Home Free Home: A History of Two Open-Door California Communes
LOU: (April, 1973) "Dear Hearts, God is time, and the idea of Open Land spreads as and when He wills. It has been given to us to see how to remove love's principal obstacle - the exclusive ownership of land, but defending this discovery in obsolete ways will only freak out the 'landlords.'
"The rich want to give. Believe it. And opening land - or, in legal terminology, deeding land to God, is the first step in allowing love to transform a competitive economy of abundance into its next stage, the Garden of Eden. For me, that means 'set the example.' Quit talking about it and get busy. Earn some money and use it to buy land and deed it to God. Others will follow suit.
"The only thing wrong with Open Land is that there isn't enough of it yet. Whatever 'bummers' that we who lived on Open Land experienced will disappear when there are many more Morning Star Ranches. The practice of never telling anyone to leave Open Land is a temporary expedient. If there were enough places, everyone could find his own home naturally. Divinely positioned neighbors do not put their trips on one another. Expand your own bliss tolerance, and everything will be groovy. I love you,
NEAR: (Not For Hire But For Higher) "The need for political social change workers who march and protest is mostly transcended on Open Land. Politics are nonexistent, except that most of us use bliss as our political tactic. The women's lib groups lack the structure to protest here. With no laws and no mortal form of authority, liberation lies only in freeing your mind, raising your consciousness, discovering what makes you happy and then doing it.
"As a woman, I've grown happily accustomed to Open Land life. There is no social pressure to work, be a housewife, or get married. People smilingly accept relationships that once labelled a woman a 'slut.'
"Bearing children is of course our choice, thanks to birth control. Most women parturating on Open Land experience orgasms instead of labor pains. Since giving birth is a natural, healthy event, very few women desire or need the surveillance of a doctor.
"Those who live together on Open Land feel a familiar bond. Babies are brought up relating to many people as their mommies and daddies. Sometimes, when a group of parents and babies have gathered and a baby cries, I see the nearest mother reaching out to comfort and suckle it, whether the baby is biologically her own or not.
"As the child grows, it develops independence rapidly. He knows all the people on the land love him. He feels free to wander over the meadows. Carnal parents don't have to worry about their children. The land provides a gentle, natural environment.
"Most men don't hold jobs, and this gives them the opportunity to share the joys and tensions of parenthood. I personally prefer living with a non-working man. I would rather be grooving with him than waiting for him to come home from work.
"At Morning Star Ranch, four non-biological brothers and sisters build a children's house. At that time, the children were mostly two and three-year-olds. The adults gathered the children every Thursday and catered to their whims. The parents enjoyed a real day of rest, while their children's greatest need was fulfilled - attention from a fresh source. The creators of this happening originally thought they would be providing the children with a school. After the first session, they realized it was a school, only the children were the teachers. They named it 'Eden.'
"At Wheeler's, a similar experiment began. Every day, children could be brought to the bakery. They found their playmates there, and adults who wanted to take care of them. There was no need to schedule who would watch them on which day. It always happened spontaneously. In the Great Society, non-biological parents usually have little or nothing to do with children unless they are getting paid for their time. The harmony of Open Land puts non-biological parents into the flow of parenthood. The world needs more of this consciousness!"
RAMON: (1976) "Morning Star has been more or less deserted for three years. Lou moved out, and donated his studio as lumber for homes on the Ridge. Choctaw Eddie rebuilt it in miniature on the back of his '46 Chevy truck and putt-putted off into the sunset, leaf springs sagging. Lou regrouped with the Limeliters and is back on the road, entertaining in his inimitable fashion with his own special brand of humor. Bill Wheeler is trying to get the injunction lifted by building a code house. Also he found a friend to buy out the O'Brien's, so that closes THAT particular chapter, although Clara O'Brien filed a civil suit as a result of that front gate affair which continued in litigation for some time.
"Old ways pass slowly, but Jerry Brown's governorship has been a large leap in the right direction. Gina is leading an exciting existence in the city. Near and Vishnu are living in Hawaii along with other tribesfolk, spread out in small enclaves. We have been scattered in all directions, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, New Mexico, Colorado, South America, each person taking a spark of the fire kindled during our Open Land experiences. Whenever some of us meet, the talk inevitably gravitates to 'the good old days,' and a certain wistful tone creeps into our voices. With few dissenting votes, those who lived at the Ridge and Morning Star yearn to see that spirit revive once more. But then, it never died! We were forcefully detribalized in the same manner as the Native Americans."
RAMON: (1986) "It's now twenty years since that fateful spring when I moved to Morning Star Ranch and was joined by Lou and others. I too have returned to city living, where I can carve out a writer's career for myself. I try to return to Sonoma County a few times a year to see friends, but I am basically a city mouse at the moment. I feel like my 'yoga' for the present is to burrow into the 'heart of the beast' and do whatever tasks are assigned to me.
"How ironic that our current president is the very man who, as governor of California, once said, 'There will be no more Morning Stars!' In spite of Reagan's pronouncement, and Sonoma County's successful war again the Open Land movement, Alternate Society thrives. One only has to drive up the coast from San Francisco to Vancouver to encounter watershed after watershed of good people quietly growing their families and gardens, living gently on the earth. The pendulum will inevitably swing back towards a greater awareness of humanity's need to live in small, tribal groups. In spite of the growing nightmares of terrorism, atomic holocaust, pollution, I still remain optimistic that the seeds planted so long ago will blossom in our children's generation into a new, more conscious society."
RAMON: (1998) "Yet another addendum, thirteen years later! Meanwhile, Lou did the unthinkable, and checked out of this dimension in July, 1996. "Lou!" We yelled after him. "Stop! Don't die! You promised to stick around for you concert piano debut!" But -- whoom! -- he was gone in a day. In less than a day. In just a few hours. Read the whole story here in: the July, 1996 MOST Newsletter.
"Sorry, Dear Hearts," I can hear Lou say. "It's just that I got reassigned, and it's a terrific new gig! But we'll all be together again."
For all those who enjoyed the pleasure of Lou's presence over the years, he has left a very large and empty space in our lives. No one I can think of could, like Lou, both entertain and instruct in equal amounts, and at the same time. Blessings, dear brother! God speed, and thank you.
It feels good finally to get this story out, and let you, the reader, share the experience of how a group of folks attempted to harmonize themselves back with Mother Earth, with the elements and with all living things. Our way, voluntary primitivism, not only was harmless to the planet but also harmonious with the tribal style of life built into our DNA. Whenever I watch a documentary about some tribal group, such as those living along the Amazon, I compare the elegant pace of their life style with our own frenzied one. Their life offers them so much leisure -- a few hours hoeing the garden in the cool of the morning, lounging in a hammock for a long siesta or to play with their babies, and then perhaps a few hours fishing for supper towards evening. Meanwhile here we are, surrounded by our marvelous labor-saving devices that pollute the environment in all sorts of ways, working sixty hours a week to pay them off! Who, I ask you, are the unenlightened heathen?
Meanwhile, despite the crises and catastrophes, I remain hopeful because I know that the lessons we learned "back then" have taken root and flowered in ways mysterious and miraculous. A new generation is growing up that understands in the depths of their nature what we had to discover by trial and error, by blasting away the layers of accumulated crud from our spirits so that, at last, we could emerge, like butterflies from our cultural cocoons, as who we really were. May thousands more butterflies take wing!
NEAR: "Open Land gives us open hearts which lead us to open families. But the whole key is Open Land as a service!"