Tuesday, November 3, 2009


February, 1969 + Berkely, CA

I was sleeping off and on in a small apartment with some Ohio folks (everyone was from somewhere else). New people appeared and disappeared daily, nightly, and weekly. Bodies covered floors night and day. 'Through put', Alvin Toffler called it, people coming into and out of our lives at an accelerated pace. That was the accepted norm for young adventureres searching for what the explosive Sixties seemed to promise: a better world where peace and justice reigned and love would be given and recieved without measure. We were mostly a restless generation, always on the move.

One day I was casually introduced, in the dusultory way social formalities were handled at that time and place, to Linda (last names came later). She was petite, about 5'2 or so, with dark brown, straight long hair, dark, and expressive, knowing eyes. She was slim and attractive in a slow-simmer way and had a subtle mid-Western twang.

I knew right away Linda was a person I could trust. She was honest and tough beneath her fun-loving exterior. She had definitely lived some and had depth and mystery. More than meets the eye. I was captivated immediately. The attraction was mutual. We paired up right away. The longer we partnered, the deeper we got. Very, very deep. I had met the love of my life. The full awareness of that came after it was too late.

We shared our disenchantment of the city and decided to head north. After several scouting trips, we landed in Rio Dell, north of San Fransisco, a small town across the Klamath River from Scotia. We has two zip-together sleeping bags and two backpacks that held all our worldly possessions. We traveled light. When we left Rio Dell, about thirteen months later, we had more stuff than a good-sized U-Haul could carry.


1969-1970 + Rio Dell, CA

We settled into a domestic life and signed up for classes at College of the Redwoods, where i worked as a Biology Lab assistant. I was awarded Associate of Arts degree, Biology major. We were thinking more and more about going back to the land. This meant homestreading on our own place, growing our food, living off the grid. We would be independant, forging our own way in a world gone wrong. In religious terms, Linda and I would seek our salvation far from commercial America. We eventually hooked up with Roger and Ann and made plans to go to British Columbia, Canada. We would buy land and settle down. There were about as many people living in all of Canada as California. That appealed to us.

Still and always the dark side and that voice in my mind, telling me in distressing tones I was lost and drifting into emptiness. The curse. From that darkness had arisen the quest for wisdom, peace, shelter from the storm. The blessing.

My brother Jerry was a Roman Catholic Trappist monk in Kentucky, living a very severe life based in prayer and hard work. Through our correspondence, Jerry knew of my dilemna. He recommended I read Thomas Meron, his former novice master, author, and fellow Trappist. Merton had sucessfully navigated the trecherous dark side waters. I assiduously read book after book. I was enthralled. I slowly came to see a way out of my spiritual nightmare: I would make my way back to serious religion, reconciling with the Almighty. I began to think I could cut a deal with God, like i thought Merton had:'I'll convert back and be a devout Christian, you'll take this dark side depression away'

I planned a 'make-or-break' getaway retreat at a Trappistine (female) monestary deep in the country and a long way from anywhere, several hours from Rio Dell. There I could read, recollect, meditiate, pray, and cut that hideous (in hindsight) deal. And decide whether to ask Linda to marry me. A lot was riding on this retreat.

I got on the road, hitchhiking south; it was a cold, dark, drizzly, miserable day. I longed to be inside, warm and dry. But I was determined. The very first ride i got was in a small, cozy, well heated, intimate two-seater sports car driven by a gorgeous, sexy young hipster on her way to Berkely to party. "Come with me," she said, "we'll have a ball." I was sorely, severly tempted. Waht a chioce! Out of foul weather, dry and cozy, getting down again and again, high and happy, with Hot Pants or doing the dark night of the soul thing in the rain and fog at a monestary with virgin monks. It was all just too obvious however. I laughed, musing "You'ver got to be a little more subtle than that." So I bid farewell to Hot pants, and trekked on in the rain, thinking, "Oh, what a good boy am I."

With tears and lamentations the deal was cut, or so I thought. I made it back home to Rio Dell. I proposed to Linda; she accepted. On January, 10, 1970 in a simple Catholic ceremony in Scotia, we were wed. We came home to a house full of close friends, and celebrated. It was a great day. We were very, very happy.

Then began Catholic masses and various Christian churches. I repeatedly experienced uncontrollable sobbing and weeping, bitter, bitter tears on contrition, guilt. I had Jesus' blood on my hands; I was the sinner, Judas. I was being purged through suffering; I was in full-throttle Christian mode and kepping my end of the deal. The dark side subsided; I was at relative peace. God was keeping up his end. Oh, how pernicious self-dialog can be.


September, 1970 + Quick, British Columbia, Canada

Linda and I, Ann and Roger were renting a small cabin a long way from anywhere; we had made it to the frontier, with our self-sufficient homestead dreams intact. Linda and i decided to immegrate to Canada and permanently settle down where we were. We had to drive back to the U.S. leaving our goats, chickens, and wordly possessions in Quick with Roger and Ann. We presented ourselves to canadian immegration officials and were told to stand by. We waited, nervously. Suspicious, questioning eyes darted our way, complete with unheard, muffled conversation. A clean-cut military man in his forties walked up to us, "We're sorry Mr and Mrs. Gill, but your petition has been denied. There is an irregularity in the paperwork, something about an arrest in California that must be cleared up. You cannot come back into Canada until that is done." The San Fransisco caper had caught up with me, and us.

There we were, stuck in Washington State, homeless. Our lives were in Quick. We had no place to go and no plans. What to do? Jimi Hendrix, janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison were dead, or presumedly so. The Sixties were gone, literally and figuratively. I was a relic of a time gone by, like I was during my post-Army days at Cortland State. Figuring there was no place else to go, we headed back to California.

There was nothing for us in Rio Dell or Berkely or San Fransisco either. We motored across the southern states to Texas, retracing in retreat the route taken by those lonesome cowpokes Sid and Frog. We finally got to a temporary safe haven at Linda's parents' home in Lewisville, Ohio, where i met my in-laws for the first time. Ever restless, Linda and i drove on to my parent's home in upstate New York, where we stayed during the winter of 1970-71 and beyond. We eventually gave up on Canada and turned our rural homestead hopes to rural Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.


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