After long days and nights in the wild, I would come to town to stock up on food, etc. (and as always, that important visit to the local coffee shop/bookstore, which is nearly as blissful as being in the woods).
Since living the nomadic life, I’ve often noticed something different whenever I trekked back into civilization: People would look my way warily and give wider berth than usual. But it wasn’t just that -— it was the feeling of at once being invisible and avoided at the same time. As if I was not wanted in their reality.
Initially, I shrugged it off as being a stranger in a strange land. There’s a certain energy that comes from not being of the area you’re in and some folks pick up on that.
One day I looked in a mirror in a public bathroom. The fellow looking back was grungy looking with very unshaven beard, unkempt & wild red hair, and soiled camping clothes. One of the pant legs had a tear partway down.
That’s when it hit me. I looked… homeless. Although not all look this way, I fit the stereotype.
That’s what usually comes from living the full-time camping life — scarce water for bathing, washing clothes, etc. The roughness of the woods making for clothes and skin where dirt is part of the pattern along with holes, rips, and tears here and there.
And here I was in town, unexpectedly steeped into a black hole of invisibility and avoidance by those around me. It was an unsettling feeling.
Now I have an inkling what it’s like for the real homeless out there, falling into a hole of of unwantedness and being cloaked out of people’s realities, sometimes forcibly so.
I admit in the past when I saw a homeless person, I usually didn’t give eye contact and would avoid them so they wouldn’t bother me mostly because I had a very difficult time reading their lips.
I still can’t read many of their lips and I confess to occasionally feeling helpless at this but now I’ll at least look them in the eyes and acknowledge their presence with a nod, letting them know they are seen and therefore not invisible. Often I’ll see old souls lurking within those eyes.
Sometimes I’ll bring them a hot coffee and such. One I gave a ride into town and oh, the stories he told! He was one of the very few whose lips I could read and it was enlightening. He choose that life.
There was this middle aged lady on Main Street near a fancy Sephora type-store sitting on the sidewalk with her backpack. I’d seen her several times before and we’d wave at each other. This time I sat down by her and said “I can’t understand you but I want you to know I see you.” She smiled, did a bit of fake sign language and we laughed. She was grateful, reached out and put her hands over mine as a gesture of thanks. Her hands were so warm, soft, and welcoming. The hands of a grandmother — a fellow human being.
Not everyone chooses to be homeless. For those that didn’t, it’s an unfortunate circumstance that doesn’t lessen their humanity. For those who choose this path (living the nomad life, I can see why) it takes a degree of courage to do so.
Some of the choices made that lead to a life this way might be unsavory to some, but at the end of the day they’re walking their path just as you and I and they’re no less of a soul.