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.