Noel spoke to June, soft enough so she could make out what he was saying, “Been a best day for me too.”
June smiled tenderly, and glanced up into Noel’s eyes for a brief moment. She patted him on his leg.
“Never know what a day will bring.”
As they say a collision at sea can ruin your day. In all things human we seem
wired up to an either or proposition, on the one hand or the other, some see it
this way and some that, I’ll give you half and I take the other. We advance
technologically and seem to be in full retreat when measured by the unintended
consequences of hubris. We know that deep water oil wells are dangerous, that
coal mines can explode, and that nuclear power can be harnessed but not
perfected to operate at a level safe enough to merit their being sited just
upwind of a place such as New York City. (Who thought that one up?) The last
week has exhausted tear ducts. There must be something awful hidden in wind
powered electricity generating turbines, photovoltaic solar panels must have
embedded within their core some unintended consequence, fuel cells must spew something
other than water, natural gas cannot be so wonderful, and the advances in shale
oil developments across the frozen tundra of the north must have disturbing consequences
far beyond anything yet contemplated. I used to ride motorcycles. If you were
going to be in accident it was said you hoped not to be blindsided. Your
survival depended in part on being able to see the accident and to react to the
situation and with luck you might save your own life. We need a good old
fashioned visit down to the river of new thinking…We need to be honest with
ourselves. This is the way we are going and we need to figure out what to do
and whether to change course….
“Right now, but one day, when the dust settles, and you get your head screwed back on, and your feet are touching the ground, you’ll wake up and maybe I’ll just be a woman, not amazing, not beautiful, not anything special, just a woman.”
You don’t want to get caught on the wrong foot. Trying to change your footing after you’ve gone all in is most often impossible. Might be that the action you’ve taken is irreversible and you will suffer the consequences for the rest of your life. Going head over heels for a new love interest can be an exhilarating ride. It is fun to watch a friend’s dashboard light up and watch the launch. The risks of going all in with your heart is not a bad call, but sometimes these things don’t turn out, endings can be messy, feelings hurt worse in the end than the exhilarating feelings you had on the ride up into the wild blue yonder of romance. It is the ultimate damned if you do, damned if you don’t fact of a high risk love life. Too many people place too much caution into their romance and not enough chance. So, learning to keep your feet on the ground can turn into a lonely stance, losing your footing can be risky, then again being agile, staying on your toes, ready for whatever is next, open mind and open heart, when the moment arrives, and you find yourself right there at the beginning of something new, something you want to take a chance on…I wouldn’t recommend keeping your feet on the ground. I recommend being ready to change the foot your standing on. That’s dancing from the heart…
“He looked over his face in the mirror, checking his shave by running his hand across his cheek, chin, and neck. Thenhe took out his toothbrush and buffed up that wide grin of his. In-between strokes he kept practicing his smile.”
Noel Sanderson from Highway Home
I have had a steady stream of agreeable different versions of me. I’ve got my favorite version, the bad old version and of course the current version.I don’t get around to doing much about keeping up with all my versions. I usually check the daily version in the mirror first thing in the morning. I try to check under the gentleness of incandescent light. The florescent version goes against my current high opinion of the manipulated contemporary version. Having to carry all this around and it is a heavy load isn’t much fun for those people who come along and wish to puncture my ongoing personal version of a balloon. Now, this inflated balloon is a masterpiece, a lifework, an ongoing effort organized by the very nature of the beast to do everything in its power to sustain a maximum effort to place lipstick upon this present moment’s version. And then to find out all this is in fact a myth, a hoax, that there is no there “there”. Turns out I’ve been unmasked, that this fixed constant version never even existed, instead there is only yet another version. I’ve been getting out under a shade tree in the afternoons taking out the old version and waxing and polishing it up. Doesn’t stay clean long, I flip the light on the next morning and there it is looking at me in the mirror.
With each new day the world turns, and all things move, all things change and keep changing, and so time is marked by the hands on a clock and thoughts run through our minds and change comes and things go like tides in the oceans and clouds passing through the sky….always though, is this turning of the wheel, the whirling of the stars and shining of the sun, always infinite circles, symbolized by rings, unbroken and endless and timeless and infinite beyond words….a mystery….and in this infinite mystery, this life here and now, people the world over reach into their hearts and join their lives together, forged by vows and with each day they commit their efforts to love and compassion, living out our days on this earth mated, married, happily in the trust of each others care….
“Bingo brother, and you just watch yourself ’cause you can turn one year into ten just like that.” Crow snapped his fingers. “I swallowed a decade in the blink of an eye.”
“That’s a long drift, man, a long time.”
Momentum comes in every size and every color. You get a job, it pays the bills. You get into a relationship maybe it works well enough to keep you hanging around. I call it digging in. You get a place and jump into the day to day. For the moment things work well enough. You have stability and that can count. Might be you are working on something, developing something, might be something that develops over a longer time horizon. There are many things accomplished over a longer time frame. Homebuilders know what I mean. I knew a sculpture who worked on large urban sited monumental pieces. Restoring wood boats, writing novels, getting married having a family. There are things we set out to do that take dedication and a commitment of time. There’s a difference between falling into a sweet thing and setting out to do something you’ve made up in your mind to do. The mind sees into a thing only so far, the balance point tips, we run the risk, take the chance, we don’t really know how anything is going to turn out.
“That everything changes is the basic truth of existence.”
We do great harm to our lives when we surround it with worn out old stories. Nothing stays the same. Things are not fixed but rather in a state of flux. We have a lot of change going on in our world. In Japan there is change happening. In our own lives it is happening. It is wonderful in some circumstances to have fond memories of some special moment. Not so wonderful moments take advantage of our minds tendency to cling. We think that Japan is a fixed thing. I look at photographs of centuries old villages here Thursday and now vanished. Everything is gone. They can’t even find the bodies. It is difficult to accept. My mind doesn’t want to believe this can happen (to me). It happens out there somewhere, to somebody else. They were caught in a story. Someone didn’t look both ways before they crossed…. We have this mental trick in our head that tends to be dishonest about reality. We predict when something bad might happen. We avoid certain neighborhoods. We stay off the roads when weather is bad, we hope things will work out. Might be that we would be better served by taking a fresh look every next moment and forget about thinking we know how something might turn out. Might be better to not know how it is going to go. We don’t have to go around believing everything we tell ourselves. I got up Friday morning and it turned out I was wrong about what I believed about Japan. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. That is a fact.
. “The Last Chance” had a neon sign hanging out front. The bar had been there a long time. Ceiling fans twirled aimlessly and easy. Older patrons were smoking and seated at the stools. Two men tossed a few darts at a bull’s eye, while two old gals sat at the corner of the bar drinking high balls and gossiping. It was cozy, dim, and smoke filled.”
Late Night 1979… Portland, Oregon
From the novel Highway Home
My grandfather was a bootlegger. He built a bar at the end of prohibition in Oakland, California. It had fish tanks behind the bar, mirrors behind the booze. The bottles looked like they vanished into infinity. He had a parrot back where he did the books to keep him company. Bar was glued and doweled, not a nail was used in the Philippine mahogany interior. Place smelled like stale beer and tobacco. By 1965 the neighborhood had changed, swallowed any chance Tambo’s had of making a go of it. Had been a first class operation all the way, but nothing to do but close her down and walk away. Wrecking company demolished the building, would have been salvaged in this day and age. The whole of a man’s life vanished, in an instant, everything gone. Over the years when I can find an old joint to drink in, bars looking as if they’re cheating death, bars misplaced making a last stand in a decaying forgotten corner of a city. When I belly up to a bar, place named The Last Chance, I take a dive like that, I figure somebody must have known, place I can go, drink a few, listen for the voice of my grandfathers wisdom…
“At the same time there was a solitude to this place of a kind that was rare. Beyond this last gasp of farms the road began weaving through boulders and ridges and ran higher up off the immense and flat bottomlands. Noel took a dirt track off the highway and rolled amidst the boulders and red rocks into a small pull out where he’d camp for the night.”
Noel Sanderson on the run after things had not gone his way
I hit the road as a performer for my first national tour in 1974 with a small circus. I acquired a taste for running the road, sleeping in the back of a truck, going town to town. When I began planning my first novel Highway Home I wanted to tap into that experience, but as fiction not biography. I didn’t want to center the story around the world of street theater more out of instinct than for any reason. Instead I tried to build a close up look at a young man’s life, un-tethered, adrift, exploring, discovering, some days feeling grounded while other days alone and empty. If everything you have is in the back of your truck, if you are earning money working here-there picking up a days work doing one thing or another. If that was your circumstance might be that you just keep driving away time and time again when things turn against you again…young man might think he can keep changing places…eventually we have to own up to the thing, might be what needs changing isn’t located out there….
“Let the world do what the world does. I don’t think I’ve ever taken this trail that it hasn’t changed me. Leave in the morning one person, and come back another kind.”
June, An old cowgirl from Jiggs, Nevada
Kicking up some dust on a trail hike can do a soul good. When I can get out on a track and let the rhythm of the place set to working against what I’m caught up about I can find a grip I can use to get back to who I am. The less that happens while I’m hiking the more a tonic I feel in my bones. If I got a worry it usually is gone by the time the walk is finished. It is odd how we spend so many of our years under the impression that we aren’t much changed, that we’re pretty close now to what we’ve always been. Good long walk is kind like a long slow cooking of a meal. Food inside a Dutch oven given enough time breaks down and merges into something you can find worth sopping up and eating with a slice of bread. Comes a point if you get on the trail enough that you’ll come to a panorama look out, see fifty miles to the next mountain range, you’ll be looking out into the distance, and you’ll find you are looking right into the heart of who you are right now…
At moments Noel didn’t know if what he was doing was actually something she wanted. He tried biting her gently, and she cried out for him to stop, and when he did she held him back and would not let him get away.
In my first novel Highway Home it was important to build into the story what Noel Sanderson’s sexual experiences looked like. So, that required writing down on paper in detail the whole deal. That meant first I’d have to describe the scene physically. That’s fun to do. Next I had to write down the internal experiences. This was fun too. And in the end the purpose of writing about these personal, private, intimate scenes was to give a reader the most naked view possible of the characters efforts to be fully alive. The young man in this novel wasn’t in a relationship and how and under what circumstances he was able to create sexual contact with a partner is essential in describing how he comes to find relationship. Sometimes we find sex, sometimes we find love, sometimes we find both, and we never really know what we are going to find until we go for it. People in public are different than people behind closed doors. We seldom get candid answers from people when discussing sex. Who wants to tell someone about their one night stands? Some might, but others might emphasis the best experiences, others the wildest, it seems rare that people will explain the most ordinary, simple acts of love. It is as if the sight of that love is so close even they cannot see it. Who wants to tell someone about having sex with someone who is married? Who wants to explain the unconventional behaviors that they’ve been introduced to by a new partner? The sexual experience is a change experience. Who we are before we surrender to someone and who we are after is a catalyst to self revelation, sexuality is one of the most vivid parts of a person’s life. It is one of the most revealing, volitional actions where a writer can illustrate the fundamental nature of change.