It was November. Deva and Carpenter were moving to Oregon. I went down to help.
They were moving to a place called Forest Glade. I had stopped by Forest Glade some years before. I had been hitchhiking down I-5 with my friend Jane, and she knew people there, so we stopped and spent the night.
It was magical to me. It was a for-real commune. There was a big house, where they cooked a communal meal, and all these people lived together. After dinner, there was music and people played guitar. They had gardens and grew their own food. It was out in the country, in the misty mountains of coastal Oregon.
Forest Glade had lived in my memory for at least three or four years now. I was fascinated by everything about it. Parts of the place had become settings in stories I wrote. It was enshrined in my mind with numinous awe.
Now, my friends were moving there. Would I help? There was no question!
Some time later, Carpenter described it like a science fiction movie: The explorers have landed on a planet where everyone is dead. They need to figure out what doom stalked the first colonists, to keep it from happening to themselves!
I only gradually became aware or the greater picture of Forest Glade, and its recent history. It was a spiritual community. The community had started somewhere in California, convened of people who were devotees of an Indian mystic. It was called something like “Pacific Glade”. At one point, they had put into motion to buy land somewhere else too, and that had ended up being in Oregon, and became “Forest Glade”. I don’t know if the community budded off, or what, but so Forest Glade came into being.
The hazy part of the picture was explained like this: The community at Forest Glade had internal strife. They worked on it and worked on it, but could not resolve their difficulties. Finally, a “board of directors” or something, who had been purely titular while the Forest Glade community was running itself, was re-activated. The board got involved in trying to help resolve the conflicts. Everybody tried and tried, over and over. But it could not be done. Finally the board decided; everybody would have to leave. Forest Glade would start again with new people.
Wholeness, Deva and Carpenter, were the first of the new people. They and their family, their adopted and foster kids who now numbered about seven, were the first “project” accepted to be on the land.
I helped them move there. I jumped at the chance to poke around memory lane.
By the usual measure of the world, my life was a shambles. I had no job, and no prospects of any income. I was in love with a man on the opposite side of the continent, and the tumultuous consequences of that whole coming out process were a continual distraction. I had no real place to go, and not much impetus to get there. But somehow, when you’re young, you can just do all that.
The one clarity I had in my life was I wanted to become an Emergency Medical Technician. I have very little idea where this strong ambition came from. I remember I had read a book somewhere in there on Wilderness Search and Rescue. Maybe that set the spark. While all the rest of my life was crumbling and being rebuilt on almost unrecognizable foundation lines, I had this one crystal seed I was sure of. I wanted to be an EMT.
I was hanging around Forest Glade a few days, helping Deva and Carpenter settle in. They rented a post office box in the little nearby town of Peavine, and mail started to come. There was a catalog from the local community college. I leafed through it. There was an EMT course, but it was something like $85 — an incomprehensible sum for me at the time. Plus, it was 42 miles away, an impossible commute.
One morning, I was in Peavine, which consists of two or three streets in one direction, maybe eight or nine the other. I saw a woman with an EMT patch on her shoulder. I am naturally shy and reticent, but this EMT idea was such a driving force in my life I asked her about it. “How do you become and EMT?”
“Well, you take an 80 hour course,” she considered, “Actually, we just started a class here in Peavine. It’s been going on a few weeks, but if you’re interested maybe you could catch up.” Costs? They’d written a small grant to cover books and materials.
I went back out to Forest Glade. I was glowing with excitement. I at least wanted to give this a try! Deva met me. “I talked to Barbara, on the board,” Deva said, “They offered, if you wanted to stay awhile, that you could be the interim caretaker here at Forest Glade.”
In one day, my kaleidoscope of shifting fragments tumbled into place. A whole life had laid itself out for me. A door opened out of thin air, and I stepped through. I had a place to live, and a purpose.
I did do the EMT course. I made it to every class, though sometime it felt like a trapeze act getting there. For example, a guy who was interested for awhile, who I’d been getting a ride with, decided to drop out. But by next week, another way had opened.
I did very well in the class. The woman I’d first met, Alice, was a shaker and mover in that little town. Her husband owned a big logging company. About a decade before, her pre-teenage son had got killed in a motor scooter accident, and she had been devastated. She finally rebuilt her life around dedication to improving emergency services in that rural part of the county.
Over the following months, I was involved in the life of Peavine. Something blossomed without me ever having planned it. I became a bridge between Forest Glade and the town. As the other emergency services people got to know me, it put a human face on “that weird hippie commune” for them.
For me, it was eye-opening too. In a town that small, all the services — ambulance, fire, and police — had a lot of overlap in personnel. For the first time in my life, I got to know cops as people, to understand their perspective, and see what they were up to. I finally got over my teenage paranoia about police.
My life was entwined in Forest Glade for about eight months. Part of my role as interim caretaker was to be the first line of defense against, well, against people like me when I’d dropped in there with Jane on our hitching trip.
I ended up meeting and talking to a lot of people. A good number of former community members were still in the area, some renting spaces on that same land. I spent time with them, heard there stories; but, you know, I never did get a clear picture of what the troubles were that had brought the old Forest Glade to an end.
Well, this is supposed to be about my coming out. I’ve sketched in the background, so here’s what was going on for me.
I was still thinking about Adrian every minute of every day. Deva told me a story of when she and Carpenter were first together. They had gotten engaged, then he had been drafted and gone off to Vietnam. She said she’d thought about him every minute of every day.
One time, both on the same day, they had both got the idea of blowing up balloons, and writing letters on them, and then letting the air out and mailing the balloon. She in Tennessee, and he in the jungle of Southeast Asia.
I asked Carpenter about that time in their lives. He admitted he had not thought of her every minute of every day. But he was, after all, in the Vietnam War.
On the rare occasions when I could get to a phone, I would sometimes call Adrian. This was before long distance was dirt cheap, so money was always an issue. Later, I guess we had a phone; but, starting out, things were pretty bare-bones.
I remember in the early days, walking out the drive, and there was a pay phone along the road. It glowed in the early dusk, like a beacon through the rain. I thought, I could call Adrian. I would love so much to hear his voice. But I only had a few dollars to my name, and I figured I’d better save it for more immediate needs.
Therefore, it was mostly letters. I would typically write pages and pages, very tiny script, covering lined yellow legal pad paper. I probably have copies of some of them somewhere still.
Once, I sent one off, without making a copy first. I was really upset. Deva said, understandingly, “Yes, because you’re also writing to yourself as well.”
Certain tunes were like my theme songs. These would come to mind often. One was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Another was “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress”. Sweet songs of longing. I wanted so much to be with Adrian.
Deva and Carpenter talked about the concept of “The Akashic Record”, the idea that every thought, every word and every deed is impressed somehow on the ether. Further, that this information will then be available to others who need it, like checking out books from the library.
In this vein they were supportive of all the stuff I was going through. I guess it gave me some comfort. I felt a little less alone in all my turmoil, thinking it might help somebody else some day. If nothing else, I hope it allows someone to avoid at least a little of the embarrassment I still feel, thinking back on some of the fool letters I wrote.