Right now I'm sitting in a very nice old chair I found at Goodwill the other day. As I was leaving the store a man walked up to me and began to tell me how to fix the material that was unraveling on the back of the chair. At closer inspection we both found out that the fabric was coming apart due to a bad staple job. He recommended hot glue. I found out that the man was an upholstery guy from way back. What are the odds of that? Leave a store with a four buck chair that takes two hands to carry ("good buy, that chair" said the upholstery man, "if you can carry it in one hand it's not worth buying") and come across a guy who can tell me right off the bat not only that my chair is grand but worth recovering as well. Wow. Love where life leads you when you are not asking for directions.
Earlier today I found myself on a "backwoods" trail instead of an interstate highway, or, for that matter, the information superhighway. I had finished up my required "three job searches" for the week and decided, last minute, to put off a planned five hundred mile ride to Boise until next week and take a long walk, instead. I figured that I needed to stick around, act on the latest job information that landed earlier that afternoon in my email box before I took off down the road. Plus I needed to secure a storage unit, spend a bit of time clearing out the little house in the back, to get that place ready for all possibilities, possibly even installing a renter if selling the house isn't this fall's big event. Clearly, life is not providing me with a map for the next part of my life.
As for that backwood trail, well, let's just say thank you, Port Orchard, for annexing The Woods to our community. I don't feel bad these days when I take advantage of the numerous paths and trails that wind through their holdings. As fun as they are to walk I found that they can be a bit of a maze sometimes. I found this out the hard way when I went out for a stroll last week. It was late in the day, the sun was down, there was heavy cloud cover and the trails were poorly marked. By the time I found a parking lot the streetlights were on and I found that I was a quarter mile down the road from my car. It was a good moment to reflect upon the "10 Essentials" I was taught years ago but more a moment to reflect on the realities of poorly marked trails. That simple walk through "the woods" retaught me a valuable lesson and that is that we only think we are in control. The casual stroll that we are taking through life, the one that we think is just a walk through the park can end up being a long journey through an ever darkening and deepening wood, one without markers, one with strange birds calling out in terror, with weird rustlings going on under the brush.
Yet today I emerged from the woods confident. I was happy to find that the street was where I thought it was. I felt the same way when I submitted an application and two more came back asking for my attention. One job in particular is for the State of Idaho, a late shift receptionist at a hospital for the developmentally disabled. What a departure from all things I have known. When I think of that job I picture my old friend Benj at the Fort Lyon's Veteran's Hospital, I see old references to Ken Kesey and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. I picture the great American Novel being written at the desk during long quiet stretches on the 10 to six in the morning shift. And, the big plus to all that would be that my children would be living right down the road.
I think of where my life has been leading me these last few years and I know that my strange travails of late are what I've been needing. Yeah, it's all been a very generous and timely ass kicking delivered straight from some kind and all seeing and easily amused god. I suppose we all could use a real ass kicking now and then. I passed up a real one, years ago, not too long after I got out of the service. It was late at night, in a tough town, and I found myself in a fairly rough bar with my father. My father was a hard core man's man and he was more than loaded that night, loaded enought to want to take on the NFL linebacker who was the bouncer at the door. I got my pop out of the bar that night with no damage to his body, but, looking back at it, I think that there was a bit of damage done to his soul. I know he had to wonder what kind of son his mothered raised. I remember the long quiet ride back home from The Alamo that night, back to his trailer in Arleta. I can still feel the steering wheel of that big old Caddy of his in my hands I drove on down the freeway away from San Fernando. He told me that night, after I dragged him into his house and tucked him in, that he was disappointed in me, that he expected me to go out of that bar with him back to back, take on the world, or, at the very least, the linebacker.
Over what, I had to wonder. Hell, even he didn't know the next day what the beef was about.
The point to that story? The point is that I let my old man down, that I didn't get into a real old fashioned bar room brawl over nothing. And while I wasn't a candy ass I used diplomacy instead of my fists to get us out of the bar in one piece. But maybe fists would have been better, more John Fordian, more Donvan's Reef like. Looking back I could see that diplomacy, that talk, that walking away was my style. This summer I got was I deserved. I was long overdue for a good ass-kicking and because I didn't get around to it back then I feel that the universe knew that the bill was due. The fact that I got such a big dose of it was a "just because I love you" kind of moment.
Sure, I didn't come out of it bloodied in the physical form that my pop would have liked but I think I finally got that high horse I've been resting on for years kicked out from under me. Yeah, I landed on my ass hard. I may not have the bloody nose that some might of wished for for me but I am still reeling from the psychic beating I took. Let's just say that I won't let it happen to me again. It was about as big of a Zen moment as a man could ever ask or wish for and I'm the wiser for it.
So today I fearlessly wandered the trails of The Woods and took on the travails of unemployment fearlessly as well. I found a bit of sunshine as I wandered among the grey clouds and I was happy for it. Today I took out a pen knife and marked my path with numerous scratchings along the way to let the world know that I was alive. And today I took to the paved road through the Woods, waiting for the man who really had a right to kick my butt three years ago to pass me by. Yeah, today I was looking for that guy. Today I was fearless. What could he possibly do to me that life hasn't done already? Kick my ass? Get in line. I'm already "inbetween positions". I lost my job and the respect of my Estranged One because of words, words to a woman who is long gone, who is and forever shall be the embodiment of undying love.
That in itself is a trail enough to follow. Or blaze. Or blunder through. My choice.
Come along if you wish, but as the old adage goes, lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.