Getting to Words and Art

It’s 1969. I’m 16 and living on a commune.

One minute history lesson: A collective dream was shared for a very short period in the mid 60s. Then people decided to live what they thought might be a more creative and authentic existence. When political turmoil led to the murder of leaders who called for change and justice, the shock caused some to try to simplify life and get back to the country.

Nostalgia for the mud, Tom Wolfe called it in “Electric Koolaid Acid Test.”

If you have not read his poetic masterpiece of creative nonfiction, get thee to a bookstore!

There must have been hundreds of “farms” all over the country.

On “The Farm” down in the clean-dirt desert we lived very simply. Young men and women gatherd to throw off the rules with which their parents had saddled them. They adopted new, old ways — pooled resources, free love, herbal remedies, gardening, goat’s milk, fresh eggs, home-baked bread and the peppermint cleanse of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap.

The commune dwellers on “The Farm” where I lived were bright and energetic. They possessed an adventurous, questioning spirit. They were all older than I and they had been to college.

Kathy from Ohio had grandparents who retired to the California desert so it was she who found this particular farm. She and her east coast college friends came west and tried to create an unfettered, free and loving environment.

Back in Orange County, I spent a childhood filling my head with romantic, glamourized visions received from Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s. 

Leaving behind the television and replacing that cultural input with other people and their cool records was very good experience.

I’d been a gifted child but my befuddled grandparents did not know what to make of it.  In our house we had cheap mass-market astrology texts and endless piles of movie magazines. The bookmobile came by each week. I borrowed books written in the 30’s by Helen Dore Boylston, a series about a woman who becomes a nurse.

In those formative years I learned everything from the media — TV, movies and radio– and from the lyrics of songwriters. I guess that explains a few things doesn’ t it?

I was a natural autodidact. I soaked up everything around me and went looking for more, more, more. What I learned in my one year of high school was that smart, creative nonconformists are ostrasized. It is a rude adolescent melting pot, not a place for the sensitive.

I left traditional school behind for the desert, travel and stimulating conversations with interesting people like these:

The young man beside the red van was called, Ed, Red Van.

On the Farm we had descriptive nicknames for people. This prevented confusion and helped everyone easily pinpoint someone being discussed. 

He was a Virgo and had the group’s most commendable work ethic. He organized the men into a work-for-trade unit and took them out into the community to mend fences, build and repair things. He organized the selling or trading of our homemade bread to “straight” people in the community. It was good PR.

There were always lots of visitors or new people joining the group. The descriptive nicknames came in handy and helped avoid conversations like this:

“Ed is going into town,”

“Who’s Ed?”

“Oh you know, that guy with the red van.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Flute John was from Massachusetts. He was an Aries. Young and still growing out of his adolescent clunkiness. He didn’t say much and didn’t stay with us long.

 

 

 

 

 

Jerry, in the red headband, actually lived in Aguanga, the nearest little town to Sage. He was identified by being linked with his sister Sue. 

SuenJerry, or Aguanga SuenJerry.

A very sweet and sensitive Cancerian soul, he was AWOL and hiding out.  He had been drafted and was determined to avoid being sent to Vietnam. He didn’t go to college.

 

 

Alice Marquez (the woman who resembled Paramahansa Yogananda) and Bill Lashbrook in the garden doing the American Gothic pose.

Alice, the Aquarius, was a uniter of all levels, types and classes of people. She was uber friendly, bright and accepting. So, she was just Alice and everyone knew her.

Bill was very shy and had the sweetest dog, a chocolate lab named Cocoa. He and the dog were the mellow squad.

Alice checked out everybody’s action and finally settled into a domestic partnership with Bill. They became, then, AliceandBill.

Alice called me masa harina. In Spanish it is corn flour, the dough that tortillas are made of and sounds like masarina when the vowels are run together.

Alice’s family owned a Mexican bakery in Santa Paula. I don’t know why she called me that but I assumed it was an affectionate nickname. It could have easily been a reference to my soft, bland, innocence. I would change.

Words were magic, charged with romance and a little mystery that enhanced our newbie self-identities.

At this point, I believe Leonard Cohen, was my English teacher.

On quiet days I would sit alone in the white farm house and listen to this record.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taj Mahal taught me about Americana and roots music when I listened to this sublime recording:

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6 Responses to “Getting to Words and Art”

  1. A friend of mine grew up on a commune in Denmark and she remembers the experience fondly. I love the photos. It’s so great to look at the people’s faces.

  2. Camille{ Barbara Confer] Glenn Says:

    Connie-i lived on the farm from the very start and it is so interesting to read this! Cheryl of Peter and Cheryl Bagley sent me the link-still in touch with them and many of the originals on Maggie’s Farm -Richard Traube/Little John/Big John/Sue /Bill.[Alice -who passed 3 years ago-we were very close all those years from the farm to the very end end]-i have to be honest i don’t remember you which drives me crazy-i did take off and travel now and then -maybe i was away-but was there from day one -sept 70 through to the summer of 71-and sort of connected AliceandBill-of course there are some fuzzy memories too- i was 19 .Please tell me more to refresh my memory!
    haven’t read all of your blog-can’t tell, but do hope you have completed your chemo and are in full recovery
    oh yeah i was Barbara then and was with Chuck [who was Cheryl’s ex] i go by middle name Camille these days and live in Hawaii these days
    rainforestglenn@yahoo.com

  3. camille glenn Says:

    Aloha,
    still looking forward to your email to chat about maggies farm-
    brings back such good memoriesfor me-hope to hear from you soon!
    camille

  4. Camille, I sent an email on Valentine’s day. Did you get it?

  5. Camille{ Barbara Confer] Glenn Says:

    hi-see my email posted-but stil looking for the resend thanx

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