His hand was weathered like only a blue-collar man’s hands can be: more like a creased and worked paw. More like a side of ham that defied gripping, just flat contact with finger holds. We settled on a $125 monthly rent for the 190 sq. ft. space directly on Main Street, next to Al’s Barber Shop and two doors west of the Western Café. He owned the building that housed all three businesses.

DSCF1151It’s one of the oldest structures in Bozeman dating back to a time when mule trains rested on the dirt road hitched and sturdy in their stance, maybe six teams pulling covered wagons plump with expectations. It was 1988, a hundred years or so past the sepia image now trod over by four lanes of state highway. Yet occasionally buckaroos and cowgirls still ride their horses past the window of my office space, either working their steeds to be unafraid of traffic or just passing through on their way to greener pastures.

Dave told me that I would be responsible for upkeep and maintenance deducting whatever necessary work’s cost from the $125. There was no lease, just a monthly good faith payment that I would mail to his home address on the first of the month.

Whenever Dave would stop in for a haircut with Al or bacon and eggs with Dick and Alice at the Western he would also give a wave to me or if I was not in session stop by for a visit. We wouldn’t say much but the texture of our conversation reminded me of my Eastern Montana years with meadowlarks, sagebrush pungent with morning dew, and ranch hands lining out the day’s work: Sparse, unencumbered words couched in comfortable silences accented with earthy joshing.

I was in need of a professional office space for my psychotherapy practice. For years I held sessions in the study of our home on North Wallace. This historic home was an example of the brick cottages built around the turn of the twentieth century that housed honest hard working citizens materializing their American dream. We moved from Miles City and were gob-smacked with early eighties Bozeman, the tree lined streets and the quaint way our white picket fence accented the peaked gabled brick home with its front porch and separate entrance for the office/study.

Susan and I had agreed that we would allow a year without birth control to see if a pregnancy would bless us. I was approaching forty and she thirty-eight so it felt like the conception, pregnancy, and birth clock was ticking loudly.

 

When we were back in Bozeman and the stick turned blue Susan looked at me dumbfounded, since it was at the end of our year of conception, declaring as only she can: “You knocked me up!” 

 

Earlier that year we led a group down into the Yucatan to visit and meditate on the ancient Mayan ruins in Palenque, Tikal, and other more hidden sites like the “mystery school” at Edzna. I was moved by an image of the Temple of the Grand Jaguar at Tikal what with its hundreds of steps leading up the jungle’s canopy and the mist shrouded foyer of the gods, to lead weekly six a.m. meditations in preparation for our journey.

Seven brave women joined us and for a month we travelled together barely touching the earth. At the end of that time we spent a week or so in Playa del Carmen with its dirt roads, Palaypas, Tiendas, and our home for the stay, the Banana Cabanas. And it was here in quiet privacy that our Mayan hitchhiker Abbey came on board. We returned with Abbey as a twenty-six year old woman to see if we could find the Banana Cabanas this last February of 2015 and all we could see was the exploded spasm of a contorted sprawling mass of Cancun South, that Playa had become.

When we were back in Bozeman and the stick turned blue Susan looked at me dumbfounded, since it was at the end of our year of conception, declaring as only she can: “You knocked me up!”

What this meant for me on a purely practical level was that I had to find a new office space since my study would become Abbey’s nursery. And as I am wont to do I walked Main Street later in the year looking for space, as even now twenty-seven years later down the spiral of time, I do again, and walked by the yarn shop called the “Real Ewe” and saw a “For Rent” sign in the window. I called the number, Dave and I met in the space, and even though I was not able to keep the fluffy sheep signing declaring the Real Ewe, right? “The Real You”—for a psychotherapist’s office—are you kidding me?

Dave and I shook hands, he gave me the key to the office space, and home I went, elated that such a space of character opened up for my work with individuals who sought to carve their own character out of the flotsam of persona. That night I had a dream visualizing a front view of the newly found space. It looked just like it did but the façade was painted bright white and the door was a big sky blue.

We painted the space according to the dream’s palate, remodeled the interior from its former use as an insurance agent’s, locksmith, and yarn shop retail use to the quiet of a locked blue door consulting room. An artist in my practice agreed to paint “Timothy J. Tate” in an arc on the front window leaving as a mystery what the practice was behind the blue door with its blue venetian blinds concealing confidences of our community’s seekers.

After years of comfort with my hand shake deal with Dave, one never doubted or questioned, I received the sad news that he had passed. With no fanfare or disturbance the handshake with Dave effortlessly transferred to his widow Minerva. The second handshake transferred to a woman I never met.

I call my practice “Archetypal Psychotherapy” to honor and insinuate the place and power of archetypes in our individual and collective imagination. We look to dreams as an alternative narrative to the tyranny of our waking repetitive thoughts seeking in our dreams insight to our unique genius.  This approach was born out of the lifetime work of my mentor and friend James Hillman whose book The Soul’s Code caught the eye of Ophra Winfrey one day as she walked down State Street in Chicago. She read it, was blown away, called Jim, had him on her show and after dozens of ponderous enlightening books that did not sell, The Soul’s Code sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Hillman would visit us in Bozeman and we would spend time together in Yellowstone Park, a story for another time, but what is relevant is that Jim came to my office behind the blue door, sat on my couch blessing the space with his presence and then we went next door to the Western and had the daily blue plate lunch special: meatloaf and mashed potatoes with a side of mixed vegetables and chocolate pudding for desert.

I bet I have listened to sincere individuals share hundreds of thousands of dreams in my office. We have been entertained, evoked, disturbed, motivated, and found new direction through their illusive yet demanding imagery. All the while I sit and bear the tension of lives reaching for themselves. And when the session is finished I walk around the block, four hundred and fifty yards, a stout par four-neighborhood fairway.

When Minerva passed away the handshake deal transferred to the sole survivor who was her nephew. Once again without fanfare or complications, no lease, no triple back, no litigious concerns the monthly rent and conditions remained the same just the name and address on the check changed to Robbie.

The original blue door grew weary of its threshold duty seeking its own retirement. A skilled craftsman and architect in my practice offered to hand build a new blue door from old growth fir replicating the dimensions and constitution of its predecessor complete with its expecting mail slot willing receiving the daily mail pushed through its opening by a succession of mailmen like messages from the beyond. Again my third landlord approved the transition as we spoke on the sidewalk. No waivers, no written agreement just a spoken: “Sure.”

The years passed, as did Robbie. He died while walking the Gallatin Mall. His wobbly, wandering gait stalled and collapsed while exercising. His goofy mild mannered nature punctuated with off color jokes, some really funny, others mildly offensive went with him to the grave. And like any time worn fairy tale the third time is when things change. And so it was with 439 East Main Street. Ownership passed to the owner of the Western Café business who had the first right of refusal should the property ever come up for sale.

A three-year lease, some twenty pages long, followed. The barbers and I met with her in the Western and negotiated the terms in a tense yet respectful conversation over the table where I had consumed that breakfast sausage, eggs up, rye toast and hash browns so many times, from time to time with the likes of Batman.

The lease has expired and so has my tenure behind the blue door. I wrote a hand-written letter to my landlady expressing a bit of my history sharing how I had paid for the blue door in so many ways. I received an answer from her attorney stating that I would be gifted the blue door.

Watch for me walking down Main Street,  carrying my Blue Door, looking for its next home. Where does such a door find its place in BozAngeles?

 

Editor’s Note: Come back for more of Timothy J. Tate’s excursions  into the shadowlands of full-mindedness and learning how to live beyond the comfort zone where meaning is found.