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  • In the summer of 1975, after winding up a year of teaching pre-school, I set off to travel for the summer. Hitch-hiking out of Berkeley, I caught a lucky ride with some people headed to Denver. Unfortunately, as infrequently was the case, the people made me uncomfortable. They were a bitter bunch with nothing good to say, but a steady stream of derogatory jokes. Hours later, we stopped for gas in barren desert-country on the Nevada side of the Sierras. There was a bus fueling up. There were two empty bays where cars could be worked on by mechanics and a platform alongside the bays where a curly black-haired man was incongruously sitting in a lotus position. I did a double take when I realized it was my buddy and fellow preschool teacher, Curtis!

    He told me he was on his way to New York to meet his mother for a trip to Russia. He was onboard “The Grey Rabbit Bus” that catered to hippies and made weekly cross-country trips. It had rock music piped throughout the bus, and instead of seats there was one huge foam mattress. People sat with their backs against one side or the other forming a long row of alternating legs down the center. I approached the pony-tailed driver with Curtis and asked if he could take me to Casper, Wyoming. He gave his beard a tug, made a mental calculation, and asked for ten dollars.

    I grabbed my stuff and got on the bus. Grey Rabbit was the “anti-Greyhound.” At one point we all piled out naked to take a refreshing dip in a lake, causing a few fishermen in scattered boats to fumble for their binoculars. Casper came much too quickly, but Curtis and I wished each other well until we’d meet again in a preschool classroom.

    Nearly three months later, having noodled, caboodled, schmoozed, camped, and reconnoitered from Boulder, Colorado to Blacksburg, Virginia, north through Vermont to Montreal and back toward California, I was standing at the back of a sizeable line of backpackers at a forest ranger station in Banff, Canada. The rangers were recommending trails according to the particulars voiced to them and giving out camping permits when appropriate. Before I could see him, I recognized Curtis’ voice at the head of the line conversing with the ranger. Needless to say, we were dumbfounded and elated to see each other. We hiked and camped together for several days.

    What are the odds that we would be at the same place at the same time over 1200 miles from home? When we last spoke, neither one of us had any idea that we’d be going to Banff – let alone Canada. Then add the first random meeting to the algorithm and I think a mathematician would be busy for weeks. That summer, Curtis was my double rainbow of coincidence.

    There’s something more intrinsic than math that underlies the coincidences that pop up on the paths of travelers……some kind of magnetic force at play. I can go years at home doing my routines around town without bumping into a friend from another time and place. As often as not, I can’t even find my current friends at an event we both know we are attending. But send me to Portland for a week and I’ll run into a roommate from two decades earlier in Santa Barbara. Let me walk a few days on Paris streets and I run into a former neighbor from across my Palo Alto street who moved to a houseboat on the Seine. If we are like electrons in our day-to-day lives, moving rapidly around the same old nucleus, then we must be more like light waves when we cut our tethers and travel. In weightless motion, we bounce, refract, and reflect – open to a myriad of possibilities and drawn by callings from memories whose clarity have long since dissolved into mysterious instinctual magnetic attractions.

    photo is of Curtis circa '79
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