“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
New Mexico-fairest of them all. High country, thin air, clea
r light, drier than a skeleton’s sense of humor, sparsely vegetated, sparsely populated, land of multi-ethnic mestizaje, outlaw country, haven for ex-patriots, artists, writers, bohemians, beatniks and hippies; proving ground for scientists of myriad persuasions; paradise with an edge; a habitat of soul-sculpting wind that either welcomes one, or blows one away. For those lucky enough to spend their lives herein, it is homeland, the place above all others that you want to live in, to die in.
For thousands of years, waves of human immigrants have wandered into this harsh but beautiful landscape, at first hunting mega-fauna for meat to be eaten, hides for clothing and shelter, and bones for tools. They gathered plants for food and medicinal properties, gradually compiling lore to be recalled in myth and oral traditions that have seeped even into the present. They were spiritually nurtured by chthonic deities with whom ancient ancestors danced, ceremonially invoking their numinous presence in celebration of the spirit of place, and ensuring that the seasonal cycles would continue to unfold through time and space within an ever-enduring present.
Gradually, nomadic cultures affixed themselves within their territories and achieved indigeneity. Ancestral Puebloan Indians situated their communities near water, and developed agricultural skills that survive into the present. They built structures of rock, wood and mud whose ruins continue to endure the winds of time, and retain vast spiritual significance for modern Puebloan Indians who ever seek harmony with the flow of Nature.
Nomadic Athabascans, ancestors of Navajos and Apaches migrated into the landscape from the north, and challenged the territorial rights of the Puebloans, affirming that conflict is a factor in cultural evolution. And from the south came a wave of new colonists whose mixed ancestry could be traced to the Iberian Peninsula, the Pyrenees Mountains, and North Africa. And from the east, yet another wave of so-called “Anglo-Americans” whose ancestors came to cultural consciousness in northern Europe and the British Isles.
Wave after wave of humanity spread across the continent of North America, some pushing to the sea to the west, others beached at the base of a great mountain range presently named the Sangre de Cristo, the blood of Christ, geo-mythically transfused over millennia from Jerusalem.
By the late nineteenth century, the New Mexico Territory was one of the most culturally diverse regions to be found in North America. It was also one of the most dangerous. Outlawry was rampant. The United States was the latest in a succession of nations to claim New Mexico as her own in spite of the presence of autochthonous cultures that had tapped age-long roots deep into the soil from which they drew spiritual sustenance. The United States waged wars on many Indian tribes including Apaches, Navajos and Comanches who heroically defended their rights to homeland against interlopers who sought to expand the new empire. Bands of outlaws were legion, many of whose members had been U.S. or Confederate soldiers, some of whom had been lawmen, a few of whom switched hats trusting to the inspiration of the moment.
By 1912 as New Mexico entered statehood, the cultural landscape had been tamed in the main. The presence of the railroad made New Mexico accessible from all points. New Mexico was perceived as a health haven for tuberculars, or “lungers” as they were called. The father of author Paul Horgan suffered tuberculosis and moved his family westward in 1915. In Horgan’s own words:
“I was twelve years old when my family removed to Albuquerque from Buffalo, New York, and Albuquerque then was a Río Grande small city of 14,000 people. Its main concerns economically were the Santa Fe Railroad, which was a division point and had great shops. The transcontinental line was the lifeblood of the city, going east and west many times a day-many trains a day. It was a local rite to go and visit the arrival of the important train, the California Limited, one east and one westward every day. Celebrities would disembark and stroll the platforms at Albuquerque and visit the Indian exhibits and the Santa Fe-the Fred Harvey establishment with its collection of regional antiques and so forth. So it became a citizen’s promenade, really, to go and witness this every day as the great trains went east and west.”
During the course of his long life, Horgan went on to write extensively about New Mexico, twice winning the Pulitzer Prize, and for many years participated in the art colony near Roswell that included artists Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth. The ancient city of Santa Fe held fascination for many artists and writers including Alice Corbin Henderson, Mary Austin, Wytter Binner and Haliel Long.
To the north, the village of Taos had long been an inter-cultural encounter zone for Indians of different tribes, Spanish colonists and their descendants, mountain men, trappers, traders and adventurers of every ilk. In 1919, the thrice-married bohemian Mabel Dodge Sterne arrived from the east with her husband, Maurice. A Taos Indian, Tony Luhan convinced her to purchase a twelve-acre piece of land where ultimately she was to build an adobe mansion. As one story goes, Tony pitched a teepee in front of her original house and drummed nightly until she came to him. Maurice became history, Mabel married Tony in 1923, and the couple lived happily ever after.
Mabel Dodge Luhan’s home became a haven for ex-patriots, writers, thinkers, early counter-culturalists, anthropologists, musicans and psychologists. She invited D.H. Lawrence (Lorenzo) and his wife Frieda, Carl Jung (for whom the marriage between Tony and Mabel must have seemed a cultural coniunctio oppositorum), Dane Rudyhar, Spud Johnson, Jaime de Angulo and myriad others to visit and spend creative time.
In 1924, author and linguist Jaime de Angulo and Tony Luhan became fast friends. Jaime had hoped that Tony would reveal some of the secrets of Taos Puebloan culture that Tony steadfastly refused to divulge. Even though he had been somewhat ostracized from his people because of marrying a white woman, Tony remained loyal to the Taos Puebloan tradition of cultural privacy.
In a conversation recalled by de Angulo, Tony asked, “What for do you want to know? Those things belong to the Indians. They are not for whites. What can the whites do with them? The Indians have got to have them because they do things with them, but the whites want to know just for curiosity.”
To which the prescient de Angulo replied, “No, Tony. I don’t want to know just for curiosity. I want to know because I think the whites have lost their soul and they must find it again. Some of the things the whites have lost, the Indians have kept.”
“Yes,” said Tony. “We know the explanation of how everything is…We know many things the whites don’t know. But I will never tell you.”
As Jaime mentioned in his letters to his wives, the Taos Pueblo was comprised of two factions, the traditionalist, and the more recent peyote cult that was criticized by the traditional Puebloans. A short span of landscape to the south, some fair amount of individual criticism occurred between visitors to Mabel’s household. For example, Jaime and D.H. Lawrence made for bad chemistry. Lorenzo openly snubbed Jaime. Jaime characterized Lorenzo as follows:
“Talking of neurotics, that Lawrence is certainly one…[He] is ridiculous as only an Englishman can be ridiculous. His face is a combination of Tolstoy, G.B. Shaw and Abraham Lincoln, very pallid skin, and a semi-bushy semi-goat-like beard…His mental makeup is fully as queer. He has quarreled with everybody under the sun, and I am not surprised. He is clever, keen, biting, with the sensitiveness of a woman, the aggressiveness of a cock, a bad temper, full of insolence, entirely irrational.”
In spite of petty interpersonal conflicts, the bohemian tapestry woven by Mabel Dodge Luhan added spectacular coloration to the greater cultural hue even beyond the Southwest. However, the stock market crash of 1929 overshadowed every aspect of American life, and the predominant national hue verged on dark grey. The cities were hardest hit wherein prosperity dwindled and breadlines wound through city streets. There were long lines of weary Americans awaiting their turns to sleep for a few hours in a protected environment. The cultural countenance reflected desperation. The national theme song was “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”
The Great Depression lasted for over a decade, wherein President Franklin D. Roosevelt did everything in his power to re-invigorate economic recovery. His New Deal included funding artists, writers, musicians, and theater people to continue to practice their art forms. At the same time, the New Deal funded the Civilian Conservation Corps training and paying young men to spiff up the countryside by rip-rapping arroyos and constructing fire lookout towers. The New Deal also provided funding for great public works projects including the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Nevertheless, it took World War II to provide the major impetus to “re-birth” the American economy. The U.S. government drafted or lured many scores of thousands of young men to fight the Axis in Europe and the South Pacific. A disproportionately high ratio of young New Mexican Hispanos were drafted and sent off to war never to return, thus hewing a great rent in the fabric of their culture at home. The remaining labor force across America was involved in construction of battleships, war-planes, guns and ammunition. Rosie, the Riveter became the national heroine, and for a time, the song, “I’ll Be Seeing You” crooned by a youthful Frank Sinatra wafted across the airwaves from the Saturday Night Hit Parade fueling the dreadful poignance that dominated virtually every home in America.
Then we dropped the bomb. And then the second bomb. And then the war was over and surviving battered and exhausted veterans returned to a new, economically re-invigorated America, the planet’s international savior standing firm at the threshold of the atomic age determined to stare down the new threat of communism that dominated the Soviet Union and China. And thus was launched the Cold War that was to last for much of the rest of the twentieth century.
America was also celebrating a brief golden age that included the return of prosperity, and a state of undisputed world leadership. However, the newly configured economically dominated cultural paradigm was very restrictive in a sense that deeply affected the perceptions of a few writers, artists and musicians in post-bohemian havens including Greenwich Village and North Beach.
The late Philip Whalen was one of the great poets to emerge from the Beat Generation. For many years, he was both a close friend and my next-door neighbor, and we engaged in conversation almost daily. I recorded Philip addressing his perceptions of the genesis of the Beat scene.
“Well, Beat Generation, at this point we have to get very careful and historically accurate and whatnot, and repeat what’s in all the textbooks, which is true-that the name was invented by Kerouac to deal with a period in New York after the war, say about 1947. John Clellon Holmes, a friend of Jack’s…had an assignment to write an article…about current American novel writing. So here was this new generation.
“They used to say that there was a lost generation after the First World War. What could we call where we’re at after the Second World War? Jack said, ‘Well, why don’t you call it the Beat Generation because we’re all beat. We’re all tired of the war and we don’t have any money. Nobody knows who we are. We’re just sort of out of everything and we’re kind of way out on the fringe somewhere and kind of moping along. So why don’t you say Beat Generation.’
“So that’s where that came from. It dealt, to some degree, with life around the drug scene and high mopery scene around Times Square in 1947 which involved Burroughs and Corso and Ginsberg and Kerouac and a number of other people.”
In 1955, Kerouac’s seminal novel, On the Road was first published and helped set a new tone in both American literature and sub-culture. At about the same time, Allen Ginsberg headed west to the Bay Area and looked up poet Kenneth Rexroth who advised him to get in contact with some of the local poets including Philip Lamantia, Gary Snyder and Michael McClure. With the help of several poets, Ginsberg organized a poetry reading to be held at the Six Gallery in San Francisco in October, 1955. Gary Snyder contacted his old Reed College roommate, Philip Whalen who was then on Sourdough Mountain working as a fire lookout, and invited him to participate in the reading. At that time, Ginsberg was finishing and polishing a poem that he would read at the forthcoming poetry bash. The poem is entitled Howl.
About two hundred and fifty people crowded into the small gallery to witness what came to be regarded as a major literary milestone. Lawrence Ferlinghetti immediately asked to publish Ginsberg’s Howl and thereafter found himself in deep trouble with the Feds for publishing what they deemed to be pornography. The truth is, the American establishment was outraged by the myriad, fiery truths expressed in Ginsberg’s brilliant scathing poem whose opening lines reveal:
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked….”
Jack Kerouac arrived in the Bay Area and befriended poet and orientalist, Gary Snyder. They moved into a cabin together in Mill Valley in 1955 and spent a great deal of time seriously hiking around Mt. Tamalpais and beyond. Thus Gary became the prototype for Japhy Ryder, the rucksack toting backcountry Zen Buddhist hero of Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums.
I first arrived in North Beach in the autumn of 1958 after having been discharged from the U.S. Army where I had served as an army bandsman. Most of my military time had been spent in the Mojave Desert at Camp Irwin, and part of my time at the Nevada Proving Grounds at Desert Rock. I was a young jazz musician ever more steeped in the prime-time jazz that emanated from that era. Part of my Army gig was to play stirring refrains from “The Stars and Stripes Forever” while peers of Dr. Strangelove fired off atomic bombs seven miles from where we bandsmen stood in the pre-dawn desert. One day, back at Camp Irwin, which is located about 35 miles from Barstow, Danny the barber and dealer fell by the barracks and said, “You’ve got to read this! Now!” He handed me the tiny pocketbook entitled Howl And Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg. I devoured the book and ruminated deeply about life in the milieu into which I had been born to which I was commanded to contribute music to celebrate the detonation of atomic bombs. And thus I came to realize that I wasn’t the one who was insane.
Footloose at last, I wandered up and down the West Coast from the Lighthouse at Hermosa Beach to the Co-Existence Bagel Shop in North Beach. I played my horn for modest coin of the realm, slept for three weeks in a discarded but roomy wooden fish box in Chinatown, read in the City Lights Bookstore, watched sunset from the Golden Gate, ate my daily five course Italian meal for $1.25 that included a half-carafe of wine, visited galleries, one of which displayed the strange collage, “Tribute to Caryl Chessman” that I believe was crafted by Bruce Conner who would later produce a film that showed one atomic bomb explosion after the other.
Part of the time, I hung out in Big Sur and spent one wonderful evening in the presence of Henry Miller as we all drank wine at Nepenthe. In Sausalito’s Gate Five, I befriended the Greek artist, Jean Varda, who many years later died as he exited an airplane in Mexico City. It is said that his final words were, “Ah. Instant metaphysics.”
During that period of the late 1950s, I hitch-hiked across America, and passed through New Mexico, to me the most beautiful state-of-mind on Earth. I knew it was my homeland at last discovered, yet it would be five years before I would begin the rest of my life there.
Throughout the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, artists, writers, and skilled artisans moved to New Mexico to fashion their own hand-crafted lifestyles. By the 1950s, the talented novelist William Eastlake had settled on his ranch near Cuba, New Mexico where he wrote his celebrated New Mexico trilogy. Malcolm Brown finely honed his eccentricities in Taos. John DePuy painted his landscapes in Taos while Georgia O’Keeffe painted her masterpieces in and around Abiquiu. Max Finstein penned poetry. Liz Walker wove god’s-eyes after the fashion of the Huichol Indians. Edward Abbey wrote his first novels and briefly earned his keep as a bartender at the Taos Inn where it has been told that of an evening, Lady Brett, the great friend of D.H. Lawrence visited the bar and requested a grasshopper. To which Ed Abbey responded, “Who the hell would drink a grasshopper? I quit!”-much to the dismay of myriad customers who imbibed freely and at little cost thanks to the deft hand of Brother Abbey.
And thus it was that in 1962, a loose-knit coterie of Bay Area post-beatniks, many of whom had read Indian Tales by Jaime de Angulo, Howl by Allen Ginsberg, Riprap by Gary Snyder, The Way of Zen by Alan Watts, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, the I Ching, The Doors to Perception by Aldous Huxley, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, and other soul-shaping literature of the era, and who had experienced the exquisite spiritual opening to the flow of Nature by ingesting peyote, and the fascinating alteration of mental processes wrought by smoking marijuana, began to wander into the land of clear light. We too brought with us our hand-crafted lifestyles and knew well how to live simply.
Some played and sang folk music; some made sandals; others were jewelry makers; yet others earned their keep washing potshards at the Laboratory of Anthropology, or spent months in solitude on top of mountains and high mesas as fire lookouts. Rick and Sue Mallory moved to Mancos, Colorado and settled into family life raising their children. Alan and Joan Lober opened the Morningbird, a shop that specialized in Indian arts and crafts, and employed their friends. John and Marie Kimmey founded the Santa Fe Community School, an alternative school that catered to the off-spring of counter-culturalists. Jimmy Hopper ran a tiny restaurant in El Rito before heading into the Gila Wilderness to become a fire lookout atop Mogollon Baldy. Randy Allen sang songs, played the guitar and became a jeweler. Yvonne Bond pursued radical politics all the way to the island of Cuba. Recluse Jon Sanford printed a poster that advised, “Search for Truth and Honesty in American Politics.” Peter Ashwandan became widely recognized as the illustrator of John Muir’s classic, How to Fix a VW for the Complete Idiot. Chris and Cynthia West bought acreage at the top of the Pilar Hill, a pilgrim station that looks out over the magnificent landscape riven by the Río Grande Gorge. Tahiti Gervais practiced the craft of blacksmithy. Dick Brown, a native New Mexican guided many of us through the multi-cultural labyrinth that continues to prevail and evolve. Peter VanDresser had lived in New Mexico for many years and through his wisdom, became the godfather of the alternative energy movement. Max Finstein was a friend to us all.
What bound everyone was an abiding love for the flow of Nature, and the intimation that our purpose as humans is to attain the highest level of consciousness possible. And frequently on a Saturday night, a tipi would be pitched on someone’s property, and the peyote ritual would be consumated through the night till dawn, sometimes attended by Little Joe Gomez, Tellus Goodmorning, and other Indians from the Taos Pueblo and beyond.
Gradually everyone became affixed to the New Mexican landscape, endlessly enchanted, ever nurtured by the spirit of place.
The 1960s was indeed a time of flowering of consciousness. The war in Vietnam spawned national outrage. The Civil Rights Movement burst through the dike of cultural repression and spread across America. Three voices of hope-those of Jack Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy-were silenced by assassins. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert were fired from Harvard University for their experiments with LSD, a psychotropic pharmaceutical that would rearrange the mental coordinates of tens of thousands or more of America’s youth. Tim coined the dictum, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Richard transformed into Baba Ram Dass and forwarded his own message in Be Here Now. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles greatly enhanced the listen-ability of popular music. Carlos Castaneda published his doctoral dissertation, The Teachings of Don Juan, and though he failed to receive his Ph.D., he inspired a generation of young Americans to look beyond the narrow boundaries of the mono-cultural frame of reference and into a fifth dimension where shamans dance and ply their skills. An undercurrent of anarchism spread across the land. Thousands rejected the image of the man in the grey flannel suit, the drear of investing one’s lifetime at the corporate behest, the pursuit of wealth for its own sake, of having a job instead of a life. Thus, the Hippie movement was launched, directly descended from the Beat scene, itself born from the bohemian counter-cultural lineage that invigorated Greenwich Village, North Beach, Venice, the Parisian salon of Gertrude Stein, and the New Mexico high country consciousness-compound founded by Mabel Dodge Luhan.
One of the more celebrated city-sites of Hippie-ness occurred in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco. They blossomed around the United States and beyond. One of the most profound multi-faceted experiments in hippie counter-culture occurred in rural northen New Mexico where habitat is illuminated by sun, moon and blossoming stars rather than city lights. It was here that hippie communes sought foothold in the beautifully harsh environments of high desert country where for millennia, humans of myriad cultural persuasions had already tested their mettle, some flourishing, many more withering, all contributing to a human continuum shaped at least as much by habitat as by ideal.
The notion of “commune” began to evolve in medieval Europe a thousand or more years ago when people of similar persuasions and practices constructed walled communities in order to physically defend themselves against the forces of feudal lords and other bandits, and to defend their rights as human beings to practice lifestyles that were commensurate with their collective natures. Over the centuries even to the present, many types of communes have dotted the landscapes of Europe, Asia and the Americas.
The anarchists of nineteenth century Europe reacted against totalitarian governments that they rejected sometimes to the death. The short-lived Paris Commune of 1871 was the first organized uprising of the proletariat against capitalism. The participants in this social experiment became known as “communards.” Anarchism took many forms, but Peter Kropotkin’s anarchist communism resonates to this day with many communards who shared time and space in the hippie commune phase of New Mexico’s history. Kropotkin defined anarchist society as follows:
“The anarchists conceive a society in which all its members are regulated, not by laws, not by authorities, whether self-imposed or elected, but by mutual agreements between the members of that society, and by a sum of social customs and habits-not petrified by law, routine or superstition, but concordance with the ever-growing requirements of a free life, stimulated by the progress of science, invention and the steady growth of higher ideals. No ruling authorities, then. No government of man by man; no crystallization and immobility, but a continual evolution– such as we see in Nature.”
It is doubtful that more than a handful of New Mexico’s hippies ever read these words, and many counter-culturalists would not agree with everything that Kropotkin said. For example one morning, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky were having breakfast with us in Santa Fe. Allen read Kropotkin’s definition that has long been pinned to my studio wall. He took umbrage at Kropotkin’s support of science, which led us to a lengthy discussion about the practice of science versus the mis-application of science. Personally, I strongly support scientific research, but rue many of the ways it is applied within the realm of a military-corporate-industrial-political complex committed to acquisition of power for its own sake, and to turning habitat into money in order to gain and retain that power.
Be all of that as it may, northern New Mexico of the mid-1960s was alive with an energy that was palpable, alluring, and ripe for social experimentation. Men and women of great personal energy were lured to the high desert. Some had enough money to buy large tracts of land to be held in common. Others had the vision to found communes on these commons, communes of different flavors but with a common denominator founded in self direction, mutual aid and love of the Earth. Another denominator common to many communards was the use of pot, hash, peyote, mescaline, LSD, psychedelic mushrooms and other substances, some of which had their genesis in laboratories operated by high-minded biochemists. Some of the better known of the more than two dozen New Mexico communes included New Buffalo, Morning Star, Lama, the Hog Farm, and the Reality Construction Company. Taos County became the communal proving ground where at one point the hippie population of the county came in at over fifteen per cent!
In her worthy publication, Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie published by Cincos Puntos Press, Iris Keltz provides an excellent portrait of the great hippie commune experiment of the late 1960s and early ’70s. She relies on her own recollections (and it’s NOT TRUE that if you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there!!), excerpts from oral histories that she conducted with tribal members of the counter-cultural revolution, and articles that appeared in both the Taos News and the Fountain of Light. This book is generously illustrated with photographs including some by the hippie photo-documentarian, Lisa Law.
Max Finstein turned into one of the great communard visionaries of the 1960s and ’70s. He was associated with the Beat Generation as a poet, and had been a jazz alto sax player. He loved to smoke pot and drink wine, philosophize and talk far into the night. In the early 1960s, he split with his then wife, left New Mexico and hit the road with his daughter Rachel. He met a new lady and returned to New Mexico in 1966. He hooked up with Rick Klein, a youngster from Pennsylvania who had happened into a sum of money that he was willing to spend to purchase land on which to found a commune. A one hundred-three-acre piece of land with water rights was found near Arroyo Hondo north of Taos. It was situated both near the Río Grande and a hot springs, and it was for sale for $55,000. Rick popped for the land and shortly thereafter, there was a gathering of hippies who put up a tipi, and held a peyote meeting. And thus New Buffalo was born.
Rick had this to say about the genesis of New Buffalo.
“I was going to be a literature professor and then I took LSD, and saw that there’s more to it than just this. There’s being with your friends. Culture was very exciting at that time. I had an inheritance, and I bought land in New Mexico and got involved in New Buffalo. The first thing we did was have a peyote meeting, and Max (Finstein) was the roadman. Ultimately I got very involved with Little Joe Gomez from the Taos Pueblo and his brother John, and all those old men up there. The last one just passed away last year. Frank Zamora. He was a hundred years old. Frank had this incredible psychedelic style. They were all exceptional people.”
There was no such thing as a hippie type cookie cutter that stamped out hippie after hippie from a specific hippie gene pool. Hippies emerged as individuals from every conceivable background.
Un-dam the stream of consciousness.
Everyone came from the American melting pot and had reacted to the post-Victorian lock on open sexuality that seemed like an affront to a natural biological imperative, who wanted to escape concrete canyon walls where wind blows cold and dank with smoggy humidified fumes emitted
as ghastly emanations from that aspect of the Gaseous Vertebrate
aligned with military Mammon-might reeking of corporate cigar breath
spewing forth over innocent new-born, frightening mind-blight
of the politically correct…
Turn to sunlight, dark night star blossoms, mountain-rimmed spirit-land
sweet acrid smoke mix of juniper-piñon-marijuana
wafting up my nose to settle my mind into a clear look into the known
perchance to be forgotten, to slide into
cool-hip ever present
Be Here Now-ness of
Turned On-Tuned In-Dropped Out into fanciful magic land
LOVE LOVE LOVE
That’s the thing that there’s just too little of-
Sweet Jesus! Blessed Bodhisattva mind Krishna flute song
Hanuman happiness Sufi dervish dance
tornado of tipi consciousness
spun-out along a rainbow brain-blow trail
of delight comes at dawn after staring into Morningbird firelight
all night all night all night all night long
singing peyote songs to beat of water drum, dance of feathers fanning
Road man, drummer, cedar man
Earthmother calling calling calling calling
Sacred water, tipi consciousness At One With All
Begin mud dance straw dance sun dance
Make adobes not bombs in sunlight look to mountain rim for God-dance
work work work work
play play play play
Rosy-nippled double-breasted thrashers
Flirting with dawn crowing cocks in flowing bird dance of desire
Making babies, new flesh forms cradles of unblemished consciousness
To scatter at play in the fields of the Lord
Be rid almost of clichés, almost…
There was great work involved in building structures of adobe, gathering vigas to support roofs, gathering firewood, ever more firewood, endless gathering of firewood for cooking, heating against breath-frosting winter coldness, life-threatening winter coldness. Four hole defecation zone, communal shit-holes, no more mind-barriers to plug up biological flow of Nature’s manure. Don’t eat yellow snow. Don’t wash diapers in the hot spring.
Where does the food come from? Some hunting, gardening, learning the seasons, the cycles, hitting on strangers for bread in town, some checks from home, food stamps, can’t seem to get fully out of tentacles-reach of economic kraken that stretches into every corner of human patina-planet overlay pulsing away, fiscal metastasis creeping into soil, sucking away in return for consciousness, or so we hope…
Ever more of us dismaying indigenees-Indians, Chicanos, especially Chicanos now at home determined to defend turf, mores, many taking great umbrage at naked mud-dancers throwing away econo-tenets to which everyone else aspires to perfect; relegated since 1846 to shadow culture; forced to reject subsistence existence to attempt to survive the riptides of the American Way Of Life. Burn out the chingados, beat the mierde out of them.
Launch a Chicano Revolt to rid the land of the hippies and the Feds. History repeats itself-remember 1680-Popé was the first great North American revolutionary. Now there was Tijerina-get the Feds off the land grants. Don the brown beret. Defend a lingering way of life whose soul-lore was diminished in World War Two at Bataan. ¡Tierra o muerte!
It wasn’t all bad with the Chicanos. Rick Klein recalls a time when hippies maintained some of the responsibilities normally held by Hispanos.
“Obviously it was very threatening because of the press, and words like sex and drugs, and stuff like that. The Hispanos were feeling marginalized and losing their traditions. Nobody wanted to be the mayor domo of the ditch (acequia), and for years the mayor domo of the ditch in Arroyo Hondo was from New Buffalo. They (the Hispanos) had to have some respect for us. We were working hard. People would come to my house and say, ‘This is just like my grandfather’s.’”
There was a flowering of consciousness that required extreme hippie-ness to regenerate, propagate, linger within long enough to endure before the short-lived age of Aquarius wafted into what was to become. The communes, each with its own distinct collective character, blossomed and contended as best the communards could, most, like adobe, melting back into the cultural soil of the land of clear light. By virtue of their lifestyle which included practices deemed illegal by the law of the land, they became and remained outlaws and practitioners of Walt Whitman’s now famous apothegm, “Resist much. Obey Little.”
There were hard-working men and women who poured their souls into the experiment. Others who were previously deeply damaged by circumstances from without and within were nurtured back to sanity. Some died. Others achieved extraordinary spiritual heights. There were attempts at alternative education. John Kimmey and others brought their talents and skills to bear on educating the young into a new world consciousness. Many of the children of the great experiment look back in wonder, some with rejection, some with truly expanded consciousness, no-one unaffected.
Max Finstein left New Buffalo and traveled all the way to Israel to experience life on a kibbutz where his sphere of reference was expanded yet again within a collective new Israeli point of view that required success if death were to be avoided. A more militant Max returned to New Mexico and helped establish the Reality Construction Company whose members included Chicano activists and angry Afro-Americans.
Steve and Barbara Durkee had traveled from upper New York State to found Lama, a commune that has undergone many permutations yet continues to endure. Originally founded as a patriarchal sub-culture, Lama became a spiritual center that involved many well-known and celebrated passers-through who left their mark in mysterious ways. Baba Ram Dass spent many a night on New Mexican soil charming seeds of individual consciousness into self-recognition. Stewart Brand contributed his energy to the genesis of Lama, and thereafter published the Whole Earth Catalog for which he received the National Book Award in 1972. Durkee went on to found Dar al Islam, a Muslim community situated on the other side of the Río Chama from Abiquiu.
David Pratt wended eastward from a commune in central California known as Morningstar West, and with Michael Duncan, who owned part of a mesa-top north of Taos, founded Morningstar East, a commune that was populated in large measure by your tired, your poor, your wasted who yearned to be whole and free. Morningstar East and the Reality Construction Company were neighboring communes between which peace and love were tempered with animosity and conflict. There were hard times as well as good times.
Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farmers founded yet another commune south of Peñasco known as the Hog Farm. They were a peripatetic lot who scooted about the nation in their bus (of several incarnations) preserving the peace at hippie gatherings and Be-ins that included the great event that put Woodstock on the map.
Tom Law introduced Yogi Bhajan to New Mexico and New Mexico to Yogi Bhajan who founded a Sikh community near Española that endures to this day.
Hippie culture was not restricted to the communes. Some hippies were more loner than communalist and preferred to camp out in solitude, smoke a joint and relax into the flow of Nature without necessarily being motivated to make a statement. Some few would occasionally wander into a desert hinterland, fast for a few days, and then of a dawn ingest peyote buttons after having carefully picked off as much lophophoran as possible to make for a smoother ride through the stomach. As the day unfolded, reality would be revealed in exquisite living glory, the face of rocks dancing, the molecules of existence rearranging themselves in such a way that the pilgrim was included in the beauty and wonder and glory of the Spirit of Nature, forever imbued with a sense of spiritual purpose, never again to be restricted to the linear thinking that excludes so much of the great mystery.
While many of the communes withered with the passage of the seasons, and hippies ripened into middle and late age, many found themselves ready to take their knowledge and understanding into the greater culture and to become counter-culture activists. John Nichol’s superb New Mexico trilogy conveys with great insight the inter-cultural struggles, both the light and the dark, that characterize human presence in the mythic landscape of northern New Mexico. By the early 1970s, environmental consciousness was flickering into public awareness. Many became inspired by reading Desert Solitaire, a great classic penned by Edward Abbey who melded anarchist thought with environmentalism and thus became the god-father of the radical environmental movement.
In part, hippie consciousness expanded and conjoined with intellect, and a new wave of counter-culturalists entered the fray armed with university training in biology, geography, ecology, environmental law and other disciplines required if humanity is to forestall our own folly. Hippie consciousness also entered the marketplace where organic produce, meat and poultry provide physical sustenance unburdened with additives, pesticides and preservatives. Clothing styles have become more free, exotic and comfortable. Hair comes and goes at the whim of the mind inside the head. Music has imploded and exploded carrying every message to every quarter.
There is a growing tendency to perceive from within a sphere of reference filled with clusters of associated notions, experiences, understandings, learnings, through which the active mind may extrapolate future probabilities and possibilities. In pre-hippie days, this form of “ecolate thinking” (a term coined by Garrett Hardin) was not particularly prevalent.
Poet and philosopher Gary Snyder has participated in the counter-culture movement his entire adult life. He has been a founder of the bio-regional movement that has evolved in large measure from the hippie movement of the 1960s and ’70s. One July day in 1985 as we sat in the shade of the pine forest that surrounds his home, I asked Gary to provide his sense of bioregional practice.
“Bioregionalism goes beyond simple geography or biology because of its cultural and spiritual concerns. Human concerns. We hope to know not only the flora and fauna of a place, but also the cultural information-how the long-time inhabitants lived there, the ones who know how to do it. The deeper mythic, spiritual, and archetypal implications of a fir tree, a coyote, a blue-jay might reach in unpredictable directions. It becomes a
study not only of place, but a study of psyche in place. It is not a study that one can do with books though-you must learn with your working body, in a place, on the land, with an ear for the elder teachers.”
Today, cultural boundaries have been breeched and hippie-ness is revealed to have cast its hue everywhere. New Mexico remains a many-faceted counter-cultural proving ground fraught with dangerous edges for the close-minded. But for those with eyes to see, it remains the land of clear light.
By Jack Loeffler