Almost three weeks ago, I left Portland, OR. Oddly enough, my last day in “The City of Roses” was spent driving to Seattle and back, and then hitching a ride to Northern California. If my respective rides were any more than thirty minutes late, my whole transportation plan would have fallen to pieces. It was a carefully planned series of events, or at least as planned as spontaneity could be. I had decided the night before to bust up to Seattle, upon hearing from a friend that one of my most inspiring figures and authors, Rita Golden Gelman, author of Tales of a Female Nomad, would be in the city for a short period of time and available to meet me for coffee (more on this adventure later)! So, last minute, I found someone who would be heading that way and arranged for him to pick me up on a street corner in downtown Portland at 5:30am in the morning.
5:30am – leave Portland with Kevin, my random driver.
9:00am – meet with Rita at Glo’s in Seattle for coffee, spend two solid hours sharing life with Rita.
11:00am – Kevin picks me up and drives us back to Portland.
2:30pm – Meet Rebecca, my Craigslist rideshare find, and maybe others, on the corner of 13th Ave and Couch St. in downtown Portland to hitch a ride to Northern California.
Woosh! And with that plan, I was off bright and early at 5:30am. Saving the story of Rita for another time, I arrived back in Portland in time to pee and grab some trail mix for the road before meeting Rebecca. Rebecca, a twenty-something gal, looked like she could have been straight out of Army Boot Camp – buff and tomboy-ish, she was quiet, to the point, and focused on hitting the road. I noticed three other people, a motley crew to say the least, sitting under a tree on the sidewalk next to the car. After greeting Rebecca, I turned to them and asked if they, too, were coming along for the ride.
“Yep, we’re going to Cali! My name is Cheerios and this is my crew.” She nods her head over her right shoulder to two guys, one of whom was wearing a firefighter jacket. Cheerios continues, “We’re headin’ to San Fran! You too? Got a light?”
All either twenty or twenty-one years old, Cheerios and her “crew” each had the same look – grungy, patchworked, and hairy. Immediately, I let stereotypes win, and was convinced that they were either a clan of pot-smoking runaways or high school dropouts searching for the glamour and freedom San Francisco may offer them. I assumed that they are the kids who I never wanted to be, ever – strung out and lacking purposeful direction. Some of my assumptions proved true (they sure did smoke a lot of weed along the road to California!), however, none of my assumptions really mattered, especially after what happened at around 8:50pm that evening as we were passing Ashland, OR.
After almost six hours of being together in the car, not really talking much at all, a moment of connection occurred. The timing was magical – the sun was bold and setting up ahead and the moon was full and at our backs. While sandwiched between these two magnificent beings, the song, “Hallelujah,” by Rufus Wainwright came on the stereo. In a matter of an instant, whoever was sleeping woke up and we all began singing along together. It was magic, as if our voices were being conducted, as if we were speaking to each other, despite our obvious differences, through the flowing lyrics and whimsy of the song! I was singing along too, feeling at peace in a car full of strangers, thinking to myself, “Thank you, Moon, thank you, Sun, for reminding me that we are all one.”
It is at moments like these that I am refreshed and gladdened to relearn that life comes alive in cosmic ways when shared with others. Even if those “others” may not be dear friends, the act and experience of sharing almost makes the word “others” become obsolete and we can thus form the most genuine of bonds of kinship.