Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. Steve Jobs
By the third week in February 2017, the worst storm in a decade was battering the West Coast. I stayed in the sun. My time ran out at Oasis Palms, so I moved to a ‘resort’ closer to the Salton Sea.
I woke up on a Saturday morning to see a parachute in the sky, floating passed my window. Turns out, the park had a little airstrip and was a weekend gathering spot for paragliders. I enjoyed spending a couple of days taking pictures.
I also had time for housework. Alice was cleaned, inside and out. I used the pressure washer I bought to prepare Glen’s house. Emptied the tanks. Took on more water (had to bleach the tanks again as a result). Ran the generator. Checked the battery. Pressure washer worked fine from an inside plug … still discoveries every day. Toilet bleached. Floor wiped. Windows washed. We were good to go.
At the beginning of March, , Alice and I took highways 46, 5, 58 and 15 over to Las Vegas. There I met Ian, a photographer friend from England. We were there to photograph the USA Sevens rugby tournament. I had been the tournament photographer for years, back when I worked for Rugby Magazine. When I joined a start-up in 2008, I turned the official duties over to Ian. He had turned that referral into a full-time job, shooting rugby all over the world. I was not official anymore, but I liked to hang out. The food in the press box is usually pretty good. I provided some pictures for a couple of friends’ web sites.
From Vegas, I crossed California again to San Francisco. My son, Alex, was going to propose to McKenzie, his girlfriend for five years, on the ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito. He wanted me to sneak on the ferry and get a picture. I captured them from the second deck of the ferry, as several people moved to give me room. All those people applauded the happy couple.
I was glad to have that time with family, because the West coast was heating up and I was keen to get on the road north. I wouldn’t see them for a while. I was looking forward to spending more time in this new state of mind that seemed to be opening up for me. A connection to something bigger. Mind has to be our key to the universe. Bodies only go so far. Mind, when all the noise settles, is unlimited. ‘Experience’ only happens in the mind.
My interface with the world was taking on a new character. I still had to take care of business – I nicked a vent cover on the roof in a reckless attempt to drive through an In ‘N Out burger … I scraped an interior wall pulling the ladder out of the storage bunk … I broke the toilet handle – but such maintenance was becoming routine. And, because my life was so much simpler, I could put that world aside every now and then. I was re-designing my life, letting it fall in line with larger forces. The size didn’t matter. Me or the Universe. There was a vibration that felt familiar.
When we wonder, what’s it all for, aren’t we talking about design? Robert Frost asked “If design govern in a thing so small” as a moment when a spider catches a moth on a flower. Is it all designed, down to the smallest detail? Does design even determine what I see, what I think of next? Or is it all just a random mess? Einstein’s answer was that God does not play dice with the universe.
I bet we are designed to become better people, to live in the spirit of things and to merge our individual identities at some point, as they were numinously merged in the past, before words. We have all had some sort of experience of that unified field behind it all, the non-duality – moments in art, music, sports, love … when time seems to disappear. That experience is not compatible with taking care of business and using tools. One needs to separate one’s self from the environment to operate on it. The best we will find is a rhythm. We can wonder or we can do. As spirit in a body, we are made for both.
I spent some more time in the wilderness, catching up with what was going on in my head. On May 1st, as I prepared to hit the road north, I felt like I was throwing myself out into the invisible winds. As it happened, May 1st was our 35th wedding anniversary. When Nancy and I said goodbye that morning, neither of us mentioned it. The price of getting along was not to reach back. I had already uncovered what an asshole I had been at times in my life. I was beginning to unravel the layers of guilt and self-deprecation to let a lighter energy seep through. Almost as if my real self were being called out by the landscape. Like Nancy, I just wanted to move on and get over it. I was emboldened by the first six months on the road. I would do more stupid things, but I knew I would fix them, or get around them. Somehow make do. I still didn’t know what I was doing much of the time, but I didn’t care about being sure as much as I used to. I had accepted that I would not ever be able to drive the world into a manageable size.
For a long time, I had been imposing a structure on reality that eliminated the view, because I was going somewhere in particular. Now it felt like I had blinders on. No regrets. I felt like I had to do it at the time.
I was lucky enough to live through all that. Now I had a chance to go back to basics. I had caught a glimpse … a note of what was behind the globe-trotting child, the rugby player, the teacher, the salesman, the husband, the father, the thought-less jerk … I could go on. There was something that always seemed to be new and yet had always been there. Something looking, not something seen. That’s who I was. There could be no path that would lead there, because there was nowhere to go.
So it was ironic that I was headed to the Northwest to find out who I was these days, but I suspected that the mountains, the forests and the rivers would put me in my place. I had felt that way before up there. On the ferry to Victoria in British Columbia. I was seventeen, on a rugby tour with UCLA. Early in the morning, standing at the bow facing a stiff, chilly breeze, threading through the islands, I had a feeling of belonging that I have never forgotten. At the time I wondered, how can that be? I had never been there before. I had been around the world, but the Northwest had a sound all its own. I felt like a tiny part of something magnificent. In a way I didn’t understand, going north was going to be like going home.