During Robert's travels he has labored as an auto assembly line worker in Detroit, as a carnival worker, a journalist in New York City, on a farm of a Zen community in California, as a landscaper, a financial consultant, a janitor. After living in the Mendocino area for about twenty years he bought a camper van and moved onto a property in a redwoods forest where he studied the inner life intensely. Something fell into place there after a number of years, and out of that period of solitude, Robert began writing and sharing his observations on the reality that surrounds and includes us. Shortly thereafter, Robert moved to Ojai, California where he continues to live and write.

The monograph 'The Absolute Enigma' from Living Nonduality also contains biographical details. It's available as a separate Kindle download but is also included in the Kindle and print editions of Living Nonduality.

You might also like to browse Robert's books. Or contact one of Robert's suggested associates for one-on-one discussions regarding nonduality.

People sometimes ask me what it was like, on a day-to-day basis, when I sequestered in the redwood forest for three years. Here's an account I scribed during that time.

Enduring Enrichment

Morning sunlight beams through a window of my camper-van, promising warmth down on the meadow. I stretch in my sleeping bag, and arise.

For these many months now, I have parked my van on the property of an older couple of my acquaintance, who are like family to me. On several acres in Northern California, they own a summer cottage a half dozen miles from the small coastal town where they reside. They, and their nearby offspring and families, utilize the cottage for overnight summer stays and occasional year-round barbecues, picnics and holiday celebrations.

This property is an enclave in the midst of forested hills which are owned—and periodically logged—by the timber company that operates the mill in town. Access to the property is through the company-maintained logging road, and it is sometimes frequented by hunters or dirt-bikers or mushroom pickers: the sight of a fully-equipped cottage in a remote setting has spawned burglary and vandalism in past years, and thus my tenure on the property is that of a caretaker.

Past the picnic table and the fire ring—which are between the cabin porch and the pumphouse, which I park my van next to—there is a crew of robins who are hopping in the morning dew while scouting for their dietary raw material. A wren is warbling from the red huckleberry bush. And the ravens take to the air from their haunt in a fir tree, as I sip my fruit juice and alight from the van.

Wooden steps were built into the brushy hillside that leads away from the road, and below them is an alder- and cascara- shaded corridor which ends at the level, grassy plateau that is open to the sun (mid-morning to mid-afternoon) above the distant ridge. At the farther end of this meadow stands an old-growth redwood grove, carpeted with countless seasons of spent, brown needles. This grove traditionally is the chapel for family weddings, and the meadow its reception hall.

Unfurling a canvas ground cloth, I place over it a padded mattress cover, and, removing my sandals or slippers, stretch my body full in the sunlight. The bordering trees normally shelter this location from all but the friendliest breeze, even in winter. For a half hour or so, I perform a routine dance-like muscle toning exercise; and, for perhaps another hour, relaxed sunbathing is combined with unhurried yoga postures that are ended with a foot massage. When I lay back restfully to look up at the pale blue sky, where perhaps wispy or fleecy clouds are forming, the murmur of Pudding Creek lulls me.

At one side of the redwood grove, a path through the sword ferns leads down to a sandy edge of this clear, shady stream. Around a water-smoothed stump, the creek has widened a flowing pool that is about the size of a hot tub, in winter, or about as deep as a bath tub, in the summer. Its bottom is gravelly, and large rocks or logs here and there tickle the water so that its chuckling sometimes masks my barefoot approach, to the surprise of a quaffing deer or frolicking otter. Though there is no month of the year that the water cannot be plunged into, the stream is never really warm. I splash around for just a minute before grabbing my towel to briskly dry off in the sun.

The noon whistle can often be heard, by now, from the mill across the still distance to town. My tarp and mat folded, I may stop to harvest a few blackberries for my cereal, as I return to the van. This van was custom-built a few years ago. Completely self-contained, it has its own generator to power the refrigerator, microwave oven, water heater and water pump (for the sink, tub/shower and toilet). The folks, though, have permitted me to plug into the electricity at their pumphouse, allowing me to conserve gasoline and propane.

I prepare a dish of fresh fruit and my accustomed bowl of oatmeal, after brushing my teeth at the pumphouse spigot. In the shaded and cool van, I usually slip into a sweatshirt, and tie a sarong around my waist. I collect my folding chair and straw hat, and juggle a cup of herb tea and a cookie while strolling back to the meadow for another hour or two of reading, answering letters, writing, or contemplating an inquisitive ant on my toe or the butterfly pausing on my wrist.

Eventually the sun ducks behind the trees or clouds, and the breeze becomes more noticeable. Hefting my gear and returning to the van, I prepare perhaps a toasted cheese or tuna-salad sandwich to browse, along with celery sticks, cherry tomatoes and a plate of baked beans. I slip on a pair of loose cotton slacks, socks and walking shoes, and exit through the wooden gate across from a splendorous, rambling wild rose bush. This graveled road saunters along Pudding Creek, past the abandoned orchard that in the fall is thick with yellow apples. For three quarters of an hour, I walk until Ramsey Ridge Road divides and both forks head into the hills—where I usually turn around for the amble home. There are days when no vehicles, bicycles or horses traverse this stretch of road and one may spot a fox or bobcat or a young coyote crossing the road, or, on one of the oblique skid-trails, the tracks of a mountain lion.

The sun setting behind the ridge has burnished the sky, silhouetting the trees; and the air—clean and sweet in any season—has cooled by the time I unlatch the gate. Unlocking the cottage door, a swallow darts past from its mud-daubed nest in the porch eaves. With a coffee-can scoop, I carry dog kibble from a bag in the utility room and dump it into an old dishpan in the yard. Someone, sojourning in this cabin a few years before, abandoned a mongrel puppy that has since grown into a handsome, longhaired shepherd-collie. “Wolf,” as the folks call him, quarters in a gutted stump behind the wild rose across the road. The folks feel a responsibility for him and have arranged his daily feeding. Whenever I am away, at a hired house-sit, they drive out from town to feed him. He is to be respected for his independence: although a ward, he is not obsequious. He allows himself to be seen, but not to be touched. A true lone wolf, he has not come within a human arm’s reach since he was abandoned. I sometimes have glimpsed him following me on my walks, tracking me distantly as perhaps a curious wolf might do. He appears to be alert, healthy and contented. And he is providentially cared for by a source which he is not even expected to pay obeisance to.

Reentering again my twenty-foot domicile, of three years, I fix a cup of coffee or tea. I purchased the motor home with cash, from my half of the equity in the house which my wife and I sold upon our divorce. Cooking a light supper, I listen sometimes to a tape cassette or radio program.

It is on my weekly trip to town that I collect my mail at the post office; replenish staples at the natural food store; visit the library; walk along the ocean; and shop at the Franklin Street farmers’ market. My tiny income—less than $500 per month, from the business I operated prior to my divorce—diminishes annually and in a few years will disappear; so I continually learn to live more simply. What is left of my income after medical insurance, vehicle insurance and van maintenance, is allotted to groceries and nutritional supplements. The refrigerator is stocked today with garden-fresh organic produce, and tonight I’m dining on snow peas and mushrooms, curried cabbage, and baked potato with cottage cheese (after munching on guacamole with carrot sticks). And I might later indulge in microwave popcorn, or stewed fruit compote.

Dinner finished, I often swivel the “captain’s chair,” on the passenger side of the cab, so that it faces toward the opening in my “living room,” and—with all lights out on a moon-graced night—sit quietly and relaxed, sometimes for hours into the night. Aside from the canticle of the rain or wind—or the welcomed exception of the frogs, crickets or a stirring owl—the evenings are soundless here. This is a regenerative interlude that presents itself as the natural culmination to a timeless day, a matchless day, a day for which no embellishment has been wished. This moment is an insightful awareness of the abundance that is provided to every ordinary being.

As I unroll my sleeping bag onto the convertible-couch, I might recall the words of a song recorded by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1940; sung by (ironically) Frank Sinatra:

“By a country road,
wild roses grow
that need my
special care;
A cheerful brook
on a mountainside
is sad
when I’m not there;
and a friendly gang
of robins
are peeved
when I forget
that I’m the second tenor
in their quartet:
So, with all the things
I have to do,
I’m very much aware,
if I wished for wealth
it wouldn’t be
quite fair…”

Ending each stanza is the refrain: “I haven’t time to be a millionaire!”

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Robert Wolfe
c/o Karina Library
PO Box 35
Ojai, California 93024


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