I’ve owned a small backpack for 20 years or so.  It’s been my faithful companion … in the Rockies, on the beach in Cuba, and in the gym.  If an inanimate object can be a friend, this is it.  But my maroon and grey Bruce attachment is showing its age.  The rubberized coating on the neck of the bag is pulling away in big messy globs.  Plus one of my beloved liquid black pens gave up the ghost a few months ago, spilling ink over big parts of the exterior.

I decided today to replace my pack with something bright and new, and give the old one to Goodwill.  It’s not like I’m recycling a person, of course.  I would never do that.  This is an object, and I’m willing to let it go, with sadness.  So many adventures we’ve shared.

So off I went a couple of hours ago to Mountain Equipment Co-0p to see what 20 years has wrought in the world of daypacks.  Turning down an aisle, I was welcomed by countless packs of every size, hanging proudly on their hooks.  My eyes fell on a bright red jobbie – my favourite colour.  The salesman owned this exact model and waxed poetic about its virtues.  On MEC’s website, here’s what I encountered:

What sets this full-sized daypack apart from the rest is the unique Aircomfort suspension system.  A powder-coated steel frame tensions a mesh back panel between the pack’s body and your back.  The result is a narrow air space that allows continuous ventilation and airflow, which leads to greater comfort for the wearer.  The pack also features two sets of zippers and an internal bag divider that can be quickly removed.  This means that you can access the bag from the top or bottom and retrieve items without unpacking the entire bag.  It’s a great size for long day-hikes.

Who am I to argue with such praise?  Maybe with the price, though – $160.00.  Ah, what the heck?  It’s an investment.  I grabbed my red treasure and headed to the till.  When what to my wondering ears should appear, but a totally unexpected dollar figure – $49.00.  The supervisor told me that my choice was “on clearance” because of the colour.  People didn’t want a red pack.  They were all for Granite/Black and Forest/Emerald though.  How strange, I thought.  Red is so passionate.  Granite/Black is so trendy.  I’ll take passionate any day.

The salesman told me that there was one more of these red packs in the store.  Another $49.00 and it would be mine.  First I said no.  “Let someone else buy it.”  Even if I intended the second one to be a gift, the double purchase seemed excessive, another example of knee jerk consumerism.  Planning out my future.  Making sure I have enough.  But that’s wrong.  The second one’s not for me.  It’s a gift for a special someone in my future.

So I paid the guy $98.00 plus tax.

I now own three daypacks.  One will always be in my heart.  One will be on my back tomorrow and will gradually work its way into my heart.  And one will help someone else move through the world.



In 2011, I participated in a discussion board about spirituality.  A gentleman named Sam had a question:  What do people think about the relationship between home life and homelessness in Buddhism?

I replied.

Hi Sam,

My first thought is that homelessness has no tug on me, that I need a home, with my wife, and at the school where I teach.  Here is where I open myself to other human beings, and where I foster an opening in some of them.  I retire in four years, and I want to contribute for this time at school, to deepen with kids and adults.  And onward with Jody.

However, there is a tug … for two-and-a-half months to ride my bicycle across Canada with 25 other travellers, being with the land and being with Canadians.  Homelessness with a home at the end.



My first thought is that I’m fascinated to see the words of a slightly younger man.  I wonder how I’ll feel at age 70 about what I’ve written in this blog. Hey, who knows, maybe I’ll still be writing it.

I have an affection for this 62-year-old.  I know that downstairs somewhere I have some notes that I wrote as a teenager.  No doubt I’ll feel the same love for that young guy.

Today I look at homelessness in a different light.  I have no interest in huddling under a blanket beneath some overpass.  Or wandering from village to village with a begging bowl.  And I realize that not having a warm place to sleep is a punch in the gut for thousands of Canadians, and for countless people worldwide.  I am sad for them.

My personal sense of homelessness is in not holding a place to be “mine”. On my very first day at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, a volunteer greeted me at the door.  Just about the first thing she said was “You need to go into the meditation hall and pick out your spot for the week.  Put a coat or a blanket down so other people will know this place is yours.”


So I did, picking a chair on the side of the room.  After supper, it was time for a sitting and I walked into the hall, put the blanket under the seat, and sat down.  Immediately (as in that very instant!), it was wrong.  So wrong.  The teachers talked, we all sat still in an effort to meditate, and I didn’t get a darned thing out of it.  All I could think of was “Yuck”.

I’ve been to three silent meditation retreats.  That was the one and only time that I possessed a portion of the room.  Since then, I walk into the hall with this light curiosity … “I wonder where I’ll sit this time.”  Yes.

Only once did I come in and find all of the chairs full.  (I’ve never learned to sit upright on a cushion.)  That time, a few of the chairs were occupied by stuff rather than by human beings.  I just stood there for thirty seconds, not knowing what to do.  Not wanting to take someone else’s belongings and put them on the floor.  Finally, a young man stood up, moved towards me, bowed, and put his hand on a blanketed chair.  I returned his bow, removed the blanket, and sat.  Thank you, my friend.

May I continue to move lightly across the planet.