Subject B and I sat in the study area of her modest home on a lushly gardened hillside.
Born 1947, mostly raised in CA.
I was at college in Ohio -- there was an SDS chapter forming, and I really didn’t know what that was, but I was interested. Someone I knew from class was involved in it. I just watched it, and there started to be some demonstrations against the Vietnam war - I went to them, but I wasn’t real active. I had been very conservative, from my family, but I thought it was interesting even tho I didn’t know quite what to think of it yet. That was my first awareness. It wasn’t until a few years later that I really became more involved. Any kind of protesting was something I’d never seen anyone do, or paid any attention, or thought about doing. I had never been anti- anything. It seemed like they might have a good point -- it took me awhile.
It was not until I moved back to California after I graduated from college that I started getting involved, going to demonstrations, getting information, helping with draft counseling. I helped by doing clerical work for a draft counseling group -- a local group in San Francisco. I attended some rallies, signed petitions, wrote letters. I was working full time in a regular job, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do that -- mostly weekends. It felt good to be working with people who had strong feelings, who believed in it. I can’t remember feeling totally outraged at that time, but I got more so as I got more information. I took their word for it. This is a dumb war and we shouldn’t be doing it. It wasn’t real personal -- I knew some people who got killed -- friends from my past. I heard about someone who had lived down the street getting killed, and that certainly was hard to imagine, these young guys that I remembered, thinking they had been killed. I participated in some of the giant marches in San Francisco. I was starting to change, trying to find my own way, but I was pretty used to just going along with everybody else. So I switched to going along with somebody who didn’t agree with the establishment, but it still wasn’t any big personal thing.
I went to graduate school and moved to Seattle, still thinking career. I was in social work - I was real frustrated with that. So I was going into planning, thinking that it would get more to the roots of things, although now I don’t think urban planning gets at the root. I didn’t stay very long in that school because I was very disillusioned by what I was being told. They were talking about things like citizen participation -- you have a meeting and you let people talk, and then you go ahead and do what you know is best. That was written out in journals -- I decided I didn’t want to be part of that. I was starting to see that the establishment was not so great in many ways. I also read a book at that time called the Greening of America, and it had a major impact on my life. I ended up moving to the country with a fellow dropout and a bunch of friends -- we bought some land in eastern Washington where it was cheaper, and where a lot of people were relocating because it was cheaper, and did a kind of communal farm thing. Still, drugs were not a major part, just a little here and there. I had been living in a house with a bunch of people, and a lot of them were very counter-cultural, a lot more than I was -- but then when I dropped out, they thought that was great.
About seven people were involved, although not all seven ever lived there together but for a few weeks at a time. There were about five of us who were more steady, and I was the more steady of those. Others were going back and forth to Seattle, getting jobs and that sort of thing. We lived in a line shack that had been there for cattle, for a guy to live in sometimes to watch the cattle - it was very rudimentary house. No electricity, no running water. No electricity in sight. You could live there the rest of your life and never get electricity there. No where near the line. Not that we cared. It was a very small, very funky house -- but comfortable. We liked it. We had a big garden, picked apples for extra money if we went down into the valley a little -- we learned a lot of things. I still feel it was one of the best times of my life, really, because I learned how to do a lot of things, chopped wood, I learned a lot about gardening, carpentry -- we did everything. We had a great spring nearby just a walk up the path -- we had a viable place, but very far out. Eventually I thought, well, it’s great to live out here, but I’m not doing anything for anybody else. I wanted to be involved in some of the political things that were going on, and I felt like that although from a personal standpoint I could have existed out there for quite a while, I felt I wasn’t connected or doing anything except for myself. I stayed out there about two and a half years. We had a cow, chickens, I had some sheep because I had been weaving -- I learned how to milk, how to take care of animals in cold weather -- one of the women who lived in the valley taught us what to do. I had always lived in huge cities, so it was a very different life. I found it very fulfilling -- canning, so forth. Home was life -- and I think that’s the kind of person I really was, so it really fit in well with my type of personality. I really got into it -- worked hard, but I enjoyed it. I felt like I was growing, but once I had grown to know how to do everything, it wasn’t enough.
From there I went back to Seattle and was still thinking about having a small farm or something, so I got a job to make money, saved money, lived in a wonderful household with seven adults - you cooked once a week, and you had the greatest meals, because if you only cook once a week, you have a lot of energy for what you cook. It was a very nice setting, and I worked for about a year and a half, and then moved to Arkansas because this guy I was kind of living with had been thru here a lot and kept saying, let’s move to Arkansas -- I was thinking in term of a land-based life --
So we moved here but never did buy any land as it worked out. We looked a lot. We stayed in town, and ended getting involved in lots of politics -- environmental, peace, anti-nuclear. I wasn’t sure I wanted to grow things for a living, because I’d become aware of how much work it is. As I became more aware, I didn’t know if I was really cut out for that. What I really got involved with first was women’s issues -- there was the women’s center at the university - -they had a house -- and I worked at the food coop, so I met people through that. And so I got involved in the woman’s health, self-help group, pregnancy counseling, abortion rights -- I worked on that a lot. Got involved in a health collective that worked out of the women’s center -- we tried to educate women to do their own exams, monitor their cervical health, breast exams -- tried to help with doctor referrals so people would know who was a good doctor who would be respectful and competent. We wanted to start a woman’s run clinic. I spent three months in Iowa learning from an Emma Goldman clinic there -- we hoped to start that here but we never quite pulled that off. There was no funding. Somehow the group didn’t have the right mix to make it happen. We really didn’t have a doctor who would work with us. Anyway, that whole women’s movement was my first big involvement. Then the university gradually moved away from sponsoring this radical group of women who mostly weren’t even students.
Then I got involved when they wanted to build that nuclear plant just across the border in Oklahoma -- Black Fox -- probably my first environmental thing. I was really involved in that a lot. I called the first meeting, helped run it. Somehow we had been in contact with Carrie Dickerson, who had started the protest in Oklahoma -- and we were a support group here to try to get help for her. There were lots of people involved in that, it was something that hit, that people were interested in stopping -- and it did get stopped, which was rewarding. This was a proposed nuclear power plant that was close enough and with the wind pattern, it would have impacted our area. We had petitions, had meetings, tried to get more people, we did demonstrations and attended hearings, government hearings, and a lot of time, we just tried to raise money to send to Carrie, because she was doing the legal stuff, fighting the hearings battles, getting expert witnesses. A lot of what we did was benefits to raise money for whatever was needed.
We also got involved in Arkansas Nuclear I then -- the whole nuclear energy thing, the more you read about it, the more scary it was and is -- so we also went down and demonstrated at Russellville at Arkansas Nuclear I. There was a group that we helped get going that had local people from around that plant, and they were very interested in trying to shut it down, which of course never happened, but it raised the awareness level -- the ongoing health problems of low level emissions -- there was information from a farmer who lived near there. He had cows born with two heads or things missing. Their land was being affected by it -- their peach trees were dying, things like that. And the water -- the storage of waste is still a big problem. That particular reactor has a big crack -- it’s a certain kind that’s been proven to be a very bad design - very dangerous, not so much that it would explode, but that it could leak a lot of stuff out. It’s had a lot of violations -- it’s a pretty bad reactor, but it’s still going.
Those things -- you get to an energy level and you fight for awhile, but then when nothing happens, it’s really hard to sustain forever. The local people in that area were getting a lot of flack, and this one man had a store and he was told -- we’ll shut you down, we’ll boycott you if you don’t stop being against this thing. And he backed off because he couldn’t afford to lose his livelihood. And the man who had the cows and peach trees was found dead in a canal -- in a discharge canal where they said he was fishing, but his wife said he couldn’t fish there, he wouldn’t touch that water with a ten foot pole. He supposedly slipped into this canal and was killed -- very suspicious. There were big stakes there, and I’m quite sure he was murdered. Some national people looked into it, but I guess they could never prove it. It was like a Karen Silkwood thing.
Then I got involved in the Kerr-McGee plant in Oklahoma, and it was eventually shut down. The things they were doing were so horrible -- they had a big leak that was affecting groundwater and they were spraying stuff on fields and then cutting the hay and shipping it out to the Navaho reservation -- they were very anti-Native American or at least they didn’t care -- it was like, oh well, we can do whatever we want, it doesn’t matter - almost like, nobody lives here. It was dangerous to feed that to cows -- it was radioactive. Apparently, some nuclear wastes do make things grow -- maybe things grow better than normal, but a lot of it’s abnormal growth.
The Black Fox thing was the beginning of our local peace and justice center -- we needed a place to do stuff. We started the center to have a place to meet, a place to work, type a newsletter, fold it, etc. The environmental work was ongoing, although it was getting harder. It became obvious that we weren’t going to be able to close down Arkansas Nuclear I, especially from here, and the group down there was having too many problems.
We got involved in the Central American -- Nicaragua, Sandinista -- that was probably the most locally colorful thing. We had a lot of demonstrations at the federal building about that, had processions with caskets, tried to make a public statement, get publicity -- so that people would be aware that there were people who didn’t agree with this policy. The Sandinistas were trying to overthrow a US-backed regime that had been in place a long time. Samosa was the dictator. More people were getting poorer, and a few were getting richer -- the classic central american dictatorship model. And the US government had pretty much installed it and supported it, and the government was sending weapons to fight the Sandinistas. We thought we should be supporting the Sandinistas, that if you have to have a war, they were the ones who needed our help. Or at least, they needed us to not be providing guns to the other side. They wanted to do land reform. The government view was that the Sandinistas were communists -- and I’m sure some of them were, but it wasn’t a communist thing. It was more a socialist thing, trying to turn the land back to people and develop cooperatives and help provide government services for the people, like raise the literacy rate. And here our government was sending guns and lots of them, and some troops -- to help the Samosa government. Our government was actively doing exactly the opposite of what we thought they should be doing. Some of us got involved in tax evasion to protest - I personally didn’t make enough money, but then that was one approach -- to not make enough money so that you didn’t contribute support to the war.
Reagan illegally channeled guns to Samosa -- the money hadn’t been approved -- he did what he could and used discretionary money. The story I’ve heard is that Reagan aides brought drugs from Central America, sold them in the US, bought guns with the money, and sent guns back on the same planes. The Iran-Contra affair also grew out of this situation. There were a lot of those ‘things you wouldn’t expect your government to be doing’ type things going on. I’ve always been basically a naive person, thinking oh, it can’t be that bad, and then you find out, like the more you dig, the more you find out -- it can be incredible what the government will stoop to. Like that urban planning thing -- yeah, let them say what they want -- we’ll go do what we think is right. Even the congress which represents the people, even that, they don’t honor, flawed as that is. I mean, I certainly don’t think they represent me. CIA and all those agencies do a lot of stuff we never know about.
I became more skeptical, although I still vote and think it’s important to try to do what you can with the system, and then do what you can about the system. I feel right now I’m not doing anything much that way -- kind of a lull. I gave a lot of time. I was doing stuff for the community -world, whatever -- plus I had kids along the way, kind of packed them along and did things.
But then, the money thing is always there. I needed to get a ‘real’ job again. Right now, although my new job is like a social [reform] thing, because I’m a teacher and I feel like I’m doing good work with that. So I don’t feel totally guilty about doing it. Sometimes I get involved -- I’ve been involved in the city garbage thing lately, where you pay by the bag. I remember thinking we should have been doing that all along -- I couldn’t believe they were having trouble doing it. So I started going to the meetings and applied for a seat on the environmental concerns committee, although I don’t know yet if I’m going to be on it or not. Just to say, if you need me, I’ll do it. If you don’t that fine. Anything that affects the local area, I think I’d get involved. I’m less likely to get involved in international scene -- it seemed after awhile that mainly all you do is call attention to it. And that’s good, but it’s not very rewarding -- you don’t know if it made any difference or not. You do that, have the demonstration, hold the press conference -- same old thing after you do it a hundred times. I like the idea of a local issue better. Hopefully, you’re trying to get something to happen or stop something from happening, see it through, keep on working at it -- it’s within your grasp. There are so many things happening all over the world that are so awful, it’s like I’m sorry, I can’t do anything to help. I do a little with Ox-Fam America, a pledge amount each month that comes out of my bank account.
My children have seen that I care about these issues, and that’s about all I can do, I guess. Later on, I believe they’ll tend to get involved in things that affect them, at least. They’re both young -- kind of unconnected to any of that right now. But then, I never did much until I was out of college, so I feel hopeful for them. One time when I was in college -- and I was a ‘good’ girl, never caused any trouble, always went along with everybody’s program -- but there was one time when I got really mad. They wanted to have a house floor meeting, and they were going to have it really late because some people were going to a play. I wanted to go to bed, and I really got outraged that you had to come to this thing and it was going to be so late, and I decided I wasn’t going to do it. I went to bed. They woke me, and I said I wasn’t going. So they had this whole thing, where I had to go see this lady because I had done something ‘bad’ and I remember another woman who had done the same thing, and we both had to go there, and we had meetings to go to for punishment -- I wrote in my dairy -- ‘maybe I’m becoming a rebel.’ That was my little stand, that this was dumb, this doesn’t make sense, and I’m not going to do, I don’t care what you say, I’m not going to do it -- and that was very new for me, it’s not how I was raised, and not how I conducted my life. That was a little beginning of the anti-establishment for me. I discovered you could rebel and still live.
When I lived in San Francisco, a year after college, I moved into an apartment with a woman and there was some whole wheat flour left over from her last roommate and I made bread, which was the first time I ever had whole wheat bread, handmade, and it was good! Then after I moved to Seattle, I traveled to see my parents in Florida, hitchhiking, taking buses -- I was in a bus station in Florida waiting to go my parents’ house, and I didn’t have anything to read, and I looked through the paperback rack, and Diet for a Small Planet was on there. For some reason, I looked at that and thought it looked interesting. I think it was the front part that interested me, talking about how if we all ate lower on the food chain, the whole economic problem could be solved -- not only would be healthier, there would be more to go around. So I read it and became very interested in what it had to say about eating less meat so that -- not so much a health thing as a political thing -- that you could just eat the grain that the cows eat and have a lot left -- I liked the idea. When I went back to Seattle, I convinced a friend to eat like that, even tho she had a freezer full of meat. We started making some of the recipes, and we loved it. We liked how it tasted.
At that point, it wasn’t so much organic as it was just not so much meat. I kept on enjoying eating that way -- I’m not a vegetarian. But I’ve been basically a vegetarian for 25 years. People ask me why I am, and my reason is always the Diet for a Small Planet idea -- that we’re consuming to much. All the fertilizers, all the things that go into it -- we’re such hogs on so many things. But then, further down the road, I became aware of the organic idea, certainly better not to have pesticides on the food if you can help it. I have a garden and a greenhouse, so I was able to feed my kids very well. My daughter didn’t have any meat for a long time -- I remember when she was playing softball, and the team was having a cookout, and we didn’t want her to have hotdogs, so we had these tofu hotdogs and the cook worked with us, and we got them on the grill and got them to her and nobody had to know the difference. I used to use this baby food grinder and grind up all these good things together to feed them -- I nursed them a long time. They don’t have any allergies. They never had dairy products until much later. We got raw milk -- we were always trying to get good stuff. But then of course when they got older they rejected all that, they wanted the stuff from the store in the carton.
I don’t practice anything, but I have gone to a couple of silent meditation retreats. I wouldn’t say I have a Buddhist leaning, but I enjoy the idea of silence and nature and quieting the mind. I have meditated at various points in my life, but it’s not something I ever did every day. I see the value of it. I walk four miles a day, and I think of that as meditation. I don’t listen to the little tapes -- I’m just out there, go to the park -- take the dogs -- it’s my own type of meditation, a real break in the day, a physical thing -- and it’s in nature. I love to hike, sit by water, a creek - a feel like I have a nature based religion, but it’s not like a real religion. Nature is where I feel close to what made all this -- and what I value. When I look around at a city or town, I’m often repulsed at what I see. I mean, I appreciate a beautiful house or garden or flower, but the strips, it’s like, what have we done. It seems so ugly, if I actually pause to think about it, which I try not to do, since I don’t want to get depressed about it. But when I’m out in nature, it’s like, this is what it’s all about, really. It makes sense to me. It puts me into a calm state. It’s like, ok, it’s all worth it, this is all here, still going. It’s more a pervasive consciousness rather than a thing I do. I know there has to be a higher power up there somewhere, but I don’t have a picture or a name for it. The ‘what is’ is there.
I want to protect nature, make sure some of it is still there, that we don’t just ruin everything. We’ve ruined so many things. Sometimes I do get very out of sorts about the whole thing -- I mean, what is the point? What have we done? We’ve built up all this stuff that -- and yes, I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of it like most people do, but I think I could live without it -- all the stuff that we think we need -- I have a lot of stuff, and I like my stuff, but when I think about what all the manufacturing and everything has done to the earth, sometimes I think we’d be better off to go back. I’m very resistant to the new things that come along - maybe I’m stubborn about it as a way to be, but it seems like well, you didn’t have to have it before, but suddenly now everybody has to have it. I’ve been told I should have air conditioning, and it’s like, why do I need that? I’ve lived this long without it, why do it need it now? I mean, yes, I see the convenience, the benefit, the reason it’s been created -- they provide a service. But it’s another monthly payment. And that’s why everyone is working like crazy, because they’re all caught up in these things they think they have to have to survive. Survival got lost a long time ago, we’re way way past survival. It’s like you have all things you have to maintain, they break, I can only deal with so much of that. I want as little of that as possible. I recently bought another ceiling fan, and I was thinking, now I’ll have to pay someone to put this up because I’ve never put up a ceiling fan, and I started looking at the instructions, and in the end, I was able to put it up, no problem. I had taken a class on electricity in the past, in a time when I wanted to learn every single thing that I could.