Scott and I were sitting on a bench, on Main Street, in Ketchum, during the Farmers Market, people watching. A guy was playing the guitar and singing. A casually dressed man was dancing (come to find out later he is world-re-known for his black and white Idaho photos, but too much sniffing, shooting, and smoking fried him, and now the community watches out for him).
We were also watching a man dressed in many shades of purple, with two sets of glasses on, a braid on his gray beard, as he collected fruits and vegetables from various vendors. He'd gather them, then set them by his parked bike, go back for more, add to his cache, and leave to gather more (we were wondering how on earth he was going to fit all of his food on this bike). His movements were smooth, and he had a Zen-like look of peace and knowing about him. I didn't think he'd had too much to smoke, but he was a little off.
I stepped away, this man-in-purple sat on the bench with Scott and began visiting. I returned, Scott introduced us. The gentleman asked what I taught, asked who my favorite authors were. I asked him about himself. He was a Yogi, a Buddhist monk, an herbalist, and an Ayurveda practitioner. He told us about his stroke a few years earlier, and how he lost all that he thought was meaningful to him. He shared how he returned to the land of the living by slimming down his life to what he could take with him. He talked about healing, accepting, needing to find his own fit in the world, being OK with being different, asking for, and receiving, help, and accepting and being accepted. I told him about my cancer, my cancer brain (still searching for words), my tip-toeing into Ayurveda, and returning to Idaho.
His ride arrived; well, his friend with a van arrived to take his goods home. He gave me a hug, told me I was beautiful, said how fortunate he was to meet us, how we had blessed his life with our conversation. I wanted to hold him, hug him longer, take him home, make him my best friend, and yet, there, he was gone.
I turned to Scott and began to cry. This ten minute encounter was so intense, and I was so touched my this gentleman's kindness. I yearn for that here in my own Happy Valley. I want these types of people in my life, these types of small-town encounters where everyone knows everyone and takes care of each other. And I know it's here, but that's another story.
Scott and I left, on our bikes, for a ride along the river. And I cried. And then I got angry. And then I allowed that anger, that dozens of years worth of low self-talk take over. I couldn't talk with Scott (conversation on bikes is not easy), so I had almost three hours to sort these feelings out. And - I - did. By the time the cathartic ride was finished I had won my battle, and I was cleansed. I had baptized myself in the waters of the Wood River, the Salmon River, the Snake River, and I was reborn, really. In three hours the years of negativity and self-doubt and self-loathing and inadequacy and apprehension and shame were gone, becoming a puff of emotion to burn off in the smokey Idaho-fire air that surrounded us.
We left this area - and typically I leave a piece of myself wherever we travel, as a token of sorts that I will return and reconnect. However this time, I took a piece of Idaho with me, to remind me of the peace I found there.
Idaho has a way of bringing out authenticity - you can't bullshit an Idahoan. You'll rarely find someone from Idaho who BS's, who isn't authentic, isn't independent, stubborn, honest - or as we're known, a straight-shooter.
Thanks, Idaho, for greeting me with open arms, allowing me to sit and sup with you, and for reminding me of my roots - and my branches. Thanks for changing me -