Tales of a Golden Heart, Chapter 8: On a Runty Camel

–You’ve got some fencing to do. __Shamus-I-Tabriz

Saturn rising stared out from the astrology chart, sensitive, firm, responsible, restricting, uncompromising. The person born at this time and place would feel a sense of great responsibility at a young age. No matter how many times it is reviewed, the verdict never changes. Reassuring in its way, knowing that whether I stayed or not, my eldest daughter would feel the pressure life’s often hard lessons.

I put the chart away and sat lost in thought, reviewing the incredible events of recent months. The calendar showed September, 1973. In less than a year and a half since the vasectomy, I’d become an amateur astrologer, studied and accepted reincarnation and karma as facts, begun a dream log, picked up some knowledge of past lives, and known in the middle of all that…that it was time to walk away from an eight year marriage just as I’d walked away from an eight year rodeo career.

Telling the Dark Angel I want to see my kids grow up had turned out to be an ironic cosmic joke, sort of a situation comedy on the Bill Cosmic Show. In good health but poor spirits, I could at least take comfort in knowing the girls were doing well according to all reports on them and their new stepfather, a quiet, caring man.

Thinking back, it seemed so easy to visualize that late April day in 1972 when the astrology text first entered the house in Spokane, a paperback gem brought home by the now ex-wife….

She began reading from the book, describing personalities according to sun signs. Within half an hour, I’d snatched it from her and gobbled its contents like some half starved dieter discovering a box of chocolates after a ten-day fast. Within a week, I’d located a serious astrological primer and set up my own chart. Within a month, I was doing charts for others. A whole new world exploded into view: Signs and aspects and houses, ascendants and midheavens, conjunctions, trines, and squares. Lifted from the worm’s eye view of life to suddenly perceive harmony and rhythm and order in the universe, I rose in the mornings at five a.m. to study, carried books and horoscopes and notes to the parks on weekends, joined classes, crammed, gulped, and marveled until by midsummer only one inevitable conclusion remained.

God existed.

The incredible accuracy of capably constructed astrology charts had shown what childhood Sunday School teachers could not. The space god who sat on his throne pulling strings and consigning all nonbelievers to eternal fiery torment vanished in the face of reality: A living, breathing, intelligent life force moved in the universe. No matter the belief set, the sex, the culture or color, animals and humans alike moved as conscious expressions of something grand, something beautiful, indivisible parts of the One!

Out came the Bible, the King James version with the inscription praising young Fred Baker’s perfect attendance at Sunday School. New meaning surfaced in its passages, understandings far deeper than those understood as a youngster. Authors Edgar Cayce and Jess Stearn fired my awareness; I saw now in the scriptures clear references to reincarnation, to karma, to out of the body travel. The Eck still had a lot of work to do; I still thought Jonathan Livingston Seagull was just a story about a bird. But I was on my way, seeking, searching, learning, filled with the joy of discovery, a Hound of Heaven hot on the trail.

Later that year, divorce finally became inevitable. At this point, I looked at my daughters and thought, Can I do this to them? Strain lines etched the older girl’s face. Sensitive to her father’s moods, she mirrored stress not her own. In the end, would my staying help her more than my going? The stars and her own face said no. By September, the die was cast and the decision made. At some point I would leave this marriage, perhaps in two or three or ten years. Soon enough to give hope, far enough away to procrastinate.

Seldom does Spirit rush; neither does it procrastinate. 1972 departed the stage not with the support of a spiked staff but wielding a surgeon’s scalpel. I cried for my children and remembered the vivid dream….

My daughters and I are in a tiny hut atop a high, forested hill. It is nighttime. Headlights approach from below; they are coming to get the children and will capture me if they can.

I hug my girls one last time, tell them, “I can’t take you with me right now; we’d never make it. But I’ll be back for you.”

The headlights are getting closer. Swiftly, I belly to the ground and wriggle out under the back wall, crouching low to avoid detection until well away and hidden in the trees. Perhaps half a mile downhill, there is a sudden break in the forest, an opening facing a small lake dancing with golden specks of light in front of a sparkling waterfall cascading down a sheer redrock cliff. This is a place of magic and enchantment; a feeling of exhilaration lifts every cell of my body. A red fox with laughing eyes prances from the magic forest and disappears around the edge of the cliff, its tail held high….

Following the dream came more fun than a whole litter of kittens turned loose on a new set of drapes. January third found me elected President of the Spokane Astrological Society; on February 7-8-9, the new President’s expenses for a weekend astrological convention in Portland, Oregon, were paid by the Society. A new love traveled with me, a lady willing to explore and stretch beyond fear into experiences with psychic phenomena. Ghosts and Ouija boards, strange entities and one hardcore attempt by those entities to take control entirely. We found new insights through intense prayer, Bible reading, and the automatic writing I began to develop. The Eck drew me closer and closer, using whatever limited method I could understand.

By this time, obviously “earned” by recent decisions, I had begun to hear inner melodies–beautiful ringing tones perceived by the inner ear–and to occasionally see a small, bright blue star or pale blue blob of light. Somehow, my decision to sacrifice by having the vasectomy had helped me spiritually and allowed astrology to come into my life to show me God. More recent decisions to continue pursuing the spiritual search had now brought me the Sound and Light of God, the Water of Life offered by Jesus to the woman at the well.

The automatic writing spoke one day of my partner’s health. On a morning when her body seemed to be giving a little more trouble than usual, it advised, “She needs more water.”

For twenty-four hours she dutifully consumed glass after glass of the stuff until finally an exasperated message came through: “The Water of Life! Not the Water of the Water!”

Perhaps the woman at the well could have used such clarification. At any rate, one evening a sentence came through stating, “In a year from now you will have a method of communication far greater than this.”

Elation, followed by mystification. Truly, to be told I could expect something magnificent–what an honor! Yet what could be greater than this writing which came straight through my pen from the other side? It proved too much for a boggled mind; I felt like the fellow being shown all the answers to life and death in the great hollow tree, wondering what it could be that I was still missing. What great secrets and truths hid from my awareness? I could not even guess.

Astrology and automatic writing retained their influence to a degree for a time, yet their relative importance gradually faded. One cover-to-cover reading of the Bible finished; another begun. Spring came to Spokane. One Saturday afternoon, Annie knocked on the door. She hadn’t traveled far; her mother owned the apartment complex in which we lived and Annie rented a unit in the same building.

“Fred, you’ve got to read this!” She burbled. The book cover looked interesting: The Teachings of Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda.

Annie enjoyed a special status in our lives at that time, having been the only mutual friend we’d shared before an arranged introduction at the Skylark CafĂ© in Spokane, a meeting I’d requested at once after studying my now lady’s horoscope. To ignore the book she’d brought over would have been unthinkable. Its text described Castaneda’s introduction to sorcery and out of body consciousness via intense peyote usage as a factor in Don Juan’s overall teachings as the author began a fascinating but often frightening sorcerer’s apprenticeship. A week later, Annie returned, her face alive with curiosity.

“What did you think, Fred? What did you think?”

“I’d rather do it without the drugs.”

She looked at me strangely, though no more strangely than the Spokane Astrological Society members now viewed their former President. The continued existence of the group was doubtful, and I’d resigned in March, less than three months after first taking office. Something vastly more important than astrology had taken hold of me: A desire for freedom.

The more I studied reincarnation, the more I knew I’d been around this planet a long, long time. Nothing in this world surprised me; I’d seen it all before. Popular reincarnational theory held that I had no choice but to keep on returning until I got it right, sort of a compulsory draft, each Soul a multi-lived private in the Army of Get it Right or Else. But the endless rounds of birth, death, and rebirth had simply become too tiring. A way out existed; it could be found. One night in April of 1973, a group of astrologer types gathered. The talk turned to Lords of Karma and the great Wheel of 84, the seemingly limitless transmigration of Soul from life to dreary life.

“I’m getting out,” I told the others, “And I’m doing it in this lifetime.”

They stared at me, pitying. “That’s egotistical. You have to take another thirty-seven lifetimes, like Edgar Cayce said Jesus did.”

From that moment forward, my horoscope-making friends and I had nothing more in common. Whether or not Cayce had been quoted accurately, I neither knew nor cared. By July, inner hunches and dream state clues directed us to Eugene, Oregon. My third walk-in-off-the-street attempt landed a solid job interview, and the rest of the trip could be devoted to relaxation. The Ford Maverick’s clutch linkage snapped halfway up a mountain road en route to the Coast Highway, but why let that stop us? All teenaged boys learn how to speed shift, don’t they?

By August, everything had jelled jobwise and Spokane had become mere history. The new townhouse apartment in Eugene cost plenty, the price of a new adventure. We settled in and began getting acquainted with our new city.

September, 1973. After a month and a half on the job, it is good to see the initial desk backlog clearing, piles of files diminishing, order rising from chaos. Josie, my assistant, has also done a good week’s work.

“Have a good weekend.” She smiles, stuffing a couple of stray items into her purse as she hurries toward the door to catch her ride. Her husband has arrived in the van and sits patiently waiting in the parking lot.

“You too,” I respond, eyeing my desktop and work area with critical approval. This time, coming in on Monday morning won’t be stressful at all.

At home, things are equally peaceful. My mate crochets toward completion of an afghan while I read from the Bible. Later, the miniseries World War II documentary titled The World at War is on TV, and I settle in to watch. Supper and the usual glass of wine after work, a habit that will last for another six months. Body and mind are relaxed, and I do not budge until the show is over.

Still, the restlessness is only muffled, its voice far from stilled. After the show, a lone walk in Eugene’s night air seems appropriate, even necessary. Across the street from the townhouse complex, two acres of abandoned farm beckon, last ditch survivors of a time when cows wandered the dirt streets of a newly raised spot of civilization in Oregon Territory. For one bred to the mountains, it is a refuge of privacy in friendly darkness. A narrow path wends its way through blackberry brambles, leading to an old shed’s skeletal remains. Crouched in deep blackness at bramble’s edge, it is an ancient watcher who notes the full moon rising beyond the old outbuilding’s tattered profile, a life force blending with this place of earth, waiting, staring, the divine discontent softly stirring with each breath.

Later in the night comes a dream.

It is a ranch setting, familiar yet uncomfortable with a nagging sense of menace. Castaneda-style sorcery lives in this place. Somewhere in the hills above the ranch house, a great dark dog that is not a dog prowls, stalking; its presence is sensed as surely as the essence of a hog farm is detected by a downwind neighbor on a hot summer night. Behind the barn, a sick meadowlark lies dying in a bucket. I yearn to leave this area altogether, to flee from the evil that is here.

Across the grassy prairie facing the ranch comes a traveler. This one is welcome; I walk out to greet him. As rider and mount approach, they grow in size from a single speck on the horizon to recognizable figures, roughly describable as Sammy Davis, Jr., on a runty camel.

The rider pulls his beast to a halt in front of me. An aura of spiritual authority emanates from him; whatever he will say must be heeded. The message comes in six words: “You’ve got some fencing to do.”

He returns the way he came, while I return to physical wakefulness and reach for pen and paper. Six brief words have brought me a measure of peace and the inner strength to continue on, never doubting the way to escape the Wheel of 84 will make itself known when I am ready.

I am loved, and I will be shown.


For our readers who may not recognize the word “Eck”, the definition can be found in A Glossary of Eck Terms at Eckankar.org.