Farm Sort-Out Tools on the High Seas

Farm Personalities: Virginia Gleser includes a chapter on The Farm in her book Harmony on the High Seas: When Your Mate Becomes Your Matey.

From Sweet Potato Suppers:

Virginia was on phones and CB. In between calls she was finding places for visitors to stay.

How can you do all that at once? I asked her.

Practice, she said. The more you can integrate, the more Leslie will give you to do.

Mother of several small children, Virginia had the smooth skin and innocent eyes of a kid, yet she was a heavy lady. Just as many Farm women did physical work alongside the men, Farm women also took on administrative responsibilities. I could not remember any woman from before my Farm days I had wanted to be like. Here I was getting to know in person women of emotional strength and dignity, women unlike any I had known, except in story.


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The Long Sleep

Cruelty, or its underside of fear, became part of us.

In the late 1970’s I was declared a terrorist by the government of the United States. I was considered dangerous not in myself but in my collectivity with some 1,200 other folks, many of them children. Our family lived for almost ten years in the related communities known as The Farm, founded by Stephen Gaskin and his followers. (When in 1984 Don and I moved into town, rented an apartment, bought a car, and took jobs for wages, we were apparently no longer a threat.) How a tiny village frightened the most powerful nation on earth is one part of my story.

Sweet Potato Suppers: A Yankee Woman Finds Salvation in a Hippie Village is the story of a personal awakening from a generations’ long sleep. The sleep seems to have happened like this: During centuries of trouble—war and plunder, European feudal law, famine, plague, the persecution of healers and dissidents—cruelty became a common, invisible part of the character of every woman and man. Each person experienced heart-injuring events they re-enacted blindly in daily relationships. Thus, while they made heroic efforts to benefit their children, they also frightened and scarred them.

This writing began as an apology to my children for the trouble they inherited. I wanted them to know their history, especially the deep old roots of family pain. And what The Farm, embedded in their early memories, had to do with it all. What began as an internal family message grew into this book, the story of how one family, while living in community, began reclaiming its soul.

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What Aging Hippies Talk About

On The Farm we used to talk about social position. We said we weren’t into it. No one had social position on anyone else. But, as in Orwell’s story of another farm, founded on animal equality, was there a declaration that some were more equal than others?

Could it be that social position was our sense of how confident another person was? After all, a confident person didn’t need anyone’s permission to be confident and do strong things, right?

Perhaps we don’t need to stress about the old social position. The only thing wrong with any of us is our worry about what is wrong with us. It’s the only thing anyone ever dis-ed us for and the only thing still in the air, that worry. Nothing succeeded on The Farm like confidence. Nothing succeeds anywhere like confidence.

So, can you be confident by choice? Sure you can. Once you disentangle the worries and find out there’s nothing wrong with you, confidence comes naturally. It’s your heritage.

Sweet Potato Suppers: A Yankee Woman Finds Salvation in a Hippie Village is available now on amazon as a soft cover paperback and as an eBook.

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Why the Delay on Publishing Sweet Potato Suppers

Dear Readers,

Having promised you the second edition of Sweet Potato Suppers this spring I feel I should explain what the delay is all about.  I am in process of getting permission to publish photos that were taken during the 1970s, The Farm’s heyday and the time of my story.  This involves working closely with The Farm Archives Committee, which is charged with preserving and managing the pictures, videos, and soundtracks we created as a group under our “all things in common” agreement.  That means that we each have the same rights to these artifacts as anyone has to their personal family collection.

Publication, however, is not so simple.  While any member of our wide Farm family who has a story to tell should have the right to use these pictures, no one has the right to publish material that would even inadvertently distort or tarnish the image of The Farm or any of its members.  There has to be some oversight of the pictures simply to ensure they are used honestly.  On the other hand, that oversight cannot result in restricting honest use or forcing agreement about what happened.  Spiritual hippies are not known for agreeing without careful personal inspection.  Each person’s story is his or her own.

Then, not all of us had cameras and the people in the pictures are rather more than the usual “family.”  From time to time one of the photographers would hand me a print of one of my children or such.  Still, I have few pictures of that time–unless I count the many pictures illustrative of Farm life not directly of my family. As you can imagine, publishing these requires a special level of consideration falling somewhere between personal possession and public copyright issues.

Mine is among the first requests for use of these personal/public pictures.  The Farm Archives Committee wants to set up a precedent that will guide how all future requests are settled.  This requires time.  The members of the committee are among the most ethical and compassionate people I know, working from a standard far above the norm seen in the general courts.  In fact, they are creating standards and methods for which there are few models.  In this creation, they listen patiently to all voices.  Hammering out a bit of heaven on earth, as we did when we founded The Farm, takes time.  Much as I’m eager to publish the book and get it into your hands, I highly respect this committee’s process and the significance of the work they do.

Please be patient.  Sweet Potato Suppers: A Yankee Woman Finds Salvation in a Hippie Village will be out soon in all the glory of text and pictures that honor  The Farm and honor that in each of us that knows what is right and true and just.  Much Love, Trish

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The Family Not Fighting

Is there a reason why we shouldn’t yell at one another and perform interesting dramas with family and friends?

And why do we treat our most dearly beloved worse than our co-workers and, say, a store owner?

Let’s answer the obvious first. If we lost control at work, we’d get fired. If we lost control in public, someone would call the police. We get mad or tearful with our friends and family because we can do it without immediate consequence.

But what harm does it do to rant and rave and scold? I don’t enjoy other people’s negative dramas, especially when they are aimed at me–and I doubt you do either.  No one thrives in such an atmosphere.  And children get wrong messages about who they are and what they are worth.

A willingness not to dramatize, not to try to control others by means of threats, much less actual violence, became an automatic filter for who chose to live on The Farm, up close in multiple family households. It gave us some of the sanest and sweetest tempered men and women our society offered. Fifteen hundred people living and working together and no fist fights–or cat fights either. Wow!!

Of course, there were sort outs. What’s a sort out?

My book about The Farm, Sweet Potato Suppers, will be out soon. Watch for the date.

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What We Learned about Getting Along

Are you living with relatives?  In a shared household?

People once lived mostly in tribal units.  In her novel Reindeer Moon Elizabeth Marshall Thomas shows a tribal elder saying, “Give me two hands and I can get us through the winter.”  He shows both hands twice, twenty.  It took about twenty people to survive the winter.

So, how did we lately come to live in households of only one or two adults and their children.  Tracing back the history of European arrival on the east coast of the United States, we find that even the early settlers lived in separate family units.  When a young couple married, the community gathered to build them a house.  They did not add wings to the parental home.

As a social worker, I have spent time in many homes and listened to grievances.  As a friend, I have listened to my friends.  It seems some of us are darned hard to live with.  People dramatize anger, fear, grief, and discouragement.  They throw these dramas straight at their mates and children and anyone handy.  Who would stay?

And yet a group of peaceful hippies grew a village of multiple family homes and shared fortunes like ancient tribes.

What can we learn from this piece of history?  To live successfully with even one other person requires restraint, patience, a willingness to listen and to speak one’s mind peacefully.  More people require more restraint, more patience, and more communication.  The tribe in Thomas’s story had all of these plus other needed qualities, such as competence and a high level of responsibility.

If you are living with others, whether by choice or because of economic duress, be sure to communicate levelly and plentifully.  Assess your group for competence, for an ability to face a solve problems.   And find a way to improve any of these skills as needed.

Let me know how you get along.

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Hippie Village

Publishing Alert: Sweet Potato Suppers, a memoir of life among spiritual hippies, will be re-published this fall! This eBook and soft cover edition will include pictures that were not available for the first edition. Read the story of how one family found hope and healing in the 1970s.

The full title of the volume is Sweet Potato Suppers: A Yankee Woman Finds Salvation in a Hippie Village. The title story shows the author’s small son at supper after helping with the harvest, sure he is eating a sweet potato he himself placed in the basket.

This story is a must for anyone interested in American history during the years of The Great Society when there was much hope that the meek would soon inherit the earth when the corrupt structure fell away.

This story is also for anyone interested in personal journey. As in ancient fairy tales, the author has taken to the road, or gone wandering, to find out what’s happening. She knows she has in herself an imperfect and confused protagonist, and she searches for a way to break through that crust that is the broken self and retrieve her actual self as the spirit being she is. You’ll enjoy the details of life on The Farm along with the inevitable hassles and happy discoveries.

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