NAKED IN THE DESERT|
"What the hell do you think you're doing out here?" the old man asked me. He looked me right in the eye and waited for an answer. "I'm headed for Silver City," I said, trying not to sound like a smart ass. That was still 50 miles away. It would take another week of travel for me and my burro to get there, and this grizzled old character was in the way. We were just about to pass his driveway when he had pulled out and stopped his mud brown pickup half way out into the dirt road. The old timer squinted against the sun and looked me over, from my shaggy hair to the guitar slung around my neck and the loaded burro behind me. I didn't know what he was thinking.
"You sure are a sight for sore eyes," he said at last and broke into a grin as wide as New Mexico. I tried to match him tooth for tooth. "You won't get there by tonight anyway, might as well spend the night at our place." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "We got a trailer out behind the barn that you can sleep in and plenty of room for your burro." He pointed out where I should go and where there was some feed for Ajax. He said that he had to tend to a windmill and that I should make myself at home. With that he roared off down the road in a cloud of dust.
Most of the ranchers we met were like that, open handed. They usually had a story or two about some burro packing they had done or had always wanted to do. Most of all, they seemed to miss the old days, when the pace was slower and they could enjoy their closeness to the land.
"If I was going to Silver City, I'd cut through here," his crusty finger jabbing at the map. "I used to take the kids up that canyon on overnighters... and right over here... if ya just had the time... there's lots of good water... " I was carrying some money and tried to pay for food and grain, but not one rancher in 350 miles would take a cent.
What the hell WAS I doing out here? Everybody asked me that same question, sometimes with just a look. I had also asked myself, a time or two. Oh, I had my excuses, like, "I've always been fascinated with the life of the old prospectors that originally explored the west." Yeah, it's true, but that's only a cover story. I could also say I was writing a book and walking and camping helped me focus on the task. That was also true, but not the real reason.
This trip was the result of an experience that had shattered my world view and left me feeling that I could no longer participate in the culture of my birth. I had been living in a perfectly good rolling home with all of the conveniences, but I had abandoned it with some friends, bought this fifteen dollar burro and hit the trail. I had no thought of ever going back.
This quest of mine, to communicate with Mother Nature, through the plant kingdom, had taken some unexpected turns. Now, I was a homeless wanderer with nothing but my beast of burden and what possessions we could carry, lost in a modern world that no longer made any sense to me.
My plan was to write this book. I soon realized that no one was going to listen to a bearded maniac wandering around the desert mumbling about mushrooms? I needed to do more reading on the subject and see if I could find some support for my rap in our collective archives. Then I needed to clean up my act.
Whoa, better back up a little bit.
The farther back I go, looking for the time and place where I started down this path,the more I realize that I have always been on this path. I have always wanted to know, the truth, the meaning of life, "What's going on here?". So, it's back to the beginning of my shift. I was born in Los Angeles in 1940. My father was working in a gas station and my mother had been a beautician. They had grown up in the depression and were hard workers. There was no place to go, but up.
Around the end of WWII, my mother heard Dr. Earnest Holmes, author of , The Science of Mind, speak one Sunday morning. He had just founded "The Institute of Religious Science and Philosophy" a few years before and was packing them in at the Wiltern Theater every Sunday morning.
Dr. Holmes taught that the "Power of Mind" could bring you anything you wanted. He was a very convincing speaker and really had broken it down into a working technique. Besides that, he insisted that god wants us all to be prosperous, so we shouldn't feel guilty about being rich.
The "technique" was fairly simple to master, but it wasn't mandatory to learn it to be successful. The church could provide "practitioners" who could guide you through the procedure, or help you with your guilt, to insure results... for a small fee.
Such a rap was certain to bring success in boomtown southern California, and the Institute did very well. As soon as they started a sunday school near our house, my mom enrolled me.
There were some members of that church that performed some pretty amazing feats. These were called "treatments" if they were to heal some condition and "demonstrations" when they were to manifest some event or object in one's life.
The procedure is really simple..."Ask and ye shall receive." Set your goal, work for it and accept it as done. There's no real secret to it. You just do it. Focusing thoughts and action on a goal is all it takes. The more you practice it the easier it becomes.
So I grew up a Religious Science whiz kid. I was one of the first kids to start in their Sunday School and go all the way thru their ministerial training program. I was elected president of their international(mostly US) youth organization. I ran meetings, organized conventions, published articles in the "Science of Mind" magazine and served on committees and panel discussions, was the MC at talent shows and other special events.
In my position I had had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with the leaders of the church, including Dr. Holmes. I got to know some of them pretty well. I didn't see myself ending up like them. They were all nice folks, but they were putting on airs. They were all acting a part and being paid quite well to do so. The inner voice I was listening to was telling me to stay loose. I wanted to hear what some of the rest of the world had to say before I solidified my beliefs.
At my last convention I was giving a talk on using the "Power" to help one find a career. Nobody coached me on what to say, they had always liked what I had to say before. It was at the "Institute", the main headquarters in Los Angeles. It was mainly for the youth group, but quite a few adults were sitting in the back to hear what I had to say.
The gist of my presentation was that the "Power of Mind" was better qualified to make career choices for you. I said that if this really works, you should use it to plan your life rather than deciding what YOU wanted to do and then apply the power to get what you wanted. My finishing line was, "When you get ready to make your mark in the World, the hammer and stone and chisel will be there. There is no use in gathering pieces of chalk." I could see the adults in the back row stiffen. Some looked at each other in wonder. The kids loved it. Within a few months I was gone. I wasn't kidding, that was the career plan I had come up with.
I was raised on radio. One of the early radio dramas that captured my imagination was called, "The Monkey's Paw". It was about husband and wife who had lost their son. I forget whether he had been killed in a mine cave-in or in the war, but they were very grieved. They got hold of a magic monkey paw that is supposed to give them two wishes, like the genie in the bottle. The mother wishes for the return of their son. Well, the boy comes back as is, not a pretty sight. The husband uses the second wish to send him back to the grave.
The message came through to me loud and clear. I knew I had the "monkey's paw", only it wasn't just two hits... it had unlimited power. It could bring a lot of trouble into my life if I wasn't careful. I didn't make a vow, I just realized that I wasn't going to abuse this power. I "knew" that this power was intelligence itself. In RS they called it "Universal Mind". I decided to put the responsibility for my path back on that intelligence. I just went with the flow. I did make one request. I wanted to find out what was going on. I wanted to know who or what I had given myself over to.
To me it seemed like a win win situation. I set my goal as a rather loose, "Find the Truth", and then, "Let go and let God", just like they taught me. At the same time, it gave me a way out of the whole mess. I did not want a career in the church. No one could argue with my logic. No one even tried. My mom would come close to trying to dissuade me, but she would just get misty eyed. There was no talking to me. She knew that.
Meanwhile, I pursued what most California kids were doing in those days, fast cars, nightlife and women. I figured I'd get that all out of my system before the "righteous path" presented itself.
Fast forward to 1971. I was healing from a motorcycle crash that had marked the end of the "fast cars" period and had some time to ponder righteous pathways and such. I hadn't seen one yet and the crash had reminded me of my mortality. I decided I needed to get out of the machine world and a little closer to Nature. It took longer that I thought to pry myself out of the rat race, but by '73 I was loose on the road.
My reading had sparked my curiosity. The likes of Annie Dillard, John Lilly, Carlos Castenada and several others had told me that the world was not always what we civilized folks think it to be. I found that the model of the universe that I had picked up as a mechanic/machinist/designer was useless to explain many events in the real world. I headed for the desert.
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