Maria Hennessy


Chapter 1
In which Maria returns to the country of her birth, but to a state she has never visited and is astounded by the culture there.In late August of 1972

I left Santa Cruz, Nayarit with 3 friends. They were going to attempt to cross the border to work in the peach orchards in Yuba City, where they had relatives. Our contacts were going to pick us up on the other side of the Tecate border. I don’t remember why I was crossing back with them. I think traveling four days with 3 men was safer than traveling alone for a blond 21 year old woman. Also, even then Sinaloa and Sonora were known for their drug cartels.

When we got to the border we split up and I spent the night in a family hotel while they waited until midnight and crossed through the desert on the path. I woke up the next morning, assembled my REI backpack and walked to the port. I crossed through the Tecate/US port and started walking down the road trying to figure out what my next step was going to be.

I had just tearfully left a small seaside village where I had been living for almost a year. When I left the town had been struck with an Encelphilitis outbreak because some upstream neighbors had thrown their infected dead horses into the creek that was our water source. In one day we lost 6 people, from babies to elders.

I knew I had to leave for my own health but I didn’t want to abandon the pueblo. I had sold my Karmen Ghia to a judge in Jalcocotán and given the money to the clinic in El Llano to buy medicine. I then left, riding the second-class Norte de Sonora bus with my friends.

I was emotionally lost in the desert.
green VW bus passed me by and stopped. A red-headed young woman stepped out and asked, “Do you need a ride?” “Yes,” I replied, “But I don’t know where I’m going.” “Never mind that, neither do we!” was her response. I walked to the bus and there I met Gill, Ken, Arnie and Joan Klein and Sara Jane Wooley.

They were returning from the Edmond Szekley place - Rancho La Puerta, the Grandaddy of the old metaphysical retreats.Sezekley was the first to translate the Arabic texts about the Essenes. He had also translated the Dead Sea Scrolls, and pre-colombian Mexican documents.

Heady stuff in the 20’s and far ahead of his time. He had known Madame Blavatsky, Paramahansa Yogananda Krishna Murti and all the others who came to California in the 1920s.

So the Yea Gods credentials looked OK, they weren’t Manson types, but I digress.I got into the bus and we started to talk and introduce one another and talk about where they had been and where I had been when suddenly the INS circled the van and pulled us over.

I looked out the back window and there were Toribio, Juan and Ignacio in the metal cage in the back of the jeep directly behind us. My heart leaped up into my throat. Gill, who didn’t talk, signaled to Ken who interpreted, “Don’t worry about them, they will be given a good meal and sent back on the bus. You’re here now and we will take you up to Palo Alto, where your friend Lynn lives.” (How did he know that I had a friend named Lynn in Palo Alto?)

The Migra came over, opened the van’s sliding door and asked for Gill’s driver’s license and registration. He then asked him, “Did you enter through the port?” Gill made signs and Ken translated, “Yes, we entered from the Port”. “What is the matter with this man? Why doesn’t he answer my questions?” Ken replied, “He doesn’t speak.”

Blond Migra agent, “He doesn’t speak because he can’t speak or because he chooses to not speak?”“He chooses not to for religious reasons.” These three men in the van had long beards and wore their hair, also very long, pulled up into topnots, like Sikhs. They all wore Indian bedspread sarongs.“I see, well the van and driver are legal.

Did you people pick up a young blond girl who was walking down this road with a back pack? ““Yes, that’s me.” “Did you enter through the port?” “Yes I did, do you want to see my receipt.” “No, that’s not necessary. Are you carrying any contraband or illegal substances?” “No, I am not.” “Are you a U.S. citizen?” “Yes, I am, would you like to see my passport?” “Yes please.”

He took my papers and checked them.Then he asked, “Are you all U.S. citzens?” and Sara answered, “I’m not, I’m a British citizen.” “May I see your passport and visa please?”She handed it to him flashing a glorious smile and he was instantly enthralled. Such was Sara’s fantastic ability to charm anyone. He handed it back to her and told his buddies that everything was in order and that we could leave. Maria,_Leslie,_and_Sara.jpg
Lesley, Sara with Brendan and Maria in Lesley's garden-1976


Gill started up the van and off I went down the road in the green bus that said Yea God!

We drove down the road towards San Diego or Encinitas or one of those places. I didn’t know much about California, so I didn’t keep track.

While we were driving Joan told me about how she and Arnie met Gill and decided to travel with him in their van. They had given up their jobs, she had been waitressing and I don’t remember what he had done, but he had toured with a band in Spain playing saxophone prior to meeting her.

If I recall correctly Sara had met Gill in London and at that time he was talking. He sent her to India to stay at the ashram of Sasha Sai Baba and she had been there for almost a year. Then he came to find her and brought her to the U.S. and started to travel around doing good deeds, trying to elevate the hell on earth.

They told me they were Bhoddisatvas in training. Joan handed me a card they gave to people after they helped them. I still have it. It says: Start the day with love, End the day with love, that is the way to God.

It sounds really simplistic and naive now, but at the time it seemed like a magical destiny. I was in a quandry as to what I should do with myself. I thought about going back to Mexico with more medicine or to Minnesota. I knew that I had to return to the north before the end of September or I wouldn’t have time to aclimatize.

So there we all were traveling north in the bus and sleeping in splendid state parks that fronted the Pacific Ocean. We just helped people that we came upon and took the food that was given to us.

I had never scrounged before. (sounds like a line from a Bob Dylan song) Gill drove up to an organic fruit stand and Ken talked to the owners. We went behind where they had left boxes of food that they were going to throw away in the dumpster. What a shock for me! I had just come from rural Mexico where people lived so frugally that a cow was considered a luxury.

Sal, el queso de los pobres was an expression, but more of a reality.

Prior to that I had lived in Minnesota where there was no abundance of fruit and vegetables, yet here I was in front of lugs of green grapes, peaches, nectarines, citrus, avacados.

For heaven’s sake, an avacado cost $3.00 in Minnesota and was a hard dried up leathery nut. Well, we couldn’t let all that good food go to waste now, could we? So I learned to scrounge and we ate brown rice and vegetables and drove from one religious place to another.

We met Shintos in LA Japan town, new Muslims in San Fernando, some yogis in Los Angeles, others in Ojai, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Raphael to the Ali Akhbar Khan College of Music and then we drove up Moody Road to the Ananda Marga Yoga Center.

They had just bought their house from Joan Baez for $90k. That seemed like an awful sum of money to me. We sat and chanted and slept on the floor and then Arnie said, “ I’ve got a cousin who lives in Menlo Park. I’d like to call him and see him.” So he called Jeffrey, who later changed his name to Jeremy, and became the boyfriend of Katherine Lemon, friend of Danny Lynch from the fruitstand that Billy built, but that’s another story.

Jeffrey invited us all to his house in Menlo Park and told Arnie he was going to be baptized into the Pentacostal church.

That must have thrown his folks for a loop because Jeffrey was Jewish, but “any road toward consciousness was valid”, so we all trooped over to a ranch down from Ananda Marga called Hidden Villa where they had a pool that was to be used for the baptisms.

Jeffrey was joined by his friend and fellow musician, Peter and the 2 of them sang a beautiful rendition of the 100th Psalm, the melody of which still floats in my mind to this day. Their harmonies were wonderful.

Jeffrey was immersed along with another group of hippies on the Path. Then there was a buffet, vegetarian of course, catered by Asa, who owned a restaurant in Palo Alto.

Such was my entry into the hippies of Palo Alto.

Jeffrey told us about a place farther up the road in the hills where the owner had let people live for free. He said that the owner would allow people to “homestead” it.

Now at that time one could still homestead in the interior parts of British Columbia, and in New Zealand, but this was the first time I had heard about homesteading in the continental U.S. We piled into the green bus and drove farther and farther up the mountain.

I was feeling carsick. We passed the green water tank and to another 1 1/2 miles on the left hand side. We pulled into the driveway for the first time and drove out to the walnut orchard to park.The Yea Gods had arrived on the Land.

Chapter 2

Building the house


In August/September of 1972 Billy and I built the original part of the house, not the first extension, nor the second , third or fourth, just the original L-shaped part. Patsy asked how we got everything down there to that little hollow, or canyon as I like to poetically refer to it now. We carried it. We would go down to the Palo Alto Military Academy, irony of ironies, and take the wood we wanted and throw it up into the orange flat bed or the green one or both until we had them all filled. There were several of us doing this, not just Billy and I. Then some persons with more guts than myself would drive the orange devil and the other green monster up the hill to barn where we would unload what was to our taste and needs and pile it onto the ‘64 Ford Falcon wagon that Billy had driven out from NJ and we would drive it to the end of the fault line, where it couldn’t go any further, and we would unload it and drive back for more. After 5 trips or so we would drive the wagon to the swamp parking lot and look for a space to park. This being August or early September of 1972 the place was flooded with boomer nomads (before the word boomer was created) and a parking space was prime real estate. The place was crawling with naked people, the springbox full of swimmers. Poor Judy must have been out of her mind after having the place to herself the winter before. The VVAW bivouacked behind the long hall and some marched around in their fatigues. EEEW!
We then walked back through the orchard, down the long sloping meadow and to the edge overlooking our valley.Goat_Valley_Oct_1976.jpg
Goat Valley to some, Billy and Maria’s or, the Wheatley Estate to others. No goats at this time, soon to come.
There was one black diamond entrance to the valley and the other was a cow trail formed by Tiny’s cows. We would roll up handkerchiefs into rings, just like the Indian women in Nayarit taught me to do, put them on our heads and lash a pile of about 16 2x4s onto a plywood board. We would then squat down and lift the front part and put it on top of Billy’s head and I’d run around and put the back part on top of my head and on the count of three we would stand up and run down the black diamond holding the side edges of the plywood with all the 2x4s on top until we got to level ground. Then we’d go back and do it again, and again, and again. We also rode the plywood down the hill like a sled at times. At the time we were doing this I still had residual hepatitis from Mexico and Billy was recovering from his heroin habit (which I didn’t know about) We went to the Flea Market in San Jose where I bargained some poor young guy in Spanish down to $7.00 for our gas stove. We moved on to Orchard Supply where we bought the original tin stove, roofing material, tar paper, roofing boards, 2 kerosene lamps, and an Alladin (wonder of wonders, that light) We took the stove apart and put a
2x4 through the body and ran that down the hill. We did a recycle and dump run for the community and came back with an old dentists cabinet which we ran down the hill. All this time we both were working-Billy was washing dishes at the Bella Vista. "Art thinks peas and carrots are the only vegetables there are", scoffed Paul Wells. And I cleaned houses for Skyline Ranch, the Sills, and later on the Isenbergs. What careers for a boy from Morristown NJ and an Edina girl. My mother would have died if she knew.

Hell, we were working! We ate breakfast at the cookshack, slept in the tent and worked on the house.
I remember spending one morning with Billy cajoling me to keep at it and
keep sawing on that damn plywood board. We were taking turns. When we
finished we were exhausted and returned to running up and down the black diamond hauling more wood. Later we walked up to the orchard to see Dohnlee step out of her house site, crank up a small singlehanded chain saw and rip through the same size board that we had suffered for all morning.
We worked on the house constantly for 6 weeks. Malcom and Mary Jo were living in the tipi across the creek from us and one night we got panicked that the house wouldn’t be done before the COLD set in. So we lit the lamps and pounded nails to get the framing set up. It must have been close to midnight when we heard MaryJo call out, "Hey fella, Have a heart!" So we sheepishly shut it down for the night.
My birthday came on Sept. 3d and Paul, wonderful Paul, who always rescued us when we were at our wits end, came to the edge of the cliff, ravine, fault, hill, whatever and called down, "I’ve got free tickets to see Carlos Santana at Winterland tonight, do you want to go?’ What a question! "I’ll be back for you both at 7:00, that’s sundown and you can shower at my place." What heart that man has. Sara had given me an Afgani skirt with many gores, made of the softest material and it spun out but draped wonderfully. It came from some trendy boutique in London. I had made a shirt out of Mexican manta with intricate deshilado embroidery. I still have the shirt, the skirt was transformed into a log-cabin-in-the-woods quilt for Willie and Sue’s first boy. I only had my old huaraches, but who needed shoes! I was turning 22 and going to see Santana! Paul picked us up in the Volvo with his dog Star in tow and we drove to his apartment at John Kerr’s family home bathed, polished and off to ESSEFF. Between the 3 of us we had enough money for a meal at EwwyGooyLouis’ in Chinatown. I don’t even know if that is the real name of the place, or if the NYC/NJ boys just called it that. And I danced every dance at the show. Paul dropped us off at the road and we went back to the tent singing and skipping in the moonlight.
We worked every available opportunity on that cabin because we were convinced that the weather would drop on us like a bomb, typical Minnesota Autumn-80° to 28° in the space of 12 hours. Billy had spent the previous winter in Vermont and was convinced that we had to have a good roof and little windows, with double sheathing in plastic to keep in the heat. The other Land people thought we were nuts, they were enjoying the wonderful Autumn weather, clear sunny days, perfect evenings without fog. We kept on pounding nails.
Purusha, for one, scolded us about spending too much time on the cabin and not enough ‘bonding’ time with the community. He also had told Little Michael that I was a "spicy heifer" and one time after cook shack dinner came up to Joanne LeBright and myself and put an arm around each of us saying that he felt like he was between the two divine Marys, the Virgin Mother and (casting his eyes in my direction) MaryMagdalene. He was always
putting his foot in his mouth when he started talking to me. Absolutely
clueless, how could he think this made points with me? So anyway, the spicy heifer/holywhore continued to work on the cabin and get set for winter.
Nesting birds do the same kind of bonding that Billy and I were doing. Billy&MariaatPacificHighLake.jpgWe didn’t really know one another that well and were just taking a giant leap of faith on this romance. (shades of Kierkegaard) Dohnalee and Billy gleefully pilfered insulation from some hardware store. they just walked up and walked out and loaded it into the falcon. I asked, "Oh did you get a good price on that?" "Yup, real good price." And they started up the car and away we drove.
We finished the house and made lasagna for a party. We told everyone and anyone who could find their way there came and ate. Bring you own plate andsilverware, we don’t have more than 2 forks and 2 plates. Billy had made a plywood table, a built in couch, even a little closet. We carpeted it with what we found in a dumpster behind a MountainView Carpet store, blue shag-ugly but it hid the dirt. We had found some 4 x 6s and made a deck in the crook of the L and a real door, Dutch style to let in air but no dogs.WheatleyhouseAugust1977.jpg
You entered from the kitchen and two steps up to the living room, and the bed was a loft over the kitchen. the out house was away from the place and in betwen was the woodshed. Don’t go use the outhouse without bringing in wood.
Two nights later on the 4th of October it rained and rained for 10 days straight. We had wall to wall hippies sleeping on our floor who hadn’t gotten a place built or thought a tipi was fine for wet northern California.
Murph, Melinda and Josh were on our floor, Jim Forcell and I don’t remember who else. When we woke up in the morning I made pancakes and Billy pulled downed oak snags out of the woods and up to the house where everone took turns sawing up lengths short enough for the stove. we then tossed them behind the woodstove to dry. Murph went off to work on his house, Jim Forsell off to the barn and I went off to clean whatever house. Bill stayed behind and often helped Murph since he worked at night. After 10 days of rain the swamp parking lot was practically empty and the summer hordes had gone back to the city. The wind whipped over Sadhana ridge bringing sheets of water, cold northern Pacific Rain. The rain stopped after 10 days and we took the time to put in steps in the mud with 2 x4s and wedges. The mud was running off the hill down past our front door in rivelets. We tried to trench it away from the house and the path. There was no more walking up the blackdiamond now, too slippery, it was slogging on the cow trail. We put in 20 steps to keep us from slipping because once you fell it was all the way down to the deck. Believe me I’ve done it. We put in a red barn pump and a sink salvaged from the dump and we ran the pipe up the stream. I wouldn’t drink that water but I’d boil it to wash dishes now that the springbox swimmers were gone. Billy borrowed a chain saw from Kevin and we cut wood for 2 dry days and stocked it up under the house and into the woodshed. Then it rained again for the whole month. Gay Gorman Bradley had taken up residence in the small cottage partway up the hill with her two kids, Kenny and Amy. Jim Forsell, who could always brew a pot of coffee and keep the home fires going lived below in a plastic one room without a stove.
He would come up in the morning and work on his lamp designs all day.
Billy worked at night and I worked in the day, less time for snipeing in such close quarters. Luckily my bosses let me bathe and wash a load of laundry every time I cleaned. We were water tight and now had Winnie and Sarah and the start of our chickens. We built a goat shed and an attached chicken coop. It was a chance to haul wood down the cow path, much longer than heart failure hill. This time we had help from our extra borders so it didn’t all fall on us. We settled in for the wettest winter in 5 years.
_Wheatley_Family_Apr,1976.jpg