my ears that he denied the man some water, so I said, “You’re welcome to some of ours,” but the man simply pedaled away.
We spent the rest of our stop, and part of the way down the mountain trying to figure out that scenario. “Maybe he was insulted that we didn’t give him water, so he punished us by denying himself any water. Some people are that way, you know,” I suggested.
“Well, I was only trying to be helpful by giving him the information,” Van explained on Little Ralph’s behalf.
Because we drove slowly around the winding, downhill curves, and the bikers sped right along, they had progressed quite far down the mountain when we past the fellow, stopped at a small town, talking with some other bikers. Van waved, the fellow looked, hesitated, then waved. “He’s probably telling them what a tightwad you were with your water,” I teased. I still felt bad about the situation. I understood Little Ralph’s position, but we could have just as easily given him some water, and I would have felt much better about our generosity. I could imagine his version of the incident.
Van is usually very generous and thoughtful. For instance, he pulls out as soon as possible to let cars behind us pass. Often, to my chagrin, when it endangers us (in my opinion) to stop Freedom on narrow, winding roads with “soft shoulders,” as signs often warn. Soon after we passed the biker, he’d pulled over to let cars by, and had resumed his travels when another car went roaring past with his arm upraised and hand clenched. It didn’t look like he was giving the usual wave of thanks. I said, “I can’t tell if he’s waving, or giving us an obscene gesture.”
“I guess he came up behind us, after I pulled over,” Little Ralph said defensively.
As we passed another turnoff spot, I said, “Right, he didn’t know you’d just pulled over, and would have let him by here, if he could have waited a few minutes. Some people are so impatient. They should be more understanding on these treacherous roads.
Later, when we pulled off, several RV’s went by, and we surmised the other driver had reached his limit when he came behind us. Nevertheless, a good message to drivers is to be patient and courteous. Obscene gestures leave a bad feeling, which is their intention.
We’ve learned through our inner journey that when there’s an intensity of uncomfortable occurrences, such as the above, “something is up.” Perhaps, as he’s nearing his visit with his stepmother, an old pattern is surfacing to be reviewed and cleared; like “I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just trying to be a good boy.” So, I asked Van, ìDo you have any indication as to what these incidences are about?î
He shook his head, with no intention of searching for the inner issues, so the universe continued to provide more aggravations.
I’d been looking forward to a nice hamburger at a restaurant with local atmosphere, but when we came to Donnieville, a restored gold mining town built on a hillside, the first obstacle was a one-lane bridge that took us right into the tourist town with narrow roads and terrible congestion. We were both frazzled, and all I wanted was to get through the place, especially since there werenít any visible parking facilities. I’m sure it would have been fun to park, stroll the streets and visit all the little shops, but we didn’t.
River Bottoms and Narrow Streets
Onward we drove up and down over more winding roads. Our last night in the mountains brought us to Indian Valley, another lovely National Forest Campground, along the Yuba River. The sign said, “Sorry Campground full,” but I had a feeling it hadn’t been changed from Saturday, and sure enough some of the weekend crowd had left.
We settled into a shaded, open site and walked to the river along a shaded, sandy path. I emphasize the shade, because it was extremely hot even at this lower (2800 ft.) altitude. The wide rock bed was the first indication of the floods earlier in the year that caused tremendous devastation. Fallen trees and debris lodged along the bank, and high in the still standing trees was another. But now the peaceful river cascaded over some rocks into a cove, and on into a quiet pool — perfect for swimming or fishing — but we settled to walk along the myriad rocks of all sizes, many that were agatized or petrified.
Later we talked with a neighbor who is a gold prospector. He shared with us his expertise and information about panning; both here and in the Arizona desert. True, he hadn’t made the big find, yet, but he’d had lots of adventures in his travels. And he also gave us a travel tip: there are two more mountain passes as bad as the one’s we’d crossed. He suggested an alternate route that would take us out of our way, but save time in the long run.
I was delighted, but Van opted to continue on our chosen route, so the next day we traveled onward, over more gorgeous terrain of forested canyons and mountains, until we came to the Nevada City turnoff. It came unexpectedly, and Van quickly swerved from the highway; before we knew we could find any options, we were abruptly into narrow roads through another former gold town, similar to Donnieville, only much larger and busier. Again, our immediate objective became to get out as fast as possible.
Steering Freedom through these congested towns, a frightening challenge, Van stopped on a side street to get our bearings. While he walked up the steep street to seek directions, I got out the map and letter from Ruth, and studied the reference to the Nevada County Fairgrounds RV Park in the Trailer Life directory.
Van returned and reported that the freeway entrance to Grass Valley was on the other side of the hill.
Once on the freeway, we knew we were back in civilization, even at this nearly 3,000 ft. level, because of the zippy traffic. However, as Van sped along to keep up with traffic, I read the directions to the fairgrounds.
Grass Valley: Reunion with Ruth
I’d been concerned about getting a place to stay in this populated area so near to Sacramento via the freeway, but soon we were pleasantly surprised to find an almost empty RV park, complete with hookups, under the ponderosa pines. Though hot, it was a pleasant respite, and Van soon hooked-up.
I could tell he was ready for the reunion, because he willingly called Ruth.
When he returned, I asked, “How do you feel?”
He said, “Fine.”
I wasn’t convinced, so I asked, “Did you feel animosity toward Ruth, or her husband, Ed?”
He replied, “Not at all,” and in answer to further questions he said that their relationship had been a good one, and added, ìI didn’t see them, because they moved from Palo Alto, (near him) to Grass Valley. I havenít had an opportunity to get here, until now.î
It’s still a mystery to me why part of his nature is the disassociation from his family members, especially when he gets along with them just fine, and seems to enjoy their company. This was certainly the case while we were with Ruth and Ed. He anxiously awaited their arrival outside, and rushed over to their car when they arrived. I busied myself taking pictures of this momentous event, and greeting Ed, while Van and Ruth were hugging.
They came inside for a brief time, and then drove us across town along a forested highway. This town was not all mountains, though they live at the top of a hill, shaded by a variety of trees and shrubs; a paradise looking through the trees at the sunset, and to a lake far below.
Ruth gave us a tour of their spacious home, built to their specifications over twenty years ago. I said, “It’s like going through a museum,” as she showed family treasures and mementos from both sides; some dating to the Napoleonic wars. Yet her most treasured possessions are framed artwork done by her children, along with gifts given by them. She even featured a pillow that Ralph, Jr. (as she called Van) had brought from Japan, and a wooden divided plate he’d made in school. What a good connection to his past, and he was very pleased that she had saved these keepsakes.
Ruth showed us the extensive genealogy, from both families, and charts she had labored over, plus shelves of books and information she’d gleaned in her research. We noticed, during the tour of their home, that her office reflected all of her interests and projects, while Ed’s office revealed a fully equipped ham radio networking system. We marveled that, though they’d been retired twenty years, both were active, involved people.
The first night’s conversation dealt lightly with family members, including her son, Van’s half-brother, Roy, whom he hadn’t seen for over twenty years. Pictures revealed the familiar Van Camp features, including sandy hair, now turning gray as he neared fifty.
I asked how they thought Roy would feel about seeing Van, and Ed replied, “Approach the house cautiously.” I didn’t pursue the subject, and decided to leave that contact to Van’s discretion.
A Day at the Empire Gold Mine
The next day they again met us, and drove us to the mall to transact some business, mail letters, and buy some almonds at the health food store. We’d planned to tour the famous Empire Gold Mine early, before it got hot, and were pleased that the guided tour of this historical state park was comfortable. The elderly docent (tour guide), an elderly former worker at the mine, which had been shut down in 1956, entertained us with personal stories that brought the history alive. However, after seeing the restored carpentry, blacksmith and machine shops, we launched out on our own and walked 50 ft. into the original mine shaft. We’d already seen a display of the mine, and listened to the narration; so it was a thrill to actually be in the mine, and see the cable cart they rode into the 4600 to 5400 foot shaft; an incredible lifestyle that defies the imagination.
However, the human interest aspect appeals to me, so a tour of the ownerís mansion and grounds, in the shade of the many trees, took most of our time. I especially enjoyed the heavily scented roses in the restored terraced English Garden, which even had vegetables, and apple trees, plus a rose arbor; such elegance. Of course, the recreation center and tennis courts, terraced lawns and swimming pool were added attractions too.
But, Joanie enjoyed lunch, later, at Happy Apple, owned by a local farmer and his family. Ernie, who said he no longer owned it, but had signed everything over to his kids, sat down and visited while we ate sandwiches and drank a peach shake. Since he’s on local Boards, and up on the politics, we learned more about the local problems, such as the desire on the part of some to reopen the mines, and the opposition from others; on and on the stories go.
More Pieces to the Puzzle: Ralph Jr.
After lunch we returned to the cool of Ruth and Edís hilltop home, and listened to more family history and looked at more pictures. Then, finally Ruth began talking about their family life when Ralph Jr. lived with them. This is what I wanted to hear, so I could, perhaps, put another piece of the puzzle together.
She talked about the shy, quiet little boy, and I said, “He always talked of himself as a Hellraiser.” She looked amazed, and I continued, “He says every time he’d cause too much trouble, he’d be shuffled off to another member of the family.”
Her eyes opened wide, and she said, “The only time he was sent to his grandmother, or mother, was after Sharon (his half-sister) was born. Ralph Sr. wanted to move from Golden to Boulder, and take his test to become a pharmacist, so I took Sharon to South Dakota, to my parent’s home, and Ralph Jr. went to his grandmother’s for the summer.
Little Ralph spoke up, “That’s when I was sent to that terrible Lutheran School, because ‘the public school kids used bad language.'” Ruth asked questions, and listened while he continued. “I had to memorize those Bible passages that didn’t make any sense.” He was showing anger at the memory. “I didn’t have any trouble learning them, but they didn’t make any sense!”
Ruth asked, “Did you talk about it to your grandmother?”
“Yes, but she just said, ‘do the best you can.'” I could see that it was doing a world of good for Little Ralph to be telling this story to Ruth, who listened sympathetically as he continued, “I never memorized anything after that.”
Ruth soothed, “I can see how that would happen.”
The conversation continued, and soon more pictures were unearthed to show the sequence of those childhood homes. Some gaps were filled-in, as Ruth recalled, “After your dad and I were married in South Dakota, we, along with his sister, Betsy, who was sixteen, and went along from Denver as a chaperone, stopped in Topeka, Kansas, where you lived with your mother, and took you home with us. You were only four at the time.”
“I remember the first apartment, above the tavern, across the street from grandmother’s house.”
“Yes, that was convenient for you to stay with her during the day while your dad and I worked. He was a workaholic, you know. But we didn’t stay there very long. Soon we got a house, and you stayed there alone after school.”
“Sounds like he was the original ‘latch-key kid,” I added.
She looked sad, as she said, “Yes. It’s all we could do then. We didn’t have much money, and I had to work.”
Another wound was healed as Little Ralph told Ruth the story of the magazine sales, and the repercussions of his becoming a perfectionist when his dad said, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” Ruth didn’t remember the incident, so assumed she must have been at work, but she responded sympathetically, and then said, “The saddest thing I remember was when you had a paper route, and your dad made you stop because several people complained.”
Little Ralph looked angry and hurt, “I loved that paper route.”
Often, as incidents were discussed, Ruth would say, “I wasn’t your mother, and I didn’t feel I could interfere with your father’s discipline. That’s how it was then. I’ll never forget when your grandmother was with us for breakfast one morning, and you licked the syrup off the pitcher. Your dad reached across the table and slapped your face. I know you were humiliated in front of your grandmother, but neither of us said anything.”
The story unfolded as they recounted their lives from Golden, to Boulder, to Denver, where Ruth and Ralph Sr. divorced while Ralph Jr. was in high school. No explanation was given as to the reason, and he didn’t remember.
Some details were filled in about their home in Golden, where Ruth offered room and board to several students from the Colorado School of Mines. “I can still see the cot Ralph Jr. slept on in the dining room at the foot of the table. It’s the only place we had available. We had so little money that we had to rent out the bedrooms.”
The sun had set, and it was time for dinner. Ruth and Ed drove us to the Blueberry Twist, and Van paid for us all. This grown up gesture felt good, and I could tell it was a major step for Van to take that adult responsibility. They returned us home, good-byes were said, and another chapter drew to a close.
Van’s only comment the next day was a matter of fact, “That’s what I grew up with. Most of it was a fun time.î
The puzzle pieces seemed to be in place, and we were ready to move on.
The Twists and Turns of Lifeís Highway
I’d asked Ruth and Ed about Highway 20 toward I-5, to avoid Sacramento with its extended freeway traffic, and they said, “Oh, it’s a good road. No problems.”
Yet, in our reality, despite many “Passing Lanes,” the lengthy 3,000 ft. descent from Grass Valley, with the highwayís many twists and turns, somehow reminded me of our visit. On the surface there were ìno problems,” but in reality there were many twists and turns. For instance, Ruth and I had discussed a family member who, like my daughter, Gail, had distanced herself seven years ago with no further contact.
At first the pain had been almost unbearable for Ruth, and she’d had some major health setbacks, which ultimately were blessings because they put her on a path of alternative health care using vitamins, herbs, natural foods and chelation therapy. And she also pursued inner healing through self-awareness programs. She and Ed, now in their eighties, look radiant.
Yet, she still carried pain, and mostly the frustration of not understanding why it had happened. She said that someone had told her the process usually goes through: love, distancing, and ultimately forgiveness. “But, she said, “I don’t need her forgiveness, because I don’t feel I’ve done anything to be forgiven for.”
Of course, there’s always the other side of the story, and I’d noticed a similarity to the process I’d been through with my daughter, Gail. “It’s not just you, Ruth,” I said, “but it has something to do with the chemical imbalance they’re experiencing that causes a change in their thinking. Sometimes it’s from alcohol, drugs, medications, toxins, or it can be hereditary. All you can do is accept it, release it, and get on with your life; which you are doing.”
As we inched our way through the turns on the downward roll, I, too, got on a roll as I said to Van, “You know, forgiveness is not the final step. The next step is acceptance. Not only us accepting their condition, but as they process their healing, they will accept others, as they are. We’ve gone through this process in healing our relationship with our parents, and with each other.”
I paused, and then continued, “And there is yet another step in the healing process. It’s love. Actually, it’s unconditional love, like Jesus taught.”
Van reached a Passing Lane, and moved over as the other cars passed. I moved ahead too, as I said, ìIn other words, it’s like saying ‘there’s a Mack truck heading toward me.í I can deny, reject, hate, or otherwise deal with it; or I can say, ‘okay, I know that Mack trucks can be deadly. I’ll get out of its way.’ And there are times when they can be useful to drive. But, it’s a simple matter of acceptance without a lot of stuff going on about it.
“The same is true in our relationships. We can accept others as they are, and decide whether to be around them or not. Or we can let them be the way they are, and be decent when we are around them. It’s an inner process but an important part of our inner freedom journey.î It made sense to me, as I said, ìI must share this in my book.”
Mixed Messages in the Valley
We finally reached the bottom of the mountains, and began driving through the Sacramento Valley; much wider than I’d realized, but easier driving. I was still thinking about our visit with Ruth and Ed, fine people, but as most everyone these days, totally absorbed in themselves and their activities. For instance, they spent a very short time in our home, without even looking through it, and anxious to take us on a tour of their home and view the mementos of their accomplishments, which were extremely interesting, and showed the virtues of a good life; but what about our lives? Did they matter to them?
Ruth had admitted that she wasn’t a good mother to Little Ralph, and never even went to his school. First it was her job, then her baby; and she never drove, so it was a long walk that she never took.
As Ruth had talked about his childhood, I could see how Little Ralph had become independent and self-sufficient, mostly out of necessity, because of his workaholic, unreachable father and a preoccupied stepmother. I also understood more about the development of his passive-aggressive behavior. As with most kids, he’d learned to behave appropriately on the outer, while the resistance, resentment and rebellion seethed within, totally repressing his true feelings. And, of course, this became the pattern: Denial of self, and do or say whatever you need to in order to survive.
This is how his underearner pattern developed and continued throughout his life. The message to himself being, “I don’t matter.” Yet, instinctively beneath that outer facade, the will to survive rebelled. And now that Little Ralph is beginning to feel more secure about his feelings and needs being accepted, he’s moving forward with self-confidence.
As we discussed these insights, we’d reached Marysville, and were attempting to follow the signs to Yuba City. But the first one indicated Sacramento, Highway 70 to the right; Yuba City Highway 20 to the left. Yet, when we made the turn, we found ourselves in the wrong lane for the upcoming right turn. Fortunately the person behind us allowed us into the necessary lane, and with Van’s patience and skillful driving we made it.
Even this misadventure gave me insight into the mixed-messages and signs that we receive along life’s way, and how we often misinterpret them, and then get into life’s wrong lane. But we must remember that we have the choice to change lanes and again return to our desired destination.
Or, We Can Take a Shortcut
But, of course, life always offers its shortcuts, just as we took one across the tomato fields toward I-5. It was clear on the map — another of those black lines — but the road signs were rather obscure, or not there, so we had to turn around and go back, using our instinctive radar. Eventually we saw a highway sign indicating that we were on the right road: Highway 45 that would eventually make the connection. But the next road wasn’t marked, so we kept going along the fields of various crops. At one point we passed an oncoming tomato truck, and then several others. At a precarious sharp turn we noticed piles of tomatoes along the road, and I wanted to stop for some, but Van kept going, as there was no place to stop.
When writing about this tomato field fiasco, I wondered about its significance to the story, until I remembered an important part of my communication with Van, while emerging from the mountains. ìOnce we’ve made our recovery, and our wounded inner child becomes the wonder child, we tend to forget the steps along the way in the process; the painful putting together of the pieces until the puzzle (of self) is complete.
I’ve often complained about ministers who have gone through the process, yet belittle or minimize its importance. We all seem to think that we can gloss over the process with affirmations, or spirituality; when, in fact, the steps are spirituality. I’ve not found anything as spiritual as the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, used in all Twelve Step recovery programs, including CoDa and ACA (adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional families), the cornerstones in the foundation of my recovery program.
It must be remembered that this work gives us the steps to get from there to here: from dysfunctional to recovery; from wounded to wonder (child). To think it can be done without going through the steps is like putting a band-aide on cancer. It’s like the story of the Prodigal Son. We have to make the Journey back home, and take each step along the way.
One may say, “Then why leave in the first place?” True, we can stay in denial in these dysfunctional situations (over 90 percent of families are dysfunctional), but what is the negative payoff for continuing to endure paralyzing addictions, habits, patterns and other limitations that keep us in bondage?
We could have continued wandering through the maze of the tomato field, but it wasn’t our destination. It was only a step in the overall picture.
Time for a Rest Stop
After a few more unmarked turns, we found ourselves at Arbuckle, our destination for entering the freeway. Because we were hungry, we looked for a good stopping place to fix lunch. We crossed the railroad track, and noticed a train approaching. We then wound through the neighborhood streets trying to find a park, but to no avail.
Finally, we decided to get on the freeway and go to a Rest Stop, but as we retraced our steps toward the tracks, the barricade went down, and the train went roaring by. However, the gates did not go back up, cars were passing us and squeezing through the slightly ajar gate. To my horror, Van did the same thing with our 35 ft. rig, and then behind us, watched the gates go up.
“What is the significance of this?” I asked him, and also expected an answer from God, Who often speaks through such incidents. But no answer came forth from either Van or God. Instead, we reached the Rest Stop and took a break, with a tasty lunch. Perhaps itís enough to know that there are obstacles along the way, and there are also times for a Rest Stop.
As more pieces to the puzzle fit into place, I thanked God for this look into Van’s history. Not only was it healing for him, but it helped me understand him, and it could be helpful to others going through similar situations, which is the purpose of my writing this book. In fact, it’s the purpose of all my writings.
ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?
My expectations were that we would have some fun with our friend, Julie, as we moved on to Napa. And I thought Van would enjoy some happy bonding and fun times with her friend, Jim. But, again, I didn’t have all the information.
Our first unfulfilled expectation happened when we drove into the Napa Fairgrounds. A sign at the gate announced, RV PARKING $15.00, but a second sign, at the RV park facility, said: Temporarily closed until August 21st. We realized that it closed a week before, and a week after the Fair, which was during this time. .
The second unfulfilled expectation came when I attempted to call Julie from the phone booth at Beacon’s gas station while Van filled Freedom with gas, and discovered the phone out of order. I reported this condition to the attendant, who said, “I don’t have any control over the phone.” Aha, now I know we are back to reality, or maybe it’s the unreality of the city. I said, “My husband is planning to fill our 35 ft. motor home with gas while I make my phone call, but I guess we’ll go elsewhere.”
Van responded to my announcement to go elsewhere, by saying, “We’re here now, and it’s a good price, so we might as well fill up.”
I returned to the attendant and said, “My husband is going to fill up here, which is rather generous on his part under the circumstances. Do you have a phone I could use for a local call? I’d be glad to pay you the 20 cents.” He motioned me to the back room, and asked for the number, which he dialed, then handed me the phone.
The third unfulfilled expectation came when Donna, the lady where Julie lives in their fifth-wheeler, said, “She’s at the doctors. Julie’s quite sick, and I don’t think she’ll be able to see you when she gets back.” Now I’m also dealing with a thwarted intention, a second aspect of an upset. In order to avoid the third aspect, undelivered communication, I said, “Would you at least tell her we’re in town, and that I called?”
My tone was less than pleasant, so Donna replied “No, of course I won’t tell her.”
I knew she was being facetious, but I was in no mood to play, so I said, “The fairground RV parking is closed, so we’ll be at the Skyline RV Park, until we see her — whether today, tomorrow, or whatever.”
Now all I needed was to find no room at the RV Park, but Donna informed me she’d gone out the day before and they had plenty of room. I thanked her, and realized she was actually trying to be helpful. I was just upset that Julie not only wasn’t available, but wasn’t well. Joanie had been looking forward to fun with her playmate, Precious (Julie’s inner child). So, all aspects of an upset were in place, and I allowed myself the privilege of feeling my feelings: disappointment.
Nevertheless, Van and I had dinner, and then went for a walk in this beauteous setting overlooking the Napa Valley surrounded by mountains, trees, and a grape vineyard. We learned that two ponds were nearby, so headed in that direction when we heard, “Yoohoo.” The park attendant was headed our way, “I have a message for you from Julie. As we neared, she said, “Julie said she can’t see you tonight, but will be here at 10:00 tomorrow morning.” The attendant handed us the message, and went to her fifth-wheeler.
We continued our walk to see the ponds, but were greeted with signs that read: Do not hike after sunset. Wild pigs and rattlesnakes along the trails are a hazard. Fortunately the sun had set, so we gingerly walked along the fenced path to survey the ponds with ducks floating amongst the cattails. We picked a few wild blackberries, and then watched the glorious golden sunset reflect across the second pond. As we continued our walk on the grounds of the RV Park, the sun changed to oranges and pinks as it set behind the mountains and gave a glow to the valley. Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me, and it would be gone by the time I could get back and get it; so we took our time and savored the beauty and the energies of the famous Napa Valley. The sunset continued to glow long after dark, and we sat in our home and thanked God for this wonderful lifestyle.
Van went to meet Julie at the entrance while I finished getting ready. When they returned, Joanie waited excitedly on the steps, but Precious (her inner child) was nowhere to be seen; only Julie being serious and preoccupied with her illness, which she labeled as a virus called Barr-Epstein, and the main cure is rest, and a healthy lifestyle. She reclined on the sofa, and drank volumes of water as she described her illness, and recovery program. Bottom-line: she’d like to go with us to the beach, as I’d suggested in a letter I wrote along the way. However, she added “I’ll need to rest along the way.”
Joanie waited for glimpses of Precious, but only when I fixed lunch, while Julie languished on our bed, did her inner child surface, and thatís when Julie weakly said, “Precious likes to see Joanie fixing lunch. That’s a real unique concept.”
That’s for sure. It’s always been Julie fixing gourmet meals for us; or taking us to exotic restaurants. This was a first, and she wasn’t used to me preparing meals. Since she needs nutritious food, I cooked some frozen veggies and rice pilaf, but she wasnít much interested in her food, and she didn’t eat very much. She was totally absorbed with her illness.
Some Communications Get Delivered
To Joanieís delight, the next night Julie attempted to rally, and invited us for a barbecue, while her friends (where she lived) were away for two days. Though still very low-key, she exuded more of the energies we had once known as the hostess with the mostest. She had even made an apple pie and macaroni salad, and planned to serve barbecued hamburgers. I helped in the kitchen, while Julie provided her usual gourmet delight, and to my amazement, she enrolled Van in barbecuing — a bigtime first, and one that only Julie could inspire, as he never indulges in any form of cooking.
We topped the evening by walking the dog around the streets of the adjoining Country Club. And I silently chuckled, because, even when sick, she managed to surround herself in an elegant setting. Thatís the Julie that I know and admire.
She’d invited us for a steak barbecue the next night to meet her friend, Jim, so Van asked if we could remain parked in the driveway for the night. Without hesitation she replied, “Of course, I’m sorry I didn’t think of it.”
Earlier in the day, I’d made my newsletter copies, so spent the next day preparing them to mail, making some semblance of maintaining my ministry-by-mail, while Julie rested and studied for her correspondence program. Later, while on an outing to look at RV’s (Julie seemed interested in the prospect of such a lifestyle, after her recovery)), I managed to mail my newsletters.
Let’s Have Some Fun
At least one part of my expectations was fulfilled when Jim arrived, and he and Van found many common interests, including both being computer programmers, and both having been in the Navy. But mostly Jim enjoyed a tour of Freedom, and listening to Van’s travel adventures. I again helped Julie prepare dinner, and this time she barbecued the rib steaks that Jim had provided.
After dinner, we taught them how to play our favorite card game, Up-down, but Julie didn’t like it at all: it didn’t make sense, and had no logic. She couldn’t relate to simply having fun playing the game, so Joanie again felt thwarted in attempting to have fun with her playmate.
Sunday, however, brought some aliveness to Julie as we attended two metaphysical church services: Unity and Religious Science. Julie had friends at both, and their energies seemed to evoke some enthusiasm from her. And Joanie was thrilled that we were invited to join her group for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Being with these good energies, verged on fun, and the food was good. While Julie spent her time bonding with her friends, I chatted about my ministry and travels, which elicited some interest, and allowed me to feel like I fit in. This too had been part of my expectations: possibly to settle in this area and be involved with these churches. Yet, the message I seemed to be receiving, at least at this time, was “Don’t plan on it.” I began to wonder if I’d ever again fit into any place.
However, after returning to our RV Park, Van and I enjoyed another evening walk; and I realized that, for now, living in the Present Moment, wherever I am, is where I belong. And Joanie and Little Ralph rejoiced when they spotted five deer, dashing through the oak trees at dusk. And we saw some wild turkeys on several occasions, during our walks. One time, Little Ralph found a colorful black and tan feather for my collection of mementos. Fortunately, we didnít see the elusive wild pigs or rattlesnakes, mentioned on the sign. Thank goodness
One day, we accompanied Julie, along the Silverado Trail, through the famous Napa wineries, to her doctor’s, in Calistoga. As we passed, she gave a serious, thorough description of each winery. She was familiar with them, because of her job, as hostess, at several Bed and Breakfasts; but mostly in her Public Relations work, which involved personal contacts with the owners. Sheíd been wined and dined by top executives in the Napa Valley, and was building a fine reputation in Public Relations.
Unfortunately, working three jobs at a time nearly destroyed her health, and still didn’t satisfy her unrelenting quest for success. Although she’d worked seventeen years as a respiratory therapist (the last at Stanford), she still needed the fulfillment of financial success based on her standards. She always basked in the shadows of her millionaire brother; and never quite felt the acceptance or approval of her parents. Now, while incapacitated, Julie realized that God has given her the royal two-by-four to get her attention and find out what He wants her to do. In the meantime, she’s taking care of herself and resting.
However, while in the fun town, Calistoga, she took time for a Mexican lunch, at one of her favorite eateries. And when we returned to Napa, via Highway 29, through elite St. Helena, her favorite place, we stopped for an ice cream cone. Joanie knew Precious was finally having some fun, and therefore, her mission (as friend and playmate) was accomplished.
Precious and the Ninja Turtle
The much anticipated (by Joanie and Precious) Big Trip to the Sonoma Coast beaches in Freedom, went nicely, with Julie resting on the couch. We settled at Doran Park State Campgrounds between the Bodega Bay and Harbor. What a viewpoint! The bay on one side, and the ocean on the other.
Though the usual fog enshrouded us, we went for a walk along the sandy shoreline with the waves washing lightly against the shoreline. Precious finally emerged, and was having a good time when she spotted a kid’s Ninja Turtle partially buried in the sand. It took her fancy for its symbolic significance of health, and she wanted to take it with her, but I felt empathy for the child, who would return to find it missing, though none was in sight at the time, and suggested that we leave it, until the next day.
Precious comforted herself collecting small sand dollars and feathers, but I could tell she was terribly disappointed, and I regretted thwarting her intentions, so as we returned along the beach, I suggested she go ahead and take it. However, the tide had come in, and the spot where the toy had been placed was covered with smooth wet sand.
I later apologized to Precious, but the damage had been done; she didn’t emerge much after that. Van reassured her that the owner had returned for it, before the waves came, and I too had seen some people in that area. So we let it be.
In the meantime, she sat at a picnic table, in the fog, studying, while Van and I went for a walk along the harbor. The oyster shells broken in all sizes, from halves to pulverized sand, accounted for its name: Shell Beach. This bay is famous for its oyster beds. As we walked, the fog lifted somewhat, and a glorious sunset broke through over the sand dunes. Again, I didn’t have my camera on the walk. Who’d ever have thought there would be any sun through this thick fog? We paused awhile to watch a seal frolic in the water, and then crossed over to the bay to complete our walk back to Freedom. By this time, Julie had returned to the coach, and was reading some of my magazines.
The next morning Julie was out early looking for the Ninja Turtle, again, but to no avail. And our having fun time came to a screeching halt. She spent the rest of the time studying, and it didn’t take me long to figure out the mode operandi. But, I decided the trip was serving its main purpose, whether or not Joanie was having fun, and I let it be okay that Julie was resting. At least, it was a change of scenery.
The next day we all three went for another walk along the bay looking for mementos along the foggy shoreline. We were all secretly hoping we’d find the toy Ninja Turtle, but I’m sure the owner was happily enjoying it.
River’s End Restaurant
After a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, we drove north along the coast to Jenner, where I planned to thrill Julie/Precious with lunch at River’s End, a place Van and I had enjoyed another time, and dubbed a “Julie Restaurant.” I guess she enjoyed herself. How could you tell? She was so serious. She admitted that the gravlax (pickled salmon) were excellent; and the view overlooking the bay and ocean were breathtaking as the infamous Russian River, which yearly overflows into deadly floods, now created a tranquil scene as it flowed through the valley into the bay, and finally joined the Pacific Ocean at the end of the sandspit.
Rather than the pricey lunch order, Joanie settled for the three tidbits on the appetizer menu: a cup of clam chowder (though it was a tasty French style, not traditional) and her favorite coconut fried shrimp served with orange rum sauce. Yumm! Good Girl!
Van, however, ordered open-faced Dungeness crab sandwiches, and devoured all four halves. Too rich for me, but I did partake of the gourmet English trifle, which we all shared. Joanie felt happy and fulfilled with her special restaurant, but disappointed that Precious again didn’t get to play. Maybe if she’d gotten to keep the Ninja Turtle she’d be happier. Or, perhaps it’s like when my mom visited Freedom and had a panic attack, because of overwhelm; but later, with great excitement, told Karen (her caretaker) about our “house on wheels.” Joanie knew that Precious was having fun despite Julie’s silence.
The Highway From Hell
Because River’s End was on a hill, the parking did not facilitate Freedom so we parked on a nearby turnout and walked back. Returning to the hill, it was necessary to back up, so Julie volunteered to direct traffic, while Van maneuvered out of the tight space.
This was the beginning of the end of whatever fun we were having; at least for Joanie. We now began an ascent that wound along a narrow, heavily traveled road straight up the mountain overlooking the ocean. It’s bad enough in a car, but Freedom overhung the edge, which fortunately hugged the inside lane.
When Van pulled out to let cars pass, I said, “How many in favor of turning around?” He returned to the road without any discussion, and we were now committed to the next 14 miles of winding curves that followed the contour of the mountain, high above the ocean.
I was scared, and I knew the only thing for me to do was survive as best I could, so I retreated to the computer table; though I was too paralyzed to use the computer. But, at least I couldn’t see the roads.
This Isnít Going to Work!
Since we were at lower altitudes, and the highway was level, I returned to the passenger seat, and proceeded to converse with Van about the directions for a cabin where weíd plan to stay.
As he missed the turn, and drove past, I looked up the steep hillside with the overhanging limbs, which he also glimpsed, and said, “This isn’t going to work. We’ve got to stay elsewhere.”
With Julie’s help, they saw a narrow driveway, and he turned in, but it was impossible to make the turn, so now he had to get out. I headed to the road behind Freedom and stopped the traffic, while motioning to Van. Once he was back in our lane, still heading north, I got back on board.
Within a few minutes we came to a State Campground. Van drove to the Camp Hostess. He got out and asked questions about the road ahead verses returning the way we came. She said “Don’t go back. The road ahead is good, and there’s a good road back to 101.”
She said that we could stay there for the night, if we chose, so Van suggested I walk with him to the possible site.
We discussed the options, and decided to stay there for the night, and continue north the next day. When we returned to Freedom and looked at the map, I said, “There’s no way we can make that trip, then all the way back on 101, and over to Napa in one day. And Julie has a 10:30 doctor’s appointment the next day in Calistoga. We’ll have to drive tonight as far as possible, stay someplace, and try to get her home tomorrow night.” He agreed that would be the best plan.
During our conversation, I’d asked Van, “Are you choosing the longer route, because of my attitude, or do you feel the Highway from Hell is too hard on Freedom? He looked confused, so I said, ìDoes it bother you, too?” I then added, “If itís because of me, I can sit at the computer table, so it won’t bother me.”
He admitted that it bothered Little Ralph. Now that was a first, and a terrific communication. I rejoiced that we had reached another positive turning point in our relationship.
It’s Okay to Turn Back
Van told Julie we were ready to go, and as he began to explain our decision, he said, “I think we’d better go back the way we came, and maybe stay at Bodega Bay tonight.”
I couldn’t believe my ears, and asked “My Love, are you sure?” He nodded, and I took my seat at the computer table, but this time I took some magazines to read, and crossword puzzles to work, and I didnít look at the ocean, now on the outside, far below.
Van got Little Ralph settled down, and he white-knuckled us back over the mountains. Julie spent the trip studying. On some level, I’m sure she knew something had shifted, and she made no further input. It was a silent trip.
After we descended the mountain curves, I returned to my seat and looked at the campground options. Near Bodega, I asked Van to stop so we could decide where to stay, and I suggested the dunes might be a good alternative from the foggy bay. We selected a space; a procedure that took several drives through the park, and changes when we discovered the first one was not easily accessible: too narrow with low branches.
We settled into the second location, and I began fixing dinner, and the evening mellowed as we watched TV.
I thanked God, in my evening prayers, for getting us safely through the perilous ups and downs of the day.
When we got up the next morning, Julie announced she’d been up since 6:00 a.m., and had even climbed the sand dune. I detected a glimpse of Precious reporting on the event, and rejoiced that maybe she was having fun, even if she and Joanie didn’t get to play. I knew, for sure, that she wasn’t having fun when Julie returned to sit in the sun at the picnic table and continue to study.
While Van and I went for a morning walk, I asked what lesson he got out of the Highway From Hell. He agreed that perhaps we should have turned around at the top of the first mountain grade. As our walk continued, overlooking the Bodega Harbor, from the other side, toward the campground where we’d stayed the first night, we came to a turn, and I asked, “Should we continue, or turn back?” Though tempted to keep going, we decided to return. “Maybe we’re learning our lesson,” I quipped. Little Ralph and Joanie were enjoying each other’s company, the morning walk in the sunshine, and the scenery. Indeed, we were having fun.
The Other Side of the Mountain
In a desperate effort to make sure Precious had some kind of completion over the trip, Joanie suggested, ìLet’s have lunch where we can order barbecued oysters? And, let’s stop at the Cherry Juice place that you like near Napa?” Julie responded favorably, so I assumed Precious liked the idea.
While checking out, and performing the dumping ceremonies, Van asked the ranger about the access road to the ocean, and learned it went right by the dump site. Joanie didn’t want any more steep grades, so she started walking along the road. “I’ll check it out,” she told Van, and headed along the beach road, passing Julie studying in the folding chair by the dumpsite. I knew the walk would be too much for her, as she’d already overextended herself on the sand dunes. So Joanie walked over the hill, singing: “The bear went over the mountain. The bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see.”
At the top, she saw more hills, and continued her song: “The other side of the mountain. The other side of the mountain. The other side of the mountain, is all that he could see.” She passed a sign that indicated horseback riders crossing, and laughed when three horseback riders appeared from the dunes and crossed. At the top of the next hill, she still couldn’t tell about the road, so kept walking. By this time she had to go to the bathroom, so decided it was easier to keep going and use the public facility at the beach. “It’s too far to go back. I’ll just send a thought-message to Little Ralph to come on down.”
By the time she finished with the porta-pot, she spotted Freedom gliding easily into the parking lot, and when they had parked, Joanie said to Little Ralph, “Did you get my message?”
“Oh yes,” he replied, “loud and clear.”
Completions and Opportunities
We joined Julie, who was already heading for the beach, with Precious pulling her onward, no doubt, though not very obvious, until we got to the beach; a short walk up the boardwalk, and down the other side. Precious was having fun gathering feathers, as we walked over the sand with the heavy waves splashing against the seashore. We were definitely at the beach, and we were even having fun, but knowing Julie’s health condition, and slipping into the role of caretaker, I said, “Precious, don’t go too far. Remember, we have to go back.”
The sun had been warm, but suddenly it went behind a cloud, the wind came up, and it was chilly. Precious turned heel, and quickly returned to the steps. Julie already had a fever, and a slight cold, so Precious was trying to take care of her. I began to realize that it wasn’t about her having fun now. It was about saving her life.
In the meantime, I wanted a picture of us together, so I asked a beach walker to take our picture with the ocean background, and she pleasantly obliged.
Then we returned to Freedom and went to The Sandpiper. We parked at the marina, and passed the many boats docked in the harbor as we walked to the restaurant. What a picturesque setting! We could see across the harbor to the spot Van and I had walked along Shell Beach, our first night here with Julie, and had watched the sunset and the seal play.
The waitress approached, and I said, “We’d like barbecued oysters.” She looked blank, and said, “We don’t have any oysters on our menu.” Three disappointed kids sat there, on the verge of an upset, because of unfulfilled expectations, thwarted intentions, and undelivered communications. But we were too hungry, and the park ranger had assured me this was “hands down, the best place in town to eat,” so we made our selections and waited. Little Ralph and Joanie ordered bowls of clam chowder, and this time it was the traditional creamy kind. Precious had been torn between her gravlax or fish and chips at River’s End, so she was delighted with her choice here: excellent fish and chips.
Joanie was determined to have a completion of barbecued oysters, someplace else, after lunch, and all three share one order. But we were all too full, and quite satisfied, so that left an incompletion, but as Julie said, “It’s something to look forward to next time.”
Soon we left behind the magical coast town of Bodega Bay, and Julie rested as we headed across pastureland, through Petaluma, and finally to the Cherry Juice place. I don’t know what Little Ralph and Joanie expected, probably cherry pie.
However, precious was happy, as she pointed to the “giant ice cream drumsticks” in the freezer. Joanie tried to talk Little Ralph into a piece of pie, at least, to make up for his disappointment, but he settled for the ice cream drumstick, then followed Julies lead and bought a quart of cherry juice.
Within a short time we dropped Julie off at her home, and said “goodbye.” As we described our trip to her friends, Norm and Donna (also RVers), she laughed, and said, “Oh, you took the Highway From Hell.”
We really did have fun, and I’m sure the change was good for Julie and Precious. As she said, “”I’m sorry I was so quiet. Next time I’ll be well, and we’ll have a better time.”
COME TO MY HOUSE
To Mom’s House
“God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,” and we don’t always know why or how. But sometimes we are given glimpses.
We thought our mission in Santa Clara would be to give comfort and support to Van’s mother, and make her life easier while she “Just put in time,” as she’d said to him on the phone. We had no idea what awaited us, and were prepared to stay indefinitely, doing whatever was required.
Highway 680 by-passing San Francisco and Oakland, proved our best route for ease and less congestion as it outskirts the Eastbay cities. Again, we’d prepared for the worst as we left our mountains and rural lifestyle to the hustle and bustle of the big city and its traffic. But to our surprise, the trip went smoothly, and within an hour we sat on a parking lot in Milpitas for lunch, before checking into our new location, a space at the mobile park where Vanís mom lives.
Within a few minutes we pulled into the driveway of the mobile park, and stopped in front of a unit, with the intentions of asking Betty where we should go. But immediately a lady stood on her porch saying, “I’ll need to get my car out.”
Little Ralph said, “I’m just going to be a minute while I find out where to park.” The lady walked with him around the corner to look for #95.
In the meantime, as fast as a speeding bullet, someone had apparently called the manager, Vera, who began pounding on the lady’s door. I said, “She went around the corner.” The manager looked at me, and said, “You can’t park here, you’re blocking the driveway.”
I knew we’d created this hostile greeting, because both Joanie and Little Ralph expected to be yelled at for some reason. Coming home to Mom, I guess, and assuming the child’s role. So, of course, the universe gives us what we project. Joanie cringed, and dreaded the prospect of living in this environment as I tried to explain, “We’re going to stay here. We’re looking for #95.”
“You can’t park here,” she repeated in her heavy accent, and again banged on the door, ignoring my first explanation, so I repeated, “She went around the corner.”
About then, the lady and Van reappeared, and he, again, explained that he was visiting his mother, and she’d reserved space #95 for us.
“Oh,” the light dawns, a big smile, and Vera climbs on her white steed — a golf cart — and zooms past Betty’s unit with us following. Van’s mom stood on her balcony watching as we drove by waving. Looking quizzical at the size of our home passing before her eyes, she hesitantly waved. Van hollered, “We’ll be back later.”
Van went through the usual setting up, and finally he went to his mom’s house. Joanie was still recuperating from her Authority Figure syndrome, so I stayed behind to give them together time, and to regroup my own energies. Joanie had pulled all the shades down, and drawn the curtains, so I knew we were in trouble. I took time to ask God to remove the negative energies of this pattern, return them to Divine Substance, and transform them into positive and productive energies for good. Then I spent some time on the computer, and enjoying the prospect of staying in one place awhile.
Later Van returned for dinner, and reported that his mom was doing okay. After we ate, we both went to his mom’s house. As near as I could determine by asking questions, her main problem was the inability to get around, because of her legs; but she wasn’t in pain, and other than boredom, she felt okay. I knew that for a person who’s been on several dozen cruises and tours over the past twenty years, not being able to get around is debilitating. And because of being overweight, getting up and down was extremely difficult.
Betty and I share an interest in People magazine and National Enquirer. In fact, she has given us subscriptions to both, so we spent the evening covering some of the recent notorietyís, including O.J. and JonBenet, and, of course, the latest political controversies. Van mostly listened, adding a few comments, or asking questions to clarify. Finally we’d settled the affairs of the world, and went home.
This, then, is the relationship with Betty: both mine, and Vanís. Her life is totally controlled and regimented, and on her terms. Her mobile home is immaculate (with the help of her housecleaner) and everything has a place, and is in place. There is one way of doing anything: her way! And that’s how it’s done. She has no patience with stupid behavior, especially in politics, and is definitely opinionated, to the point of anger, over most of the politicianís activities.
Van, of course, has learned how to dance her dance, and they get along great. But, it’s easy to see how he’s programmed to behave appropriately. Most of us, in our generation, became codependent in order to survive. I’m an expert, so I easily swing into this mode when with Betty. But, my years in CoDa have taught me the difference, and I must be careful not to slip into the old patterns; like an alcoholic working in a bar, this is very slippery for me. My best defense is detachment and observation.
As I said, I can play the necessary role quite well, but Joanie rebels. She always has; and so does Little Ralph. He’s just not as aware of his true feelings. But, at night he breathes heavily, tosses and turns, and is quite restless. My body responds with heartburn reflux, leg cramps, and insomnia. Because I’m sensitive to his energies, I have to sleep on the couch, or I’m awake all night. I knew I was in trouble, because the first few nights I vomited.
Finally, after several days of the above procedure, I suggested that Van and I take Little Ralph and Joanie to a movie, using Betty’s car. The kids wolfed down popcorn, while absorbed with the wonderful science-fiction, Contact, with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConeghy.
Joanie laughed at Little Ralph driving his mom’s car. He was extremely nervous, and very careful. Her car, too, is immaculate, with nothing in it; as spotless as the day she bought it brand new, when she replaced her Cadillac with this smaller Oldsmobile. Itís easier to get around in, after she began having leg problems from arthritis.
Of course, she adheres strictly to her doctor’s advice, and absolutely refused to use our herbal product, when Van first suggested it to alleviate her health conditions.
In the past she had supported Van’s projects, such as Buzzy, but as they didn’t materialize into financial success, she stopped. Betty is a sound businesswoman, and has no such pattern as underearning. In fact, she has a prosperity consciousness, and enjoys the finer things of life; or did, until her health began to hamper her activities. She still pays upfront and willingly for what she wants and gets. I suggested to Van that he could take some prosperity lessons from his mom. He agreed. And one part of him is very much like Betty, as far as generosity and adapting to a quality lifestyle. But the other holds onto his dad’s underearning patterns.
I could see the patterns much more clearly during this extended stay. And so could he, now, in his more aware consciousness. Though he wasn’t able to put into words what was happening, I watched in fascination as Little Ralph healed on deep levels, and continued with his transformation into healthy adulthood.
Within a few days, after asking enough questions, I was able to determine that Betty had no intentions of us staying beyond the month she’d paid rent for our space, and we were free to leave sooner, if we wanted. She’d simply paid the minimum month’s rent, as she always paid our expenses when visiting her; probably because she has no room, nor desire, for us to stay with her. And she doesn’t do meals, so in the past we ate out together. But much to Joanie’s disappointment, Betty no longer eats out. Too much of a hassle. So in order to appease Joanie, Van and I ate out sometimes.
Little Ralphís Mom Visits Our Home
A highlight of our visit came when Van’s mom CAME INSIDE OUR HOME. It wasn’t easy for her to negotiate the steps into Freedom, but she did it! I knew how excited Little Ralph was, because Joanie had felt elated too, when her mom came to visit our home. There was something deeply meaningful about this gesture of acceptance and belonging.
He gave his mom the Grand Tour, which took about ten minutes, stem to stern; and she even sat down a few minutes. But I could tell she was uncomfortable, and anxious to return to her home, so she didn’t stay long. Van helped his mom negotiate the steps, but she turned around and stepped down backwards without any difficulty.
But she did come to our house. And Little Ralph was delighted. I said, “Your mom was really impressed with the Grand Tour. Were you excited about her coming to our house?”
He smiled, and said, “Sure.” And I knew that was about as much comment as I would get.
After that he had a whole new bounce to his step, and seemed freer. In fact, he became much more interested in working on Freedom, and it seemed to me that another level of Little Ralph growing up had evolved. I’d originally planned to title this chapter: Little Ralph Grows Up, but that was when I thought he would have to start taking care of her, before I discovered that his mom was doing fine. Yet, this time together was a vital part of the growing up part of Little Ralph’s evolvement.
Pho Hoa’s House
I must admit that I am prejudiced; not toward any race or nationality, as such, but toward foreigners coming to America and taking from it without giving anything back in return. And, in fact, adding to the problems, rather than the solutions. Of course, I realize that we have those people amongst our own citizens.
But I’m not used to the tremendous influx of foreigners in the big cities, and the area where Betty lives is definitely integrated. However, I noticed that everyone seemed to be going about their business: walking the streets, and frequenting the local stores without being shot down, so we ventured out in the cool of the evening to Walgreens, about 1/2 block from our home. On the way, we passed several Vietnamese restaurants, including Pho Hoa, a Vietnamese Noodle Soup restaurant boasting: A Health-Conscious Choice. While out on errands, I’d seen a billboard advertising a Noodle Soup Restaurant, and wanted to go to one, so was delighted to find this one so close.
We discovered Walgreen’s closed, so returned the next day, but with an early lunch stop at Pho Hoa’s. The place was stark, but clean, so we sat down and looked at the menu, which fortunately was written in English, especially when we discovered the waiter didn’t speak English. This presented a problem, because eating in a Vietnamese Noodle Soup place was obviously an adventure that required a tour guide, according to the menu. For instance, the first 1/2 page described the making and serving of their soups to give the exact perfect combination of herbs and ingredients and the resulting perfect food and aroma. Another page gave instructions to ìselect according to one’s tasteî: more salt, less salt; more broth, less broth; more noodles, less noodles; more fat, less fat. On and on it went; enough to boggle the mind.
Fortunately, one selection was chicken noodle soup, so I decided to go for it, while Van chose meatball and rib eye steak noodles. The waiter came, and I pointed to our choices; then he asked something in Vietnamese, and I didn’t have a clue. I was ready to leave, but another white refugee at a nearby table held up his fingers to indicate: small or large. Aha! I chose small, but Van asked “Is ësmallí enough for a meal?” Blank look from our waiter. I looked around him at my interpreter who was nodding his head. “Yes,” I said to Van. The waiter left. Whew! We made it through the first step.
Since the prices weren’t listed, I asked the neighbor, “How do you know the cost?”
“It’s according to what you put on it,” he said.
“Oh, thanks,” I said, and to Van I added, “I guess we’ll just wait and be surprised. I’ll treat with the $20.00 I found in front of the post office, yesterday.” Soon they brought a dish of fresh bean sprouts with lime wedges and slices of something green, like peppers, and large sprigs of green leaves, which I assumed to be basil, only because it was mentioned as an option of herbs. I watched other customers, and noticed that they added the ingredients to their bowl of hot noodles, so the steaming broth would slightly cook them, but not too much. “Good idea,” I said to Van.
My gaze fell on a gadget at the edge of the table that held chopsticks, glass soup spoons (Chinese style), and little dishes (like they use in Chinese restaurants for condiments). I watched at other tables, and saw some people (mostly oriental or Asian) using the chopsticks to place the noodles or meat on the spoons, then add condiments (from containers on the table), and eat.
On the other hand, some folks were using good old American forks, and others were eating with their chopsticks. “Okay, so it’s a matter of choice,” I reported to Van, who was looking totally disoriented as Little Ralph tried to figure out what he’d gotten into, and Joanie giggled. I’d never have gotten Van into such a place, in the past. Too many years stationed in Hong Kong had tainted his taste for anything Oriental.
But now, he too, was enjoying the adventure, and cheerfully picked up the chopsticks and began eating, after the ample sized bowl was served. I too, used the chopsticks (my way) to place some bean sprouts, green peppers, and herbs onto both our plates; then slurped up the noodles as best I could. Within minutes Van’s face flushed, and he quickly placed his generous supply of green peppers onto the serving plate.
“Aren’t they regular green peppers?” I asked.
“Not at all,” he replied after drinking some water to put out the fire. Joanie giggled, and grabbed for the bottle, which I determined to be miso (fermented soy) for flavor. “Would you like some of this red condiment?”
Little Ralph read the label “Caliente.”
“OOOOps,” I rescued him from another disaster. “That means hot, I don’t think you want it.” He’d seen me use the miso, so added some to his bowl. I didn’t say anything, because in the past he hadn’t liked it, but this time he ate heartily. What fun!
By now the place was packed, as it was after noon, and soon a waiting list was started. My writer’s human interest began noticing the other customers: mostly Oriental, Asian, or Indonesian professional people — men and women — but some families, and even some white business people, and some workmen. The room buzzed quietly with conversation, and the energies were good. I began feeling at home, and I could feel my attitude changing to acceptance rather than differences.
It was a good experience, and I managed to eat all my meal long before Van, as he always chews his food thirty times. I continued to observe others, fascinated by the various food plates; mostly rice, meat, and vegetables. “How do you suppose they determine exactly what combinations they want to order?” I asked Van. He just kept eating. So I kept watching. “I think that’s a bowl of their Special: Seafood — shrimp, squid, fish balls and crab” I said, pointing to a huge pile of food. “I think I’ll order that next time.” His partner was polishing off a lunch plate featuring rice, vegetables, and some kind of meat. “That looks good, too,” I offered. Van kept silently eating, but I could tell he was enjoying himself.
When he’d finished, and we walked outside, I said, “I feel like I’ve taken an excursion to a foreign country. What a fun adventure. Cheap too.” The bill had been $3.95 each.
House of Paper (Mail)
After finishing our shopping, Van called Bill, at Mail Box Etc. in Golden, and learned that our lost mail had been returned to him. After all these weeks, the lost was found. “It was forwarded from Salem to Bend,” he said. Van pleasantly handled the conversation, giving instructions to mail it to our present address, while I fumed. “Incompetence!” I still didn’t know who to blame, but there’s no good reason for a “Two-day Guaranteed Delivery” to take five weeks; and we still didn’t have it. “Ask him if the post office is going to pay the forwarding?” I muttered.
Van laughed at the reply, and said, “Okay, then charge another $20.00 to our credit card. “And, by the way, send our current mail on Saturday to this same address.”
It all sounded so simple, but I wouldn’t hold my breath until I got our mail. I nudged him, “Ask about the letter that was returned to Jerry, stating “undeliverable as addressed.” After he hung up, Van reported: “Bill doesn’t use that terminology, so it was the Golden post office.”
I growled, “I think it’s time to call Customer Service at the post office.”
He didn’t comment, instead he began the next call to Matol to find out why our products hadn’t reached us. The best he could do there was having them send another shipment to our current address. However, we were now into the third day of the UPS strike, so I figured it would take forever to get my shakes, and worst of all, our recent order for my KM would be delayed. “I don’t want to get diabetes because of some damn strike,” I grumbled.
When he hung up, Van reported, “They’re sending our order on FedEx. It should arrive next week.”
At last, a light at the end of the delivery tunnel. On the walk back home, I again asked, “What is going on about our mail and shipping service?” No answer. “You know,” I said, “we really can’t change our basic address at this point. We’re too deeply into it, and it would be too complicated. I think we’ll have to keep this service, and pray that it’s going to be okay now.”
Jane Visits Our House
I looked forward to Jane’s visit at our house. And she not only spent some time visiting, but was interested in looking at some photos of our trip. In fact, when spotting Pikes Peak, she shrieked with delight, “My mom climbed that when she was younger. But my sister and I recently put on a party to celebrate her 90th birthday.” She added, “In fact, I’ve been to Colorado Springs many times. We have relatives there.” Ah, at last, an interest in our pictures.
But soon, looking at her watch, she said, “I want to treat you guys to dessert, and I need to leave here by 5:00, in order to get home in time to sing with the choir at Stanford’s Memorial Chapel. We’re going to sing a Requiem. It will be beautiful.”
I said, ìI’d love to attend, but it’s Van’s mom’s birthday, and she doesn’t want any fuss, so at least we need to be with her.”
We enjoyed the time chatting about Jane’s many craft projects, and her singing and writing, and work in a convalescent home. And in the midst of all this, she was planning her wedding.
We rejoiced with Jane, who’s over fifty and getting married for the first time, as she talked about her wedding plans, including a cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. I knew it would be a special celebration, so I said, “Jane, I really want to attend your wedding, but the timing is off. We need to get on the road in order to see our friend, Bonnie, in northeastern Washington, then on to Canada, and back to Colorado around October first.”
Oh, no, I really didn’t expect it,” she said. “I’m just happy to see you now.”
We caught up on the news of mutual acquaintances, and soon it was time for her to leave. We walked the short distance home, and she went on her way for the singing presentation.
Later, while putting pictures of our trip in the new photo album I bought at Walgreen’s, I was overcome with nostalgia, and said to Van, “This trip was so great, I want to do it all over again.” Of course, it wouldn’t be the same, so instead we began planning our next trip.
I still felt bad about not attending Jane’s wedding, and wondered if our new lifestyle had already become an addiction. Probably, but it was sure better than the way things had been going when Van was so terribly depressed. I’d never seen him happier than now. And he’d really perked up when we started planning our next venture, so I released Jane’s wedding, and sent her a silent blessing.
While entering up to this point, I sat in Freedom in the parking lot of Betty’s mobile park. I wondered how to tie this chapter all together, when I began hearing nearby buzzers, and then fire engines. I could hear a woman’s voice yelling from the apartments in front of us, and I looked outside to see her frantically motioning to the firemen, who had now appeared on the scene, riding their three fire engines, in the next parking lot.
Of course, Little Ralph rushed out to watch the fire engines, and I stopped writing. “I wonder if we’ll have to evacuate,” I asked, as I filed my chapter input, and went outside. A neighbor watching the excitement blithely said to another, who was running to the scene, “Oh, someone’s apartment is on fire,” almost disappointed there was nothing more to report.
I thought about the news report I’d seen on TV the day before, of a local family’s entire home burned to the ground, with only a chimney left standing. Everything they owned was destroyed, but they still had each other, and that seemed enough as they sifted through the ashes trying to salvage something else to hold onto.
With our neighbor’s emergency handled, I returned to my computer. Somehow, the title seemed good for what I wanted to write about Van’s family history on his mom’s side. It seemed essential to fit together these last pieces of the puzzle of his life. We, too, had been sifting through the ashes of the lives of both his parents in recent years.
More Pieces to the Puzzle
I could finally see something we could hold onto, to make sense of the complicated person Van had become.
For instance, a picture puzzle’s pieces must fit within a border that forms the frame. I now had the frame in place. Neither of Van’s parents ever owned a home. They either lived in apartments, or basements of someone else’s homes; or they rented a home for short periods of time. His mom, however, does own her mobile home; but it’s not a house. So where would owning a home fit into Van’s reality? A motor home, yes, but not a home. And he never owned one, except during his first marriage; and she kept that. All the more reason not to own something that could be taken away from him. Ah ha, how nicely these pieces fit together.
I’d been recently asking Van some questions about their family practices at holidays, such as Christmas: Did they spend these times together? “I think we went to Mom’s once, and Ruth’s once, and Dad’s once.”
I asked, “Did your mother ever go to your house when you were married?”
“Yes, once, and one other time.”
I asked, “Did she and your wife get along?”
“At first,” he replied, but that didn’t last for long.”
“How did you deal with their alienation?”
“I didn’t think anything about it. It’s just the way it was.”
“Well, maybe it goes back to the fact that Betty’s parents didn’t accept your dad, and the pattern has perpetuated. You remember, she was mad at me for years, and had nothing to do with me, because we moved to San Diego from here?” He didn’t respond. I remembered that he hadn’t reacted then, either. Now, I could begin to see that he simply accepted whatever was going on.
I continued my questions, “Did your mom miss seeing her grandchildren after your divorce?”
“No, I don’t think so. She enjoyed them at first, but kids didn’t seem to fulfill her expectations.”
I recalled that during our twenty-years of marriage, she came to our (rented) home in Saratoga once for Christmas; otherwise, she treated us to dinner at restaurants several times for Christmas or Thanksgiving. “I’m not big into food,” she’d recently said, “except on cruises.”
When we’d lived in this area, she’d also signed up for the seasonal Light Opera programs, and took us to each one. In fact, Betty had always been generous, and she always had money. A universal law I’d learned in metaphysics that works, whether consciously or not. And I’d tried to follow it, until recent years when Van’s underearner patterns reduced us to near-poverty, and I had no choice, but to stop spending. Obviously he’d taken on those patterns from his dad.
It occurred to me that it’s only been my family and friends visiting our homes. Van’s family members never visited us. But since having Freedom, our home on wheels, his Aunt Betsy and her daughter, Natalie, had visited; and his stepmother, Ruth, and her husband, Ed, had stopped in. There must be a pattern here someplace, and Van comes by it honestly. After all, he hadnít seen his dadís family members in over twenty-years, until I insisted that he reconnect with his father. And he had to contact Aunt Betsy to learn his fatherís whereabouts.
On the other hand, in the few months since we’ve lived in Freedom, weíd actually become more social, starting with an informal housewarming the night Steve brought our motor home to their house, and the entire family came on board. That had felt good to me, because Iíd become more reclusive through the years, from living with Van, who is non-social, and I longed to return to my former outgoing lifestyle.
And it was happening, as we traveled the country, visiting our families and friends, starting with our friend, Dal, who had joined us on our Trial Run in Colorado Springs. And the first day of our Big Trip, Helena came on board, while we parked in front of her house in Fort Collins.
In Oregon, Marquam had ridden with us to Maryhill Museum. And, of course, my mom and her brother, Russell, and his wife, Charlotte, too, had spent a short time in our traveling home. Julie had traveled with us to the coast, and Jane was the most recent guest.
And finally, Van’s mom had come to visit. But, I think one of the big pieces to the puzzle came with her comment to her friend, “They do their thing; and I do mine.” In her reality, that’s how it should be. And that’s how it is.
Happy Birthday, Betty
It seemed appropriate that we were in Santa Clara for Van’s mom’s birthday, and Joanie looked forward to a party, but Betty announced, “I don’t want to do anything. I just want to forget it this year.”
“Is it okay to give you a card?” I asked, and she agreed. So when our friend, Jane, arranged to visit that day, Betty had said, “Sure, I’ll see you in the evening.” It felt strange not celebrating her birthday, especially since we had driven to Oregon from Colorado to celebrate my mom’s special day.
When we arrived at Bettyís, a giant bouquet of long-stemmed creamy roses sat in a big glass vase on Betty’s floor. As Van handed her the birthday card, I said, “For someone who doesn’t want her birthday celebrated, looks like you’re doing okay.”
“Oh, yes, my friend, Denise, does that every year. I don’t want her to, but she does it,” Betty replied with no show of emotion, as she continued, “They’re supposed to be yellow, but Denise said this is all they had this year. Last year they were as bright yellow as that ribbon around them. But these are nice.” She sat down and quietly read the card from Van.
“He picked that out himself,” I offered.
She smiled slightly, and said, “Oh, did he?” And that was the end of the birthday conversation. The most important part of the evening, in my opinion, was a run-down of her family history, most of which I’d never heard and they added some more background information.
After her mother’s death, her father, a minister, left Topeka, and began serving as an interim minister, and often as a negotiator in troubled churches. “He was good at it,” she added. He’d married three or four times — some of whom she’d never met; and traveled from place-to-place as needed. She’d spent about a year with him, in his last year, in Florida; but he was so stern and cantankerous, she left, and came to this area where Van was in college, after returning from the navy. Her dad died alone in his chair; and she didn’t go to the funeral. “I’d done my part,” she concluded, “by staying there for a year. My brother, Dick, and his wife, Mabel, had already left after getting tired of his mistreatment.”
She’d gone to Florida after she’d lived with her sister, Maureen, in San Diego, and then Los Angeles, for about a year; but they didn’t get along: “Too different lifestyles,” according to Betty. But they saw each other often through the years, and even took several cruises and trips together.
None of her two brothers or sister had any children, so Van is the last in the line, on this side of their family. I didn’t mention his two children (who have never visited their dad), and neither did she or Van. It’s not an open topic of conversation.
But later they both agreed that the children had been so brainwashed against Van, their dad that they would probably never attempt to find him. And, of course, he wouldn’t look for them, either. I said, “This is one time I won’t try for reconciliation,” and they both looked at me in silence.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
A Change of Plans
After our month in Santa Clara, we headed north, along I-5, then crossed over to Lakeview, Oregon, and took Highway 395 north to our friend, Bonnieís, in northern Washington (near the Canadian border) Less than a week into our visit, I got a call that Mom had taken a bad turn, and ìmight not make it through the night.î I made a decision not to return, feeling that I couldnít possibly get back in time to see her, if she were dying.
However, the next day, when I called, she was up visiting with family, and talked to me on the phone. This was the second time Iíd gotten a call that she was dying, and if I wanted to see her, Iíd better come right away. And then she pulled out of it; itís part of her schizophrenic syndrome, which Iíve learned to live with. But, she seemed anxious to see me, so I gave her a choice: ìItís a long way back to Portland, so if we return now, I wonít go back, later, whenever you do die, because weíll be traveling, and we could be clear across the country.î
She really wanted to see me, and chose for us to make the long journey back, so we drove through the apple orchards of Wenatchee, Washington and Hood River, Oregon, smelling the delicious aroma, as they hung ripe on the trees, prior to harvest. In fact, in some areas, they were already being harvested; but we didnít take time to stop and buy some fresh apples. But the memory of them is forever with me, impacted with the jaunty tunes of Willie Nelsonís tape, as we paralleled two major rivers, the Okanogan in central Washington, and the Mighty Columbia in Oregon.
The time with Mom was good, and I didnít regret the delay, because she was so happy to see me, and I enjoyed being with her. But, when it came time to leave, it was, again, hard to say ìGoodbye.î
Our delays had put us behind schedule, and we were now into October, which can be lovely traveling through the mountains, as the leaves change riotous colors. That was my intention: to drive through the autumn beauty. However, an unknown factor called El Nino had arisen in the ongoing forecasts, and I hesitated to continue the adventure through the mountains and high country. Perhaps it would be better to take the safer, more familiar route. After all, El Nino threatened “an early, wet, and hard winter.î I surely didn’t want to get caught in the mountains with early snow.
Now heading East, Van and I debated these options, while parked at the Rest Stop near Boardman, on Interstate 84, which we’d already traveled several times, so it seemed familiar and safe. On our western trip, in June, after coming over the Blue Mountains, it was here that we got our first glimpse of the Columbia River.
But traveling East, it would not be our last view of the river, because we would cross it several times through the Tri-City area of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco, Washington, if we were to retrace our route, along Interstate 90 to Spokane. We could see Bonnie, and then cross Idaho and continue through Montana and Wyoming, stopping for sights along the way, such as Yellowstone and the Black Hills. We would then return to our base at Dottie and Steveís, in Colorado, before heading South to Texas for our first winter in our motor home; no need to stay where itís cold.
This was definitely the crossroads: the notorious Blue Mountains loomed between us and the flatter terrain of Nevada. But, once over them, we could go directly from there to Arizona and spend a comfortable winter. And then, when we felt ready, we could easily head south and explore Texas.
Our crossroads dilemma reminded me of a card that Dal, the Freedomer, who rode with us on our Trial Run, recently sent me. The envelope quoted Robert Frost: ìSomewhere, ages and ages hence; I shall be telling this with a sigh. Two roads diverged in a wood; and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all of the difference.î
While I thawed and prepared a homemade bean soup, we thrashed over the options, “I just don’t feel good about going north over the mountains,” I said.
“Then let’s not go,” came Van’s simple solution.
A Holiday Rambler trailer pulled up beside us, and I announced, “I’m going to ask the driver which way he’s going,” as I opened the door, and headed toward the man, who was coaxing his Sheltie dog out of the truck. His wife was already walking the other Sheltie to the Dog Walk.
I introduced myself and presented my dilemma, concluding with the fear of snow over the mountains.
“Nahhhh,” he said, “we’re going that route to Michigan. No problem.”
I chatted about our plans to go to Arizona for the winter, and added, ìBut I’m worried about El Nino causing heavy rains and floods.”
“Nahhhh, nothing to worry about,” he said, “we were there in ’92, and we hardly had any rain at all. No problem.” He finally got his dog out, explaining, “We can hardly get him in, and then he doesn’t want out.”
I returned to Van, and further discussed our options. In the meantime, the neighbors left, and more came. I went out and asked which route they were taking, and then returned with my report to Van.
I repeated the process with three more travelers while we ate lunch, and concluded, “Four out of five said Interstate 90 should be okay this season, so let’s go for it. They seemed to know what they were talking about, and the fifth didn’t know either way.”
Van smiled. He had wanted to take the Road Less Traveled all along. And, in truth, so did I. We both like the adventure of the unknown, as long as it isn’t dangerous.
Again, Dalís letter came to mind; being a traveler himself (before discovering the virtues of Colorado), he had written: Hope you enjoy your new found freedom and go on to discover new and exciting worlds.
ìOkay, Dal, but the truth, in this case, is that Interstate 90 isn’t less traveled; the truckers use this route, across the northwest, linking up with Chicago and the east coast.
The Message of the Rainbows
After lunch and a gas stop in Umatilla, Washington, we crossed the Columbia River, drove through the cities, crossed the river again, and headed East. There were some ominous dark clouds, and sometimes it rained, but mostly our retracing route, over the rolling wheatlands toward Spokane was pleasant.
We’d seen several rainbows throughout the day, including one, over the Columbia River between both sides of The Gorge that was spectacular. Since rainbows had once been the symbol of my Rainbow Ministry (before I changed its name when rainbows became passÈ), I still cherished each one as it faded in and out of our journey.
And then, as we were approaching Interstate 90 (from the connecting 395 highway), I clasped my hands to my heart in joy, and then leaned forward and basked in the glory of The Presence, for the intense double rainbow arch truly seemed to be a message from God. In fact, I believe that God manifests in all and through all, as all; so indeed it was the manifestation of God telling us, “You have made the right choice. Fear not. Go in peace and enjoy.”
We savored the rainbow for many miles, then one side faded and the other came into view, so its 1/2 arch became a full arch for a few minutes before we passed under it, and the gorgeous hues disappeared.
But still more rainbows of varying sizes appeared as we neared Spokane. Now it was evening, and the sun moved through the clouds toward the horizon spreading its golden rays through the varying formations to create a glorious sunset in the west that reflected against the thunderheads in the east, which looked like multi-colored cotton candy: pink, mauve, purple fluffs that became a backdrop to the city as we approached Spokane. A spectacular scene with buildings and steeples outlined against the sunset and its reflection in the clouds; and pine trees scattered along the highway. Such beauty; it felt like God’s temple had enshrouded us.
“See,” Van said triumphantly, “we would have missed all this beauty if we hadn’t come this route.”
I agreed, “You’re right, My Love, it’s already worth the trip.î
Bonnie Goes Back to College
When we had originally planned this route, Bonnie had sent us her schedule at Gonzaga University in Spokane, and a map to her doorstep at a dorm, where she stays overnight, while attending her two classes. I looked over her schedule and discovered that we would arrive on the evening of her class, so we followed the map to the Education Building, parked Freedom, and waited. Van asked a gal about to enter the building if she knew Bonnie, and she said, “Yes, I’m in her class. I’ll see her, and tell her you’re here.”
Within minutes, Bonnie appeared with a huge grin and look of surprise, “I had no idea,” she said as we embraced.
She told us where to park near her dorm, and we arranged for her to join us after class, and enjoyed another visit while she ate her after-class meal.
The next day, the sun was shining brightly, the storm clouds had passed, and a perfect Indian summer day awaited us, as we went through our morning ritual, and then met Bonnie for lunch at Sonic Boom, for a natural burrito that reminded us of Bueno Bueno in Palo Alto, Calif. I ordered the Thai Chicken, also loaded with brown rice, black beans, fresh shredded cabbage, carrots and peanuts with peanut sauce; another delicious, filling and satisfying treat along our chosen route.
And it was good seeing Bonnie glowing after her stimulating class in Theology, which she described, along with her latest assignment, based on researching a Bible passage. We both agreed that it’s fulfilling to be with like-minded people in the spiritual pursuits. I shared my desire to find such an environment, while traveling; and possibly to work with them in my prison ministry. This re-connection with Bonnie, on her campus, seemed to be part of the preparation for my ultimate destiny. I must trust God’s Plan, and continue the preparations.
More of God’s Gifts
As we crossed the mountains of Idaho’s panhandle midst intermittent rain, under clouds and sunshine, we suddenly saw a complete arched rainbow of intense colors across a deep canyon that continued long enough for me to take a camcorder shot, and a still picture too, as we climbed upward along a high mountain pass. Indeed, God was giving us blessings along our road less traveled.
However, we soon were faced with the daily task of finding a place to park for the night. The national forest parks had closed for the season, and there were no more Flying J’s since Spokane, so we decided to stay at an RV Park. Unfortunately there were none listed in our Trailer Life guidebook. Then I remembered to look in our Interstate Next Exit and Exit Authority books. Sure enough, the tourist attraction, 10,000 Silver $’s, listed an RV Park, and to our amazement it was free! We were delighted when we pulled into a flat, open area with a view of evergreens and golden aspen and other trees cloaked in their autumn colors; and it even had electrical hookups.
God’s gifts were becoming more delightful with every mile. For instance, the next day we journeyed to Missoula, Montana through more mountains, then took Highway 12, along the tree-shrouded streets that formed a gold and orange labyrinth of fall colors in this pleasant city nestled in a valley.
But soon we headed back into the mountains and drove twenty-five miles along a picturesque canyon featuring such attractions as historical Fort Fizzle. We didn’t stop to investigate as we wanted to reach our destination, Lolo Hot Springs, so I could take a hot mineral bath before evening.
The Hot Bath
When we arrived, midst dreary, rainy skies the last of a motorcycle meet were taking down their tent and loading their bikes for departure. We selected a sight, within view of the rippling creek and forested hills, in this quiet mountain retreat. Well, at least it would be with the cyclers gone. I felt sorry for the rain-drenched group doing wheelies through the mud puddles. But I guess that adds to their challenges. Personally, I don’t like challenges, so when the sun came out after a disconcerting attack of snow-like rain, I rejoiced as I headed for the hot bath.
I paid the senior price — $4.00 — and was given a wire basket with a pin. “Put your things in here, keep the pin, and return the basket to here. We’ll put it in a safe place.”
After changing, I surveyed a selection of closed doors offering outdoor pool or hot pool, and chose the hot pool. Several groups quietly soaked and chatted as I stepped into the warming waters. How I love these familiar mineral baths, similar to those of my childhood at Kah-nee-ta. I hoped to soak the last of the virus from my system, and any other toxins that may still reside from the recent weekís emotional traumas.
Several bathers came in from the outside pool complaining about the cold, so I stayed inside. A group of young boys came inside to warm up, and proceeded to jump and splash despite the sign stating this pool was for soaking, and no balls, floating devices, or swimming allowed. All of the above were in use during my soak. Finally, I got out and returned to Freedom, where Van waited to drive us to our space.
Storms in Montana
The next day, while traveling back through the canyon, I noticed snow on the higher mountains, and knew why it had gotten to 30 degrees during the night. Thank God we didn’t get snowbound. I liked the place, but wanted to keep traveling, and I certainly didn’t want to drive through snow. However, returning to Missoula under the clear skies, we could now see the surrounding high mountains, and all were dusted with snow. “Let’s get out of here,” I urged, “before we get snowbound in Missoula.î
From there we turned southeast to Butte, and on to Bozeman as the terrain varied between mountain passes and dry rolling hills with some farming valleys and pastureland. We’d been enjoying sunshine with white clouds, so as we approached the gateway to Yellowstone, the higher Rocky Mountains loomed in the distance. They were still without snow, so we had hopes that we’d be able to tour Yellowstone the next day.
However, as we parked on Costco’s lot, we eyed the incoming dark clouds and wondered what the night would bring. In the meantime, we walked into Costco to have a Polish hot dog for dinner, and to ask permission to park overnight.
“You ask them,” I said to Van,” and disappeared into the building feeling apprehensive at the prospect of being told “No.” Obviously, I was still going through my inner storm.
When he joined me, he said, “It’s okay, but why did you want me to ask?”
“Oh, it’s this same problem of feeling not wanted,” I replied. I knew there was still work to be done on this issue, and during the night I wrestled with it, like Jacob wrestling with the angel.
I’d thought I had overcome this issue, but like the Rocky Mountains, it loomed all around me, and cast its shadow in all that I attempt to accomplish. I thought, it’s gotten so bad that I’m even afraid to ask permission to park at Costco. No wonder I haven’t written the letter to Bob Barth about my courses being used at Unity for the ministerial students; and unless this is completely and permanently removed, I won’t ever write it. If that’s the case, I might as well give up ever moving forward with my ministry or writing.
The next morning, while writing, I looked out the window, at the blanket of fog that had us socked-in, and I thought “That’s about the way my life would be, if I donít move beyond this rejection issue: no visibility, just a vast cloud of nothing; and I surely don’t want that. I always say, ëI want to wear out, not rust out.í”
I’d been praying for guidance, and for God to remove this fog from my life. Instead, He’d brought more fog. Now, I didn’t even know if we could see Yellowstone, let alone the rest of my life. God, what is the answer?
“Just take it one step at a time. Stay in the Present Moment, and don’t worry about it,” came the reply. “I am taking care of it for you. You will see. You will know. You will understand. You are preparing for the next level in your life, and you must be free of this issue. It will lift, as the fog will lift. Take the next forward movement.”
Let’s Take the Risk
Okay, we’ll go to Yellowstone, Nature’s Disneyland, as I call it. And hope that the way opens enough to see the road, at least. I sure want to see the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs, and all the colorful ponds and the mud pots.
I’d planned to go through Yellowstone, and rather than return to I-90, which we’d taken to this point on our last trip (in a snowstorm, and got stranded in Sheridan, Wyoming), we would take Highway 212 east to I-25(at Sheridan), and then decide whether to go further East and visit our friends, or head south to Colorado — our current destination. Now, with the fog, and possibly a storm, I wondered if we’d have to return to I-90.
And, despite the outer fog, I could see that taking the risk of this untried route, rather than the so-called safe and familiar highways, was a giant step toward inner freedom. I thought of the words to a song: ìShips are safe inside the harbor, but is that what ships are for?” We’d taken the Road Less Traveled, at least for us, and had seen some glorious scenery: rainbows, sunsets, mountains and forests, and a hot springs. We’d even passed the turnoff to see the Headwaters of the Missouri River, but chose to continue onward. Now, when we see I-90 on the map, or hear someone talk about it, we’ll know every mile from Ritzville, Washington to Sheridan, Wyoming. And for us, it is no longer the Road Less Traveled.
“THE THING I FEAR HAS COME UPON ME”
Then and Now
Once you’ve had taken from you, the thing you want the most, you know it can happen again. For me, at least, having lost my family and home, as a child, left a scar in the form of a fear that such a trauma could happen again. When certain factors occur, it triggers that fear, and the associated memories.
Such events happened on our side-trip to Yellowstone. Joanie loves Yellowstone, but didn’t allow herself to get excited for fear something would happen. But once we stopped at Livingston, the turnoff, and learned that the Park and the roads were open, despite overcast skies, she began to get excited.
The closer we got, the more real it became, and she took videos of the Yellowstone River and the pretty autumn colors. When we actually sat in Freedom eating lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs, while the elk lay outside on the lawns, I knew I was actually there.
My two favorite places at Yellowstone are the Mineral Springs Terrace and Norris Springs; so I planned to, at least, see them, no matter what else might happen. Iíd written the following description of our first trip to Yellowstone:
Minerva’s Terrace is an outer-space looking phenomenon where it appeared in the first Star Trek film as Spock’s planet. See it to believe it.
Everywhere you look elk, bison, and even moose wander freely through the fields and parking lots. Add steam, snow, hot springs, and the burnt remains of the 1988 fire to streams, ponds, lakes, and forests, and you still can’t grasp it. There’s even a Yellowstone Canyon with a waterfall at one end. Don’t forget the geysers, petrified forest, and transparent pools of turquoise, orange, and opulent colors. Despite the drab sound, one of my favorites is the mud pots that resemble mush pots boiling on the stove: blurp, blurp, blurp. Another more colorful ensemble is named paint pots.
Norris Springs sits in a valley, and from above you can see the large pools of steaming clear water with colorful algae massed around the edges and bottom of the ponds. You can walk on boardwalks around the water, but I enjoyed the view from our position.
Now, while Van drove up the colorful terraced hill of steaming waterfall and springs, I captured the Mineral Springs Terrace on film. At the top we parked and walked along the board paths to the edge and absorbed the beauty of white granite-like terraces with brilliant colored moss and algae highlighting the scene. A pure white waterfall spilled into pools of pure white water, creating a mystical appearance.
I could have watched forever, but wanted to move along to the colorful mineral pools at Norris Springs. As we returned to Freedom I noticed that we were next to phones, so decided to call Dottie and share my enthusiasm on the spot. However, her answering machine responded, so I left a message. When I joined Van, he announced that it was about 4:00 o’clock, and it would be best to turn back to Mammoth and take the alternate route to Tower Falls, and stay at Slough Creek, which was cheaper, and didn’t require reservations. This meant postponing Norris, until the next day.
I Knew it; I Knew it!
I knew we’d never get there. I just knew it. I guess, because it meant so much to me. What a negative projection: ìYou can’t have what you want!î Or: ìWhat you want will be taken from you.î
I’m not sure whether the feeling was a premonition, or a projection. In any event, the 20-mile drive to Tower Falls, with more mountains and trees, offered nothing unusual or worth the slow, winding drive that took an hour in Freedom, the way Van drives. It was dusk by the time we parked and viewed the falls. Nice, but nothing compared to the Canyon Falls we’d seen in another part of the park our last time here.
We’d missed the turnoff to Slough Creek, and since we’d driven down a long, narrow, winding, steep grade I decided to make reservations at Madisson campgrounds, which meant driving much further, but, at least, on the way to Norris. The operator told me it was not only much further, but involved going over an 8,000 ft. pass. She also explained that the Northeastern and Eastern entrances were having construction work done, with limited access, and high elevations. Neither of us felt up to that ordeal. I was feeling trapped, paralyzed and incompetent of making any decision; a familiar part of an old pattern. No way out. To return meant climbing that steep, narrow grade, and now it was getting late.
I knew one thing for sure: I wasn’t willing to drive ten miles out of the way to Slough Creek when we wouldn’t be able to take that route out, as Iíd learned from the phone receptionist, that it was closed.
Van opted to return the 2-1/2 miles to the Ranger Station and ask if we could stay there, but it was closed. By this time it was cold and dark, so Van drove to a nearby, but shut down, service station and parked under their canopy.
Now I had the fear of being kicked-out, added to my fear of getting trapped in snow, an ongoing fear that drove me to get to Golden before the El Nino dumped the predicted moisture, in whatever form it came. All the factors for a major upset were in place. The final blow came when Van asked me to fix something to eat.
I flounced myself into bed, and left him to fend for himself. Joanie began whimpering, and ultimately crescendoed into loud gasping wails. I could feel myself going through all the terror and hopelessness of the original trauma of abandonment and devastation.
Part of the scenario is the breaking up of the family, and it’s always part of my thought processes as I thrash through the process of feeling trapped, abandoned, and hopeless; not to mention not wanted and rejected. In my current dilemma, I rehearsed the farewell scene with Van, after rehashing all my grievances against him; the worst being his incessant underearning consciousness. In my opinion, his decision to forego Norris, in favor of a less-expensive park was the crux of this dilemma. I held him to blame, and I wanted out of this relationship. Of course, because thatís the way the original trauma ended; so according to my subconscious, I must force it to be duplicated.
Several hours of this scenario, (with no support from Van), and I finally took an aspirin to help sleep. In one communication, I told him that in the morning we would return to Mammoth, and to I-90, and continue East to I-25 south to Colorado. This plan allowed no return to Norris, the very thing I wanted most. Because that’s part of the process: deny myself what I want, because I can’t have it anyway; so force it to happen. I could feel myself withdrawing more and more from joy and excitement about life. Just give up, I decided. Stop trying to make life work out. It’s beyond surrendering; it’s simply giving up. Thankfully, I fell asleep.
I Can Relate With Job
When I awoke at 6:30, Van was getting up though it was still dark. I turned over and went back to sleep. An hour later, he said, “You go ahead and sleep. I’m going to start Freedom and go back to Mammoth, and I-90.”
I raised up, and looked out the front window: SNOW! I lay back down. “Good idea,” I said. Well, I asked for it. I knew it would happen, and now here it is. What else could we expect? I thought about Job, in the Bible when everything was taken from him, he wailed, “For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest; but trouble comes (Job 3:25, 26).”
Job went so far as to curse the day he was born, and affirm that there would be no more joy in him. All this because, according to the allegory, God and Satan had an agreement that if everything Job had were removed, they could then determine just how faithful he would be. So everything was taken away, and the story goes on and on with the travails and laments of Job, and of his friends trying to encourage and advise him.
Finally, The Lord said to Job, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” He puts a pretty heavy trip on Job, asking if he can bring forth all that God has done. Job meekly replies, “I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
In other words, Job now understood, repented his complaints and shortcomings, and asked forgiveness. The Bible then says, “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job … and gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
ìWhen You Walk Through a Stormî
I didn’t feel much removed from Job, and wondered why God was again putting me through this negative experience. Obviously it was another test, and I didn’t pass. I knew I was in the same syndrome I sink into when similar situations occur. I recognize the pattern, but when I’m in it I feel totally helpless, like God has deserted me, and there is no hope, and no way out.
As Van drove back toward Livingston and I-90, the roads were clear, but I could see the snow on the mountains around us. I felt angry and hateful. In fact, as always in these episodes, I was busy planning for a divorce. You see, it has to be that way, because that’s how the original scenario went: After my brother’s birth, my mom went crazy, the family broke up, and I was shifted to several relatives; and then, with Mom and Dad Freeland. So it must be repeated. But in recent years, after understanding the syndrome, I’ve managed to pass through it, and remain in my relationship with Van.
I’d asked him to stop for breakfast in Livingston, because my inner child resorts to eating for nurturing in these events, but I was still upset and unable to enter into any conversation. I’m sure the people in the restaurant were convinced I was on something, or deathly ill. Indeed, I felt like I was coming out of some kind of drug trip, and it was several days, before I could begin to process through the events enough to even discuss them with Van.
I knew it started when he sabotaged our next playtime, which would be Norris Springs, by wanting to go to Slough Creek. From my viewpoint, it was another money disorder issue, and that threw me into the syndrome: the authority person whom I relied on to take care of things suddenly wasn’t there, and it was left up to me — or at least I thought it was; as when my mother “went crazy,” or I could no longer depend on Van’s judgment, because his disease had taken over. Then I’m supposed to “take care of your mommy;” but I didn’t know what to do.
With Van too, I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know anything about this new plan, and it didn’t feel right. Now, I know why: if we’d been stuck ten miles from the road at Slough Creek, it’s for sure we wouldn’t have made it back. And then too, I didn’t know about the road construction, and I didn’t know if it would snow, or if we could get through the Eastern routes. The bottom-line of the situation is that I was scared. At least I was learning to identify my feelings.
I also felt deserted. When Van and I were playing at the Mineral Terrace, everything was happy. Then he turned adult and we weren’t playing anymore. The fun was over, and I didn’t even get to vote. Joanie was terribly disappointed, and I was angry. More feelings identified.
By the time we left Billings, and drove east along I-90, I began discussing these issues with Van, mostly focusing on my feelings. Then I asked him what we could have done differently. We concluded that to have stayed at the campgrounds, in Mammoth, would have worked, because we then had three options once it snowed. We could wait and see if it cleared up after the sun came out, then we could go ahead to either of the other two routes; or we could return to I-90. I admitted that I hadn’t wanted to go back down the steep hill to the campgrounds, once we’d passed them. But, ultimately, we had to anyway, as it all turned out.
Another option would have been to make reservations at Madisson Camp Grounds, then continue to Norris, so we’d have at least seen them, and avoid my disappointment, and the next day when we discovered the snow, we could have waited to see which routes would be the safest, as we’d then have two different selections.
Also, Van admitted that he wanted to see the Tower Falls, because we hadn’t seen it, yet. He didn’t feel he made the decision because of the money aspect.
If You had it to do Over…?
Once all that was clarified, I asked him how he thought we could handle similar situations in the future, and we agreed that asking for more information from someone who knew would be helpful; and also to communicate with each other as to our wants and feelings. This cleared the air between us, and we were able to consider the next aspect of the trip.
When I called Steve, he told me that snow was forecast for their area, because of another big storm coming in from the Pacific Northwest — more El Nino — so Van and I talked about our plans to go further east to visit friends in the Black Hills. It seemed like we would encounter the same situation as at Yellowstone, so we decided to save that visit for another time and go directly south to Colorado.
We both felt disappointed, because we wanted to continue seeing new country, but as we journeyed south and heard the various weather reports along the way for snow, we felt we’d made a wise decision.
By the time we reached southern Wyoming, the sunny skies began to cloud over, and heavy dark clouds covered the Rocky Mountains to the west. Now, it was a matter of getting to our destination before the storm.
But to me it was also a matter of healing this negative projection of fear. I don’t want to be right, by creating them in my mind, or otherwise. Yet, I strongly believe that we create our reality by our thoughts and beliefs; and that they become the projections that bring about the results accordingly. So my assignment is to change the thoughts that bring about the undesired results, like Job. I worried the entire trip about getting trapped in snow, and that almost happened, except that our angels were taking very good care of us, by guiding us to the abandoned service station; and that’s a plus for our consciousness: thinking and believing.
During the above sequences, I read our Daily Reading for inspiration, and to keep my thoughts as positive as possible during this process. They reminded me that I always find comfort from God, no matter what the situation, and that God is the healer, no matter how long it may seem to be taking. I’m reminded to keep my thoughts and words positive and focused on the healing, rather than the condition. I constantly affirm, “Thank you, God, I am healed NOW! I know that God is the life radiating through my body, healing and renewing me.
This changing of thought processes helps change the patterns. And, as always, God guided me to the words or ideas that helped. For instance, I again played Willie Nelson’s album that Michael Martin had sent me, and I listened as he sang, “I’m not trying to forget you anymore; I’ve got back into remembering all the love we had before.” He sings about focusing on the happiness the person brought into his life, and says that even if it didn’t last, it’s all right. You see, he’s talking about universal laws here, whether he knows it or not; and he probably does. Because life will give us what we give our attention to. If we focus on the love and happiness in life, that’s what we will attract, like a magnet.
I know all this, so why don’t I do it? I’ve cycled through it on other levels, perhaps this was simply part of the healing and purifying process at my inner child level. Now, all I needed to do was simply let go of it, and move forward as we arrived in Colorado.
Despite cloudy, threatening clouds over The Rockies, the weather was in the low eighties, and life seemed to be flourishing as we drove along I-25 and saw the ever-growing expanse of new homes across the plains.
The Angel of Success
We parked in front of our friend, Helena’s, basement apartment in Loveland. It was comforting to survey her abundant garden with squash growing through the fence, and flowers blooming profusely. To me, the new life symbolized that my childhood issues were past, and we were moving forward.
For instance, when I’d talked with Dottie, from Billings, she’d said that sheís taking care of Brandon on Mondays and Tuesdays, now that school was out, and could use some help. Helping with my great-grandson seemed a positive forward step, and one I planned to take to emphasize being wanted, needed and useful.
Also, I had my letters to write for my ministry, and several others to answer from Freedomers asking for support. This is my positive focus.
We busied ourselves with dinner and TV, until Helena arrived home, around tenish that night. Van had become exhausted from the long trip, and his health (which hadn’t fully recovered from the chest congestion heíd been nursing, ever since visiting his mom) had taken a turn for the worse, and he’d gone to bed.
Helena and I visited, until after midnight, like two gal friends do: sharing our experiences, feelings, and dreams. It felt good, and healing, and freeing. Somehow, I felt unburdened and ready to move forward, but I still needed a massage from Helena, to release the toxic energies from my body. She explained that she had two appointments in the morning, so we arranged a time for my massage around noon. She no longer worked for the place with the hot tub, where Iíd had a massage, at the beginning of our travels, so would give me the treatment in her apartment.
When I awoke the next morning, Van was still sleeping off his exhaustion, and I felt guided (as I had been during the past week) to read about the Angel of Success, in John Randolph Price’s book, The Angels Within Us. And it seemed especially appropriate, because we were at ìOur Angel, Helenaís, the name Iíd given to her column in The Rainbow Connection, my monthly publication for Freedomers.
Now, as I read, it became clear why I’d gone through my recent Job experience from Portland to Colorado. It was a cleansing, releasing, purifying process to eliminate a deeper layer of negative energies still residing in my body, before moving to a higher level of success.
Whereas I’d been looking at that part of the trip as unproductive, I now saw that it was simply another version of success that was eliminating anything unlike itself from me. The chapter emphasized, consciousness, which is our thinking and believing. It reiterated what I had written: that we bring forth into expression according to our consciousness. Like Job, I understood why the seemingly failure of having all my negative characteristics brought into my face was actually a part of success.
Mr. Price explains that’s part of the Angel of Success, Saturn, to remove from us all that is unlike itself. He suggests that we contact the Angel, and ask how we are limiting our success with false beliefs and misperceptions. And then be willing to give them all up by releasing them to God. Exactly what I’d been doing. And he also suggests that we reevaluate our goals and desires. I’d also been doing that during this phase of our trip, especially since it was the completion of the circle: from Colorado to Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and back to Colorado; exactly as planned.
The Thing I Desire has been Fulfilled
I could see that the thing I desire has been fulfilled, which is the definition of success: ìAccomplishing that which you find fulfilling, and enjoying life in the process,î according to the dictionary. That’s why it’s important to get clarity on what we want to do, and how we want to do it. This period of time in Colorado would clarify that purpose, before moving on to the next phase of life’s journey. My assignment, for now, was to keep focused on my successful accomplishments, and future positive desires; and to let God bring about the fulfillment according to His Perfect Plan.
After I finished writing the above words, while awaiting Helena’s arrival the next morning, I opened the door of Freedom and looked outside at her garden. The sun was shining brightly, it was deliciously warm, with a gentle breeze; and no snow was in sight. What happened to the storm? It didn’t matter. Right now in this moment the sun is shining, and I remembered that I must always remain in the Present Moment, which is the Presence of God. And as such, I am one with God, and all that is. There is no separation; everything is actually fulfilled now. Truly, I am in my right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, and as such The Thing I Desire Has Been Fulfilled .
But Our Timing is Off
Helena arrived and as she massaged, I talked away whatever negative energies had surfaced. Afterward, I felt ready for a new level of adventure, as Helena loaded us with homegrown vegetables from her garden, and we departed.
A strong wind had been blowing all morning, and forecasts of a snowstorm propelled us along Highway 287 to avoid the heavy gusts on the freeway. Driving along the Rocky Mountains with the sun reflecting on the clouds, it was hard to imagine imminent snow. But looking south, the direction we were headed, the storm clouds looked dark and threatening.
Our timing had seemed off the entire return trip. Why hadn’t we been able to arrive a day sooner so we could be safely secured in front of our family’s home? Instead, judging by the clouds and wind, we could be in a blizzard before we ever reached our destination. Something like my life, it seemed; the good I desired was often just out of reach, or something took it away before it was fulfilled.
Van’s bronchial episode, which had started in Santa Clara, while visiting his mom, improved, or worsened, at various points along the way, until we reached Loveland, then he had to stay in bed most of the time, even suggesting we should stay over the weekend, and wait for the snow storm to pass. I blew up, because every time we come to Denver, his bronchial condition takes over. So, I pointed out that I wanted to attend church on Sunday, for the beginning of the annual Adventures in Faith series, and if he wouldn’t or couldn’t take me, I’d take a bus.
Somehow he summoned the strength to get me there. There was nothing we could do about the weather, so we forged ahead through Lafayette, Broomfield, and Westminster enjoying the autumn colors along the road in the Present Moment. We came to a detour, but continued southward until we returned to our route. Eventually, a familiar street name, Wadsworth, replaced the Highway number, and the countdown began: 122nd, 90th, 32nd, 24th; now we were in familiar territory, and remarkably the storm had veered to the east, and our area was clear and sunny as we pulled in front of our daughter’s home.
“OUT OF THE ABUNDANCE OF THE HEART THE MOUTH SPEAKS ”
The Welcoming Committee
A very important greeter on the welcoming committee is the family Australian Shepherd dog, Rascal, with whom Van and I have a deep bonding. Whenever we arrive, even if it’s the next morning, Rascal gives us his razzle welcome. He runs out, jumps up, and shakes all over while talking dog language; and, of course, we all understand each other.
The first time I met Rascal, last year, I flew to Colorado alone, so I was #1 with his razzle welcome. But once Van entered the scene, in February when we bought Freedom, Rascal would give me a token mini-razzle welcome, and then rush over to Van for the full version. And that’s the welcome we received upon this arrival — and each morning when we went inside from our motor home, or when we’ve been away for any length of time at all — even to the bathroom.
My teenage granddaughter, Airica, also gave us a warm welcome, and we spent some quality time visiting. She expressed her dislike for the alternative school she attends, mainly because of her addiction to her social life with her peers at the public school; this one had only three teenagers. Her second objection was the unstructured approach; everyone finds their own interests, and pursues them. Airica needs structure, as do most teens.
In the course of our conversation, I learned that some of her required subjects included writing. I mentioned that in a meditation it had come to me to ask if she were interested in the idea of doing some editing for me. She seemed excited, so we agreed to discuss the possibility of working it into her busy schedule. I felt good that we had found a common ground for bonding in a field that could lead to future partnering. After all, I was still looking for someone to continue writing my courses and books. Perhaps it would be Airica; or perhaps not. Yet it is a desire on my part.
Later in the day, Steve arrived from work, and we caught up on Freedom’s performance, and travel information, such as his memories of life in the Air Force in Montana, and other areas of mutual interest. Since Dottie was waitressing at night, it was late when she arrived, but we settled right into our camaraderie.
Once we arrived, Van went back to his bed for about a week. Arising to eat, and tend basics, while I visited or otherwise enjoyed my visit. I brought to his attention, more than once, that he’d done this every visit here, and it’s time to find the pattern, and change it. Everyone gets tired of him looking like warmed-over-death, but still the pattern persisted.
In the meantime, I’d watched an Oprah show featuring Harville Hendrix, discussing his book, Giving the Love that Heals, in which a three-step method of relating was illustrated to show that one is heard and understood: 1. Mirroring 2. Validating 3. Empathizing. Videos and practical applications were demonstrated, both in relating with kids, and with adults.
I used the mirroring to suggest that perhaps it was a control issue from childhood to get attention. Or perhaps it’s because he’s uncomfortable in the intimacy of the family social structure, and it’s a way to avoid such contacts. He looked surprised, like I’d caught his hand in the cookie jar, but he didn’t say anything. I also agreed that the method worked for him; in other words, he got what he desired. But I suggested an alternative pattern might bring more desirable results in the long run.
Once this pattern had been verbalized and recognized by Van, his recovery improved each day, and I’d begun to understand that this has been a long-standing pattern, whenever he didn’t get his own way, felt threatened, or didn’t want to participate.
It worked for him, but I’d reached the end-of-my-rope, because I was no longer willing to live below poverty, and I decided that if Vanís warmed-over-death cycle continued, and if the money disorder continued, without his creating more income, I would start looking for other arrangements: whether that meant terminate the relationship, find a job, or get my books and workshops financially productive.
What is it About Colorado?
I realized that God had been guiding us through our travels with no negative repercussions, until we got to Colorado. For some reason God chooses to turn up the heat whenever we return to this area. So, I asked myself, and God, why is so much negativity happening now?
Maybe it’s because this is where I’m facing my greatest challenges, and also finding my spiritual support; attending the Adventures in Faith series at church, hoping to bring myself into a more positive and motivated frame of mind.
Van’s sickness continued, which triggered my negative reactions. I wanted to run, because that’s the pattern established by my parents when my family disintegrated. There are times, I recognize this pattern, and either change it, or continue with the insanity. But when Iím in the pattern, I can’t see the reality, or the choices. I simply want to run, or repeat the pattern.
I finally blurted out to Van, without consciously realizing what I was saying, “When you get sick, I’m back in my childhood, faced with taking care of my mother, and not knowing what to do. I get angry and scared and frustrated. I strike out. And I want to run; in this case, leave you.”
My main point of anger is that the person who is supposed to be taking care of me isnít able to. As a child, it was my mom, who couldnít fulfill the role; in this phase of my life, itís Van, and he isn’t doing it, anymore, so again — as when a child — I feel helpless, confused, and frustrated, and I don’t know what to do about it. For instance, I sure don’t know how to maneuver the intricacies of Freedom; and underneath my surface fears, is the fear of him dying and leaving me, like my parents left me. How would I survive? This is the bottom-line question we all ask, if we can allow ourselves to be truthful.
Take Some Action
So, again, I’m forcing myself to take action, and to take care of myself, after first acknowledging that God is taking care of me. I looked back at the trip and recognized that God has guided us safely through, and I say, “Thank you, God, for the blessings in our lives. Thank you that all our needs are being met NOW! And I start seeing the blessings. Sometimes I verbalize them, sometimes I write them down.
I start to change my thoughts and words from “I can’t/don’t have” or “I don’t know how,” to I have it NOW,” whether I see the outer form or not. I remember that God is Divine Substance, and the Source of everything, and I am one with that Source, so it’s simply a matter of knowing that it exists on some level, in some form.
For instance, for four months we’ve been waiting for the nutritional shakes to catch up with us. They’d been sent, and they were on their way; but we kept missing them. No matter how angry or upset I got, I still didn’t have them. Phone calls were made, new shipments were sent (sometimes too late for our schedule), and we moved on. Whether it was the fault of the people sending them, or ours, it doesn’t matter. We still didn’t get our shakes. In the meantime, I got used to other breakfasts. Yet, I knew we’d paid for them, so they were ours; and they were on their way. Finally, while at Dottie’s, the shakes arrived, and I could actually enjoy their manifest form.
Abundance or Lack?
The same is true for anything; for instance, with money. I allow myself to focus on the lack of funds, and soon I’m consumed by the lack consciousness. I’d gotten angry at Van for saying we couldn’t afford $199.00 monthly rent to park at a nearby RV Park, as planned, because we wouldnít have the money, until after Thanksgiving. I began accusing him of relapsing into his underearning patterns, a Silas Marner consciousness (referring to the miserly character in the classic book by that title), as I call his willingness to have more-less, like parking at Wal-Mart, or wherever we can stay free. That’s totally against my belief system, and my choices, yet, Iíve gone along with it, so I must focus on my own consciousness, and start seeing the abundance of good in our lives; and not his so-called lack consciousness.
Whether it’s true of him, or not, isn’t the point, I must start practicing what I’m teaching; and I notice that we’re parking free while visiting Dottie and family. And she’s preparing our food every day. Not only that, but we even have our electricity hooked up to theirs. Indeed, while I’m complaining to Van about not enhancing our finances, we are prospering, NOW. Thank you, God.
Even people in prison can affirm their freedom NOW by attuning to their at-one-ment with God, with freedom. It can become so real that in their own minds, they are living a full life outside; free within, while awaiting the outer manifestation of freedom.
Will it Ever End?
I sometimes wonder if this phase of our inner journey will ever end. Or maybe my complaint is really about the intensity of the lessons I’m learning, and the pain I’m suffering, as another layer of the spiritual onion is being peeled, and old patterns are being changed.
Yet, it is impossible to live in the Present Moment, unless those layers are uncovered, and the festering stuff allowed to be recognized, healed, and released.
Focus on the good, the abundance, and what’s working; and give thanks for what I have, rather than what I have not. The reason is because our words (thoughts and prayers) are magnets, and they attract more of the same, based on what we send out from our consciousness (heart). Jesus explained this during His Sermon on the Mount: ìFor where your treasure is, there will your heart be alsoî (Matthew 6:21).
He continued with His discussion about storing up treasures in heaven, not on earth, “The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the Day of Judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Jesus is talking about the Law of Cause and Effect, which we all wish would go away. But the truth is that it doesn’t. We reap what we sow, whether it be good deeds, or evil; good words (thoughts or feelings) or evil. So, on our spiritual path, God gives us the opportunity to remove the layers of accumulated negativity. In some ways, this can be seen as redemption. We are given a second chance, because we are dealing with accountability. “The devil made me do it,” will not work. We did it, and we must be accountable for it.
Sometimes it’s really “not our fault,” because of things that happened to us as children, or even adults, but the choices we made, as survival mechanisms, became patterns, and it is up to us to recognize and change the patterns; unless, of course, we want the same results. I’ve said this before, but I’ve been reminding myself again, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.î We must change the patterns, and so we are given a second chance to see them, as they hit us in the face, and do something different.
You see, it’s not always a matter of blame, or you did something wrong, but sometimes the experiences and the lessons involved are for the ultimate positive results. I reminded myself of this truth while thinking about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me, nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done (Matthew 26:39 & Luke 22:42).”
You may have noticed that God did not “remove the cup,” but, in fact, Jesus was crucified. That’s because He came as a Wayshower, and we too, must be willing to endure the pain of the crucifixion if we are to experience the joy of the resurrection, followed by the glory of the ascension. In other words, we must cross-out the negativity and limitation, if we are to be lifted up, and at last attain conscious awareness of our at-one-ment (oneness) with God, free from the feelings of separation.
This is The End!
In the midst of all this enlightenment, attending the churchís, Adventures in Faith, Sunday services, Wednesday Night Live (a musical service with an inspirational message) and the support groups, we were trying to make a decision whether to stay here, as planned, or move on to a warmer climate, because of Van’s lingering bronchial condition. I’d pursued several possibilities for staying in Lakewood, but they hadn’t worked out, and then the Weather News predicted another snow storm was due to arrive in a few days. I’d wanted to stay in Colorado, with my daughter and family, but Van’s condition wasn’t getting better (until I suggested we leave), and Dottieís friends were due to arrive in a few days, so we needed to take some kind of action. Okay, so letís go through the doors that open: we’ll head south.
Itís Really The Beginning
At the prospect of traveling, when Van awoke that Halloween morning, he arose from his death-bed, by announcing that he was feeling good enough to move on the next day.
Though we’d discussed heading to Arizona and Nevada, Iíd taken time to get directions and information from the neighbors, Russ and Eunice (RVers who winter in southern Texas), in case we decided to go there.
While I chatted with them, Van happily disconnected the electricity, and began preparations to travel. Dottie and Steve had already left for their respective jobs this sunny Saturday morning, and the rest of the family was sleeping; so midmorning, I said goodbye to Rascal, one last time, and away we rolled, down the road.
Van began singing On the Road Again, while I cried in the bathroom. So many emotions were pouring through me, because I didnít really want to leave my family.
We stopped in Golden to collect our mail, and then headed south from 470 to I-25. I continued crying as Van jauntily bounced along singing his song.
Too upset to fix a meal, I insisted we stop north of Colorado Springs for a Burger King, and I kept crying.
Onward we traveled through Pueblo, and over the Raton Pass. By now it was dark, but I especially wanted to get over the Pass, so we wouldn’t get trapped by another snow storm.
Somewhere along the way an idea came to me quite strongly: “go east to Texas, and then south till we find warm weather.” The more I thought about it, the better I liked it, so while stopped for the night at a Truck Stop in Raton, Colorado, I mentioned the idea to Van. Hey, as long as we’re traveling south, he didn’t care; and if it’s free, that’s even better.
By morning, with the prospect of unexplored territory to travel, I’d stopped crying, and felt ready for new adventure as we headed east to Texas.
Itís time to end this book, and await the next adventures in Joanie and Little Ralph, Moving On.