LimeKiln Big Sur, 1968
A wee intro:
I've had a blog for nearly 19 years, it started out as "Turfing" It later evolved to the "Hare's Tale" which is still ongoing on my website Gwyllm.Com … you might want to check it out as it's content is much different than what will be appearing here on substack.
This is a new direction for me. I have been reticent to put down the tales and stories that are part of my time here. I've been encouraged by friends over the years to do so and finally what is happening here on sub stack with my writings is that I am taking the plunge and getting them down while I have the chance.
Some of the tales will be from years long gone by and others will be of more recent occurrences. I have been blessed in my lifetime to stumble on and participate in amazing events that I think (at least for me) have cultural significance.
Hopefully you'll enjoy these stories and I do appreciate any feedback on them that you can give.
I love the concept that the human world is made up of words and stories. I have been enthralled with the spoken word and stories since I was very young… who doesn't like to sit around a fire or in a room and have someone take you into mythological places that we can have it with a well turned tale?
Some of these stories will center around the late '60s and early '70s. There is a demarcation there at least for me around 1972. From 1972 to about 1980 is another phase for these stories. In the late seventies into the '80s it's another zone, and so on. You see where this is going, it laps decades but it doesn't lap cultural trends and shifts in consciousness.
Enough Of That….
I don't tell this story often, but to those who understand.... Enjoy.
Anyway, early 1968. I had fled the Haight, after the riots and being popped there, in Colorado and Malibu all within a month. (1 arrest for jaywalking, another for hitchhiking, and the previous one, busted for marijuana in Boulder) At that point in my life, all I had to do was walk outside or be riding a bicycle down Highway 1 and I would get pulled over, and frisked. The US was... a little tense about creatures with long hair at that point... :)
So, in a mild state of desperation when I finally got back to San Francisco, I'd thrown The I-Ching for a solution to my legal run-ins, and it suggested I go south out of the different choices I posed in my question. So south I went, heading to Big Sur on the recommendations from flat mates in San Francisco.
I hitched down the coast, marveling as I went, and found myself eventually in Limekiln. Limekiln was a bit of beauty, a lovely creek runs through it, down to the sea. At the confluence of the waters, I was told that the Esalen people buried their dead long ago. Achingly beautiful, you could sit there for hours, and I did... I began to find healing there.
I explored Big Sur, spending time in Esalen (hanging out with Michael Murphy and others at the Hot Tubs) and up at the Big Sur Store etc. You could sit alongside the road for up to an hour before a car would come in either direction, sometimes longer. More than likely the first vehicle coming along your direction would pick you up. I had people going the other direction pull around and give me a lift up the road for the heck of it. I met wonderful people, yet Big Sur itself was the real deal for me. I fell in love with Lime Kiln more than anywhere, it had real magick. I would wander up into the hills, and be totally alone.
I took to exploring up the canyon, walking through the Sequoia up to the kilns through the meadows festooned with poison oak and fern, moving through the shafts of light coming down through the trees. I would sit on the outcroppings of rock, silent - listening to the forest. I took to practicing meditation as I knew it, and when done with that would examine my life and feelings. It wasn't a bad thing to examine; I had clarity finally after all the time spent on the street or in jail, or on the run. It had been a twisted path. I would pass the days then, meditating upon, examining and exploring either the inner spaces or the country side. It all blended. Sleeping at night next to the stream, peering up through the trees at the stars, stirred deep waters in my soul.
As time went along I was joined by a close friend escaping from San Francisco. We would hang out down by the shore, where there was another camp site, with VW buses and vans of various types. The main resident of interest was a beautiful young woman, who would be there much all the time. She had long curly blond hair, and a fair complexion often taken to sitting on the rocks looking out over the sea. Most of the other campers were male, and they were all enthralled; she would smile, and on the weekend be joined by her lover. Still, some guys pursued just the same. As young men we were deeply impressed with her, as she would sit looking out to the sea. It was all very heady!
One afternoon of absolute stillness: I sat by the path, under the trees, bathed in light filtering through the boughs and branches. There was an intricate dance being performed between two banana slugs, slowly circling and circling. It goes on for an hour or more spiraling, and then they meet, shivering against each other. This goes on for hours, at least in my mind. Such beauty! I realize it has been a mating dance the whole time. I leave the lovers as the shadow fall.
People came and went over the weeks, and we finally ended up with a nice group who enjoyed each others company. We formed a camp together, cooking, and drinking tea, getting high. I continued to spend most of my time wandering the canyons, and along the shore alone. It was a golden time.
There were others at the camp sites strewn up the hill from the beach. Everyone was on the road in some way or another, having arrived at where they were heading or hesitating on this part of the coast. I learned more about the casting of the I-Ching, playing and working with it daily with one of the older men at the canyon campground. He was quite eager to teach me, and I was all ears. He would go over the Hexagrams, and used yarrow sticks rather than coins, "It doesn't matter" he said, indicating that whatever tools that I used would be appropriate. He talked for hours about the practice, and how to use it properly. I drank it all in.
The weeks were quiet, but the weekends were crazed, generally we had plenty of room between our camps, but when the weekend would arrive, there would be a deluge of vehicles down from San Francisco and Santa Cruz. A handful would translate into hundreds for two days. People coming down from the Bay area, and Santa Cruz. Acid was of course everywhere, and parties went all night long. The weekends were festivals really, and full of joy and discovery. I had stepped away from Acid by that point, though I still enjoyed being around people who were experiencing it. One of the strangest sights I ever saw were a beautiful couple who had come down from the Haight, (and obviously on Acid) in the middle of a giant poison oak patch making slow, languorous love. As I drifted by on the edge of the clearing in my own daze they looked up, smiled and waved. I waved back, and kept on going up deeper into the hills to the kilns. I cannot imagine what the evening was like for them... Friends came and went, and often I had the camp site to myself for days on end. Come Sunday night, the campgrounds would have pretty much emptied out. The locals would gather and we'd sit around the fire talking about the events of the previous days.
One event stands out... A visitor down from Santa Cruz, a friend of a friend who was high on Acid one day. He came running down the canyon towards us, bubbling about a great discovery, when in his excitement, tripped over a root and fell. He laid there dazed for a moment, and then started screaming. I ran up to him, and he was gesturing at his right ankle. His foot was at a 45 degree angle, having snapped it in his fall. I sat with him, calming him as best as possible. Someone headed out to where there was a phone to call the ambulance. (I have no idea where a phone was, or can't remember now). I sat with him getting him to chant with me as he could, cradling him when he panicked. We heard the ambulance in about 45 minutes, coming up the Coast Highway.
“I can't do it! I can't do it! I can't do it! I can't go to the hospital when I am tripping” he said to me. “Yes you can. You are going to maintain, you are going to remain calm. You can do this.” I replied.
The paramedics arrived, they gently put him on the stretcher and I walked along with him down to the road. He reached over and grabbed my hand just before they loaded him in the ambulance and took him to San Luis Obispo. I never saw him again. I have wondered about him over the years, and what transpired...
A few weeks in a friend visiting from the Haight brought a battery powered tape machine with speakers (a rarity then!) with early French field recordings of North African music. It was mid week so we had Limekiln pretty much to ourselves. It was late at night, the fog was rising up from the Ocean and we were smoking hashish as we sat around the fire listening to music from the Maghreb, and elsewhere. It was very transporting. I had heard Sandy Bull, but hearing the real thing, well.
That night, the moon was full, and incredibly bright, as we sat listening to the music, watching the tendrils of fog waft up through the forest towards us. One tendril was drifting up from the ocean, and it meandered slowly along the path. As I sat there listening with my friends the fog tendril drifted closer and closer. The tendril reached us; out of the fog emerged a vision; an old Indian who stood there looking at us. Everyone at the fire saw him. We sat transfixed as he looked us over. Ancient, ancient, ancient... There was this feeling of communication between him and everyone around the fire. After what seemed an eternity he turned, and headed deeper up the canyon with the fog. We all acknowledged what we had seen. I took it as a sign, but of what? That unfolded over the years. Vision comes, but answers are different. It was for me a turning point in my life.
I can still see him peering at us, emerging as the fog, part but not. It was deeply moving. There was a deep sorrow in it, and a beauty.
I had felt presences before, especially regarding the land through peyote. I had memories of the wee folk in Newfoundland that talked with me as a very young child in the woods, but this vision is the one that leaps out when I summon it. So, in this life I have been blessed. Only in the last few years have I realized that most go through their lives without these events. I cannot fathom how that would feel.
I lingered for another week or so at Lime Kiln I was getting antsy and I felt that I had to move on. It was like a pressure, perhaps a message/intuition from the future.
One of the concerns at that point especially among the crowd I was with was the possibility of the Asteroid Icarus predicted to impact Earth in the coming month of June. All kinds of discussion whirled around this. It was all very apocalyptic and paranoid of course. (Fueled no doubt by the consumption of various substances.)
I was talking to one of the older people in the campground, a guy that would probably be considered a Beat (generation wise) about this. He said “I see you have two choices here you can either go to Mexico down to Oaxaca where the mushroom fields are or you can go up to Northern California in the Siskiyou Mountain Wilderness.” I sat up by the fire, smoking hash thinking about all of possibilities that night.
Next morning after tea I got out the I Ching and the coins that I was using at that point and asked "should I go north or should I go south?" I tossed the coins, meditating on the question as I did so. After the throws, I opened up the proper hexagrams and although I have never found it since the passage read thus: “Go north young man good fortune will be yours.” Of course I took this to heart. I got my pack together and left the next morning hitchhiking over the mountains into Central California heading north to the Siskiyou’s. What should have taken a day a day and a half and ended up taking a week (another tale altogether!)
I didn't return to Big Sur until nearly 20 years later with my wife for a long delayed honeymoon. That of course is a story in another time line.
Thank You For Reading….
Lime Kiln spring equinox 68 (I had left by then)