Table of Contents

Retreat to Seattle

Twist. I moved to Seattle in 1991, but not from Boulder. I moved here from a place called simply The Retreat (as the Salida property had been called The Land), a gorgeous enclave surrounded by the Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico that had been purchased by a wealthy donor and given to Harmonizing. In an ironic twist, it turned out that Seattle is my retreat: the place I came to make serious progress with love, free of the influences of spiritual teachers, scriptures, cults, divinations, and everything else that is not my own internal authority. It would take 15 more years in Seattle for me to break free of the remnants of external authority, but hey, that's nothing compared to how long it took me to get here.

The reso from hell. Moving to The Retreat brought an abrupt end to the sweetest part of my stint in Harmonizing: living in Salida and commuting into Boulder. I loved living in Salida. But one day without warning came the announcement: the Salida property was to be sold, and we five word processors were to move to The Retreat. I had a bad feeling about this move. But I knew The Retreat was a gorgeous place with a much warmer climate. Salida was bitter cold in the winter. The Retreat seemed a fine place to be at first. The canyon country was even more lovely than I remembered, and there was no end of trail running, which became my favorite thing to do in Salida. But things soon took a nasty turn. I found myself in a toasting circle that never ended, never died, odiously propagating itself from one night to the next. We would gather every evening for mandatory drinking combined with being lectured, berated, humiliated and otherwise tortured well into the wee hours, sometimes leaving no time at all before the work day began, with lots of hard physical labor plus mandatory running. One night we gathered as dinner was being prepared. Once it was done we all went outside, we thought to eat, but instead we watched as our food was dumped, bowl by bowl, into a bonfire in a peculiar ritual of privation. Each man's portion got dumped by some particular woman, in my case by the wealthy donor who made all this possible, and on whom I had a years-long crush which never came to fruition, even though it was easy to see she had similar feelings. The man was a genius torturer. Dumping the food and going hungry that night was a one-time privation, but otherwise this every-evening ordeal went on for weeks; it became known, both on The Retreat and in Boulder, as the reso from hell, reso being an oh-so-clever neologism for toasting circle.

Resolution. Reso was meant to invoke the idea of finding the resolution to do what TH demanded of us, and in a fine burn of irony it was the reso from hell that finally forced me to find the resolution within myself to leave Harmonizing. I ostensibly came to Boulder to train as a healer, but the purity of that intention was already compromised. In any case, I got more than I bargained for, and not in a good way. The training program morphed into a spiritual community, and the community into a cult of running. I was TH's willing student, but I never became his disciple. Somewhere in me I knew being a disciple wasn't right for me. I pretended to be one because I saw the value in being there. There was no better place to go, as far as I knew. The reso from hell was structured to break down people's resistance to TH so they would become true disciples. It worked the opposite way for me, and not a moment too soon. I showed up at that odious reso one last time to say sayonara, and then I went back to my room to get some much needed sleep. I had jumped ship.

Such a relief. It was several days before I could get a lift to Socorro, the nearest place where I could catch a Greyhound. In the meantime I was suddenly a guest where I'd previously been a pretend disciple. Everyone was genial; I felt no acrimony, no disappointment rays aimed my way. I didn't have my car with me because it wouldn't've made it in. The road in fords the San Francisco River seven times; my little Civic would've drowned. I'd been pressured into lending my car to a disciple back in Boulder, so I was headed that way to reclaim it. I felt good, solid, resolved. It felt wonderful to take off my disciple mask and just be me. In the meantime I cooked my own meals using the ingredients at hand. It was such a delight to cook my food the way I liked it. It still is, and I'm finally getting reasonably good at it.

Albuquerque was my first stop, and not just because that's where the bus was going anyway. I'd arranged to be met at the station by Linda, my girlfriend from FPC and Tallahassee days. She'd also moved out to Boulder to study with TH, but had left Harmonizing years before. She was now living in Albuquerque with her husband, and they were very kindly happy to take me in for a few days to help with my transition back to real life. In addition, I was seriously considering moving to Albuquerque and wanted to talk it over with them. Soon after I moved to to Boulder I developed a crush on northern New Mexico. I loved the food and the high desert landscape, and I romanticized it into my spiritual home, the place I was meant to be. My time in Salida had greatly strengthened this balderdash. Talking to them helped me see through it. The Native, Hispanic, and Anglo communities of northern New Mexico are all insular. People who moved there decades ago are still newcomers. They're cultures you had to be born into. Moving there would be like moving into exile. I thought it might be different in Albuquerque, being metropolitan and all, but no.

Where to? Fortified with a dose of common sense, I now felt ready to reinvent myself by starting over in a new place. I got back on the bus, headed up to Boulder, and reclaimed my car. Now I could no longer avoid the question: where to mister? It was May of 1991. I was already leaning toward Seattle, but I wanted to take a good look around, consider other possibilities. I decided to go on a cross-country road trip to consider my options in person by visiting possible places to live. I chose Pacific Beach as my first destination because a dear friend lived there. I couldn't bring myself to consider a cold start in a place where I didn't know anyone; that was too intimidating. I headed for places where good friends lived: Pacific Beach and Seattle, Austin back east. Austin was the one city in the South I was still willing to consider, thanks to my friend there.

Anna and her daughter lived in Pacific Beach. I met Anna in Boulder and fell for her in a big way. Making love with Anna was a revelation; it shook me to my bones. So much so that I didn't mind her loving another guy in The Community. I knew her other guy and liked him a lot so that helped. Congenital problems had left her legally blind, but she was so intensely alive. She made me realize most of the people in The Community were not. She made me ache with desire. When we made love it was explosive, for both of us. She left Boulder not long before I did, and I still had a big jones for her. I hoped we could pick up where we left off. But once I was there it was clear that would not happen. I didn't fit Anna and her daughter's new life.

Wilderness coast. My route from Pacific Beach to Seattle stayed right on the coast as much as possible, driving US 101 and California Route 1. I planned to take my time and enjoy the drive. The Pacific coast was gorgeous all the way up, but it never seemed like a place to live. More like a national park. And nothing I saw in California or Oregon came close to what I'd seen in Washington. I fell in love with the Washington wilderness coast when I first saw it in 1988, on a road trip from Boulder to the PNW with Doña. We hiked the muddy trail to Cape Flattery on a drizzly day. I'd never seen a wilderness coast before, and I was entranced. Here was a coast I could love, as far from Florida's squeaky sand as I could get in the Lower 48. Fleece and Gore-Tex instead of the sweet stink of artificial coconut. I did some scrambling on the rocks while Doña sat and watched the waves. I saw a puffin perched on a sea stack. It seemed like a talisman, the spirit of the wild coast. I didn't know a puffin was a rare sight. I haven't seen one since. After our hike to Cape Flattery we camped in her truck on the beach at La Push. Back then you could camp on the beach for free. We hiked on Second and Third Beaches and both boardwalks at Ozette while we were camping at La Push. Then we drove on down the coast, hiking in the Hoh Rainforest, at Ruby Beach, then Kalaloch. I was looking forward to seeing all that in the opposite direction on my way to Seattle.

Cross country. When I left Seattle for Austin I had the same goal: take the scenic route, enjoy the drive. I headed up US 2 and drove across the coulees and wheat fields. Then I took I-90 to Missoula. I turned south on US 93 then forked back west through the Sawtooth National Forest. This country was all new to me, and I was reveling in it. It was easy to find camping spots along the way. I checked out Craters of the Moon then took 26 to 93 down into Nevada. I headed east into Utah to see the Great Salt Lake, driving by the Bonneville Salt Flats. I was a tiny dot in a vast landscape, just drifting along. I got to drifting about 80, and it took a Tooele Highway Patrolman to slow me down. I stayed on I-80 through Wyoming and into Nebraska, then turned south through Kansas and Oklahoma into Texas. I was glad to be out of my car for a few days with my friend in Austin. It seemed nice enough, but it was nowhere I wanted to live. Being back there made me realize I wanted nothing to do with the South.

Heading home. I'm glad I took that little 9,000-mile trip. I wanted to be sure Seattle was right, and it was. I took the shortest route back to the upper left corner, crashing when I arrived at Keith's house.