I grew up in the likes of a Buddhist ashram chanting Hari Chrisna. It is perhaps my most memorable memory from childhood. I was raised by a group of burned out hippies who knew and followed Timothy Leary through the '60s. I was reading books like the 'Bhagavad Gita' and 'Be Here Now', the former written from ancient text, while the latter had barely come out in print. Those books meant nothing to me then, but I would read them again a dozen years later so as to understand them. Here I would learn about Arjuna's journey towards battle and his talks with Krishna, and follow the antics of the good doctors tales. I spent my mornings watering flower gardens, tending a gold fish pond and grooming foot trails that led from one building to another. There were round adobe-like yurts and small buildings spread out across a few acres of land on a thousand acre ranch in the Arizona desert. My hair was down to my butt and I had the nickname Snake. I was also a ward of the State.
When I was 11 years old I ran away from home and I ended up living in a group home in the Sonoran Desert near the base of the Rincon Mountains. I lived there with dozens of people. We were men and women, and boys and girls. And we were all there for different reasons. Some of us were sent there, while others just came. We were lost souls and runaways. We were bullies and thieves. And we were disheartened victims of abuse. In 1973 I was a runaway. For almost two and a half years I lived this life, and then one day I walked away. Everything I learned; everything I believed, it all happened here.
Early on as children we are marked by scars and injuries both mental and physical that we carry into the future. They are the wounds that link our past to present; uniting infancy with age. They bear witness to the people we become and are a testament to the lives we lead. It is rare to go through life without them.
At night we would gather in the dining hall. Wood carved tables and chairs filled the room. The walls were made of stone and cement at least one foot thick. A large round open-faced fireplace was in the center of the room for those cold winter nights. I still remember the smell of mesquite wood burning. They built that place two years before I came. In the summer the students and teachers united, and months of work followed. Boulders of river rock had to be moved into place. Eight foot sections of railroad ties were stood upright and were the supporting structure for the walls. Layers of cement and river rock were poured in between them. Inside giant timbers ran across the ceiling locking out the light of day. I do not know how long it took them, but I can imagine the months of pain. I can almost feel their blisters and certainly there is blood inside those walls. These people left other things as well. Small relics as reminders. On one wall you will see a handful of marbles embedded in the cement in an intricate design. There are names in the cement floor and you will see a peace sign next to an Anhk. There are green and purple glass insulators protruding out of the walls here and there for coat hangers. Burned into the wood you will see symbols such as the Yin and Yang, more peace signs and the Hindu Om sign of Absolute.
Inside there was a corner library. Bookshelves lined the walls. Over the next two years I would read most of them: Carlos Castaneda, William Goldman, Kurt Vonnegut and Wilson Rawls. There are titles I can’t even remember and titles I can: The Catcher and the Rye; Mister God, this is Anna; and Gibran’s Prophet. Sitting there at night I would read line after line and verse after verse. I was particularily enamored with Castaneda's story 'The Yaqui Way of Knowledge' because I am a Yaqui Indian. This story was unique to me because in its own way it tied me to a heritage I knew nothing about. I eventually outgrew my fascination with Castaneda. Don Juan was a little too colorful of a character for me and so I stuck a little closer to home.
My parents and I never spent much time living together, sometimes I think it was act of preservation. But the fact is they were my parents, and the only parents I ever knew. When my mom died a few years ago I remember that feeling of loneliness. I remember thinking that I was all alone and that I was an orphan. I have felt that way from time to time ever since her passing. And I have always felt like I was the last of my line save for my children. All of that changed today. Today we finally received my adoption records. I don't think I've ever felt this way before. Today I have a name for both of my birth parents. I think I'm going to have to let that sink in for a while.