I found an old church van for sale in the ads and they gave it to me for 300 dollars cash. I threw a futon in the back, built a shrine for my Buddha, and painted a red Kamakzee sun on each front door, and flew the extended cab Econoline Chevy through the Shawnee National Forest, across the Ohio River and into the rolling hills of Kentucky. My Siberian Husky Sequoia always got car sick, and was vomiting everywhere. Through Mammoth Cave National Park and then the horse breeding plantations of Lexington and into the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I drove up a steep range that divides Kentucky and Virgina.
Then I turned off on a dirt road and the huge V8 engine roared as it switch backed to the top of the ridge. The breaks squeaked as we went down the other side deep into a forested ravine, where at the bottom the road ran right through a flowing river. I floored it and plunged the giant whale of a van into the rushing water, steam exploded from the hot engine as it hit the cold water. Then the tires clawed at the bank of the other side of the river, and I made it out.
A hand-painted sign with a carving of a heart read "Eartheart" and "Welcome Home". I drove slowly up the long driveway atop a bald hill with crops growing on each side, and views of mountains in the distance for miles. The sun was starting to set and a large barn was aglow. Dogs ran out to greet, and Sequoia starting going nuts, as soon as I opened the door he jetted out to meet his new friends. Then a few people came out of the barn with hugs, and an invitation to dinner, which was just being served.
Just inside the door was a kitchen pantry stocked full of jarred fruits and vegetables and endless racks of herbs and spices. In the kitchen, a huge wok steamed. Long wooden tables were full of people waiting for their meals. There was a wood stove in the middle of the large open room, with lofts up above, where most of the transients slept. In the back of the barn were private spaces sectioned off with bookshelves full of books.
Dinner was ready and a few more people came down from the lofts above. There were babies, children, teenagers, people of all ages, even really old people. I wondered where they all had come from and why, was it out of philosophy, poverty, adventure? We ate sauteed vegetables of many varieties and drank water or tea. One guy named Charlie, early twenties drank about six cups of coffee with dirty brown hair hanging in front of his eyes.
At the head of the table, sat Jahway. Jahway was soft-spoken, but towering figure, who everyone revered. He had a Roman nose, sunken in checks, dark brown eyes, and long brown hair, well maintained. He was always barefoot and controlled the whole scene silently. Eartheart was a feral place, yet a functioning community, in reality, the place was pretty tightly wound around the finger of Jahway. He was omnipresence to the point if the place was more religious he would greatly resemble a cult leader, but Jahway was more Rainbow Mafia. He kept everyone in check and this is the important part, working, by doling marijuana provisions.
In spite of his serious undertone, Jahway kept a smile on everyone's face, most of the time. But, sometimes he would ween everyone off for a few days, and I was never sure if it was a way to shake everyone off his leg. Jahway had a private house up the mountain in the woods, just out of sight of the barn and his motley crew.
The hillside was his perch, where he could do yoga and smoke opium in peace. The rest of us huddled in the barn around the woodstove, drinking cup of tea after cup of tea trying to simply satisfy the endless stream of personal need. The meals were made from some veggies grown here, and milk collected from the sheep, but most of the food and produce was collected from dumpsters whenever anyone would make the two hours long trek into town. In the six months I was at Eartheart I went to town only once, but it was enough to get a good view of the way the townspeople viewed us rug rats. But for the most part, from what I experienced, the community worked with the farm, occasionally trading for goods and services. We often make trades for horse manure with the neighbors.
We spent a lot of time shoveling shit. I remember the two short squatty red hair twins with freckles and overalls running out of a neighbor's trailer to help at their fathers command, probably 12 years old each, and they out shoveled the shit out of the shit, while most of us were taking a safety break, to make sure we were safe, and high all the time. Being high is what made the place what it was. Safety breaks were especially important while using chainsaws. We were cutting wood in the forest one day, and Jahway brought his baby boy Phoenix along with us. He was cute with his wavy yellow hair, fat dirty cheeks, and red lips, and saggy diaper. Jahway let him crawl around freely, and off into the forest, he went to go on his own little adventure. After we finished loading the wood, we spent a half hour searching for him.
I spent most of my time hanging out with Dan. Dan was an old man with long scraggly grey hair, he looked like a retired trucker. Dan lived in an old broke down van up on the hillside. He called me Geronimo and Sequoia my spirit wolf dog. We didn't talk about much, we just smoked joints, Dan, through his nose, and we would sit in the trees and listen to the birds. Sometimes I would go up the hillside alone to the Woodhenge, a Stonehenge type structure made out of logs. One time I could swear I heard tiny giggling coming from the bushes, but I felt crazy believing in fairies and nomes, but I know many here did. One day Jayway took us all on a hike up to the top of the mountain where on the peak, he had carved out a huge heart in the stone. It was in honor of his late father who had built this community.
One day the Blue monkey group arrived. They were a traveling gypsy band of guerilla thespians, magicians, jugglers, and tricksters. Their leader was Bart Simpson, "If you're ever in Indianapolis look me up in the phone book, you'll never forget my name," He would say. Bart purchased a small piece of land from Jahway on the mountainside and they had come to build a monkey village of tree houses where everything is connected with ropes.
Then a few days later a VW bus with a few people showed up, Max was the driver, he was in his mid-fifties, and he had a 20 something-year-old girlfriend with him who wore a tiny ballerina dress and leggings, and ugly dirty sweater, and pigtails, a nose ring and dirty bare feet, but very attractive. Max and Charlie were good friends, but they were fighting over Max's girlfriend.
There was also Mike, Mike was very nice, he was an ex-con in the late stages of AIDS, he was dying, but he still looked strong, he was a big guy. He told me he was a Merry Prankster with Ken Casey in the 60's. He said they used to dose cops with rainbow acid at dead shows, sometimes using water guns.
Max, Charlie, and their girlfriend were taking a two-day trip down south and they asked if I wanted to come. So I did. I was curious what that would be like. We rode in the VW bus, Max screamed and Charlie cried over who would drive and who would get a chance to lie in the back and make out with the girl until we ran out of gas.
When we ran out of gas, they had the girl stand with a sign asking for help, I hid. Then we found a Denny's. As it turns out, Denny's has a policy to never turn a person away who askes for a free meal. But Charley wanted to set a good example, so he offered to clean the bathrooms. They gave us each a plate of eggs, bacon and toast, a side of biscuits and gravy, and a glass of orange juice, or in Charlie's case, coffee, coffee, coffee. Then we spent the night in someone's backyard Max knew somewhere in North Carolina I think. I was never quite sure what the point of the trip was but when we returned to Eartheart a day later, Jahway was gone, somewhere, maybe Mexico, and there was a massive weed shortage.
Things were in Chaos, everyone was grouchy, and there wasn't much food, there had not been a car to go to town, and a goat had Mastitis. And, Charlie was having a meltdown about running out of coffee when he wasn't fighting with Max over the girl. The Blue Monkeys had escaped to their mountain village, and Mike and I sat by the wood stove and drank what was left of the chai. Outside Sequoia had gotten into the habit of chasing the goats, only now the goats had gotten into the habit of headbutting Sequoia and knocking him unconscious. Soon Jahway returned and everything would have casually fallen back into place under his green thumb, but he wasn't happy to see someone had raided his stash while he was gone.
Eventually, I got itchy feet and decided to leave Eartheart, and on my way up the mountain after plunging my van back across the river, I felt nostalgic and I remembered my first night at Eartheart. Jahway built a fire down by the river where I had parked my van. Everyone gathered around and some told tidbits of there stories, but mostly we sat quietly and passed joints, gazing back and forth between the blaze and the milky way above, until one by one, everyone went off to bed. Jahway was the last to leave, welcoming me one last time to the farm, before disappearing into the dark making his way up the hill. Sequoia and I crawled into the back of the van and fell asleep to the sound of the river.
A few hours later I woke up and barely made it out of the van before I vomited everywhere. Sequoia even vomited everywhere. And I spent the next couple hours walking back and forth in a torrential rainstorm from the van to the outhouse up the hill. I finally fell asleep just before sunrise. I slept late, and crawled out of the back of the van around noon, stepping into knee deep water. The river had flooded and everything I had left outside the van was washing down stream. I pulled my van up by the barn before it was washed away as well, and I went inside to dry off and warm up. It was a cold foggy day and everyone was sitting around the wood stove drinking coffee, rolling cigarettes, so I joined them. Someone brought me a bowl of oatmeal and then passed me a bowl of marijuana.
Charley crawled down the ladder from the loft above, saying with his eyes squinted and his hair disheveled, while announcing to the group that no one was allowed speak to him before he had his coffee. I looked around and wondered if we were all settling in life. I realized yes, in this moment we were settling, and it was not all that bad, it was actually kind of nice. And I decided to pretend we were not all here out of mere survival, but out of a desire to live in a new way, to live in the way of love and community, and that was beautiful, at least for now, I thought. Because there ain't nothing like a little love and a warm cup of chai on a cold day.