I have promised Lone Heron and Alex that I will hang on as long as possible to help actualize the vision for Estrella Vista, but at the same time I have begun passing the baton to others who will carry on the work after I am gone.
Yesterday I awoke from a nap to discover Lone Heron and Alex cleaning stones from the surrounding desert and arranging them. Yet my main discovery yesterday is that I have lost control of what happens on the property. Other people have a vision, too.
For me, the main reason that Lone Heron has come out here is that I wanted to meet her in person and affirm my decision (and her agreement) that she will become a successor trustee of the Estrella Vista Trust. The main reason that Alex is here is because he needs a place where he is safe and accepted, a place to call home, a place where his aspirations and wishes will be supported unconditionally, a place where he can become all that he can be.
He is not a prisoner here; being a part of Estrella Vista is his decision alone. Sure, there are certain requirements for remaining on the property, but those are based on the values of mutual respect, an affirmation of an individual’s skills/gifts, and the knowledge that anything contributed is to be shared with others but never lost. There are presently 23 beneficiaries of the Trust, of whom 13 are parricides. This list is open-ended and will likely include more kids by the time of my death.
In setting up the Trust, I was inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a popular Depression-era program of the New Deal Administration targeted at employing young people between the years 1934 and 1942. When I was executive director of the Friends of Big Bend National Park, I met seven of these “boys” at a reunion in the park. As they bragged on themselves to their families, one could see the pride they still had in their youthful accomplishments. And I asked myself: how much more intense would have been their pride if they still had a stake in what they had created?
I didn’t know it at the time, but as I look back, this was the real “birth” of the Estrella Vista Trust. “How cool would it be,” I asked myself, “if these successful men had an irrevocable, lifelong interest in what they created as young people?”
Around this same time, I also read a Depression-era novel by James Hilton, Lost Horizon (1933). I had seen and loved the 1937 film of the same name by Frank Capra, but this was the first time I read the book. It takes place in Shangri-La, a fictional utopian lamasery high in the mountains of Tibet. (It also inspired the initial naming by Franklin Roosevelt of his official hideaway in Maryland, since renamed “Camp David.”)
What most impressed me about Shangri-La was, yes the fact that people who lived there lived to extraordinary longevity without modern stressors, but more especially that the lamasery had modern conveniences including luxurious plumbing; a large library; wonderful works of art; a grand piano; beautiful terraces; food from the fertile valley below. Inhabitants lived by a moral code that emphasized their humanity: that nothing too perfect should be expected from them, that people are, in the main, naturally good. “Moderation in all things.” Towering above them is Karakal, literally translated as “Blue Moon,” a mountain more than 28,000 feet high.
“I could create that,” I naively said, “and make it a place where profoundly broken young people can heal.” Such young people have to believe there is Redemption after prison. Such people have to believe that Healthy Families can exist for them. I could devote the rest of my life to that vision.
And so I have and will.
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