My best friend Adam and I had been hanging out on the boardwalk in Venice Beach, California. We were both misfits from our suburban town of Glasonbury, Connecticut, and we were visiting his uncle. His uncle told us that we had to stay at the hostel for the weekend, since he was going away. Instead, we ended up staying on a hippie school bus with some folks we had just met. The folks were two men in their forties (who wrapped stones in wire for a living), a girl in her twenties who liked to crochet hats, and a lesbian couple who was our age—about eighteen—and who liked to smoke cigarettes and fight. Since I was reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, I couldn’t refuse the offer.
Eventually, it came time for us to get off that bus and get on the plane to go back to Connecticut.
Then, the two men, Johnny and David, asked us to go with them on the bus across the country to a Rainbow Gathering, which was either in Wyoming, or Michigan, or maybe some other state—they didn’t know for certain yet. We didn’t even know what a Rainbow Gathering was, except that it included a bunch of hippies in the woods, doing trade circles, camp fires, and playing music. We really had nothing better to do, and I was becoming attached to the bus. It seemed like it was my last chance to live in such a way. But, Johnny was also a little creepy, and Adam and I both had flights home that were supposed to leave in a few days.
“I don’t know, Johnny. I think I need to take my flight home, and not go to this gathering thing,” I said one day, sitting on the wall, watching the tourists, and feeling the California sun. I missed it already.
“Why?” he asked, hoisting himself up next to me, pulling out his tobacco to roll a cigarette.
“Because, I paid for the flight already, and I need to get home.”
“Why?” He asked, slightly more playfully, licking his cigarette shut and handing it to me.
“Well, I’m supposed to get a job for the summer, at a grocery store or something. Make some money, you know?”
“Yeah, I know. Why?” He lit his own cigarette, and blew his smoke away from my face
“Because, well, it’s good to make money I guess. And I have to go back to college in a few months, so I should be there early.” It was only June, I realized, and school wasn’t until September. But still, it felt like such a short time.
“Why?” I could tell his eyes were smiling behind his shades. This must be his favorite game.
“Because!” I exclaimed, lighting my cigarette, “It’s just what I’m supposed to do!”
“Why?” he asked, and sort of pulled back as if I might throw a punch.
“Okay, I get it—there really is not a good reason why I need to go. There’s just not. I don’t even really want to go.” I blew my smoke away from his face, wondering why we were paying each other that consideration, considering we both smoke purposefully.
“What if I told you there was a way you could do it all? You could make money all summer, and also get back in time for school—if you still even want to go by then.” It was the classic point in the movie, where the innocent maiden is seduced by the snake—eating the apple of good and evil, as it were.
“And how is that?” I challenged, thinking he must be crazy, but also feeling like the world was opening up.
“You can come with us, both of you, and go out to the desert to pick sage. David knows a place that no one else goes to—out in the middle of nowhere. We’ll sell it at shows, along with coffee, food, and our jewelry. We’ll make our way to the Rainbow Gathering where we can trade it for what we need there. We will all make money, and you can catch a bus from there if you want.” He sounded like he was making a business proposition. I wished all business propositions involved sage and coffee.
“I’ll think about it,” I said, but my heart had already made the decision. That bus was going to be my home. I went to go find Adam.
“Jen, if we do this, you realize our families will be pissed. Like, big time. They might disown us.”
“Adam I think it’s worth it, right? I mean, Hawkfeather did a reading for me this morning, and you know what it said?”
“What did it say?” Adam hated tarot cards, but loved Hawkfeather, the self-proclaimed intergalactic shaman that sat on the boardwalk, selling crystals and doing tarot readings.
“It said I was going to have a great adventure soon. I didn’t even think about the bus, but isn’t that such strange timing?”
“Yeah, strange all right. Strange like Johnny told Hawkfeather that he was going to try to convince us to come with them.”
“Oh come on. Johnny didn’t do that, and even if he did, the cards say what the cards say. It was all major cards—whatever that means. But yeah, I think we should do this.”
“Even if it means disowning our families?” he asked sternly, and I looked at his face, with his only serious expression on it. He was standing still in the middle of the tourists, tattoo signs, and bike traffic.
“Yes, even then. They’ll forgive us eventually anyway. We have everything we need right with us, right? Let’s just do it. We’re supposed to do it. I can feel it.”
“Okay, done!” he said. So there we were, two kids at the frontier of what we thought could be possible.
Before I left, Hawkfeather gave me a bag of stones that he thought would be useful.
“This one is a type of agate, it’s a goddess stone. It will help you to be in touch with the goddess energy on your travels,” he said, handing me a white stone with gold colored rivers running through it. One the side of the stone opened up into a crystalline surface. I liked how it felt solid and secure in my hand.
“This one here is aquamarine. It will help you with your throat chakra, so that you can say what you mean, even if you are nervous.”
“Wow, thanks!” I said, holding the delicate little blue stone in my hand. This would be useful.
“This green chunk is tourmaline, it will balance your heart chakra, helping you to be in touch with love, for those around you, and for yourself.” The column like stone looked like it had been tumbled through many bags of rocks in its long life. I loved it. “And this one is quartz crystal.” It was the biggest one, clear and the size of my palm. “It is charged with my energy, it will help you on your journey. It is always growing, always changing, and now it belongs to you.” He handed it to me, I let it fill my palm, and felt energy coming up my arms from it.
“Wow, thanks Hawkfeather! This means so much to me, I’ll hold on to these, thank you so much!” I didn’t even know what to say, but felt blessed, and like he was looking out for me—like the world was looking out for me.
So there it was. We loaded up on that bus, and began the adventure that planted a slew of seeds in my little suburban head—seeds which I would harvest for the months and years to come, forever knowing that adventure is still possible in this modern world.