The Summer of 1967. Living alone in a painted red cedar framed guest house—a tiny structure sized for nothing more than a double bed, a desk, a closet, a toilet and a shower — a surrounding forest of overgrown elm trees helped keep this cheap rental somewhat cool in the hot Mojave Desert summer. Fortunately, most of my day was spent in an air-conditioned office where I was grossly underpaid to tele-market sales pitches for an insurance agent. I made just enough money to pay for another semester of local community college studies.
Rapid and unexpected life-changes rocked 1967. For me those changes included a fearsome adventure in Battle Creek, Michigan followed by a Route 66 road trip with a radical right-wing evangelical; a thumbs out 306 mile hitchhiking trek from San Fernando Valley to the iconic Monterey Pop Festival; romps through the desert with new friends who loved nothing more than to light up a joint and flip off “the man” and anyone over 30; to my retreat in that painted red cedar framed guest house.
It was a year of changes for both the world and I. Some savored the Summer of Love, while others broiled and died in race riots across the nation; and thousands lost their lives in the expanding Viet Nam War. (A total of 11,153 American Viet Nam War deaths in 1967, according to militaryfactory.com.)
Those changes resulted in a tumultuous 1968.
The Winter of 2019. Presently a storm brews above my Santa Fe home. The storm can’t seem to make up its mind if it wants to flatten my neighbor’s flag pole where Old Glory rides the gusting winds, or where rain rapidly changes to hail. Weather forecasters call for more change in today’s forecast to maybe a foot of snow.
Change is in the air. Change painted my life in 2019, not unlike the changes in 1967. In January of this year, living in a communal housing section of the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, I thought for sure that the Sonoran Desert would be my forever home—as it had been for the previous three months of medical treatment. In late February I was able to return to our home along California’s Central Coast.
The constant motion of the Pacific Ocean rocked me into a temporary nirvana state. How could I be so blessed to be able to call this paradise corner home? But like the moods of the sea, unexpected change rose like a giant wave that I either rode or faced unpleasant consequences. The wave landed 1,000 miles east at the driveway of the Santa Fe home Spouse and I purchased in 2004. It was a change of which I had no control. It was a change that seemed to be for my greater good. So I rode it.
The world changes of 2019 are no better than in 1967. There are leaders without compassion, ethics or foundational morality. Power and greed are the key words affiliated with a growing handful of leaders around the planet. Followers cheer these leaders on, while others cry foul. How does this happen? I suppose the answer lies somewhere within the same reasons for a 1967 power grab and the people who asked for nothing more than a warm home in the winter, a full pantry, and reasons to give gratitude each morning.
A rise in consciousness and reflection on our condition swells. It’s like the late December thunder now rumbling over the Santa Fe skies. It’s like the weather that can’t seem to cross the threshold of a warm Pacific storm or an Arctic blast. It’s like the cancer in my body that challenges the medical assault that has kept the cancer’s growth from spreading. It’s all there, right in front of you and I.
Nothing last forever. Change is the universal creed. The best that we mere humans can ask for is that positive change comes within.
My personal review of 2019 is a growing commitment that differences are good and okay, but there is no reason for divisiveness because of these differences. “Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.” writes Roy T. Bennett in “The Light in the Heart.” This sounds simple, but it is not. It requires diligence in researching fact from falsehood, respect for the words we use, and restraint from falling into the ditch of finger-pointing, name calling, and so on.
Like the cancer I battle, I don’t doubt for a minute that there are wicked elements in this world that feed off our fears and weaknesses. This is where we can change. Where there is fear we have the opportunity to develop courage by opening our minds to the possibilities filled with hope. Where there is weaknesses, we have the opportunity to face those weaknesses through discovery and education.
Plato’s words remain relevant today: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
Truth. Yes, the truth can be scary. But how we manage the truth before us is what change can be all about. For me, 2020 will reek of hope and positive change within, and I pray with you.