Sunday, August 30, 2009

INTO THE YELLOW WOOD--PART ONE


THE MAP OF A LIFE

Introduction

This series of blog posts are about choice points in my life that have led me to where I am. The title is inspired by the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not taken.” I was going to use “Roads Less Traveled” as the title for this series, but I figured that phrase had been boosted and abused enough. Frost’s poem is about making dangerous or unpredictable choices. Over the arc of a life there are many points where you can choose the safe and known path . . . or the wild and unknown path. Sometimes you really don’t know which is which. A choice that seems safe results in an ambush or a dead end.

Isn’t it fun to look back at those choices?

Most of the turning points in our young lives are beyond our control. Parents get divorced and remarry. We move here and there, start new schools, get new teachers, make new friends. People live. People die. People come and go. Nothing we can do about it. We’re just too young. We have no power. It’s karma . . . our karma to be sure, but free will or making our own choices are not a part of it.

Then we grow into the power to think and make decisions for ourselves. Now dharma becomes an increasingly important aspect of our path. Karma and dharma, twirling around each other in the mad dance of human life.

These blogs are about dharma, the decisions of a free mind, and the karmic consequences of those decisions.

Part One
DeSoto or DeGirl?

The summer before my junior year in high school was supposed to be the Summer of My First Car. Working all summer to save the cash to buy wheels was a right of passage for most red-blooded American boys. For me, owning a car went beyond the usual teenage longing for prestige and independence. I lived more than ten miles from the high school and more than five miles out of town. Utterly dependent for transportation to go anywhere important, I was trapped out in the country with alcoholic and abusive parents. Buying my own car meant escape from the Dickensian hell of my home.

That was the same summer the high school drama teacher, Stan deHart, was planning to launch his Summer Drama Institute. Mr. DeHart was an intense and charismatic new faculty member at Florida High. Much later I learned that drama teachers everywhere are notorious for causing trouble, and DeHart was a shit-disturber of the highest order. I had admired him from afar, but had no classes with him. My few close friends were excited about auditioning for DeHart’s Institute. That little group included my sweetheart, Judy Vance.

I was madly in love with Judy Vance. Mad to the tenth power.

Judy, the daughter of a professor, was more sophisticated than I was, more educated, and frankly, out of my league. For some inexplicable reason, she was in love with me. I was a military brat, rough around the edges, and given to brooding. Long ago I gave up trying to figure out these matters of the heart.

Judy wanted me to spend the summer with her, playing together in the drama project. She didn’t exactly give me an ultimatum, “me or the DeSoto,” but she let me know how hurt she would be if I didn’t audition with her . . . and how much fun we would have together if I did. Get your mind out of the gutter. In those times in the Deep South, “fun” did not mean “sex.” We were na├»ve small town teenagers. A boy’s hand sliding one inch below the girl’s waistline would be forcefully removed.

No, it wasn’t an ultimatum, but it was certainly a choice, a hard one, and one with more consequences than I could have imagined in my wildest teenage fantasies.

I auditioned.

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