Christmas isn't a whole lot of fun when nobody even knows your name. Tory was with me that first year, and again in '96. other than those years, Christmas was a thing to hide from. I usually told people I had plans and then went off into the desert. All that changed, those last few years, when I lived in the forest.
The weather would drive me down from the mountains to the
Verde River Valley in September, with the exception of '04 when I
tried to hang at the desert lakes outside Phoenix. Even then, I
managed to get to the Verde for the Holidays. Most years, I would
wake alone in the Valley, but friends always rolled in throughout the
I could always count on Grizz to show up with some fantastic
grass, often with Lee. You just don't find good friends like them
everyday. Other people would roll into camp, day trippers, all
friends that I sometimes wouldn't see all year. Last year I went back
and saw darn near the whole old Verde crew.
Those years in the forest, those people I met-sometimes
weekly, sometimes yearly-did something good to me. The holidays at
the river, especially, helped make me feel more real than I had in
years; softened me to humanity where I had grown hard.
I rediscovered the joy that I had lost on the long journey
to anonymity. I believe that regaining that joy was an important
element in earning my freedom. I told Tory, when I first left Muncie,
that I could see that I was going to lose a part of myself. You don't
undertake a journey like mine without paying some price. I wanted her
to know from the outset, that I was likely to lose many of the
qualities that she appreciated about me. I knew it was going to be a
difficult task to become whole again.
I don't know what she thought about that, I don't think she
really believed me. Back in those days she gave me too much credit
sometimes. Turns out, I underestimated the degree to which I would
lose myself in fear and despair. Funny now, looking back. I can see
that when I hit my lowest point and chucked it all to live in
the forest, (committing myself to the whims of the universe if you
will), the healing would finally begin. When I had nothing left to
lose, I gained everything.