Now this WAS my first rodeo. It was part of the Wyoming Youth Rodeo league and hosted by my friend JW and his family right here in Sundance. I think it’s amazing how they teach kids horsemanship and ranch skills at such a young age. What a great community and completely wholesome event!
I’m currently in the DC area performing music. Tonight I am performing at the MoonShadow Cafe in Deep Creek MD. I go on at 10pm! Check flyer below for more dates!
I started the day well-rested, but with a light kratom hangover. I recalled dreams about falling in love together with a spunky brunette, the success of which was somehow tied to my choosing the right fishing kayak. Uncharacteristically, I wasted no time this morning and did the right things in the right order. I jumped straight in the shower, less to get clean, but more to get in my two minutes of a cold soak a la Wim Hoff Method. Staying with the method, I dried off, dressed comfortably, and sat in my comfy leather chair to do three rounds of Wim Hoff breathing. Building on the positive momentum, I then went to my little yogic temple room and lit an oil lamp. I sat on the floor in front of it, bowed, and then chanted nine “oms”. After a few more vedic prayers, I changed positions into an esoteric asana and chanted the syllable “lam” for five minutes while focusing on my tailbone. Then I sat in a half lotus position on my cushion and did six slow rounds of alternate nostril breathing, followed by another esoteric exercise which I am forbidden by my guru to share. This led me into meditation. I sat until my thoughts became clear, And then they became still. Then I disappeared into a thoughtless bliss. Then I started to slump in my posture and I knew my energy had arched, so I chanted another five “oms”, three Maha Mrityunjaya mantras, a Sanskrit prayer for world peace, and a thrice-repeated Sanskrit prayer for universal peace. After offering water to the lingam and incense to God’s altar, I made coffee, ate my last two eggs, and then rolled a spliff of half tobacco, half Cali-grown Sativa weed.
The first priority of the day was to make my Dad’s birthday gift, a handmade frame of bark-lined pine containing a Vietnam pic of he and his recently deceased, best-friend, Wally. But first I had to pick up the trash that nighttime winds had ripped from a loosely tied bag. The trash collection gave me a good opportunity to let my dog run, fill my lungs with fresh air, my eyes with sunshine, and to level out my fresh morning buzz before jumping into a blur of sawdust, powertools, angles, rulers, and pencils, sticky glue, and smelly stain.
The frame came out well, in fact I’m proud of it. It’s the nicest frame I’ve made yet, although most of the credit is due to the choice piece of timber I used. My friend, mentor, and conractor, JW, had told me that he needed to return those timbers to the mill for credit. I had nodded in agreement as I gazed at the bark-lined piece, already envisioning a handsome frame for my father’s deeply sentimental photo. Sorry, J-Dubs, I’m taxin’ your credit!
After finishing the frame and basking in the glow of self-satisfaction, I smoked another spliff to prepare for the task I wasn’t looking forward to: driving possibly as far as Rapid City to buy a couple fence gates, and the material to make a slightly nicer third one. I usually enjoy a long cruise, but I had just ventured over to Rapid yesterday to have my van windshield replaced. It was a cold drizzly day, and I spent most of it in an industrial park sniffling with allergies, drinking below gas station grade coffee. Today, however was a beautiful Spring day; green was simply bursting from the ground in pastures full of napping calves and watchful cows, exhausted foals and wary mares, to the tune of mating meadowlarks. And if luck would have it, I would only have to drive half as far to Belle Fourche and Spearfish. And luck would indeed, have it.
The Runnings store in Belle Fourche had just the ranch gates I was looking for. Two gangly teenagers in the awkward years helped me load them into the bed of my truck, stirring in me a reverie of nostalgia for the random jobs of youth, not to mention, I’ve always wanted to work in a hardware store. I wratcheted down the gates and headed back over the hill to Spearfish. I grabbed sushi and a tallboy canned margarita from Safeway, and then headed to the east side of town to grab my lumber for the third gate from the Ace Hardware where I’ve been scoping out a slender lass who works in the gardening section. In the past few weeks she’s helped me load many heavy bags of sand and gravel. She didn’t look happy at about it. I hadn’t been able to decide if it was better to accept her labor, or to deny her help as a gesture of chivalry. People are so easy to offend these days. I decided to let her help. She seemed kind of tightly wound anyhow, so I erred on the side of less work for me.
I navigated the social niceties of finding help and getting what I needed and then escaped back to my sanctuary on the Wyoming prairie. My dog Karna had accompanied me on the ride. By the time I reached home, that tallboy canned margarita had perked up my mood, and I was practicing my stand-up routine on my dog. As usual, he was not amused.
I rolled another spliff as a reward for my successful outing, which I smoked as I loaded lumber down to the woodshop in my basement. Chanting the Gayatri mantra the whole time, I quickly churned out a simple and sound cedar gate with proud, jumbo, latches. Upon arriving I had seen that my new pallet forks for my tractor had arrived and I was eager to throw them on and try them out. The pallet forks were super solid and easy to install. I fired up the John Deere and drove over to try and flip the giant tractor tire in laying in my yard that was filled with potting soil as a makeshift planter. There were three flower bulbs in the tire already starting to rise. I felt kind of bad, but flipping the heavy tire was a great test for my new forks, plus I need to move it anyhow to the corner of the fence I’m installing with JW this weekend.
I jammed the forks under the edge of the tire and pulled up on the lever, and… the forks couldn’t really get enough grip under the tire and just ripped the earth out from underneath it. So I begrudginly took off the new forks and tried it again with just the tractor bucket. The bucket slid under the tire better, and to my suprise, my little John Deere was just strong enough to lift it, but not quite enough to flip it. So I adjusted my method and lifted the tire again as I gunned the tractor forward. The tire slipped from the bucket and slammed back onto the hood of my tractor. I wasn’t sure if it damaged it or not. I backed up and tried again, this time gunning the engine sooner and more consistently. The tire flipped with a womp, leaving a huge pile of garden soil in it’s footprint, littered with the three, ripped-out, flower bulbs. Minding not to harm the bulbs, I flipped the tire three more times until it was in basic position, and then I pushed into final place with the bucket. Tractors are fun. I was satisfied.
I smoked yet another spliff, don’t judge, and then got inspired to make a cedar planter box for the ripped out flower bulbs using the cuttings from the cedar gate I had made earlier. I had several two foot by six inch-wide planks left, and quickly cobbled them into a nice looking, well-made, planter, finishing it off with a coat of polyurethene. Later tonight I’ll add another coat, and in the morning I’ll staple in a liner made of trash bag, layer the bottom with lava rocks, fill it with the soil that fell out of the tire, and finally, plant the stranded flower bulbs. You see? It all comes together, it all works out. And for that I’ll reward myself with another spliff, a nightcap of wine, and plant myself in my comfy leather chair and type all this out for whoever cares. Then I’ll watch my programs, finish the roach beside me, and probably go to bed with good buzz again. It’s not a drunkeness of depression, but of celebration. I like Wyoming. I like pallet forks and tractors and woodworking. I like my new life. And my new dog.
As a newcomer to Wyoming from the East Coast, it’s been kind of eye-opeing to see just how real and ubiquitous rodeo life is in Wyoming, or “rodeoin’” as they say. I thought it was just something a few cowboys still did for tourists, but boy was I wrong. It seems to be just what ranch kids do for fun and sport, in place of local organized sports like soccer and little league that kids do back East. I’m sure they do all that out here too, but rodeoing seems to be more common and the activity in which kids can most distinguish themselves, and it’s one of this culture’s way of instilling values and developing character. Perhaps it’s the Western way of “keeping kids off the streets and out of trouble”. It’s not just kids who rodeo of course, but it’s pretty safe to say that most older competing rodeo folks grew up in it since youth. All them boots, buckles, and cowboy hats aren’t just a look. They’re real and practical things out here. Pointy boots slide into stirrups well, a good wide brimmed hat will keep the sun off your back while doing ranch work, and the buckles are the trophies you win at the rodeo, big and shiny, to be displayed with pride.
When I first moved here I was excited to see that Sundance has it’s own rodeo ring in the fairgrounds. I thought this was mostly a tourist feature, an attraction. But it’s more akin to a highschool football field, or a regional park back East full of baseball and soccer fields to host all the community teams and games. The rodeo ring is more of a practical thing than the tourist attraction I thought it was. It’s just where all the local teams compete, and most towns seem to have one. That’s how ubiquitous rodeo is out here. It’s boys and girls, men and women. Rodeo life is a real, integrated, part of Wyoming life, not just some niche, nostalgic, tourist attraction that I thought it was. Hats off to you Wyoming! You got a good thing going out here, and I hope all the political refugees coming out from the East Coast, like myself I must confess, don’t spoil it all. Hee haw!
Since my last entry, I’ve finally settled into a deep, relaxed, vacation mode. It always takes nearly a week to be able to fully shift gears from our more purposeful and trying regular life to the full, relaxed swagger of island time, at least for me. Then suddenly it hits you and you know you’re there as you find yourself cruising down some palm-lilned causeway on your motorcycle with the sea breaze whipping your hair and wide grin growing on your face, and deep down in your soul you feel a cosmic “Ahhh…” of relief that has been trapped inside of you for too long waiting for expression.
Once that feeling hits, time starts to fade away, plans cease to be made, and you just ride through the cycles of the tides, sun, and moon as blissful and carefree as the tropical songbirds that serenade from dawn to dusk from swaying limbs of strangler figs and from nests within the ever whispering stands of palm and yucca.
In typical contradictory Piscean fashion I’ve been balancing the purifying devotions of twice daily yoga and meditation with the sporadically intoxifying indulgences of tobacco and cannabis blended cigarettes, a nip of tequila here and there, fried fish, and the occasional hard seltzer. With a mind as fluffy and dispersed as the clouds above from such alchemy and a body primed by yoga, I’ve been drifting through my days fishing, playing my hindu flute and drum, exploring the jungle backcountry on motorcyle and foot, enjoying antics with alligators, snapping pictures, chatting with fellow campers, and flipping the pages of my Edward Abbey book over coffee, sometimes laughing out loud in sheer delight from his curmudgeony wit.
On one of my walks I was in a reverie listening to an audiobook while gliding barefoot along a swamp trail when I almost stepped on a very large, full-sized, granddaddy alligator. I immediately leapt back with an audible gasp and retreated several feet to safety. The path was only four foot wide and flanked on both sides by impassable swamp and thickets, with the alligator lying lengthwise along the right edge. That’s not quite enough distance to safely squeeze by this fellow and it didn’t help that the gator was arched inward facing the path, in perfect position to pounce. And yet, I didn’t have the heart to do the sensible thing and chuck a branch at it or poke it with a long stick to goad it back into the swamp. Call me a bleeding heart hippy, but he was there first, peacefully enjoying his afternoon sunbath until I came along. My instincts told me that he was only slightly annoyed that I didn’t just go on already and walk by. He wasn’t threatened or menacing, and he knew that he was along a pedestrian path, having acted out this scenerio nearly every day with timid tourists or aggressive alpha dads since much of his existence. I felt he preferred that I don’t turn this into some “thing” but just carry on by. And so I did, really fucking cautiously, hugging the outer edge of the trail, ready at any moment to leap and run like hell. Once I got to center mass of the parallel reptile, I did indeed leap forward and run past anyhow to assure my safe escape. Unfortunately my leap did startle the alligator and he erupted in a spasmadic fury of tail and limb, leaping up and back partially into the pond and then pausing, still again but for a hiss coming through his exposed and menacing teeth. I got away and we both went about our day.
I had a chance to redeem myself with the gator community the next afternoon. I was playing my Indian bansuri flute in the delightful little nook behind my camper on the ponds edge. It was that sublime time of day, perhaps ninety minutes before the sunset. I stood there improvising on my flute, playing along with the chorus of sounds around me: the rustling of the palms, the steady squeak and squak of birds, even distant laughter and the drone of a far off plane. Once again, the vibrations of the flute drew the interest of the resident alligator of this pond, a sinister looking one-eyed gator who would instill more fear if only he were a few feet longer. At his length of only five feet, mostly tail, he could at best rip off a hand or foot if he got a good clench on it. He approached the past two days as well when I was playing at the waters edge. Alligators are very sensitive to vibrations, so are the fish who visibly hover by the shore, and a full-sized, bamboo bansuri flute makes powerful yet sweet resonances. Whether he’s just curious or pleased, he finds it worth his time to come have a listen. As he slowly approached, hovering in the water with his limbs and claws extended, gently propelled by the serpentine motion of his tail, I slowly moved right to the waters edge and sat down cross legged. I have a lot of experience with gators and know that they are much more complex and communicative than most would give them credit for. I rank them up there with dogs in theie ability relate to man. I intended this gesture of sitting at the waters edge to be welcoming. I wanted to show both a lack of fear and aggression, an acceptance. I believe my gesture was taken as intended.
Between the solid edge and the open water where the gator approached, there was a border of about four feet of thick vegetation. Approaching directly on, the gator floated right onto this vegetation and came to a stop, suspended in the pond grasses as if in a hammock. The tip of his nose was only about three feet from the tip of my own. There is undoubtedly a mystic power in holding the intimate gaze of a wild creature. You become fully present and the mind becomes silent. A tangibly felt transmission occurs. Hypnotized by the moment such, I proceeded to play my flute. I simply played from my heart, playing the melodies that arose in my imagination, and tried to keep the tone sweet, each note intentional, while holding focus on the gator. I played like this for about five minutes. The music was deep and haunting and like all natural things, it resolved its expression naturally before disappearing again into the silence it arose from. The gator and I sat in silence for a moment. Then he back paddled and floated away.
When I stowed my flute and returned to my van, two different campers sought me out to express their appreciation for the beautiful flute playing. At the risk of sounding conceited, I’ll confess I get that a lot when I play my bansuri in public. But I don’t take credit for it. I don’t believe my playing is the real essence of the beauty, but the tone of this ancient and finely crafted instrument, as well as the emotive power of the timeless and sacred ragas I play. My guru Karunamayi says that the bamboo flute is the only instrument of all earthly instruments that can directly heal and activate the chakras. No other instrument can do that she says. So there’s a reason people are drawn to the mystical sound of the hindu flute, and it is the same reason the alligator was drawn.
I have been writing fiction by the way, and I’m actually quite happy with the modest progress thus far. Only I’m finding that fiction is more time consuming and tedious than journaling, so posting daily fiction worth anyone’s time is probably out of reach for me. But I’ll post a few things I’m working on before I return north. In the meantime, I’m gonna just keep doing what I do, chasing this bliss, and see if any more contemplations of worth find their way to my fingertips over joints and coffee.
I’ll be honest about this “writing project”. Even I’m boring myself with these journal entries so far and I don’t really enjoy being the main character of my musings. I’m as human as anyone else. I have my highs and lows, my hopes and struggles. If there is anything unique about my journey, it might be my authentic and ever evolving to spiritual devotion/seeking, even in spite of all my vices and the occassional reckless outbursts of ego. That aspect of my life may have once been but a juvenile identity I latched onto so I could feel special and self important, but truly over the years through the time I’ve been able to spend with her holiness Amma Sri Karunamayi, through my empassioned study of Hindu scriptures, and through the continued practice of meditation and yoga for three decades, my identity as a devoted and practicing Hindu has evolved from youthful vanity to seasoned reality. But to be honest, there’s not much to write about in that regard, and I don’t really care to sensationalize what is in essence, the quest for the complete cessation of all thought and worldy ambition. What does a himalayan yogi have to write about from his cave? “Today I listened to moisture drip as I centered my mind, brought all mental restlessness to quiescence, and dissolved all sense of separate self into the totality of being”. Even a yogi’s perceptions as he wanders through the world are rather grim: “Amongst the crowds today I saw countless people chasing vain illusions of happiness, as if on autopilot, caught in the nauseating and ceaseless narratives of an ego doing everything it can to avoid the realization of its fundamental error and non-existence as it circles the abyss. I felt I was the only one even partially awake amidst legions of somnabulists trapped in an exponentially complexifying nightmare.”
So why do I even speak of or express an interest in writing? As much as I believe in the magic and power of music, I also believe in the magic and power of literature, and as deeply as my life has been touched by the former, it has also been shaped by the latter. And all my life I’ve had this nagging feeling that writing is part of my destiny and that my life’s work will not be complete until I offer some works of literary relevance. The problem is, I haven’t written shit thus far other than poems, songs, social media rants, and a couple controversial blog posts, and that just won’t fulfill this inner calling. I want to write fiction. I feel I have the innate capacity, but like anything, it takes years of practice and honing the craft, and I just can’t seem to get started. I challenge myself to these little writing projects in hopes that they will magically gestate the beginnings of my literary journey, but so far I haven’t been able to unstuck from basic journaling and social commentary. So it’s time to get creative and just push myself off from shore and see what happens. From here forward while I’m in Florida, I hope to shift things up a little. Instead of journal entries, I want to focus on little vignettes, slices of my experienece, fictionalizing and romanticizing the things I see and finding little backstories and conflicts for, say, the campers across from me, the waitress at the crab shack, or the family staying at the beach resort. I may just set a scene but not provide any action. One way or another, I have to shift the focus off myself and onto CHARACTERS and storylines.
Doing so might be a little embarrasing. I feel like a music lover sitting at a piano, with zero experience of actually playing the damn thing. Yet I yearn to make music, and I feel the only way I’m ever gonna do it, is if I just put myself out there, toss myself in the deep water, and hope to God I find a way to swim. Excuse the mixed metaphor. As I just confessed, I have plenty of work to do in becoming a good writer. But at least I’ll find the courage and discipline to try. I feel an inner calling that I just can’t deny.
For whatever it’s worth, Edward Abbey is my current totem for excellence in fiction. He’s my inspiration/hero. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the Edward Abbey that wrote the eco-conscious, nonfiction work, “Desert Solitaire”. I’m talking about the other side of the self-same man, the Edward Abbey that wrote “The Monkey Wrench Gang”, “Heyduke Lives”, “The Fools Progress”, “The Brave Cowboy”, and “Black Sun”. I adore the honesty, insight, and fearlessness of his prose. He would ABSOLUTELY be cancelled if he was still around today. He pulls no punches and is not shy to offend, yet his work is still full of lightness, love, humor, humanity despite his natural cynicism. He paints a world that I love to inhabit. It’s a honest world, more real to me than so called “reality”. If I could only offer the something similar to humankind, I feel would life would be complete.
Yesterday afternoon, after my morning adventure to Marco Island, I headed back to my camground in the swamps and decided to spend the mid afternoon bass fishing the canals that cut through the glades. There’s little else I enjoy more. It’s so quiet and mysterious back there, the senses are constantly delighted by the sights and sounds of the vibrant ecosystem. Tropical birds, lizards, snakes, turtles, and gators are my constant companions.
This was my first time picking up the fishing pole since winter put a damper on the trout fishing out in the Black Hills. I was amazed at how quickly my fisherman’s instincts took over, how naturally my mind became quiet and my focus intense. My first catch took a little skill and instantly boosted my enthusiasm. The bass had lightly scooped my plastic worm off the bottom and started to run with it. I didn’t feel any strike, but I saw the line start to drift to the right. Without hesitation I yanked up the rod to set the hook and the water exploded with the wrath of an angry bass fighting for its life. It was a smaller bass, so its life was spared. After changing locations to deeper in the swamp, I caught three medium sized bass and two panfish. I was tempted to keep each bass, but I ended up releasing them in hopes of catching a bigger fish to be the entre of my birthday dinner. After about ten more minutes of fishing with no luck, I started to regret throwing back my earlier catches. Two of them would have made a great meal, but now I was empty handed.
Not wanting to feel bummed out on my birthday, I just accepted the fact that tonight I would be eating potatoes and then strapped my rod to my dirtbike and headed back. Just before reemerging back onto the paved main road, I stopped by one more fishing hole that I had never tried before. A few casts in, I got what I was looking for. Again, the bass struck the line lightly, and I had to intuit he was there, whipping the rod tip up to set the hook. Instantly I felt the heavy resistance and I knew I had hooked a big one. He put up a good fight but I managed to flop him up onto the bank. I got my birthday bass.
Knowing I was done fishing, I didn’t bother putting him on a stringer, but instead pulled out my fishing pliers and gave the fish a violent smack right between the eyes to kill it. The bass immediately went into convulsions in my hand, and I hit it a few more times just to make sure I had done the job. I wrapped him in a zip-lock bag, strapped him to my bike, and motored the few miles back up the Tamiami Trail to camp.
Entering camp I felt so proud with my rod and catch displayed on the back of my bike rack. I’m sure no one noticed or cared, but in my mind I was a hero, a man who went out into the swamps to catch dinner, now returning triumphantly to enjoy his birthday feast complete with joints and tequila.
Yet before preparing dinner, I took the time to do a thorough session of yogic breathing exercises followed by meditation. I actually had an uncharacteristically deep meditation where I simply dissolved into the tranquil evening around me. I couldn’t tell the difference between myself and the sounds of the insects and frogs in the pond, the whisper of the wind, or the occasional splashes of swamp creatures on the hunt. Everything was clarity and bliss.
In such a mood, I took my time and made a delicious dinner of rice, sauteed veggies, and two ample bass filets. Then I blended up some hash, cannabis flower, and tobacco into a perfect cone joint and headed down the road to a quiter place to walk along the canals, contemplate, and smoke in peace. I had a birthday talk with God out there, expressing gratitude for all my blessings, and asking for continued guidance and blessings so that I can make the most out of this life and serve God and humanity at my greatest capacity. And of course I prayed for the wellbeing of my parents and the healing of the world.
I ended the night a tall glass of tequila and an episode of Rockford Files in the van on the pond edge. It was a happy birthday.
It’s my birthday. I went to bed early last night and woke up before dawn this morning, wanting to start the day out on the right foot. After a brief sink bath and a cup of coffee, I got right to my breathing exercises and meditation. Again, my meditation was quite potent and effortless. I don’t think there’s any more accurate indicator of one’s overall state of wellbeing than meditation. When there is trouble in the body, mind, or heart, it’s hard to focus and easy to get restless. But when you have a degree of contentment, acceptance, and an integrated sense of harmony within and without, it becomes much more natural to simply fall into blissful and empty inner states. Seasons of good meditation come and go. I’ve been making a lot of effort late to nurture the right conditions for inner peace. It seems to working. Then again, I always feel pretty positive and content around my birthday. All in all, I like life, I enjoy it, I think it’s neat, and I have many reasons to feel blessed and grateful.
I’ve had a bit of change of plans on my birthday activities. I decided to treat myself to a proper brunch on Marco Island at a popular little spot I enjoy, Doreen’s Cup of Joe. I enjoyed a crab benedict, one mimosa, and three cups of coffee while people watching, checking out the pretty tourists girls, most of them on vacation with their fiances or boyfriends. I never really envy guys with pretty girls. I’m experienced enough to know that women generally take a lot of upkeep, a lot of money and energy spent keeping them happy. As a lifelong, freewheeling kind of guy, I usually just get my loving on the run. It comes and goes. There are seasons for everything. Nothing makes me happier than independence, spontaneity, feeling close to God and Nature. I’ve never yet had a partner who ultimately doesn’t distract from that. Sometimes I welcome that distraction, but not currently.
After breakfast, I felt the urge to do a little writing and update this blog. I walked into a fancy resort hotel right on the beach, and bluffed my way to their beautifully landscaped pool and patio, and managed to get on their wifi as well. In a minute here I’m gonna strap on headphones and go longboard cruising around the island. Marco really is beautiful. I just love all the tropical landscaping, palms and flowers everywhere. Combined with the bright sun and sea breeze, it’s pretty hard not to feel happy here. I plan to stop by the various boat marinas. I like watching the pelicans and the fish that hangout looking for a free meal from the fishermen.
I won’t hang out on Marco all day though. My birthday wouldn’t be complete without a long solitary walk in the wilderness, sinking my toes in the sand, listening to all the songbirds, keeping my eyes peeled for snakes, gators and panthers. That’s how I like to spend my time.
I’m content with being alone on my birthday, and I’m content with turning 48. My outer quest for happiness is mostly winding down, while my inner quest ramps up to new levels of devotion. True happiness isn’t dependent on any outer circumstances; it only comes from Self knowledge, harmony with one’s own being. Every outer pleasure sacrificed makes room for inner riches that can never be lost or taken away. The world is quickly spiraling into insanity and violence, which makes the quest for inner peace and spiritual liberation all the more urgent.
Yesterday I woke up at the Georgia/Florida state line, having slept in a Walmart parking lot in Kingsland GA. I was happy that the day’s drive began and ended in Florida, and that I would get to see the state in the full light of day, hoping to arrive at my campground in the Everglades by the late afternoon.
The drive was pleasant apart from the handful of insane drivers on 95. I like Florida. I’ve been coming down here for years. The sunshine always lifts my spirits. I love the sea air, the tropical foliage, the spanish architecture, and the general good cheer of the retirees and snowbirds. People come down to Florida to relax and have a good time, and they do it well.
I arrived at my campsite around 5pm, pretty worn out and hazy from the drive and a few road sodas and edibles. I didn’t feel I had to charisma and mojo at the moment to somehow finagle my way into the same camp spot I had last year, but I lucked out and scored just the spot I wanted. The host was super easy going and casual about things, which is typical of this backwaters campground. That’s exactly why I like it… that, and all the gator ponds full of fish and tropical birds, and all the beautiful greenery. And it’s cheap.
I achieved little last night but the dissappearance of a few drinks, followed by the dissappearance of consciousness, falling asleep in my clothes, not under the blankets. Nevertheless I woke up in good health and spirits, except for a low-level malaise that wore off during my vitalizing morning rituals. I had ample coffee, grabbed a shower that I finished with several minutes of cold water only, did twelve sun-salutations by the pond, did my Wim Hoff breathing followed by two other yogic breathing exercises, and then proceeded to enjoy a rather serene and empty-headed meditation. I followed all that with a light breakfast of peanut butter toast, a banana, and a hash and flower mixed joint.
Tomorrow is my birthday and I hope to be in optimum health and spirits to really enjoy an adventure. So today I plan to mostly lay low by the pond, do another round of yoga, breathing, and meditation, and eat some wholesome food. I just want to flush out the past few days of mild excess and start off this adventure on the right foot, not wasting any more days to haze and malaise!
As for my birthday tomorrow, so far I’m leaning towards a thirteen mile loop walk through the swamps in the heart of panther country. I’ll mostly go slow and barefoot, just enjoying the quiet and beauty of the wilderness, stopping from time to time to play my hindu flute to the forest. I’ve always been a fan of really long day hikes. You only get tired at the very end, but throughout most of the walk you fall into a rhythmic trance where the mind becomes very clear. Plus, you’re bound to encounter all sorts of creatures and sublime forest nooks. I usually spend my birthdays alone. It’s always been a sacred day to me, a day to walk and talk with God and to bathe in the bliss of Nature.
Once again, I find myself in route to Florida to flee the last cold weeks of winter, and to get a head start on Spring and rejuvenation. I haven’t been living in my van since I bought my ranch in August, but have been quite stationary staying put in Sundance rennovating the home. I am very happy to be back out on the road and headed to the tropics for another open-ended south Florida adventure.
To start my adventure I have a two week reservation at a somewhat podunk but tranquil campground in the swamps about thirty minutes inland from Marco Island. I have deep love for the Everglades and the Big Cypress National Forest and spend more of my time inland in swamp country than I do soaking up sun and waves and checking out pretty tourist girls at the beach. I go on all day long exploratory hikes through the backcountry photographing wildlife and just appreciating the diverse fauna and flora of the glades. The Everglades are absolutely teeming with life and one is never alone in these forests and marshes. Anywhere you glance your eye will find a creature watching you, whether it’s a lizard sharing the bench, a bird on a branch, gator eyes protruding from dark depths, or a silent panther stalking from behind. To me it is an Eden, and time spent in these forests is like sitting at a guru’s feet. Nature is alive here, and she has lessons and insights to teach to those willing to wander and wonder this vast and mysterious jungle.
My intention for this trip is really to just get out of my head, relax, and spend nearly all my time in nature fishing, exploring, making music, meditating, etc. Although I don’t intend to behave like a puritan down here, I do want to prioritize exercise, eating well, and clean living within reason. I want to take advantage of the strong sunshine, the vitalizing sea air, and the shimmering strength of Life in the swamps, to purify and prepare myself for the summer ahead. I feel driven and purposeful lately. I want to avoid getting caught in ruts and find a real, positive, stride.
So that’s basically where my head is at as I start this adventure. If it’s any sign, my first evening on the road last night was quite special. I visited some friends on a farm outside of Asheville, a little fortress in the mountains, abundant with all sorts of animals and hippies. Anyone who knows me, knows how deeply I love bonding with animals and observing wildlife. Well, upon entering the house I was greeted by my friend’s real wolf. I’ve known this majestic and daunting creature for probably five years now, and the dog has never let me get near him. He has bright, powerful eyes and a deep and intimidating growl. Compared to ordinary domestic dogs, his sense of strength and sovereignty just shines. He has a magical, intimidating presence. For the first time ever, last night he walked right up to me and leaned into me, nuzzling me with his head, and warmly welcoming and enjoying my pets. Then, when we all sat at the table for drinks, joints, and chats, my friend’s parrot jumped up on my shoulder and started nuzzling its head into my beard while making sweet little noises. He stayed there for more than half an hour and we sweetly bonded. To top it all off, the real icing on the cake, when I retired to my van to sleep, I invited to the two giant, white, Great Pyrenees, farm dogs into my van. These enormous dogs live outside all the time and have been trained to guard all the other farm animals from foxes, coyotes, cougars and such. They cautiously came into the van to scope it out. Then they hopped up on the bed and discovered it was really warm and comfortable. Then they didn’t want to leave and I didn’t want them to either. We all fell asleep together on the narrow bed and slept blissfully in a dogpile well into the morning. They were very sweet and affectionate, and loved to cuddle. It was a perfect start to my adventure.
Tomorrow I have about six hours to drive left before arriving at my campground in Big Cypress. My 48th birthday is Friday. Stay tuned!