A Rough Start

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Friday, August 10, 2012

I had the first inkling that this trip wouldn’t go as planned when I was three hours late getting started.

So I consulted Google Maps on my iPad. With the vast information it can assemble about everyplace I’m going, together with it’s GPS function, Google Maps has become my main travel tool. I rarely bring paper maps anymore. And with my car charger to keep the iPad charged, I can use it as much as I want, even when I’m on the road camping. And I’ve been looking forward to using my iPad for my favorite activity when I’m alone in nature and my thoughts are open and expansive: blogging. That way I can put my insights into words, and also be connected to others even while I’m alone.

Google Maps said I could get to Humbold Redwoods State Park by 5:30, still plenty of time to set up the tent, make dinner, build a small campfire, enjoy a nice glass of wine, and have a relaxed first evening of my long awaited vacation.

I set off on Highway 1 north along the Pacific coast in a cheerful mood. Then reality hit me. Traffic. Tons of it. Through each county heading north, bumper to bumper creep: San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino. This was not the light hearted, speeding getaway, with the wind in my face and open country all around, that I had imagined.

What happened? The problem was a basic epistomological error: I was thinking about myself. It was all about what I wanted to accomplish, and the information immediately in front of me about how to get there. The error? Ignoring the larger system of which I’m a part. Mid-summer, lots of families taking off on Friday for a vacation or a weekend, 50% more vehicles in California than 30 years ago and almost no new roads for them to drive on.

I sat in traffic as the hours ticked by, watching the sun get lower in the sky. Then I discovered something that gave me a brand new flash of panic: the iPad car charger was dead. After pushing and pulling it as many ways as I could while manuvering through the stop and go traffic on the freeway, I was forced to accept the inevitable. I’d have to get around with very restricted use of my main travel tool, and to defer the blogging.

As the sun kept getting lower and the traffic barely budged, I was feeling bummed. Get a life, I said to myself, none of this is life and death!

Yeah, came the answer, but this isn’t the vacation I was looking forward to.

I struggled to set up the tent in the dark. After a half hour, I had to admit defeat, take it all apart, and start all over. I was so frazzled I kicked the camp lantern and broke it. So now I had to rely on my two tiny mini-flashlights for light, which made everything much harder. The second try with the tent was worse than the first. On the third, I lucked out.

By the time I was ready to set up dinner it was 10 PM. I was the last diner at the campsite. Everyone else was either asleep, or drinking and partying.

It was Friday night, time for welcoming and honoring the Sabbath with candles, wine, and a special meal. The total point of my leaving on Friday, usually my busiest work day, was to have a Sabbath of peaceful contemplation in the forest. I felt like a total failure at this.

Still, I pushed gamely forward. I managed the wine and candles. Dinner was simpler than planned: a can of tuna. Fortunately I was able to augment it with a few things I had picked up on the way: salad greens, grape tomatoes, blueberries, and a bar of Cadburry’s dark chocolate.

The wine tasted great and so, I had to admit to myself, did everything else. The dark chocolate and cabernet went especially well together. In fact, this was one of the tastiest meals I’d had in a long time! For the first time all day, I had to laugh.

Then I looked up and saw, dimly revealed in the light of the candles and my two mini-flashlights, the tall redwoods surrounding me. In all of my angst, I had forgotten to notice. They seemed like wise, silent, ancient holy beings, welcoming me among them. What a privilege; what a blessing! It hit me how deeply I’ve been wanting to be here, to sit with them. To slip out of the stressed out, driven, judgemental, endlessly busy mind that confines me every day. To re-experience the larger self, the one I know I really am, the one that is interconnected with them and with all the other beings on this planet.

As long as we have bodies, the busy mind, which the Kabbalists call “small mind,” will pull us around through the three ring circus of desire, fear and judgement. And as long as we are the larger, interconnected self, which the Kabbalists call “great mind,” we can stop and notice what’s going on, no matter what it is, and then say, “Okay. Who do I choose to be now?”

My heart was filled with gratitude. For the first time all day, I felt at peace.

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