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2003-12-30

IMPORTANT NEW NOTES FROM JUSTIN:

So, is there no end to this journey? There definitely seems to be no end in sight. There are so many people to meet and enjoy, so many places to fall in love with, and so much to share and learn. So I continue to move with the winds; I continue to entice the winds to follow me.

So, one of the things about this experiment in love and motion and travel is that I have—against my will—assumed the challenging variable I like to call 'being broke'. So, that means I am doing this crazy trip while living, ahem, very frugally. For example, my slutty pants that used to be tight aren't tight anymore—that kind of frugal, you know?

So, what does this mean? Well, staying in a hotel every night is out of the question. I am looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights and really host me. This would involve me staying at your house for a few days, showing me a good time (since I like good times), feeding my stupid mouth (in an attempt to make my pants fit me again), and whatever general mischief we can get into. And, the best part is that I get to learn about your life and write about our times together! That is part of the experiment, see. I am meeting with people I've never met before and living some life with them. If you think it might be fun to host me for a day or two or three, email me at justingrace AT mac DOT com.

Please make sure to include your address and phone number in your email to me so I can be in touch!

I am especially looking for places to stay in the southeast USA and everywhere on the East Coast. I will be traveling all over the USA, though, so email me no matter where you are because I will probably come visit! Here are the places I will be in the next few weeks that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

• Alabama
• Florida
• Tennessee
• North/South Carolina
• Georgia
• Virginia

Please contact me ASAP if you want to hang out!



US Tour Day 107: St. Dorothy's Rest and Magic

Saint Dorothy's Rest. I could write a million pages about this place and what it has meant to me through my life and the countless ways it has shaped me. I've sang there, swam there, laughed there, cried there, learned, lived, loved, longed, lost. I started going there for their summer camp program when I was eight years old, so I guess it was 1984. I went there every summer until I was sixteen. Then I was old enough to be a counselor. And I did that until 1996. Or was it 1997? So many things happen in the years, and it makes it so hard to remember what happened when.

While I can't remember exactly what happened when, I am 100% sure of what happened where. And the where has, since 1984, been primarily at the place we lovingly call Saint Dot's.

It is my favorite place on this rock that floats through the endless darkness of space. The people there are my favorite people, the memories my favorite memories.

Why? What is it that makes a summer camp that hibernates into a quiet retreat center during winters such a superlative place for me? I've thought about this ever since my mind was capable of doing so, as this place has been a part of me since long before that.

As a camper it was a place of fun. And, unlike school or the homes of the kids in my neighborhood, it was a place where I was accepted and even liked. I had few friends at school and even fewer near my house. I was a loudmouth and a smartass and had a knack for irritating the daylights out of everyone I came into contact with. I had the symptoms of ADHD before there was a simple acronym for it—before it was trendy and every mom used it to describe why they had to medicate their children.

So, without medication my only soothing relief was the week or two I spent in the warm mountains of Sonoma County swimming, canoeing, hiking, and making arts and crafts. They were beautiful times, and I received constant reinforcement that I was OK and that people would like me, no matter what the kids at home said.

So these early years were consumptive in nature. The camp gave and I took.

When I graduated from camper to staff I got to experience a level of fulfillment and satisfaction beyond what I could have imagined. Now I was the one who spent his summer showing those kids how special they were, helping them to see that there is a place for them in this world. It was now my great opportunity to make them the stars of their own show called their lives on this planet. It was my turn to give back.

Often I've thought that the incalculable rewards of giving that I experienced during my years on staff were what made the place so special. It's no secret that the more you give, the more you have—especially when it comes to love. But, I've long had a sense that there was more to it than just that.

The camp was founded in 1903, just years before the great earthquake ravaged nearby San Francisco. Thousands of campers and counselors had passed through the redwood arches and heard the song of the chapel bell before dinner as the hot July afternoon faded into campfires and songs and bedtime stories. I could find some reasons for why this place was so special to me. But, with such a legacy, could I find explanation for how it remained this way for 81 years before me and for the years after I left it?

Some people working on staff at the camp went there as campers as long ago as the early 1960's. They tell me they felt the same thing. So what was it? Was it the people? Was it the collection of traditions, passed through generation after generation of campers and counselors? Or does there live some metaphysical energy in the trees and soil and trails and the old stone steps that brings electricity where there was once none? Has this mountain been blessed by some spirit which my mind can not fathom or doesn't believe in?

I've juggled this idea around in my mind for years. I think about it when I drive, especially through the redwood forests of Northern California.

And I haven't found any answers. Only more questions.

Recently I got an email saying that the couple who has worked as directors of the camp for 21 years were resigning. Mark and Jeannie Farmer went there as campers during their childhoods, and they had been as integral a part of the place for me as the trails and the feel of the wooden pews in the chapel and the smell of the air in the evenings. Imagining Saint Dorothy's without them would be like, well, like imaging life without the sky. Sure, you could imagine it, but why would anyone want to?

Their resignation party would be on December 30 up at the camp. I knew I had to be there to celebrate our years together and their huge part in my life and the lives of people I know, people I don't know, and the lives attached to the names and faces I once knew but can no longer remember.

And while there I had the chance to write a letter to them. Some counselors were putting together a book full of letters and photos and songs and poems dedicated to the Farmers. I took out my pen and began to write. It felt strange to write using pen and paper, as I've used nothing but my iBook to capture my thoughts for some years now. Writing felt awkward at first, but soon the technique came back to me. And words flowed out.

Now, I'd always wanted to write some sort of essay to try to work out what it was that made Saint Dorothy's so special. But, I used time as an excuse for not doing it. I figured it would take a million hours or more to get it straight in my head. And with so much backstory to write about, how could I ever get it all out before I died? I hadn't even figured it out. How in the world could I actually write about it?

But, somehow in fifteen minutes I think I finally got it. And I got it on to paper, as well.

Here's what I wrote:


I'm getting older, and soon I think I will be too old to be counselor there anymore. Jobs, traveling, and music have kept me from working there in the past few years. But, I hope that this summer will be the summer I return to that place of great giving for one last chance to pour out a waterfall of love and energy onto some growing hearts.

And, maybe I can add a few more thousand pages to the million I've already started in my mind—a boundless tome overflowing with stories of love and fun and sharing and learning and mischief and the song of the chapel bell filling the warm valley as the sun retreats into the ocean to my west.


Here are some pictures from the Farmer's Resignation Celebration at Saint Dorothy's Rest:


Walden Marionettes has been performing at Saint Dorothy's for over forty years. And tonight Jack and Christopher Walden gave a very special performance—something new to us. Seeing as Saint Dorothy's is a summer camp, none of us had seen their Christmas Show. So, they put on a holiday–themed puppet show for us.


Santa's helper runs around and does puppet things while marionette snowflakes dance in the background.


Before we took the picture I yelled out, "Everyone look as ugly as you can!" Some people succeeded more than others. Almost all of these folks were once campers of mine. It makes me feel kinda old!
From left to right, top row: Dan Hoyle, Sarah, Zack Stewart, Isabelle Boone, Justin Winokur, Luke Farmer, Nick.
Bottom row: Emma, Phoebe Boone, Chloe, Dan Nemiroff, Jesse Nemiroff.


It was fun to get to spend some time with Nick again. I hadn't seen him since that time that he said the funniest thing ever about the Real Doll.


"Old School Picture". That's what they called it. I think it's funny because I was the counselor for all these now–counselors. I guess that makes me "ancient school" or something.
Top row: Zack Stewart, Isabelle Boone, Sarah, Dan Hoyle, Jesse Nemiroff.
Bottom row: Chloe, Justin Winokur.


Zack Stewart, Isabelle Boone, Sarah, Dan Hoyle, Jesse Nemiroff. Zack's face reminded me of a Kraftwerk album, but I can't remember which one.


Here we see Zack Stewart kick the pants of Caley in a thumb wrestling match. I was hoping that Zack would win his own 'big rig' like the guy did in that arm wrestling movie 'Over The Top', but it didn't happen.




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