My Very Short Stay in the Commune

There are and have been times in my life when I want to run away. Fight or flight? Sometimes it is flight. When I lived in Berkeley, CA in the mid 1960s, there were times that life just seemed much too hard. I was a single mother going to school. At the time, i was going to Oakland City Community College in Oakland. The world I knew as a child didn’have single mothers. My mother reiterated time and again that she hoped someone would find damaged goods attractive. I was the damaged goods.

Some things in Berkeley were easier. There was a citywide childcare and the charge was based on income. It was run in conjunction with the Department of Education at UC Berkeley. The jobs available to me as a high school grad in CA at the time were not good jobs. I wanted to provide something more for my daughter.

There were easy ways to run away for the afternoon. Free music in the park. Movies run by various campus groups almost for free. There were political meetings. There were also meetings about communes. Some of the meetings were to start communes and others were to recruit. Some were just to inform people of the wonderful life of a commune.

A group of about 5 of us decided we wanted to see some of the communes with the intent of joining. Donna had access to a family cabin in Sonoma County and we decided to stay there for a weekend and check it out. The Morningstar Commune started by Limelighter Lou Gottlieb in nearby Sebastopol was the place that looked the best. No one was denied and no one was turned away. I saw it as maybe a way to offload a little of the responsibility of being the sole provider for my child.

We started out early in the morning so we could see what went on all day in the hippie enclave.

It was hard to find and since I was thinking of staying for maybe the weekend before moving permanently, I bought a carton of cigarettes. It took along time to find the place. The road was not well marked. We finally spotted a small sign showing the way to MorningStar Ranch. Then, we drove up us long, long dusty road finally arriving at a very large ranch house. We saw several people milling about the front yard. We parked the car and approached them. They all welcomed us and asked me for cigarettes. By the time I entered the ranch-house, I had lost half a carton of cigarettes. I was beginning to wonder about how this was going to work out.

One of the communards offered us a tour and we gladly accepted. He said I could leave my daughter in the ranch house and someone would look after her. A young woman with a child in her arms offered to watch her while we toured. Char had found some other kids to play with so I felt somewhat at ease in leaving her for a short while since she was having sun with other kids. There were also about fifteen adults in the main room.

First, we want outside and walked down to the fields being tilled. The idea was that the rancor was to be self-sustainable. There were about three people working in the fields. We walked over to the vineyards amd saw a couple of people working there. I asked about the few number of workers and my tour guide said there were other things to do like cooking. They also had shops that made guitars and other crafts for sale such as hand knit sweaters. I knew I could knit and cook. Maybe it would work out. I asked about the cooking and the tour guide took us back to the ranch house and into the dining and front room for lunch.

We had a very bad very vegan lunch. I'm not sure that vegan was what it was called but vegan is exactly what it was. We had a lot of brown rice with some fresh vegetables. My daughter would not touch it. I tried. It was bad except for the fresh veggies. The brown rice was so overlooked, it was almost pasty and without seasoning. After lunch, the guide suggested we walk around and talk to people. My daughter ran off with her new friends.

We went to the living room and talked to a couple sitting there. I asked how often they helped out. They told me that they didn't have to work. Some people worked but no one was assigned work. You worked as you felt like it. It seem that the folks I talked to just didn't feel the need. I talked to a few more and it was similar. I decided to try the kitchen. There were people working in the kitchen. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. I found out that the women in the kitchen did most of the kitchen work and liked it and they never went hungry. They said there were problems getting enough food. They also said the owner of the farm was rich and took care of it.

We had enough ….I went to find my daughter so we could get out. My dreams of commune living were shattered. I found my daughter eating dirt in the backyard by an open sewage pipe. The adults in the area had decided it wouldn’hurt her. I had a very different opinion. We almost ran.

I think this was the first time my ideals and reality had been so at odds

Posted with Blogsy

One thought on “My Very Short Stay in the Commune

  1. Nearly joined a commune in the early 1970s, came very close…….. it would have been fun but careers got in the way…… that particular commune is still going.
    Terry

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