In Los Angeles a party was arranged to introduce 12 men to each other who were known to be either interested in or a part of the leather lifestyle. Some had already visited this Intentional Community in New Mexico before and brought back to the big city, big and little tales about it. A couple of months later, the adventure began.
The trip for me, slaves david and #4 started with Badger Flat, at the Satyrs Motorcycle Run, high in the Sierra Mountains, southeast of Yosemite National Park. From the National Forest between Huntington and Edison Lakes, through Los Angeles for the convenience of washing machines and showers, then on, in one day to Zuni Mountain Sanctuary.
Along the route we reviewed in the car an article that was in the current issue of Harper's Magazine called "Beyond Belief", which described the difference between belief and faith. Much of the discussion related to the special place that we were being called to. Ever since the first mention from Winston about Zuni Mountain Sanctuary our combined spirit needed to heed the call to New Mexico.
There has, for a long time, been a lot of discussion about the spiritual nature of New Mexico. The landscape, the history, and the native people there have all contributed to a reputation that includes some mystery. There was an excitement and anticipation that came from knowing our nine fellow adventurers had already traveled ahead of us, and of the depth we suspected from those we would meet at the end of our journey who had taken on the challenge of creating an Intentional Community.
Slave david has long cited the benefits and imperative to mankind to consider an intentional community. We had heard that this one was run both by Radical Fairies, and by consensus. Coming from the city world, that implied being run by fringe escapists and by a consensus paralysis method. It has been a long time since I have seen the kind of environment that can support consensus. The "fringe element" was an attraction to going there. What is "ordinary" can mean "boring", or at least, "the same." I was looking forward to something different.
Zuni Mountain Sanctuary sets on more than 300 acres of rectangular land. In its back yard is a mesa which is the Continental Divide. Visible are the Southwestern-colored mountains that appear to have been more likely sculpted into place than created by nature. Here, where the characteristics that have created the reputation of New Mexico are found, is a group who consider themselves the "Stewards" of the land.
This small group of less than 10 gay men are the current stewards of this naturally beautiful sanctuary. Women are welcomed to consider becoming stewards and frequently are guests. One, young, beautiful woman was a guest this week.
The stewards are serious and responsible. They are also self-proclaimed "Radical Fairies". There is no such organization, and being one doesn't imply any certain belief or behavior. It is a general understanding that being a Radical Fairy comes about from seeing the world differently from most who live under the statistical bell curve. It also acknowledges that such people are more likely to be found out where the bell curve flattens than in the center where "common" and "ordinary" live.
In fact, these stewards are radical, and wonderful citizens, humanitarians, spiritualists, naturalists, craftsmen, and hosts, at a minimum. Of all ages, these dedicated individuals make pottery to support their individual and collective dreams. The collective dream is one of accepting the good nature and support of those who visit, in exchange for giving warmly, and of themselves, to their guests who arrive for "sanctuary" and many other diverse purposes. This is more than a unique campsite, and place to visit. This is the spiritual home for some who will never permanently live here. It is a temporary home for everyone who visits, even overnight.
You can't remain the same after visiting these men. Zuni has been created by and, in turn, has attracted, a very diverse group of stewards. They each have a different reason for being a part of this relatively new Intentional Community. Their reasons range from "Belonging to a family." to those of a survivalist, and include many other reasons beyond the traditional ones. For most, the reasons are complex, too complex to fit into the structured world that convention has built outside of Zuni.
What characterizes this group is that they each know what they want, and are encouraged to identify their personal needs. The intentional purpose of meeting diverse needs through common solutions is admirable. The success of it at Zuni Mountain Sanctuary is astounding. None of the community feels he has "all the answers". More important, none wants to impose his needs, beliefs, mores, or lifestyle on any other.
This community has found mutual respect and support. Their privacy, seclusion, and isolation give them the opportunity to make up all the rules by which they and their guests live. Everything from building standards and codes, to the eating habits and times have been created independent of outside, imposed requirements.
These pioneers are willing to live on the double-edged sword of following their heart which can look like capriciousness from the outside, and being accommodating, which can look like having no order to the external observer. Here, there is a lot of order. It is very kind and gentle, a very giving and accommodating order. Everything has reason, but the reasons come from the moment instead of from what has been done in the past or what others think should be done. The objective, here, is clearly not how things look. Integrity is the norm, and none of the stewards feel they have anything "sewed up". Each continues a path of learning, as he continues to find others to whom he can teach what he has already learned.
What is amazing about the Zuni Mountain Sanctuary is that they are successfully creating a community that includes everyone, all of us. The stewards, permanent inhabitants, part-time inhabitants, long and hort-term visitors all become a part of Zuni. As the Zuni's both learn from their guests, and teach those same guests what hospitality really means, each becomes a part of the other and is the better for it. Meeting and getting to know each of the Stewards is an individual experience in itself.
When the stewards invite their guests to help with the Zuni tasks, the union between guest and steward becomes even deeper. This week in which Winston's gang of 12 from Los Angeles were present, a 2,000 square foot straw bail structure and kiln were being built. This building will become their first permanent pottery studio.
After spending several days putting one's energy into such an important structure and idea, we can never again be isolated from Zuni. Each time we visit, there will be a reminder and a remembrance of the spirit that we left there from last time, or the time before. While away from Zuni, it is impossible to spend more than a few hours without thinking about the experience that Zuni is. Life can't go back to the way it was before. It's not intended to. This is a sanctuary.
From a deep, internal conviction, these men, and sometimes women, spend the winter at the 7,200 foot altitude, adventuring through 50 inches of annual snowfall, and enough mud to coat the floors, shoes, tires, and souls of multiple communities, many times over. The "bathroom" is a two-seater, considered hot stuff where I grew up in Southeastern Oregon, located at the end of a small trail. The shower is a sun "warmed" collection of water at the end of another short trail.
Independence and personal development have a cost, and the Zuni stewards are happily willing to pay the price for individualism and mutual respect and acceptance. None is there to escape or run away from anything. Each is there out of conviction.
Leaving the Zuni Mountain Sanctuary makes you wish that the whole world could have the temperament and spirit, growth environment and encouragement, and the values that have just been experienced at Zuni. They, at a minimum, provide a model for how the world could be and how it should be, that we can take with us, as a gift from Zuni Mountain Sanctuary.
We each have the chance during life to criticize the dark or turn on the light of change. At Zuni, solar-powered, non-grid light has been turned on and is too bright to be turned off.
Zuni isn't the only sanctuary that Radical Fairies have created. There are both bigger and smaller places elsewhere. What is encouraging is that a national series of these Meccas could someday sprinkle the landscape of America. This could create places, each within a day's drive of the other, where real values are pursued and respected, a place to find "sanctuary" and a renewal of our own values and strength.
Zuni Mountain Sanctuary was more than an experience. It was a benchmark. This isn't a hotel. It is a place that makes you want to belong, to become a part of it. This isn't a place that's hard to find. Zuni is a place that's hard to leave.
It's one thing to follow your convictions. It's another to live those convictions in where you live, how you live, what you do to contribute and how you make a living. Here, the convictions are all on the line, visible, and exposed both to criticism and to respect.
Something very compelling drew us to Zuni, and through Winston's efforts, it came to be.
My thanks and appreciation not only to the Zuni Mountain Sanctuary stewards, but to our organizer and the merry adventurers he arranged to go on this excursion with us to New Mexico.
What an adventure it was! [VIEW PICTURES]
For others who might want to pitch a tent, and find the holy sanctuary that Zuni offers, write to the Zuni Mountain Sanctuary at P.O. Box 636, Ramah NM 87321, or call at (505) 783-4002, or visit their new webiste: www.zms.org