In December, 2012, a perfect storm of events -- including two months earlier the sudden death of my father three days before his 75th birthday -- buckled the knees of the one person whose knees are never supposed to buckle. A certain amount of heaviness is reflected in the latter part of that preceding sentence. When did I decide that, no matter how deafening the winds howled and the hail stones pummeled around me, I was to remain in the eye of the storm with my knees locked and loaded? But that question is rhetorical now, and no longer worthy of contemplation. What was important last December as the Christmas holiday came and went, with no celebration for the first time in my 56 years, was my need for a paradigm shift. My three sons, who remain the collective loves of my life, had benefitted from my years of devotion and sacrifice and were all young adults. I did not want to live out what I expect to be many remaining years without my act together. My effectiveness as a political activist felt compromised, and I was experiencing an unprecedented crisis in confidence. So, to clear my head, test the validity of my personal relationships, and rediscover my core beliefs and the essence of my spirituality ... on January 2, 2013, I ran away from home.
We all have people in our lives who, to be blunt, we carry along with us like mishappen rocks in a backpack. My first destination was to the home of such a "friend" -- a woman I had known since our oldest sons were infants and with whom, over the years, I spent countless long-distance hours on the telephone listening to her talk about ... herself and her family. I remembered the name of the kid who had wronged her youngest son by excluding him from a birthday party when they were in the same third grade class, so when he resurfaced periodically in later years I did not need any background information as she recounted his latest transgressions against her version of humanity. Shortly after the death of my father, she had called to "check" on how I was doing. Thirty minutes later, after providing me with details of the status of each member of her family, including herself, an aunt and her mother, I attempted to tell her exactly how I was "doing." She cut me off; she needed to hang up now. For the first time in the more than 23 years I had known her, I confronted her: "You're kidding, right?"
No, she wasn't kidding. But on some level she must have felt guilty, because she began to call and urge that I fly from California to the East Coast and stay with her and her husband. She had coffee and wine and a guest room, she said, and she would take care of me. I would have privacy to sort out my thoughts, she said. So on the night of January 2, 2013, I boarded a plane at LAX and headed for what I wondered would be some respite. Five days later, I was sitting on a curb in the rain at midnight, my luggage strewn about me, waiting for a taxi to take me to a motel near the airport so that in the morning I could board a plane and criss-cross the country to visit another friend in Montana. The good news: there was one less sharp-edged rock in my backpack.
Part Two: My four and one half months in Trout Creek, Montana ...