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  • I woke again on Harold Street today. I couldn't see it from my creampuff bunk, but I knew the ocean was huge by the way it was screaming all the way up to my bedroom, screaming and breathing and complaining, and its buoy snoring away, and it's gigantickness and ever-presence nudging at my dreams, the way I've gotten used to, all these years. Forty years, yes. Was it intelligence brought me here? I still am not stuck. This is where I came to and where I still find sustenance.

    The first time I came slinging and leaning into the curves on Highway 128, to my wind-dazzled, citified eyes, it was just deja vu from a recent dream - not the shape of it, but the content: a mythical settlement hanging there above the cliffs, all white and quaint. From my straddled seat behind my new boyfriend, on his newly purchased BMW, Mendocino, and my suddenly-chosen, brand-new life, appeared a spangle-winged thing climbing out of a bleak chrysalis. This idea of running off on the back of a motorcycle with an unemployed photographer did not correspond much to the vision that had guided my interpretations of Mrs. Oliver Harriman's Book of Etiquette back in my teenage years, preparation for the genteel and exciting life I believed would be mine after I left Gridley for good.

    This certainly represented a different sort of lifestyle than that, prepared as I was by my persistent studying of Mrs. Harriman's admonitions about "how to manage a household with more than five servants," how to travel the world with steamer trunks full of evening dresses my lady's maid would impeccably have packed for me. I practiced my Spanish homework (with a little English accent picked up from my Trinidadian mom) in the shower, to get ready for all the trips, "Donde esta la fiesta?" and studied the placement of knives and forks, spoons and glasses so that I might dine properly at all the galas I would soon attend.
    The glamor! The wealth! The formality and rigor! I gave that particular Hollywood dream away for love and risk and mad adventure. I gave it away for youth and beauty and a wildness that would not, could not be quelled. Mrs. Harriman, I'm sure, would've been hard pressed to address my new situation. Rather, now actually homeless, the few belongings I kept from my former life just barely fit inside a single saddlebag of the motorcycle I would come to call home for nearly a year.

    Clothes, shoes, makeup, underwear, all shoved into the not-so-huge compartment, in the interest of launching myself free from the anchor of materialism. I left, or gave away, all the rest of my accumulated worldly possessions. And my new sleeping bag rolled up, with Gary's, behind me, along with a rolled-up tent and the nesting pots of the Swedish camp stove that dangled like an ornament as we rolled along, free as a breeze. An ornate, bone-handled hunting knife in a holster rode on my leg, and my brown leather bomber jacket I'd picked up from the second hand store, Bizarre Bazaar, went with everything, dressy or plain: a fashion accessory I had not considered before my get-away.

    Gypsies, I thought, fake book required, since, in true 60s imprudence, I'd run off with this guy I'd known for a couple of weeks. What was I thinking? - only to escape suffocation from my uber conventional life. How, though, was I to be in it? Who was I now? Mind on existential ruminations, bike thrumming under me, wind, everything new, running, running.

    In the romantic barn behind the Seagull we spent our very first night together, then sped away, after a fast goodbye to Gary's parents, for two years of roaming around the world. As for my goodbyes - there were none. I simply disappeared, too confused by my own untoward behavior to confess it to anyone just yet.

    At what point is a life deemed brave? Or desperation makes it either/or. Or foolhardy. Or reckless disregard of every more, every convention. Or holding on no longer serves a life. Somewhere along the line breaking away becomes the option that must be exercised. Or death. Does this story remind you of anything?

    Despite my former life as a fashionista and aforementioned high society aspirations, we played our parts to the hilt: hippies on the road, hair flying. Pretensions to improbable, highfalutin breeding were utterly forgotten in the blur of daily movement: miles and miles of highway running under the two wheels and the famous horizontal carburetors that give BMWs that smooth and powerful ride. Where to sleep, where to land each night, where we would eat and whom we would meet, these elemental questions shaped the context of our days as we made our vagabond way across the US toward New York. It was survival. It was fun. It was crazy. It was the longest trip I've ever taken, to this day. It was an unforgettable formatting of my Self. We rode all the way east and stopped in Princeton for some weeks. Then all the way South. On the outskirts of Miami Beach, for some months, we worked and finally, sadly, sold the trusty bike to a guy who kept several others, and extra parts, in his living room. We were off to Europe on the second leg of our odyssey.

    Gary was funny and I was fun to look at - attributes that opened many doors, and we adventured over the western world and some of the Middle East, hiding from each other whatever misgivings we held about the liaison we found ourselves in. These days we are aware that not communicating in a relationship is a sure recipe for a bad dinner, but we were twenty-five, full of ourselves. Who knew? I was on the road with a man I hardly knew, contravening everything I'd ever aspired to or believed in. In my mod boots and hot pants, in my 115 pound slinky body, in my long mane of hair, and sunglasses as big as a La Bamba burrito, I looked the part of a Mary Quant hippie, a 60s chick, uncertainty in every molecule, but living the act nonetheless, and acting the act, taking cues from the glories of the Summer of Love.

    In Portugal, land of half my blood, my high school Spanish actually came in handy, allowed me quickly to learn to speak rudimentarily the tongue my parents wouldn't teach me for fear of confusing this second generation American. We landed in the village of Sines, Gary taking pictures of the fishermen's life there and I writing about it. We dreamed of National Geographic. Everybody knew us there. We were practically famous. We had neighbors and friends. We roamed and rambled, lounged and learned, and after four months left the cozy life we'd made there to move toward Italy, Greece and beyond.

    We ran out of money on a kibbutz, in Israel, around Christmastime of 1972, and also out of the will to move around anymore. You know how tiresome it gets to hear and not understand a lot of other languages. You start yearning for a hamburger and french fries, even if you never order them at home. And to tell the truth, I was tired of not having a home or roots. It was time to call in the chips and we did, taking the ferry from Haifa to Pireaus, the train from Athens to Munich, where we stayed with new friends met someplace around Masada. Then on to Switzerland for a week at a Basil commune run by people we'd befriended while waiting for the ferry at Brindisi. Finally, we boarded our flight on the now-defunct International Air Bahama. It flew out of a cold, Christmastime Luxemburg, the promise of home - and no home -- both comforting and frightening.

    Over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, I was surprised to look down and see what I knew to be my grandmother's home, the island of Pico. She had described to me, in broken English, a perfect cone sticking up out of the blue water: the Azores. The unexpected vision launched me into an assessment of my life so far, and I dreamed then what I wanted, from that loaded view: a home, a baby, roots, a garden -- things I didn't really know I wanted before that startled moment. But one thing I did know then, which I'd formulated by observation, was this: All your dreams come true if you just identify the dream.

    This was wisdom that would last me all my life (the newly popular New Thought "Law of Attraction" came spontaneously out of the brain of this innocent. If you know what you want and expect it, it will come. I had thought I wanted the life of a social doyenne. But what did I know of Society? Then I wanted the life of a free spirit. And I got that, too. That is the power of dreams. High in the sky over my ancestors‚ islands, I had the biggest dream I dared to have) and it was just that sweet little homely dream.

    The second time I saw Mendocino, fully two years later, it blossomed like a flower on the Big River headlands, ephemeral as myth. Back in the USA, though, we came up against the phenomenon many travelers suffer upon their return: it's weird here.

    We'd been away from everything - family, work, newspapers, rednecks, billboards, urban sprawl, and we‚d nearly missed the ending of the Vietnam War. We were "home" but we didn't get it. We were "home" scrambling around for something to make money with, and boy were we broke. Even hippies need eventually to have an income. There was a little one-room cabin out in Cleone, behind Ken Crowther's house we lived in for a while. Then a thing that radically changed the nature of our concerns: I suddenly found myself pregnant. My dreams were coming true, you see, but not in quite the right order.

    All around us Mendocino was becoming the land of the free and we were feeling not so much a part of it. We were trying to find our way into work, and feeling comfortable in our skins back here in our own country, and more importantly, a place of our own, which turned out to be, oddly, a sixteen-foot trailer Bill Grader put up at a little dock on Albion Flats.

    I was magnificently, grandiosely, monumentally with child. Every time I climbed through the door of our austere abode, it creaked like a banshee - reek, reek, reek - reminding me of my incredible girth and my life's incredible turns. Formerly a sylph, I developed bosoms that could take over the world. In those indolent waiting days I strolled the beach, my shadow bulbous, watching otters and boats moving with purpose to and fro. Remember The Deplorable? My favorite vessel lived up to its name on its dilapidated forays through the harbor. I played my guitar and sang folk songs to my little baby, wondering what it would be, how it would be, to be a mommy. Me.

    Gary bought fish from the likes of Captain Fathom and young Salmon, River's son, bless him. Ling cod and salmon as big as a man's leg, rock fish and crab brought the life of the sea and the stalwart fishermen by our door. Sometimes I would go up to help at the Albion Community Center, which put on dinners almost every night. People were having a lot of babies named Rainbow and Wildflower, Yarrow and Moonbeam, and living in tree houses and communes up the Ridge. Anne Menna had a little café at the east end of the Flats, but I knew only her and a handful of people there.

    For me, a trailer was not a home. I was not investing too much in the place, and soon I started agitating for something less mobile. I was NOT going to have a baby in that creaking little module under Albion Bridge. Gary got busy asking around for a house, using his place as a native son among his Dad's landowning friends.

    With my due date fast approaching, I worried we would not find a home in time. Finally though, just in the nick of time, Wes Jardstrom came out and said we could rent his place in Westport. "I don't want that little baby to be cold!" he'd declare in his good-heartedness, more than once.

    In a miraculous turn, Zoe Erika Bachelor was born on September 25, 1973, my 27th birthday. We took her home to Westport, the quiet dream-come-true, but temporary, haven of my motherly wishes. And she was not cold in that wonderful house.

    When Zoe was about nine months old, her grandpa, Harry Bachelor, told us he'd found a house in Fort Bragg he wanted to buy, that we could rent it from him. We moved into the ramshackle ex-Jesus-freak-commune on Harold Street, a home I loved from the second I first saw it. It was the permanent answer to my airborne dream above the Azores. A yard for a garden, a woodstove for warmth, and lots and lots of rooms for the dormitory atmosphere my kids would need with all their friends. I still live there, and everything I do and am is surrounded and protected by that home I found so long ago. The central theme of a dream, and Home, finding True Home, pulls me along yet. This place, this flower that blooms in friendship and belonging, grows dearer to me by the year. Finding Home. Being Home. Making Home.

    The ocean's voice finds me each new day and puts me to sleep each night. I find I have everything I need. My beautiful children, my big, sweet Love, my house and garden - just...everything.

    And fun! And creativity. Work I still adore, and singing jazz. My poems, and, look: my dear, amazing, brilliant community of friends -- what more could I possibly ask?The roots I envisioned and sought thirty-five years ago have sunk deep. I say again, everything, everything I need. I am Home.
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