When I first moved to Seattle in 1993, I regularly visited a coffee shop in the University District called The Last Exit on Brooklyn. The large, rustic, high-ceilinged warehouse space was a sanctuary for the artistic, bohemian counterculture—a vestige of the beat generation—that once defined the city. The large, round wooden tables were always filled with “long-haired hippies” (both old and young) sketching in notepads and painting at easels; reading and writing (with actual pen and paper) poetry, novels, and song lyrics (maybe for that evening’s open mic); playing Go, chess, or backgammon; discussing philosophy and politics; and drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. (These were the days before laptops, tablets, smartphones, and of course, the smoking ban.) It was my favorite place in the city, and I didn’t even drink coffee or smoke cigarettes!
I became nostalgic for that place and time recently, when I had the opportunity to meet a fellow remnant from that era. Although Seattle is not the hippie, beatnik, or even grunge place it used to be, there are still those who live like it is. While most coffee-shop habitués these days sit tuned-out with headphones and computer screens (as I’m doing right now), if you look closely, you can still find a few unconventional creative types, scattered between the electronic devices, doing it old-school style. Rory Link is one of those people.
Using various coffee shops and pubs in the neighborhood as his “studio,” Rory created much of the artwork and writing for his book The Theory and Practice of Joy: A translation of life. To mention a few, the Latona Pub was his studio for “Jazz” and “Green Cat Digs the Blues.” And “Pay Attention” (one of my personal favorites) was written at Diva Espresso.
Rory is a long-time resident of Wallingford, having lived in the area on and off since 1962, but in his current home on Sunnyside Avenue for the past 26 years! The strong community and close relationships developed on his block over the years is another rarity these days. Rory and his neighbors go beyond just the typical friendly wave or loaning a cup of sugar and take a more active (and creative) approach to being neighborly. They often plan group activities for the whole block, such as the progressive dinner they will be enjoying next month (where all participants go to a different household for each course of a meal). And, sometimes activities are unplanned, such as the spontaneous poetry reading that occurred after a tree had fallen from a storm several years ago; neighbors gathered around and started reciting poems dedicated to the tree. Rory played an integral part in building this alternative, close-knit Sunnyside community by applying his own philosophy, or mantra, of life: “Enjoy!” And his book is, in essence, an instruction book for creating joy—whether it’s applied to your personal life, your community, or your work, everyone can learn how to simply “enjoy.”
About 26 years ago, as Rory was leaving a coffee shop in Wellesley, Massachusetts, the waiter casually said, “Enjoy.” But Rory took that simple, offhand directive more seriously and immediately went to sit under a tree to meditate on the word enjoy. As he was writing down his meditations and wondering why he was doing it, he swears the wise old oak tree spoke to him in a deep, James-Earl-Jones voice: “It’s your mantra, baby.”
Rory took that message to heart and began writing down his meditations. Over the years he amassed quite a collection, but it was never his intention to put them in a book. (Having an education in political science, he thought if he ever did publish a book, it would be a political novel, crime fiction, or maybe poetry.) But three years ago, after reading over writings two decades old, he thought, hey, these are pretty good, and decided to put them alongside his artwork in the form of a book.
He calls his art glyphalalia, a play on the word glossolalia (speaking in tongues), because it combines elements of hieroglyphs, calligraphy, and a style of Impressionist art called asemic writing, which has no intended meaning or translation. According to Wikipedia: “Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means ‘having no specific semantic content,’ or ‘without the smallest unit of meaning.’” It’s similar to abstract art, where the meaning is open to interpretation by the viewer. Or, as Rory puts it, “a note to myself, in a language I can’t translate.” Small cafe napkins are the main medium for his glyphalalia artwork, which he later scans and adds color to in Photoshop. (Not all of us old bohemians are total Luddites, after all!)
One of his meditations encourages readers to find their power animal: “A Power Animal is a spirit animal that you would like to invite to be your friend, guide, teacher, etc. Obtain an image of this animal. Research the animal in science and myth. Make up your own myths if need be.” It might be of interest to some Wallingford residents that Rory’s spirit animal is the coyote, which is the inspiration for much of his artwork and meditations. And appropriately, the book is published through Coyote Eye Press.
Some meditations included in The Theory and Practice of Joy are in the form of poetry and sometimes come with instructions on the best way to practice a specific meditation or how to find and practice joy. Another one of my personal favorites is “Fuschia” [sic] on page 43, which begins:
Surrender. Give up. Accept the fact that you’re not going to solve all the world’s problems. You’re not going to become a star on Broadway or a sports hero over-night. By accepting that some goals are out of reach, you create a space for new goals that you can reach. You’ll find space to look at the goals that you’ve reached, perhaps not grandiose goals, but goals reached, never the less. …
To read the rest, you’ll have to obtain a copy for yourself, which can be done in a number of ways. It’s, of course, available through a certain online book retailer, but that would be the boring way to do it. And, although Rory’s primary objective isn’t making a profit (as demonstrated by the number of copies his wife routinely gives away for free), the neighborly thing to do would be to purchase the book locally or directly from Rory.
Hyper-locally, the book is available at Pacific Northwest Shop (4411 Wallingford Avenue N), which just opened its doors in Wallingford this month! The book will be offered at a special discount there through the end of the year. It’s also available nearby at The Herbalist (2106 NE 65th Street) and East West Bookshop (6407 12th Avenue NE). Rory offers discounted copies to doctors’ offices, physical therapists, and others in the healing trades, which have been the predominant buyers of multiple copies. This isn’t surprising given the intention and purpose of the book—it is itself a tool for healing and self-help. Rory regularly hears feedback from readers who have found healing—both emotionally and physically—by following and practicing his meditation instructions. Some keep a copy on their coffee table; others carry their copy wherever they go! According to Rory, his book appeals to, and helps, people from their twenties, all the way to their sixties, and beyond.
You can also send Rory an email ([email protected]) and a good old-fashioned check to get a copy by mail. But the best (and most fun!) way to get a copy would be to meet Rory at a neighborhood coffee shop. He would love to share his book with you in person, and maybe even a few coyote stories.
And that would be the true bohemian way.
One last tidbit of neighborly wisdom from the book:
A chocolate bar,
A favorite place,
Memories of a mutual loved one.
Share the wisdom you have acquired.
Share your time.
Take time to call friends or relatives, for no reason except to spend time with them.
Visit those you love and those who love you.
Visit shut-ins and people who are lonely.
Get to know your neighbors.