The Case for Walking

Nowhere can you see the realness and the history of where you live better than by foot. You may drive a place every day but until your feet touch its soil, until your eyes stop looking straight ahead but off to the side where a wide set of steps rise like an upside down waterfall leading to a young man with an old school ‘fro texting his girl on the night before his college graduation- will you begin to know a place.

Until you notice just how many people plant rows and rows of lavender along the strip of land after their yard but before the street on the other side of the sidewalk- you won’t understand the generosity of your neighbors and the glory of bees on a summer day.

I passed the cemetery and for the first time realized that a leafy tree stands as a sentinel at the end of even rows of each line of headstones. The grass is exactly even but not mechanized like a modern place, it is still different shades of green from dark to light with some dried grass, yellow and stiff. The rows are more like paths inviting me to follow them and get to know the people who came before.

I found families, a husband who died twenty years before his wife. I kneeled before three headstones of three brothers who all died in different wars. Those people once also walked these streets.

Rounding through town I was stopped by a gaggle of young and lively guys with long dreadlocks and short little songs they busted out in bursts for me. “We’re the rainbow, join us!” I stayed awhile, talked about the Rainbow Gathering coming to Oregon, we talked about their dog and one guy told me I was beautiful. It was generous given that he was a lovely young guy with eyes as blue as any I’d seen.

Walking can boost your morale substantially.

I walked past bus stops and old homes. I saw some trash left by the steps of a stately old place which bragged of its 1888 lineage and I picked it up thinking, it  must be hard to see everything change around you.

I visited with a guy roughly my age carrying a backpack and sleeping bag. He looked clean and was sorting some food as he tucked it away. “It was a good day,” he said smiling. “I see that and I’m glad,” I tipped my head and smiled back. He was about to offer me some of his food but I walked on waving as I passed.

Strangers can be kind for no reason.

I also fell in love with an assorted group of dogs who ran to greet me like their long lost friend. Tails wagging, some singing sorrowful songs urging me to come back and I walked on and I remembered the joy of a good dog. I saw a woman cradling her little black and white dog coming from the vet and kissing the top of her furry head.

Love is so present in the world if you look.

I exchanged dozens of smiles with strangers, witnessed countless acts of awe among children seeing birds and flowers and I never once wished I was in a car despite the sweat which pooled at the back of my neck.

The best moment was in passing a girl, maybe seven or eight, wearing a crisp blue and white dress, a ribbon in her dark wavy hair and the smile on her innocent illuminated face that made years roll backwards to my second grade year. She stood at the top of the stairs outside her home while her grandmother sat smiling that same way on her porch. The girl began waving at strangers and smiling, for no particular reason. She ate an orange popsicle. As I approached the popsicle slipped off its stick into the grass. She observed but didn’t react choosing to continue her waving campaign.

Everything about her gave me hope. I asked if I could capture her picture and I did. I did not ask her a million questions like I might normally do. Frankly I didn’t want to know more than what I could see–the perfect mixture of light and love, innocence and care, playfulness and childish boredom.

If you walk enough you will get bored. Boredom is such a relief. Boredom doesn’t have technology attached or success or failure. It is expansive and allows you to fill it or feel it just as it is. I love boredom.

The case for walking is great. It is good for every part of you except your oh so busy schedule. So here’s the best case for it beyond all others–walk because you do not have time to do it. Break free of your calendar and make the room for walking and seeing and loving and speaking to strangers, and flirting and being bored.




Traveling Like Crazy; a short story

Slab City, California, USA.

This is the place where people go who have nowhere else, who’s future and past collide into a present tense of impossibility. It looks like it sounds. The sun cooks up the ground into untidy cracks but it doesn’t cook it enough to erase the smell or evaporate the trash from hundreds, sometimes thousands of people living entirely off grid.

The Slabs is roughly a 90 minute drive from Palm Springs in the Imperial Desert, 65 miles north of Calexico and a few minutes from East Jesus-literally.


E.J. is an impromptu art installation on the road to Slab City. Artists use the trash from the Slab to make eccentric, politically challenging and quirky art amidst the nothingness of dirt and garbage and loneliness. East Jesus looks at you daring you to be anxious. If you don’t do it–if you stay calm and let yourself smile at the giant tray of spoons–you will be changed. It’s hard to say exactly how, but you feel it in the way that a certain song makes you cry. A nerve is touched and now it has sensation and memory of sensation and it’s own life outside you.

That is the East Jesus affect.

The entire drive through sand past the glimmering yet deeply foul Salton Sea, past abandoned shacks and mis-placed businesses slammed between date groves is sensation on salted wound. A road from nothing to nowhere.

The Slabs are left over from a military installation which pulled up stakes more than 40 years ago and today is occupied by people who show up in RV’s and cars, who sleep in tents, hammocks and home-made homes. It’s a self governing, free to squat  place with a dash of Hunter S. Thompson thrown in for the art of living oddly.


It’s the end of the world as we know it post apocalyptic wild west side show of people who run out of money, will, ability or patience with “normal” society.

There are 200 in August when the temperatures hit 124 and 2,000 in January when Canadians in mansions on wheels show up to soak up the weirdness and freeness of the desert. While the demographics and bank accounts shift with the seasons, old timers like George who runs a mis-matched trailer encampment which he rents out year round says it’s all the same kind of folks. Those who want to save money and don’t want to be bothered by the politeness of others. Essentially the draw at The Slabs is being left the hell alone. At least some of the time.


There’s no electricity, running water-hot or cold-and no flush toilets. There’s dirt and some concrete slabs. That covers all the amenities.

There’s open mic night at The Range which looks like a scene from a twenty-somethings coming of age film with crooked and leaning stage, old couches with foam flying in all directions and a bar made of scrap wood hammered together by a blind or drunken man. They come there to sing to each other and recite poetry once per week, normally on Fridays. When asked if the performances are good most say, “Not really.”


Somewhere in the miles of nothing is also a library and down the “road” an internet cafe which feels like a university student union. People hunker down and rifle their phones  within range of wi-fi. Politics is spoken but rarely argued. Drop outs and loan dodgers, disabled people, senior citizens and anarchist travelers tour each other’s states of mind about nearly any subject where most all conversations begin and end with a funny line and a snicker. Leaving is done one way, a wave of a peace sign over the shoulder and sometimes, “one love, one love.”

Just outside the internet cafe resides a man who calls himself Spyder and he’s the apparent rock star, mayor, Zen Master and builder of Slab City. He has half a manufactured home, a trailer, a truck and an RV. His RV has a rare thing, a hot running shower and radio. He has scrounged parts and created a solar panel and pump system to make it work.

His half of a home is in repair mode. The walls and floor are filled in, the kitchen is nearly functional with another solar rig and pump, his two kids have their own bedrooms. The bathroom in the half house doesn’t work but the RV is next door so the “Kids can shower before school. That’s important.”


Soon Spyder’s place will have another comfort. He’s hand digging and lining a septic system so the family can use a flush toilet. He trucks in huge drums of water weekly.

“I couldn’t really make it out there. I was abandoned as a baby by my mother and put in the foster system where I was given to a family who didn’t just beat me-they tortured me. My back is wrecked, I never really learned to read or write and I’ve got a bunch of other scars.  I tried working out there doing handy jobs and anything I could get but I still kept winding up homeless–then I heard about this place. You can be what you want to be out here and if you work hard you get to keep the result of your labor. I can’t see ever going back.”

He stands in the sun looking around, sweat is dripping down his shirtless chest and he wipes his face and says it’s time he get back to work.

There’s an agricultural canal which runs behind The Slabs about half a mile or so from Spyder’s place. People speak of swimming and bathing in it especially in the fall when it’s hot and the water is still high due to water releases for late crops. They say it’s a beach, an inland paradise when it gets really hot.  But it’s actually a long, shallow edged and deep centered waterway which smells of farm waste and chemicals. It’s an odd shade of green but it’s moving water in the desert. That’s as good as it gets.

This is not a place for the germaphobe or picky person.

Slab City has its joiners and loners, cool folk and angry outliers, all of them cheap skates and free loaders who have an aversion to loans and taxes and working all week to pay for a house that owns them and demands more upgrades. For the most part the dwellers of The Slab aren’t keen on government or cities or much to do with the world outside. However, it would not be accurate to say they’re lazy and don’t want to work.

Showing up with a tent in the white hot center of a huge desert with zero water or power does not allow anyone here to be lazy. Surviving is an entry level position and living with handmade upgrades like a roof and floor is the corner office. Nothing along the chain here is achieved without sun up to sun down work and innovation.


Learning how to innovate is a daily occupation. Inventions will be born at Slab City.

Within two days of chumming around The Slabs, I find I’m eyeballing spots near roads but away from others. I’m evaluating sun angles and looking for smooth slabs and proximity to a decent path in and out. I’m creating a gear list: rope, tarps, big jugs for water, car batteries, propane tanks, camp stoves and lights. Shovels-one for digging large holes and one for a bathroom. I get hung up on the bathroom part but keep mumbling, ‘I really think I could do this and enjoy it.’

It’s not realistic. Yet……

When traveling like crazy, be prepared to be crazy. Meeting people in their odd smells, off grid pre-occupations, eccentricities and realities does not allow ambivalence. The mammalian response is to respond–to blend and join. The Slab City joiner/non joiner is a flag flying proudly for a country not yet invented. It’s the pirate ship or tropical island where mis-fits fit.

Nothing could be more pleasing.

Driving back in the pink sunset of the desert toward alleged civilization an isolation draped itself around my car.  I powered on through worlds, picked up a hitch hiker who refused to give her name and stopped for dinner where I was the only woman in a crowded restaurant and eventually found myself at the bizarre and magical Miracle Baths Hotel where a suite near the massage closet was available.

Floating under a dark sky in a pool filled with bath water listening to the conversation in Russian nearby and recalling an earlier one about why they don’t want us to know about aliens, the thought came in clearly that traveling like crazy is among the best ways to stay sane.









Ten Ways to Tell if Your Guy(partner) is a Grown Ass Man(person).

Let me be clear I stand on no high ground here. If there’s a way to make a poor choice–I’ve done it. But lately I’ve been hanging around with a grown ass man and despite the fact I’m a slow learner some things are coming into focus.

First: I had the good fortune of grown ass man friends. They were the ones helping me, letting me lean on them from time to time and being reliable while my boy was out playing. I’m so grateful to those grown up guys who showed up and showed me what a grown ass man really looks like. If you find yourself leaning on your friends rather than your partner–chances are he’s not grown.

Second: age has nothing to do with it. I wasted months of my life on an old guy who was damn near seventy still trying to be the captain of his high school football team surrounded by cheerleaders. His self-esteem was so low he couldn’t stop playing games. He was so desperate to be admired. I feel bad for him, but not too bad. If your partner can’t commit to a plan, a phone call and a relationship, no matter what else he says, he’s not a grown ass man.

What follows works for any gender and any pairing. I’ve just selected my own experience so I’m using man to fit the role since I’m a cisgender, heterosexual female. You can substitute woman or they and it still works.

So here are the ways you can tell if your guy is a grown ass man:

  1. He is not ambiguous. Having been successful in his life he knows what he wants and how to achieve it. He will be clear with you what his intentions are and check in early and often to see if you share those intentions.
  2. He budgets accordingly. There is no worse feeling than being with a guy who acts like you’ve taken him to the vet for neutering every time the check comes. A grown ass man sets his cash aside to accommodate his plans. That doesn’t mean he has to be rich to be grown but he does have to plan a date he can manage. If it needs to be a split check he tells you in advance so you can act like a grown ass woman and bring your money.
  3. He likes you. Grown ass men don’t treat their partners like a chore or some add-on to their fabulous lives. He will enjoy your company, like talking to you, share your interests and care about your people. He will be interested in you even when you have a headache.
  4. He will do what he says he’s going to do. A grown ass man has no trouble telling you when he will call and then call at that time. The same holds true for getting together, making plans and ultimately creating a life.
  5. Grown ass men don’t need to lie. He will tell the truth because he has nothing to hide. He’s made mistakes and moved on. He’ll tell you about the good and the bad without hesitation because he is confident in his ability to persevere. He does not do things he is ashamed of as a rule, but if he makes a mistake, he’ll tell you.
  6. He will listen to advice and seek counsel. Grown ass men are smart enough to trust collective wisdom. They don’t have all the answers nor do they have the need to know everything. They have learned that’s not realistic.
  7. Grown ass men are emotionally available. He will cry when it hurts, he will laugh when it tickles him and he will draw pictures of little hearts and flowers on a card if he is so moved. A grown ass man has no need to prove who he is and no need for credentials that make him seem more like a robot. He will respect your emotions as well, knowing that our emotions actually drive our actions, not just yours, but his too.
  8. Grown ass men enjoy sex–with you. They also enjoy talking, cuddling, going to movies and doing other things. Grown ass men are people who have many interests and enjoy exploring them. They are not out for a conquest and they don’t think it’s your job to worry about their sex drive.
  9. He will support you for who you are. Because he knows himself, he knows what sort of  characteristics he values. If you hold those characteristics and he’s decided to be with you then he won’t be out to change you or your priorities. In fact, a grown ass man is more likely to help you achieve your goals and deepen your other relationships.
  10. Finally, a grown ass man is seeking a grown ass partner. He is looking for someone who has done the work to be clear on what is important, who is not insecure, needy, clings or otherwise hoping to find a partner to complete them. A grown ass man wants a partner who is respectful to him and to themselves and does not look to see anyone subjugated or treated as a lesser partner.

I can’t speak for anyone else but I was enculturated to think the nice guy wasn’t as cool as the guy who thought he was too good for me and also to believe that the guy who made me feel insecure was exciting. When I finally moved past that, I couldn’t believe I ever thought that way.

Being loved by a grown ass man makes life better, easier and more meaningful. Being kept off balance makes life more difficult. Achieving your goals is like pushing that rock up a hill everyday and getting nowhere when you’re dealing with a boy who sucks your mental and emotional bank dry. We all need support. If your partner isn’t grown then chances are he’s throwing barriers in your path.

It’s better to be single than trying to make it work with someone who is not grown enough to know how or simply doesn’t want to. Be good to you. Cut them loose. Be who you are and your grown ass man will show up, or not. But either way you don’t have someone pulling you down. Either way you’re better off.

Oh and one final thought–a grown ass man is sexier and more attractive in every way. He has no need to prove anything so he is confident and loving. He is fun and also thoughtful.

Maybe, just maybe, if nice guys finish first and grown ass men are the ones in relationships these boys will figure out it’s time to grow up. It won’t help you, but it might help the next person who comes along.




The Resurrection of the Redneck

He stood shaking his head, big eyes behind coke bottle glasses, “No one seems to understand how angry they are. They’ve been left behind.” The long time senator said while leaning against a counter in a crisp blue shirt with a stethoscope around his neck, “We’ve got to solve this. I see it in my practice, people who can’t afford to stay healthy, no housing, working all the time in a dead-end job. They’re mad. That’s what Trump gets that Bernie also understood. I just don’t think the mainstream understands.”

My doctor and state representative is in a small medical practice taking care of a group of people most of us don’t openly admit to knowing or belonging to: the basic redneck–white, poor, angry and fitting nowhere.

These are the folks connecting dots in a different sort of way.

They had nothing to start with but had some vague belief in an America that could allow them to rise above their raising. They had a core value that they or their children could be better, that they could get out of the trailer park or the rural, run down house and street where the sidewalk never goes.

Without that dream they free fall into despair and anger. They seek out a bad guy in black and white thinking.

Nuance is not really taught in the hollows and the grey working man’s towns. They find the bad guy in the voice of those who stand for the rights of people outside their group. The believe that #blacklivesmatter somehow means they do not.

They surmise that “they are getting all the attention” and this redneck believes that means “they” are also coming up in a world where they cannot.

This divisiveness is encouraged and pandered to for votes. It’s easy to stir the good ‘ole boys who haven’t had a good day in a long while.

I come from these places. A second generation, natural born hillbilly, I understand going to church on Sunday and Wednesday. I understand about a God who is jealous and a religion long on hell and short on heaven which evokes a deeper sense of unrest by sending the message that salvation is a secret word and handshake. It’s a club with a narrow doorway reserved for a select group of true believers.

For us it was this group or bust. There was so little else.

It’s hard to convince this group with their worn out hands and second hand shoes that they enjoy privilege.

It’s hard to tell a redneck that it’s not the poor Mexican and black person stealing their scant opportunities but the wealthy guy like Donald Trump who manufactures all his swag in a foreign country. It’s hard also to convince the good Baptist that the person who prays to a different God is actually not so different. That his aspirational prayers come from the same place–poverty, stress and also hope.

For the redneck cracker life is binary.  There is “us” and “them.” There is a sense of scarcity which can be witnessed all around. When you think life is a battle, you make combatants of anyone whom you believe is not lifting you up. You perceive that whatever the others have is taken from your possibilities.

This myth is propagated by those of craven heart who use ignorance and fear as a foothold to their own success.

So how do we speak to the poor white trash folk who’s shiniest thing is their new rifle meant to protect them in this untrustworthy world? How do we discuss the finer point that poverty is the enemy shared by people of all colors, especially people of color?

Here’s what spoke to me as a young, discarded, white trash girl living in an old house without central heat in a field of dying dreams–the idea of a bigger world.

I read about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, I saw myself in their words. I was challenged by my teachers who asked me what would happen if it was more true that we created God in our image rather than the other way around?

I hid my Aldous Huxley and Upton Sinclair books from my mom. She didn’t approve of “commie writers who were godless and didn’t understand people like us.”

But someone recommended those books to me, someone who thought I was smart enough to consider the concepts of nuance and justice beyond the small world where I lived.

That’s because a teacher, a principal, an uncle, a librarian and even my dad believed in education as the way forward.

We need those people now more than ever.

Ultimately rednecks, Trump voters, are people who value independence and they know more about sustainability than most. It’s been passed down for generations. That has some value.

They want their children to succeed even if it means they don’t see them so often, they want to see a world where their grandchildren can use words they’ve never heard of because some rednecks also have deep dreams of a better world.

Dare I say they also want to matter?

Some may see this as opposed to but that’s not where it needs to go. How about they matter– also? It’s additive. Because while this group may not look like it’s in peril, in so many ways it is.

They too have no health care and are dying from a host of diseases caused by a rough life and bad food which is made for poor people, they too live in a world of violence and addiction and rage and they, too, are ashamed of who they are. They carry the additional burden of privilege which says they should be better.

They know they should be better. What they don’t know is how.

So this blog is why I can never truly go home. It rings of liberal condescending babble which makes every redneck sound like a dirty fool with no life outside of hate. But the truth is that’s the way it gets handed down in a myth that says ‘we aren’t much but we have each other.’ Kill the myth and you begin to kill the problem.

Give the redneck and the black activist the same self worth and they can work together. Raise everyone out of poverty and no one has to fight over the last bite.

Break the “broken nation” myth as well. This country was never great but always pretty good on a comparative scale. It’s always had struggles like every place and always had bright days.

Unravel the myth that to be good- one nation, one person, must be better. You can have lots of good without needing a better.

Remind folks that there is enough. If we share the food and the work life goes more smoothly.

And here’s a big one–there is no enemy. This is tough for people from religions of Abraham. Everything is taught in duality, heaven and hell, right and wrong. But what if that’s not true? What if we can all be right, at least partly? What if there is a natural balance which favors equality?

Rednecks are not the problem. Scarcity is not the problem. Enemies are not the problem. The problem is that we believe they are the problem.

Hug a redneck, tell him his shiny shotgun is cool so long as it’s not aimed at you or anyone else, tell him you see his point about shitty healthcare and jobs that don’t pay enough to hardly keep the lights on. Tell him that it’s not really his fault and that his striving is witnessed. Tell him he matters not in opposition but also. Tell him that holding hands and singing together is a real thing and he’s invited. Tell him you respect the hard work of his hands and that together we can bring back jobs and hope for everyone.

Allow the resurrection of the redneck and know it doesn’t need to be a threat to anyone else. Great American writer John Steinbeck taught me it’s not really a world of this or that and that hillbillys also have a soul. He’s the first to convince me I had worth as a person.

So while I’m dreaming, let’s bring back reading.

We know Trump is a clown. Rednecks know it too. My guess is The Donald even knows it. But they, like so many Americans, are angry and want to show it. They want someone to understand that even working forty hours per week, growing food in their weedy yard, shooting animals and casting a line in a nearby creek is not getting them by and they are truly afraid.

They want someone to listen to them because even though they have white skin when you check the box as white trash you are less than nothing. You are in the way.

Gandhi won freedom for his nation because he figured out how to lead a poor people’s rebellion across all castes. He found allies in the wealthy too. We don’t have a Gandhi in this election anymore. He dropped out.

So now what?

Be the Gandhi you wish to see. Hold hands with everyone. Spread the word that there is actually enough. Let people know that we have enough food and houses to take care of everyone if we knew we did.  Let the redneck rise standing next to the second generation Mexican who speaks Spanish at home and the man who’s great grandfather was a slave who built the White House.

That guy across from you is not the problem, but a part of the solution. That redneck also has something to offer.

The doctor is right–people need to understand.


The Secret-Life is Meaningless and that’s Great!

I have good news: Life is meaningless and then you die.

There will be moments where you feel you have discovered your purpose and feel important-even special. There will be moments when life feels so long you just want to lay down and let go. Both are part of this long schlog to no particular finish line.

We are not special. We were not “put here” to do a particular thing.

And here is the very good news: You have permission to do want you want. Here’s the even better news: for most people that means being healthy, happy and helpful.

Almost no one when given the chance to do what they actually want prefers to be a selfish jerk. That’s reserved for trapped people who are not happy.

Do as you wish, make yourself happy, create your own meaning. You have no God given authority or specialness and no debt to repay. You are alive–so do that–live and be happy. Not all the time because that would be boring and shallow–but be happy as much as you can.

Then we get to the hours of study, the volumes of self help books and psychology 101 classes, the years spent in devotion on a church pew or meditation hall to answer the question of how one becomes happy.

I have the answer. You ready?

Be brave, be bold and do what you actually want to do. Don’t make up excuses about duty or obligation or some set of rules which you claim confine you when you are just afraid. Just like me. I sat at a desk for three extra years hunkered down loathing myself out of terror.

Don’t get me wrong-you will make sacrifices for this freedom and happiness. You won’t have the piles of stuff, you may not buy new things, replace your technology every year, live in a giant house or have the kind of job that makes someone else think your cool. In exchange you’ll have just what you need, you won’t throw things away to sit in a garbage dump in someone’s country which doesn’t belong to you and instead of having a job someone thinks sounds cool, you’ll do work you think is cool.

With your extra time of not hanging around pretending to be busy for 9 hours per day doing nonsense that not even your boss cares about, you’ll be able to actually be of service to another person. You will find yourself feeding hungry people, holding babies and cleaning up the environment. You will have less stress because you will be running and hiking and swimming. You will be fit, so caring your older neighbors groceries in the house and staying for tea will be easy and enjoyable. You will stop and actually look and listen to people and discover that unvarnished reality is so much better than you imagined.

You will teach whenever you can, you will nurture relationships, you will stop and smell the flowers and notice the bees on them. You will discover you’re funny and the best part of your day will be doing someone else a favor. You will have time and energy and gratitude.

If you are inspired by a person who broke free and is living the kind of life you want–then go have that life. Be willing to spend the sleepless nights and work a little harder, be willing to hustle up the extra work when all you have is one nice suit and some confidence. Challenge yourself.

Whatever that thing is that you’ve been wanting to do–do it. Be kind, respectful, responsible and humble. Challenge your assumptions and treat your ideas like strangers–question them early and often. If you are supporting a family and think you need a lot of money to support them–make sure that’s what they also want. Children do not need a back yard pool, they need a happy, engaged parent.

So get out there and jump into this beautiful, unwieldy and uncontrollable life and love it up until it’s gone. Love everyone around you and love yourself.

If you’re scared. It’s okay. We all are. We’re all hanging by a thread and hoping. Sometimes it just feels better to let go of that thread and fall into reality.



The Rabbit and the Zen Student

She is small, opinionated and righteous. One toe over the line and you’ll not see her until she is good and damn ready.

Her sense of propriety is pious and inflexible. She is not particularly affectionate and does not care how that makes anyone feel. She belongs to her and her soul is unconquerable.

She’s met others who have had the thought that she could be someone’s pet–but that’s not now nor ever going to be in her future.

Melanie is the most unapologetic and unbending sort you’ll meet. She is emotionally impeccable. She has absolutely no time for anything not entirely authentic. Melanie is a 2.5 pound min-rex rabbit and she is, according to the literature about most folks of her same breeding, and I quote, “bad ass.”

Being tiny, silky, black and cute as hell is of zero concern to her. She doesn’t bother with outward appearances.

Melanie has taken every ounce of Zen practice within me and challenged it. She eats shoes, furniture and base boards. If she is invited into my bedroom she will sit primly at the end of my bed and just when I’m feeling like we’re friends she’ll excuse herself and use my closet as a litter box.

Melanie gives “zero fucks,” as people say these days to describe an independent anti hero.

I wrote to behaviorists and tried to take her back to her former home–but alas no relief. Until in a full bodied sulk I said, “I am so tired of failing.” That’s when it came to me, “So don’t!” I dug deeper, read more, observed more and realized my implicit bias toward those who walk on paws and live with me. I consider them “pets”. I took this to mean they are supposed to want to please me, be delighted to see me every time I come home and be well, emotionally needy.

Rabbits are not in this category.

Rabbits are fierce, strongly opinionated and most certainly have a protocol and little patience for those who can’t “read the room” to figure it out.

I appreciate her strength and I admire it now that I’ve taken the time to stop reacting and start observing.

So now I am done trying to make her a dog or me a “pet owner.” Like most non human animals, her wisdom is superior. I’d rather be friends with a complicated and mysterious creature than “own a pet” any day of the week.

I’d also prefer to learn something from my relationships and she is an excellent teacher of patience, slowing down, finding stillness and being mindful in action. She is, in short, a Zen Master. In fact, all dressed in black with some powerful and careful kicks she may as well be a ninja too.

So I find if I provide her space and respect, she’ll come over and see me. Often she likes to just relax spread out on the living room rug while I meditate or read or write. So we have our odd little Sangha and we’re working through our issues. Wait–take that back–I’m working through my issues. Mel has no issues. She’s a rabbit being a rabbit.

I have gated the living room to preserve what’s left of my couch and she’s not spending time in my room because a closet can handle only so much. But I’m also buying her favorite greens like a dutiful friend and boxes have become Melanie toys rather than receptacles. But all relationships take work and creativity, right?

Trust me, I’ve had more than one friend suggest I “get rid of her.” But I don’t think life can be so simple. Sometimes lovers will disappoint, children will forget holidays,parents will fail to be available and friends will be caught up in their own lives. Sometimes our bodies will fall apart and our minds will get caught in some unhealthy or forgetful loop but this is all part of it. If we give up on one thing–more things are sure to follow.

If Zen has taught anything by its stoic practice, it is that the small things are large and the things we think are important are often not even the point. A couch or shoe is nothing in comparison to the patience and caring love takes.



The Monk and the Wandering Master


“It’s hard out here on your own.” I must have said it hundreds of times in my head over the last few years. “It’d just be nice if someone had my back”.

People aren’t meant to live alone. I’ve often thought it. Research backs it up. The solos have a greater risk of disease and early death.

Can you die from being the only one who takes out the trash? Seems like it some days.

Once I came to these feelings after a few years of monkhood, which I highly recommend if you ever get the chance, I pursued becoming part of a couple with the ambition of a junior executive trying to get to the big office. I tried every method and each one became more punishing.

I’ve started to wonder, “Is this even something I want? I often cannot wait until the date is over. I think almost every time at least once on a date–can’t believe I’m missing Netflix for this.

I’ve flown to Portugal, taken numerous ill fated weekend adventures and had any number of garden variety flops. My buddy calls me “an extreme dater”.

That’s awful.

I think I’ll take one more chance on this whole love thing and then I’m done. If this nice guy doesn’t work out then I’ve got to be the problem or just someone who doesn’t want what I claim or think I want.


Meantime the Universe with its legendary humor has given me a rather odd turn of events. A friend who keeps showing up. Judah. The young kid with his Rasta dreads, variable views because he is 22 and changes religion as often as I use an Oxford Comma, and hops down the stairs smiling every single morning, his prosthetic leg slung by his bed ready to take on the day. He is impossibly cheerful.

Judah lost his leg in a farming accident about four years ago in the rural rustbelt and has been wandering the country ever since. In his wandering he wound up outside my window on campus. He was always smiling. I saw him with his walk like he was on a tightrope ready to fall into a vat of lava balancing long strides in torrential rain, frost and sunshine and his face never changed. He smiled. His blue eyes shined and he sat under various trees reading and writing in his little book.

Everything about him looked like a story.

Finally the curiosity became too much so I ran, literally, out of my office across the campus and knew where he was. How? No idea.

I sat by him on a bench and talked about his sanguine smile and his walk and his books. I gave him twenty bucks and my number, “Look if you need something, call.”

He didn’t call, of course.

Then I saw him again and invited him to a dance I was organizing for Queer youth,

“I’m not queer, is that okay? Can I still come? I love to dance.”

“Yes of course. It’s for everyone. Maybe you’ll meet some cool people.”

He showed up in a clean pair of jeans, button down shirt and sports coat. Adorable.

We’ve been friends ever since. He’s stayed with me off and on, he’s had jobs and saved up money. He’s taken out the trash, swept the floors, made pancakes, been polite and kind to a degree few people can be.

The last time I saw him was December. Then he disappeared. I tried not to worry about him,

“Don’t ever think about me when I’m not around. I’m just out wandering and I’m always okay.”

Over time I figured he’d worked something out for himself that he liked.

Then a few weeks ago I opened my front door on a frosty spring morning and there he was sitting on my porch chair. He had been sick. He lost his clothes, his phone, his wallet and walking stick. Losing what little you have is an occupational hazard of the homeless traveler. So is getting sick.

“Come in. Get a shower. Get food and sleep. Your clothes are still in the closet. We’ll talk later. I don’t have time now.”

He slept hard for a few days. He ate, he showered often. The light showed back up in his eyes, his smile returned at first in a trace around the corner of his lips and then a little wider.

Now he stays here.

He sits with his lanky kid frame draped all over the couch huddled over his books. Sometimes we talk, mostly about nothing. It’s pleasant, it’s easy and kind. I give him old people knowledge and he reminds me how the young think.

He spends time talking with the pet bunny. In some ways they are kindred. Wild yet gentle creatures in a weird world of boxes and confinement. He is sweet to her as he crouches over her two pounds of proud rabbit and pets her. She likes him.

He got a job. He works at night. I work in the day. We keep the place tidy, leave nice notes. He takes out the trash half the time and thinks its about time he pay his half of rent too.

He likes it to be nice, me too. If I’m sweeping, he’s dusting.  If I bring home pizza, he gets the beer. He has his friends, I have mine. Our lives cross here and there, usually involving coffee.

Life can be simple in its beauty. We can have each others backs.