Living and Rebelling Communally/ Part 2 California

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.

Living and Rebelling Communally....Our Reunion

I was a certified card carrying member of the late '60s early '70s generation of rebellion. I set out to find a better way of life than what I perceived to be the shallowness of my upper middle class suburban upbringing.  I grew my hair and discovered mind altering substances in high school. My friends and I loved the San Francisco psychedelic sounds of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service.We had  great adventures expanding our consciousness and perspectives as well as some fabulous journeys, festivals and camping trips.

Many of us, myself included chose alternative paths after high school foregoing the traditional route to college and a career to take off and see the world. For me I went to Israel  after graduating early in January of  '71 and had my first communal experiences on several kibbutzim (agricultural communities). I worked in the  orchards and fields there and it set in motion my dream of living communally when I got back to the states.

Upon returning home in August of '71 I started searching to fulfill that dream.  I worked at several jobs in my hometown then hitchhiked to Colorado that fall.  When I got back from my trip out west, my best buddy Billy Hart had bought a dilapidated 40 acre farm in Angelica in the southern tier of New York State. We spent many long weekends helping him fix the place up and doing plenty of parting. I moved down there for several months in the spring of '72 with the hopes of starting that dream commune with him and a few other friends.Ultimately the farm didnt become the commune I hoped to find.

In the summer 1972 I was an 18 year old hippie spiritual seeker. I met some great people and had an amazing life changing  experience at a yoga retreat in Painted Post, New York.  I went home from there packed my bags and moved to Ananda Ashram an hour outside of New York City. This was the beginning of what would be my communal life for the next eight years living in 3 different communities on the east and west coasts.

In the fall of '72 a group of us from the ashram discovered Gil, a" silent guru" sitting on the corner of 86th Street and Central Park West in Manhattan. People would gather around him and listen to his spiritual wisdom in sign language that his sidekick, Ken aka Rocky would translate. In January of '73 we purchased an old school bus, painted Yea God on the back and 40 of us got on it with our sleeping bags and what few material possessions we owned. All we knew was the we were going south to escape the New York winter. It was an amazing adventure that took us through the southern states and into Mexico. There were many amazing fun times and a some serious trials and tribulations along the way. What was so incredible was how so many people could live together, get along so well and share everything the way we did. We came back to the states that spring, spent several months in Tecate, California before heading back east and settling on a piece of land outside of Ithaca, New York known as Beech Hill Pond.

This is past weekend the "family" gathered near Ithaca for our 45 year reunion. We sang the songs we used to sing, shared many hilarious stories and fond memories of that very special time in our youth. It was a magical weekend for me that touched my soul deeply. The love and brotherhood we shared as young seekers discovering our common quest to experience a spiritual truth is still with us after all these years.

I am blessed to have had such rich experiences  and relationships that continue to inspire me to this day. To be continued....