Sunday, September 23, 2007


R sat in the living room of her home in Fayetteville, looking out through large windows to a deck that hangs over a steep, wooded hillside. Born 1949 Ohio.

The summer after I graduated from high school, we moved to the Bay area in California, and I started at a convent school in January. While I was at that school, the first Vietnam moratorium was held. That and some flyers that were put up about women’s needs and nobody paying attention to them, and the women’s movement – on the fringes, I noticed it. I was finally away from my parents, away from Cleveland, and in a place where I could think for myself without anyone around to measure it against, and that’s when it finally hit me. What was really strange, was that I’d been going to work – my dad drove me to work every day in Oakland, Berkeley – that was when the People’s Park stuff was happening, we drove right by it. I just thought there was a bunch of junk going on there. I had no concept of what was happening, probably because I was in the presence of my dad and had I said anything, he would have said, oh, just a bunch of troublemakers.

I was heady with the idea that we had all this power and we could think about all these things and change the way our lives were going to go. It wasn’t predetermined according to, in my case, what the nuns, the church, the parents thought I should do. I thought I should do it too. But I thought I should do it within the scope of realizing there was a wide world of possibilities out there and that politics was open, a wide open field. As it turned out, in the ‘70s I was very political. I ran for quorum court, stood up for women’s rights at my job, and got myself fired a few years later. But in the meantime, I got equal pay and compensation for all the women. I got really political in the 70s and it was something I didn’t realize was available to me when I was in high school. I only had two years of college before I went into VISTA. I left college to go into VISTA.

My parents weren’t happy with all these new ideas that were coming out of my head. The protests were very minor, just gathering on the steps in front of the cafeteria. This was a girls’ college of 300, so it was really small. I didn’t have a car, so I didn’t have mobility. We were protesting the Vietnam War. I remember them saying that the war was economic, being waged for economic reasons. I wasn’t really fully aware of what the Vietnam War was while we were still in the ‘60s and while I was still in college. It wasn't really until I got married – I met somebody in VISTA and got married and that’s how I got to Arkansas – his parents talked politics all the time. And he and his brother had both just come back from Vietnam. That’s when I began to realize that I was very much opposed to it – and Senator Fulbright was here at the time, and opposed to it.

Joining VISTA was a result of my new feelings in college and wanting to serve, wanting to do something, make a difference. I had thought about Peace Corps, but my parents said, whoa, why not take care of the people at home first? And I thought about going into the convent, but they told me I would have to wait until I graduated, and they told me I was not ready to be a nun. I had already been accepted into the convent in Cleveland Ohio, and was supposed to go immediately upon high school graduation. But when I went to college and spent two years there, they made me go through all these psychological tests, and they said, you’re too close to your family, and you’re too rigid, and you don’t have a real comfortable relationship with God – well, of course not. So as a result, I couldn’t go to the convent, which is where I thought I was going, and I started looking around because I didn’t want to stay at that school, because it was really expensive. So I decided to take a break from college and come back later on, and go into VISTA and the parents said that was better. They ended up hating VISTA too.

I trained in Oregon and worked in Santa Monica. I worked in a Chicano area. I was supposed to work with preschoolers. VISTA allows you to pick your slot. In fact, we were at one of the new classes where there weren’t enough slots for all the trainees, so we went on strike up in Eugene Oregon while in VISTA training, and refused to leave for our slots until they made the promise that everybody who wanted to have a slot would have one. So I went to Santa Monica and was working with the preschoolers and the community agency I was working with down there decided they would hire somebody to work with the preschoolers – and mind you, I’m 20 years old – and that I could work with Chicano teenagers.

I didn’t know the word ‘fuck’ at that point. I mean, I’d never heard it. But I was beginning to hear it. I still didn’t drive. I was going to have to get my license. And they were going to have me work with Chicano teenagers. I had absolutely no ability and no confidence, and I said, this is crazy, and about that time, V. who had been one of the last people up in Oregon, said this is ridiculous, we’re asking people what kind of housing they want and we’re not able to give them what they’re asking for, so why are we asking them. So he got out, and came down to where I was. I stayed a couple more months, then talked to the director and said, I can’t do this. And they said, how about running the newspaper, and I said, I’m out of here. So V and I got married and came back to Arkansas.

Then I had about three years of being apolitical in Arkansas. We were living in the country with his parents. It was brand new. It was like I traded the cocoon of my parents for another cocoon. Except they talked about different things and they had different viewpoints. They were more Democrat, whereas my parents were more Republican. And then the time came when I realized V wasn’t ever going to want to leave there, and I might, and I left.

As far as drugs go, I couldn’t smoke. I understand Clinton completely. In high school and college, I tried to smoke cigarettes, and the way I would smoke a cigarette was just taking the smoke into my mouth. That was it. And I didn’t enjoy it. And I wanted to try marijuana, because V and his brother were very much into it, and they got their dad into it, and their mother had glaucoma. I don’t know if they ever gave her brownies or not. Anyway, I just couldn’t get it into my lungs and whenever I did, it just didn’t seem to help. V and I were working at the Yellow Brick Road, doing drug counseling for people who were doing heavier stuff.

V and his brother were upset that I couldn’t get high. They made brownies and that didn’t do anything for me. The only time I’ve ever done a drug was a few years later, when I went to Iowa and this guy told me for the second time that he was going to dump me, and here I am, stranded in Iowa, and I had to wait a couple of days to get out of there, and I did some speed. Just one tab, and I was amazed how it made me ignore all the pain I was feeling. So I never really got into drug stuff. My son’s making up for it, I think, with marijuana only, I hope.

K and I have talked about how to deal with this with the kids, and it’s like, that’s a real hard question. It doesn’t really matter how you feel about it, because then you’ve still got the police officers out there, so then my disgust with police officers comes through, and becomes a stereotype, especially now that I’m working at the newspaper. Every chance they get to bust somebody – I mean, they’re looking in cards illegally. And they’re doing it and it just irks the hell out of me, and then I tell [my son] that he has to pay attention to the police because the bottom line is that they can throw him in jail.

By the time I left V, I was reporting on politics. I was looking at a career in journalism. I had been studying that in college. I never went back to school, because after we moved here, I just kind of ... I took a proofreading job at the Times when one of the reporters never showed up for an interview – just walked off the job one day – then I lobbied my way into the job. I knew I could do it, I’d been reading other people’s stories for the last year. So I really knew I could do it. I covered Springdale, which was very conservative. Black people weren’t allowed into the town. The police beat up people. And I saw the police beating up people, just when they were irritated with them. So the justice thing – and of course in ‘74 Nixon resigned and I was at the newspaper when that came in, and we were very excited about that.

The environmental movement – that’s when I really started to push. I talked them into letting me have an environmental page and I covered all the environmental issues for the newspaper. I was against the highway, which is about to open. Against the airport, which is open now. All these things – but then, it is 30 years later so maybe it’s time for them now. And they did change some of the routing and do some things differently than they might have if we hadn’t been in there protesting.

Then Arkansas made this big change in county government that was going to take effect in January of ‘77 – so our newspaper had an editor who sat on the civil service commission and somebody else there was on the planning commission. I had run for the planning commission and no one had said anything. I was covering Springdale so I decided there would be nothing wrong with me running for justice of the peace for my district in Washington County, because the three years I had done Springdale stuff, it hadn’t involved any county stuff. But I had also brought the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suit in against them during that three years. They watched me campaign and never said a word until I won the primary with 74% of the vote against three other candidates. They thought I had no shot at it – there were these three men. And I won it! Then I had this Republican opponent for the general election – and they let it get down to October and then they said, you know if you win this, you’ll be fired. And I said, what?! Can’t you put me on another job, like, a copy editor or something? And, no ... Then I realized they saw this as a way to get rid of me.

I started stringing for the Gazette, and I was on the quorum court, which took a tremendous amount of time, especially that first couple of years when they were putting everything into operation. And I was one of the really active ones that didn’t have a full time job, and I was married to N then, who was the assistant city manager. He actually helped a little in my campaign before I married him. We were living together by the time I started serving and then we got married in 1977. So I had so much politics in my life. I was still writing stories for the Gazette.

A lot of the rural quorum court members didn’t think it was right for the county to spend money on social service agencies, like the Economic Opportunity Agency, Abilities Unlimited, SCAN, the Battered Women’s Shelter. Those were things I fought long and hard for and chaired committees on it, and thought it was really important that we continue to use some county funds toward them. In the past, _ had been the county judge’s right hand man and had been good to these groups, so they were used to getting it. Now there was a quorum court of thirteen who they were going to have to deal with , and it was bad for awhile. But we were able to do it.

I’ve continued to do a lot of environmental writing. I was working for the Grapevine for awhile too – generally, just focusing on making government right. Making people responsible for their actions. I ended up on __’s case because he was taking money for travel, double dipping. He was getting double reimbursement, paying for it on a county credit card, and then turned in receipts for money. Eventually he resigned.

That was in the ‘70s and the Times came down pretty hard on me for doing that. It didn’t seem like they were treating me fairly – even people who campaigned for me – saying it was politics. I remember being so irritated, that they would say it was politics when it was just me doing the right thing. Of course, then things in my head were a lot more black and white than they are now. That’s what you go through. There comes a point in your early 20s when things are black and white and the grays don’t come until the 30s.

I feel like I did a lot of things but the question is, did we make a difference? I say yes, we made a difference, but it’s like you have to keep making a difference, or you have to have new people coming in making a difference. One of the reasons I finally quit writing for the newspapers was that it felt so public, and K and I were having such a hard time getting out of the public eye. I realized I’d been writing on wastewater treatment for nearly ten years. I’d been writing on solid waste problems for ten years. I’d been writing on all these issues for ten years. Ten years later, twenty five years later – the quorum court is still arguing about social service agencies, a piddling amount, and they spend all this energy wondering how they can divide it up so that everybody gets as little as possible, and it just made me upset. It made me feel like, what a waste, to still be doing all this stuff all these years later.

So – you make a difference, and I guess in the scheme of things you can see how things move forward, but it’s just so slow. And I think it’s so slow because of something Carolyn Myss said – she was talking about how the seven chakras in the body have counterpoints in Christianity – the seven sacraments – and in the Judaic tradition with the tree of knowledge, which actually has ten points, but only seven levels – and she was talking about the lowest chakra, the tribal chakra – she says we all start out at the tribal chakra, and the tribe tries very hard to keep everybody at the same place. It can move forward but it is glacially slow movement to get the tribe to see things in a little more enlightened manner. And that just really clicked for me. So she says if you can get out of that tribal chakra and get it up to your heart and throat and head chakra, to where you’re consciously not plugging in and not thinking you have to do everything the way everybody else is doing things, you can move more quickly. And the more people who are doing that, maybe we can get everyone out of the tribal chakra eventually.

That’s the hundredth monkey theory, that you reach a point where you have enough people behaving in a certain way that everybody sort of falls over and starts behaving that way. When I finally understood that, which really was in just the last couple of years, I began to realize that it’s OK that the world is the way it is, but I don’t have to be that slow. And if it takes forever, it takes forever. Everything is happening in the way it needs to, and my way is not necessarily the best way for the world, which is really hard for me to be OK with. I see things and I think that’s how it ought to be, by golly, and I have to catch myself a lot. So staying away from news really helped me a lot, letting go a lot of it. Now I’m back reading the news every night in my new job, and it’s like all night long, I have to remind myself to breathe, say this is all ok, this was all going on when I wasn’t paying attention to it, and all I can do is make sure that I’m as enlightened as I can be and as loving as I can be and that I try to have good contact with whoever is in my life and help raise them up into the light, so to speak. That’s all I can do about Israel, and Kosovo, AIDS in Africa, and all these things.

I used to laugh when I read about a hunger movement, where they didn’t do anything but think about it differently. They didn’t go out and raise money, and they didn’t do a gleaning from the fields, or anything like that. It was just an organization that did nothing more than agree to think about it. I used to think that was a real joke, but now I think there’s even more power in thought than there is in deeds, but I don’t think you can have that power in your thoughts without acting out some of it. I don’t think you can just think about it. I think when you have a chance to give somebody who’s on the street money for food, you do it. But it’s more important to hold it in thought the way you believe it needs to be. So instead of protesting, running to every rally, I go inside and say, what do I need to do in terms of this, and then I can act on it. If it’s just praying about it, or letting it go, realizing I’ve done everything I can do and letting it go, that’s now OK.

I went through a period where I couldn’t find anything spiritual and I kind of developed some thoughts on my own, like – there can’t possibly be a hell because I could never send anybody to hell, so how could God? Things like that. When I saw that the Catholic church – I went to see the priest here and he said you need to involve your husband, he’s the head of your household, the head of your spiritual family – that was the end for me. I thought, there’s no place for women in the church. I’m sorry, I don’t think nuns and all that – it’s so chauvinistic. I know women do a lot more, but it still seems chauvinistic – I didn’t have any use for that. I really thought that everybody had divinity within them. Then – somebody told me about Unity – I went a couple of times and liked what they said, that God was inside, and you followed your inner God, and that everything is as it needs to be. All these things rang true with what I had come to believe.

But it wasn’t until 1992 that I became involved [in Unity]. I did the newsletter and I was on the board for five years. I just got off the board when I got this night job. Reaching a palce where I could be spiritual in a way that fit me – because obviously I felt that way in the ‘60s if I was thinking about becoming a nun – reaching that place has been really joyous. I went through a period where there wasn’t very much joy in my life, and I still go through those periods. But there’s a lot of joy in my life right now, but it has to come from the inside and go out. It’s just a matter of how you think about it, because nothing has changed. You know, nothing on the outside has really changed for me in the last few years. Time is one of my issues – I never seem to have enough time.

I started doing a monthly column in the church newsletter, about how I could take everyday events in my life and show how I could see these in terms of lessons. I would start with a problem and come through. I started doing that, which made me realize that the writing I’d turned my back on was an important talent that I had. It was a way I could express God, or divine ideas, or whatever, and that I should be doing that. But then here I was needing to make money, so there was not a lot of time for it. But I did do that and this year I decided to try to write a little more, and it’s almost like the tribal chakra. I did get a little more output and I did get accepted in a couple of places, all spiritual stuff, and I decided what I would like to do now, if I could find the time to do it. I have a column idea and I’m working on three or four columns that I want to do, called ‘working ethics’ which would run in the business section, which would talk about spiritual principles in the work place, in nondenominational terms. So that’s where I see me headed, and I keep asking God to show me how I’m supposed to get there a little more quickly.

I wish I’d known in the ‘70s that I had so much time. I felt desperate then, doing the writing, doing the wifing, on the quorum court. My days were so full and I was feeling like I didn’t have time. I didn’t even have kids then, or a full time job.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


T talked at her rural work place following a lunch break. Born 1953 Louisiana, then Texas.

I remember Woodstock, but I was too young. I wanted to be involved. I had two brothers, a brother-in-law, and a cousin who all went to Vietnam. That’s when I really became aware, because my mother was real present with that, conscious of telling us all the time, we have brothers, we have family there, we have to watch this, we have to be aware. She wasn’t anti-war until they started shooting students, then she was like, I don’t know what is going on in this country, but those are our children. We shouldn’t be shooting them. I remember her walking, wringing her hands, saying, this ain’t right. Up until then, you support your government, that’s what she was taught, you known. Everybody came home. We were really blessed. Everybody. And they’re still well. They didn’t talk about the experience. You could see the visible change in all of them.

When I was a junior or senior in high school is when I started realizing that for one, there was nothing for the girls in school to do – no sporting events, no organized sports at all for girls. That’s when I started recognizing that there was nothing going on if you’re not a foo-foo girl – cheerleaders or drum and bugle. There were no outlets. The women’s movement seemed kind of vague and put-on-ish to me, because my mama and aunts and everybody just did it because they had to. So I’m looking at these women getting all this press, thinking, bring your cameras, ok? I could show you some women that have been doing it raising children, doing everything alone.

We moved from being sharecroppers in northern Louisiana to the refineries in Texas. The oil boom was going on. I was 3 or 4. By the time I was six, my father was in the hospital with terminal illnesses by heavy metals in his system. There was no EPA. There was nothing. I remember thinking why would they let somebody work where it would hurt them. And I was little. Yet, my mother was one of the most optimistic people in the world. She’d say, “Now you hold your head up, girl. Nobody knows your situation. You’re not any less or any more than any other individual because of this.” All the men were gone. They died from lack of environmental protection laws that allowed them to work in places that killed them in a very short time. My father never came home except on weekend passes and died when I was ten.

So my aunts and my mother just did it. We lived in town when he got sick, and then moved out to a farm because my mom knew that. We had milk cows and chickens; we sold milk and butter; we raised a huge garden. We never went without. But we knew we were poor. One pair of shoes. Lots of kids. My mother was uneducated, too, so she harped on us getting an education. But then we get in school and there’s no support for that. Even though I had good grades, there was no counselor once suggesting that I should apply for scholarships. They just were not available. They told me, get married, have some kids. So that’s what I did.

By the time I had children, I looked up and found myself in the mountains in North Carolina. That was my first experience with anything, and that’s when I decided, you know what, I can live in the woods. I was raising gardens, I can do this. My husband was a Marine. That’s why I was in North Carolina. Lived there for six years. That didn’t last. The 60s helped me see a way out of putting up with a situation that you married into because that’s what you were taught to do. My mother would tell me, “Look your daddy died real young and I was stuck with all these kids. Don’t you leave this man.” We were taught it’s until death do you part, quite literally. I believed that, until I looked around and said to heck with this. There’s only so much any individual ought to have to take.

I had to tell my mother that she taught me that I didn’t need that fool dragging me down. She said I never taught any such thing, and I said, yes, you did, by example. I cannot stay when I can obviously see I’d be better off if I came home and lived with my sister – you know, whatever it took.

I’ve always been kind of different from my family. I have really different views. Maybe it was just the times. Being raised in a huge southern city, a big sprawling ugly nasty greasy oil dripping from the sky. It’s the armpit of the world. Then getting out in the mountains, it was like, I will not raise my children in Baytown, Texas. That put me on the path. I started gathering books, how-to books, survival books, and taught myself just from books about herbs and flowers and plants you could eat if you had to. It wasn’t until I got to Arkansas that I actually practiced that.

I had a three year old and an infant when we moved to Arkansas. He came with me. I gave him a choice, you can stay or come with me, I don’t care, this is what I’m doing. I had written a bunch of letters to addresses I got out of Mother Earth News, kind of a yuppie thing at the time, everybody had Mother Earth News, you had your Foxfire books, you know. The big Whole Earth Catalog. I still have one. I have the Last Whole Earth Catalog. I wrote to places in Australia and New Zealand. I wanted a caretaker’s job. I just wanted to leave Baytown and I was broke. Anywhere. That’s how I ended up in Arkansas. He came with me.

My mother was such a worrier, she made me feel guilty, so I wouldn’t do things with other kids my age because I knew it would upset my mother if I got caught. I didn’t start smoking pot or drinking until I was already 18 and living out of her house. I was always the one who was the designated driver. So I was a poor kid but I got to drive other people’s cars. That worked out real well. When everybody else was tripping and everything, I was thinking, yeah, well, you don’t have my mother. The last thing I would do was lay a burden on her. That’s what I had seen my whole life, that she had done nothing but struggle.

But after I was 18 and left home was when I did all the experimenting. I’ve always been kind of an oddball. I only did LSD one time, and I was gone. It scared me. I said I’ll never do that again. All I’ve done is peyote and mushrooms since. Well, I was about 30 before I did any of that, because I was a big chicken. I was married to an alcoholic who did any drug possible, so I was kind of anti- for quite awhile, because if I joined in then, see, I couldn’t badmouth him. So I kind of had an attitude – it wasn’t until I got to Arkansas, around 24 or 25, when I started relaxing and realizing that I could smoke a little bit. I’m such a moderate person, I don’t do anything except maybe eat too much. I’ve never felt like drugs altered my lifestyle much.

I really and truly believe that the back to the land thing – you know, I’d been raised in that and I saw that as easy. I didn’t have a good education, but could grow some vegetables, you know. It was a way of keeping my kids safe, raising them with proper food. I couldn’t do that in the city. I had a tiny little yard and every inch of that yard was food. My neighbors thought I was some kind of quack. My house didn’t look like other people’s houses. I knew that if I just lived out where I didn’t have nosy neighbors and people judging me all the time, I’d probably be more comfortable and I could focus more on what it is I might could do. Because I didn’t know.

I’ve lived in so many places, under a bluff, in a tent, and this is with children. I’ve done it all. I’ve had an adventure. Somebody answered a letter that I had written inquiring about caretaking an old farmhouse. He ended up being a kook. I lived in the farmhouse with his wife and children and me and my kids, then it turned into this big – they were trying to build some kind of commune or something. Well, when you’ve been raised in a large family and you know how it works, I got real impatient with them. It’s like, this isn’t going to work, people. It’s not practical. It’s some idea they had, some idealistic lifestyle, and I’m a pretty take-charge person. This guy wanted to be some kind of guru or something, but I was there because I could see there were gardens already established, different little dwellings, you know. I’m not into a lot of peripheral stuff. I’m real tolerant. I’ll put up with everybody’s stuff, until they want to dictate my stuff.

I learned so much, just be being able to meet the locals. I’ve been around her now for twenty years. My daughter just turned 20 and she was 18 months old when I came to Arkansas. My husband would go on binges and end up being gone for days at a time, and I’d call every hospital and police department. Never could depend on him at all. As poor as we were when I was raised, we were never once on welfare or public assistance. My mother taught me to be so ashamed of it that I was willing to live under a bluff with my children with what little I could do, and then finally I said, this is nuts. I went into human services. It was only about a month or six weeks in the summer time. It was a party to the kids. They thought we were camping. I just let them believe that mama was fine. I had learned by then to have lots of dried grains, and we’d cook everything from scratch, and I grew a little garden patch. But I went to the DHS and they got me lined out and I got some really good friends here and stayed with them for awhile, then I decided to go tree planting.

So I took my kids back to Texas to stay with my sister and my mom. So that’s how I got up out of the dirt, just deciding. Tree planting, that’s slave labor. The irony is, of all the years my mother told me I had to stay with that fool, he’s the one who ended up just leaving. He was gone once for a year, and that’s when I said, I’m done. I’m not calling anywhere, I don’t care where he is, I’m done. And that’s when I went tree planting.

I truly believe that the universe prepares us – you can call it “God,” name it, whatever. The universe prepares us for what we need to do. Once you are grown and an enlightened individual, all the stuff can fall into place, all the things you didn’t understand. Like, no wonder I had to do that because I’d be messed up right now if I hadn’t done that. I went tree planting. I’ve been a laborer all my life, my parents were laborers. It was easy for me, and people were out there struggling. It was like, for once in my life, I’ve got something going on, you know. It felt so good to come home with thousands of dollars – had a bank account, you know. But knowing that all my aunts and mother, you know, they worked right alongside men and got paid less than the men their entire lives and here I was right up there with the men, beating them sometimes, planting more than they did.

I’ve married a man who already had a piece of property, and we’ve added to it so we own forty acres, and it’s completely self-sufficient. We have all solar power and produce our own electricity in the wintertime from a waterfall. We try to grow all our own food, but that is a struggle. That was my goal, I see that now. All those how-to books, books on root-cellaring, all the stuff I dreamed 20 years ago, really, I know it now. I know it as a fact that I can do it. Without all those struggles, I’m sure would not appreciate it. We have not chosen an easy lifestyle.

I’d always wanted to live close to the land. My mother would say, “Honey why do you have to do something so hard? I worked all those years to get you up out of that dirt.” To her, being a laborer is something she didn’t want for her kids. I’ve got a brother who’s a millionaire, a big executive. If she had to count each one of us and our professions, she’s got pretty much everything. She did a good job. Nobody’s in jail. Nobody’s a drug addict.

The land is my religion, it’s what I believe. You’ll see some real high society lady and she’s looking at something she’s going to purchase, something real earthy, that doesn’t even look like something she’s want. I think people desire to have earthy things near them, on them. We are part of the earth. So your spirit is diminished if you don’t have that in your life. That’s why we decorate, we make our surroundings reflect what we need in our lives. If you could come to my house, which is this incredibly tiny little house, it’s in this beautiful spot. We don’t need beautiful floors and all that, because we have the surroundings. I truly believe that the reason I live where I live is because my spirit needed it. When I was in Baytown, I was so tired of living like I was living, living with an alcoholic, I literally got on my knees and said, ok, God, I’m done, ok? I’m going to give these kids away and I’m going to go jump off in front of the nearest train, because I can’t live like this anymore. When is it going to be my turn, and I can relax? I’m not a Bible scholar, or even a student, but the words Ecclesiastes 3:11 popped into my head, so I run and look it up. This verse says, there is a time for everything under the sun, a time to reap and a time to sow. So when I read that, I said, ok, that’s pretty blunt. If you don’t know the Bible and this comes right into your head, then you’re thinking, ok, I’ll look it up. And then I realized it was my turn.

I’m not rich but I’m comfortable. I own my own land, I’m self sufficient. The world could fall apart and yes, we’d struggle, but we’d be ok. We have gone that far. The thing that’s inside me is that the rewards are finally coming. My mother did not come to see me for 11 years. She would not come to Arkansas. What she thought was, it was the Beverly Hillbillies or something. She’d seen poverty and degradation her whole life and she thought that’s what I was doing. But she’s living in an ugly horrible place and I live in something that’s beautiful. Then she came and was so amazed. I’ve got a flush toilet in my house, all the comforts of home. It’s just hard to get to. All my sisters came too.

Somebody told me I must have an old soul. I like to be with the earth and with people who appreciate it. I didn’t come here knowing about solar energy and all that, but I wanted to stay in harmony with it. I went 18 years without a phone. I just got a phone this last year. I didn’t want them running a line down through there, it was too destructive. We live on the creek – it’s very fragile. I’m a woman warrior for the creek. I’ve stood in front of the road grader and said, “No, get out of here. You can run me down but you’re not doing this.” They come to grade the road and they have this one method that doesn’t work. I’ve watched the road for 20 years now. I know what that road needs, and if they’re not going to do it, I’d rather maintain it ourselves. We’ve maintained it for years. If we let them come down into the holler – it’s so fragile – you change it just a little bit and it’s changed for years. It’s the Felkins Creek, and it enters into the Kings River. We’ve in the headwaters. It’s pretty wild and wooly. There’s times we have to hike out. We have a highwater trail, and we park our car on the bluff and it takes about a 15-minute walk to get down to the house, because the creek’s roaring and we can’t get in or out.

T has a sawmill. He cuts lumber for people. He’s a wonderful artist and carpenter. A handyman. He can do anything somebody tells him to do. He’s making a lot of money now, building staircases and really nice things in houses, not furniture. He’s so much older than me in spirit that he calms me down.

My son’s 23 and he’s studying to be a doctor. I have a 20-year-old daughter M who goes to the university in Fayetteville and then a 12-year-old C. These two girls have been raised in these mountains and they take it so for granted. I’ll see them out there and think, God I would have given anything if somebody had brought me out here when I was 11 years old. C thinks nothing of it, she just takes off, she’ll be gone 2-3 hours. She’s building a fairy house or just doing her thing, totally unafraid. Now the bear in the area got her scared. He was really big. She knew if her dogs ran from him, she probably needed to be afraid of it. Otherwise it wouldn’t have occurred to her to be afraid if the dogs hadn’t signaled her to run. And when I look at them and think you know, this is exactly what I wanted, they’ll walk out there barefooted at night and not even think about how some people would be terrified. So I raised the little earth mothers that I hoped to raise.

I’m proud to say that all three of my kids were straight-As – these kids are really smart. And I attribute that to being able to grow without that fear. The impact on society as a whole is that I’ve improved it. I smoked around my kids. I asked my son when he was a teenager, what do you think? I was concerned – I love my kids and would never do anything detrimental to them. My thought was, I had some cousins who snuck around, be all up in the room, you know, hiding from their kids to get high. Anyway, I asked my son – I wanted to make sure – I said, “What would be the difference that you could point out to me how I was different after I smoked?” and he said, “You didn’t say ‘no’ as often. You said ‘yes’ more often.”

My bigger kids were raised around alcoholic behavior and that’s what M told me. She said, “Mama, I saw grown-ups be really stupid on beer and whisky and I never saw you do anything on pot.” She said, “I see you and your girlfriends – there is no difference.” And C, with the new programs – Just Say No – and the drug day and all that, her papa and I sat her down and asked her, and she said, “Well one thing they tell us is that pot’s for losers. Y’all don’t look like losers to me.” See she’s coming home with information that’s not applying. I de-program her regularly. She would say, “Well, mom, it’s illegal.” And I said, “There are things that are legal in this world that shouldn’t be, like tobacco – millions and millions are dying from it. They are making people addicted to it. There’s millions to be made from it. The illegality is like a political thing that’s in our time.” I said, “When my mama was a young woman, alcohol was illegal. So she grew up thinking that her uncles were these horrible sinners and really it was just beer, just a little corn squeezin’s they were drinking down there. They weren’t doing anything wrong on a Saturday night. They went to church Sunday morning with straight faces.” It is illegal and I have discussed that with C because it worries her.

She has a little friend who has two lesbian moms, you know. This little girl is so thrilled that she can come to our house and be herself and talk about Jay – now Jay is a woman, so quit pretending that Jay is a man, like she does at school. I want her to not feel embarrassed, to relax. She’s a little girl. She shouldn’t have to create subterfuge to cover for her parents. I want to be able to help her – because I believe it takes a village to raise children – so she can see somebody stand up and say, “You know what, B, – it’s OK.” As a matter of fact, this last weekend, we confided to her that my oldest son is a gay man. She was so relieved.

My 20-year-old daughter appears to be heterosexual, but she took a girl to the prom. I was so proud of Kingston [school], because I was ready to go to bat for the girls. I was ready to give the school a hard time, but they didn’t bat an eye. I went in the office and told those ladies how really proud I was of them because they could have made an issue of it.

Once, as an activist we met the foresters up in the woods. See when Newton County Wildlife Association was doing their whole big thing – they’re over on the Buffalo, see, and we’re on the Edgmon side. We didn’t have any group. There was nine of us standing up in the woods, no support whatsoever. We read that poor park ranger, I mean, we read him the riot act. We had him up against a tree for awhile. He was really good, gave me his personal number and everything, because I told him, “Number one, I didn’t even get notified. My property borders this land, but because I only have forty little acres and friends of ours own 196 – they didn’t even live here and they got it in the mail.” I said, “I know we’re just a small little group, and it’s going to happen, it’s after the fact. It’s happening right now. We should have been notified.” I said, “Where did you read that, that you can cut the woods and it doesn’t affect the waterways? You don’t live here,” is what I told him. “Obviously you don’t live here, because the truth of it is, it does. It’s truly foolish, and I’m not going to argue the point with you.” I told him, “You have your college degree, but I live here and I know.”

I know that my grandfather cut timber, but he cut timber with mules and would have never considered it proper to do what they do today. And he didn’t have chainsaws or anything. And then, my mother and father were sharecroppers, and their concept of working hard on something that wasn’t theirs was passed down to me. It stems from the fact that that’s what they had to do to survive. My mother took that after my father was gone and made it an issue in our lives. She said, “I want you to get an education, but I also want you to know how to live off the land in case you have to.” So my whole focus of getting on the land wasn’t just from one point of view. It was presented to me in a way, like when I bought all my books and I was all excited that you can learn things from books. But there’s some things you just have to do. And without the experience of my upbringing making me more confident, I might not have found the connection. I never knew how rewarding it would be. Even when I was living under the bluff, camping out at night, feeling like, you know, this must be what my ancestors were doing thousands of years ago, they were sitting up by a campfire guarding their children. At least, I don’t have to do that. There’s no wolf going to jump out and eat my kids. I might have this drunkard up on the main road down here after awhile, but that would be the only thing, you know. It wasn’t a frightful thing to me. Concerned maybe. I’m not much of a scaredy cat.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


B-- piled up in an overstuffed chair in the small den of his home in an older part of Fayetteville. Born 1951, Texas.

My first awareness of the 60s was underground radio 1968, music of great rock n rollers: Hendrix, The Doors, The Band, It’s a Beautiful Day, and on and on, Beatles -- midnight to six in the morning. I stayed up late to listen to it. It was my introduction to anything alternative. I was in high school. It made me aware that there was life out there beyond the Church of Christ and the South, beyond the swimming pool. My time was mostly consumed by swimming team and athletic training, which was sometimes three times a day, so my time was filled with swimming, school, homework, and sleep.

I had always had a crew cut. In ‘68, I started to let my hair grow. I flipped over to the other extreme, quit going to church, started listening to rock and roll. My mother blames me for her nervous breakdown. I was offered a partial athletic scholarship to the University of Texas, but I was not ready to go to college. I got into the job market. Pasadena is an industrial town, petroleum, and there were easy jobs. I was making good money for a 17-yr-old, paying for a car, driving 2000 miles a month for fun. It was Toyota -- ‘69 model, one of the first in the country. I was in hog heaven in a way, had a girlfriend, new car, and I started buying music.

I had quit watching television in the 10th grade. The rest of the family would sit around in the evenings, watching TV, and I would go out and lie on a blanket in the backyard and watch the stars. That’s when I started noticing satellites going over. Then one night one started making right angle turns in the sky and you know it wasn’t a satellite. I don’t know what it was. My whole family saw this thing. It wasn’t one of those deals where it went into the shadow of the earth because it was moving toward the sun. I have no other experience with UFOs. But we all saw it. We weren’t hallucinating.

In ’70 I discovered a book by a writer named Jess Stern, called Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation. I bought it a convenience store across the street from this business where I worked and started doing yoga. I read the whole book and started doing yoga. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Once I got off into doing yoga, I began to experiment with changing diet, doing different kinds of exercises, messed around a little with martial arts, swam periodically just to keep in touch with how the water feels and how the stroke feels, and that set me on a new course of an inner path. Instead of looking for the answers outside of me, I began to look for a peace of soul on the inside of me. It made my parents really wonder about me. I was considered the black sheep of the family for many years.

I was having metaphysical experiences. I was getting real high. After several months of doing very intense yoga, I was having these experiences where I was very aware of being in my body but I didn’t know where I was, who I was -- it was totally mind blowing. I was afraid someone would find me and ask me who I was and I wouldn’t be able to tell them. Those experiences would only last about five minutes and then I would regain my normal consciousness.

I never had any big ambition. In the 30 years I’ve been out of high school, I’ve not done many things more than two years. Any more, it’s just that I want to be present in my moment. I want to be a decent dad to my kids. That’s the first long-term thing that I took on, when D-- and I got pregnant in ‘84 and I decided this is what I’m going to do. I’m going be a dad, regardless of what else I do. I’ve had a variety of jobs and small businesses.

I had visions when I was 15 -- about the time I quit watching television. I had a vision that we live on the electron of an atom. Our solar system is an atom, and we live inside some organ or tissue of a molecule, a cell, organic, in the body of God, which I call Fred, to be familiar. As the years went by, especially once I got into these other metaphysical experiences, this idea began to more clearly evolve for me. As it evolved, I ran into a most remarkable book that described the universe as organic. It’s a psychic channeling that came through an Iowa dentist in 1879, or something like that. It’s still in print, as a matter of fact. It fit in with my own ideas. It described the movement of this electron on this atom of this molecule -- it made me think, gosh, we’re in the bloodstream. Then that film came along, “Fantastic Voyage,” which was originally an Isaac Asimov book, and these ideas came together that wow, what if we’re part of chlorophyll, and we’ve come into the body through the mouth of the cow, we’re in the digestive tract, or we’re in the blood, maybe we’re hemoglobin carrying oxygen and the brain will give off oxygen and that will be part of thought, and that will be God realization. There are all kinds of interesting ideas about the spirituality of biology, or the biology of spirit. I’ve carried that idea most of life now, that everything is organic. The possibilities then exist that within this human body there are infinite worlds, and I should take care of it because I may be God for all the beings that are in there looking up at me like I’m looking up at Fred. If infinity is real, then everyone is right in the middle.

I had met P---- in ‘75 -- it was like he was my brother, and we still feel that way. We came to Arkansas on a visit and had an immediate affinity for the land. I found out later my grandmother had been raised in West Fork. I decided right then that I wanted to live here. I was introduced to T-- who was the yoga lady, and I asked if I could hang out, and she said please come. I had done a little yoga teaching at a YMCA in Texas. My philosophy was a sound mind in a sound body. I embraced the whole philosophy of non-violence, turn the other cheek. I held onto the golden rule, the ideas of Jesus and Ghandi, that non-violence is the best example.

When the race riots were going on in the 60s, the Houston police basically said “niggers don’t show your face on the street, because we’ll machine gun you.” They shot some guy who came in from Chicago to lead a demonstration, and he was there a couple of days and was standing on the front steps of a church and a sniper on the roof of a building across the street shot him down. That was how the Houston police dealt with the blacks.

I would have protested the war. I had a sense about it. My religion taught me that I shouldn’t kill, and I would have done any amount of brown-nosing, office work, driving, you name it -- to avoid having to carry a rifle to go kill or be killed. I know I could have gotten away with it, being a conscientious objector, on religious grounds. I would have stuck to my convictions. I was very fortunate that I was in the lottery and my number came up so high that I was never drafted. I was 1-A for three years with no student deferment. It was scary. But I never burned my draft card; I was too afraid. I still have a lot of respect for authority. I didn’t have respect for the Nixon administration, but I respected him as a man, and after all he was the president of the United States. I don’t necessarily like every thing that Bill Clinton does but he’s the president and I feel a certain respect -- and at least, he’s getting laid. I definitely respect him for that.

I feel like I’m guided along by the fates. I’m one of those drivers who will be driving along and have a sense that just over the next hill there’s something, so I’ll slow way down, and sure enough, I top the hill and somebody will be stopped, or somebody turning out of a driveway -- I pick up on that stuff. I cultivate that ability through meditation. Knowing that there is an awareness that reaches beyond the five senses and that it comes in stillness and just being aware. I don’t always know how I know.

Like The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle’s book -- there’s a character in there named Schmindrik, and he fashions himself after Merlin the magician. Schmindrik is this wannabe who tries in vain to make things happen. Anytime any of his comrades are in danger, there’s this bolt and it knocks him on his butt, knocks him out. He gets up and everything is ok, and he has no recall of anything happening, except everybody is ok and safe, and they all think he’s a wonderful wizard, but he never witnesses it because it always knocks him out. It’s a great image. That magic happens around us not because we can do it but perhaps because we need it. That’s kind of the way I feel about this ability. I’ve been a kind of counterculture person, not because I wanted to be, but just because these were my needs.

In ‘73 and ‘74, I worked around the biggest health food store in Houston, called Ye Seekers Horizon, run by a guy and his wife. He used a pendulum to guide his business decision making. There were all these great groovy wonderful marvelous people learning to do yoga there – meditation, tai chi – and eat well. We had positive visions of ourselves and our future. We knew that someday we’d have to get our little skinny asses out of the city and back to the land. There were books like the First Time Farmers Guide, The Farm, bunches of great stuff. We knew there would be place for us, and we had visions of moving out to the country in east Texas-- a bunch of us going en masse and starting our own little community, growing our own food, raising children to be close to the earth, all this wonderful, idyllic stuff.
But then by ‘77 when this still hadn’t happened and we wondered if it ever would, I moved to Tyler, which was closer to east Texas and away from Houston. I had a dream in Tyler that I was sitting on a football bench, about 5000 feet up, looking down at this beautiful dark green -- so green it almost looked blue -- forest, through which ran this really beautiful super blue-green river -- and I was so thrilled by this beautiful picture below me ... I leaned over to get a closer look, and when I did, the bench tilted, and I slid off the bench and fell, and of course, I’ve long had the ability to stop falling in dreams, because I used to get the shit scared out of me several times a year in falling dreams, and I would end up crying and sweating in my room, and I learned to stop myself with will power. So I landed, rather than crashed, and then later, when I got to the Ozarks, I realized that where I’d fallen in my dreams was the Buffalo River. So here I am.

Then I realized too that this is the kind of country that would have been best for that little group of people in Houston. I thought maybe I could eventually bring all those people up here to these beautiful woods and rivers -- but they’re running businesses in Houston. Yuppies. Beautiful yuppies. I don’t envy them.

Have you ever wondered what would be the best thing to do if we had some kind of economic apocalypse in this country? Most people think, let’s run away to the woods. I don’t. I think, let’s stick tight to this town where all our buddies are, because it will be safer to stick together than to run off in a thousand different directions, split up, be easy prey for the predators, if it ever comes to that. Stay close to town -- and that’s not what people will expect to do. We’re walking distance to large open fields that haven’t been covered with apartment buildings and parking lots. Water is a problem, but we’re walking distance to the White River.

I think part of my vision is, what if it’s never violent? What if it’s totally peaceful, what if something snaps in everyone’s brain and all tendency toward violence is gone from them. What is the rapture, the Biblical thing? It’s from the Latin “rapt” -- to seize -- the word rape comes from the same word, as does raptor the bird. They’re all the same word. That seizing of the soul may be a seizing of the body, where some event occurs -- and let me say, here is where the metaphysical comes in -- an electromagnetic change on this planet, a change in the sun, or something from space -- suddenly -- and as one old man described this to me, someone who knows that word -- said that everyone just lies down and goes to sleep -- that’s what the rapture is. It may not be painful. It may be that a small percentage of us would not go totally to sleep.

There is a certain frustration with the status quo, with the way things are going on this planet, and to me it’s funny -- now, if they kill me, they make me stronger. I do not listen to radio, watch TV, I do not read newspapers. I pay no attention to the news. I cannot tell you what the stock market has done since it went over 4800. I don’t care any more. I’ve totally let go of all that. I live in my own world. I make my own news. I catch glimpses and pieces of this and that, and most of it is violent, absurd, empirical.

I used to write a column poking fun at corporations and bureaucracies, my favorite targets. Now, what little of that kind of thing I do is pointed at corporate consumerism. I mean, the national religion is consumerism. When I read back on material I wrote in the 80s, the very first one I wrote is still probably the best of all -- “Are you illiterate? Send for a free, one dollar brochure.” It’s like, corporate haiku. Yes, I dream of getting published. I mean, if I do have a dream, it’s that someone will discover this material and help me get rich. I had a major literary agent in New York in the late 80s show my work for a year, and she couldn’t get anybody to buy it. Now, it’s out there on the Internet.

If a man doesn’t have a good sense of himself, then he’s not going to get a good sense of that woman who’s the mother of his children. It’s really difficult sometimes to come to peace with my own expectations and desires, and to keep coming back in to me, asking who am I, what am I doing, what did I decide to do -- I wanted to be not only the good dad, but it means also the good husband. Whatever that means. Here’s the key word: sacrifice. There’s this image that a sacrifice is like being nailed to a stick, when in reality, the word means ‘work made holy.’ (Sacre: sacred; and fice, is from the Latin, ficare, which means, work or to work.) So, a work made holy comes back around to, what is it I can do that serves the greater good and not me personally, selfishly.

In the me-generation, a lot of people decided to go out there and get what they could for themselves. I did that early, and I retreated hard from it. In fact, I missed the meat crisis because I didn’t eat meat, and I missed the gasoline crisis because I didn’t buy much gas, and the real estate land prices and oil prices [crises] -- I missed all those because I wasn’t buying or selling any of that stuff. I was just living, on my own, for myself, not having a committed relationship, and finding out who I am and what are my capabilities -- what do I want to do.

I feel a great sense of satisfaction in being a dad and partners with D--. She’s absolutely the best at what she does. I’m real proud of her. And I can support her by helping be the handyman here, with the many skills I have. I learned to do carpentry, plumbing, electrical stuff, small engine repairs, I do the cars, the roof, the foundation, I do my own human body. I even do my own hair. I don’t do my own teeth, though. I don’t have the right bit for my Black and Decker. With all these skills I can help make the yoga center possible, because we don’t have to spend lots of money for maintenance and upkeep. I do all that and that’s part of my contribution to D--’s business and the family.

I think there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on men to have the ‘right woman.’ I mean, it’s one of those weird ironies. All on television and Madison Avenue tells you that the woman you want has this really great shape, you know, nice boobs and this really beautiful body. But then, when she’s pregnant, she doesn’t fit that mold anymore, you know -- her butt’s going to spread, and her belly is going to drop after she’s a mom -- so are her boobs. And then she’s not going to look like that model anymore and that disappoints men, because we’re not taught that this is going to change when the woman has children. Guys need some education.

I think the 60s generation was a wake-up call to the military-industrial complex, which Eisenhower warned us about in ‘53 -- and we didn’t get it. It took the Vietnam war and a whole other consciousness. I think it was the music more than anything that changed the generation’s consciousness. “There’s something happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear..” My kids listen to that, too. Somehow we decided it wasn’t necessary for all our brothers to go to Vietnam and die.

It seems like we’re all part of a change, and we’re just swept along by it, like flotsam in a wave is pushed toward shore. It’s some greater thing than we. I don’t know why I’ve been so different all my life, but I have been. It wasn’t because of the 60s. The music of the 60s certainly changed me, but here’s this interesting thought. I got so totally into the music that I quit listening to the news and watching television. I love the music. That’s all I listened to and ignored the rest of it because I was so thrilled by the music. We’d buy the LPs, read the words as we listened, and smoke dope. Cool, man. So what was happening to us? It seems as if something got lost there, a tendency away from the desire to go to war.

I have a greater sense of well, that’s cool, let’s just let it be, peace, dude, you know. I don’t want to argue over any point, anything -- recycle, alternative medicine -- let’s look at it first. Seems like that once upon a time we were truly opinionated and it was easy to sway public opinion against the Nazis. Everybody hated the Nazis. But then, in the 60s and 70s, we became a more global people and people from all over the world were being all over the world. I mean, the University of Houston was an incredible school. There were kids from every continent. It was hard to sit next to your Chinese friend -- your Asian friend -- and support the war in southeast Asia, where her brother would be shot in the name of democracy and oil. Somewhere, a conscience got turned on. We began to get a sense of it, that it’s not right to go kill those people because they’re different. What are they protecting? Their homes. What are we protecting? Some ideal called democracy -- and capitalism. Ambrose Spear said: Christianity is a good idea. Too bad nobody practices it. Maybe it was George Bernard Shaw. I forget.

It seems that the technology of war is what made the Gulf War so desirable. Because there’s this idea that with computers and technology, I can remain removed from it, like it’s a video game, like the enemy is just a dot. This device shows me a target. Not a human being. Not a father, brother. Not a man with feelings or a life of his own, who’s only struggling to feed his children and love his wife, and he’s protecting his home. He’s just a target on a computer monitor and I can go, boom, and, target eradicated, heh heh heh, I hit the target. Why the hell don’t we just have more video games for these guys, instead of sending them over there?

Why do we seek this blood sport? What is that we really want? I think the 60s began to show us that there’s an end to this ancient desire to kill and to risk being killed, and that’s another way of getting along. It’s almost like they are the symptoms of an evolution of some kind in our consciousness.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


M-- interviewed in a friend’s home in the woods near her workplace. Born 1950, Arizona, middle class.

We were down here [in Arkansas when I was 16] on vacation visiting my aunt and my mother had a heart attack. She was in real estate and under a lot of pressure. I totally fell in love with the Ozarks, and I’ve been here ever since. And I was a real desert rat, city girl. Our family was very dysfunctional. Of course, when I was growing up I thought it was typical. I actually moved here from Phoenix as a teenage girl totally unaware that there was any other type of culture or attitude about anything except what I grew up with.

I ended up pregnant from a date rape situation with a man I did not even especially care for. I was 16 and a half. It’s a good thing I loved the Ozarks so much, because it was like one night I went to bed and I was this little girl in some kind of sheltered life in a perfect scenario, and then all of a sudden this whole scene happens. Fortunately, it was right there in the 60s, on that cusp of where -- when I broke free from childhood, I also broke free into a cultural time and atmosphere of ok, go for it, which wouldn’t have been possible for [women in other times]. So instead of having the effect of oh my god my life is over, it’s like ok now in what way does this limit my choices and we’ll go from there. Anything’s possible.

I think the 60s had a great impact on me, so much so that I unplugged from something at that point. Even though I did all the traditional things, I realized that somehow I don’t fit into this picture very well. I began to think, I don’t know if I’m just not ‘good, respectable,’ or if I just don’t want to go there, or why this doesn’t make sense to me. When I was going to have a baby, it was like, well, this is my first experience and there’s a lot about this I want to know. Then I met that glass wall of professional specialists that didn’t want to be questioned, didn’t want to take the time to explain to a 16 year old girl who’s going to have a baby against everybody’s advice including the doctor’s to have an abortion. It was like, hey wait a minute this is my life after all, and maybe I am too young to have a baby, but if God can make a baby in nine months, maybe he can make a mother in nine months too. I wanted to play this out my way.

I was always against the flow of most of my family, most of my friends, most of the circle I was in -- I was in a real traditional small town mentality. There was no freedom for being different. I was dressing different. I came from a modeling background, too -- and it was like, no, I don’t think I need to be one more of your fashion drones.

It wasn’t so much that I was suspicious as that I didn’t want it crammed down my throat. The women’s movement in Arkansas at that time was pretty weak, and in fact, I was probably at the cutting edge of it because I had had a baby and I was so horrified at the whole way they handled it, the medical world, that was my first protest. I said, now wait a minute. I went in there, I had no ax to grind. I was just a woman who happened to be pregnant, very young. I ended up at the end of this experience feeling like nobody gave me a fair deal. They didn’t prepare me for it. I was treated like some kind of cattle. Interns came in because they were training and got to examine me -- it was handled so insensitively. And people trusted this. I thought, there’s a lot that needs to be investigated and changed. I believed in change, not only for me but for women who might not be so confident to say, I don’t care that I’m 16, I don’t want to be put out, and I want to nurse my baby. Stop this. I know what’s happening here. Sure enough, they knocked me out anyway. I had taken the [labor] pain, all the way through transition, then [they sedated me] because it’s a lot easier for the doctor to do whatever he has to do if you’re not going to resist. That’s when I became a radical. I became real involved in home birth.

I chose my battles wisely. I wasn’t someone who was into a lot of protests. They weren’t real common here in Arkansas. [Mine were] private protests, in childbirth, home delivery, better preparation. Those were issues where I was victimized by the system. I wasn’t prepared for the real world. I did believe that the only thing that could account for it being that way was that people just let it. It couldn’t have gotten there overnight. I decided I didn’t want to just let it. I probably couldn’t stop it, but I could definitely disconnect from it. My husband and I have six children -- he had a child by a previous marriage too, and then we had four together -- but all four were born at home. Wonderful birthing experiences, it totally changed my life. The first three I had an African woman -- midwifery was her ministry and she was a wonderful experience. She did her own lab work. That woman, who probably couldn’t get a license in the U.S. -- she was totally there. She would come and stay with the couple for a week before the due date, just so she could pick up on anything that needed to be corrected. Very holistic birthing.

So I became holistic, because my experiences were so rich and so deep. At every twist, I found myself getting further from the [mainstream]. I also did stints that I would call -- well, I went to work in a great big company, high pressure, male dominated company -- in sales. It was because my husband’s attitude toward money was that a better job, more money, was always the answer. I always knew that wasn’t true. My husband is much older than I am and I’ve been good for him, that’s all I can say. We moved quite a bit and he was a very talented, educated person, so he could go from job to job, which I didn’t especially like, but it never dealt with the root problems, which were, how come no matter how much money we make, it’s never quite enough?

I did go to work, and in my mind, I was building a bridge toward financial independence. I was very good at what I did. I made a whole lot of money. Made more money than my husband did doing the exact same job. I got to see that little chapter in life, which was big corporate America, the way they operate, the way they work. I was there ten years, and I would have liked to be there only five years, but that’s how deep those trenches get real quick. I thought, you know, ok, there were a few things I wasn’t totally positive about when I was younger, but I am totally positive now.

If you start thinking, this whole culture is designed around [the idea] that life is about economic profit, economic gain, and if you think about it, they want to manufacture -- produce en masse -- employees who make them a profit. Post those time cards. All you have to do is offer people a pretty good security package because they’ve already been hypnotized to think that you have to have security, retirement plans, medical -- health insurance -- and the way you get to have all these things is that you show up everyday and punch this clock and then we’ll take care of your future.

I used to think, these people believe that. I don’t belong here, because I don’t believe that. It’s real hard for me to take money out of my paycheck and put it in something I don’t even believe in. These companies, they would have specialists come in and do workshops on 401(K)s and big investment programs. I mean, I was in a field where I was making over $100,000 a year, but to me, the whole time I was there it felt like a game. I thought, I could not do this very long. I think it has a real bad psychological effect on people. They start believing this nonsense. They get into it, and when they get into it so hard their being just kind of goes to sleep, to punch the clock and pursue the carrot, because otherwise it would be too painful. I didn’t want to be that desensitized.

I also realized that the reason I kept bouncing between here and there was financial insecurity. That’s why we’re not all back to the land and do your own thing, is that there is this fine line you’ve got to walk. You’ve got to reach a balance in there. When we moved out here -- I finally pursuaded my husband that it was time -- I wanted to do this when we first got married and we couldn’t for various reasons, and then with six kids, there were that many times more reasons multiplied. And finally I said, now how old do you think we could be and still do this? I’m ready. No matter what. It’s like, if I don’t do it now, I’m never going to do it. That was three years ago. We had one child at home by then. The rest are in college. And in some ways I can see that’s why we didn’t do it earlier.

I thought my children should be able to chose what kind of lives they wanted too, and that’s what I felt I valued the most, was the period of life I got to chose. There is sacrifice. I always felt like I had to get back and connect, and connecting is being real close to the source. I can’t live too far away from natural connections. For the sake of family harmony, I tried. The revolution is so consistent, there’s no sense in me trying to deny it. I just had to get out of there.

People who come out here always have this typical reaction and they express it verbally -- ahh, I feel such relief here. There is a relief. The land is a great healing thing, but I’ve also seen that you can get just as entrenched here in the busy-ness of things that you don’t feel the land any more. It’s more of a consciousness. You have to be open to it, available to it. It took me -- probably just now am I getting unwound. You get wound up so tight that you can’t really not feel guilty about blowing a half a day and maybe not doing anything of value to anybody else, except what you process during that day. People don’t afford themselves that kind of time. That’s why they have to have a therapist they pay every once in awhile. Part of it is taking the time to be in a healing, holistic environment where you can flow with it. You have to build into your life some time.

I did go to college some, but I never pursued a particular degree. In fact, my advisor said I had to declare a major, that there was no market in today’s world for philosophers, but I said, I’m interested in philosophy. I ended up going into early childhood education, because I had a child, but I was interested in philosophy. So I did not finish my degree, although I did decide to major in sociology. I was stuck in a small town. An opportunity came up with the early anti-poverty programs. I got in on that on the ground floor. I started in Head Start and became a community organizer, which was right up my alley because I got to rally everybody into worthwhile causes, which is what I was doing for a hobby anyway. And then I started doing grant writing for them -- I wrote the Meals on Wheels and some other things, like making seeds available to people and give advice on how to do backyard gardens, organic gardening. I loved that program, and everybody got real excited about it, saving seeds, but that program went by the wayside.

I did that long enough to see that those social avenues were not going to change the real picture. I still think the big picture needs to change. Out of my six children, I have one son who would say, this is my mother, she was a flower child, and be proud of it. Another son would say, please mother don’t tell anyone you were a flower child. Their programming -- I mean, I’d say, what do you think a flower child is, exactly? I lived in some communes. But I had a child, so I was always the responsible one with a job. People were far more likely to come to my house, which they would, come to crash. I had broken with religion, tradition, the whole nine yards. It was like, ok, I will go to the edge if necessary, but I’m going to find out what works for me.

I experimented with a lot of drugs. I think because I had a child I was never reckless with anything. There was a little voice that said watch it. I could never afford to get in any condition where I couldn’t go to work the next day or take care of my child. That was my safeguard. I was intellectually exploring, and spiritually too. To this day, that exploration continues -- I’ve never found a place where a Christian witch might fit real nicely. I’ve been looking for that for a long time, and all of that is here. The reason -- I started telling my own children -- is that somebody’s not telling this story right. You guys have some real crazy ideas about what went on. It wasn’t all acid and drugs and free sex and promiscuity and irresponsibility and recklessness and abandonment. I’ve even sat down and said, “Just so there’s no misunderstanding, I was there, I lived it and there were as many different ways to live as there are ways for you to go through these years you’re going through.”

I said, “Even the drugs originally were part of a spiritual quest, not just entertainment. You guys don’t know what drugs are for. The reason I can’t talk to you about it is this ridiculous brainwashing you’ve been under all the time you’ve been in public school. I mean, on the one hand, I did want you to say no to drugs -- kids in the third grade should say no to drugs. But on the other hand, I knew we were going to have to sit down and have a talk about this, because you’ve got some really strange ideas.” I said, “I never had a bad experience on drugs.” I don’t want to be one more voice that parrots this mindless unthinking uninvestigating narrow tunnel vision drug education that kids are being handed. I’m real opposed to it. I think [the world] needs to know the people who were able to raise healthy children and have good families and pay their bills and function normally, have coping skills, and still get high.

Of course, who’s going to say that? If you get anywhere that you’ve got a voice, and they ask if you inhaled, you say no. I mean, if [political figures] would say, yeah, we got high, and I don’t know what all this hype is about, they’ve got the political process that could change things. That irritates me. When I was doing the anti-poverty programs, and especially when I was doing a lot grant writing, going to regional meetings in Dallas, Washington DC, with these government people who were involved in all the programs and the money, I was young and I wasn’t married and I got invited to all kinds of parties. I used to think, you hypocrites, you know? I’d say, how come if you all do this, this is illegal? Why are we doing this in the dark in very private circles behind closed doors, and the people doing it have the ability to open these doors? That’s when I lost confidence in politics. They don’t have the ability to open the doors, or if they do, they don’t think they do. Or they think it would shut the door on their political future, but I really see now that politics is not where change is going to happen. What a bunch of wimps. They just know how to cooperate with the puppeteer.

I do feel hopeful but not in the direction we’re going. Women will be the ones who change it, because we get to hold and imprint and bond with the citizens of the future. That’s why in industrial societies where they take babies away from mothers and clean them up before they’re even nursed or snuggled is so idiotic. Mothers will change it. That’s our power. Because of that I feel very hopeful, talking to young women all the time about, if you don’t like the way men act right now, change it in your boys. They’re going to learn that somewhere. But we forgot that. We were encouraged to forget it. Nobody would have forgot it if we had known we’d have the teen suicide rate we have now, the gangs, the troubled children.

We have women who have the careers now, and they’re saying, ok, now what? What did this cost me? Who’s raised the children? If we had the right to work and the right to equal pay, if we had women’s rights and we could do all those things that men got to do and we didn’t, our lives would be better and we would feel better about it. In fact, now, women are saying, I don’t want to have to work, you know. I don’t want to leave my baby at the babysitters. They do that because they feel like it’s necessary, but it’s not. They’re raising employees for profit. We don’t have to give them our babies. We will have to suffer some financial compromise. All the new trends and new toys. Advertising has convinced us that if we don’t provide those things to our family, we are failing.

[My husband] has struggled with this new lifestyle. He’s a professional man. He’s very intelligent. He was suffering healthwise. Doing that for so many years really broke his health. After we moved out here, he had a major heart attack. Then we had a fire and lost the home completely. It wasn’t a little change. It was like, wham, if life was going to hit you with the worst possible things, that’s what [our youngest child] walked through. But we never did anything without a lot of thought and prayer and felt like there was a reason when we did it, why all of this had happened. And I told him, someday you’ll have incredible campfire stories to tell. I tell him, I know so many people who are so specialized in some particular field of life, but the circumstances could change just a little bit and they are useless. Then they have to specialize in something else again. And they could never find water or generate their own power or probably even build a campfire.

Our electricity is only what we get from solar. We have water because it rains, which is supplied to the house from our cistern. When we moved out here, we had a little security blanket, but it went real quick, between the fire and the medical. It was down to nothing real quick. But I feel like -- I don’t know if you’re familiar with experiential learning -- it’s learning through metaphor, basically. I guess I see my life as some kind of experiential initiative that I’m supposed to do and learn and grow from, as opposed to having value judgment whether this is good or this is bad, defeat or success. The fire was a learning experience and also a liberating experience. It wasn’t necessarily bad. People say, god, your stuff burned up, and I say, yeah, and I felt amazingly detached from the pain of it. I didn’t know I was so detached.

There are universal life principles everywhere. I don’t like a lot of what I’ve seen in the church, and I don’t like hardly any of how I’ve seen Christianity practiced, but when I think of wisdom, when I think of love, when I think of a role model, certainly when I think of needing help, I immediately am drawn to Christ. In that way, I think I’m a real strong Christian. On the other hand, I probably don’t fit most Christian circles. I’m too mystical. I’ve been called a witch as often as I’ve been called a Christian, because I really am into herbal healing and even psychic gifts, prophetic dreams, things that are hard to put into little denominations. I don’t need a traditional, organized church. The reason I started experimenting with drugs is because of a real mystical experience I had. I tried to talk to people in the church about it, and they just -- well, they said you have to be careful because you can be seduced by deceiving spirits and devils -- and I’m thinking, no, there was nothing devilish about this -- this was the most Godly thing I have ever experienced.

That’s why I did acid, and why I like pot. I’m not a pothead, but I do like that sense of all of a sudden being able to look at things and see it for what it is instead of just this busy consciousness we get into sometimes. I like the heightened sense of color because when I have this whole mystical experience, all of a sudden I realize that everything around me is much more intense than I had realized. And that’s the same thing that happens to me on pot. I’ll look around and think, oh my god, the trees are glowing and I had not even noticed. Five minutes ago I didn’t notice that glow.

Now I think people who don’t know that glow is there need to be reminded somehow. It would be nice if we could all be in such a spiritual state of mind that we could see the essence all the time. Or at least, once in awhile. But we don’t. We could take a much lighter view of circumstances in our lives and laugh at it. My attraction to drugs was always for very spiritual reasons and looking for something that had bigger connections than what I once realized, the universal connectedness of all things. That came to me on acid.

The structured church thing just fits with the manufacturing of employee drones. Mystical experiences don’t. All of that [corporate world] looks pretty silly in the light of “what will it profit you if you lose your own soul?”, you know? And I think there are a lot of us who felt our souls kind of being stolen a little at a time. The real key to it is this kind of mystical life, operating in such a way that it guides you through that without being totally stuck in it. The quest [is] ... not to get where everything is mystical, anymore than to get to where everything is practical. But to where you can move in and out of those and eventually braid them in such a way that there isn’t any practical without the mystical and no mystical without the practical, and you’re an expert at combining those forces.