Sept. 17, 2012

The full moon from my camp up at the beginning of Horn Canyon Trail in the Los Padres National Forest near Thacher School. Ojai, Ca. August 2012

My friends are the people who celebrate me, they don’t just tolerate me. I am going wild with this quote I got from some website. I love it! These words have liberated me from allying myself with several people who have been merely tolerating me for a few years. Some of these people have taken the guise of “helpers,” as though I am a pitiful person running amok and they can “save” me. These are invariably people who don’t need my help, my gifts, my attention; they refuse anything I have to give: they insist on being the givers in our relationship (and, thus, in a position of power). They are people who don’t share themselves with me; they are people who want to control other people.

I’m sorry for being so tough on these people, but once I figured out they weren’t actually my friends, I got angry. I got angry about my investment in them, and I got angry about their treatment of me. Now I have distanced myself from such people; they have no more presence in my life. I was celebrating them, but now I’m keeping that wasted energy for myself and for new, true friends.

The Navajo medicine woman, Walking Thunder, writes that her teacher, Don Hoskie, said to have no friends. I can’t say I fully understand this; nor can I put this into effect in my life. I like friends, and, besides, I’m not a medicine woman! Ha ha. I guess that’s the simple difference.

Radical fundamentalists of EVERY religion are insane people. The Taliban have closed down schools in Afghanistan and The New Yorker magazine (July 9 & 16, 2012) calls them “brutal and medieval.” 90% of Afghanis are uneducated. I value my education so much: I graduated, after eleven colleges and 40 years, with almost twice the credits I needed. I’m a different and much better and happier person thanks to my education.

I haven’t had a boss telling me what to do since I left my playboy husband in early 1974. I have been an independent authority figure ruling my own life. No one tells me how high to jump or when or where to jump. I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me over the years. To be in control of my own life has been a gift that I jumped on right away.

I was given “disability” money from the Federal Government at 30 years old, and this has made ALL the difference. Thank you, USA. Many things are wrong with this country, but not money for people like me: artists, creative rebels, and people who think and blaze new trails. I wish more people would get this gift.

My days here in Ojai are spent waking up in the pre-dawn darkness and waiting for the sun and for the birds to start singing. One or two brave souls often run up the Pratt Trail (Los Padres National Forest) in the near-darkness. I can hear them padding up the trail (perhaps to the spot where you can see the sunrise or beyond that, past the vineyard and the houses of the wealthy Ojai folks on Foothill Road). I love that! (I hear the voices of people on the trail at the end of each day, too, after the heat has burned off.)

When it’s a little bit light out, I pack up my bedding in my backpack, wrap it in two black plastic trash bags, and hide it in plain sight — if anyone cared to look for it. (No one seems to venture far off the trail, and my camp seems to not have been discovered in the two weeks I’ve been there.) With some trepidation (because I don’t want to be seen leaving my camp), I cross the barranca and walk down the trail. I’ve stashed my coconut oil and mouthwash right near the beginning of the trail and sometimes I use one or the other (usually the mouthwash). I then walk down Signal Street and right into town (10-15 minutes); usually, I continue on to the gym (10-15 more minutes) where I work out (20 min.) and shower.

I return to town after the gym and have some coffee or tea and a pastry or something. At ten am, I go to the Ojai Library and use the computers for at least two hours. After this, I read while having something to eat or drink at a cafe or in the park. Around 4 or 5 pm, I begin up Signal Street to camp. If it’s very hot, I may stop by the side of the road once or twice (it’s a country sort-of road, lined with semi-expensive houses) and read, floss my teeth, and drink water. When I get to camp, I feel really good because it’s so private and quiet. The birds are around and busy. I read and then lay my bed out on the ground.

Now that it’s autumn, the leaves are dropping off the trees, and my little spot on the slope is perhaps a bit more obvious (should anyone from the trail care to look). Tonight, I’m going to sleep just a few feet away from where I’ve been nesting, in a little hollow where I’m less visible. As people on the other side of my camp, on Del Oro Drive, get home from school and work, I can hear their voices. Except on weekends, these people are quiet once it gets dark.

I go to sleep at dark. During the night, I hear the occasional bird, owls (mostly at dawn), wood rats (whom I love — such interesting home-lives), and, of course, every morning, early, the coyotes. The coyotes are very verbal and communicative with each other; I also hear them at least once every night, in a group, when they are killing some animal (I guess).

That’s the freedom my disability money has bought: I am living in a way I find very interesting. EVERY day, I spend some time planning my next trip: right now, I’m getting couches and tickets for the Caribbean. I love my life! I do live on very little money ($940 a month), but it’s enough (if I don’t have to pay rent, I can spend money on plane tickets!). Since my income is “fixed,” I don’t do anything to try to get more money. Over the years, this has become a very good practice: my life is not determined by a quest for ever-more money.

The other evening, a couple walked up the trail. I heard him say, “It’s just a little bit farther.” About 20 minutes later, as dusk took over,  they returned down the trail, and he said, “Do you think the girls would like to sleep up here some night?” “No,” she said. Suddenly, I realized that people other than me sometimes sleep up there on the Pratt Trail. The next morning, I walked up the trail and saw what was there: there are a few places one could sleep beside the trail. This awareness freed me up immeasurably. Now I don’t feel so odd or weird up there; other people also sleep up along the trail sometimes! Yea! And I bet this is true of every National Forest trail in the U.S.


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