A Bouquet of Stories
And finally, “Who’s Douglas?” I’ll close by offering a small bouquet from the flower garden of my memories. It’s quite a large garden. I could pick a good many bouquets. But I’ll try to keep them brief, and will share them in chronological order—although I can hear both Douglas and Seth chuckling at my unwillingness to offer them in either a reverse or a random order. I’ve also titled them, as we title our dreams. The first one is called:
Standing Up to the Drill Sergeant
Douglas is in boot camp. It’s 1951. He’s enlisted in the Navy and is 21 years old. This isn’t the “new” army. It’s the old army. And drill sergeants rule boot camp with an iron fist. Doug and his fellow recruits are lined up before their drill sergeant. They’re exhausted and terrified, waiting for his next orders.
“I am your God!” the sergeant bellows. “Get down on your knees and worship me.”
The men quickly start dropping to their knees. All but Douglas. He’s left standing there alone.
The drill sergeant stalks over and glares at him.
“You’re not kneeling, Todd!”
Douglas shakes his head. He’s too frightened to say anything, but there’s no way he’s going to bend his knee for this or any other man.
“You’ll pay for this, Todd,” the sergeant says ominously.
But it’s the drill sergeant who ends up paying. When the brass hear about the incident, they reprimand him. Then, apparently sensing some leadership potential in this new recruit, they transfer Douglas to an officer’s training program for naval pilots, where he eventually earns his wings.
The Dream of Transdyne
Doug is lying in a Washington, D.C. hospital room. It’s sometime in 1967. Douglas is 37 and he’s recovering from a suicide attempt—one that Stanley just barely kept from being successful. He had been terminated from his job in a law office for having suggested that the secretaries there were not being paid enough. This on the heels of having been outed and then crucified by the military, after several years of service as a naval officer.
(As an aside, Douglas used to wear an ostentatious crucifix that hung from a chain around his neck. Some of you probably remember it. There were many reasons, both psychological and metaphysical, why he wore it. He finally lost it while working in the woods one day. How striking, then, that he should die on Good Friday.)
Anyway, Doug apparently feels that he has been crucified once too often, and he nearly succeeds in crucifying himself. Recovering from the over-dose, in that D.C. hospital room, he has a dream. In the dream, he’s looking down on a large group of younger people in the distance, who are playfully and spontaneously tapping into psychic gifts and abilities that Douglas can’t even begin to touch.
He is feeling somewhat disgruntled and left out. Then he hears a voice, seemingly out of nowhere. The voice says, “All this is yours.” Or perhaps, “All this is because of you.”
He’s wondering what this could possibly mean. Then he hears the voice again. It says one word, “Transdyne.”
Then Doug wakes up.
Ten years later he will give this name, Transdyne, to the hill-top piece of land that he and Stanley will purchase in Copper Hill.
I’m working in the garden. It’s a warm afternoon in 1975. Looking up from the bed I’m cultivating, I see Joyce coming down from the shelter with a couple of strangers. I lay down my hoe and walk over to meet them.
“Robert, this is Doug and Stan. They’re looking at some land just down the road. Doug, Stan, this is Robert.”
One of them smiles at me and extends his hand. I shake it. The other is peering at me, with equal measures of curiosity, anticipation, and caution. He reminds me of a hunting dog who’s had his nose to the ground, following a faint scent. That scent has grown suddenly hot, and now he’s coming to a point.
I shrug off the image and we shake hands. Joyce continues with her tour, out toward Temple Hill. I return to the garden. Much later, Douglas tells me that I was the one—the one he had been searching for. And so began a decades-long exploration of the complex web of associations beneath his belief that, “I was the one.”
The Essenes on Temple Hill
Doug and I are standing together on Temple Hill, talking, soon after he and Stan had moved up to Transdyne from Norfolk. His eyes have a passionate intensity. He’s reminding me of a passage from Season of Changes. It’s the passage, he says, that sent him in search of this community, and of me.
You have come together to build an example of family living, of cooperation, of child and adult education on the many different levels, and the expression of the greater perfection and love within you that you know man may become. But the greatest ideal, the greatest purpose for your coming together rests on one idea, one ideal, and one principle; and your whole community must hinge on this.
And that is to be a vehicle, a vessel, by which the Christ Consciousness, by which the Christ may again enter into the Earth. For He shall not come but for those who build to make this possible, that are also already within the Earth plane.
This is not to say that this would be the only group that would do such a thing, that would help with such a vibration and such a purpose. But it is important that you add your power and love and dignity to such a matter. This is your greatest desire and purpose, and this is why those peoples, those group of Carmel, the Essenes, were given as examples to you. For this, you see, is what they had done. (page 138)
“But who were the Essenes, really?” Doug asks, eyes bright. “What were they really doing?”
I already know the passage by heart. The words, however, have become thickly coated with a dull veil of familiarity. But suddenly this veil shimmers and falls away and I really hear Douglas’ question.
In one of our current film mythologies, called “The Matrix,” there’s the following piece of dialogue.
Trinity is talking to Neo. “It’s the question that drives us! You know what the question is, don’t you?”
And Neo replies, “What is the Matrix?”
Douglas’ question on Temple Hill (“Who were the Essenes, really?”) will become a driving force in my life. It will drive me to write Wax Statues, Cotton Candy and the Second Coming, and will continue to drive me for many years to come. In a way, it’s still driving me.
During my last visit with Doug, I told him that I had called Ticket Master in Chicago and ordered two tickets for a rare exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls and some of the artifacts from the Essene community at Qumran. Lauren and I will see the exhibit while passing through Chicago next week on our Amtrak tour. Marlene happened to notice an obscure reference to it in “The Wall Street Journal” and showed it to me.
I told Doug that going to see those scrolls and artifacts felt like going on a pilgrimage. He smiled and nodded.
The Small Ring in the Test Tube
Douglas is on his knees in our sleeping alcove, next to a quietly radiant Joyce, peering into a squat plastic test tube standing on the little desk at the foot of our bed. It’s the summer of 1983.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” he exclaims. I smile at his apparent consternation.
Doug had been living at ALM for quite a few weeks by now. His expressed interest in coming for an extended visit had stunned everyone. It’s hard to imagine someone less suited to living in community than Douglas.
But he had been feeling that this place was dead in the water. (A classic Douglas perception/projection, by the way.) A jolt was needed. An electric shock to re-start a stalled heart. Maybe by moving here he could somehow provide such a catalytic jolt. He didn’t expect it to be easy. For anyone. And it hadn’t been.
“I’ll be damned,” he says again, staring at the distinct ring that had formed in the liquid at the bottom of the test tube.
I continue to grin, clearly hearing his unspoken thought—”This is not at all what I expected.”
He smiles, congratulates Joyce and me, and returns to the garden. Soon thereafter he goes home to Transdyne, to “be patient and wait.” (A psychic had once given Doug this succinct piece of advice. It would torment him for years.)
The little tube that Douglas had peered into was part of a pregnancy test kit. The small ring that had formed in it was confirmation that Joyce and I had finally succeeded, after several frustrating years, in conceiving. After showing me the good news, Joyce had asked me to bring Douglas down so that he, too, could see the omen.
Nine months later, Doug received a second shock when the baby turned out to be a girl. He had simply assumed that it would be a boy. But he always felt a special fondness for Lauren. He would give me small gifts and tokens to keep for her until she was older. Even in the nursing home, when Lauren would accompany me on a visit, Doug’s face would light up when he saw her.
(There’s a short epilogue to this story. I’m spending Thursday afternoon with Douglas, as usual, in April of 1984. Our sharing comes to an end when David drives over to Transdyne to tell me that Joyce has gone into labor. The next morning, on Good Friday, Lauren takes her first breath. On another Thursday, in April of this year, Lauren celebrates her 16th birthday. The next morning, on Good Friday, Douglas takes his last breath.)