Leaving the wilderness
For over 20 years, I never purchased meat or fish from a grocery store, foraging much of my food from the land. I lived in a tipi for 6 of those years. Wild places called me… Idaho, Montana, British Columbia. I believed that if a town had more than a once-a-week newspaper that there was too much going on. Cities were not for me. I even lived along the most remote mail route in the lower 48 states where mail came once a week by jet boat on the Snake River. And I was a 3 mile hike from the river.
And then a series of life changes caused me to consider new possibilities. I got married, had a kid, realized that I didn’t know how to be a great husband or father, left the woods, worked as a waiter at a 4 star restaurant, managed a multi-million dollar vacation condominium complex, worked in the most dangerous job in the world as a single-stem logger climbing the huge trees off the coast of BC, ended my marriage, started raising high-end exotic pythons… and one day, living in British Columbia with a home on a fertile acre with a stream flowing by so clean that I’d lay on my belly and drink from it, I wondered…
I wondered about the kind of person that chooses to live in an easy place… like Hawaii or southern California. I also wondered about the kind of person that chooses to live in a hard place where the roads become icy and snow gets 4 feet deep and sometimes the green beans have to be planted 3 times because the first 2 were killed by frost and rain. I lived in the latter place. I prided myself in being someone who could live in such a harsh yet beautiful place. I wondered who I would be if I chose to live in an easy place.
Los Angeles chose me. I had been exploring my emotional and physiological responses as intuitive guidance. So, any response other than love… like anger, sadness, fear or guilt… was an invitation to unravel trauma and open up to new ways-of-being. Whenever I would feel something other than love, I’d ask myself, “Now what’s this about?" And when my current lover told me how much she loved LA, well I felt something.
The feeling was clear and powerful. I didn’t act immediately, but continued to probe my intuition for clarity. When I was certain, I sold or gave away almost everything I owned, put my home up for rent and bought a plane ticket to a city of 12 million people. My remaining possessions I fit into 4 boxes and shipped ahead of me.
Arriving in LA with just enough money for a month or so, I rented a one bedroom apartment and looked for work. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" so I did not intend to teach ancient skills or anything to do with nature. I was here for the lessons. So I applied to be a janitor and as a coach at a high school. I was turned down. I tried selling Herbalife and found new ways to annoy my friends and before long, a lack of respect for the company.
I was soon out of money with the realization that I had no idea how to pay the upcoming rent. But then a python or 2 from my collection would sell (remember the python thing?)… I had friends in BC selling off my animals, and I would have enough to just get by. That went on for 3 months. I seriously considered what my life would be like if I was tossed out onto the streets.
Seriously. I’d build a hidden shelter in a patch of woods. I would camouflage my trail. I’d make friends with other homeless people. I’d forage and dive into dumpsters behind grocery stores and restaurants. I’d write down my experiences and publish a book. My time as a homeless man would be just another experience that would teach but not define me.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, I went to a Self-Realization Fellowship meditation. Based on the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, you know? There was a place within walking distance from my apartment. There I met someone who asked me, “What do you do?"
I didn’t have a good answer, so I told him what I used to do. Then he suggested we get together sometime for a walk in nature.
Before the hike, he asked if he could invite a friend. I said “sure" and then his friend invited 7 more friends. I arrived with a “class" waiting for me.
That was 7 years ago. I’ve now had the privilege of teaching hundreds of people how to live with nature. But it’s more than that, of course. My courses are about the journey of discovering one’s human-ness, of listening deeply, finding beauty in the most unlikely places, making mistakes and learning new ways, making friends, and feeling a gratitude so great that nothing can shake it, until something does, then breathe, and repeat.
Thank you to all who have walked this journey with me. And to those whose paths will one day intersect with mine.
I’m writing this on the eve of the year 2020, a year in hindsight. The future will bring many new opportunities to wonder, “Now what’s this about?"