Before I left my hometown, I received desperate word from an acquaintance insisting I not go to the farm in which I was intending to go. This farm, which is the pinnacle of my journey, isn’t even a real farm, she said. This farm, which symbolized a new freedom, an outreach for knowledge and advancement, a life refreshed by the corest of values found in my deepest genealogical roots…was run by a fascist, she said: a womanizing fascist, no less.
My informant worked briefly on this farm and contended the conditions were unacceptable and the farmer was misusing the organization to which we are connected for cheap manual labor.
I’m not a committed believer in metaphysics (or any philosophy for that matter, as I find myself unable to rule out anything) but undoubtedly I try to map out the intricate connections of the world. In the final weeks before my departure, I experienced a series of troubling happenings, including this phone call, which I was unable to comfortably categorize as either signs or challenges.
Is it a sign the new-used car I bought shuts down after 40 minutes on the road, the way it was a sign when my car started on fire down the interstate in route to a now ex but always questionable boyfriend? (That was a trip: you should have seen me in Cost Cutters trying to ask for a fire extinguisher casually as my car spewed thick smoke in the parking lot.)
Or is this just another day-to-day challenge common to the real world I’ve since been too sheltered to see amidst my year long hiatus of coffee shops, wine nights and general lollygags?
I also broke my bike in trying to reassemble it, conversed only apathetically with the sister I hadn’t seen in a year and played unbalanced phone tag with the one for whom I dream my American Dreams. I calculated the sum of layering inconveniences and determined my stream of luck as intentional manipulation from the elements warning despair will pervade my future. But my frenetic instruction to “Stay away!” appeared more simply as one person’s opinion: a routine challenge. I took the cautionary advice to heart, then got a new serpentine belt, fuel pump and blinker switch for my piece o’ shit car, sent a desperate prayer to the skies, and drove +2,500 miles west,
and made it. My car didn’t explode, my heart didn’t burst from love and jealousy and I’m near two weeks into my work. Now here’s what I think:
By definition, I can’t say head farmer Steve is a fascist, if only because fascism is such an airy term that has contradicted its own political principles throughout the course of fascism’s existence. Steve is loaded, for one thing, and he doesn’t appear to actively give a damn about supporting the working class. He bought the 56-acre ranch with a former girlfriend and seems most interested in making use of the land because it’s his— not for any higher conviction in honoring the motherland. He admitted, he’s just doing “this farm thing” for fun rather than need or personal responsibility, and he admits with a sneer, he’s a straight-line dictator. He’s spoken of running the farm in a communistic sense, but certainly his interpretation of the ideology runs closer with that of the former Soviet Union than the concepts of Marx.
This sounds like Hell to any capitalist, freedom fighter or freethinker, but I say nay—it is not that. I wake up with the sun each morning, work until noon, then spend my day the way I choose except for light garden and kitchen expectations come early evening. I devour three lavish meals a day and snack on fresh bread and old coffee all throughout. I wash in an outdoor solar shower, always cold and frugal, but always a delight to feel the warm sun on my bare back and have the blood in my veins reawakened each time. The simple act of showering here invites an uncomfortable pleasure that locks my consciousness into the very moment I’m living: not thinking ahead, looking back or dreaming about, but acknowledging and experiencing the state of now.
I fall asleep under the stars and the satellites, listening to the dogs howl at the coyotes and the coyotes howl back at the dogs and the mice eating away at the walls of my 1970s trailer. Generally, I sleep marvelously.
My ally was right: the events throughout Steve’s life have created in him twisting thoughts and morals, an image hauntingly comparable to the peculiar forests of Manzanita found here. The potential to learn and share in this place has been exaggerated and I’ve spent the majority of these two weeks watering, weeding, washing dishes and chopping vegetables.
Fear not sweet family who distressed I’d find my little idealistic way in a free love commune: there is no love here,
which is why I will leave. The land is filled with promise, the other workers are wild with spirit and there’s enough to do and see to keep me entertained for as long as I keep such an outlook, but these quarters lack the sincerity and devotion needed to truly thrive. This pristine land in sunny California is polluted with a gray haze. There’s been so much light and dark energy battling on this front that what now lingers in a place first destined for social change goes completely unnoticed—unaffected and not affecting anything outside the property line.
But there’s still freedom, despite all the intimidation Steve tries to forge. We follow his commands face to face, then laugh at his brute disposition every chance we get. There’s little respect from either end, adding more dark to the gray palette, but there’s no real power without real fear, and so we remain free.