Forty-five years ago today I woke up alone in my little apartment. I dressed and packed a weekend getaway bag. My friend came by and picked me up. We drove from downtown Los Angeles up into the San Bernardino mountains to Cedar Lake, near Big Bear. She was on the committee organizing this retreat for new ministerial students at the Ernest Holmes College of the United Church of Religious Science. I had wanted to be in this place, at this time, for my whole life. I couldn’t remember when I didn’t want to be a minister. Everything had led me to this moment! What I did not anticipate was what happened next! An exotic little sports car, a bright blue Lotus Europa pulled up with a gentle roar and parked. Out of it emerged the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen! He was tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, mischievous and simply marvelous in every respect! He had kind eyes and strong hands, a warm smile and pleasant voice. A carved pipe was clutched in his teeth and rested on his prominent chin. A subtle and sweet scent came from the cold pipe. He spotted me and asked brightly: “Do you know where I can get a cup of coffee?” I did! That was the day I met Gil Linsley!
During the events planned for the new students, he and I seemed to gravitate together. When they asked us to form dyads to share our vision of ministry, we were partners. When they scheduled a silent vigil we wandered off together to talk and laugh and tell stories. When the sun set and we sat around the campfire, we sat next to each other. And when my candle kept going out in the wind, he lit it again and again from his own, which miraculously never went out. He talked about himself and his life. He told me the water in Cedar Lake was “trick water” which I later learned meant “smooth enough to do tricks on water skis”. He told me he lived in both Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe and played trumpet in a big band. He mentioned the names of performers I knew and admired and said his band played for them at the casino showrooms. His experiences were far removed from my own, but we shared a passion for living and teaching the Science of Mind!
I had come to this mountain retreat to begin my life’s work, my ministry. I never dreamed that the love affair which would lead to our marriage would begin here as well! There are times in one’s life when, in retrospect, we say: “This is where everything changed; this was the defining moment! If everything hadn’t conspired together just the way it did, my whole life would have been different!” I feel incredibly grateful for the exquisite alignment of consciousness and events in both of our lives that brought us to a tiny lake in the middle of a forest where we could discover one another and fall in love and begin the adventure of a lifetime!
1928 born in Alhambra, CA to Edith Mary Clough and Donald LeRoy Linsley, his older sister was Mary Edith.
1940 Joined the school band to be with his friends. Wanted to play drums, but that spot was taken; they handed him a cornet instead.
1942&43 Took trumpet lessons with Louis Maggio and several others in Los Angeles area.
1944&45 Gil Linsley’s Swing Teens played at Lake Arrowhead for the summers during WWII.
1946&47 Served as Private of US Army in Sixth Army Headquarters Band at Presidio, San Francisco, CA. Honorably discharged.
1948 Graduated from Pasadena City College.
1950 Graduated from Westlake College of Music in Hollywood, CA.
1952 Married Norma Lou Moldenhauer and moved to Las Vegas where he joined the house band, opened the Sands Hotel Casino and played trumpet for most all of the headliners performing in Nevada show rooms at that time.
1953 Bought the first of more than a dozen sports cars owned in his lifetime, including three Lotus Europas, one Lotus Elan, three Jaguars, a Porsche speedster, a Mini Cooper and a Mazda RX7. This first one was a Morgan.
1954 Daughter Karen Ann was born to Norma and Gil on November 22nd.
1956 Started Science of Mind classes at the Las Vegas Church of Religious Science with Dr. H. A. P. Polite. Learned Transcendental Meditation. Became licensed as a Religious Science Practitioner.
After divorcing from, and losing the custody battle with, Karen’s mother, there were four more Mrs. Linsleys during the next fifteen years: Sue, Claire, Marie and LaVeta. And he helped raise their five teenage children from other fathers.
1960 Moved to Lake Tahoe and joined Sahara house band. Learned to snow ski, ice skate, water ski and bought the first of several boats, a G3. Later came fast Cheetah hulls with outboard engines as big as they made them then: 200 horses! Lastly an I/O Donzi Cuddy Cabin Cruiser became his favorite water toy. Trick skied and slalomed on water until 2014.
Played Breck Wall’s Bottoms Up lounge show in Reno, Vegas and Tahoe.
Traveled with Billy Eckstine and Frank Sinatra, Jr. Had other gigs in San Antonio, TX and an ice show in Chicago, IL.
1974 Began studying for the ministry at the Ernest Holmes College in Los Angeles, CA when Dr. Al Lowe was Dean. Met Gail who was becoming a minister also. They lived together next door to Founder’s Church and UCRS Home Office while going to school.
1975 Marriage to Gail Ann Durant in Zephyr Cove at Lake Tahoe was performed by Rev. Warren Chester. Cary Tronson was the best man, Karen was the maid of honor. It snowed. In June.
1976 Graduated with Religious Science Fellow degree, was licensed as a Minister of Religious Science and created Lake Tahoe Science of Mind with Gail as co-ministers.
1977 Started Chapel of the Pines wedding business with Gail. Specialized in on-location ceremonies including the M.S. Dixie and Woodwind Sailing Cruises. Had the first permit to use federal land for weddings at Lake Tahoe from the USDA Forest Service.
1980 Son Adam LeRoy was born to Gail and Gil on May 2nd; They were ordained that autumn at LTSOM.
1984 Began serving as co-ministers for Unity-Religious Science Church of Carson City. Taught A Course in Miracles for eleven years. Taught all the Science of Mind classwork, studied HeartMath, Integral Theory, Non-Violent Communication and The Prayer of Jabez among many other disciplines which they incorporated into their ministry over the years.
1988 Closed LTSOM when the United Religious Science Church (later known as Center for Spiritual Living Carson City) affiliated with UCRS. Served on the Standing Advisory Committee for Practitioner Policy and Procedure (SACOPPP) for three years and on the Cabinet for the United Clergy of Religious Science (UCORS) for four years. Awarded honorary Doctorate of Divinity by Terry Cole Whittaker’s Adventures of the Heart organization.
1989 Moved to Carson City and cared for his mom Edith Brac until her death in 1991 when they moved back to Tahoe.
1996 Started Tahoe Dance Band with Al Smith; played monthly dances at Tahoe Senior Citizens’ Center until 2015.
1999 Started his own group, The Jazz Guys, who played “Wind and Jazz” on the Woodwind II catamaran Sunday sunset champagne sailing cruises for ten years. Also joined David Bugli’s Mile High Jazz Band and The Millennium Bugs, both in Carson City. Played with all three groups until leaving the area in 2016.
2009 Adam’s daughter Aiden came to live with her grandparents full time. Her sister Madison visited as often as possible.
2012 Moved to a lakefront condo in Incline Village, NV and cared for Gail’s mom Nikki Campbell until her death in 2015: it was a four generation household with Adam and Aiden.
2013 Retired from pulpit ministry at CSLCC after serving there for 29 years.
2016 Bought a small motorhome, gave away most of their worldly goods including the wedding business to Karen and the boat to Adam, then took to the open road visiting family and friends, creating their traveling ministry Fellowship of the Heart and having adventures all along the US Pacific Coast and the Colorado River for the last several years.
2019 Gil made his transition to the next phase of life on July first about 11:00 AM in their motorhome parked at Adam’s home in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Gail was spooning him in their bed. A scented candle was burning. Native American flute music was playing softly. He was surrounded by friends and family members, holding High Watch and telling stories of loving remembrance as he slipped quietly and gently into the loving arms awaiting him on the other side.
Final arrangements are being handled by the Neptune Society. In lieu of flowers, Gil asks that donations in honor of his life and ministry be made to Fellowship of the Heart.
I had a dream last night worthy of the name nightmare. Right up there with Scrooge’s visitor from a future Christmas, this dream came a-haunting. In it were people and circumstances familiar, yet which had never before happened, a single theme binding them all into a seamless, terrifying whole. I was detested, disrespected, disowned, disheartened, lost, alone and afraid. No matter what I did, it was wrong. And having committed countless unredeemable sins, there was no road back, no way to make it right, no chance to make amends. Every where I turned I was unwelcome and unbefriended. It was the most horrible dream I’ve ever had.
As I awoke, my relief was overwhelming, for I knew it wasn’t true. But the sheer terror of it stayed with me and I wept uncontrollably for quite a while as my loving husband, no longer frightened by the waves of emotion that can overtake me and spill out as tears, spoke words of comfort. As I cried, two ideas crystallized in my consciousness. One was that this dreadful fear of being completely unlovable was the birthplace of every fear I’ve ever felt. Whatever circumstance I was hoping to avoid, whatever name I gave it, this was The Big One. And two, it is universal. You feel it too. Everyone does. Nothing in the world binds us together like this does.
When non-violent communities wish to punish a misbehaving member, they will shun them. What indigenous peoples do with folks who have lost their way is to sing them the song of their origin, their belonging. I’ve told these stories on many a Sunday over the years. Never has the message resonated with me as deeply as it does right this minute. To hurt someone forever so that they can never recover, banish them from your heart. To heal even the worst offenders, bring them into a tender place they have all but forgotten exists.
Yes, it is that simple. And Christmas celebrates the birth of someone they called the Redeemer.
I am thinking of those who hurt me personally whom I have chosen not to forgive. I am thinking of those in public life I have come to revile and shame. I am thinking of all the groups of people I write off as not worthy of my time or attention. Yes, I’m afraid I’ve done that. I do that. Like Scrooge, visited with the undeniable knowledge of the outcome of his behavior, I had to weep. No more.
It is not my place to tell anyone else what to do, but I had to share what I learned last night: I have to put every ounce of energy I possess in every fiber of my being into doing this better, this thing called loving.
So, I want you to know: You belong with me. You are safe in my heart. Your name is honey in my mouth. I see you as you truly are. I will sing your song when you forget. I forgive you. I trust you. I honor you. I believe in you. And I promise to love you forever. Merry Christmas.
Progress is a noun, describing forward movement achieved. It’s also a verb, when the accent is on the second syllable, meaning the act of moving as it is occurring. Like sharks swimming in the sea, we have to keep moving or we die. And pilgrims are simply people who are doing the moving with awareness. Unlike vagabonds, pilgrims have a purpose, if not a specific destination. And it is all about the journey and the mindfulness we can bring to it.
Travelling full time in our motorhome is a singular experience. Our lives have been stripped of many non-essentials, possessions, obligations, expectations. Our knapsacks get lighter every day. Yet the experiences of simply living, the exquisite preciousness of the ordinary and mundane wash over us like waves filled with awe and gratitude. To have heat, light and water are wonderful things. And oh! the sheer joy of being level! Food in the fridge and clean clothes! Rain on the roof while we’re sleeping. The brilliant colors of sunrise and sunset framing each day like a jewel.
We know we’re blessed. We’re paying attention. It seems the least we can do.
…and it isn’t even seven o’clock. I woke up this morning at 4:30 to the sound of a big thud…and then nothing. I called out Gil’s name and he didn’t answer at first, so I struggled to free myself of the down comforter on our bed in the loft of the motorhome and hurried down the ladder. It was out of place and wobbled alarmingly. Now I knew what had happened. I told him I was coming to him and he finally responded weakly. I found him partially under the table, lying on his side. I could hear something dripping into a puddle on the carpet and wondered where it was coming from. In the predawn darkness I couldn’t see it, but the stickiness soon told me it was blood. A lot of blood. It was squirting out of his left temple with every heartbeat. He was ashen and trembling. And I was scared. I managed somehow to pick him up off the floor and put him in his recliner. Even with pressure on the gash in his head it wouldn’t stop bleeding, spurting if I let up for a second. I called 9-1-1 and a voice who said her name was Brianna summoned help for us. The two EMTs who arrived shortly (without lights or siren at my request – no need to terrify the neighbors!) confirmed we were going to the hospital and helped me put pants on him for the trip. We rode in the ambulance, me up front with Jeff driving and his partner in back with Gil. I checked him into the Emergency Room at Western Arizona Regional Medical (WARM) Center here in Bullhead City while nurses Theresa and Rachel, medical technician Matt and Dr. Mike all cared for my beloved: checking vitals, trying to stop the arterial spray, taking his medical history, tidily suturing the four centimeters long wound, mopping up the mess to see if anywhere else was bleeding. (It’s difficult to get blood out of a beard.) There were some random abrasions including one on his lip where the horn goes when he plays. He was taken for a head X-ray by Bart, all clear. Dr Mike came back in and said it would be a week before he could get the stitches out. Theresa called us a cab. Hector took us back to Silver View RV Resort and didn’t accept credit cards, but wouldn’t take any money either and helped Gil get into the RV. We were back home in just over two hours. He’s been resting quietly since then, except that it really hurts if he coughs and he’s weak as a kitten. We’re watching the Houston funeral for HW and I’m making him some scrambled eggs and toast. It looks like it may rain today and I don’t feel up to doing laundry even though I should…I’m ready for a nap.
“Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late. The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder. I’m an over forty victim of fate, arriving too late, arriving too late…” A Pirate Looks at Forty
Gil and I just finished reading Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. We started our custom of reading aloud to one another back in 1974. Since we were studying the same lessons at the School of Ministry and spending all our time together it seemed a natural choice and one we have enjoyed ever since. We’ve read all manner of things over the years, but we seem to enjoy rollicking good stories the most. This was most definitely that! I was introduced to Peter Blood by my junior high school French teacher and guidance counselor Janet Roberts. She knew intuitively that my adolescent heart needed a romantic adventure and Sabatini’s classic story set in the seventeenth century Caribbean Sea certainly satisfied. Captain Blood was an honorable man, a surgeon by training, and fell into the disrepute of piracy through an unfortunate series of misadventures. Trying to remain a man of integrity in those circumstances was a real challenge for him, yet he prevailed, even thrived.
So, Johnny Depp wasn’t my first pirate hero. Neither was Errol Flynn who played in the 1935 movie version of “Captain Blood”. Actually, it was Geena Davis in “Cutthroat Island” who became my heroine when I realized that girls could be buccaneers too! Amid her swashbuckling escapades and some seriously questionable personal habits, she too had a code of honor that informed and circumscribed her choices. I like that in a person.
Jimmy Buffet wrote about his longing for a life at sea, free from the constraints of polite society in his song that I quoted above, but I’m not forty, I’m sixty-six and it’s becoming less and less likely I will ever run away to sea. The closest I came to it was the 25 years I spent as the boat minister aboard Woodwind and Woodwind II on Lake Tahoe. Every Saturday during the summer months I got to go sailing on those two beautiful vessels for the modest price of officiating a wedding each time. After my clerical duties were completed I was free to enjoy the wind and spray in my face to my heart’s delight! I never tired of feeling the deck move beneath my feet with the rhythm of the waves, hearing the sails flap wildly then snap to as we came about, knowing that I belonged to the elements in a way I could scarcely fathom. I learned the rolling sailor’s walk so well that I looked odd coming back down the pier after a day’s adventure. There were many nights when I’d go to bed ashore and could still feel the gentle rocking as I fell asleep.
When my Mom was 17 she ran away and joined the circus. It was one of those things she said with pride her whole life long. Somehow, before I grow up, I’m going to run away to sea!
“Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call! I’ve wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall. You’ve seen it all, you’ve seen it all…”
I go there I’ll lose my way
If we stay here we’re not together
The moon upon the ocean
Is swept around in motion
But without ever knowing
The reason for its flowing
In motion on the ocean
The moon still keeps on moving
The waves still keep on waving
And I still keep on going
You go there you’re gone forever
I go there I’ll lose my way
If we stay here we’re not together
I wonder if the stars sign
The life that is to be mine
And would they let their light shine
Enough for me to follow
I look up to the heavens
But night has clouded over
No spark of constellation
No Vela no Orion
The shells upon the warm sands
Have taken from their own lands
The echo of their story
But all I hear are low sounds
As pillow words are weaving
And willow waves are leaving
But should I be believing
That I am only dreaming
You go there you’re gone forever
I go there I’ll lose my way
If we stay here we’re not together
To leave the tread of all time
And let it make a dark line
In hopes that I can still find
The way back to the moment
I took the turn and turned to
Begin a new beginning
Still looking for the answer
I cannot find the finish
It’s either this or that way
It’s one way or the other
It should be one direction
It could be on reflection
The turn I have just taken
The turn that I was making
I might be just beginning
I might be near the end.
Here’s a link to the YouTube version: