Bender Wall Banger

43 years ago when I was 25 and still a hippie artist, I lived in an old chicken coop that I converted with scrap wood and old windows into a 1200 square foot studio.

I painted in oils and carved stone.

Sometimes someone walks into your life and transforms you with one simple statement, Bender Wall Banger did just that.

As I’ve posted in the past I grew up on the streets without family, something that I now consider a gift that made me who I am. But back then I was uptight, depressed and angry, and most of my paintings reflected that mood. Dark colors, overly serious depressing subject matter. When people who had a normal middle class upbringing would comment on the dark colors and subject matter I ignored them, what did they know about life on the under belli of the beast.

Then I met Bender.

Bender had moved down from San Francisco to escape the tenderloin ghetto and try to clean-up her life in a Santa Cruz mountain cabin. She had lived on the streets since she was 13, she was an alcoholic, a junky and made her living as a hooker. A mutual friend (Diane) asked if I’d help her move.

When she came to my studio and looked at my paintings she asked why everything was so grim. I was floored. This ladies life had been even grimmer than mine, I couldn’t fall back on the old “What do you know about grim?” She forced me to see that while my life was currently very good I was stuck in the ghetto frame of mind. While I was standing in the light I hadn’t left the darkness.

The next day I built a 7 foot sculpture out of scrap wood. A colorful circus ring master with a big smile and his arms in the air. I put it by my front door and joined the circus of lightness.

My paintings became colorful humorous cartoons, in a mystical instant I left the grime behind.

A few months past and Diane stopped by and commented on the radical change in my work. I told her it was Bender’s questioning my grimness, if she could see the light there was no excuse for me not seeing it. I told Diane how Bender changed my life and would she tell her that I’d never forget it. She then informed me that Bender had shot and killed herself.

Sometimes you never get to verbally thank the people who have influenced you the most, but you can do it through actions. So I’m still painting colorful cartoons and every one of them says “Thanks, I’ll never forget you.”

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Bright Blessings Bender and may we Merry Meet again.

 

A fear gripped world.

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Fear can grip us and hold on.

Clinging to us like a bad odor.

Stifling the movement in the motion of being.

An impediment that if not removed by the shrug of experience becomes chiseled in the granite of a heavy soul.

I’ve been swamped by it while snorkeling through the mud of hesitations, that keep me book marked in the dusty pages of time.

 

 

Doodling the Decades-the 60’s

The early 60’s began peaceful enough. There was the English Invasion but it came with guitars not guns and their national drink is tea which says a lot. Besides it was only four Beatles, I’ve had apartments with more roaches.

The early and mid 60’s

The Great Transformation began, Hipsters became Hippies.

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Which resulted in the pilgrimage to their Mecca West.

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Some traveled 1000’s of miles and arrived with flowers in their hair because some guy who wasn’t a hippie wrote a song about them. Why San Francisco was chosen remains a mystery.

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The holy sacrament was freely shared, as were other things.

 

The summer of love was a Zen moment in time when masses of humanity were kind to one another. Love truly prevailed, I was there, it was electrifying. Moments like that don’t come by often or last long. I guess it unbalances the cosmic scale.

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By the late 60’s humanity got an itchy finger and pulled the trigger of social chaos. Historically this seems to be a pattern of cosmic winds, even the weather gets involved. “Humankind follows the earth. The earth follows the heavens. The heavens follow the Tao. The Tao follows its own way.”-Lao Tzu.   I believe the why of the way will remain unknown.

 

 

 

 

 

Doodling Decades-the 50’s

Humanities transformations take place in the Zen of a time continuum that can’t be known, only seen.

It was a time when kids could run free, it only took one adult in a household to provide a comfortable living, schools were able to actually teach you something, women were treated respectfully based on their gender, politicians kept their personal opinions to themselves and did their job, you could find a file in a filing cabinet in less than a minute, People weren’t politically correct-they were polite and had time to eat and sleep, T.V. was free, you could breathe the air and drink the water, most business transactions could be done with a verbal promise and hand shake, you bought things because they really worked and lasted for years, tramps didn’t ask you for money or food-they asked you for work and the preferred drug was Red Mountain wine or Lucky Lager beer.

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Oh it wasn’t all roses, no time is, and some things in life were harder but the living it was easier.

 

 

 

 

Walk away.

We dismiss the essential to embrace the follies of phantom thoughts that tend the unnecessary and cultivate the meaningless building of an incomplete life with hollows that can haunt you forever.

Walk away walk away.

We search for illusions to complete us which only adds to the confusion because hollows don’t make a whole.

Walk away walk away.

Family and friends can bring a fullness to life but never a completeness to living because another’s life is never yours to own.

So bury the bones of disappointments and walk away.

When you walk away from fixed expectations you’re taking the first steps toward the probability of primordial completeness

where you’ll always be shown the true way home.

But the first thing you must do is leave.

 

Desire followed by disappointment.

When you live in the country a dog is an asset. You not only have a companion you have a super sensitivity alert device. Tyke can hear a car coming a half mile away and we know because he runs to the window, looks out and gives a few short barks. We know if there are cows or javalina in the yard because the barking is replaced with loud snorting at the front door threshold. We don’t believe in guard dogs because we don’t feel we have anything that needs guarding. Which is good because nobody is going to be intimidated by a dog that looks like he belongs on a Hallmark greeting card.

The greatest thing about a dog is that you never have to wonder what they’re thinking.

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Maximizing the minimal.

I love simplicity. When I established Hermit’s Rest in ‘97 the lifestyle demanded simplicity and I embraced it. I even decided to find out just how simple simple could get, The Hindu holy men that sit naked in the temple alcoves with nothing but a mat, begging bowl and water cup are the practitioners of quintessential simplicity, however I’m not in India. Such behavior is frowned on here in the states so I had to compromise.

Simplicity is based on minimalism. I asked myself what do I really need to live a comfortable and sanitary life. For the first 17 years I lived alone with my Queensland Heeler ‘Gabbie’ who was perfectly content with a water bowl, food bowl and sleeping bench I made her, she was essentially a Hindu Siddha without the temple alcove.

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I also didn’t have much money because I gave my medical engineering practice in California to a colleague of mine and retired at 48. I decided having all the time in the world to spend was a richer and simpler life than having a stack of money to spend. I spent the first 22 years of my life dirt poor and didn’t become a successful engineer until I was 27. I went from being a hippie living in an old converted chicken coop with a yearly income of $720.00 dollars a year and a beat up ‘58 Ford pickup to a yuppie with a hillside home and Porsche. At the height of my silliness to overcome a life of poverty and try out social acceptance and success I wound up buying the restaurant where I had been the janitor 8 years before (the source of my hippie $720.00 a year income) and owning a Mercedes a BMW another restaurant and was working 120 hours a week. Two things saved me. One of my regular customers at the restaurant who was living in his VW bus asked me how much the Mercedes was costing me a month, I told him with payments, insurance, yearly registration and maintenance probably around $600.00 a month. He responded with “Hell Mike you only drive it to and from work. I’ll come pick you up and take you home for a hundred a month.” I bought him breakfast and he never had to pay for his coffee again, cheap price to pay for the wisdom of common sense. The other major influence was Paul Simons song, “Slip sliding away.” The lyrics “The closer you’re destination the more you slip slid away” hit the soul of my true self like a hammer. A year later I walked away from everything, bought an old motorhome and headed for the Arizona wilderness. My income dropped from $130,000 a year to $7,920 but my time account soared to unlimited heights and the elation experienced in freeing myself from all of the social trappings, along with returning to my true nature, made the adjustment easy.

When the only person you’re accountable to is your dog it leaves you with a lot of leeway in lifestyle choices.

I bought my property for a hundred dollars down and seventy-five dollars a month for eight years. The next step was to drive a hundred miles to the nearest city and trade the motorhome for a 1986 four wheel drive pickup with a six inch lift and 33” all terrain tires to navigate the unpaved roads. To replace the motorhome I bought an old twenty-four foot travel trailer, moved it on the property and covered it in concrete to keep it from falling apart as well as creating a trombe wall effect for passive solar heating and insulation. Three years later I saved up enough money to build an eighty square foot front room for reading, writing and whittling. I added large windows for the view which brings the outside in. The place may look a bit odd but it’s efficient, comfortable, easy to heat, keep cool and maintain. The total cost was $4,800. 


Three years ago I somehow managed to find a woman who found my company tolerable and this lifestyle had always been her dream. The post “Hide and watch” talks about how that remarkable event occurred. The house is 240 square feet that we find more than adequate.

Over the years and as I got older I allowed myself a few comforts. A composting toilet and I expanded the 65 watt solar system to 175 watts to run a laptop and small 12 volt refrigerator that’s about the size of a large ice chest. The place is still run off of just two 6 volt deep cycle golf cart batteries. Due to the open floor plan and it’s size our primary light source is a 4 watt LED ceiling fixture. We use an average of 350 watts of 12 volt electricity in 24 hours, that’s with the refrigerator, lighting, laptop and a 12 volt DVD player for a movie at night.

We have 2,300 gallons of water hauled  in once a year and stored in two large tanks. We’ve found if used conscientiously 6 gallons of water a day is adequate for drinking, cooking, bathing and the hand washing of clothes.

85 gallons of propane is delivered twice a year and in the winter it can average 20 degrees at night and 40 degrees during the day with the occasional below zero at night and 20 during the day. Once again the size of the place and simple passive solar heating help.

We don’t require much in the way of things other than basic supplies so we drive an average of 1,680 to 2,000 miles a year which allows us to spend time at home watching the wonderment of our natural surroundings and listening to the whispers of nature.

This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and rightfully so, it has it’s challenges, and family obligations are a factor. I’ve posted this simply to show those who might feel trapped in a dead end life that what you get yourself into can always be backed out of and it doesn’t require much money. Simply a conviction that if you point your toes in the right direction all you have to do is start walking.

“When you live your dream you’ll find yourself dancing your joy in the stark moonlight casting an ever increasing shadow of being.”

Bright blessings and may we merry meet again,

Mike and Lori

Grow where you’ve been planted.

“Destiny and fate fly in on the wings of mystery without the curtesy of an advanced notice.”

Our lives are like seeds scattered across the plains of existence carried by the mystical winds of ambiguity not the certainty we continuously grasp for. I think the delicate art of survival is about finding a belief that accommodates this reality as opposed to denying it.

The daisy pictured above didn’t say “Shit, stones. Why bother to bloom.” Instead it saw the earth below the stones. My life for the last 20 years of living in the wilderness has been dominated by nature and the wisdom I’ve gleaned from observing it without civilized distractions keeps me in a state of wonderment.

As a retired medical engineer I specialized in pediatric neural-muscular conditions. Over the years I had the pleasure to meet some very courageous human spirits who were born with or contracted serious conditions that left them trapped in uncooperative bodies and yet like the daisy they bloomed into remarkable human beings. To be able to make their lives more functional and comfortable was the greatest of gifts.

We are bombarded with a multiplicity of phenomena that’s never ending. I believe there are no definitive quantifiers or qualifiers to be found so I free myself from the looking because it removes me from our natural place in the oneness of participation.