(The following is a memoir piece I’ve been working on off and on for several years about my family’s annual camping trips to Yosemite in the late 1950s and 1960s)
In August, my middle class family packed up our ’56 Chevy Bel Air red and white station wagon and left our suburban L.A. home to camp among the cool pines of the Yosemite Valley. We left in the wee hours of the morning to avoid driving in the oppressive Central Valley heat. My older brother, Steve, and I would occupy the “way back,” converted into a bed with layers of soft quilts. This functioned as our sleeping and play area. Seat belts were not even thought of back then. There was no digital world in the late 1950s and early 1960s so upon awakening we would occupy ourselves by reading our stash of comic books and Mad Magazines. We would play endless card games of War. When we were tired of that we would sing folk songs in lively two-part harmony, our parents joining in on “I’ve been working on the Railroad, Suwanee River, Clementine, or our favorite, “the Titanic ”.
This curious little book caught my eye when searching for a book on spiritual practice in my local library. It was called “TheWander Society” by Keri Smith. Flipping through this book like a combination of discovering a little cache of buried treasure and opening a door into a world of mystery and intrigue.
The author stumbled upon the existence of The Wander Society quite by accident as she was perusing a used bookstore in her town. She picked up a worn copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass from the shelves. In it were hand notated references “WW will show you the way,” “Solvitur Ambulando,”“TheWanderSociety,” along with other underlinings and strange symbols in the margins.
This is a book about Keri’s subsequent research into the “Wander Society” – which actually exists, taking inspiration from the life of Walt Whitman. Then there is information on how to be a wanderer and her handwritten written underneath the type in how her practice of wandering was changing her life. Anyone can be a member- however, but there are certain requirements…….
I’m not going to spoil the fun. Go out and read the book.
I must say, this little volume sort of upended how I’ve been thinking about my life. Of course, I’ve been in one of those places where I was on the verge of being upended, like the big earthquake we have been expecting in Oregon. This was a catalyst. I have always been a doer. That’s what our culture demands of us- achievement! productivity! Branding! But maybe there is another way to look at things that is…..
At the dawn of 2019, I am going to strive to be more of being than a doer, a wanderer more than a seeker.
Wish me luck
Hope you will join me
Happy New Year to all of you. Here is a poem from my favorite poet, Mary Oliver to close out the year…..
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
Don’t refuse to go on an occasional wild goose chase; that’s what wild geese are for. –Henry S. Haskins
I became a risk taker in late in my late teens. A depression had settled over me and thoughts of suicide sometimes crossed my mind. Then it occurred to me that rather than do something so unimaginative like throwing myself off a bridge, I might as well live my life with abandon if I was that disposable.
My inner compass did not consider this as a license to make stupid choices like getting addicted to drugs or criminal behavior. Rather I decided to take risks and see what life could offer me in the realm of adventure. My first step was to extract myself from my miserable high school experience. I graduated from high school early and started attending my local community college- a total liberating experience.