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September: Guest Writer

September 5, 2012

This month I’ve decided to post a short piece written by a friend of mine who has been interested in guest writing for a while- Johnny Baumsegler X’e. All of the conversations we’ve had are about living a life that escapes the structures often set out for us (doing a practical/professional program, getting a good job, buying a good house, etc, etc). I don’t mean to argue that there is anything inherently wrong with that kind of lifestyle, but once involved in that pattern it becomes very hard to deviate from. Johnny has a number of short vignettes about his life, all of which contain different life choices than one would make if working towards an ‘American dream’-like goal. I’ve posted two of these below.


It would be seven long winters ago that I was living in France. I had Arrived in June, and as all my old friends were going into retreat for three years, I found myself squatting in a tent at the foot of the Temple. Hidden in the Bamboo grove amongst the Caravans.

It had been left there by Valentin, the Gypsy boy from Russia. He had brought it back from a music festival in Sweden. It had served it’s purpose, and now it was mine for the taking. At first it was just the tent, and a bit of a mattress. I soon filled it with my belongings from Canada. My Tuba, my Rope, my Swords, and countless other odds and ends.

My little Cirque Desolee. I was happy there amongst the Frogs, and Ducks. I was apprenticing in the woodshop in the daytime, so soon my little tent became a sort of maison du bois. It was perhaps the sweetest sorrow of my life. I loved my life there, but my Gypsy blood left me longing for something, or someone I had left behind.

Still I endeavoured to build my life there.

So began my retreat. Meditation in the morning, working in the shop in the daytime, then down to the Bamboo to train. I began in earnest, but slowly descended into the madness that comes from solitude. It was a sweet madness though…

Then The Autumn came, and the rains came. I continued to build my fortress. Pallets for the floor, Boards to keep the wind from coming under the canvass. Wood chips to help insulate, and keep the mice at bay. I staked it down well but in the howling winds I often dreamt through the night that my little home would fly away one day.

It was cold, but I was Canadian of Icelandic heritage, so the winters chill filled my blood with fire. I built my nest well. One of my traditional sweater blankets beneath me, twenty blankets or more to cover me. The music of the frogs to comfort me, the thunder of a thousand tiny wings to awaken me at sunrise.

Then one day the snows came. The frogs burrowed deep into the mud as the pond froze over. I awakened to the sight of my breath, the canvas was stiff and the zipper seized up. It was the winter of my discount tent….


It was the first day of Summer 2003. I had just flown back from Paris after two years of traveling. A large part of that time had been spent in a monastery near a small village in the Auvergne which I call home.
I arrived in Montreal with practically no money a large pack of objets trouveau, and failing health. I spent two nights at a friends place. It was my first time in Montreal and she was the only person I knew. She was sharing a tiny apartment with her daughter, and sometimes boyfriend. Suddenly I found myself living on the streets of a strange city, and sleeping in the parks at night.
One night I was careless and exhausted. Instead of setting up camp for the night as per usual I set down all my worldly belongings outside a porta potty. Nearby a group of youths were playing basketball.
Moments later I heard the shuffle of feet then silence. Upon exit everything was gone. They left behing a plank of wood and the sheepskin and a bottle I’d brought with me from France.
I wandered through the night in disbelief. So many precious treasures it seemed were gone including my identity.
Finally I found a bit of waxy cardboard and laid down in the park and wept. I closed my eyes so tightly hoping that when I awoke it had all just been a terrible dream.
I spent a few days living on the streets with nothing until one night a stranger offered me a place to stay. She fed me and provided for me. In the end she even bought me a new rope and a bus ticket back to Edmonton.
Life is filled with Devils and Angels. Those who will rob you of everything and kick you while you are down. As well as those who will offer all they can, without expectation of anything in return.
I have met a few devils in this lifetime. Yet for the most part I have been able to find the angels.
The universe always provides…


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