The Bare went over the Mountain


It is June 28th, 2017.

This morning I saw the blackest tufted black squirrel I’ve ever seen, and probably the biggest. He was a 3-D silhouette, running in that gorgeous, weightless stop motion way they do— freezing randomly every few paces. He was the only thing moving in the scene, so the world stopped with him.

I love all seasons, but my body loves summer best, when at last there is chi to spare, and I need not bear the added weight of winter’s swathings. Of course, I prefer, whenever possible to be free of clothes— or at least barefoot, no matter the dress code. I remember even padding around barefoot at Ardent Production House in the 1980’s, delighting or vexing my associates with my blackened soles.

Given this preference, I have inevitably attracted friends over the years with similar penchant, some more identified with it than others; some quite closeted, others just cautious. The caution is understandable. We live in a sexually repressed culture, warped under the weight of our vestigial victorian and religious codes; and we can not always control the responses of others to nudity.

I’m amused by what unique and poignant tapestries of neurosis we all are, especially around this matter.  I’ve been spending some time with one of my naturist friends this week, camping in high country remote enough to promote freedom from clothes.  My friend—we’ll call him Cliff—has made a hobby, if not a mission, of living nude. He follows the sun in an RV (designed for Alaskan camping), which he can keep warm enough to be nude near year round.  

This morning, having slept in my own unheated van and spent the morning doing my practices outside, I was acclimated to the cooler temps outside. He had the heat on in his kitchen as he sat in his altogethers eating breakfast. I find such conditions stuffy and confining, and, since it had warmed up considerably outside, wondered aloud if it was warm enough to retire the heating for the day. He playfully protested that his feet were cold. I reminded him about this ingenious technology they have now, comes in pairs; they are called socks. But I understood, so I went outside, where I always prefer to be, because I can breathe.  

We are both reaching, in our way, for a sense of freedom and ease, conditions that reduce our perception of confinement, discomfort or agitation. That recipe evolves differently for each human being. 

Like a number of my friends, I also have a dislike for sunscreen but concede to its necessity and use it. It feels that some part of this animal “can’t breathe” when the skin is slathered with that protective film.  Every one of us has subtle sensibilities such as these, and each of us concedes to overriding them in some matters and defies doing so in others.

I’ve been listening to Temple Grandin’s The Autistic Brain on these travels, and what I hear further supports my suspicion that the “Neuro-Typical” is a vanishing breed— at least in the circles I walk in.  So many of us seem to be on the “sensory processing disorder” spectrum somewhere these days (granted, and gratefully, the very high functioning end). Perhaps because we are an overstimulated world wearing thin.  

It’s increasingly obvious that each of us perceives and responds differently; and that is a call for compassion.  We simply can’t assume that there is an exclusive right and normal way to see, do, and know things, to interpret and negotiate what we still call a consensus reality.  There is less and less room—on the planet and in our shared psychic space— for these myopic habits of mind. 


Cliff and I have been exploring the surrounds from our camp spot near the foot of Shavano, Tabeguache and Antero peaks as they cluster to the west. I drink in the Alpine Eden, silent but far from soundless, in the company of cicada filled Aspens, sighing pines, and a perfectly gurgling stream. Mountains adorn the horizon in all directions.  We have seen only two parties of people since arriving, though we hear the occasional vehicle rumbling at inscrutable distance somewhere in the woods. Sometimes we hear cattle lowing, and we encountered a few on our first hike as we walked along a fence line trail; they appeared as if the rare human voice signaled food and were puzzled to find me standing in their drinking stream. There is enough crisply desiccated dung about to feed a sacred fire for many years. 

This is a blessed home on the range.

I left Shirley and Jim’s in Indian Hills, Colorado, late morning on Sunday (the 25th), in perfect timing so that Cliffs’s text to determine my location reached me just before I exited cell phone range.  Retracing my path along Hwy 285, I flowed along in a steady current of traffic to match the one passing opposite me.  Still, I arrived at our meeting place in Salida nearly a half-hour ahead of ETA, and pulled in just as Cliff was arriving in his rig.  We filled our pantry with provisions and climbed out of the valley and above Poncha Springs.  It was a beautiful drive, though I grew cranky as I exceeded my comfortable driving and sun exposure limits and breathed in the thick dust Cliff’s camper chuffed up as I followed him at 5-15 mph for the tedious last 7.2 miles along dry and occasionally rutted roads.  

That night when I hit the sack, the sack hit back with clouds of dust exploding into the air.

Once liberated from the car, though, it didn’t take long to appreciate the journey’s reward. I longingly eyed the campground we had passed with a beautiful, aspen-trunk teepee skeleton, which glowed with the aura of past ceremony.  But we parked in a cul-de-sac farther on; here Cliff felt less visible from the road, free to live au naturel as he does.  

Aside from voracious flies, we have had no visitors in camp. A lone deer glimpsed me from the meadow across the stream on my first morning’s meditation, but his curiosity could not override healthy instinct, and after some neck-craning and intent peering toward where I sat in the back of the van (hatch open and swathed in a bright red sleeping bag), he turned and launched into that inimitable bounce-bounding gallop they use to make quick distance and clear the understory of saplings, creeping juniper, and wild rose. Here everything is amplified; I heard him looking at me and opened my eyes to receive the gift of his brief visit. And as I type I fancy I can hear the sun reflecting off the quaking aspen leaves.

We have set out on our daily hike near 10:30 am, usually starting the hike unclothed and enjoying the celebratory caress of the mountain breeze, then after an hour, I’d bow to Sol and don my t-shirt and shorts for the remaining ramble. Both of us have been impressed with how much better our bodies hold up, even at this altitude, walking on the soft earth of summer grass and pine-fall.  I have not experienced the kind of pain and fatigue I’d become habituated to in paved and populated places. I only just required the first ibuprofen and early nap after an educational 30-minute stroll up the road before breakfast this morning wearing my hard-soled Birkenstocks. Good to know.

Although historically I’ve had a pretty good sense of direction, and GPS seemed like cheating, these most recent hikes with Cliff’s GPS tracking device changes the experience; similar to hiking nude, it offers a sense of freedom a person might never have even known she was missing, until she experiences it. The part of the brain always tracking the sun and slant of the hill, dropping mental bread-crumbs, is now present to the full Wander; no worrying about retracing one’s steps, though I still enjoy meeting landmarks passed before like old friends.

It got me musing how this is the perfect time (of year, and of human history) to live like this, if you have the equipment. Cliff has a rig that can go where he wants. He has his bed, bath and kitchen with him. He has solar power and WIFI (even T.V.!). He can wander without worry about getting lost (unless the GPS malfunctions), and be remote without being entirely and unhealthily isolated. This has great appeal to my inner Edward Abbey!  It is the life my father dreamed of, and one I thought I might make for myself.

I could stay here far longer, but this morning, we set off for Valley View Hot Springs.

But not before I had a beatific meditation in the aforementioned teepee. Sitting in that vaulted space, encircled by aspen trunks, with the piercing sun beaming over the horizon through the space between them, I could feel the power of being the mirror and conduit between earth and heaven, and daughter of both. I could feel what man built Cathedrals to inspire. The upward reach of heart and consciousness, of Earth itself, into vast, teeming and intelligent space.

And I bring that here to the healing waters …and far noisier, populated surrounds of Valley View.

Green and pleasant land

Well, yesterday the heatwave abated; you could almost hear the thud: Rumors of winter blowing in with summer solstice, perhaps, chilling as Amazon’s buyout of Whole Foods was to Grocery stocks.

Thursday was a transition as temps spiraled in for a landing and overshot the strip, stirring up all kinds of rain, cloud and light play. Late in the day, I got out before the monsoons broke and enjoyed a short and restorative solitary

walkabout near

Horsetooth Reservoir, drinking in the green. On the ridge above, I seemed to be poised on a threshold between two different days:

Rainclouds loomed heavy over the water to my immediate left:

On my right could have been a gleaming postcard of New Zealand:


Today, it was about 20 degrees cooler. When we learned that Kevin’s (the handsomest fellow in the last post with normal ears) was not able to join us on a drive to Shambhala Mountain Center, Jack and I decided to take the planned drive up to anyway. I’d not been there in years (and they had never been). The Spirits of the land up near Red Feather Lakes are powerful. As we drove out of the Ft. Collins grid and behind the curtain of hills, I began to have a sort of energetic detox. At first, assuming from my perpetual yawning that I was sleepy, Jack offered to drive.  Soon those and other symptoms became intense enough that I pulled over, did some physical and non-physical calisthenics to release the pressure, and took him up on that.

As we turned onto CR 68, I had released sufficiently to clamber back into my body, but was still sensitized enough to be hear/feeling thrumming broadcasts from rock formations that even looked like robed and dancing spirits in the magic morning light. This was surely a power spot for first nations ceremony, and a perfect and conducive place for a Grand Stupa anchoring and emanating kindness and compassion.

I wasn’t able to actually snap any pictures of these rock formations until hours later as we drove out, when the sun, the spirits and I were all in different orientation.  Minimal magic captured here by the naked, or Nikon, eye.

Walking up to the DharmaKaya Stupa, one passed many “gates” where the path is flanked by tall flag poles;  the perpetual breeze whips through them,  giving one the sense of being  cleansed of any burdens brought from the past.  

The 108 foot tall Great Dharmakaya Stupa:

The silence inside the stupa is profound, and I would have stayed there meditating all day, letting the years’ worth of 

vibrating tension in my body shudder and spin itself out.  We’d  planned on a hike, though, so we moved on, but not before I snapped a fresh photo of the sublime androgyne Buddha before us, whose countenance uncannily brought to mind Cameron Diaz Rinpoche.

They’d offered us lunch, so before any major trail ventures we dined at a table aptly reserved for Mindful Hiking retreatants. I confess it I didn’t eat as mindfully as I could have. We were starving, and I rapturously devoured a piece of vegan, gluten free pizza with fresh basil before you could say OM MANI PADME HUMMMM.   I skipped to the Mmmmm part.




Eventually we throttled up the steep hill to Marpa Point, stopping to hang a few Yoga asanas amid at a sacred tangle of prayer flags.














Our hike ended where our day here began: the parking lot, into which were now steadily puttering arrivals for a weekend retreat. I cheerfully ceded my prime shady spot to some lucky winner–Life is not ALL Dukha, my good dharma buddy! And we drove home grateful for a quietly satisfying day.

A final dinner with Kevin, and this morning we have dispersed. I to Indian Hills, where I launch further south tomorrow on a meandering journey toward Santa Fe, via Poncha and other Springs.

This return to Colorado has taught me much, which I am still digesting. Both New Mexico and Colorado are beautiful and varied terrains, and each has a unique spiritual power. I noticed that each promotes clarity and emphasis in different aspects of spiritual experience, and how these ambient influences on Consciousness made me know and relate to others, the land, myself and my Self differently. So it is not so silly that I was called to make this the trip of the Selfie.

And now I will spend a final evening relating to other Selfs: Jim and Shirley Self, the dear friends with whom this whole Selfie-fest aptly started.

Travelogue part II : One bird in the Eye worth twelve in the Ear? And Jester snakes are Wild.

Yep. It’s been warm in Colorado this week. No hotter than where I came from, but there is more moisture here, and the monsoons press over the mountains each day, sending a barometric trough well ahead of any sign of them, which packs some serous undertow.

After a semi-functional, and super Funk-tional, morning Thursday, I was about ready to write off the day until I saw the first clouds, and, once again, I remembered how linked my inner weather was to the outer weather. Thus reframed, the day reclaimed some promise.

Later that afternoon, we were, in fact, able go for a drive beyond Horsetooth Reservoir, as the clouds spilled clear of the foothills and squalls spilled clear drops (and occasional lightning) over us. The best pictures went untaken, as rain saturated the air as well as the vivid greens, reds and blues of the scene. We drove until it had subsided and a road name gave us a reason to choose one trailhead over the others.

We hiked a ways up the Overland Trail, seeing one bird for each dozen or more Meadowlark calls we heard ping-ponging around us in a cagey meadow Kirtan. I brought my eyes back to the trail just in time to greet the back half of a beautiful snake sunning his tail across the trail. I picked up a small stone and tossed it near him, to produce the extra vibration that might hasten his trajectory into the brush. No rattle, just three to four feet of mesmerizing brown jester patterns and willowy S-curves gliding through the grass.

On we trod until rumbling thunder and tummies reversed our course. As I approached where the snake had been, I peered about and declared in my euphoric, post-storm baby talk: “All Gone. No more Snakey.” Until, of course, three strides later, when we spotted him/her just ahead crossing before us in the opposite direction. This time we got a couple of snaps, and I quite contemplated what such an omen might portend in this shamanistic life.

Wednesday we set a course for Boulder, where I planned to meet some good friends who gather for A Course in Miracles group and lunch. Jack decided he would ride down with me and then bike back to Fort Collins, so we loaded the bike in my van and set off so early we expected to be twiddling our thumbs on arrival. HA! We lost count of the number of obstructions and detours we encountered. I didn’t have an ephemeris, but I’d wager some celestial mischief was afoot.

During lunch I got word that Jack had a flat tire…. then later that he’d gotten another. I ran my errands expeditiously in a somewhat sweltering Boulder, as the thunderheads pressed overhead. I was addled enough by that and the strange parade of dust devils scouring their way down Spruce Street (as I walked up), that I left my keys at one stop. But soon I gathered my belongings and most of my wits into the van and headed up through Lyons toward Ft. Collins, where Jack was replacing his faulty tire tubes.

Despite the diversions, I did manage to get a couple of Selfies for the collection, and enjoyed a lot of good laughs with my old homies!

Colorado: Where the dear and the antelope play….

I begin my travelogue the day before Friday’s departure on my first road trip out of New Mexico since 2015. Hence this is two posts in one today. It’s three days long. Take it in installments. I did.



Thursday, almost as a dress rehearsal, I went to the woods. Despite an infected foot and a defective digestive system, I drove up Hyde Park Road to a trailhead I’d only ever passed before.

I noticed, gratefully, that I was far more forgiving of my funked-up state than I’d been in the past and was less convinced that the woods were offended by my polluted field. I knew this was a place of life for life’s sake.

So I walked and wafted like pig pen along the path. I finally came to a creek and bared my feet for baptism, not only in the frigid flow of snow melt, but in a swarm of insects, there for the heavier work of scouring my field of the citified fog of ferment and frenzy. I sat and journaled, with my feet in a burning cold stream, which drowned out the throbbing toe. What insanity did not drain out through my feet was purified in pouring out my pen:

Walk of the Prodigal Daughter:

Even as I drove up the canyon and the cloying cloud of society loosened, the grid of rigid thoughts ungripped, and the clammy weight of flaccid wills lightened, I began to shudder. The heat and toxic plaque of judgment in my gut began to surface, along with silty flotsam of weary grief and tightly wound spring-traps of grievance.

I walked into the woods impelled by a wise memory, a barely perceptible knowing that I MUST, to save my life.

I walked among the trees in a cloud of Dukha—self-recrimination for being here again, the bleating broadcast of a poisoned belly, a smothered heart….

I walked barely able to feel the benevolent air, filtered by the pine needles slowly sifting my own field.

I walked in prayer and prostration, preferring death to this, preferring death to failure.

I walked in hope, because, I’ve been here before.

I walked on, flouting caution, distrusting my own mind, and the voice of fatal domestication.

I walked down and down, into the sound of running water, my own cloud giving way to one of flies: two legs stirring a cauldron of wings.

I came to a log across a stream and I sat; the flies flooded around my still form. I dropped my feet in the stream, and with them every lie I could, though the belly held fast yet to its tangled moan.

And I had to let that be. There was space around it now, filled with soft sun, loud water, swarming insects, and the pain, numb and redemption of feet in cold water.

I did not mind the flies; they were doing what they would do whether I was here or not. I was content to let them feed on the fetid cloud: little psychic bottom feeders, feeding on the rage and rot, feeding on my age, but NOT profanity.

My state is but a morning’s parable of the humbled mortal, the prodigal daughter, walking home to the Mother to reclaim absolution.

The mind whines, “Why must I go through this again? Why must I fail and fall, again and again?”

But falling is just coming back to Earth, where the human body belongs;

and failure is only a thought, a weapon of the ego.

If I have done this to myself, I give it to the Wise One to redeem it; to use it to redeem me; to use it to show me how to redeem myself and to show me what I cannot on my own redeem; how to claim and live what does not need redemption;

to forgive myself…again.

I can only be as pure as my definition of purity. No matter how pure one eats, a body made of undigested memory may respond to food in an impure way.

All food grows the soul.

Just Say Grace. 

After that I hiked out and drove home, sun-soaked and starving …but sane. And simple tasks of self-care that had become so fraught were simple and clear. I then kept my afternoon obligations, and stopped at Sprouts for travel provisions. Sprouts has notoriously long checkout lines. Even so, what should have been a 15- minute errand became a 45-minute one, as the transaction ahead of mine froze the computer, and we all waited for it to be rebooted. But it was still locked up. Eventually, we all got in the back of other long lines, grateful that they moved at all.

During the wait, folks were relatively patient and civilized but began to get restless. I was strangely patient and amused. I began doing a bit of subtle qi gong and looking psychically at the home of a friend who’d had a break in earlier in the day. It was obvious I had space in my field that had become almost unfamiliar at that time of day in that sort of setting. I remembered this as how I used to be… before…when I walked in nature near every day. When I went to Eden each day before breakfast.


*       * PART II   *       *


Up early the next morning, I was ready to be on the road by 7:30 a.m. But, concerned by the swelling and pain moving up my foot from an infected right toe, I followed a friend’s suggestions for ministering to it before I left, to quell visions of urgent care lancing in Colorado.

I got to Crestone around noon and spent a sweet afternoon in the charged silence at Haidakhandi Ashram, interspersing light karma yoga with powerful meditation in the temple. It had been too long, and Baba-Ma had a lot to work on.

Not surprisingly, they kept me there overnight without much resistance from me. My projection had been to soak my bones Valley View Hot Spring up the road before camping in my van; but the phone connection was uncannily uncooperative when I called to make sure they had space. Silence and Geothermal water are two of my favorite earthly experiences, but in the great cosmic game of rock, paper, scissors, Silence trumps all

The next morning I intuited I should just continue on toward the Front Range. I stopped by Valley View, and sure enough, they were at capacity. So, I contentedly wound through the San Luis Valley on the route both familiar and fresh to me. It never got old, even when I travelled it regularly. Less familiar today was the TRAFFIC. High season. All the rafting outfits along the Arkansas river were packed, their parking lots solid with cars. The oncoming traffic was steady, cars whooshing by rhythmically, with relatively few gaps. The farther north I cruised, the greener and greener became the roadside majesty. I was exultant to be back in Colorado. I felt it bodily, more so than I expected. I felt myself coming alive, and filling with…what’s this? A sense of humor!

As I cruised alongside the gushing and frothy Platte River, I felt the growing tug to pull off and douse my feet in it. Before I could find a suitable turn off, I was approaching Bailey and seeing signs announcing “Special Event 6/17/17; expect delays.” I opted to get myself clear of that canyon, and I arrived in Indian Hills to a fond welcome from friends—two human, one feline, flora…and eight chickens.  

A walk and a tour of the property unwound the kinks, and before dinner I was recovered enough to give Shirley a Jin Shin Jyutsu session for her crotchety hip. Then I had to excuse myself for an early bedtime in the van. I’d been up early and the cat hair was bringing on my allergic autism.

As I retired in the van with the hatch up, I exchanged some silent ruminations with the three deer grazing the pasture across the narrow road. A couple of blinks later, it was morning. As happy as I was to be where I was, I woke with blahs in my body-mind. So I rose and distracted myself. I had hours before anyone else rose, and my meditation, surrounded by lush flora of the garden, Shirley’s endearing sculptures, and the busy politics of birds and squirrels, was a particularly powerful one; quite a download, made possible, I assume, by the fresh energies and support of the pulsing mountains and surrounds.

I led Shirley though some exercises for her hip and back, and as we lay on the front deck, daughter-in-law Kristin 


appeared, holding her own back and bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t stay and join us. They had come to deliver Jim’s Father’s Day card –which was a big hit—and present –which was the wrong size. Hugs were exchanged by all, and off they went. And as S and J settled into fond kitchen bickering to strategize a Father’s Day breakfast for him, I couldn’t 

eat, I moseyed on. But not before 

establishing a query for the trip: silly Selfies with every friend visited.


Here I want to acknowledge that as I led Shirley through the impromptu yoga therapy session, I felt the spirits of numerous yoga teachers along my path. One of the first was Kim, my original Iyengar teacher. I had gotten a text, once I broke out of the mountain curtain of cell-silence onto the front range, that he was in hospital after suffering an aneurism. So I dedicate any merits of the session with Shirley to him.

I decided to take the high road north—the Peak to Peak Highway—through Black Hawk, and Nederland, in order to stop and visit my friend Caroline outside of Allen’s Park. We had a sweet visit, an opportunity to woo the favor of yet another cat with sliced turkey imported all the way from Santa Fe.  Dexter is as black as Shirley’s Quatro, but twice her size, with green eyes to her gold, and comparably contrasting temperament.

Dexter’s dander (and mood swings) drove our party outdoors, and eventually C and I crossed the busy highway that runs between her house and the river. We sat on a rock, captured the required Selfie, and watched liquid glacier sluice and snake along.

I resumed my drive down the highway about 4pm, merging into the stream of SUVs, Subarus and Harleys easing back toward the city flats after the weekend’s escape above it all. Nobody was speeding home; all the cars slalomed down the canyon with that that satisfied and sunburned pace, slowing for cottonwood puffs as they drifted through air twinkling with water reflections and fluttering aspen leaves.

I drove through clouds of memories as I descended into Lyons, waved at Calista’s house as I passed, and sped over the flats with homebound traffic, up 287 to Ft. Collins.

I arrived first at the AirBnB apartment Jack had reserved. I entered and took in a subtle bouquet of the body and perspiration of a healthy, athletic male. Our host wasn’t home, not only because he wasn’t there, but because, I confess, the accommodations didn’t strike me as particularly homey. Well, not by American standards. But then, Jake, the bachelor host, runs a yoga studio, so perhaps time in India has influenced his standard of such things.

Upon I arrival, I could not think past a shower. This was still America, after all, and there was hot and cold running water, and only a three mosquitos in the bathroom (far fewer than in India, or even Crestone, where I had just been slap-dancing with its prodigious population of golly-nippers). One of the bedroom windows even opened, although the blind was broken.

After a shower had uncovered my happier self, I sat down to call a friend, put on my glasses and found myself staring at a pile of finger and toe-nail clippings on the corner of the coffee table before me. I could only laugh.

Next necessity would have been food, but I couldn’t not get the provided WIFI password to work to investigate where the nearest natural grocery was. So I sat down here and began to write.

Jack arrived, and we found our way to a Trader Joe’s. I dined gratefully on smoked salmon, humus and watermelon. Ah…Dolce Vita… and superlative food combining.

When we returned, we quickly surmised that Jake eats mostly smoothies, dominated by green powders, turmeric and bananas. It was a good thing we weren’t counting on the stir fry Jack’s son (Kevin) had offered to cook us there for dinner. We found only a steamer, two each of plates and bowls, and a cabinet full of mason jars. When I opened a drawer to find the single table knife, and three forks and spoons, a cloud of fruit flies was liberated into the air from the hatchery among the mason jar lids.

Eventually Jake arrived and helped us with the proper WIFI passwords, and we all tumbled into our quarters to sleep off our day’s travels.

Continuing with the Yoga thread: The next morning, I received a powerful video from my dear Partner Yoga teacher, Elysabeth, another important influence. In it she performs a brief stage piece revealing some of the darkness of her early life and what her journey has taught her about the blessings of her past. I learned things I didn’t know about her origins, things that could only quadruple my admiration for the Grace and Courage of who she is and what she offers the world.

Heat wave expected this week. Stay tuned.


I’ve found it strangely difficult to write about my recent SSI hearing, which I was sure would yield a rich crop of blog fodder. Its psychic impact was disarming. In truth, I still have both arms, but some of my other faculties haven’t seemed properly connected and functioning since that day.

If they come back on line, more merry musings may flow forth. Meanwhile, nearly two weeks later, I offer only the following extract:

Mathematics underpins the universe; it is, thus, somewhere behind all the most beautiful things I know. Math is truly the universal language. Falling into the fractals and sacred geometry of nature opens my heart quicker and deeper than almost anything else. My point? While I might have flunked my first attempt at algebra, I’ve got nothing against math.

But man does not live by math alone. Even Brian Greene knows this.
In the interview at that link, math and physics professor and author Greene also talks a lot about the illusory reality we all live in. It’s a consensus reality all of us more or less agree to, based on the five most common senses and our common conditioning. This doesn’t take into account the alternate reality each of us claims for ourselves—let’s call it subjectivity— nor the ones shared and espoused by subsets of our population: mystics, libertarians, pot-heads, deaf persons, etc.

Many of us watch the spectacle of our national political drama and see an alternate reality playing out before us, like a diorama in a museum gone amok and infecting the greater world. Others of us encounter such bewildering 3D Kafka-fests just going home at Thanksgiving, or applying for health insurance.

As I have ridden the steeple-chase of my 3-year SSI process, I have been navigating another such alternate reality.
It is one that reduces people and circumstances to numbers and equations, and the occasional rudimentary geometry. As in, “must ..make.. this… lemniscate… fit.. in… square …hole…”

There were, of course, the periodically-issued forms asking myself, my health practitioners and my friends how much I could sit, stand, kneel, crouch; how far I could walk; how many pounds I could lift and carry and for how many minutes or hours. The answers required were in the form of numbers, not words.

There were perfunctory exams in which doctors barely looked in my eye, focusing most attention on the computer screen where they documented the numbers they derived from brief contacts with my body: with three fingers on the wrist; ten seconds with a stethoscope pressed to chest, back, belly; three taps of a rubber hammer to reflex points; a quick beam of light into eyes, ears, throat; numeric readings of weight scale, thermometer, and pulse oximeter. 

Finally there was the judge asking me in the hearing how many dollars I made in 2002 and how many hours I had worked to do so; and how to estimate the number of dollars a recent housesit had saved me in rent.

Then the same judge conversed by speakerphone, in a language of percentages and statistics, with a disembodied voice borrowed from the Simpsons. I could not now reconstitute enough of the exchange to quote verbatim, but it was structured in a series hypothetical conditional equations, like the following:

“If hypothetical claimant M could spend X number of hours standing, sitting, walking, P-ing Y number of times, what job could she hold?”

“She could work in a fast food restaurant; number of jobs nationally: 3,498,732.”

“Thank you. Now, if claimant M can spend only F number hours doing G, H and K, what jobs can she perform?”

“ She could be a copy machine operator, at 31.6 hours/week: number of jobs nationally: 89,726. That is in accordance with the DPI.”

And so on, until the judge has added in enough theoretical handicaps that subject M elicits the reply from the voice: “No, said claimant could not work… But that is not from DPI; that is from my own experience.”

The last statement made her sound eerily human. But mostly, I felt like I was spectating a conversation from Star Trek:

“Computer, calculate the vectors to arrive in orbit of planet 9Quark2 in the Orion Sector during its Apogee with Binary cluster D62.8.”

“3.7 light years at warp speed, by way of Worm Hole U8L, or 4.8 decades by way of the New Jersey Tunnel.”

“Is this factoring in the coinciding proximity and girth of Chris Christie?”


By way of the New Mexico bureaucratic Manana-vectors, the hearing results can be expected within 30-90 days. Stay tuned.