It starts in a dark place. A place buried inside the womb of my dear mother, Carmela. It's from there also that I came to light, 9 months later, born at 4:20am, 24th of October 1968. I guess the number 420 doesn't mean much to many people, but there is a relation, and I've realised it has a special meaning for me. It has played a significant role in my life, opening me up to many things that I wouldn't have otherwise encountered, so I guess that it's no coincidence. It's been an interesting relationship that I've had with this 'evil mistress' (or what Graham Hancock calls 'The Green Bitch'), but I definitely do not see it as any kind of enemy, or nemesis. Like all things, it just requires respect. It is after all, something sacred.
The most interesting part of my life, for me, or I guess moreso when my story really started coming to life, is when I finally realised my path - what I wanted to do with my life. Something I'd been yearning for so long. Something that I believe deep in my heart is what sets us all alight and brings us to life - finding our gifts that are unique to us and our story, and following that 'bliss' that Joseph Campbell would always talk about. It starts to unfold when we get a sense of what it is that inspires us and we decide to run with that desire. For myself, it set me off on a story that has never been told. On my own 'hero's journey', and in following with the monomyth (as described also by Joseph Campbell), I began to see many of the archetypal characters that he describes appear on my very own journey.
Let me tell you just some of the story, and see if it makes sense to you ...
I had been away from home, my land of Oz, for at least 15 years, before I received a clue, a sign, that would help me to discover my path, my path of bliss. It was something that inspired me, and something that, once I took the first step, started reawakening things in me. Memories from the past for example, of when I was a child, communicating with my mother, about how all I wanted to do with my life was to live as a simple farmer. It was during this 'awakening' that I was able to look back at experiences I'd had growing up, connect them all together and understand they had all served to equip me and bring me to this point of 'take off', where my real journey would start. This was the path that was meant for me and something that came from a deep desire in my heart. It all made sense to me.
Several years after my mother passed away. My father, Gabriele, would come to me in states of bewilderment and confusion and appeal to me, 'Son, what should I do with our farm?'. I had no answer for him. How was I, an 18 year old boy to deal with the responsibility of such a decision? I loved that farm, but I was a teenager, and I too was suffering confusion from my own feelings of loss and abandonment. My father ended up selling that farm. That farm that we loved so much. That farm that our family used to visit on weekends and where we, as kids would set up our campfires, play, explore, observe and provide company for our father. I realised looking back, that this appeal was what Joseph Campbell would have called 'The call to adventure'. A call, unfortunately that I was unable to see. I was in complete darkness and had no clue what any of it meant. Perhaps I didn't have the courage to take it on, the foresight to see it, or maybe just didn't feel ready. It would not be until many years later that things would begin to make sense to me regarding what had been presented by way of my father's appeal.
It wasn't until around the time I'd turned 40 that I made a friend who had a farm in Australia, and was practicing Permaculture. It not only inspired me, but reawakened something within me. I started enquiring more, until it soon felt that what was being revealed to me was that this was the path that I had desired, and yet forgotten (or rather distracted from) from when I was young. 20 years I'd spent, trying to conform to something that I never truly felt suited for. Yet something also that had to be, to teach me the lessons I needed about certain things in life. Like money and romance for example, and it's ability to distract us from our true calling. At that point in my life I had been living outside of my country of birth for close to 14 years, and where pray tell do you think this art and science was also born? In the same land as I. And so, I was called back, to the land of Oz, so that I could learn more, and I did, A lot more. I was yet to discover though how deep this rabbit hole would go ...
On my way back,
I met a young lady,
she made me nervous,
she took me in and gave me more than just breakfast.
I fell in love.
She was a Shell that resonated the sound of the sea.
She was the most beautiful thing that I ever did see.
She was a femme fatale.
I thought it was meant to be. Little did I know however, that what she was meant for was to help me discover the deepest and darkest parts of my self.
We travelled the same path together for a while, through the wonderful land of Oz, learning together, until one day I came to a fork in the road. I had learnt a lot about Permaculture and seen many people applying this science, but it only reinforced the feeling in me that all I really wanted was my own farm, now even more, so that I could start putting this into practice for myself. I felt ready. Somehow however, I was still limited in my ability to realise it. I desired my own peace of land yet I had no idea where I would find something that I could afford and make my own. I had contacts in parts of the South Americas, where I knew that perhaps I could afford to buy something with what I had saved, but in my own country, I could see no way that I could afford anything unless I enslaved myself to the system again, which I was not prepared to do. I wanted to start, and I was ready to leap. I just did not know in which direction to go. This got me down and I became stuck. I hit a wall, and it affected my love, so much so, that she left me. She could not carry my heavy load, and so it sent me spiralling down. Into the bowels of the earth I fell. My heart was shattered, and as romantic as it may sound, I could take no more. I discovered the deepest and darkest parts of my self. So much darkness and confusion I felt. In this dark place all I could do was desperately pray that the Great Spirit would take my life. At night I would pray, before going to bed, 'Please God, just take my life'. I could now feel, what my father felt. His unbearable pain crying out inside me now. I could now truly comprehend my father's confusion and bewilderment and that place from where he had called out to me, so many years before.
I cannot remember darker times. My father had never seen me like that before. It felt like a great illusion had been shattered. Perhaps I had denied my mother's grieving and now it was time to reveal that hole, that great big empty bottomless hole to which it felt there was no end. How long had I denied all this for? My father would encourage me, hold me, look into my eyes and tell me, 'be strong', 'be brave'.
Still, it didn't help. I still felt like I wanted to die. I could not understand how love could abandon me like this again, with no explanation, or real comprehension of why. I was in a hole of confusion.
One night, during these dark nights of my soul, I received a sign that would help me to die, to the old self, and offer me a way 'out of this world'. Something that would set me on the 'right' road. The symbols in my dream came very clearly and vividly ...
'PORTUGAL', it said to me as I hugged myself goodbye (It seemed like I was hugging a good friend). It took me on a path, a stone path, that lead me to a huge, enourmous bridge that widened out over a huge valley. Was it a bridge, or was it a meeting place? It reminded me of a piazza. People would stop there, and meet. I remember the enormous pillars that supported this structure, engineered in a way so that one could look down through the gaps between the pillars and the bridge and see the valley way down below. In the dream, I then felt that this path led me to a grand horizon, facing a great ocean. 'PACIFIC' - the dream spoke to me again. The dream left me in a quandary. 'Portugal is not in the Pacific', I said to myself when I later tried to decipher the dream. So what does that mean? I concluded in the end that it meant that if I took this path, then it would lead me to a place of peace. I still do. Now, also I realise that this was what Joseph Campbell called 'The return of the Call'. A call that I had refused when I had the chance, at my young age, to accept my father's call, for helping him realise his own dream as well. It was a refusal of the quest.
This time it was clear, and with my father's words echoing deep inside me, to take courage and without even really thinking about it, I just felt the impulse and took that leap of faith. I left home again, with my sights set for Portugal. My father however, didn't really want me to leave him. He wanted me to stay by his side and help him, and keep him company, but I couldn't, not with such a strong call. How could I deny that? Also, quite fortunately I knew that my brother was far better suited to be his guardian than I.
So I started making my way back towards Europe where I had spent my previous 15 years. This time it would be Portugal. I don't remember ever having thought about Portugal as a possibility for a place to find land. It was not an easy journey for me though. Obstacles did not all clear themselves immediately in response to me making this 'leap of faith'. Many things fell into place, to help facilitate the journey to where I needed to go, but inside I was still facing deep and intense emotional struggles and carrying my issues of abandonment with me which made me feel that I was still having to work hard, mentally and emotionally to find a way out of my own personal Mordor. I had a plan and I was determined. Incredibly and perhaps miraculously, with firm resolve, 12 months later I had made it through. I spent 9 months going back to working in the heart of Babylon to get the rest of what I needed for what would I see as my life long project, and I found it not long after having arrived back from Oz during one of the first few scouting missions to Portugal. I had found my peace of land and had been rewarded with what I needed to make it mine. I was greeted with a very fortuitous sign upon my first arriving in Portugal during my first scouting mission. It was as soon as I'd entered into the centre of Porto (portal, gate), in an internet cafe. I saw someone who I recognised from my previous life in Barcelona. His name was Janela. It means 'window' in Portuguese. Well, he was my window, for sure. He introduced me to some good people and opened me up the culture of this new world I had just entered. I couldn't have been greeted by a better messenger. So this was my new beginning. My rebirth. This incredible path I'd walked in my dream, was now becoming manifest. I felt I had truly started on a spiritual journey, one that no guru could tell me how to walk. Knowing somehow, that the challenges I'd face on this path (in the outside world) are what would help me find peace on the inside.
Since then I have experienced things that lead me to believe that this land, this farm, is that bridge and meeting place I saw in my dream. It is a bridge, not just for myself, but also for others that come looking, for their own peace, and for their own peace of land. I have not reached the other side yet, to that great ocean of peace that I saw in my dream. I'm still here, ready to greet and welcome those who are crossing, and also to face whatever challenges may come. It's not been an easy path for me. The challenges and struggles still come, but I face each of them with an open heart. Some of the challenges that I've had here so far have been fearsome. My own devils have appeared to me in ways that I'd not imagined. Many appear in human form. One appeared to me a raging fury, and carrying a pitchfork no less. I was surrounded by people during this confrontation, and yet I felt so alone. I bear the scar to this day, to remind me, of what I've passed. It was the greatest struggle I've had here so far, and It wasn't until I, on my own, was able to forgive that I saw that what I was dealing with was just a man, not a devil. A simple man just like me, dealing with life and trying to find his own way in the world.
I have had signs revealed to me here that have left me on my knees, praying for forgiveness, at my own arrogance, in thinking that 'this is not how it's meant to be'. One such sign was to do with this very man, who challenged the vision that was 'given' to me that inspired me to start my project. This challenge was one of the toughest I had ever faced on this land so far. One afternoon, after a 4:20 sacrament, I gave way to a powerful urge to walk up to the pigeon tower on my land. As I was walking up, I realised that this had to do with my neighbour. This man, who I saw as my devil, who I thought had come to ruin my life and my life's work. When I entered I knelt to pray on the large stone alter that lay in the centre, and looked out through the entrance and there, centred and framed perfectly between the doorway, I could see my neighbours dwelling. The dwelling that was the cause of so much pain for me at the time. It was a revelation to me that humbled me to the fact this was no accident. Somehow, this was meant to be. I had created my own dweller on the threshold, my own personal nemesis. He was rather, what JC called the 'Guardian of the Threshold'. A threshold that I needed to pass if I were to continue to awaken and grow on this path. This path with heart. Indeed a threshold I passed, but before I could pass, I needed to let go of the very vision that inspired me as well as the thing I loved most - my farm. I had to surrender and be prepared to give it all up. It is only after I was able to accept that, that things started changing and resolving themselves.
This pigeon tower (dove cote) is the building of greatest significance here on my farm. It is my tower of peace (the dove/pigeon is a sign of peace). It's also the deciding factor in taking on this place. It's a place from where I received this vision, of new earth dwellers who would come and settle here and help to regenerate the landscape and bring new life. It is this vision that inspired me to start my community building project.
The dark demons do not go away forever it seems. They lurk and they like to come when challenges are getting hard. Now, after having faced many a dark demon, I am coming to understand the reasons why, at the entrance of my farm there is a chapel that bears my father's name - Capela Arcanjo de São Gabriel. Perhaps it is there to protect. Perhaps it's there to welcome those who want to meet or cross the bridge, or perhaps it's just there to remind me of the words that my father used to say to me in times of struggle - 'Take courage son. Be brave'. It is the love of my father that reminds me.