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The ongoing diary, begun in December, 1971, and continued through the present, all falls under the generic heading, Steps. However, within the journal, there are several different sections or versions, representing phases or stages of experience, thought, and setting. Those which are already online include:
- Small Myths, Small Dreams, Small Steps (1971-1975)
- Broken Branch, Fallen Leaf, Rippled Water (1977-1985)
- Steps - The Pre-Retirement Years (1999-2002)
- Dove Feathers and Dog Hair (2002-Present). This last, current section of the journal covers the period of our Austin retirement.

1/3/02-Thurs.-Completed our investment analysis early this AM. Then over to HEB for a few groceries and a cup of coffee. Took Pepper along.

It's a sunny but cold morning, down in the twenties (F) last night, quite chilly for this area.

Am in much better spirits today.

There's some whimsical pottery for sale in the coffee shop. I think I might enjoy taking up ceramic pottery as a hobby. I wonder how one gets started. I suppose a class of some type, with access to plenty of clay and a kiln, would be a good beginning.

Well, no rush. Just an impulse. And, so far, since retirement began, am very busy already, even though have not yet begun the accelerated meditation and exercise regimens intended.

With Fran interested in doing sculpture, though, this could be an excellent, "symbiotic" pastime, permitting us to do things of mutual benefit together, as is already the case with our computer use, monthly newsletter, and, of course, looking after and interacting with our mutt, Pepper.

I was inspired by a documentary I saw a few years ago about a group of folks who decided to stay involved in pottery together, seemingly just an ordinary set of individuals who had in common merely an at first mild interest in this hobby, taking a community college course together. Eventually, after forming an informal organization and influencing one another's creativity and technique, they went on to create some quite intriguing and artistic expressions.

1/7/02-Mon.-We've had a quite busy few days.

Friday morning, early, we were up, getting ready for the day and finishing packing. Then, Fran and Pepper went with me to the building where my doctor's appt. took place. Fran stayed in the waiting room and our mutt in the car while I had my nose examined one more time, answered a lot of pre-surgery questions, and then discussed what I have and don't have, and what needs to be done about the former, with my physician.

She managed to convince me that she knows what she is talking about and that neither she nor the pathologist have made diagnostic mistakes in my case. Apparently I do not function all that well as my own doctor. I had not known, for instance, that scar tissue from liquid nitrogen freezing of pre-cancerous and surrounding tissues looks somewhat similar to full-blown basal cell cancer itself. Nor had I realized that basal cell carcinoma actually begins inconspicuously in the lower layers of the skin, only emerging on the surface, in the form with which I was more familiar, at a later stage of its development. A tiny place inside the skin on my nose, which had looked just like a very little mole, turned out to have basal cancer cells. In fact, that barely noticeable spot was already about twice the size it was when I had a couple bits of skin biopsied, on 12/12. Normally, though, small as this abnormality is, it would have been unrecognized if I'd not gone in with concerns about the larger, scar tissue redness, mistaking it for cancer.

So, the good news is that the latest problem has been caught early. The bad news is that it is the first full-blown cancer incident involving my nose and will require surgery, but there is not much skin on this part of the face. Normal cancer surgery would, as I'd feared, cause a significant change in my nose's shape and appearance.

As it turns out, though, she is trained in and proposes using a specialty, Mohs micrographic surgery, which preserves as much healthy tissue as possible. If all goes well, there will be a long stay in her office tomorrow (potentially all day, starting at 8:20 AM), when I have my surgery appointment, and some small amount of skin grafting, but things should gradually resolve to maintain an essentially normal look.

The appointment on 1/4 over, we headed north and picked up my mom in Waco, also then transferring to her van, which she finds more comfortable. The trip up to Mount Vernon, TX, to make a long story short, was nice but very tiring. We got to my aunt and uncle's place about 6 PM and stayed till about 11:30 AM, 1/5, not wanting to spend too long with Kim and Randolph lest we overtax both them and ourselves. They seemed quite enthusiastic about our visit and were particularly taken with Frances. Frail though they are, they stayed in high spirits, even insisting we take a variety of things they'd been wanting to give away, like books, dolls and other playthings from their now deceased, retarded daughter, my cousin, Stephanie, who was one month younger than I, slippers or shoes, and even a brand new, expensive concertina, for which they have no longer any use. This last we shall give to our friend, Matt, who plays and sings in the Baltic Buzzards group, using an old, beat-up one now, plus a harmonica.

It was cheering to see the senses of humor my aunt and uncle retain, in spite of multiple physical, and even some mental, infirmities. They also still have a wonderful relationship with each other that, so far at least, no doubt helps them keep on getting up, no matter how many times crises have knocked them down.

Still, Randolph has a dark side, which in the past manifest itself in a great deal of aggression (as shown in his violence toward animals, for sport, with pride in his extensive gun and rifle collection and in having killed many creatures, including bear, elk, moose, white-tailed deer, coyotes, skunks, many game birds, lots of fish, mule deer, snakes, etc.) and of restlessness (with multiple moves and having owned 104 cars through the years). He also still refers to Blacks as "niggers." One can see him having had leanings toward the KKK when much younger. Though he had many entertaining stories to relate, his bitterness and regrets came through with an intensity more powerful than his natural pride in past and present accomplishments. Still, at 87, he is in relatively good shape, still living on his own and providing for himself and Kim from a large fortune, built up from any number of different kinds of investments.

My mom, Frances, and I had a good visit over those couple days of driving as well. Pepper was the main victim of this journey, having been cooped up most of the time in a guest bedroom, for fear her friskiness might lead to further injury for our elderly hosts.

I had hoped for a more relaxed return trip and time with Mom, staying overnight Sat., 1/5, at her place before finishing our trip back to Austin in a leisurely fashion the next day. However, not unexpectedly, and, I suppose, not unnaturally either, Fran was determined to complete the trip all the way back on Saturday, having little enough time in our own place before the end of her holidays vacation. Indeed, yesterday, Sunday evening, 1/6, she was required to go to an Austin Lyric Opera rehearsal, where she is again tonight as well.

By Saturday evening, though, once we'd gotten back about 6 PM, both of us were exhausted and, unlike Kim and Randolph, having a hard time staying civil with one another.

Fortunately, by the next day, we were again in good cheer most of the day. In fact, Fran gave me a very thorough massage, and I even began having sensual inclinations, which she at first was inclined to share. But the rehearsal intervened. Afterward, what with her fatigue and hectic schedule, sex did not further rear an ugly head.

Her sister, Trudy, had, meanwhile, written her an e-mail asking if Fran could help her out with some things in late May, up in Michigan, where she'll then be involved in a dog show with one or more of her champion Rhodesian Ridgebacks, while at the same time looking after two very young children. I had no objection to her trip to be with and help out her sister again this year, but had thought she'd ask me before agreeing to Trudy's request. Not so.

That it apparently never occurred to her to check with me first shows I've perhaps been too conscientious in asking her if it were OK, when I planned various trips to visit my relatives, without her. We see things rather differently on this kind of issue. I think married people, out of simple courtesy, ought to communicate with each other about such things. She sees "having" to check with me as a crimping of her independence. Thus, in her view, if I have concerns about this, it becomes my problem, one I need to resolve on my own. Naturally, consistent with this view, any suggestion we see a counselor together to work things out better between us is seen as inappropriate. It is an ironic and rather disconcerting reversal of the usual cultural and gender differences on such matters.

Of course, I realize that my outlook at the moment is somewhat colored by misgivings over the surgery in the morning.

Meanwhile, there is, slowly but surely, progress being made in other areas. Fran has, as usual, been most helpful with my online sites' design and maintenance.

She also is encouraging of our almost daily walking exercise. This morning, for instance, we took another, about two-mile, constitutional.

She is keeping up with projects in our yard and gardens.

I have been homing in on some good equity purchase bargains.

We've both recently assured our car maintenance is up-to-date.

I've lately taken care of all the reams of forms needed for my life insurance (hopefully) and everything else necessary for our retirement.

I am making excellent progress in proofing and readying for online publication the last chapter of my original journal, ending in 1975.

And, almost unnoticed in the frenetic activity of late, my asthma exacerbation has finally resolved once again.

More important matters still need to be taken into account, like renewing at last an intensive schedule of meditation, that was to have begun as of my first full day of no longer needing to work a regular job. This priority is far from forgotten, and was just awaiting resolution of several pressing concerns, such as Christmas activities, the recent trips and visits with many relatives, and tomorrow's medical care.

1/8/02-Tues.-Up at 6:15 AM. Woke several times through the night, my prostate or bladder on overtime, the temperature cool, the covers always feeling great when I got back to bed. Fran snoozed on through. It's great she's a heavy sleeper.

Completed shaving, shower, first coffee, dressing, and dental care, by 7:30, and then headed downtown for my surgery appointment.

On the way, saw a great blue heron, circling low over the neighborhood rooftops, and a stunningly beautiful and bright sunrise.

Traffic was intense the whole way.

The doctor began cutting just a few minutes after I'd arrived and been prepped. My blood pressure, temperature, and pulse were all a little low. I'd begun meditating before even putting on the gowns. Feeling unusually relaxed, I joked they should wake me when it was over.

The only real pain in the beginning was from the initial, long injection of anesthetic into my nose. The doctor used a tool to cauterize the wound after the first tissue removal. Hate the way that smells! The whole procedure of surgery, then lab work, then new surgery, etc., and later putting me back together, could last all day.

Later-I went to the bathroom after the first and second surgery stages. With my frumpy, front and back gowns, blue medical hairnet cap, pile of white gauze and bandages covering my nose, dark brown eyes, and orange antiseptic painted around the center of my face, I look like nothing so much as a circus clown.

Reading the recently received issue of "Outstanding Investor Digest" during the breaks. I'm excited about the prospects of finding some great equity bargains, though I must admit this is not uppermost in my thoughts this morning.

Still later-My nose, a pin-cushion with feelings, was injected, lacerated, probed, excised, jabbed, and stitched with at least one hundred painful mini-traumas and now hurts. One nostril, full of mucous or worse, is half-covered and inaccessible by either tissue or handkerchief. I'm told I can use an ice-pack but also that I must leave the little pile of gauze and bandages "dry and undisturbed" for two days. Hmm. How does that work? The cancer was completely removed, they say, but had been "deep." The reconstruction was rather hard on the pain receptors.

Must begin changing the bandages daily, and add antibiotic ointment, starting Thursday. Will have stitches removed in a week.

I got away from the doctor's office close to 1 PM and took myself over to West Lynn Cafe for a low-cholesterol but delicious meal, to help myself feel better about things. The nose, with its wad of white, drew stares. Or perhaps it was my slowly leaking left nostril.

Can't wait to get home and begin my new addiction to prescription pain medications.

After today's experience, due in part, they say, to overexposure in youth to solar radiation, I believe sun worship is vastly overrated.

1/11/02-Fri.-Fran's terribly busy, with a combination of teaching plus rehearsals for Austin Lyric Opera's "A Streetcar Named Desire" production. Since I'm now not worried about being alert bright and early the next morning, I'll likely take advantage next Wed. (1/16) of her comp. ticket to the dress rehearsal. Frances has at least one solo in this series of performances.

During the last two days Austin has had wonderful spring-like weather. I've gotten out a couple times for leaf raking and/or planting a little grass seed. I likely will again today, though we had a little cool front come through last night, and it is now overcast and windy, with highs expected in the 50°s F range.

Yesterday my original surgery bandages were due to come off the nose. It took nearly an hour to deal with cleaning the wound and stitches area, soaking up extra blood, disinfecting, and putting on a new dressing. I was distressed to discover that the surgery site was larger than I'd expected for so tiny a spot of cancer and that the tightness in my left nostril, which I'd thought was from the initial pressure-dressing, was actually from the numerous stitches, that not only closed the wound but also apparently reduced significantly the size of the left nostril. I have made a call to the doctor's office to see if this will resolve when the stitches come out or if, without further treatment, it is likely to become a permanent condition, making things rather dicey when I'd sneeze or have a cold, as, this way, it is impossible to clean the left side of my nose with a Kleenex or handkerchief. (Sorry, reader. That's probably more than you wanted to know!)

As so often when we're both feeling a little stressed out, this is a time when Fran and I need to make special efforts to be on our best behavior. It's too easy to indulge in unreasonable, impatient reactions with each other. I suspect that, especially for Fran who, with my retirement, has lost several hours a week of quality private time, this is a particularly challenging period of adjustment. We're both introverts and prize our time alone at least as much as good visiting with a select few others.

Pepper and I took a walk this AM, after Fran had left for her teaching (due to end forever in early May). As usual now, we did not see any deer. However, I did spy two hawks. (When Fran, Pepper, and I went walking yesterday, we'd seen a shrike.)

Later-Got a call back from Dr. Elizabeth Roberts, my dermatologist, advising she thinks the decreased nostril size is temporary and due mainly to postop. swelling. Hopefully she's right. This is good news, if so.

1/14/02-Mon.-Completed proofing of the lengthy final chapter of "Small Myths, Small Dreams, Small Steps" today, as a Word document. Over the next few days it will need to be put into HTML format and uploaded, but it should still be easily online by the end of the month, even though it requires multiple HTML adjustments for foreign language terms, etc.

Had two remembered dream sequences last night. In the first, I think there's some problem with my right leg, though I've been using it just fine up till a moment earlier and there has been no trauma. But when I look down at my outstretched leg, it is missing the flesh and vessels, all the way around, in a section about 9" long, so that only the long femur is there. The bone too is badly deteriorated. It looks as though any even minor injury will fracture it and that on one side, the anterior, it is already badly worn down.

I was very glad, on awakening, to discover I still have healthy legs.

Our dog, Pepper, had dental surgery a couple months ago. Because the vet. hospital felt that, at her age, she needed I.V. fluids while she was under general anesthetic, they shaved a few inches of her hair on the right leg, all around, and put the I.V. catheter in there. In certain lighting now, this shaved part, but with full hair elsewhere, makes her look like a peg-leg. Her relatively hairless part is so much thinner than the rest that it looks strange, unnatural, as if that portion could not support her with the strength she needs in a healthy leg, which, of course, is just a trick of perception. She's an amazingly strong and fit little animal for a dozen-year-old mutt.

In the other segment, I just happen to be playing with some young children, perhaps about 1-4 years old. I'm having a really good time, as are they. They're not, even in the dream, my own children. And the situation is idealized. These are children available, as my siblings, and later my nephews and nieces were, when that age, for free-for-all wrestling and other fun games. (I was seven and a half years older than my oldest sibling, my sister, Alice, and eventually was one of eight children, almost all brothers, the last, Pete, 18 years younger than I, and with whom I sometimes seem to have the kinds of tensions often more characteristic between generations, or even specifically between a father and son, than simply between brothers.) None were crying or needing special attention. Nor was I out of breath from heavy exertion, or having back problems, or needing to pee every 45 minutes or so, or concerned to stay out of the sun to avoid cancer. It was just a fun time with average, anonymous young kids, and I was wishing our play could go on and on, and that I had more children readily available and, even in the dream, wondering how, with none of my own, this might be feasible. (Not having kids has been an "issue" for me for some time. I've been wondering if there is something I can add to my retirement circumstances that will at least approximate some of the satisfaction, interaction, and meaning I think would have been there if I had had children of my own.)

Fran and I finished our monthly newsletter issue tonight. Yea! This begins our 7th calendar year of putting out a family-and-investing monthly letter. How time flies while we're having so much fun! The format changed in 1999, but we actually began doing this back in 1996. The fully online version started about two years ago, in the spring of 2000.

Tomorrow I have my next appointment with Dr. Elizabeth Roberts, my dermatologist. With luck, I won't need to see her again for awhile. The stitches, though, still feel like they're keeping my left nostril too constrained. Am anxious to see if their removal really resolves that difficulty or if new, corrective, surgery will now be needed.

Am gradually finalizing the paperwork for my tax-deferred retirement account distributions.

Did some shopping today and also went for a walk with the dog while Fran was away teaching. She and I went to Golden Corral for buffet suppers tonight. Mmm good!

1/15/02-Tues.-Awaiting my doctor appointment.

Doing an investment analysis today. Right after the market's pitch downward following the 9/11 terrorist strikes, our equities' value had dropped to about $350,000. By year-end, though, they stood at $440,000. Need to try to assure that, by year-end 2002, they're at a half-million. This will get us back on track, after the inroads the bear market (beginning in 3/00) has made in our retirement nest egg.

Getting the final part of the earliest version of "Steps" ready to be put online has led to some new introspection. Although, as I'm rereading those old chapters, I can remember the circumstances, thoughts, and feelings of that time in my life, it is, in some ways, as if they were happening to someone else. It is hard now to "relate" to that idealistic, relatively young man who thought at times that the Lord Himself/Herself/Itself would be interested and involved in his individual life and emotions.

The way I felt most of December, 1975, in India, seems akin to my days as a teenage Christian at "revivals" or "prayer vigil" retreats, caught up in the seductive notion that my life had a divine purpose, that God was personally concerned with this one little being out of so many billions on this single, tiny planet, itself one of billions of such orbs, etc.

My view now may be no more correct but is certainly different. In some ways I envy the religious true believer. My outlook has evolved to one much more intellectual, existential.

Of course, the artist or writer still has something significant in common with those whose benign religious delusion is that their span on this world ultimately matters. The artistic or literary effort itself only makes sense if one pretends the resulting creations, essays, diaries, poems, and stories have an importance out of proportion to our statistical significance (or insignificance) in the entire scheme of things.

There's another belief issue in question from my earlier "Steps," the question of magic. Whether from a spiritual context or such secular approaches as expressed in Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous, Pearce's The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, or Castaneda's A Separate Reality, there is a recurrent theme that runs through not just my writings but human culture and literature generally, the possibility that, by one unexplained means or another, every now and then, magical things actually can happen.

Sometimes reality throws in a monkey wrench that calls into question our common sense, consensual, or ordinary, view of things.

For instance, Fran, a night or two prior to a major DC-10 airliner crash near her at O'Hare Airport, was dreaming of such a thing, as she wrote in her little dream book gift to me for Christmas: "I'm looking out over the familiar corn field and farm landscape, with a few trees scattered as wind breaks. I can see a plane flying in the distance and it looks like it is coming in for a very steep landing, but I realize that, at that angle of descent, it will crash. As it disappears into a small grove of trees, bright red, orange and yellow fireworks erupt, very much like giant sparklers, but they are happening in daytime instead of the usual night display. Although far in the distance, the image is quite beautiful."

Or, for example, my friend, Julie Conrad (from my active Lifestream Way days in VA and NC), a few years ago, though then only in her late 40's or early 50's, in meditation had a vision of her own death in the very near future. So certain of this was she that she "put her affairs in order," canceled some projects she had begun, and made a special trip from Mexico, where she was then living, to Texas, to see her sister and her grown son (who related this true story to me), say "Goodbye" to them, and give them details of her estate and her last wishes, imploring them to pay close attention because they would very soon need to help with her remains, administering her assets, etc. Her son did not believe her or take what she was saying seriously, impatiently dismissing it, since he was not at all ready for her to die. Her sister, though, knew about her meditation, and that sometimes one could have such visions, and took what she said to heart. A month later she was killed, apparently instantly, one foggy morning in the mountains of Mexico, when an 18-wheeler driver, coming in the opposite direction, rounded a curve and veered out of his lane, hitting her car head-on.

In her instructions to her son, she had asked that he take her ashes to the Gagan Lifestream Way colony in India and scatter them from there in the Beas River. He was still sad and angry when I spoke with him, as if he thought she had deliberately died many years earlier than he had expected, but said he was in consultation with the Indian embassy and expected he would do as she had instructed with her remains.

Cynical or skeptical as I am, I am not yet ready to give up the hope or belief in the possibility that, behind our "certain," scientific, logical, cause-and-effect world, or perhaps encompassing it within another realm, there is ultimate mystery, a basis for profound enchantment. It allows me to meditate with a sense of expectancy, an openness to what might be.

Nothing is certain. I started to write "except the difference between extremes of good and evil." But even that limitation is subjective or dependent on context.

On second thought, there may be another issue that persists from the earliest journal chapters. However unsophisticated my thinking, and though at times I stray from this for extended periods, there is the recurrent attempt to be intellectually honest.

I may not be capable of understanding absolute truth. However, most of my notions sooner or later come under the scrutiny of my devil's advocate. False assumptions are susceptible to an internal Socratic questioning, or merely to a simple, balloon-puncturing expression of doubt: "Yeah, right!" In this, I suppose, I'm just like most everybody else. It's nothing special. But, for better or worse, it does prevent me from being a zealot or fanatic.

Later-The appointment about my nose went well. The outer stitches were fairly painlessly removed. I'm told that inner ones, which will eventually dissolve, may still limit the nostril's elasticity for awhile but that, in a few weeks, things likely will return essentially to normal. Good!

1/17/02-Thurs.-The final chapter of the original version of "Steps" is now online (a project owing much to Fran's invaluable assistance and for which thirty years was required).

As so often before, I've stopped for a breakfast snack at the Andice Exit off I-35, in Georgetown, TX, before heading on up to Woodway/Waco and my mom's place. Tomorrow the two of us plan to drive down to Houston for a visit with Mary.

Besides the social interaction, I'm hoping on that trip for some resolution regarding my guardianship and executor duties. Such things are rather clear and straightforward where Mom is concerned. Mary, as mentioned several weeks ago, had indicated verbally, a number of years in the past, that she was assigning me the duties of guardian to her son, Jim, and executor to her estate in the event of her death, but, for unknown reasons, has never followed through.

As of today, am commencing my retirement regimen, the most important element of which includes at least a full hour of meditation daily when ill, on a trip, or hosting guests (or otherwise having significant interference in a regular routine) and, otherwise, four full hours of meditation a day, up to 25 hours a week (minimum). Most meditation should be done sitting up. (Snoring in a prone position does not count!)

In addition, to help keep myself "honest," I'll maintain a tally in each entry here of time devoted to this activity and of any unusual related developments (feeling sleepy or achy not counting as "unusual").

Later-Arrived at Mom's place without incident.

I got in an hour of sitting meditation. Then we went together to see "A Beautiful Mind," which we thought a terrific film (though apparently not an entirely authentic version of John Nash's life) and which Jim called "the best based-on-a-true-story movie" he had ever seen. Completely authentic or not, it is a quite moving flick. Toward the end, for this veteran moviegoer, the tear-duct taps were wide open!

1/18/02-Fri.-On the road for Houston by about 8. Traffic was light. Minor difficulties due to last second "back seat" driving changes of directions. ("Wait! Wait! - No, not this way..." - while in the middle of 70 MPH city freeway traffic - or "Don't you think this is our exit?!" - with no prior warning and our vehicle three lanes to the left of the just then being passed exit ramp - fortunately not our egress anyway, just Mom being confused).

After unloading Mom's bus of a van, got in an hour of meditation this afternoon, Mary still working.

Hereafter, I'll avoid significant mention of my health unless it has gotten remarkably good or bad. Otherwise, the reader should just assume I'm doing reasonably well for someone approaching the end of my sixth decade, but do have mild to moderate alimentary, genitourinary, respiratory, musculoskeletal, oncological, and dermatological difficulties. (I'll try not to bore with the day-to-day details.)

Tonight we went to a new Thai restaurant near Mary's. The food was delicious, plentiful, and not terribly expensive. I had also mentioned to the staff it was a special meal, for Mary's birthday, and they surprised us with a little happy birthday sing (done sincerely, for once!) and a dish of ice cream in an elegant container.

During a goodly number of years in the 1970s, and a few times subsequently, I was attempting, with limited success, to be a good disciple on the Lifestream Way meditation path of faith, devotion, and love. It eventually became apparent, though, that this approach to enlightenment, understanding, or one's highest self was quite unsuitable for my temperament.

If any, an appropriate spiritual pursuit for me must, instead, involve few if any preconceptions, other than that the quest have heart, sufficient to motivate its adherents to disciplined efforts, and that to walk such a path matters.

What, then, might be useful tenets of such a philosophy?

  1. There is a way of apprehending That Which Is superior to but encompassing the approaches of the deductive scientist, the common sense realist, and the poetic idealist.

  2. Ever greater levels and refinements of insight and experience are attainable through meditative experiments.

  3. Such experiments may be conducted alone or in the company of others. While it may sometimes be helpful to have guidance, such mentoring is not necessarily crucial for successfully completing an advanced course of meditative experimentation.

  4. Generally, the experiments may be followed through to conclusion without jeopardizing mental health, so long as significantly mind-altering drugs are not employed. For most, the enhanced insight from such methods is also enhancing of stability and maturity.

  5. It can be supremely worthwhile to engage in such experiments, in a disciplined, regular way, making this endeavor the very most important part of one's agenda, so long as the results of the experiments (new material, input, information, insight, or understanding) are integrated organically into one's normal day-to-day living, rather than attempting to use them as a means to merely escape one's circumstances or the laws and limits of ordinary existence.

1/19/02-Sat.-In meditation this AM, just before dawn, sitting on the floor, with a pillow beneath me and another between my back and the wall, my body was quickly very relaxed. I concentrated mainly on the LW mantra repetition, which seemed to come naturally. There was no fidgeting. I experienced loss of sensation in most of all the extremities. Noticed sounds and several memories.

Later-Mary has graciously been doing all our driving around, since getting home from work yesterday. Today we went to the Imax and saw an interesting film there, "The Human Body," then checked out some neat exhibits in the adjacent Museum of Natural Science.

Next we had another scrumptious meal at an Indian restaurant, one of Mary's favorites.

Back at her place, I completed the last few minutes of today's hour of meditation. I also went by myself for a walk in the neighborhood while others rested.

Had earlier intended to push for our discussing executor duties this evening, but got very sick, with the worst lower intestinal symptoms I can ever remember having. I was, accordingly, frequently needing to retire for long, unpleasant periods in the W.C.

So, tonight we watched the first of two videotapes of the recent "Pearl Harbor" movie, which at least was distracting.

Went to bed about half past ten, still not fully recovered.

1/20/02-Sun.-Feeling much better today!

We had an hour or so of quite productive talk on executor duties and then headed over to the VA cemetery and found, and spent a little time together with, the markers for my dad and my brother, Ralph. (Both Mary and Mom intend their cremated remains and vital information to be placed at these, their deceased spouse's, markers too.)

Afterward, we drove over to a mall. Mom, who has odd-sized feet, had been hoping to find some shoes. She'd already looked for them in Waco and Dallas without success. Unfortunately, this search today also proved fruitless.

Next, in honor of my retirement, Mary and Mom took us out to eat TexMex vittles at the Cafe Adobe restaurant. We sat at a table overlooking a beautiful river or lake, complete with ducks. This was very pleasant.

We returned to Mary's place for some "down time." Mom lay down and read in one room. Mary rested in another. I did today's hour of meditation, then fixed myself some tea and jotted down a few notes on our discussion this morning about executor duties and related matters.

This evening we finished watching "Pearl Harbor," a fine, entertaining Hollywood film, though not a great movie.

Later I called Fran. We had a good chat and exchanged love affirmations, always nice to have!

Eventually we watched part of The Golden Globe Awards, noting that "A Beautiful Mind" won for best actor.

1/21/02-Mon.-Packed up and drove back, from Mary's in Sugarland/Houston to Mom's in Woodway/Waco. On the way, saw an even dozen hawks.

Had a short nap and did an hour's meditative experimentation.

Green tea. A snack. Answered an e-mail from Fran. She half-joked, but was half-serious too, that she was so energized when I am away, so tired when I'm around, though she also misses me when I'm gone. Such a dilemma.

Mom and I watched a David Lean film, "Ryan's Daughter," from her library of videotapes.

Leila, Charley, and Keith came over. We had a nice visit. The boys and I played some pool, with Charley and I each winning once.

1/22/02-Tues.-9:00 AM. Have stopped for a break at a Denny's in Temple. Am returning to Austin. So tired! Driving through mist, alternating with fog, mirroring my mental state.

While I wish it were not true that my wife gets more fatigued when I'm around, the fact is, for both of us, close association with others is often enervating. Certainly, after four-plus days of interaction with Mom, Mary, and others, I am exhausted, as, indeed, had also been the case after each of the other three trips-and-visits since I retired last month.

I am not so much an introvert as to want to be totally alone and, indeed, usually do enjoy my get-togethers with others (and miss them when without such contact for extended periods). Nonetheless, the inclination is, as Esther Dupchek pointed out back in the 1970s, more toward being "isolated and insulated." Fran and I, in this way, are probably well matched.

I can sympathize with the mystics whose predilections moved them away from society to thousands of hours of prayer, sweat-lodge sessions, or reclusive meditation, but who then, on finally attaining some degree of spiritual breakthrough, often found themselves thrust into the madding crowds' limelight as masters, gurus, teachers, medicine men, head monks, shamans, maharajis, messiahs, prophets, leaders of new religious movements, and the like.

My own former guru, Maharaj Dayal Nam Ji, on learning in his thirties (in 1952) that he had been appointed for life as the new master (through the properly witnessed and registered will of the just preceding maharaji of this Lifestream Way line), felt overwhelmed with grief, sobbed uncontrollably, and ran away, only reluctantly accepting and carrying out all of the duties of his new position, starting a full year afterward.

I completed today's hour of meditation after back in Austin.

Good to be home!

1/23/02-Wed.-Completed four hours, for the day, of meditative experimentation, just before 10 PM, having begun before four in the morning.

On our way back, on Monday, in answer to my questions, Mom related a few things from my early childhood, some that I'd partially remembered, some not. For instance, she said when I was three months old my dad returned on leave from a tour of war duty overseas (early 1944). Mom was then breastfeeding me, but between feedings I would sometimes put my thumb in my mouth, as the most convenient nipple-like thing around. She said this bothered Dad greatly, that he accused me of being a "mama's boy" and would slap my hand every time he noticed me about to put my thumb in my mouth or with it already there. He insisted that with this negative stimulus to the unwanted thumb-sucking my response would be to avoid the "bad" behavior. Unfortunately, I did not "get it" and sucked my thumb all the more as a consolation for being hurt over and over. She said she knew it was wrong for him to keep hitting me like that, but thought she could not go against Dad's wishes.

She also told me more, than I'd known before, about an incident when I was three, which I actually still vividly recall. We were on a road trip to Georgia, just Mom, Dad, and myself. I was sitting in the back seat. It was the fall or winter of 1946-1947. We had either been visiting relatives in San Antonio, TX, or were moving from there to Athens, GA, where we lived next, near Dad's new duty station.

We had left early in the morning, but the trip was going more slowly than expected due to unusually snowy, sleety weather for that part of Texas. The roads also, of course, were not as good as now. There was no IH-10 freeway, for instance.

After dark and by the time we had gotten into Louisiana, the freezing precipitation had turned to rain and Dad had sped up, perhaps trying to compensate for the earlier delays. Although he was within the posted speed limit, Mom thinks he was probably driving too fast for the rainy nighttime conditions.

We were on a two-lane highway at some distance from any major city. Generally, it was pitch dark. The wet, coastal plain extended right up to the road's high embankments, with at least a foot of swampy water depth on either side of our thoroughfare.

As we rounded a curve in the roadway we were almost blinded by the headlights of a convoy of Army or National Guard trucks coming toward us in the other lane. There was a steep drop-off immediately to our right. Walking directly before us in the road, suddenly caught in our beams, there was a man. There was no time for pitching over the side or ramming into a passing truck. The foot reflexively stomping on a brake was way too late. To my wide eyes, a dark form just appeared then smashed with great violence into the car's front, tumbled noisily, thump-thump-thumpingly, over the hood and roof, and, as suddenly, was gone. Our vehicle finished coming to a halt. The trucks, merciless as a line of insects, did not slow down but drove on out of sight into the darkness we had just left.

I heard my mother's soft sobbing in the front passenger seat. My father seemed stunned, uncertain. He got out, then was back. "He's dead," he said. "What was he thinking, walking in the road like that!?" (I can imagine a string of rich oaths he might have uttered, but Dad never cursed, perhaps a vestige of his very religious upbringing.)

A long time later someone else drove up from behind and stopped, lights bright. We all investigated, then, while Dad and this other man considered what to do. I got out of our car with Mom and Dad and looked as well, from right beside the man we had hit. He was Black. His face was up, into the rain. I remember for some reason that he just looked quite peaceful, laid out there on the roadside, feet toward the back of our car, head away. A thin trail of blood blended with the rain and ran from his head toward the watery expanse below. I had not known death before, but it was obvious even to me that he was no longer alive.

I think Dad asked the man who had stopped to go get help. My father felt he should stay there with us and the body. We then had a terribly long wait before a sheriff, his deputy, an ambulance, and its crew came, driving in from the way the trucks had come.

The man had obviously been carrying a Bible. Pages of it, torn out by the impact, were strewn about on the wet road. We later learned this gentleman, whose name we still did not know when we resumed our journey, had been a lay preacher in a Black church down the road and that he had been going to a prayer meeting there that evening.

To me now it appears obvious that racism was rampant that night. A white man in the American south probably would have had at least some old jalopy to get around in on a rainy night. The all-white police force likely would have been less sympathetic with my father if the deceased were not Black and might have taken him in for questioning, maybe even charged him with manslaughter.

At the very least, a thorough accident investigation and proper notification of next of kin would have been done before we were released to go on our way. Even if for some reason the authorities had not cared, my folks would have felt it their duty, and just common decency, to express their extreme remorse over what had happened to a white family.

One usually does not want to even leave a dog lying in the road after hitting it, but goes in search of those who cared for and loved it, to help them deal with the tragic loss one has caused. Yet my folks left still not even knowing the name of their victim, much less seeing any of his relatives, "just a nigger" implied if not actually spoken out loud.

Our victim did not yell or scream. He only made those thudding noises, that had seemed in the time-stretched moment to go on for a minute or so, his body smashing over our auto like a big sack of potatoes. He apparently had been walking the other way, unable to hear our car or notice, at least till the last split-second, its lights' approach because of the curve and the loud, brightly lit trucks then passing.

My father, for the first and last time I could remember, until late in my teens when we would fight, was lost in emotions he could not control. He told the sheriff what had happened, his voice choked, the potential weeping, heaving of his chest barely contained. Dad asked the sheriff if he should go in with him, if there was anything he could do to help. The policeman answered with sensitivity, soothing tones, and sympathy that they would take care of things.

I think my father was able to still drive our car, though with difficulty, and followed the sheriff in to town. We were quickly released, though, by the police.

The front of our vehicle was too damaged to continue our trip right away. With car repairs essential, we contacted Mom's cousin and her husband in New Orleans, Ethel and Winston, and stayed with them a couple days while the auto body shop work was being done.

Several months after that trip, my folks got a letter from a lawyer, from a small town in Louisiana, informing them they were being sued for $50,000 by the widow of the man we had killed. They hired a lawyer of their own, of course, as one does, who said no jury would award that kind of judgment for a "Colored Man" out walking in the road in the dark on a rainy night, that probably the widow's lawyer had just dreamed this up as a way to possibly get a large settlement. But he felt the woman would be happy to get anything at all. He advised my parents to offer to settle for $500, take it or leave it. They did. The offer was accepted. After paying off her attorney, this probably paid the man's wife for some of the funeral expenses. My folks complained they had to pay their lawyer $500 as well.

In later years I wrote a short story about the accident, "Absent Scream." Thinking I was just adding dramatic touches, I included in it not only what I could definitely remember, the look and sound of the body as it tumbled over our vehicle and later seeing him lying dead behind our car, but also what I thought were "fictional" aspects to convey the mood of the situation, such as the pages of the Bible, that Dad had lost his composure for one of the few times in my life I had seen him not "in control," the wet, dark emptiness to either side of the road, the oblivious truck convoy lumbering on out of sight, and that the man had been completely mute in his final traumatic moments. To my surprise, when I showed it to my father, he said I had gotten it right, that it occurred just that way. The incident still obviously bothered him, though he never discussed it, except that once, briefly, in response to the story.

I asked Mom's permission to relate the above account (minus the racism comments) in our monthly family-and-investment newsletter. However, she did not feel comfortable with this, saying "I really suffered for years over the incident, feeling terrible that I had been involved in killing a person. For a long time I didn't want to speak of it."

1/24/02-Thurs.-Completed four hours of sitting meditation again today. Also took a couple walks, for about three miles total. Did some shopping and a little investment business.

1/25/02-Fri.-Ernie's birthday. I called to wish him a happy one. Fran had a two hour commute back from work in Pflugerville this afternoon. Rather outrageous. She was upset. She had to head back to town, less than a couple hours later, for the Baltic Buzzards' rehearsal. I completed a three-mile walk and other exercise today, as well as four more hours of meditative experimentation. I arranged too to get together with Sandy and Maria for lunch next Wed. Sandy's husband, Clark, may be joining us as well. I shopped today for a special low cholesterol and liver cleansing diet, for most of the last few days before I have insurance-related blood and urine testing, a week from today.

Run-in and confrontation with several neighbor kids walking through and riding their bikes in our yard and beating our plants with sticks. They have left for now, but, human nature being what it is, will likely be back many times when they know I'm away, to get even, and then some, for their loss of face. Ain't it grand!? How might I have handled this differently? Hugged the dog later to help get the blood pressure back down to a dull corpuscular percolation. Still angry. The whole situation is also very depressing, as if of greater significance than the encounter itself, indicative of generally appropriate outrage and frustration, for which uncontrollable sobbing might be the right response both to this catalyst and much else besides, that irritation with the young folks merely masks a deep, underlying sadness. What's that about? But even as I type that, I remember this is often one of my reactions to a lot of meditation, something I need to break through, perhaps, before getting to a hopefully more rewarding level.

Some later hypnagogic imagery (or what Ira Progoff refers to as "Twilight Imagery"): I'm floating at sea, an immense distance from shore, the water a vast depth below me. I do not notice the temperature. An exception to the pervasive dark is a brightness behind and silhouetting a huge ship as it draws near me from the left, so large that above the water line it stretches up in blackness for two or three football field lengths or more. The craft is thus so utterly overwhelming, and my small self so comparatively insignificant on the ocean below, that I shall never be noticed by anyone on board. Strangely, I do not seem concerned over imminent annihilation, though it would seem inevitable. What great pelagic fish species must inhabit this region, I wonder, and will they require more than a gulp or two to dispose of my remains once the vessel passes over me?

1/26/02-Sat.-Euthymic mood this morning. We went for a three-mile walk in our favorite deer area. They were, happily, again in view. We had eighteen sightings of the white-tailed species. The early sunlight was bright and resplendently glowing through a light frost on grass and weeds.

We went enjoyed delicious breakfasts at Trudy's South.

I made up a "liver cleansing broth" today, to use for the next few days of special diet, leading up to my blood test next week. I also meditated for another four hours.

1/27/02-Sun.-Hypnagogic images recently: white-tailed deer leaping and running in dawn's streaming bright light, reflected and refracted beautifully in the frost crystals on grass, shrubs, and weeds. Summer scene - canoeing on Town Lake with Allen, Fran, and Pepper. Turtles, including some snappers, swimming, diving, and coming up for air in the greenish, algae-filled, translucent Town Lake waters. A meteor, perhaps large as a small car, glowing, burning, boiling off in the atmosphere, plummeting toward me or about to hit nearby, and seeing it seconds before impact. A pair of cows, doomed, caught in the San Marcos River in flood, exhausted, the banks too steep and muddy for them to lift their tired, heavy bodies out. Trying, from my kayak, to help them. Failing. Going on downstream, seeing them barely able to keep their mouths above water, their swimming already less energetic, their fate virtually certain. They seem, themselves, to know it. Impression of joy and contentment in these early images, but deep sadness at the end.

Fran and I did our morning walk of about three miles, then our supermarket shopping for the week. The latter was somewhat less than usual as today I began several days of a liver cleansing diet, for which I'd already gotten a quantity of foodstuffs a couple days ago. My first sample of the diet came with a liver cleansing broth, meticulously prepared yesterday evening, a cup of which is consumed as "breakfast" each day on the diet. Afterward, my garden-fresh belches give evidence of how healthy I must be getting. The concoction is barely palatable. Hope it has more benefit than great aroma. I suppose, if whatever tastes good is bad for you, it follows that whatever tastes bad is good, and this stuff must be doing wonders for my innards!

Today is a catch-up time. Rather than devoting four hours to meditative experiments, that activity gets just one, while I do the most pressing of pending chores (like getting up-to-date on mail and investment forms) and other occupations (such as giving Fran a sensual massage), that have been put off recently while the meditation got top billing. I may have a mystical bent, but want to be practical as well! Besides, there is not much room in a tight meditation schedule for expressing physical affection, except for that form of yoga or Zen in which couples use lovemaking as a means to attaining enlightenment. Now there's a good idea!

1/28/02-Mon.-We have had some computer glitches, apparently with our hardware, recently. Unfortunately, this may affect our system's functioning in a major way before long. We have several times lately had to shut down in an "illegal" way to restore operations, sometimes losing entirely what we were working on just prior to noting the problem.

Am continuing on my special diet. I suppose it is doing good, but the experience so far is not pleasant. It leaves me feeling weak and a little disoriented.

Fran was up too late last night, trying to find and restore an e-mail letter of some complexity and length, that was lost in the latest system failure. She was ultimately unsuccessful and now will be tired through the day. We got up before six. She was off to do her teaching by 6:40 this morning.

Pepper and I walked three miles this AM in the spring-like weather. I also had four hours of meditative sessions and worked on some investment matters.

I'm now very much appreciating a new book I bought myself for Christmas, John Neff on Investing, a work that has its flaws, as indicated in the linked Motley Fool review, but which gives a great summary of some basic principles of value, bargain, or contrarian type stock selection.

1/29/02-Tues.-Recent Hypnagogic or Twilight Imagery: A large garter snake is slowly swallowing a frog, which has been caught and forced half into the reptile's mouth, which orifice seems stretched much larger than normal - memories from teenage years in Oneida, NY - another garter snake, near our house there, on the driveway side, coiled and loudly, defensively hissing, then striking at me - cages for several snakes I'm keeping - Alice's recollection of my sending her out into the neighborhood wearing hand-made placards, front and back, to entice kids to come see the snakes (for a quarter per visit).

Fran, Pepper, and I took a three-mile walk today.

Did a lot of calls, resolving misc. issues.

Continued refinements in our investments. Also maintained the special, low-cholesterol diet.

With several other concerns on my mind and having gotten inadequate sleep last night, I found it hard to meditate and only put in one hour of real effort on this area of emphasis.

Fran and I went out tonight for a salad bar supper at Jason's Deli. On our way home we noticed the moon, so huge as to be disturbing. Even as it rose into the sky above the horizon, its remarkable enormity persisted, as if, since we'd last noticed, it had fallen some distance closer to the earth. In ancient times, this would likely have been perceived as an omen. But we are beyond such superstitions today, aren't we?

I called my friend and former work colleague, Larry, to see about our getting together with he and his family for awhile this weekend. However, he said they are in the midst of some family crises, that he'll get in touch when it's a better time. Among other things, his sister's son, a nephew with whom they have been quite close, had attempted suicide this week, an act completely out of the blue. Till now he'd seemed a regular kid, an honors student, a musical prodigy, with everything going for him. The whole extended family is shaken up. Larry's pissed at the boy for putting his mother through this, seeing him as manipulative and narcissistic.

1/30/02-Wed.-The gigantic moon last night was mirrored by an equally gargantuan-appearing, rosy sun dawning over Austin this morning.

We got up while it was still dark, to do the laundry chore, taking close to a month's dirty blankets, towels, and clothes to a nearby laundromat. While Fran was tending the washing machines, I drove over to HEB for coffee (for me) and donuts (for her).

Recent dreaming: In one sequence, I am hoping people will not notice that I am overdue for a shampoo, my hair stiff and dirty, my scalp itchy. After it's been wet down and combed, though, Fran tells me it looks fine.

In another, I am in a barber shop, expecting a traditional haircut. But, instead, the hair stylist gets creative and gives me a modern look, with the hair razor cut and lather-shaved, starting halfway down. There is also a shiny, bracket-looking piece of jewelry neatly imbedded, as if stapled into the bone, on the right side (surprisingly sans blood or pain), at one straight edge of mop, below which, from a line even with the top of my ear, the hair is completely gone, the skin bare and smooth.

On the surface, the meanings of these dreams are not too mysterious. In fact, I needed a shampoo and have noticed my hair is getting a little long. The more modern hair "styling" might indicate a willingness or desire to try new things, to be a little adventurous, with flair and imagination.

Had a pleasant, fun visit with Maria, Sandy, and her husband, Clark, today. Pepper went along for the ride too, since we had, at the time, windy, cool, overcast conditions, so the mutt could be safely left in the car while we ate at a Vietnamese restaurant, Hai Ky. The food was served quickly, reasonably priced, and satisfyingly tasty.

Once back, worked on investments this afternoon and completed an hour of meditation.

1/31/02-Thurs.-Am happy to be today completing my liver cleansing diet. Yea!

For a Canadian-based, online journal with highly intelligent alternatives to George W. "Bush-speak," check out wood s lot. It contains a multitude of thoughtful essays, tributes, and quotations.

Wanting to be realistic in goal-setting, and realizing some of the targets that I'd set myself are not being fully met, am revising them as follows:

  1. On normal agenda days (in town, at home, etc.), a minimum of two hours of sitting meditation will be done. If the normal routine is significantly disrupted occasionally, a minimum of one hour of sitting meditation will be done on that day. Through meditation workshops, readings, enhanced sitting postures, better concentration techniques, commitments with others, etc., efforts will be made to assure that the meditation is of high quality;

  2. Each normal agenda day (in town, at home, etc.), a basic core of exercise is to be done, including two miles of aerobic walking or equivalent or 25 x 4 basic conditioning exercises (weight lifts, leg lifts, pushups, sit-up "crunches") with 15 minutes of exercise bike use at an aerobic workout pace. Besides this core level, daily exercise shall include at least one additional exercise session, equivalent to at least thirty minutes of raking, mowing, digging, swimming, walking, bicycling, kayaking, or strengthening exercises with weights, i.e. using appropriate weights for a workout of about ½ hour for upper torso and upper extremity conditioning, such as 100 slow repetitions of weights lifting, with extensions and flexions, lifting, lowering, etc. On disrupted agenda days or when significantly ill, the above regimen shall be appropriately modified, but usually with still at least one mile of walking or ½ of the regular core conditioning exercise session. Besides exercise, stress will be placed on good health practices generally;

  3. Other areas for continued emphasis in retirement, investing, writing, and social, will each be given its due but without specific daily or other targets.

The intention is that the above guidelines will not be further revised. They may, of course, be exceeded, but should be seen as the bare minimum for my maintaining a balanced, vital, and active life.

Today I did complete two hours of meditation, two miles of aerobic walking (with Fran and Pepper - the sky awesome with colors of clouds and background an amazingly dramatic and stunning mix of blues with grays), and a half-hour of digging and planting in the backyard. Also made some more headway with our investments, picked up a prescription, played with the mutt, took the mail, and did more searching for online diarist meditators. Wound up the day with some radio, TV, reading, and the final stages of my pre-blood test diet (appointment tomorrow).

Fran got home about 5:40 PM and prepared several outside plants for a predicted new freeze tonight.

My first retirement annuity check arrived in today's mail. Yippee!

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