Wanderlust is a German word; meaning “a strong longing for or impulse toward wandering”. I don’t know if everyone has it; but, I can pinpoint the exact moment I was bitten by the wanderlust bug.
I was raised on Indian land in the high desert plains of Southeastern, Oregon. And No, I am not Indian–or as the politically correct would say today; Native. I am neither. Nor are my parents. We ended up there through a bureaucratic blunder or blessing; sometimes I am still unsure which.
I was–(and am)–a White girl who grew up on Indian land. And no, it was not easy. We had no running water or electricity; but, I was unaware that others did, so the lack of those amenities was of no consequence. What was of consequence, was that Indians don’t like white people, and I was White; which meant, they didn’t like me, and that is where the ‘dis-ease’ stemmed; or the wanderlust began.
There is a secret history, buried deep in the sands of Indian land. It is told by Indians to Indians for Indians, and it is one that white people don’t often hear or know. I was in a very elite group of those who did. It was in large part, that history–the secret history that shaped who I became.
One day my Grandmother decided it was time for me to get a ‘real’ education and sent me off Indian land to White School. It wasn’t a great experiment for any of us; but, in that school, I came across something called a ‘student exchange program’, and within that program was a listing for an ‘experimental exchange student.’
To my 15-year-old ears, all I heard was that there was a chance to get off Indian land, which I desperately wanted to do. Plans were made, shots were given, money exchanged, a ticket purchased and four months later, I not only left Indian land, but I boarded my first airplane, bound for the great Down Under; Australia.
A mere 20 hours and one dateline later, I landed; and it was then that I learned two very important lessons:
1) Always read the small print
2) God has a wicked sense of humor.
The ‘experimental’ piece of the exchange program, was to spend the ‘exchange experience’ in the Outback. The year was 1982; a time before highways or airports existed there. The original Mad Max movie, set on an apocalyptic background of parched nuclear remains and starring Mel Gibson, would be filmed there …three years after I left.
There were two of us; myself and a boy named David from Washington State. I don’t remember his last name,(failing to remember the names of boys would become a theme throughout my life), but this was for a valid reason; he only stayed two weeks. A bus came, he got on, and I never saw or heard from him again. However, I gritted my teeth and remained in the Outback for the next 10.5 months. I learned to pickle snakes–and no, they do not taste like chicken; shear sheep, make damper and build my room from ‘wattle & daub’; and for those who don’t know, ‘wattle & daub’ is sheep dung. The Outback was Indian land, only on the other side of the globe.
The first place I stayed was on a rebuilt pioneer settlement, located in the bush on the edge of The Outback and operated by a woman, named Bronwyn, her thespian minded son, Rossie, her bohemian daughter Kerrie and a Donkey named Earl. This would be followed by a stint on a sheep station with ‘The Millers’, as they were referred to. They were literally Millers in a Medieval sense, hence I quickly came to understand that their name was not Miller, but, that they were Millers. After three months at the station, I landed at the opal mining town of Coober Pedy before it was a tourist destination. Here I lived underground, due to the intense heat, coming out at night, like some Outback Vampire.
I would turn 16 in the Outback; and no, I did not have a traditional sweet 16 party, with a pink birthday cake, wearing a pretty dress while dancing to Andy Gibb music. My sweet 16, would take place at the base of Ayres Rock and would include a wild boar on a spit, skin baked
brown, apple in his mouth, ghoulish smile permanently etched across his lips, side dishes of shrubs, bugs and the bright yellow delicacy, goanna–and for those who don’t know, ‘goanna’ are the innards of the lizard; aka lizard guts. There were a lot of naked people dancing; but, they were not dancing to Andy Gibb’s music. Yes—God does have a wicked sense of humor.
This is where–and when– my wanderlust became cemented. It is a rich tapestry of colorful people, characters, and stories, one can only find in places like Indian land or the Outback. And these memories have been preserved in the yellowing pages of my many diaries; the ones with the tiny metal lock and key, that little girls spill their fears and secrets, daydreams and wishes.
Upon my return, I attended college, received my FCC (Federal Communications Commission) license, and then like John the Baptist himself, was dunked in the American River--(which is a much bigger deal than being dunked in the water bowl at the front of the church) and became an official Born Again Christian of Warehouse Christian Ministries, which is one of the largest Fundamentalist churches in the country. They believe that the Bible is the revealed will of God, the all-encompassing rule of faith and practice; no exceptions. After two years of somewhat devout service, I was ousted from the Church, for many things including what is referred to as a ‘crisis of faith’–(and to a lesser degree, becoming pregnant out of wedlock; but, that could easily have been blamed on the Devil). I was quarantined for seven days–(such a magical number in the Bible), in which tongues were spoken and hands were laid; but the demons were not cast out; so I was.
I loaded my Ford Pinto, found my way to the Berkeley Psychic Institute, where I spent two years, revisiting things I knew; meditation, divination, and clairvoyance while adding some new tools to my belt, to help navigate this cosmic cartoon we call life. I became a practitioner of Vision Boards and Visualization, cutting out pictures of long-haired, tattooed Rock & Rollers and framing them with chili peppers; the chili peppers were my attempt to attract spice to my life. It worked–a little too well, (perhaps); as I found myself immersed in the world of Rock & Roll, donning several hats in the process, including A&R–(Artist Representation); Production Assistant and, more often than not, as a glorified babysitter, in particular for a long-haired, tattooed man, of Goth Rock Fame.