Paths (part 30)

For several more months we lived in Santa Cruz, but slowly over time, we moved our community north to Fort Bragg. Early in the process of moving all seven of us drove north together in the Suburban to visit the area. About an hour south of Mendocino, on highway 128, a rugged little two-lane highway winding through the remote landscape between Cloverdale and the coast, I found myself suddenly thrust into the midst of another ‘scenario’ and it escalated very rapidly. I don’t recall the issue we were addressing but I remember not being very up for the fight and it didn’t go very well. At one point I was told to pull over and get out of the vehicle. On the side of the highway the scenario continued as I was pelted with stones, although none were thrown with great force, or with intention to cause much real damage. After this, MD got back in the vehicle and I was told to remain on the road, and they drove away. It was evening and night was falling. I looked around at my remote surroundings; I was on a tight curve in the road and a gentle hillside rose behind me and just a little ways up the grassy hill was an oak tree. I pried apart the strands of barbed wire running alongside the highway, crawled through, walked up to the tree and sat down beneath its sturdy branches. It was nearly dark and I didn’t really know where I was, so I wasn’t sure which direction would be better to walk. I knew that Cloverdale was about twenty miles or so behind me, too far to walk at this time of day, and I didn’t really know what was ahead. I considered spending the night under the oak tree and was beginning to plan how to find comfort there for the night when the Suburban rounded the corner and stopped across the highway from me. I was called to come and get back inside, and we turned and continued together again towards the coast.

 

A few miles further on it began again, and I was cast out of the vehicle a second time, but this time in a little town called Boonville; and this time I was left, and they didn’t return for me. Fortunately there was a little store nearby and here I managed to meet two young ladies about my age that were driving to Ukiah and they offered to give me a ride. They dropped me off downtown and I found my way to the city homeless shelter and spent the night there. The next morning I had a nice simple meal in the shelter and then went about trying to find a way to make some money. I had nothing with me except my clothing and shoes—no money, no identification, no jacket, and it was winter.

 

Fortunately it was a crisp sunny day so it was cheery and uplifting. I felt confident I would find a way to make some money and then decide what my next step should be after that. Later in the morning I was discussing work with a kind elderly woman who was working at the front desk of some organization which I can’t remember. In the course of our conversation it came up that there was some damage to the asphalt roof of the building. I offered to do the repair and she hired me and it was arranged that I would return the next day to do the work. In the meantime I enjoyed the bright sunny day and the freedom of being alone. This was the first time that I considered leaving the community. That evening I returned to the shelter and made a call to MD. I didn’t discuss much of what had happened since we parted the previous day, but I mentioned that I was staying the night in the shelter. He didn’t want us staying in shelters because there could be so many troubled people in them that could be bad for us to associate with, and he also didn’t want us relying on others to take care of us, but rather to find the way to support ourselves in all situations. He told me to leave immediately, not to stay in the shelter a moment longer but to get back down to our house in Santa Cruz that night. It was already about 8pm, and in the late afternoon a storm had suddenly blown in, so that I could now hear rain pelting down on the roof and against the windows, and could hear the wind blowing loudly. It wasn’t the kind of weather I wanted to travel in with no money, no jacket and wearing only sandals on my feet. After I got off the phone I considered for a moment what I should do; I had two choices as I saw it, either stay in the shelter and then go my own way in the future, or follow his direction and leave now and return to Santa Cruz. As much as I didn’t want to go outside, and also didn’t relish the idea of returning home, I was not prepared at this time to leave the community, I still felt I had unfinished business there and more to learn. I didn’t want to give up.

 

So I went to the shelter kitchen, found several large black plastic garbage bags and made myself a raincoat and pants, and a makeshift hat, and left the building. Under the driving rain I made my way to the highway onramp and stuck my thumb out in hopes of hitching a ride back south. It was cold and very wet but I was able to enjoy the beauty of the rain falling hard, lit by the streetlights high overhead. Fortunately, within the hour a trucker stopped and gave me a lift. I slept on most of the trip back to Santa Cruz but eventually made it there sometime before noon the following day.

 

Not long after this adventure of mine, the community moved to Fort Bragg, although I stayed behind for several more weeks in order to finish a couple landscaping projects in Santa Cruz. It was challenging though because we needed the trucks up in Fort Bragg so I only had an old Plymouth Arrow hatchback to do my work, and I stored all of my tools and materials in a small storage unit. Every morning I woke up in the back of the hatchback which I parked in various quiet neighborhoods, the hatch slightly open to allow clearance between my forehead and the back windshield, drove to the storage unit and loaded my tools into the car and then went to site for the day. At the end of the workday I ate a meal at a local salad bar, showered at a community center or state park, and then found a new place to park the car and sleep for the night. It was a simple existence, just me and my jobs, long hours of work, a good solid meal in the evening and a great night’s sleep, though you wouldn’t expect that, if you’ve ever seen the look of a Plymouth Arrow.

 

I must admit I begin to lose track of the order of some of our moves after this because our community began to be located in multiple locations throughout California, and it is difficult to remember which location preceded which, since we all lived in different locations for much of the time and only met up together on weekends or various other periods of time between jobs. However, I am fairly certain that our time in McCloud, a small town south of Mt Shasta happened briefly around this time, and this location was extremely significant because it was here that K finally left the community and I never saw her again. Unfortunately she ran away in the midst of one of her ‘scenarios’ at a time when I was still working on my own in Santa Cruz so I never had warning or an opportunity to say goodbye. She had been my jogging buddy and a dear confidante. She had a smile that lit up a room and a serenity of spirit that soothed my soul; and in many ways she had been a mother, a sister, and the glue of our community, having been the only female presence with us for so much of the time.  So when she left the loss was felt strongly by everyone. Her leaving was also significant because she brought formal charges against MD.

(to be continued)

~FS

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