Beginning of My New Memoir
by Alan F. Zundel
In the late summer of 1975 I tasted God. Just a taste, mind you, but enough to send me to my knees weeping. There was no theological context or content to the experience, simply a sudden overwhelming immersion in an intelligent Love that seemed to pervade the universe, from the farthest edge of time down to the secret foundations of my very being. I was twenty-three years old. I had started a daily meditation practice about a year and a half earlier, took on a spiritual path from a dubious set of books by Carlos Castaneda, and recently lost a young woman in marriage to another man.
Not sure what the latter had to do with it, but it seems to have been important.
A couple of months later, after obsessive reading about a variety of forms of spirituality for a clue as to where to go from there, I decided to start fresh. I wanted to move on from that young woman and from a naïve spiritual practice to something deeper. Something that would bring me back to that sense of oneness that came and went like Jesus’ proverbial thief in the night, that would ground me and root me in it so deep I would never lose it again. I packed most of my meager belongings—some old clothes and kitchen utensils—in an Army Surplus backpack and a duffel bag, secured my acoustic guitar in its case, and dismantled my double-sized bed, stuffing it all in the back of an already crammed rental truck for a trip from my home state of Michigan to Colorado. There I hoped to find a spiritual teacher.
My friend Ryan had rented the truck to move his own belongings from Michigan to Colorado, where his wife Annette had been staying with friends until she could find a job and a home for them to rent. Ryan was happy to give me a lift in return for sharing driving duties. I appreciated his offer, as that bed was my only luxury and I didn’t have the money to rent a truck myself. I could have hitchhiked with the rest of my stuff, but not with that bed. I also hoped the bed would be useful for my other top priority in creating a fresh start, which was to find a new romantic partner.
Ryan and I had known each other since high school, both of us caught up in the 1960s counterculture, the long hair and drug tripping and all that, and had become especially close in the last few years. Of course, by the mid-’70s the counterculture was foundering for direction as much as we were. Some aspects had gone mainstream, such as clothing and hair styles, drug use (particularly marijuana), and changing sexual mores. The political aspect of it, however, had lost steam with the end of the Vietnam War, with most countercultural people abandoning political action to withdraw into experimental lifestyles and explorations of inner consciousness. I was one of those. So, in his own way, was Ryan. But he also had a new marriage to navigate, and was thinking about finding a job in Colorado, not a spiritual teacher.
Two others came along on the ride with us. One was a dog the size and color of a catcher’s mitt. The other was its owner, a twenty-year old woman named Alice. Alice had been best friends with that lost love of mine, and as with me the loss of her friend to marriage spurred a desire to take her life in a new direction. Like many other young people of the time, we all saw Colorado as our Promised Land. I guess if we had spent more time studying the Bible, we wouldn’t have expected our time there to be easy.
I don’t remember much of the drive or what we talked about on the way there. We probably listened to a lot of music, since that was what we did in those days. No doubt John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” was on our playlist. I think we also drove Ryan’s car out with us, one of us driving the truck and another driving the car while the third slept in the passenger seat of the car when necessary. It’s a twenty hour trip by freeway, and I’m sure we didn’t stop at a motel to sleep—none of us could afford to squander our meager funds on such decadence.
Ryan and Alice were headed to Colorado Springs, an hour south of Denver, where Annette had some old friends who had already become settled there. My destination was Denver, where our mutual friend Wayne was staying temporarily at a commune where they regarded his older sister Ceci as their guru. I wondered if Ceci might become my spiritual teacher, but wasn’t ready to live in a religious commune. I was too independent and not religious enough for that. Spiritual, yeah, but not religious. The cliché of our times.
I’m also sure I spent part of the time on the trip daydreaming about a certain female communard I had met the previous spring, when I visited the commune with Wayne during a stopover in Denver on my way back home from a solitary journey out west. Daydreaming about women was also something I did in those days. Only now I had gotten to the stage where I was actually comfortable being with a woman, emotionally and physically, which hadn’t been true until very recently. I was ready for something serious, and playing with the idea that me and this communard—let’s call her Sunny—could get together.
When we arrived in Denver Ryan and I unloaded my stuff at an apartment building where the Children of Love Community took up one of the upper floors. Wayne came out to say hello to Ryan and Alice and invited them in for a look around and to meet a few of his commune friends. They hung out briefly but soon left, eager to finish their drive and get to Colorado Springs. Wayne and I went back in, found a place to sit down, and began catching up with each other.
“Did you hear about Sunny?” he eventually asked.
“No,” I said. He didn’t know my designs on her, just that I had met her and we both found her attractive.
“She’s getting married,” he said.
My weird karma could be a real bitch sometimes.