In a roadside dinner at the convergence of two highways sits a beleaguered and road-weary artist. It is the kind of a café that elicits the desire to paint a Rockwellian portrait—The soda jerk flirting with the cute girls while a dog licks up the ice cream drips. Meanwhile the state trooper counsels the juvenile runaway as the grandmother with her charges prays over their meal.

The regulars trickle in and all are greeted by name. Their menu selections are filed in the server’s memory, and are served before they have time to unfold their napkins at their favorite table. Lost tourists, fatigued from crisscrossing backcountry roads, hunt and peck on the carte du jour. A bell’s ring echoes off the polished stainless steel of the prep shelf in Pavlovian fashion causing the patrons salivary glands to output to rocket with anticipation.

The “short” stack of two pancakes sits before me. However, they are as wide in diameter as the fallen trees perched atop the log truck outside with nearly as many concentric rings. The home-churned butter glissading down the slope of the fried batter is waiting for its syrup complement.

The two ladies behind my table Carol and Carol both noticed my tunic and after our brief conversation were kind enough to buy my breakfast. People are so kind. They, traveling from Arizona to avoid the heat, found the stories of this wayward traveler somehow to resonate with their own. It seems food never tastes better than when you have been treated to it by friends.

The previous 2 days of travel have yielded little in the way of conversation, so the chance encounter with the Carols was a welcomed respite.

Bonnie and Joey being one of the shining exceptions. I met these two civil engineers on the side of the road. They were “analyzing some data” (a euphemism for waiting for the construction crew to finish the portion of the job with which they were currently occupied), and used the time to talk to me. In the end Bonnie showed me wild red huckleberries, and was kind enough to offer me some aid for my journey. Because of that aid, I was able to stay in a campground that night, and more importantly to the few others I would meet, a shower the next morning.

In addition to eating the Huckleberries, I’ve also eaten Fireweed, and Bracken or “Fiddle Heads” in the last week. Fiddleheads are by far the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten in the wild. It was a special treat too because they usually only come out in spring.

I’ve encountered and conversed with a few bicyclists Ryan and Felix in particular. Ryan was turning 60, and to crown the moment, he was riding from Victoria B.C. to his home in San Diego. Felix (Felicia), was a young woman from Seattle, and was bravely venturing forth on her first solo bike ride ever…and she chose a magnificent junket, that of the circumnavigation of the Olympics.

She was definitely a tough customer; she was riding an old stiff Bridgestone in running shorts, tennis shoes, and a flannel shirt. Her ad hoc accouterments spoke more to what can be accomplished by people of vision and passion rather than perfect gear.

Felix was patient and cordial with me, and we spoke of what can be accomplished with love. However, she was fond of what she believed can be brought about by anger. She didn’t disagree with the basic premise that love is primary, but she steadfastly held to her ideal that anger was of use. I asked her, and myself rhetorically, for an example of where and when anger had served her better than love. She and I couldn’t find one.

Rather I was reminded by a story regarding the wisdom of Gandhi. To stop the bloody fighting between Hindus and Muslims in Calcutta, Gandhi struck a hunger fast. As Gandhi neared death, a Hindu man came to Gandhi and threw a loaf of bread at him saying, “Here! Eat! I am going to hell, but I will not have your blood on my head too!”

Gandhi asked, “Why do you think you are going to hell?”

The man replied, “They killed my little boy, about yea high.”

Astutely, Gandhi asked, “And what did you do?”

“I killed a Muslim boy…I bashed his head in with a rock. This is why I am going to hell.”

Gandhi thought for a while concerning the man’s predicament, and uttered, “I know a way out of hell. Go; find a boy about yea high, whose parents have been killed. Raise that boy as your own. Except…make sure he is a Muslim…and raise him as one.”

We in America like to relish in our “righteous indignation.” We like to claim openly, “I’d kill the man who would lay a hand on my family!” Yet, violence begets violence. An eye for an eye only results in a blind world. 3000 people were killed in the Twin Towers. How many have been killed in Iraq? How many in Afghanistan? Have we not even gone past this equivalence dogma? It seems that the only true change that has ever been effected upon the psyche of man is that provoked by the few willing to “love their enemy”.

Gandhi was also asked in the face of all that transpired in Europe under Hitler and Stalin, would he still promote non-violence in opposing Hitler? His answer was one that gives me hope for mankind. He said, “Sure, in pursuing the cause of non-violence, even against the atrocities brought about by Hitler, some will die—some battles will be lost. But, in conventional warfare, do not people die, are battles not lost?”

Peace to all. Compassion in the face of adversity. Love when you least feel like it.

Love is the primer.

 

 

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