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Sketches from the Life of Richard E. Lee, continued

Part 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" at times:

...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 year...:

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: 

                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 here.