Relationships & Sol Ray's Birth
BILL: "As the sun sank below the western ridge, people gathered by the barn for
the evening milking, some to help, others to watch and visit with their friends. Claudia
and Virginia, our faithful cows, ambled down Hoffie's Hill and passed by unconcerned to
their stanchions full of hay and grain. Some distance from the barn, a girl stood by
herself. Long, brown hair fell to her waist, framing an elegant face with well-defined
features, a prominent forehead, deepset eyes so dark the pupil and iris seemed to be one,
giving her a piercing gaze, a strong but delicate nose, full but subtle lips and a long
neck set on broad shoulders. Her hands hung from long shapely arms and her legs were
similarly molded, giving her a willowy quality. Yet there was something substantial about
her, almost athletic. Her breasts were young, firm and full. I was immediately attracted
by the magic surrounding her. I approached and we spoke, she answering in a soft southern
accent. I invited her to come to my studio the next day, suggesting a walk into the canyon
for a swim. The next morning I found her sitting by a campfire sipping some tea. She
seemed almost surprised to see me, but accepted my studio invitation. We spent some time
there, she working on her guitar and I trying to do a drawing. Then off we went to the
canyon, plunging happily down the hillside.
"It was still early morning, and the sun had not yet burned off the fog when we
reached the swimming hole at the bottom of the East Canyon. It was one of my favorite
spots, lush with surrounding trees dipping into the five-foot-deep pool. A big rock at one
end made a perfect diving platform. We took our clothes off, swam and laughed. Afterwards,
as the sun finally dissolved the fog, we found a soft, grassy spot. Falling into each
other's arms, we became one body. In that sweet, sunny place, folded within the protection
of the canyon walls, we spent the morning making love and talking about ourselves, our
families and past romances. She asked me if I did this to all young girls who came to the
ranch, remarking that it was the funniest thing that had ever happened to her. On the walk
back to the top, she easily kept up with me; she was a strong woman. Later in the day she
left for the city but gave me her address. Patricia and I saw much of each other after
that encounter -- perhaps too much, because our love affair ended my marriage to Gwen.
"I had this fantasy that I wanted to try out, of having two wives. So I brought my
new sweetheart up from the city and the three of us spent the night together. For me it
was great, but the women did not get off on it. Gwen said that by the end of the night the
bed smelled like a gymnasium. The secret to having two wives, supposedly, is to treat both
absolutely equally. This was one of the reasons why my experiment did not work.
"At that time, Stephen Gaskin was exposing us to some brand new ideas regarding
marriage and family life. He felt that a man having two wives or a woman having two
husbands was bound to fail because of the lack of symmetry. Instead he recommended that
group marriage always retain a equal number of both sexes, describing the four-way
marriage he himself practiced at the time in which they traded partners every night. My
own attempts at marital bliss could best be described as a battleground where ex-wives and
children abounded. Love relationships had left me exhausted and baffled.
"Tremendous sex myths have been connected with the Ridge and with the communal
movement in general. The 'hippie chick' became as much a sex symbol for American society
as the airline stewardess ('Fly Me To Havana!'). But I could not believe there was any
more sexual activity at the Ridge than anywhere else. It was just that we tried to be more
honest and up-front about it than our parents.
"The Ridge contained the whole sexual spectrum from celibates, horny single men,
liberated women, gay scenes to stable married couples who had not sexual interest in
anyone but each other.
A few orgies occurred (someone always had the clap), but they were more of a joke than
anything else. Most people preferred privacy to groups for the working out of their sexual
dramas. As for myself, my marriage to Gwen was reasonably stable for as long as it lasted,
except that I was having affairs on the side and she was not. I could not allow her the
same freedom I took for myself, which made me a sexist and a male chauvinist. Nor could I
be honest with her about my sexual activities because of my fear of hurting her as well as
my guilt, and my worry that she might leave me.
"If any generalization could be made about the family on Open Land, it was that
the traditional model of father, mother and child was the exception rather than the rule.
The nuclear family rarely stayed intact when bombarded by the intense interpersonal
energies of alternate culture. It seemed as if greater affiliations and loyalties were
being demanded of us than those of the blood level. Couples attempting to stay together
would give each other the freedom to have outside relationships, ultimately shattering the
"Carl Jung once wrote that jealousy was the absence of love. If one truly loves a
person, one should approve of whatever makes that person happy, even if it includes a
sexual relationship with another person. This concept presented the basic argument:
attached versus detached love. Some said that loose or 'open' marriages tended to lead to
dissolution of the bond. Others said the same of communities which have relaxed access
rules -- that the effort was doomed to failure. At Morning Star, Lou began to refuse to
perform marriages because he felt it was merely erecting a No Trespassing sign. Clearly
there existed frontiers involving the family and its relationship to the land which barely
had begun to be explored. To change patterns of culture ingrained for generations required
a monumentally conscious effort, but for those of us who had come from families
characterized by strife, misery and hypocrisy, the changed seemed a necessary and natural
Also, the nuclear family of modern times was a relatively recent phenomenon. Homes used
to include not only father and mother, but grandparents, aunts and sometimes servants, all
of whom helped take care of the children. Often the children received more love from
persons other than the parents. Within this type of extended family, the child-rearing
pressures were lessened on the mother and shared among more adults. Open Land duplicated
the extended family, tribal village context within which even small children could run
freely, the parents secure in the knowledge that there were many loving people about
willing to care for them."
GWEN: "One evening of a hot summer day, Bill invited Patricia to dinner. When I
looked up and saw her walking down the path, her long, silken hair swinging, I knew
immediately that Bill had fallen in love. He had had womenfriends before during our
marriage, but this one was different. During dinner Bill was very excited, throwing
glances at Patricia and me and then giggling. Patricia remained calm and poised. After
dinner, when she got up to leave, Bill followed her with his eyes, feeling the confusion
of being unable to communicate to me what I already knew.
"The next few weeks were filled with Bill and Patricia's growing infatuation, my
slow, painful adjustment to the withdrawal of Bill's attentions, and my futile attempts to
grow closer to Patricia. My emotions began to tear me apart. I felt the earth being pulled
from beneath my feet.
"Bill wanted us both to be his wives, Patricia wanted to be exclusively with Bill.
I wanted to be accepting of what was happening, but felt desperately hurt. Although we
spent some time together, none of these feelings were ever brought out. I felt we were
each walking a tightrope, and were observing some kind of strict etiquette to keep from
falling with a crash.
"One day, in desperation, I hopped aboard a van with friends on their way to
Colorado. Raspberry and I spent a week traveling the Southwest, but the pain of my failing
relationship kept me from enjoying the trip. Early on a Sunday morning I returned, hoping
everything would have returned to normal. Bill was relieved to see us and proclaimed he
had decided to give up Patricia. I dropped some mescaline and, a little later, he and
Patricia dropped some acid. We all three sat together at the Sunday feast, stoned, feeling
psychedelic love and trying to share it with each other. By evening I could see that Bill
and Patricia did not want to part, so we all climbed into bed together. We made love most
of that night. I was terrified, incredibly aroused and satisfied at the same time. Finally
we drifted off into a sound and peaceful sleep.
"Raspberry awoke early to nurse, and while I lay with her curled by my side, my
breast in her mouth, Bill and Patricia began to make love again. When he got up, he patted
us both and said, 'I have two such beautiful women.' The psychedelic had worn off. I felt
a snap of anger. I resented being 'had.' Patricia must have had a similar sentiment,
because she returned to her previous boyfriend. That day my bond of love with Bill
shattered with the realization that he expected me to allow a second wife for his
pleasure, but did not have the remotest intention of allowing a second husband for mine.
The imbalance toppled our relationship, and I began to search for a way out."
RAMON: "Bill and Gwen's emotional upheavals were felt very personally by the
community. Friends rallied to Gwen to help her through her difficult time. Bill was caught
in a situation beyond his emotional maturity and floundered badly. As someone who also had
fallen off the marriage-go-round several times, I felt compassion for both my friends and
could only hope that the spiritual strength of our tribal family would keep them afloat. A
community is strong if it has the elasticity to support a member during a difficult
"With Bill and Gwen both central role models on the Ridge, it was inevitable that
their upheavals influenced the general tone of the community. A liberated singles
atmosphere seem to pervade the life, and Gina and I began to feel like stuffy parents in
the middle of it all."
That summer there were new babies everywhere. Forest Green Gras, Chandra,
Christian and many more to numerous to list. At Morning Star, Lou's deeding of the land to
God had undergone a series of maneuvers which finally culminated in exhausting the
possibility of a favorable decision in the Santa Rosa courts. Lou then drew up a
memorandum which, although admitting that the question of God as grantee might be without
legal precedent, maintained that the judge was exceeding his constitutional authority in
ruling against the deed. In August, Lou, still acting as his own attorney, filed a
Supplemental Memorandum arguing that his deeding of Morning Star to God consisted of a
legal dedication of the land for public use. Public use of the land was already common
knowledge, so it could be argued that it already was in use as dedicated.
Also in August, a friendly lawyer named Solomon filed an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the
Court) brief which argued among other points that finding the deed to God valid would
uphold a charitable gift of the land for public use, and suggested the judge appoint a
guardian or trustee for Morning Star. Another Amicus Curiae brief prepared by a group of
hotshot Yale Law students argued that the right to religious freedom should always be
interpreted liberally by the courts, and that the existence of the deed itself proved the
dedicatory intent of the previous owner. Lou, who by now had spent many long hours in the
law libraries, praised it as a nice piece of legal work.
RAMON: "On September 13, Gina's bag of waters broke and she went into light labor.
By evening it was obvious that the baby was finally on its way. Gina was restless, finding
it hard to get comfortable. Luckily, our Morning Star brother Phil Brougham showed up. An
expert Reichian masseur, we could not have asked for a better helper. He sat behind her on
the bed, keeping her relaxed by kneading her back and sides, while I sat in front as
something to grab during each contraction. Basically, she received a sixteen-hour massage.
Gina's brother, Lou, Near, Vishnu, Bill, Gwen and Raspberry all gathered at our house.
"Having a baby seemed to turn Gina into a Gypsy dancer. It was a slow labor, but
she kept on top of it by 'oming' during each contraction. A cow across the canyon often
answered her with a sympathetic moo. Around four a.m. she finally went into second stage
and proceeded to stay there until almost eight. At last, with the first morning sunbeams
darting in the window, she grabbed the center post of the house and, kneeling, delivered
the head. I was behind her and just managed to catch the baby when he tumbled out. Joy,
relief, transports of delight beyond words! We had a beautiful buddha baby boy of about
7′ pounds. I laid him on Gina's tummy just as Beatrice, mother of three boys, came down
just in time to suggest waiting to cut the umbilical cord until a white fatty plug
appeared. We waited forty minutes and, sure enough, there it was! I then tied and cord and
"That night we meditated together, and mutually were given the name Sol Ray.
Inasmuch as his first experience of life was a beam of sunlight, the name seemed more than
appropriate. Also he had an Uncle Sol in his mother's family.
"The whole community rejoiced with us. Everyone showered us with love and many
kindnesses, bringing us cooked meals and many presents for the baby. Raspberry and Vishnu
were both present at the birth and Raspberry, upon seeing Gina a few days later, squatted
and grunted, remembering the delivery."
GWEN: "Gina expressed her labor with much drama. In the light of the candles, she
flew about the tiny room, shrieking and moaning most of the night. At long last the baby
slithered out into his father's arms, and Gina lay back with her son's birth accomplished,
experiencing the deep contentment that wipes away the memory of angry pain. A newborn son
woke up the Open Land family to a joyous new day.
"I left the same morning for San Francisco, feeling weak, exhausted, and with a
sharp ache growing in my side. The severity of the pain prompted an early return to the
ranch. Ramón in the community truck picked up Peter and me hitchhiking. We rounded the
last corner that brought us to the top of the hill overlooking the Ridge and at once saw a
column of smoke rising from the East Canyon. It seemed to be coming from the vicinity of
Gina's and Ramón's house. Ramón started the truck hurtling down the bumpy access road,
and with each bump the pain in my side stabbed me. Halfway down, I grabbed Peter and said
I couldn't make it any further, but I knew that if I was let out I wouldn't be able to
move from the spot. I gripped Peter's arm tighter and held on until we reached the garden.
They immediately ran off to fight the fire which turned out to be Cliff's tent halfway
down the east canyon road. I waited to catch my breath and then slowly, inch by inch,
moved my cramped body to my bed, not to move a hair for five days.
"Bill came home to tell me how Cliff, our self-appointed fire chief, had been
cooking enchiladas on his stove. His tent had caught on fire, and in turn the huge redwood
stump outside had started burning, acting like a chimney for the flames. The Ridgefolk had
formed a bucket brigade from the nearest water line about three-quarters of a mile away.
People were filling cups, bowls, anything from the slowly dripping faucet and then running
down the steep hill naked, crying, scared. We couldn't put it out, but were able to
contain it until three fire trucks arrived along with the borate bombers -- the
fire-fighting planes. One of the tank trucks blew its engine, and the firemen had a hard
time keeping their minds on the fire, what with Frizzy Nancy in just a top and no bottoms
and Corky only wearing boots. But the fire chief was very complimentary to our volunteer
brigade, although he suggested that next time it might be a good idea to put on some
Gwen was sick for a long time, not realizing it was hepatitis. The simplest daily
chores put her back in bed weak and trembling, emotionally drained. Finally she phoned her
parents and made arrangements to recuperate at their house. Hepatitis swept through the
ranch that year, afflicting a large number of residents.