Tag Archives: hippie

Skinny Dipping is Good for the Soul

15 Oct

Our two-week house sitting stint in Coffs Harbour was up and we were on the road. We counted on having berry picking work by now but all the farms we called said it would be another few weeks. The bills were piling up and our spirits were sinking so I couldn’t wait to put our computers away for a few days and disconnect.

We told a family friend that we were heading to the Dorrigo National Park for the weekend and she, looking at my boyfriend’s long hair and bushy unkempt beard, told us about a free camping/commune spot near the national park entrance where we’d find lots of other hippies. She joked that Matt would fit right in the way he looked but that they might try to convert me. I almost showed her the ‘let it be’ and peace/heart sign tattoos I have on either wrist but smiled along instead.

After stopping at the Raleigh Winery for a free tasting and having an amazing cup of tea in the artsy and somewhat retro town of Bellingen, we drove inland on the windy roads past dairy and macadamia farms, looking for this communal haven. The main road forked and a dirt track disappeared into the national park. That had to be it.

At the bottom of the hill a middle-aged man wearing loose hippie pants stood in the road in front of his rusting shack, driving a remote control car with his toddler son (who was only wearing a shirt and who, with his doe-eyes and long curly hair, I assumed was a girl until I saw his little manhood). We rolled down the window and asked what was up the road.

“The meaning of life,” he replied with a smirk, and we chatted for a bit and told him our story. He kindly offered to let us park in front of his home and use his shower and washer machine. He introduced himself as Alek and when I told him mine was Alex he said, “far out…,” in a drawn-out, contemplative way.

We hadn’t found our community but we didn’t need to anymore.

Alek told us about a watering hole and my boyfriend’s eyes lit up. We said our goodbyes, parked near the water and set out to find it. We trekked along the river bank on uneven slippery rocks and through thick, spider-web-laden bush. My boyfriend trekked along like it was nothing while my heart pounded as I tried to keep up with him, my eyes glued to the ground. I asked him to slow down and told him he was stressing me out. I wanted to take in the experience, not panic about keeping up. He slowed down (for him) but again I kept my eyes on my feet, nervous every time a rock wobbled under me as we crossed the river. I felt completely out of my element, like my suburban Orange-County roots were showing, like my love of nature was just an affectation I’d used to impress my farm-raised Australian boyfriend.

But carried on until we hit a dead-end and needed to cross the waist-deep water. I didn’t want to get my running shoes wet and was happy to turn around since it was already getting late, but Matt urged me to jump into his arms so he could carry me across the water. I thought he was kidding until he jumped in and held out his arms. I was a little embarrassed that he’d gone to such lengths but made jokes about him being a super hero carrying me to safety. The whole situation was pretty ridiculous and just minutes later we reached a deeper part of the river crossing where the stones were unreliable and I had no choice but to walk through the water, drenching my socks and joggers though I’d tried my best to avoid it.

When we finally found our watering hole we gaily stripped down to ours joggers and jumped in. We heard animals moving around in the bushes and Matt dove in the water and pretended to be eaten by a crocodile. We laughed about what we’d do if hikers found us there, prancing around a national park with only our shoes on, and joked about how this would make this perfect postcard.

How we’d needed this!

I got out early while Matt swam and took in our picturesque surroundings, breathing in the stillness. The sun started setting so we hurriedly dressed because the prospect of trekking back along the unpredictable river banks in the dark set fire to our feet. Luckily the sky darkened just as we made it back to the road, the van barely in sight. We took our soppy shoes and socks off and settled in for the night. The frogs and crickets sang in the background, the occasional firefly zipped past and all the stresses of our reality: the dwindling funds, the lack of work prospects, the mounting bills, the urge to bite each others’ heads off – slipped away.

Mother Earth has such a profoundly soothing effect on my psyche that I sometimes wonder why I even bother with this modern age at all. But then, everything is better in contrast. You can’t have the yin without the yang.

Letters to C: Home

15 Aug

July 3rd, 2012

C,

I’m on my way to Arizona, to stay at my parents’ lake house for the 4th with Kat and Lluvia. Last week I took 4 flights, saw 8 cities and have been slowly reacquainting myself with California.

I went to Napa for my mom’s 50th birthday then hung out with Kat in SF and Santa Cruz and did the drive down the coast to her beach house in Huntington, where we stayed last night. And now I’m heading to Arizona…

I live a charmed and blessed life and believe me I’m taking full advantage of my time back here, soaking in this beautiful place before I leave it all again.

It feels so strange to be “home”. What is home when a part of you feels like you don’t fully belong anywhere? Or that you’ve outgrown the places you did? I love this state, I love my friends and family but I see this place for what it is and what it does to me.

I’ve been so fulfilled with my “hippie life” where I’m living out of the van and I don’t know when the money will run out or if I’ll have work. The stresses are there but they’re over real things. It was pure.

Now, in the states, I’m anxious. My chest is tight and I’m insecure about my looks. I care how I dress or what I say and how I say it. It’s like the environment here causes me to doubt myself and all the gossip I keep hearing from everyone just reminds me of how I’m constantly being judged.

It’s a really strange feeling and I’m worried all the growth I’ve done is going to unravel in my few short weeks here. I see myself slipping into the habits I’ve happily rid myself of. It worries me a bit.

These are the people I know and love and this my home country, but now I feel like I don’t belong or that it’s best for me not to belong. I guess what I’m saying is I think I’m making the right decision by moving to Oz and I think you did by moving to NYC.

Take Care,

Alex

Essay Review: Slouching Towards Bethlehem

28 Oct

During spring of 1967, just before the Summer of Love, thousands of Americans flocked to San Francisco, the epicenter of the hippie movement that challenged everything that was understood about the world.

Psychoactive drugs, creative expression, revolutionary music and political ideals swept the nation. Long-haired flower children spoke of free love, peace and the necessity of exploring realms of consciousness. People questioned the policies of the generations before them and demanded change.

It was during this time that award-winning journalist Joan Didion stepped onto the scene. Embracing the changing landscape herself, Didion wrote about her experiences in what was called the “New Journalism” style, of articulating facts through narrative storytelling, which was popularized by Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson and Truman Copote.

Didion spent months in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco not knowing exactly what she wanted to find out, but made friends “where the social hemorrhaging was showing up… where the missing children were gathering and calling themselves hippies.”

In her 1968 essay “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” Didion draws upon her observations of Haight-Ashbury and removes the romanticized veil that has come to represent the hippie movement.

She bears witness to the social phenomena of the late ‘60s and communicates her experiences as an observer rather than a participant.

The title for the essay and the book of the same name, is taken from the last line of William Butler Yeat’s poem The Second Coming (1919) and shares the same apocalyptic vision.

During Didion’s time in Haight-Ashbury, she meets a 5-year-old on lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) who explains that her mother had been giving her drugs for the past year and that many of her fellow classmates “turn on,” too.

Didion, who was in her 30s at the time, describes her work Slouching Towards Bethlehem as the “first time I dealt directly and flatly with the evidence of atomization, the proof that all things fall apart.”

Throughout the essay, Didion encounters runaways who left their stable lives behind to live in the “Golden Land” of California, a place they believed promised freedom, love and acceptance, but instead found themselves homeless, hungry and looking for their next drug fix.

Didion is told to offer these vagabonds hamburgers and Coca Colas in exchange for interviews and comes to the conclusion that their lives are now filled with aimless endeavors where the past no longer matters and the future can’t be planned.

“We were seeing the desperate attempt of a handful of pathetically unequipped children to create a community in a social vacuum… we had somehow neglected to tell these children the rules of the game we happened to be playing. They are less in rebellion against the society than ignorant of it,” Didion writes.

“Slouching Towards Bethlehem” acts as a time capsule into the ‘60s with Didion reporting on the intrinsic pitfalls of the counterculture and allowing readers to catch an intimate glimpse into the lives of those entrenched in the hippie movement. Her essay portrays a darker, more removed account of 1967 than could be expected from the versions of her subjects.

Originally published at The Daily Titan

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