At 17, I left my family home, fearless as an immigrant journeying to a place of promise. My escape was enabled by the gift of a four-year, college scholarship. At the time, I wasn’t fully conscious of why I was so eager to depart our small, coastal California town. Nearly forty years later, high in the Andes Mountains, my Q’ero guides advised me to return to my point of origin as the first step on a path of initiation. As we walked the ancient trails, I began to revisit my childhood to ask if there was something I was missing — perhaps a treasure ignored during my excited departure.
Transformed into a large bird, I descended slowly through the clouds to view the California coastline, searching carefully the long stretch of land and sea, punctuated by estuaries that interrupt the arid landscape with rich pools of aquatic plants — watery incubators of life. My first realization was that the pain of my childhood loomed largest, distorting an honest view of the landscape. Pain and frustration had permeated my memory, obscuring any blessing.
I left home in 1976, slamming the door on the memories of my small town. I was unable to articulate why I was angry until I encountered the richer social milieu of the San Francisco Bay Area. I found my voice and began slowly to speak of the pain endured as a gay youth who was bullied without rescue and the deep resentment regarding the lack of gay role models. Concurrently, I was also profoundly saddened by the destruction of the rural area where I wandered as a boy. The ecosystem was systematically transformed into a metropolis of tract homes and freeways. Ignoring my past was a strategy to avoid the despair and while this appeared effective, it prevented access to the positive.
At the concise urging of the Q’ero, I opened the aperture of my mind and asked to see clearly, holistically, the unique qualities that called my soul to incarnate at this specific place. I can nearly recall my entrance into the gentle, southern California ambiance to complete the transfer of my consciousness into physical form. The region is a balmy personality where mesas covered with sage and manzanita descend towards the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Buff-colored, sandstone cliffs complete the journey to the strip of sand that stretches from Baja California to Los Angeles in one glorious sweep. Intermittently, small streams flow from the coastal mountains and create estuaries before entering the sea. These marshlands are host to migratory birds, as well as species that require the careful mix of fresh and salt water in order to begin life.
I grew to manhood at this potent threshold between the arid plateau and rich ocean. My brother and our two best friends freely wandered the hilly wild lands along the lagoons. We constructed tree houses high in the eucalyptus. We’d tunnel underneath the chaparral to build forts and sit protected from the world. For 17 years, I lived balanced in the temenos between land and sea, traversing this symbolic edge of the self and the infinite. This unique costal environment provided me deep sustenance during a difficult childhood.
Last November, as I walked in the Andes, I reviewed the contract I had made to enter this site and be forged by the encounter of multiple forces. This American land where I dedicated myself to survival amidst the play of masculine and feminine, water and earth, ancient and modern, God and man. While I tend to the aperture of my memory, I heal the bias of my anger and pain and strive to clearly witness the specific place and players where I chose to incarnate. It is now possible to accept the inherent challenges and gifts. I can embrace the wounding and am sure that I was simultaneously offered the potential for healing.