gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

miracle on highway 94.

something very strange happened to me over forty-five years ago that i've never been able to completely understand. it was something that changed the course of my life in a remarkable and wondrous way.

i had already been reading copious amounts of books on world religions, spirituality and meditation. i had already been meditating all over the place: at my gabriola island home, on mexican beaches, in california parks, even inside a hawaiin dormant volcanoe. but, there came a time when i decided i needed or at least wanted guidance, the benefit of someone's experience. i was in mexico at the time, decided to hitch-hike to boulder, colorado, to see chogyam trungpa, but that didn't happen.

what did happen has stayed with me and has always sorta felt like a miracle. this is a longer story, but the short of it is i ended up in windsor, ontario, where i heard of an unusual vippassana meditation retreat happening all the way back in california, in hardly a few days time. it was to be in the sierra-nevada mountains, thirty-one days of silence, and only experienced vippassana meditators were welcome.

in those days the retreats put on by ruth dennison, one of the two north american designated teachers within the lineage of u ba kin, were very infrequent. really, it was all just beginning back then. but, after much pleading, the organizers agreed to let me join... if i arrived at their place in berkley within two days. that was virtually impossible and they knew it, especially considering i could only afford to hitch-hike, especially considering it had just taken me almost two weeks to get from san francisco to detroit.

i don't exactly know why i insisted on trying. my windsor friends tried to talk me out of it. they insisted the timing was all wrong, a complete impossibility. but i was standing on the side of highway 94 outside of detroit with my pack at my feet, arm outstretched and thumb up, later that afternoon. and that's when it happened. almost immediately, a huge sixteen-wheeler pulled over, a rough-looking older guy leaned out his half-opened door and hollered at me to 'come on, get in'.

that guy just drove, into the evening, hardly said much at all. he asked me where i was coming from, where i was headed. that's about it. picking up hikers was actually illegal. he coulda lost his job, his license, but that didn't seem to bother him one bit. not only did he pick up a bonafide, genuine, long-haired hippy freak, he arranged for others to do the same. before he turned south he got on his cb-radio and, in some strange secret code i assumed only the truckers understood, he found out who was coming along behind heading west. eventually, pulling in to a truck-stop, the fellow instructed me to hang around in the dark of the parking lot until i saw a truck with running shoes tied to the back door handles. then, while the driver was in having a coffee or whatever, i was to jump in the cab.

well, that's the way it was, all across the country. one time i had to look for a cowboy hat hanging from the back doors, a brassiere on the antenna, a toy rabbit, a teddy bear. all through the night and well into the next day those guys kept me moving west, until i stood in front of the retreat's organizers in berkley.

to say they were shocked to see me would not really do the moment justice. they were clearly bewildered, not overly pleased, but invited me in, handed me a cup of herb tea and i joined the group waiting to head out to the retreat centre. there were many people there. most everyone was meditating, quiet, i felt as though i'd landed in heaven and the rest, as they say, is history.

post-script: anyone who has read even a few of my postings on this blog knows that i take meditation very seriously. ok, well, at least i am quite careful to present the ancient practice in a seriously down-to-earth and non-flakey way. i freely admit it has not introduced me to a creator, a creative intelligence, a higher power. so this may be the flakiest, most new-agey statement you'll ever read here: the miracle on highway 94, more than almost any time in my life, and there have been others, really felt like the hand of god.


  1. I love the rare signs of grace in life. I have be fortunate to experience a few. As you wrote - it feels like a touch from the divine.

  2. Great story....and what a great guy your trucker friend was.