There are many things twelve-year-old Clover Blue isn't sure of: his exact date of birth, his name before he was adopted into the Saffron Freedom Community, or who his first parents were. What he does know with certainty is that among this close-knit, nature-loving group, he is happy. Here, everyone is family, regardless of their disparate backgroundssurfer, midwife, Grateful Dead groupie, Vietnam deserter. But despite his loyalty to the commune and its guru-like founder Goji, Blue grapples with invisible ties toward another familythe one he doesn't remember.
With the urging of his fearless and funny best friend, Harmony, Clover Blue begins to ask questions. For the first time, Goji's answers fail to satisfy. The passing months bring upheaval to their little clan and another member arrives, a beautiful runaway teen named Rain, sparking new tensions. As secrets slowly unfurl, Blue's beliefsabout Goji, the guidelines that govern their seemingly idyllic lives, and the nature of family itselfbegin to shift. With each revelation about a heartbreaking past he never imagined, Blue faces a choice between those he's always trusted, and an uncertain future where he must risk everything in his quest for the truth.
Part coming-of-age tale, part love story, part mystery, Clover Blue tenderly explores an unconventional but no less complex family that resonates with our deep-rooted yearning for home.
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September 3, 1974
The Olders are letting us watch the birth. Harmony runs down the path ahead of me, her bare feet kicking up a cloud of dust. When she gets to the teepee she turns and yells, "Come on, Blue! Aren't you excited?"
"I'll be there in a minute." I balance on one leg to brush a sharp acorn cap from the bottom of my foot.
"Okay, but hurry up or you're going to miss it." She opens the canvas flap and disappears inside.
Letting us watch is a stretch. More like they insisted. Harmony and I were asleep when Moon was born so we both missed that one. Sirona says we're old enough now. Sirona is the family midwife. She delivers babies in people's houses around Sonoma County. This is only her second birth here at Saffron Freedom Community. The first was when she gave birth to Moon four years ago.
I walk slowly, taking small steps. I might be old enough at ten, but that doesn't mean I'm ready for this. I can't shake the memory of when our nanny goat, Inga, had a baby a couple years ago after one of the neighbor's goats got loose and mated with her. Inga ate the sac around her kid and the other stuff that came out of her afterward. I hope we don't have to eat anything that comes out after Jade's baby is born. We're vegetarian so probably not. But you never know with this family.
I want to be excited, but I'm a little freaked out. I'm worried Jade's baby might not survive, just like the baby goat that got sick and died. Goji forbids doctors and hospitals. We believe in natural medicine. Sirona probably knows what she's doing but what if she doesn't? What if none of them know what they're doing?
When I reach the teepee Harmony pokes her head through the doorway and grabs my hand, pulling me forward. "Come on, slowpoke."
I take a breath and step inside.
Jade is propped on pillows in the middle of the room. Her belly button looks like the tied end of a balloon, one that's about to burst from too much air inside. Willow and Coyote are on their knees near the head of the mattress, each holding one of Jade's hands. Sirona crouches at the other end, her red hair like a lit match piled high on top of her head, softly coaching Jade. The rest of the Olders sit with their backs against the far wall of the musty canvas, quietly chanting the ohm.
The minutes drag on for what seems like forever. Harmony paces back and forth behind Sirona. Every time Jade moans, Sirona tells her, "Almost there. Almost there." I'm pretty sure she's been "almost there" for over an hour now.
Jade tilts her head back to look at Coyote, her tired eyes begging for comfort. I hate that she's hurting. Goji often tells us that every light has a shadow, and pain is the price of joy. Goji is the leader, but he doesn't call himself that. He is kind of a guru, though, and everyone looks up to him. Still, this seems like too high of a price if you ask me. I wish Sirona would fix it. I thought that was her job.
Coyote pulls the tie-dyed headband off his Afro and dabs sweat from Jade's forehead. "You're doing great," he whispers.
Another moan from Jade that turns into a howl. I glance at Moon, asleep on a mat on the dirt floor, his head on his favorite blanket. He doesn't move. I can't believe the noise doesn't wake him.
Sirona lays a hand on each of Jade's thighs. "Here we go, sister. Baby's crowning. On the next contraction, go ahead and push." Harmony hovers behind Sirona, trying to see over our sister-mother's wide shoulders. I stick as close to the doorway as possible. I don't like the noises Jade is making. She sounds like one of the neighbor's dairy cows when they low for their calves after they're taken from their mothers.
Jade lets out a low growl, then holds her breath, straining as Willow and Coyote support her upper body until her face turns beet red. Harmony drops to her knees next to Sirona. She practically has her nose in there between Jade's legs, trying to get a close-up view of the action.
She glances over her shoulder and waves at me. "Blue, get over here! You gotta see this! The head is coming out!" I stay put.
Harmony rolls her eyes and turns to Sirona. "Can I touch it?" Sirona nods.
I feel a hand on my back. It's Goji. He nudges me forward just as Harmony touches her finger to what looks like one of those aliens she sometimes draws in her sketchbooks. The head turns sideways. The mouth opens and closes but it doesn't make any noise.
"One more push," Sirona says.
A gush of blood and water, then Jade's baby slips out from between her legs and into Sirona's hands. I feel like I might pass out. All these smells, like the sea on a hot day.
"It's a girl!" Harmony squeals. "Woo-hoo! I've got a new baby sister!"
Doobie and Wave stop chanting and move to join Goji and the others next to Jade's bed. Jade perches on her elbows, glancing from the baby to Sirona. "Why isn't she crying?"
I take a step backward to watch from a safer distance. Sirona squeezes a funny-looking bulb into each side of the tiny nose. Nothing. She leans over the baby's blue face and puffs into her mouth. The baby makes a squeaky sound, then lets out a lusty wail as she kicks her little legs. Everyone breathes a sigh. Sirona hands the baby to Jade's outstretched arms, a rope-like cord still leading to where she came from. I feel like I'm about to cry but I don't know why.
The brothers slap each other on the backs. Willow and Sirona drape their arms around Jade, crying happy tears, as if all three of them just gave birth. Having been raised equally by all three women, I've been taught to consider each of the sisters my mother. It's never been important to know who actually gave birth to me.
"Who did I come out of?"
All heads instantly turn toward me. I look at Willow. "Are you my mother?" Then down at Jade, now clutching the baby to her bare chest. "Or you?"
Harmony stares at me, her big eyes suddenly mirroring my question, the one I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to ask. Willow glances at Goji. He shakes his head slightly and whispers to Doobie. Doobie takes my hand. "Let's go for a walk."
I pull away from him but he practically drags me out the door. As he leads me farther from the teepee I try to guess his answer to my question. It can't be Sirona. I was five when she joined SFC. As far back as I can remember it was Willow who watched me the most. But Jade's always been nicest, liked to give me baths and tuck me in at night. Which one? Maybe neither. Maybe like Harmony's mother, my mom left Saffron Freedom Community a long time ago and never came back.
Doobie stops and rests both his hands on my shoulders. I close my eyes and wait for him to reveal the name of my mother.
"Goji will talk to you about this later, Blue. Now isn't the right time."
My eyes pop open. "I don't want to wait for Goji. Why can't you just tell me now?"
Doobie glances toward the teepee and back at me. He crouches lower so we're eye to eye. "It's complicated, little brother."
I look away from his face and focus on the peace symbol embroidered on his beat-up denim hat. "Seems pretty simple to me. Just point to her."
He hangs his head and combs through his beard with one hand. "I'm sorry. I can't do that. You'll have to wait for Goji to tell you."
I kick at the dirt with my bare foot. "Can't or won't?"
Doobie stands and motions toward the teepee. "Come on, Blue. Let's go meet your new baby sister."
I give up and follow him. He opens the flap and waits for me to step inside. The room smells like sweat and copper and bread. The Olders are all laughing and crying at the same time. The naked baby is still waxy and bloody as it squirms against Jade's bare skin. I sit on the floor next to Harmony and try not to look at the pink streaks on her legs where she must have wiped her hands. She throws her arms around me and squeezes. "We've got a new sister. Isn't she beautiful?"
The slimy new baby is not what I would call beautiful, but Harmony's arms feel like the only thing holding me together right now so I just nod.
Coyote kisses Jade's cheek and the top of the wet little head in her arms. After a few minutes Sirona wraps the baby in a blanket and hands her to Goji. He holds the bundle high in front of him with one hand behind her head, studying her face.
"She has such a bright glow about her. Like a million stars packed into one tiny being." He lowers the baby and kisses her tiny nose. "We'll call you Aura. Welcome, little sister."
"Welcome, Aura!" everyone says.
One by one they pass the fussing baby from arm to open arm. When Harmony hands Aura to me, she stops crying and stares into my face.
Doobie nudges me, grinning. "She digs those baby blues, brother."
Everyone laughs. Jade jokes that Stevie Wonder is the father but we know it's Coyote. Not just because of the baby's dark skin and black hair. You could see Coyote falling in love with that baby from the instant he laid eyes on her. It's the same way I've felt toward Sirona when she's patched me up after I've hurt myself, or when Willow made sure my bathwater was the perfect temperature, or when Jade used to sing me to sleep. And how Gaia used to twirl me around until the sky and the trees blurred into one. All the sister-mothers feel like moms, which is probably why I never bothered to ask which one gave birth to me before today.
* * *
After a celebration dinner, Goji invites me to his tiny shack for a man-to-man talk. "Come for tea after the sun sets," he says, kissing the top of my head.
As soon as the last pot is rinsed and hung up on a hook to dry, I bolt from the community dining area and sit on a big rock near the garden. I've never been inside Goji's house. It's off limits to the Youngers and rare that even one of the Olders is invited inside. I wait for the exact moment the sun disappears behind the surrounding mountains to walk toward Goji's private home and knock on the wood frame.
His voice answers from inside. "A door is only closed to those who see it that way."
I push aside the wool blanket hanging over the opening and stand just inside the doorway of his one-room house. It's even smaller than it looks from the outside. A small fire flickers in a little woodstove at the center of the room with a pipe leading through the roof. Stacks of books line the wall next to a messy table covered with papers and notebooks. Goji's cat, Ziggy, purrs at the foot of a mattress piled with blankets.
"Come here, little brother," Goji says. He's sitting cross-legged on the floor with his eyes closed, naked as usual, same as me. His black hair, just a few inches longer than his beard, is pulled into a ponytail that falls down his thin back. A white headband covers his forehead.
I creep closer, not sure where to stand. I'm not afraid of him. Goji has never been anything but kind to me. But there's something about him that makes you feel reverent, like I imagine people who were around those guys Gandhi and Jesus we've studied about. He's fed me, taught me The Peaceful Way, clothed me — when we wear clothes — and created this amazing place. I know he loves me.
Goji motions toward a pillow across from him, eyes still closed. "Sit."
He extends both his hands in front of him, palms facing me. I press my hands against his. He smiles and opens his eyes. "Welcome."
He drops his hands into his lap and I do the same.
"I understand why you asked about your birth today."
I feel my face grow warm.
"It's okay, Clover Blue. I've been expecting this day." "I ... I just wondered ..." I stammer before starting again. "I'm curious...."
I stare at the yin-yang pendant hanging from a thin leather strap around his tanned neck "Who are my parents?"
Goji retrieves a small book from the rickety table next to him and opens it to a bookmarked page. On the cover, a drawing of a turbaned head floats below the words The Prophet. Goji clears his throat and begins to read. "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you they belong not to you."
Goji closes the book and sets it on the floor. He reaches for my hands again and this time holds them tightly in his. "We are all family here. The sister-mothers are your mothers. Whether or not you came from them, you come through them. All of them."
"Are you saying none of them are my real mother?"
"I'm saying they are all your mothers."
Goji's taught me that we're all pulled to our destiny and mine was to be part of the Saffron Freedom Community. But I want to know specifically which of the mothers I came out of. I press him for more.
"Yes, but which one actually gave birth to me?"
Goji's face looks pained and a little twisted, like when the sun gets in your eyes on a bright day. "You are the son of life's longing. You understand this, Clover Blue?"
"I know how lucky I am to be part of this family. I just want more details about ..."
Goji takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Your birth family failed to watch over you but it wasn't their fault. You were seeking something beyond them. Had it not happened that day it would have happened on another day. The soul cannot be stopped from searching for what it desires."
"Failed to watch over me? What do you mean? Where? What happened?"
He shakes his head. "It doesn't matter where you came from, Clover Blue. What matters is only here and now. God — the god in you — was seeking home and it is right here. Surely by now you understand that Love is the greatest attraction."
"But it matters to me. Why can't you —?"
"Society has their own set of rules, ones that aren't necessarily in alignment with the rules of nature. We took you in because it was destiny, ours and yours."
"So you adopted me?"
Goji sighs again, this time not as slowly. "It wasn't a legal adoption. It was a love adoption." He leans in, his dark eyes staring into mine. "If anyone outside of the family finds out, we'll all be separated. You and the other three children would be taken from us, probably put in foster care. Your older brothers and sisters could go to jail."
"And you ...?"
"Yes. And me."
My thoughts immediately go to Harmony. The thought of never seeing her again turns my stomach inside out. I suddenly feel cold. My body begins to shiver. Goji pulls a blanket from the chair behind him and drapes it over my shoulders.
"Clover Blue, you were drawn to this family by our loving energy, as we were to you." He moves his hands to my face and holds it tenderly. Tears spill out of his dark eyes. "Your sister and brother were meant to be there at that moment, just as you are meant to be right here, right now, in this moment with me."
"Which sister? Which brother?"
He doesn't answer.
"Will I ever get to know where I came from?"
He moves his hands to my shoulders. "When you're a little older we'll talk more about this."
"How much older?"
"When you're twelve. We'll talk more about it then."
That's almost two whole years away. I open my mouth to protest but he puts a finger to my lips.
"When you're twelve."
* * *
Everyone else is asleep. I lie awake in my bed thinking about what Goji said. His answers are like riddles. Maybe my real parents were drug addicts. Maybe they were mean people who hit their children. I should be thankful for my loving family here. Goji teaches us that gratitude is at the center of every experience, good and bad. He's right. He's always right.CHAPTER 2
August 12, 1976
Nobody knows my real birthday. Little by little I've learned bits and pieces about the day I arrived. I don't remember anything because, one, I was asleep and because, two, who remembers anything from their third year of life? All I know is that when Goji asked how old I was that first day I'd shyly held up three fingers. He declared August twelfth as my re-birth date.
Normally birthdays are like any other day because we're supposed to celebrate each day as a new birth. But because I'm turning twelve on the twelfth of the month, we're having a party. Of course this is also the day Goji has promised to tell me more about my past. He hasn't mentioned it since the night Aura was born, but he's taught us that our word is a measure of how evolved we are, so I'm pretty sure he'll keep his. We'll probably chat after the party.
Some of the Olders have decorated the army-green shade that hangs over our dining area with wildflowers and vines. When I walk up to the long wooden table, Willow kisses me and plants a wreath on my head made of clover blossoms. Her wet eyes have tiny lines just starting to grow out of the corners. "This is your day, Clover Blue. I'm so happy for you. For all of us."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Clover Blue"
Copyright © 2019 Eldonna Edwards.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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