...the Wanderling


"...give any information you have garnered to a fellow traveler along the Way. Why? Because the same information would have helped the person who compiled it if it had been given to him, and that is why he compiled it --- and that is why it should be offered to others along the Way."

An interpretation from the works of:

Thus said, then, the following is offered:

When I was in the Peace Corps, former Peace Corps Volunteers traveling the world, would stop into the Peace Corps office, most typically located in the host country's capitol, of which mine was, and request the name and location of a current volunteer so they might obtain food and lodging for the night or stay a few days. In the country in which I served, Jamaica, my place, a small cabin overlooking Kingston, was high up along the steep serpentine road winding through the Blue Mountains, and was ALWAYS among those suggested.


During the years following my return from the Peace Corps, especially so the early years, many former Peace Corps Volunteers world travelers continued to seek out my place in the States as somewhere to visit, hang their hat, or as a short-term base of operations to access the surrounding area. However, out of the Peace Corps my time was not nearly always my own as it had been as a volunteer, so I was not able to personally accompany them in some of the local and regional interests such world travelers tend to seek out.

For those who wanted to hike the local mountains, for example, I searched around and found what I considered the best local hiking guidebook available, taking into consideration my OWN experiences actually hiking the same trails. Of all the various guidebooks on the shelves, the one I picked out most accurately depicted where to leave a vehicle, points of interest, the trails, distances, topography, where one could find water, etc. The travelers made their own decisions as to what trail, how long they would be gone, how much water to carry, how far they themselves could go before the need to turn around, that sort of thing.

True, they could have gone off on their own, unprepared, wandering around forever following any trail, however, my meager offerings, gone over previously by others and put into the guidebook, but selected by me from my own personal experiences traveling the same trails myself, provided a pointing of the way so undue hardships would be less likely forthcoming. Some heeded my suggestions, some didn't. Some reached their goals, some didn't.

When the British ran the island, in Kingston, the capitol, there was a people's commons they called Parade. It was a huge grass area they kept immaculately preened for parades and various pomp ceremonies. After the British relinquished colony status, island folk from the hinterlands and elsewhere began using the surrounding streets, alleys, and Parade to set up and sell their wares, turning it into a giant outdoor bazaar. The outdoor bazaar atmosphere was exotic in it's own way...the sights, sounds, the colors and general milieu...and to be truthful, I loved the Terry and the Pirates excitement and intrigue that seemed to abound and present itself around every nook and corner, reminding me very much of being on the streets in the Chinese district of Cholon in Saigon as well as Chiang Mai, Thailand. However the vendors would continue to haul in loads and loads of stuff, bananas, coconuts, breadfruit, various animals to turn into meat, that sort of thing. The only thing is they never bothered to cart off any of the leftover residue and castoff garbage. It piled up and up into huge heaps, attracting flies, rats and other animals and insects, besides stinking to high heaven.

As mentioned, I lived high in the Blue Mountains in a pristine jungle secluded cliff-side overlook pushing close to a mile above the capitol. Every morning I got up and cleaned my OWN room, but wouldn't go down into the city and clean Parade.

The following from the Five Degrees of Tozan , the Fourth Degree The Arrival at Mutual Integration (The Absolute within the Relative) known as Ken-chu-shi:

"He enters the market place with empty hands, yet others receive benefit from him. This is what is called to be on the road, yet not to have left the house; to have left the house, yet not to be on the road."

The point being people can do and what they will, with Buddhism, Zen, or anything else...even clean their own rooms or let the garbage pile up. Yet a true man of Zen can enter the market place with empty hands, yet others receive benefit from him.(source)

On the road up behind where I lived in the Blue Mountains was a little known hidden, but very well equipped recording studio that most of the Jamaican and international reggae stars practiced their craft or just hung out, smoked ganja, and talked. At one time or the other I met any number of major players there under invite or at Mr. Hall's rum bar in Irish Town, such as Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, even Bob Marley when he showed up on the island to play the One Love Peace Concert on April 22, 1978 and of which I attended. The Peace Concert being more or less a Jamaican version of the Woodstock Festival and called as much by the media build as the "Third World Woodstock."

The reggae stars, major or minor, their lackeys, women, bandsmen and bodyguards would come up the mountain road in their BMWs, Mercedes, or big American cars and vans at high rates of speed, often with flags flying on the fenders as though they were some kind of ambassador or embassy big shot, and pity the poor barefoot mountain klutz or mother with kids caught unaware in their way going about their daily business walking on the road. I know because I had been caught more than once myself.[1]

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It is with deep regret and continuing heartfelt sorrow that I write of the passing of one of my dearest and closest fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. The two of us met the night before the start of the six day final selection process the Peace Corps calls PRIST, Pre-Invitional Staging. There were upwards of 500 fresh and eager potential Peace Corps volunteers at the start of PRIST. By the time the end came around five or six days later the number had been whittled down to maybe just a few over 100. She had just graduated from college in June 1977 and now, early in the year 1978, three months following PRIST, she was stepping off a plane in Kingston, Jamaica along with me and a good portion of those other 100. During our deployment, both work and play, we made it a point to hardly ever be farther away than a hand's reach. After the Peace Corps we went our separate ways, but never lost contact. She died from cancer in September 2023 at age 67.


In Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery I write about how I was brought before the presence of a very old and ancient man of Zen who had come down out of the even more rarefied atmosphere of the high Himalaya mountains and asked to see the white monk who was said to be under the protection of the Lord Buddha. I was quickly brought before his presence. Because of respect paid him by all, plus the serenity he seemed to abide in, it was clear the man was Enlightened.

Even so, no sooner had I arrived in the meditation hall and he took one look at me, tall, gaunt, and a westerner, even in the highly subdued light of the stonewalled hall I detected an ever so slight change of expression brush across his face. No sooner had I bowed he turned to walk away, then in a flash he swung back around with his staff swinging hard toward me. As I raised my arm to block the blow just as quickly he lowered the motion of the swing and before I was able to counter the move he had knocked me off my feet. Huge roars of laughter permeated the room. Here was this billion year old man who had easily knocked me to the ground. He extended the end of his staff to pull me up, which I took. He then strode out of the monastery and back into the mountains.

There was something about the old man that would not just let go and it continued to nag at me for the longest time. Months went by. Finally, when the weather turned such that I could, I sought the old man out, visiting him at what was not much more than a stone-pile hut along the edge of a stream.

In Zen Monastery, other than saying that I went to see the old man I do not elaborate on any travails I may have encountered getting to his hut or on my return. In Hope Savage I relate to the readers basically the same story except that I interject more ordeal-like aspects encountered during my journey. To wit:

"Going to and from his abode was a very arduous several day trek, much of it through rugged and steep very high altitude territory. A good portion of the trail followed along side a series of streams that may or may not have been the same one, that was sometimes rushing and other times placid depending on the steepness or flatness of the terrain."

Even though the Zen-man and I were not able to communicate verbally in the standard way because neither of us had command of each other's languages, he as a man of Zen as were my leanings, for all practical purposes the two of us were quite comfortable in how we had established a working relationship of understanding between us. However, not operating at his level, for me there remained many more unanswered questions than answered ones.

In the mountains generally it was out-and-out cold, but in the rarefied higher elevation where we were it was even more so. Even so, considering the usual outside nighttime temperature drop, with the tiny almost candle-like fire in his stone hut, it was typically bearable.

The day before I was to leave we spent a good part of the daylight hours scrounging around for burnable material. To me the amount we gathered seemed much more than would otherwise be necessary, but what I found even more odd was that we left nearly half or more of what we collected neatly stacked at the long abandoned stone hut he had shown me a few days before.

After returning to his hut and leaving the rest of the material we gathered, we put a little food, a few utensils and tea in a shoulder bag then went back to the abandoned hut before sundown for reasons to me unclear. After arrival we ate, then in the declining if not all but gone sunlight he searched around and found what at one time appeared to have been a fire pit. Following his lead the two of us put together a fairly good sized, considering what his fires were usually like, almost pyre-like pile of combustibles. With the sunlight gone and total darkness having fully encroached on us by the time we finished the Zen-man lit the fire.

We sat in meditation facing each other across the fire on an east-west axis with me facing east toward what would eventually be the location of the rising sun. At some point into our meditation, and non-Siddhi related, there was somehow a coalescing of our mind processes forming a single mental entity where we both able to understand each other's thoughts.

In the thoughts he was willing to share he revealed he had spent many, many years as a young man on the other side of time in Gyanganj, but one day he passed through the monastery portals to the outside world and when he did, he became an old man.

For the record, in an other example of a similar or like-type thought exchange, Ram Dass, in an article in Yoga Journal, November 1976 (pp 6-11), related that once he found himself in a very close similar situation between himself and his spiritual mentor, the venerated Indian holy man Neem Karoli Baba:

"He laughed and spoke to me. It's interesting --- he had always spoke to me in Hindi, and my Hindi was very bad. In India there was always somebody translating. But on these other levels the transmission is in thought form, and then it comes out in whatever language you think in"

Before the full abilities of the thought exchange phenomenon faded into oblivion I brought up, considering his age, about the arduous trip back and forth through the mountains to and from the monastery for example, and how, even for me in my somewhat comparable youth and the physical condition that accompanies it, how difficult it was. What I garnered as a response was that I travel my way and he travels his way.

The next morning the Zen-man was gone. So too, neither was he to be found when I returned to his hut, although I did find a rolled up piece of cloth tied to the strap of my shoulder bag. Marked on the cloth, most likely done so from the burnt end of a wooden stick, were four Chinese cuneiform characters, one in each corner and, filling most of the center, the outline of some sort of a shape I didn't recognize.

When the four Chinese characters were deciphered they turned out to mean nothing more than colors: red, yellow, green and black. The outlined shape in the center remained a mystery and meant nothing to anybody who saw it. The mystery however, was solved on its own some 15 years later, a period of time that found me living in the Caribbean island country of Jamaica, and was solved almost on the first day I arrived for what turned out to be a two year stay. So too was answered, before I left the island, my comment regarding how arduous the trip back and forth through the mountains was and his response that I travel my way and he travels his way.

The first part was answered right after leaving the airport to the train station. Almost immediately I saw a giant map of Jamaica and instantly I recognized the shape of the island as being the exact same shape the Zen-man drew on the cloth some 15 years before, an island or place he probably never saw or heard of in his life. Secondly, on my train ride through the cities and hinterland I saw all over, again and again the dominant colors of red, yellow, green and black in the graffiti adopted from the country of Africa and used by the Rastafarians in the graffiti that was plastered all over on almost every available open space. Those two eye-openers along with my experience high in the mountains with a Jamaican man of spells called an Obeah led to the meaning behind how the Zen-man traveled those so many years earlier as found in the following:




  1. TWO YEARS PON DI ROCK A young northern California woman, 36 years after my Peace Corps experience in Jamaica, describes her experiences in Jamaica over the two year period 2014-2016. Lots of pages, some week by week, some day by day. Lots of graphics.

  2. OBEAH A Jamaican man of spells, similar to voodoo or witchdoctor.

  3. THE BLUE MOUNTAINS The mountains where I lived and the home of Blue Mountain Coffee.

  4. LIME CAY Small island off Port Royal and Kingston. Frequented regularly by PCVs.

  5. DENGUE FEVER The Wanderling contracts Dengue Fever and cured by the Obeahman's rituals.

  6. MAP OF JAMAICA Where I lived was located at just about the "W" in Half Way Tree.




  10. THE WORD OBEAH: What Does It Mean?

  11. PLATO THE WIZARD Obeah Power and the Devastating Jamaica Hurricane of 1780.

  12. AN EMAIL TO THE WANDERLING. A former Peace Corps Volunteer queries the Wanderling about his time in Jamaica.

  13. EMAIL THE WANDERLING Easiest Way To Contact the Wanderling.




Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.










Footnote [1]

One day high in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica not far from where I lived a young girl from a nearby village was hit by a car along the mountain road and left laying by the edge of the asphalt. The parents, who could not afford a regular medical doctor, opted to have their daughter taken to a Jamaican man that was a sort of root doctor and man of spells called an Obeah. A village member and myself carried the girl in a sling-like hammock slung between two long wooden poles up the hazardous mountain trail to the Obeahman's abode. During that several hour period, although breathing, the girl never regained consciousness. I was not allowed to go into the Obeah's hut because he was white, nor were any of the rituals performed observed, that is, if any at all were performed. The next morning I ended up clear down the mountain and didn't exactly see what happened to the girl. About two weeks later she was seen to be playing with other village children as though nothing had ever happened. No marks, scars, scratches, casts or anything else. Many months later I contracted Dengue fever and laid in his bed sweating in pools of water, delirious with a high fever, not eating, and basically unable to move. A villager happened by and reported how sick he was to a village elder. He in turn passed word to the Obeah. Under NO circumstances had the Obeah ever been known to leave his mountain lair, everyone in need of his services ALWAYS had to go to him no matter how serious the situation. However, much to the surprise of everyone in the village and others for miles and miles around, within a few hours of hearing of my condition the Obeah showed up on the veranda. He would not enter his house, again because I was a white man, but he did remove spiritual items and herbs from his medicine bag and perform a set of rituals that included spreading sand and ashes in a circle, casting bones into the circle, sitting Buddha-like doing some chanting and using smoke that wafted throughout the house. The next day I was up and around, sore, and except for a substantial loss of weight and weak from having not eaten, OK. The Obeah was gone.

The day after the Obeah departed and following a night of heavy wind and rain, conscious but racked with pain, for the first time in days I was able to move and hobbled myself out onto the veranda. Barely able to stay upright I stood before the shaman's circle, and despite the storm of the night before, the circle was still in place just as it had been left by the man of spells. An ever so slight breeze came up and spread across the veranda floor twisting itself into a small dust-devil-like vortex encompassing my bare feet and legs with the ash and sand of the circle. As the twisting breeze climbed his body the pain dissipated eventually disappearing altogether along with the wind.



At the end of the summer of 1953, just as I was about to start the 10th grade or so, the August - September #6 issue of the comic book Mad came out. Inside #6 was a story, drawn by my all time favorite non-animator cartoonist Wallace Wood, that spoofed or satired big-time the long running comic strip Terry and the Pirates, with Wood in his spoofing, calling it Teddy and the Pirates.

Although I had followed Terry and the Pirates a good portion of my life, and knew how Milton Caniff, the artist-cartoonist of the strip, presented Terry's world that he and his so-called Pirates lived in, Wood's top-half opening drawing below, showing his version of an underbelly far east like milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere along with the rest of the story hit me like a hammer, with me, the teenager that I was, sucking up his version as my version and as my version, the real version. Ten years later, thanks to Uncle Sam and his friendly Selective Service, found me in Rangoon, Saigon, and Chiang Mai, as well as other such places, even meeting warlords. Those ten years after high school, especially in and where I traveled, having gone from a teenager to an almost mid-twenties GI, my vision not only didn't wane, but was bolstered and grew. Notice the tommy guns, stabbings, hand grenades and exotic women. So too in the second panel, i.e., lower left hand corner, the two crashed P-40 Flying Tigers.


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