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My Background

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1929 was the year of the big stock market crash. I was about six months old when it happened, so I don't remember anything about it. But I'm sure it affected my early life. I didn't know that my family was poor, and I grew up without a lot of ambition but with a strong sense that I'd have to take care of myself in the world. My dad was a dreamer without a very good feel for reality. When the Okies were moving to California in 1932, we were in our Model A Ford headed for Seattle. Almost didn't make it, and had to borrow money to complete the trip. 

Don & Fiddle 1940 500.jpg (134156 bytes) Six months later, the Red Cross gave my dad vouchers so we could drive back to Cincinnati again. I suppose I have some of my dad's shortage of common sense, but I also have some of my mom's traits, too. It took me a long time to realize that her genes were the ones I like most about me. She admired goodness, and she loved what she called "God's work." (That doesn't mean, as I guess it does to some people, the work that people do to help the Big Guy out. To her it means His handiwork--nature, the world, the heavens, and people.)

(This is me, during preparation for our second move to Seattle, in 1940.)

As soon as I left high school, I joined the Coast Guard and got stationed in Boot camp.jpg (75704 bytes) Port Townsend, Washington (click here to jump to Coast Guard Days pages), where I married, fathered a child, got out of the service just in time to miss the Korean War, broke up with my wife and returned to the Midwest, where I got a job, got married, went to school, fathered two more children, eventually bought a house in the suburbs and a Mercedes Benz automobile and not long afterward discovered I was not doing what I was meant to do (though I didn't know what I was meant to do, but it wasn't that), so dropped out and went to Iowa to attend grad school, and then to California for a couple years until I missed my kids so much I again returned to Cincinnati. As they say, "You can't go home again," but I had some of my dad's genes, you remember, so I gave it a shot. Eventually I went freelance, writing technical manuals for people, and ended up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, up to my ears in computers. They paid my rent, but it wasn't until I retired that I found out what I was supposed to do: write. I'd had inklings back in my twenties, but I guess the other things I did were my training school.

Living in Ann Arbor changed my life in other ways, as well. I discovered, for example, that there are ways for people to be together that aren't competitive or demanding. I was introduced to community, more a philosophy than a description of a physical collection of people. It felt like coming home. A place where I was accepted as I was, where I could make mistakes and not be put down for them. A place where I could express my deepest fears, my deepest longing, and simply be heard. And it was more than a place, it was an ongoing process of growing, individually and collectively. Then, enveloped in this new awareness, I met Judith. She personified the new image I had constructed in my mind: worldly and idealistic, rational and full of feeling, sensitive to others and with a sense of herself, radiating something I was ready for. A partner for the rest of my life, a relationship that had no limit to its depth or its joy. A community of two.

The next thing that shook up my world was discovering mysticism. I'd been an agnostic since my early twenties. I bought the notion that reality is what can be seen and felt and measured, and I had little patience with "things of the spirit" and even less with organized religion. I have to credit Ken Wilber with illuminating a path from my totally materialistic, "scientific" view of things to where I could begin to imagine something beyond the rational mind. At this moment, I feel I'm in very deep water, and I'm not about to claim that I understand everything. But a door has been opened . . .

Updated June 16, 2006


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