Richard Apelt has been my friend for many years. We ran into one another while I was living in Greece. He had been a corpsman with the Marines in Vietnam. He got caught in a shoot out and got wounded. He was working on a man’s chest wound when a sniper hit the man’s head. Richard played dead for many hours while the Viet Cong were there and finally got back to American lines.
When he got back to the States he worked in shipyards and painted boats. He went down ro Florida, lived on Stock Island and fished for lobsters. He knew Jimmy Buffett before the world knew Jimmy Buffett. Later he went back up in Virginia and was digging ditches for Con Ed. He went to his new girl friend’s house after work. She was sitting on the porch with her girlfriend. That girl said: “Is that Richard? He looks like a Grave Digger.” That name has stuck by him, for many years.
When we met on the island of Crete, in 1972, he and a friend of his were living on the beach at Sitia. Grave was into traveling as far as he could get, to see the things that the young kids who died in Vietnam could never see. The beach was pretty full of hippies from all over Europe.
I was flying for Pan Am and was on some free time. I was there with my wife Joann and our two kids, Alexis (6) and Damon (4). We were staying in a hotel in Sitia and would come out to the beach everyday, with three liters of wine. One evening, as we were leaving, Alexis said she wanted to stay on the beach and Grave said he would look after her, so she stayed. The next morning, when we arrived she was playing with some French kids down by the water. She saw us and waved at us and then got in a little boat and went for a ride.
During this time, Greece ws being run by a group of Colonels that were put into power by the American CIA. Before he left Greece, Grave wrote an article to the Prime Minister about taking down the militaristic symbol they were using to identify themselves.
Well. Joann got really frightened by that letter and there was nothing I could do, to calm her down. We had been on a small island and had been flying a kite. When Damon brought it down, the rope got completely tangled. Grave and I sat there and spent several hours untangling the rope, but I couldn’t untangle her fear.
Well, Grave set out on a long journey — through Turkey, across the Shah’s Iran, into Afghanistan and down into India and into Australia. He had bought a small cotton backpack and a hunting knife and he told Damon that if anything exciting happened with the knife, he would write Damon about it. As he crossed India, he saw some Elephants, but they stayed at a distance and Grave wrote a card Damon saying they must have known he had the knife and they didn’t bother him.
Over the years, Grave and I have stayed friends. He says that the books I gave him when he left Greece helped him on his personal journey, especially Krishnamurti’s The Flight of the Eagle. Well, eventually Grave became a postman in Tulsa, Oklahoma and soon got transferred to St. Petersburg, Florida. There he got married to Susan, an American Indian woman. I was at that wedding and visited him in St. Petersburg.
When he retired, he sold his house in Florida and came up to New York. He now lives in Jay, NY. On the 18th of December in 2019, he and Sue left their cabin in the woods, to go to town. On the way home, there was some snow on the ground and Grave got sideways on the road. Soon, a car being driven by a young woman hit his car and killed Susan. He has continued to live in Jay and is getting better, all the time. He has started hiking with a group of women who have been hiking for many years. He is the only male on their hikes. After the Trump attack on the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., Grave wrote this piece. I asked him if it was OK with him for me to put it on my blog and the said: “OK”. So here it is:
Yesterday I enjoyed my finest day yet winter hiking in Eden. Eight others and I under the spell cast by the essence of the earth and sky. There was only room for love. That is what is possible in this Gaian world of infinite possibilities. It is time to search our soul, to rummage through all of our learned wisdom, to look for clues for our existence from the shambles that existence has left scattered throughout the Garden and the mind of man.
We have had a bit of chaos recently, chaos that caught the attention of every facet of our population, each facet a universe unto its own.
Consider this idea of what it is or may be. Change is a daily occurrence, it is met differently according to the conditioned state of each being. Change sweeps across the plains leaving clumps of this here and that there. The bigger clumps get the most attention and predominate. But there are many smaller clumps, oddities that we can scarcely imagine, lying disenfranchised out of sight out of mind, dormant, festering, awaiting the right conditions to awaken and express themsves. Humans use and abuse every nook and cranny of our Gaian World. I hope the use of that word doesn’t scare you. Maybe just the tiniest sip of kool-aid will spark your mind. Many little clumps of humanity, each a delusional universe of its own can be brought to a fever by the alchemist also of the most delusional sort. Now you have to cognate a moment and understand that universal physical laws apply to humans also. In brief, the Donald fanned these clumps, used them, became almost a God to them because he gave them meaning and life and he said he loved them. I think a great many could be manipulated into our greatest nightmare.
We need to remember that these clumps are aspects of ourselves. If we can overcome some of our conditioned thought process and get in touch with that bit of our DNA, that dormant spark within that allowed us to evolve to the tipping point where the journey downward spirals and take a breath, if that then there is not only hope but answers. And so I ask you what is love.