I Am A Farmer ...
I have always been a farmer. Not in reality, but in some fantasy deep within the dark corners of my mind.
A fuzzy dream that played over and over in my head. I wasn't clear on what that fantasy was. Did I want to run away to live in the woods by myself like a hermit, growing mushrooms, living in trees and catching fish out of a stream? I hoped not. But dreams are like feelings, they just hang there, just out of reach, always out of focus.
I have an early childhood memory of going to another kids family farm in Kansas, where we just happened to be living because my stepfather was in the Army and that is where they sent him. I was five years old. I can't call the other kid a friend. I don't even remember his face. I do remember his family taking me to his grandparent's farm. A real farm with chickens and a barn, even cows out in the fields. I remember drinking fresh cow milk, gathering eggs and playing in that barn. I also remember, I never went back. It was one day of my early life. One day that never left me. One day that stayed with me and maybe saved me.
That would be the last time I would experience a farm life. Or a natural life for that matter. My life would be very different. I would grow up in a very suburban, generic, low income, military hoorah hoorah, crackerbox world.
I knew I wanted to escape this experience. That much I was sure of. I wanted to grow things, be calm, quiet and present. Experience the feeling, the sound of the wind gracefully moving the world around me. A breeze brushing up against my skin, reminding me that I am still alive. I am still living on this Earth.
I say this because, for most of my life, I could only see life from the bleak, hopeless position of a kid, trapped in an urban world, controlled by people stuck in an emotional world. Life for them, life for me, living under their control was a repeating cycle of anger, hopelessness, depression and bland urban homes with globby walls. You know those walls, they are in every track home in America. Walls made of paper, dust and fiberglass. They trapped me inside as a kid. Those ugly manmade walls. I would hide within them, praying not to be seen. Hoping to escape the human anger, hate, the fake lives they dreamed up and act out.
Unfortunately, I wore those early years on my back and in my soul for most of my adult life. Never actually escaping those walls. A dark cloud was inside me. I thought of death often. Hoping for it. Fantasizing of ways to carry it out, pills, maybe a knife, perhaps carbon monoxide. Creating situations to help it find me.
And find me it did. If I wanted to die, the universe would open the door and let me walk through it. And I did. I created a drama in my head, so real and so flawed that it led me straight into a cell. Not a jail cell, but a Federal prison cell. Dark, ugly and violent. Walls made of concrete, steel and layers of misery. A place that would not only let me die, but it might demand it. Or worse.
My first night in this dark place, I was still deeply in my fantasy life. Fearful but defiant.
Even trapped in this place, my life ruined, no hope of ever feeling that breeze on my skin or standing within a forest of trees. I told myself, I was still in control. They couldn't have me. I would finally do it. I would end my pointless life, all alone, in this place, the worst place I could find.
The prison was what you would expect. A large two story room, taking up an entire floor of a building with cells lining the walls. This building happened to be downtown L.A. I think I was on the 8th or 9th floor. The guys around me had either just been arrested for murder, bank robbery, rape, drugs or some other shit. Or they had been there awhile, waiting to see daylight again. My cellmate was one of those. A sports medicine doctor for the Dallas Cowboys. He looked to be in his late 70's or early 80's. He had been in that cell for 3 years. Broken and covered in scabs. Waiting for his day in court. He was there because of his taxes I think. He owed taxes.
In this small cell was a metal bunk bed. A dull gray thing with a thin cardboard like mattress. The bed was bolted to the floor and up against a concrete wall, which had a sliver of a window. When my new cell mate left for dinner, I closed the cell door. You can do that. I placed a green prison windbreaker over the window in the door, like the rest of the prisoners did when they had to take a crap and didn't want 400 guys looking at them. I did it so no one could see me as I figured out how to make a noose out of the bed sheet. Which I quickly did. I pulled the sheet off my upper bunk, created a loop on one side. I then took the other end of the sheet and tossed it over the top of the bunk bed. Threading the sheet between the wall and down to the lower bed. I then tied a large knot at the end, trapping the sheet. I didn't know how much time I had, so I quickly put the noose over my head and down around my neck. I lifted my feet off the ground. It worked. It would do the job. I had my way out of this world. I only had to keep my legs up a little longer. But I didn't. I stopped. I said to myself. Okay, we can do this at any time. Why don't we wait and see what happens. Every day forward is free. I shouldn't have it. Let's just see what happens.
And that was it. I had reached my bottom, and just like that, the darkness went away. I was free. My mind just let it all go. I was physically locked in a cage, but freer than I had ever been. I was 35. That was the last time I have ever thought about killing myself. That was the end of my depression.
Somehow my life wasn't over. I walked out of that prison 9 days later. I went on to create a start-up media company called G Living. It was my way of starting a farm. Not a real farm but the idea of living naturally. Helping the world see the light and embrace a greener life. For the next 5 years, I would work endless hours on G Living, while fighting my case in court. In the end, I had a bleak choice to make. Take a chance on the system, go to trial and possibly lose. Then spend the next 7 to 9 years in prison. Or take a deal and spend 10 months in a cell and move on with my life. I took the 10 months. Something like 90% of all cases end in plea deals. Who would want to gamble with all those years?
I did those ten months back in the same prison. No light, no real outdoors, just a deck with barbed wire.
Not only was I in prison, I was a vegan, I refused to eat the prison food. I purchased everything I could from the prison store or from the inmates who worked in the kitchen. They would smuggle me fresh fruit or tomatoes. Usually moldy but I didn't care. I was happy. I was free. I could survive this easily if I survived 30 years of depression. And I did. I survived. My start-up didn't. I would have to start again, but I was okay with that.
Then in an instant, just after walking out the door of the prison, I walked right into a new life. A life full of love, happiness, children and yes a farm.
I met Aria, and we instantly fell in love. I told her where I had just come from and that I wasn't ready to meet anyone. I had also just gotten divorced. I was happy to be just with myself for awhile. To seek out the life, I had in my head. That life in nature, in a garden, maybe on a farm.
But that wasn't our fate. We were meant to be together. She loved me completely and I loved her. I would give up on the nature idea and follow her to New York City. The urbanist of urban places. We would live in a highrise building in Brooklyn. I would design websites, and she would act. She was/is an actress. She loved New York and the theater. I was going to support her and help if I could. I would make a life there with her.
But again in a blink of an eye, our fate changed once again. Within a few years, we would be here. In Healdsburg, with two kids, two dogs, 60 pigs, 60 sheep and 1000 chickens. We would be starting a farm.
From childhood to now, I have lived many lives. Some I am proud of and many I am not. But in all those lives, even in the darkest of times, I knew I should be on a farm. I should be creating something within nature. I just had to survive the drama of my life and come out the other side. I just had to live long enough to raise some chickens.