The summer of 1976 was a turbulent and somewhat confusing time at the Pond. There was a move towards Evangelical Christianity and those of us that were happy as yogis rebelled and some left. I had been dividing my time between working as a cab driver in Manhattan and the country life on the land at the pond. I was ready for a change and decided to hitchhike out west that August. I spent several weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area where my sister Deborah was living at the time and then headed south to visit a friend in Santa Barbara where the mountains meet the ocean, one of the most beautuful places on the planet.
That first night at my friend Nick's house, I closed my eyes while relaxing in his living room and my inner voice said very clearly " you are home". The next day we had lunch in a little natural food cafe called the The Farmer and the Fisherman. It was run by Sunburst Farms, a spiritual community in the mountains above town. I met Dennis, the manager of the cafe, still a friend of mine, who shared a bit about the commune and invited me to visit. This began an amazing journey of the next four years living on three different ranches Sunburst owned in the beautiful mountains of the Los Padres National Forest outside of Santa Barbara.
At first I worked on the land at Lemuria Ranch in the back country learning about agriculture, horticulture and caring for the animals we raised. Later on I worked in the natural foods markets we ran in town eventually becoming the manager of the Isla Vista store near the UCSB campus.
Far more significantly than what I did on the commune were the deep spiritual connections and comraderie I had with people I still consider brothers and sisters to this day. We shared what we had, meditated, worked, sang and played together every day.
Nearly 38 years ago many of us left that beautiful ranch along the California coast because we had lost confidence in the leadership. A core group of us settled in Santa Barbara where I stayed for several more years. Friends Mehosh, Chris & Michael, Kate, Jack, Bob & Xenia, Michael & Kathy and Miguel among many others are still near and dear to my heart. Reflecting on those wonderful years, I have no regrets and feel a profound sense of gratitude that I had that awesome experience that has been a guiding light on the spiritual path I continue to walk on daily.