THE OTHER SIDE OF EDEN: LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK
5. Naropa Nights
The first time I saw John, I was sitting in the audience waiting for Rinpoche to show up for his lecture. Playing to the crowd's fevered anticipation of his black Mercedes pulling up to the curb, he was notorious for arriving often an hour late. The frenzy wasn't just about him. There was an equal amount of concern about who was seen with whom. There was enough artistic glitterati that summer to make every night feel like the Oscars. The beats dressed down and the trust-funders, just back from trekking in Nepal, outdid themselves in ethnic chic.
The magic in the air was never purely spiritual. My irritation with that dynamic grew through the years. I was not there to worship in the cult of Rinpoche's personality. I was intrigued by the man, but I was there to study his teachings, not to fawn at his feet. The unspoken competition and jockeying for position in the scene, as they called it, unnerved me. Later, I would learn that fixation is common in many guru scenes. While Tibetans have been trampled to death waiting to receive a blessing from an exalted lama, Westerners merely play out their high school rivalry for the best outfit and proximity to the cutest jock. I assessed that to be a trait of human nature, but it disturbed me. Not that I'm a saint. I didn't mind being in the thick of it, surrounded and courted by beat poets and tantric playboys. We could have all been standing behind the velvet rope outside Studio 54. There was enough money, hunger, and panache to get us in anywhere. As my marriage was disintegrating, I didn't exactly present myself as unavailable, but coming from a Peyton Place scene where spouse swapping was already rampant, my priorities were different. I was seeking spiritual guidance. If I'd been looking to get laid, I could have stayed home.
We never knew how Rinpoche would manifest. Drunk, wrathful, hysterically funny, or gentle and magnanimous. It would take me years to realize that this uncertainty was the normal plight of all children of alcoholics, or students of alcoholic gurus. The chaos of waiting and not knowing which, Lama Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, would walk through the door, resonated with our habitual anxiety and adrenalin rushes. We figured we must be in the right place.
That night, John made a dramatically late entrance with a wasted, frizzy blonde, goose- faced woman. As they walked through the door, John hauled off and kicked her in the shin. She winced with masochistic delight, whining in protest.
"What a charming couple," I muttered. Shocked and repulsed, I made a mental note to find out who the sadist was.
Friends were quick to point out that was John Steinbeck IV, as if knowing made them hip. He and his brother, Thom, were fixtures at the picturesque Victorian red-brick Boulderado Hotel down the street. In fact, someone told me they owned Le Bar, the tiny bistro off the lobby. I wondered why on earth Steinbeck's sons would end up owning a bar in a Colorado college town. Did they lack imagination or education?
Later that week, I ended up at Le Bar. The room was the size of a closet, with space for maybe five tables. It was the place to go after Rinpoche's talks, so it was packed that night. You would have thought it was Warhol's Factory, the way people were carrying on, with those peculiar bright flashes glinting off their self-consciousness about being some place special. When I saw John again and someone pointed out Thom, I got an immediate hit off the brothers. Suddenly the room and the noise dissolved as a chill ran down my spine. A voice from deep inside said, John Steinbeck was a heartless father. His cruelty has crippled these boys.
I immediately fell into a dialogue with him, as if he were the only person in the room. What dark qualities caused you to ignore your sons and withhold your love? What is the family secret?
John and Thom were thirty-something, arrested little boys, larger than life, drunk, raucous, and center stage. Maybe they did own the bar. Horrified, I watched John deliberately turn over his table on the guy sitting across from him, drinks flying everywhere, broken glass and scotch slopping onto the tiny hexagonal-tiled floor. Again, I was not charmed.
In fact, for the rest of the summer his antics repelled me. He'd always show up late, after Rinpoche had started his talk, so he could make an entrance. I learned he didn't own Le Bar, but spent so much time in it that people thought he did. Invariably he would raise his hand during the question-and-answer period. To my consternation, Rinpoche would call on him every time. He would go off on a ten-minute monologue that I could never follow because I couldn't get past my irritation with this guy who was so obviously charmed by his own mind and the sound of his voice. (It was uniquely deep and sexy. Paul once said that John's voice sounded like it came directly from his balls. That was before we got together. After that, Paul would have never been so complimentary.) John was always drunk, so his questions would be horribly circuitous.
"Not him again," I hissed to Paul, who was down for a visit. "I hate when he does that."
"No, that cat asks good questions." I was appalled that anyone had the patience to make sense out of John's haze. I only felt exasperation.
Toward the end of summer, on my way to a party, I accidentally bumped into a car parked behind me. It was a new Mercedes and its grill melted like butter. Shaken, I placed my phone number under the wiper blade so the owner could contact me. Upset by the accident, I winced as John gravitated to me instantly as I entered the house. We had never been introduced and this obvious drunk was the last person I felt like encountering. "What a wonderful shirt!" he thundered, grabbing my sleeve. "Where did you get it? It looks handmade. It's fantastic!"
He went on and on about the color and the material, a silky tropical print.
Oh God, what am I going to tell this guy? I got it at the Salvation Army and I'm too flustered to make up a lie. What's Steinbeck's son going to think? That I'm a refugee from the backwoods? Yeah, it's handmade, it's homemade. I paid a dollar for it and he'll probably think I'm just some poor hippie chick from the sticks and oh, I wish he'd just disappear and let me by.
"I got it at the Salvation Army," I confessed, cringing.
"From the Salvation Army? Really? That makes it perfect! You shop at the Sally Ann? That is so hip!"
Suddenly, all my preconceptions stopped. This guy isn't a snobby rich kid. He has no pretensions. He's funky enough to know that shopping at the Salvation Army is hip, not embarrassing. He groks this shirt. He wants to wear it himself!
I slipped past him, looking anxiously for a place to collect myself. I ducked into the powder room and looked in the mirror.
What is going on? Accidents don't happen. That crushed grill meant something. And what a surprise to find out this guy who's been irritating me all summer is one of the more real people I've met in Boulder. He's like a wildcat. His life force is megawatts higher than anyone I've ever met.
Bewildered, I felt a strange energy welling up inside me. I recognized fear, but there was a deeper feeling of seeing my future flash in front of me. Sheathed in banter, his sharp claws had swiped clean through me. I didn't know that I had just experienced Johnny's most memorable talent, the uncanny ability to meet your mind. He could stop you in your tracks, like a tiger leaping out from its triple-canopy cover. That is what Rinpoche had been talking about. You're going along with this great discursive story line about your life, and you encounter these mind stoppers and suddenly there's a huge gap in what you've been telling yourself about your world. The secret was to explore the virgin territory in that gap, where you can find your true essence, stripped of affectation and false beliefs.
John had terrified me. I left the party and deliberately avoided him for four more years.
Reluctantly, as Naropa ended and the boys of summer fled Boulder, I returned to British Columbia in August 1975. My world had been blown apart, not only by the young Tibetan renegade, but by lovers and new friends. I could not wait to get back to Boulder. I told Paul I was moving there, with or without him. Weary of lazy, posing hippies, and starved by seven years of austerity and cultural isolation, I wanted to return to civilization, running water, and electricity. Paul had connected with Rinpoche during his visits and was eager to come with me. We sold the horses and chickens, boarded up the house, loaded up the kids, and by Thanksgiving we had moved to a cottage in the mountains above Boulder.
Paul and I survived four years while I progressed in the study and practice of Buddhism. He found a lucrative job selling cars at a Honda dealership. Soon he was wearing three- piece suits and making outrageous amounts of money. We lost our hippie vestiges, drove a brand-new car, and moved to the poshest street in town, across from Rinpoche's mansion.
It wasn't a good life, but there was definitely a thrust to it. Paul's drinking progressed to the point where he was in blackout most nights. He worked fourteen hours a day, six days a week, and watched football when he was home. After our divorce, on Sunday afternoons I'd get phone calls from his second wife, weeping because he forgot her birthday or was ignoring her. It was like looking down a hall of mirrors as I remembered the tears I shed trying to get Paul to relate to the kids and me. I could only sympathize with the heartbreaking bleakness she'd found in him.
I was raised in a family where no one spoke much, which might explain my initial attraction to Paul, who replicated those family dynamics. I never learned how to play with children; no one had ever played or read to me. Raised by a depressed, alcoholic harridan who screamed at me daily for hours, I had few resources for being a loving mother to my children.
My mother, Anna Sommer, had been an intrepid girl reporter in San Francisco during the Depression. The darling of the front page, she chose to abandon her career when she married the handsome crime reporter who wrote at the desk opposite hers. Coincidently, they both worked at the San Francisco News when that paper hired Steinbeck to research migrant workers in the San Joaquin Valley, which later became material for The Grapes of Wrath.
Like Steinbeck, my father tried to cage the bird. Both men were left with unhappy, creatively repressed women who turned to alcohol and bitterness in order to metabolize their unfortunate choices. Anna was forty years old when I was born; my childhood spanned the years between her raging PMS and menopause. Later, I discovered I had been molested as a baby by my father, until the age of three.
I desperately tried not to replicate those hideous family dynamics. I loved my children deeply and when I saw the fantastically creative, joyous parenting skills John exhibited when he met Megan and Michael, I knew we had a shot at ending generations of dysfunctionality. I learned how to just be with the kids, to hang out with ease. He had a way of making you feel so cozy, like there was nothing he'd rather be doing than lying around, making jokes, being silly, telling stories. He called us The Etruscans, like those you see on vases, in various states of repose.
"It's Giggle-Snort Time," he'd announce, patting the bed. "Come on up. Let's cuddle. Let's pack!" And the kids and I would be like dogs, lying around with those goofy grins on their faces when they pant, relaxed and happy. I think he must have learned it from Gwyn, who had a fabulous sense of humor. John and Thom inherited her comedic genius, with rubber faces, noises, and wicked, pee-your-pants monologues.
In the scene, a woman's catchet was based on a pretty face and her gameness. When asked to take a series of high-profile jobs, I went along for the ride. I started working at the Naropa Bookstore, selling dharma books, along with various Oriental tchotchkes like Japanese ikebana vases for flower arrangement, incense, and Tibetan iconography. Rinpoche encouraged the study of various oriental arts, painting, archery, and calligraphy. His wife, Diana, was training for the Olympics in dressage, and I took lessons at her equestrian academy. She was the only woman ever accepted at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, where she rode the famed white Lipizzaner stallions.
Rinpoche began urging me to attend his annual seminary. To be eligible, you had to sit a dathun, thirty days of rigorous meditation, from 6:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night. They were held at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center, our rugged land in the Northern Colorado foothills. During those fifteen hours, participants were instructed to practice Functional Talking, things like "Please pass the salt." You also had to do a ten-day retreat in an isolated cabin. Retreatants spoke to no one, except for a visit from a meditation instructor, usually a guy who tried to seduce the women. Without saying a word, there's a way you can let them know you're not interested.
Meditating for ten hours a day, I loved the solitude. I took long walks in the back country. Once I ran into a horse in a frozen field and we stood looking at each other, lost in white silence.
You could roam all over the Rockies up there and no one would ever find you. My heart was still in the wilderness then. The seclusion was delicious. Ten minutes later though, back in the cabin, I'd be dreaming about a steak dinner at the roadhouse in the little town an hour away. My mind bounced around; one minute I'd be raving on about how much I love being alone, and the next I'd be sobbing out of loneliness. Someone carved ALONE above the door, and someone else put a B in front and a Y at the end so it also read BALONEY. That said it all about how the mind works.
Having fulfilled the prerequisite classes, dathuns, and retreats, I was ready to attend seminary. Each year, seminary was held at a different deserted-for-the-season hotel willing to accept revenues from four hundred Buddhists who could pay well for the facilities. Vajradhatu, the Buddhist organization, had not found a hotel yet. I remembered passing Chateau Lake Louise with Paul one winter, boarded up like something out of The Shining. I suggested it as a possibility to Rinpoche and shortly after there was a phone call from him saying they'd gotten the place.
There were usually three hundred and fifty students and a staff of fifty older students who did all the teaching, administration, and cooking. Although Rinpoche's lectures and the classes were the framework, the primary focus of seminary was on partying and sleeping around. If a husband or wife went alone, they would invariably have multiple affairs. John used to say, "You could power all of New York City on the calories it takes to sweat out those three months, if you happened to be the one who stayed home." Those who remained faithful, and therefore abnormal in our jaundiced eyes, were often miserable and lonely. Monogamy was an anathema. Couples who attended together (and didn't sneak around behind each other's backs) were considered pitifully enmeshed. They treated parents who brought their children like lepers, and relegated them to a separate dining room. It all seemed blissfully acceptable then, but now I shudder at the unspoken dynamics of our cruise through the sexual revolution.
Recent studies about cults show that control is gained by the encouragement of either celibacy or promiscuity. Rinpoche implied that extramarital affairs were a direct path to enlightenment. His underlings claimed the practice of monogamy was foreign to Tibetans, as was jealousy. That is simply not true. When John and I later lived in Kathmandu, I watched the wives of lamas who fooled around. I saw the women's wistful pain.
As our role model, our guru had a wife and a different woman every night. If a student were upset, sometimes Rinpoche would tell him to either meditate, drink, or get laid, as if any of the three would liberate equally. It was a razor's edge that cut both ways. We were supposed to be ridding ourselves of clinging ego trips in order to cultivate detachment. The desire for stability, trustworthiness, and peace of mind was dismissed as unenlightened weakness. Eventually, like many women who survived the sexual revolution, I woke up to the insanity. When I found fulfillment in John, I had no need to wander outside my marriage to satisfy my intellectual, emotional, and physical appetites, as I did with Paul.
Rinpoche did not attract me; I refused his advances. I had enough men in my life. Right from the start, Johnny and I decided we were through with affairs. "When your wife sleeps with the guru, you both get screwed," he'd laugh. Other men paled in comparison to John, so there was never any temptation. Ironically, it took someone as outrageous as him to tame me.
A month before my departure for Lake Louise, I started to make arrangements for the children, whom I would be leaving for ten weeks. I found a nanny to care for Megan and Michael, who were six and nine years old at the time. I worried about leaving them alone for three months. If I knew then what I have since learned about child development or realized how much they'd miss me, I would never have gone. Rinpoche encouraged us to cultivate detachment toward our children, another mark of a cult. My meditation instructor once accused me of hiding behind my kids when I refused to leave them with baby-sitters and do volunteer work. You were supposed to practice meditation, attend classes, and then do a lot of feudal peasant-type work for the organization "in order to progress along the path." I hated working for no pay, and I did use the kids as an excuse to avoid answering phones or stuffing envelopes at the community center. They acted as if the more enlightened you became, the better the volunteer jobs would be.
Rinpoche succeeded in the monumental undertaking of transplanting Vajrayana Buddhism from Tibet to the West. However, the foundation of his practical experience was based on a primitive, patriarchal, monastic tradition that was completely ignorant of Western values. Wisely, he didn't try to force us into the narrow confines of a monastic lifestyle, as some gurus did. Instead, he created a secular practice. Unfortunately, he presented himself as an authority on areas over which he had no expertise, such as child rearing and family dynamics. We blindly followed the piper. His dalliance with Western pharmaceuticals soon blossomed into full-fledged addiction that clouded his judgment. Although his drinking and sexual exploits were never kept secret, his staggering coke habit was well concealed from his students. Huge mistakes, too many broken hearts, far too much abuse would all trickle down like toxic rain on the heads of those children we so blithely left at home. Having no idea what lay ahead, I was on my way back to Canada, completely unaware that my life was to change forever.
As was John's, who was coming from a Hollywood burnout, where he pretended to make movies, but was really doing not much more than drinking a fifth of scotch a day to cover up a burgeoning inadequacy. He was beginning to notice that his youth was flying away and things would never again come as easily. Of course, he had to arrive fashionably three days late to create a stir. I was walking through the dining room after class and saw him huddled in a corner with Johnny Meyer, another infamous bad boy with an equally wild reputation for breaking hearts. They had their heads together, snickering. I took one look at the energy between them and thought, Damn John for being here. He is going to ruin everything.
Johnny Meyer's room was directly across from mine and John spent a lot of time there. When I'd walk down the hall to my room, they'd invariably emerge from Johnny's. I dreaded meeting them. John would always ogle me and I felt uncomfortable. His glances were penetrating. They conjured up the fear he'd sparked in me four years earlier when he grabbed my shirt. His reputation did intrigue me, however, so I'd send back a wash of coolness mixed with hostility that said I dare you. I never gave much thought to his famous father; I sensed he had been cut from his roots, orphaned.
Johnny Meyer's father owned the first failed California S&L. He and John Steinbeck IV had haplessly adapted an idle rich lifestyle. They were black sheep scions, wealthy when the inheritance checks came in but comfortable sleeping in gutters when the money ran out. Those funds, combined with their alcoholism, prevented them from ever getting their lives together. Cynical about their birthrights, John and Johnny were unimpressed by wealth or fame. The knife cut both ways; they had also turned their backs on tremendous advantages. They shared the disapproval of their successful fathers as well. Johnny's family was extravagantly eccentric. He once gave their pet chimpanzee a hit of acid. After that, the chimp attacked him on sight.
The first month of seminary was lonely. I ran the bookstore that sold textbooks, so I met a lot of people and I knew everyone's name. I flirted a lot. Flirting was encouraged in the scene. "Flirt to be real," Rinpoche often said. We would dally after his late-night lectures, a prelude to going upstairs to your room or his room, if one of you could get rid of your roommate. A chosen few had rooms of their own. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I discovered I was one of those. Students who had major responsibilities like running the bookstore got preferential treatment.
There is a traditional party at seminary between the Hinayana and Mahayana periods of study. By the end of the Hinayana session, which emphasized individual salvation and the solitary path of a yogi, students are notoriously ready to break loose from the discipline of no drinking, functional talking, hours of sitting meditation and memorization. They bussed us into the nearby town of Banff for the day, where we could shop and have our minds blown by the real world. The plan was to meet at a disco that evening and then be bussed back to the Chateau.
I felt dressed to kill in red that night, dancing with abandon. Breathless, I sat at one of the tables to rest for a second. I'd closed my eyes and when I looked up, there was John standing above me. "You're really hot, Mrs. Harper," he said with a twinkle. Flustered, I recalled the last time he'd accosted me over my Salvation Army shirt. Oh, God, is he going to start in again? What does he mean by "hot"? What does he want? Why can he reduce me to a driveling idiot?
"It is rather warm," I said defensively.
"No, I mean hot, like the best dancer here. Don't you know every man watching you has a hard-on?"
Blushing, I laughed into his eyes. Then he made a very peculiar and symbolic gesture that always touched us in later years. He knelt beside me and buried his head in my lap. He left it there. What is this? What do I do now? Suddenly, coyness and flirtation dissolved. The room disappeared. I found my hand stroking his hair and then his back. It was just the two of us, with time stretching infinitely. This man needs your love in order to fulfill his destiny.
Delirious for a few seconds, I had no idea what hit me. Later, John's brother, Thom, told me that when knights surrender their colors to their fair ladies -- Lancelot to Guinevere -- they kneel and bury their heads in their beloved's lap. An ancient chord of memory was struck between John and me, of many shared lifetimes and the thread of a common myth that ran through them all. It was a sacred gesture met with deep emotion, a symbol of our eternal love.
Then John asked me to dance, which surprised me. I thought he'd be way too cool for disco gyrations. I was right, he basically stood in one spot and held me, pinning my eyes with his twinkle. Several times, guys would try to cut in but he refused to let go of me. I could tell music affected his senses, which I took as a good sign.
And then, as if we were on overload, we parted. He went back on his assigned bus and I went over to mine and chose to sit alone in the last row. Staring out at the night sky, the moonlight on snow mountains, the laden fir trees flying by, I suddenly felt an unearthly sweetness sweep over me. I thought about love all the way home, love as a sacred emotion, love of sentient beings, bodhisattva love. I wasn't really thinking about John specifically, just the spiritual ideal and definition of love.
During the next several days I decided to check John out before I made any decisions. Watching him walk across the shrine room one rainy afternoon I sensed that this guy has seen war. He's seen death. He is uncomfortable only with life. There is deep despair in him and there is a quest. I sensed shame, vulnerability, and abundant humor. I wanted him.
Fortunately, I was not predatory by nature, and I soon learned that John did not respect aggressive females. For the past decade, his feminine ideal had been a lovely older Vietnamese woman whom he'd met in Saigon. She was a recurring compensatory fantasy when his girlfriends became insane reflections of his drunken mother's tirades and promiscuity. He valued demureness, grace, and reticence in a woman. "I have never been so drawn to a woman since Thao," he proclaimed six months later, and I knew I had won his heart.
Every afternoon, I could feel John watching me from the hotel lobby as I chatted with customers in the bookstore. Sometimes he'd come in and leaf through the books, eavesdropping on my patter. "You had a fast mouth and an easy laugh. I knew you were my kind of girl."
A few nights later, John walked up to me while I was seated at the tables and flashed his most charming smile. "Do you have a quarter I could borrow? I promise to return it at two o'clock this morning in your room!" He told me later that he thought that was a pretty good line and sometimes it even worked. Bemused, I gave him a quarter, chuckling, "Don't bother waking me up." Whereas all the other guys' come-ons were painfully awkward, John's teasing was intoxicating. There was something deeply sensitive about him, simultaneously vulnerable and wary. Intrigued, I silently let him know it would be safe to come closer.
The next afternoon I was selling tickets to the formal banquet as part of my bookstore gig. I was seated behind a table in the lobby when I looked up and saw John standing in line. It was an event where people were encouraged to go as couples. He's the only one I want to go with. He approached me with that seductive grin.
"Since you're selling the tickets, I'll only buy one if you will be my date."
The banquet was a week away. I was delirious with anticipation. A few nights later I was sitting at the tables in the dining room, where everyone gathered after Rinpoche's talks. A guy named Gordon asked me if I wanted to go for a walk but I declined. John must have been listening. He strolled over and said, "I hope you don't turn me down for our date the way you just turned Gordon down for that walk."
"Not a chance," I laughed. "In fact, let's go!" The icy path around Lake Louise was slippery, so I had to hold on to his arm. The magic was instant. He clowned around and teased me. We laughed till we were dizzy. As I clung to him, he pressed my arm with every step. We were tight from the start. There was no awkwardness, no sense of getting to know him. It was easy and familiar and delicious. We made friends quickly and deeply. This man has an enormous heart.
I was wearing a red fox jacket and he asked me what kind of fur it was. When I told him, he took me in his arms and laughed, "You're my fox!"
"I called my grandmother and told her where I'll be for the next two months," he announced.
"Lake Louise?" she'd shouted. "That's where I spent my honeymoon. What the hell are you doing there? There is nothing to do there but fuck!" John painted a picture of her flamboyance, this maternal grandmother who seemed to be on very intimate terms with him, but he never mentioned his parents or brother. I didn't ask. We laughed a lot about the personalities of our fellow seminarians and discovered that the same traits irked us in similar ways. Though he could make merciless fun of the ones he called "pompous asses," his warmth, his capacity for intimacy, his unpretentiousness and spontaneity were startling.
As he walked me to my room, I wondered if he'd try to come in and what would follow. I really wanted to savor the courtship and apparently he did, too. He kissed me briefly and left me at the door. I was charmed by that old-fashioned touch. Later he would confide: "I wanted you to feel respected. You were, after all, a lady. I was very proud of my restraint." Considering that his friends had dubbed him "The Sex Czar," I was flattered that he hadn't tried to make me a notch on his belt.
We were assigned jobs on the day of the banquet. I purposely found myself in the kitchen with John, who was washing pots. I heard the conversations going on around him. One woman asked, "What's it like to be the son of a famous father?" I didn't hear his monosyllabic answer, but I sensed his discomfort. I was tearing up mounds of lettuce, lost in a bracero fantasy of the Salinas Valley. My mother was born in Monterey and we vacationed regularly in Carmel. I'd spent college summers living in Big Sur and loved Steinbeck Country with a passion. Although I had a million stories about my experiences there, I didn't mention them on our walk around Lake Louise. I'd played guitar with Jerry Garcia and Pigpen in the Salinas Greyhound bus station when we were in high school. I'd met movie stars and famous writers in Big Sur, but John and I didn't need to play name games. More than anything, he needed to be appreciated for being uniquely himself. I wished he could be in that kitchen without having his father dragged in. It was my first hint of how tiresome those encounters were for him. Through the years, as I watched hundreds of people ask that same question of John, I deplored their rudeness. Raised with a sense of old-world manners, I had been taught and learned on my own to treat fame as an unmentionable, like an affliction, or wealth.
During my seventeenth summer, when I worked at the Big Sur Inn, I often hitchhiked down to the hot springs, now known as Esalen, twenty miles south. One afternoon, an anorexically thin woman struck up a conversation with me as we sat in the baths. She asked about the local guys, whom she'd classified as mountain men types. I explained that they were mostly wounded loners, except for Henry Miller, who visited the inn on his motorcycle, and the guy I was madly in love with, who claimed to be the son of a French viscount. When she found out that I was hitching back to the Big Sur Inn, she offered to drive me. That was back in the days when they taped new car registrations to your window. As I was getting into her yellow Mercedes convertible, I noticed her name.
"You didn't tell me you were Jane Fonda!"
"You wouldn't have talked to me so freely if you'd known," she laughed.
Later that summer, as I wandered out on the patio on my afternoon break, I discovered a very attractive older man waiting to be served. When I offered to get him a cup of coffee, he asked me to join him. We sat for ages, talking about his race cars and what it was like to be seventeen in Big Sur. I went inside to get more coffee and my coworkers swarmed around me to ask what I'd been talking about with Steve McQueen. I was surprised, but when I joined him again, I never let on that I'd found out who he was.
Several days later, he returned for dinner with Jackie Gleason and Tuesday Weld. They had been filming Soldier in the Rain in Monterey. Tuesday asked me to give her a tour of the grounds, and Steve left me a huge tip. I never acknowledged their identity. Kim Novak became a regular and she, too, just wanted to be treated like one of us. Those experiences helped me cut through the awe that others felt about John. He seemed so alone, devoid of any connection to his father; all I could see was the pain it brought up.
Just before we left the kitchen, a guy staggered in. He drunkenly begged me to go to the banquet with him. John heard the commotion and came over. "Cool it, David. I'm taking her."
"Aw, come on, John. Let her go with me. I see this woman in the shrine room and she drives me crazy."
I sensed David's outburst was an omen and an indication of John's burden, which would eventually become mine. Over the years, people constantly tried to cross the boundaries of our relationship. I watched countless men and women get swept away by the headiness of charisma and fame. Forgetting their own good qualities and accomplishments, they wanted to become John or me.
I sang "Some Enchanted Evening" in the shower before I slipped into the long strapless silver evening gown that Megan called the "mermaid dress." We'd agreed to meet in the lobby, where everyone was gathered. I spotted John, elegant in his tuxedo, across the crowded room. I started to walk toward him but before I reached him, Sarah, my meditation instructor, strode up and hissed, "Be careful of John. He'll break your heart." I slipped away from her. I don't think so. He's going to marry me.
As if he'd overheard, another guy caught me and said, "John won't marry you. He has a girlfriend in Boulder."
"You're wrong, Ashley. Dead wrong," I laughed and flitted away.
That night set up an F. Scott Fitzgerald-type ambience that followed us through seminary and then for the rest of our lives together. Partly, the magnificent old Canadian Railway hotel and mostly John's old-fashioned style of courtship created a fabulous, romantic setting. We found ourselves in a long dreamy corridor of rapture, so deep was our enchantment. His charm, his wit, his urbane manners were hypnotic. We lingered in the lobby hours after the banquet was over, wrapped in each other's minds. People would join us and drift off, sensing the elegant web we were weaving between us. Toward dawn, we wandered up to my room. He sat on the bed and began telling me about his blonde seven- year-old daughter, Blake, whom he hadn't seen since she was two. He spoke about her birth in Vietnam, how he'd mixed her baby formula with water from the Mekong River. I was surprised to discover he was a father. He obviously had deep paternal feelings toward her, and a great deal of pain about the separation.
Something about the way he spoke of his daughter touched me to the core of my maternal instincts. I knew this man would become the father of my children even though they were already born. And something at that core told me to get naked and take that man into my bed without wasting another precious second. The silver mermaid dress slid to the floor.
A seminary is traditionally ten weeks long. We fell in love with six weeks to go. Johnny moved in with me immediately and our room became a source of great curiosity. We were supposed to get up early and meditate all morning, which I usually did, but he slept till noon. While everyone ate lunch in the dining room, I would fix a tray for us and sneak up to the room. He loved waking up that way.
Candles, music, and sensuous delights were wasted on Paul, but John was enthralled. As a teenager, he fantasized about having a wife like Myrna Loy's Nora Charles in the Thin Man movies -- intelligent, savvy, and insouciant. "You're a real man's woman," he'd crow with delight. Mystified by the girl-next-door appeal, I feared it led to a sexless marriage. My Russian blood and a steady diet of French and Italian movies created a more global sense of glamour for me. I did not fight the battle to become liberated simply to slap a girdle on the soft curves of true intimacy. Johnny and I were both romance junkies. We had a knack for making the world go away, especially in hotel rooms. We'd get so far out that an elevator ride to the real world was culture shock.
At seminary, after we'd finished eating, we'd stick the trays outside the door, as though we were expecting room service to pick them up. There was no room service, only fellow Buddhists who prepared the food and washed the dishes. Eventually we would carry the trays back down to the kitchen. Sometimes there were several stacked outside our door. We rapidly established the reputation that we were way too busy doing other things in that room to engage in mundane activities like taking the trays downstairs, let alone leave the bed.
We talked up a storm through languid, velvet nights and glorious dawns. I couldn't even stop to sleep. No one had ever talked to me like that, so intimately, with such depth. And the laughter! John made me giggle hysterically, especially at myself. After class, we could hardly wait to get back in the bed, make love, and start talking all over again. Endless stories, infinite comparing of notes taken on life. Theories, poetry, quick sketches of people we saw every day. It was as if we'd seen things out of the same eyes before we even met.
We drove the guys crazy on the other sides of the walls. They couldn't sleep because we never shut up. Sometimes at three in the morning, Johnny would shout a Martin Luther King-esque "I have a dream. I have a dream." It would echo down the hallway. That would usually elicit thumps on the wall from our neighbors but we were too convulsed in our giggles to hear or care. Ordinarily, I would have cared. But something had come over me and for the first time in my life I ignored all constraints. Johnny's insouciance made me feel deliciously wicked, totally alive. His love made me feel immortal. Experts make all kinds of predictions now about how long that heightened sense lasts in a relationship, but after twelve years of constantly being together, it never died. He always had the marvelously nurturing ability to wrap me in his arms and make me feel like a well-loved baby. There was a maternal tenderness about him that left me breathless.
On the morning before our first date for the banquet, I was standing behind the door to the meditation room, signing in, when John and Johnny Meyer walked by. They didn't see me. John started singing "Putting on My Top Hat" and he did a Fred Astaire soft-shoe for a few seconds before walking into the shrine room. I melted into a puddle. He had a black and white, forties movie-type charm, straight out of an art deco Manhattan apartment set, with a curved staircase and ice tinkling in crystal goblets. It was partly due to the way he'd been raised, but also he had an innate grace, an aristocratic nobility. His magnetism was extraordinarily captivating.
Our room became a gathering place for the curious, lonely, and sociable at odd hours, any hours. They said it was like a cross between visiting John and Yoko's Bed-In and the set of Tom Jones. By keeping the window open a crack, we created a windowsill refrigerator, complete with Brie, fresh fruit, and champagne. People commented that they'd never seen a couple have so much fun falling in love.
When we'd make the bed together, we'd start to feel sad, knowing the pink cloud would dissolve at the end of seminary. "I've never missed someone before saying goodbye," he'd say. "It's such a peculiar emotion. We've got to figure out a way to continue this in the real world." We weren't sure we could. He worried about breaking up my family and I waited demurely for him to ask if it were possible.
There were ominous notes, which I chose to ignore. One night I had gone back up to the room to study during a movie. I heard John and Johnny Meyer going into Johnny's room several times during those two hours. I couldn't figure out what they kept coming up there for, and then it dawned on me. How could I have forgotten their reputation? They were refilling their glasses. A chill crept over my heart. I recognized compulsion for the first time in my life and it scared me. But, what did I know? Did that mean John would be compulsive tomorrow? Foolishly, I thought probably not, because I loved him enough. Back then, we thought only skid-row bums were alcoholics; we knew nothing about the syndrome. It took three more years before I was driven to educate myself about alcoholism. By then, I had learned the hard way that women who are raised in alcoholic families continue to replicate the patterns of abuse until the cycle is broken through education about the disease.
Rinpoche had imposed a rule against drinking during those first two weeks, so I fell in love with a sober John. When the sanction was lifted, Johnny Meyer sang prophetically to me "call him irresponsible ... " as we walked down the hall behind John. He was trying to warn me. Another friend asked why I was contemplating replacing a husband who worked constantly and drank on the weekends with a man who drank constantly but didn't work. I honestly didn't make the connection. I was so in love with John that I thought he would just naturally change if I asked him to.
Whenever we had an anniversary or on Valentine's Day for all the years to follow, we would repeat the litany of those events. It was the beginning of our myth, and it is in the beginning of every legend that tells a story of love.
"Remember when I came down the stairs and saw you? My heart jumped so violently I staggered?" he'd ask me. "Remember all the dawns, the rapture, the raps? Remember the time we were sitting with a group and someone said it's really hard to let go of an affair if the sex is particularly good."
"It's impossible," I had said, ruefully.
"I was shocked that you knew about the prison of great sex in a miserable relationship," he said later.
"It takes one to know one," I shrugged.
We discovered we had funny little things in common, like feeling anxious if there were no lemons in our room. "You never know when you might want to make the odd veal piccata," he'd muse. We were astonished at the subtle depths and amazing heights of our twinship.
John told me endless stories about his past. While he never spoke directly about the war, he spoke of his deep connection with the Vietnamese people. One time, he saw a bomb explode, cutting a peasant woman nearly in half. John held her as the life flowed out of her. He noticed a flicker of embarrassment because her body was exposed. Gently, he told her she was dying and to forget her modesty. That great generosity was the essence of John. When you woke up in the morning with him, you didn't feel like you had to rush out of bed to put on makeup and brush your teeth, acting like you barely had a body. Through the years, he'd often exclaim, "Look at you, without a speck of makeup. You are so fresh and gorgeous! I'm so glad you're not one of those women who thinks she has to put on a face in order to wake up next to me!" When a man whispers words like that, he holds your heart.
Throughout the hotel, the constant question became "What's going to happen after we leave here?" Many of us had been transformed by seminary affairs which were notoriously short-lived beyond those cloistered walls. Though John had a girlfriend in every port, he swore they meant nothing to him. As he revealed his romantic history, I realized he had never been alone for long. This was due in part to his mystique, but he also had a desperate need for a love object.
Thom tells the story of a sad winter day when Johnny walked into Le Bar after a fight with a girlfriend. Forlorn, he pulled up a stool, reached into his pocket, carefully placed a baggie on the counter and stared at it. Inside was a Siamese fighting fish, swimming in water.
"What's up with that?" Thom asked.
"It's the only love object left in my life," John said mournfully.
I had been trying desperately to accept the conditions of my marriage when I arrived at seminary, coming to the pitiful conclusion that perhaps I should quit asking for more than the kitty litter I got from Paul. Maybe this is all I can expect. If the Buddha says the basic fabric of life is suffering, then I must be doing the right thing, because suffering is my middle name. Long-Suffering.
And then I met John, who filled all the neglected spaces so beautifully. He wanted to be with me. He loved being with me. He made me laugh, and best of all he got me to laugh at myself. His communicative gifts heightened the horror of Paul's grunts, snarls, and psychotic moods. When I saw the vast discrepancy between what the two offered me, I was determined to leave Paul. I had to create a space for John to join me and the children.
''I'm going to have a very exciting life and I want you to share it with me," he said. "Am I going to have to try to extract you from your family like a dentist pulling a tooth?" I promised him it would be easy. Beyond hope and fear, of which there were plenty, I could not imagine living one day away from him. It astounded him that I could make that leap with so little conflict, until he realized how starved I was in my marriage.
One afternoon, Rinpoche invited all the parents to bring their children to the shrine room for a blessing. Johnny and I watched the expressions, especially on the babies and toddlers. After it was over, alone in the elevator we exchanged a look that said it all. My children were already John's. Paul could never give me this new level of affection and intimacy, and I would never again settle for less. Later that evening, at the hotel shop, he bought little gifts for me to take home to Megan and Michael. among them toy birch-bark canoes, which he lovingly oiled so they would last in the bathtub.
Johnny had been deeply disappointed by other women. Concerned that I might change my mind once we were back in the real world, I sensed toward the end that he was preparing a tough skin. One morning, Paul called my room. John stormed out, slamming the door. I found him in the kitchen, pouring a glass of milk. He didn't want to admit he was jealous, so I let it go.
On the last night, I started packing while John was making the rounds, saying good-bye to friends. Johnny Meyer stopped by my room, looking totally freaked out.
"It's awful," he moaned. "Everyone is becoming who they were before they got here. It's like the pod people are taking over."
I knew he was right. I could feel it in myself. He was such an eccentric, Little Prince kind of guy. He told me he used to let himself in my room and watch me sleep because it gave him comfort. I never felt violated. He lived in another realm. That's why he was able to join me and John so easily during those precious early days.
It isn't just financial independence that lets you live outside the mundane world. It's a mind-set. It can be artistic genius; it can be criminal; it can be addictive, spiritual, or idly rich. Even before we met, John and I lived in a separate reality, another dimension. For the first time in our lives, we could share our private realms rather than hiding the heartbreak of our loneliness. He could take me along to the heights and depths of his fantasies. He was delighted to be transported into mine. That relief was tremendously liberating, like discovering a playmate who speaks your secret language after a lifetime of silence. We both knew this was not to be taken lightly.
Through the years we became convinced that we were part of a larger soul, a perfect circle, Siamese twins of the heart, our fates stamped with the same sealing wax. Both Geminis, eternally bound by admiration, respect, and awe. No matter how volatile our relationship became, there was always a shining polestar that would guide us back to our bedrock of unconditional love. "Ye thuong," John would croon to me. That's Vietnamese for "easy to love."
''I'm going to die first!" he'd tease.
"No," I'd protest. "I want to die first! Why should you be the lucky one?"
"Because you could live without me, but I could never live without you."
John and I developed a velcro twinspeak of language and vision. Through the years, Michael and Megan joined in our silliness, our private language and childlike play. That lovely gift of whimsy, which John inherited from his father, cemented our fractured family years after John's death. Although the kids now live two hours away from my house, we still find time almost daily to be zany on the telephone. Playful interchanges with adult children keep them hanging around for other things as well, like your interpretation of life's complexities. Before going out, we still say very solemnly to our dog, "Watch good the house," just as Steinbeck would say to Charley. We continue the Steinbeck tradition of anthropomorphizing our pets to a ridiculous point, carrying on conversations with them, dressing them in outlandish outfits. That joyous laughter, never heard when Paul was around, is the most precious legacy John left us.
The last night of seminary, I poured John's clothes into his suitcases. We watched the dawn crown pink glaciers reflected in the morning glory lake. Clinging to each other, we prayed that our tender web would keep us connected after we dispersed like the Tibetan tent culture we emulated. Soon Chateau Lake Louise would be claimed by the tourists who'd peered in the windows and wondered what we were up to. After three months in that magical "Canadian Sunset" realm, we were all afraid to return to the real world and its wheel of monotony. John and I were particularly anxious because we wanted to be together, but we didn't quite believe we deserved it or that we could pull it off. In our hearts, like the song, we believed we'd see each other again, after fire and rain, and when we did, we would be just as close.
Johnny left early in the morning on a bus to the Calgary airport. I had to stay for several more days to break down the bookstore. I fell asleep to numb the pain of separation and freeze-dry the warmth of our bed. In the afternoon I went reluctantly down to the hotel lobby, dreading to see the changes. The silk-brocade shrine was dismantled. Our blissful, hermetically sealed world had disappeared, leaving only a garish floral pattern on the long empty stretch of carpet and the bright glare of glaciers outside.
John had promised to meet me in Boulder soon. I could tell he was terrified, already hardening himself to the possibility that I might write off our interlude as a fling and return to Paul, who was driving up to Canada in a new Mercedes he'd bought to woo me back. Paul had heard about my affair with John and he was trying to Band-Aid the past years of conflict. When we first met, he was a pistol, full of ideals and a natural leader. Excessive drinking had turned him cantankerous, killing my love for him. I had wanted to leave him for the past nine years, but I was afraid of being financially on my own; I wanted to stay at home to raise Megan and Michael. When John offered me a way out, I did not question whether I was going straight from the frying pan into his flame.
The ride back to Boulder with Paul was excruciating, except for listening to rock and roll after three months. John had warned me "that kind of media abstinence makes Barry Manilow sound like Puccini." Just before we parted, he showed me a New Yorker cartoon. Under a picture of a man driving a car and a woman staring out the passenger's window in abject despondency, the caption read: "Irreconcilable differences."
"Is it going to be like that?" he asked. It was, for a thousand miles, except the times Paul exploded. When it got particularly ugly, I called John and asked him to talk to Paul. John was terrifically cool. "Calm down and be a man about it," he told Paul. "You've got seven hundred miles ahead of you. Make sure you both arrive in one piece." Testosterone met testosterone and Paul listened.
Megan and Michael had missed me sorely. My absence took a toll on their psyches. They were sensitive, loving children. While I was away, their nanny had nurtured them as best she could, but the separation had traumatized them. I felt terrible; their short lives had already been filled with turmoil from Paul's drinking and our fights. I desperately wanted to give them a better life.
Three weeks later, John came to Boulder to check things out. Although Paul had been warned about our plans, he was not going to give in that easily. I picked John up at the airport, feeling human for the first time since we had parted. We went straight to the Boulderado. After a breathless reunion, he asked me to go to the corner liquor store. I felt like a blues song; my man was back in my arms. Walking barefoot and full of his love, I was on my way to buy him a bottle of booze. My life was complete and I was ready to die to keep it all just like that. When I got back to the room, John announced that he had sent me off on purpose so he could call Paul and arrange to meet him in an hour.
"I don't want to walk around wondering if he's going to attack me with a tire iron. I want to tell him I'm in love with his wife and figure things out, man to man. There's a whole family at stake here and I don't want to be cavalier about it." Impressed with his courage, I wished him luck.
They spent several hours together, while I nervously watched TV in the hotel room. Suppose Paul convinces John I'm a bitch. Tells him about every knockdown fight we've ever had and blames them all on me. It might be all over between us. Suppose they just slug it out and one of them is dead.
When he returned to the room, Johnny was excited. "Baby, you've got great taste in men!" he crowed. They had put on their best bravado and agreed to be chivalrous. Paul could see the kids whenever he wanted, and we'd be one big happy family. Paul told me he went home and cried that night. Our twelve-year marriage was over.
That summer of 1979, back in the real world, I started to see sides of John that I hadn't at seminary. One evening at sunset, we drove to the mountains. He was distant. Sensing a case of cold feet, I burst into tears. "Please have faith in us. I'm not going to hurt you. Or smother you."
"I guess it would be strange if I weren't a little daunted by the prospect of an instant family."
"Hey, I've got the same fears."
"You think I'm going to abandon you in a supermarket aisle while we're shopping for diapers," he teased.
Damn right. Here was this wild cat who had managed to stay unattached for lifetimes in his thirty-odd years and suddenly he was going to be a father and husband? Believing in him more than he did, I knew we could do it, especially when he met Megan and Michael.
We had gone to the annual Buddhist Mid-Summer's Day celebration, held in a mountain meadow above Boulder. Since I was staying at the hotel with John, Paul brought the kids. I had wandered off and found them sitting under a tree. Megan was playing with Ganesh, Rinpoche's enormous Tibetan mastiff. She was crooning to him, her fist buried in his drooling black mouth. Suddenly John appeared by my side. He studied them silently for a few minutes. I loved the way he would put his entire being into the Other, as if he were receiving a printout from his intuition.
"Megan's ease with that monstrous dog made a deep impression on me," he said later. "So did your utter lack of concern." It was an auspicious sign to him. Crystal, the mother of his daughter, had been terrified of dogs. "She transmitted that fear to Blake, which really annoyed me."
John was born in the Chinese year of the Fire Dog and he'd had wonderful relationships with them all his life, including his father's Charley. The thought that Crystal had taught his own daughter to fear Fido was a source of consternation.
"If I'd played a stronger role in Blake's life, I could have countered her mother's fear," he said ruefully.
Megan recalls that meeting vividly. "I felt that John was totally interested in me. Not Oh, you're just a kid. I'm going to fake talking to you and then dismiss you. Rather, it was Who are YOU? What are YOU about?" She had experienced her first hit of Johnny's unique style of communion.
After he'd met Michael and Megan, all the pieces fit together. John had fallen in love with my babies. "Your children are Bodhisattvas. Do you know how lucky we are?" I could have wept. While Paul treated them like annoying bugs, John had gazed into their souls.
Things were different the next day, however, when he invited us all to breakfast. They tested him with every bratty kid trick they could pull. They behaved abominably. When he bought a newspaper from a vending box, they caught the door before it shut, ripped out the remaining newspapers, and stood there expecting him to chastise them. He merely turned away and walked into the restaurant, ignoring the bait. They fought over the menus and what to order. Curious to see how he'd handle them, I kept quiet and let him take over.
John responded uniquely. Instead of becoming punitive or critical, he got real cool, with a punkish kind of detachment. He didn't make any ineffectual attempts to control them. They were given plenty of room to test this guy whom they sensed would play a huge role in their lives. He sat there like a papa lion watching his cubs, disinterested but very present. When they saw they weren't going to get a rise out of him, they quit. I had never seen anyone treat kids like that. Along with an appreciation for his parenting skills, I sensed we were in for an interesting ride.
Tibetan Buddhism has a particular level of enlightenment called Ati, which means "Old Dog." At a certain point on the path to enlightenment, the practitioner sees life through the half-raised eye of an old dog, lazing around, thumping his tail occasionally, never very excited. Johnny could be like that. He had seen so much of life and death that nothing really surprised him. I loved his rock-steady confidence.
John asked if I thought it might be best to wait six months before he came to live with us. Touched by his caution about starting a new family, I felt protected by his concern. He had a thoughtful side that treated affairs of the heart with deep respect. His wisdom bound me to him. It felt as if we had done this for lifetimes, danced these steps for thousands of years. The still, calm space in our hearts knew our union was inevitable.
I went home and told Paul he had to find another place to live. John went back to Los Angeles, ostensibly to pursue his "movie career," which, I later discovered, meant he periodically shopped a screenplay around Hollywood, based on his time in Vietnam. I did not know how he spent his days and never thought to ask, having no idea that he drank all night and slept all day and did little else except visit friends. When he began to call me after midnight, obviously drunk, I started to get the picture. But because I knew nothing about alcoholism, no red flags went up; everyone I knew drank excessively. We talked for hours, sometimes till the kids got up. I don't know when I slept. His daily calls were my life's blood. We continued to weave our spells and the magic was saturating the fabric of our souls, leaving us mesmerized and enraptured. The depth of our connection and joy was intoxicating. Megan even picked up on it. She wrote a story for school called "Prince Charming the Fourth."
John's prudence about our relationship felt somewhat incongruous juxtaposed to his free spirit. He came to Boulder several times and started building a relationship with Megan and Michael. As the months passed, he continued to be very precise about laying the ground for the establishment of our family and my new identity. He had escaped a relationship with a neurotic, alcoholic member of the Buddhist community and her two children. He did not want to recreate the devastation from that aborted attempt at family life. While they had lived together, I remembered being at a party at their house. Noticing some rather decent pieces of art hanging on the walls, it struck me that they were a reflection of John's taste, rather than her Midwestern country-club background. A sorrowful yearning welled up inside me for what I had lost in terms of my own upbringing. I had always felt uncomfortable around the ubiquitous mediocrity of the hippie and wanna-be sophisticated Buddhist scenes. Sensing that John had been into literature and art as a way of saving his soul, as I had, I felt a deep camaraderie. If you clung to Beethoven or Thomas Mann, or a certain style of counterpoint, if the hopeful pastels of French Impressionists saved you from teen suicide, then you know the level of culture I'm talking about. It has nothing to do with sofa-sized paintings or season tickets. It is etched in the soul, and the rarity of finding such a kindred spirit eventually bound us even closer.
Living on the dregs of his substantial biannual Steinbeck royalty check, John had neglected to pay the rent on his sublet Los Angeles apartment. He received an eviction notice. I never discussed finances with him, naively thinking that all adults could manage money. When the royalty check came, he bought me gorgeous jewelry, a $4,000 Concord gold watch for himself, and paid cash for a new car. I figured he knew what he was doing. I didn't know about his indulgent habit of spending money freely when he had it. I was used to Paul's financial management, which, no matter how little we had, always covered our needs. We never argued about money, so I thought couples just naturally figured out how to conserve their income. I had no idea what John and I were in for, but I sensed trouble.
Staring that uneasiness in the face, I thought, No matter how bad it gets, I am willing to risk everything to make it work. I sought Rinpoche's advice. "Watch out. John has a lot of neuroses. The karma of fame is particularly difficult. His family is tragic, like the Kennedys. When he starts acting crazy, don't get sucked in."
Michael sat on Rinpoche's lap as we spoke, and suddenly another little boy rushed over and wildly hugged both of them, knocking over Rinpoche's chair with his enthusiasm. I watched him fall slowly backward, as if he were floating, with no fear. He laughed all the way down to the ground, landing on his back. The boys tumbled on top of him. As his attendants helped him up, he looked at me and said, "That's love for you!"
As I walked away, I felt the force of the obstacles that would barrel at us with furious speed, attempting to knock us off our balance. The karmic patterns we carried in our trousseaus would have to be unpacked and resolved. We're really in for it. Are you sure you're up for this? It's going to be incredibly heavy. My heart sank. For one brief second I had a choice. I could have walked away. Time moved on, my heart chose John, and I leapt into the raging river, never looking back.