3: The Call
Richard found himself having to slow
down following gallbladder surgery in February 1995. After a successful recovery, he soon
began pursuing his personal projects again by spring. In a letter dated on April 8, 1995, Richard happily announced:
Now I go back into my little shell of
happy retirement. I paint, write, draw, play music. (We have a new tape coming out called
THE CALL. I play Irish pennywhistles and American Indian flutes on it as well as the usual
assortment of percussive instruments. I think it is our best one so far, not because of
me, not at all but because of the confluence of events that worked well for the three of
us: cellist -- Manon Robertshaw --, Savya with her gongs, bowls, chimes, and so on, and
me. The cover is strange because they used a picture of me on it: crouching on a rock in
my serape holding a drum with a Celtic design on it.
But by the following summer, Richard
confessed in a letter written on September
13, 1996, that the sameness of his life in the desert made him a bit "bored"
...I guess my life has become very
simple and very basic up here. My meditation is just being here, at one with rocks and
stones and trees and sky and yuccas and animals, birds, reptiles and wind. That's about it
for me. Well, true, I sometimes get bored, but being with one's boredom is very much part
of the dilemma, isn't it? Very much part of one's spiritual progress. It is only by going
into and through boredom
that one can see the other side, the farther shore.
Richard's "boredom" ended
when the new year began, when he started learning how to use a Macintosh computer to send
and receive e-mails, and peripherals for scanning and printing his artwork.
As Richard outwardly explored the world of computers, mystical events occurred inwardly
between 1996 and 1997 -- he began hearing his name called in his dreams. On July 29, 1997,
he shared some poems about this matter in an e-mail message:
...Here are a couple "Thin Hymns" I wrote within the last
I am asleep in the next room. A song
plays softly on my Sony. But some-
where from another room, I hear an alarm
of ancient voices: Wake Up. Wake Up.
I awoke at 3:30 in the morning.
Someone was calling my name: Richard
Richard Richard. But who? I was dreaming.
No one there. Richard is answering anyway.
Richard's e-mail on August 4, 1997
continued along this same vein: "I heard the call again the other morning: Richard.
Very sharp. Why? I wonder...."
Not long after this time, Richard
discovered that he had developed lung cancer.
Always one to joke about his anxieties despite his ailing condition, in "the big
laugh," a poem that he included in an e-mail sent on March 3, 2000, Richard quipped ironically:
...so the doctor doesn't call
as he said he would
so the nurse forgot
to remind him
are they going to operate?
are they going to fire up their x-ray machines?...
the phone rings
it isn't for me
i am waiting
i am impatient
i begin to laugh
one of the doctor's cancer
patients is laughing
it is me
this is very funny
i may die laughing
Richard's story concludes...click here.