John Darling: Ashland — the town that always says ‘yes’

Photo of Grizzly Peak by John Darling posted by him on Sept. 18, 2020, shortly after the Almeda Fire on Sept. 8, with the caption, "It's letting us start anew."
March 21, 2022

‘Things manifest here. They do it in ways you don’t get to control.’

By John Darling

Be careful what you dream for, especially in Ashland. It’s often called a vortex, which means a powerfully turning spiral, sucking everything to its center. It does that. I don’t know why. Things manifest here. They do it in ways you don’t get to control. In the big cities, you control it. Not here, not all the time. 

John Darling in 1999

The vortex says “yes.” That’s why everyone wants to be here. It also spirals out people who don’t want to have their thoughts and visions empowered in unpredictable ways. Not wanting that is actually a thought and vision. Ashland says “yes.” They move to Seattle and Portland. For the coffee and happenins’. And the control. Or the illusion of it. They say Ashland is too weird, too alternative, too white, too rich, but really, if people get blown out of here and end up in Talent and Medford, you’ll notice they’ve been dissing Ashland, especially around housing costs. So Ashland said “yes.” Yes, you can leave and go where it’s affordable, if that’s what’s up in your consciousness.

This place is a pressure cooker, a crucible, a front burner, especially around advancing your inner, spiritual life, your emotional evolution, your understand of the promise you made yourself before you were born. It’s great for lending energy to whatever belief system you want to set up. For now. But it won’t let you keep it for very long — a few years, maybe. You’ll notice the very energy of the vortex makes that system of yours evolve and change and soon it’s not working that great for you. The vortex makes you let go of it. What’s next? I don’t know. You walk, you hike the trails, you talk with your widening circle of friends. Soon it starts becoming more clear, the next arm of the spiral dance. 

So what about all these people with money, who move here and drive up home prices, supposedly driving out all the regular folks, artists, seekers, writers? Well, they’re people too. They were called here. I came here in ’71 with about $28, got rich, got poor, got rich again. I’ll take rich. It was all air-money anyway, the kind you get with equity from the amazing accomplishment of buying instead of renting. The renters, I mean really, let’s hear the end of the bitching. You are where you need and want to be and, since the earth is running out of space for us all, we are being called on to invent new ways of living together, like we used to before the first couple said, “hey, I don’t want to live in the big, tribal house. I want my own space.” We’re retribalizing. We have to. And, truth be told, we want to. 

I did a couple stories with Randy, and every time I talk with him and the other homeless folk — well, gad, they’re not “homeless,” that’s such an epithet. They claim the town, the whole vortex as their home, actually the whole earth, and when I talk to them, I am always amazed how de-stressed I feel. Really, these maximal vortex-dwellers ought to charge stressed-out real estate owners for consulting with them about the big picture, how they dwell in an energy pattern and have surrendered to it and have no bills at all and have found happiness on the minus-assets scale, so each year they can say, yup, now I’m worth minus-$450,000, expanding by 25 percent a year, sure is a secure feeling to know that air-money is there for me when I want it.

We go to this prosperity seminar being shot at RVTV by a money guru and he asks, “OK, what do you fear if you live your dreams and use money to subsidize them?” Well, we could lose the money. “What would happen then?” he says. Well, you’d be out on the street. “What would happen then?” You would starve. “What then?” Well, you would die, of course. So fear of death underlies it all. But you won’t die.

Randy and his clan are living as lilies of the field, you know, the ones that don’t spin and reap, and he says he’s never skipped a meal and there’s so much food around and people always are sticking a 10 or 20 in his pocket. And when I hear this, I just relax. I breathe. I smile. I ask myself, who’s having more fun, Randy or me? I don’t know. I think Randy might be.

John Darling lived in Ashland from 1971 until he died at age 77 in January 2021. A US Marine Corps journalist, he went on to write for the Oregonian, Mail Tribune, Daily Tidings, and United Press International, among others, along with stints as a news anchor at KOBI, executive assistant to the Oregon Senate President and press secretary of campaigns for Oregon governor and U.S. Senate. is, with permission, publishing monthly excerpts from his collection “The Divine Addiction: Essays Out of Oregon.”

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at
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