What happened to the yogis and their dream?

We were wide-eyed and innocent as doves though not wise as serpents, as the Bible would add.

We had room for exploration, certainly, and for some of us that included yoga or Zen. Hitchhiking was part of the scene, too. I touch on those in several of my novels.

I realize that in posing the question as “yogis,” I’m focusing on a corner of the hippie experience. The dream I’m thinking of is a better world for everyone, and not just a few who wanted to drop out altogether.

I don’t see that among today’s youth, who have good reason to be more cautious about the future. Besides, they’re shackled by college debt, an outrageous amount compared to their income realities.

But it’s not all economic. I’d say much of the current malaise is spiritual.

Without that element of hope and universal love, how can we possibly overcome the forces that are dividing and oppressing us?

 

Mixmaster? Just look at ‘Nearly Canaan’

What, me as a Mixmaster?

Just look at the topics percolating in my novel Nearly Canaan.

Take just ten, shaken or stirred or mixed in a bowl:

  • Promise. The word has many meanings, including ability, talent, potential, opportunity, guarantee, understanding, agreement, contract, oath, pledge, vow. It can also have quite different meanings for each person. In this novel, especially, it’s a promised land, a dream, and sometimes even a broken promise.
  • Place. This story is rooted in the surrounding landscapes, beginning with a small-town on the prairie and moving on to the Ozarks before landing in the desert interior of the Pacific Northwest, where Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range and Seattle beyond also play into the action.
  • Intimacy. The story goes behind closed doors, for sure.
  • Friendships. In this story, these usually arise among the couples and their shifting inner dynamics. Often, these friendships prove essential for daily survival.
  • Family. Jaya becomes quite fond of her in-laws and their support despite their initial differences.
  • Spirituality. It’s not just faith and meditation but a meaningful faith community, too.
  • Career. Jaya isn’t the only young adult trying to navigate a demanding career in this story. The long hours and endless struggles of being a rising executive even in nonprofit organizations take a toll. As for their spouses? Finding their own niche is not always easy.
  • The seasons. Dwelling in an apple orchard, Jaya and her husband observe the rhythms of the year close up.
  • Wilderness. Part of the allure of the Pacific Northwest is its access to forests and mountains, but open desert is wilderness, too.
  • Lasting impact. For many in their circle, Jaya is seen as the Wise Woman who fosters a better life. How far does her impact extend?

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The beaters were a pain to clean, though. Licking frosting from them was another matter.

Reading a dear friend’s memoir

A while back, she asked if I’d read the draft of her memoir. I felt honored. Besides, this is someone who had given a close critique of one of my novels-in-progress decades ago, and I had done the same for a collection of her essays that came a hairline away from book publication.

She had pointed me to a few published volumes I still find myself quoting frequently.

That was back before we could easily exchange things like manuscripts in emails. Had to make printouts and haul off to the post office or drive five hours, things like that.

This time, the copy came as a PDF. I put it aside until I could give it full attention. It was worth it.

As a fact of life, we had largely lost touch. We had never been neighbors. The closest they had lived to me was still an hour away, and then for 19 years they lived five hours off in rural Maine. When her career picked up and I became more enmeshed in my new family and other responsibilities, we had less time to visit, even before she and her husband relocated across the continent a few years ago. We wound up keeping in touch mostly through their daughter, who’s also my goddaughter.

So the memoir was a welcome opportunity to reconnect.

Let me say it’s a remarkable document, wonderfully written, and candid to the point of painfulness. This version is not for public circulation. Parts of it should be, but others are there as evidence of personal work ahead. Well, she has filled the role of a spiritual elder for me through some difficult stretches, and I’ll always be grateful.

I knew bits of the history, but the details deepened my understanding, reconstructed the chronology, and corrected some impressions I had wrong.

I certainly know her – and her husband – much better now.

Over the years, I’ve found that with some friends, when we get together after long stretches apart, we don’t need much time before we’re feeling no gap in our rapport.

This is certainly one of them.