This was my campfire last night out at Indian Bread Rock state park in Arizona. I had the run of the whole park. No one else was there.
Tonight I’m freezing my ass off in Marfa, Texas. It’s fourteen degrees and I’m up at three in the morning because the heater in the Airstream kept cycling on and then shutting off. I got up out of bed and turned on the stove burner, or tried to, and sure enough it was out. I got dressed and went out to swap the propane tanks over- it seemed like it wa,s too soon for the one to be empty, but I opened up the valve for the other tank and went back inside. I lit the burner. It lit, but the flame was weak and lazy, as if the gas was running out. But the tank I just turned on was totally full, so I knew that something was wrong.
This is my first time camping when it’s below freezing, and I know there are all kinds of problems that can happen with the plumbing freezing and the lines rupturing, but I had never heard of problems with propane lines freezing. I checked the temp inside, which I’d set at 65 just to try to keep the heater running all night. It was 59 inside. 14 outside. I let the dog out to pee and she went to her water bowl- it was frozen solid. She peed and limped back up the steps, settled onto her bed and went back to bed.
I was freaking out a little bit. Watching the flame on the stove burner flicker and dim, and knowing there were five hours until dawn. The temp dropped- 58, 56, 54, 52, in just a few minutes. I tried to light the water heater- no joy. Tried to get the furnace to light again- no joy.
The little stove burner is still going. I know it can keep us from freezing, but there’s the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. So I put a fresh battery in the CO detector. I lit a candle and now I’m going to sit up until morning. I don’t know why. I could just bundle up in the bed and I’d get by. Nothing bad is going to happen. In the morning the sun will come up and it will get above freezing and everything will thaw and things will be fine. The temp in the Airstream has stabilized at 50.
Worse case scenario I can throw the dog into the van and run the van and keep her from turning into a pupsicle. Keep me from freezing, too. It’s silly to stay up all night afraid that you’re going to freeze or your rig is going to explode, or freeze, or both.
I’m here alone because my wife suffered a tragedy. I don’t want to violate her privacy here, although she knows you all and I know she wouldn’t mind. It’s not my place. You can keep an eye on her blog and she’ll say what she wants to about it. But she had to fly back to Florida to be with her mother and take care of her, and I’m following- slowly- in the Airstream.
It’s a bittersweet thing to be making this trip without her. I’m heartbroken for her and her family and I miss her already. But I’m finding great peace and joy in being out here all alone, doing everything solo- it’s an adventure. I’m pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and learning, becoming more capable. It’s not bad. But I hate that she’s not here with me, doing it too. And of course I’m saddened about the reason she can’t be here.
Of course, she is going where the need is, and that is what makes me love her. That, and how hot she is. But, you know, mostly it’s her heart. She’s a good woman.
Starting to wonder about what’s going on with this whole attempt to break free from our old lives and live a life of freedom and adventure on the open road. Terrible things keep arising for us that seem to mean the end of our adventure before we’ve made a proper start.
Maybe we are doing the wrong thing. Maybe what we’re trying to do is so fundamentally wrong and selfish that the Universe is throwing shit at us until we finally give up and stop.
Maybe these things are totally unrelated to us and are simply happening, as things simply happen. Maybe there’s no message there at all. Or maybe the message is, keep going, don’t give up, show you’ve got the guts to see this through.
I do not know.
At any rate, I am eastbound to follow my loving and beautiful wife to Melbourne, Florida. I should be there in a week. I put on 400 miles yesterday, but that was way too much so I’m holed up in Marfa for a day of rest. Of course, since I’m up all night I’m not resting that much. Still got about a billion miles of Texas to get through. The rest will go more quickly.
I want to go fast and get to my woman, but I also want to experience what I’m doing and seeing fully- I want to be where I am, not where I’m going, if that makes sense.
Whatever happens, doing this has been so good for me. It really is another life already. I don’t have to keep doing it for it to have changed me. I think the change was in the willingness to abandon the known for the unknown, and to do it with fervor and determination. You go along for fifty years, you can dig some pretty deep ruts.
I popped myself out of them.
Not all of them, I know. But a pretty good handful. And it gave me an appetite for more. Maybe it’s wrong and simpleminded to say that all of this ties in to my spiritual life, but it does. I feel it every day. Of course, my life is my spiritual life- there’s no difference, there’s not two things there. But they circle around each other all the same, they feed on each other- maybe it’s better to say that the outside and inside are in relation- the world keeps happening, joys and tragedies, and I simply keep relating to them as both the things in themselves, and as manifestations of the boundless forms that are inseparable from emptiness.
It makes me feel better.
I’m reading Thomas Merton’s book New Seeds of Contemplation. He attacks it from the Catholic angle, but his words and images could be plopped down into a dharma talk almost verbatim. He says God but he’s describing the Dharmakaya.
It’s instructive for me to read and contemplate other traditions because it reminds me that as much as I love the Dharma, it is truly just the boat we use to row to the other shore. The rowing is what matters, not the boat. I don’t even know if there is another shore. I believe there is, sure. But I don’t know. I think I know. Or maybe I know there is another shore but I don’t know if I’ll ever arrive there.
For me, right now, it’s just the joy of rowing. If you look back through this blog you can see mentions of this all the time. I have this image of manning the oars, rowing on towards morning. Sick and sore, hands bound to the oars, boat leaking, waves rising. Or joyful, sun shining. Still rowing.
I was listening to Joseph Campbell lecturing (thank you, Google Play!) on my eleven hour drive yesterday, and I was knocked in the head by this realization that I’m so damn happy to have this mystery of being to chew on- how bereft I’d be if I actually knew the answers! It made me happy for the fact of my death. Maybe that sounds strange, but it did. I was thrilled that I didn’t know the meaning of life, and I was thrilled that I was going to die- that I had only a limited time to figure it out! It seemed the perfect thing. Thrilled that I got to be human, got to have consciousness, and got to have the biggest riddle ever to work on. Thrilled that I have had the great blessing to have so many guides and teachers to help me in my impossible task, thrilled that the truth lies concealed in each moment, in every single thing that exists. Thrilled to be alive, right now, for as long as that lasts. And thrilled to see what’s next. Thrilled that I walk a path that is helping me want to be of service to others, that is founded on love, that seeks to turn me into a cosmic machine of love, of selfless love, for others and for everything that is.
That’s why I love reading Merton so much. That guy, he really got it, he had this powerful passion to be one with God, to know God totally, and to love his fellow man as God does. That longing- I have that and it’s unquenchable.
We burn up in this world. Everything does.
Namaste. May you be swept up in your own true raptures.