I met Joanie at Tolstoy, where I was introduced to her by Sylvia. Joanie had flowers in her hair, the color and smell of white roses, with a warm smile to melt away all doubt. A child of the Sixties, the teacher of the future, a blossom in bloom, a whirling skirt of dancing joy. She was the one who put the flower in your hair.
You have to know my personality at the time of my arrival at Tolstoy in the Spring of sixty seven. I was a clean-it-up and keep-it-neat kind of guy, everything in its place, staying up all night cleaning and waxing. I was taught by my grandmother to be a nice boy. I was fond of Gandhi and Little Richard. I was working in Seattle where I met Jose Fuentes. He said, "I have a friend I would like you to meet." He introduced me to Sylvia, a cowgirl from California, brown hair in braids, wearing blue jeans, boots, and white Spanish blouse. Sylvia said, "Would you like to come over to our farm for the weekend?" I said, "Ok."
We traveled by Greyhound and then by truck to Tolstoy, a commune named after the famed author. The commune was nestled in a canyon, protected from the North wind. There was a variety of young people who lived there, all under the age of 40. There were about 20 or 30 people already living at Tolstoy, and a few of them worked in town. But, most lived off the land. Their Summer chore was canning and saving for Winter. I was told by Sylvia that the winters were harsh. She showed me the depth of the last Winter's snow by touching her knee. I never stayed that long, and although I was planning to, my stay was interrupted.
I was not a casual user of anything. I was not turned on, I didn't care, nor did I want to be. I was aware of the drugs around me in Seattle, but just did not care.
During my first few days at Tolstoy, I enjoyed the freedom and warmth of the people there. This is where Sylvia and Joanie stand out -- Sylvia the lover and Joanie the teacher. It is okay to love your fellow man, which was a simple statement told to me by my friends.
Here is a little story about what to do with butter on your fingers.
One evening at dinner, we were
all sitting at the very long (chow down) dinner table. The women
were running around serving everyone, being mothers (sisters of mercy).
I had brown rice, fresh milk, fresh butter, applebutter, and homemade bread.
One more item, corn on the cob, turned my life around. Some time
during the evening, a decision was made that Tom would be turned on to
some really good shit. I said I really didn't need it, but they said
it would be fine. They were right, I was fine. I had been turned
on right before dinner by Sylvia. Now, let's get back to the corn.
I was sitting enjoying our dinnertime together. I took an ear of
corn, buttered it with my knife, and started eating. Well, wouldn't
you know it, I got butter on my cheeks and hands. I looked around
for my napkin, but couldn't find one. I was perplexed, to say the
least, because what was I going to do. Everyone else was enjoying
their dinner totally unaware of my plight. Well, the sisters of mercy
understood what was happening right away. I still had my hands in
the air, afraid to touch anything. Joanie and Sylvia said to me,
so sweetly, that it was okay to rub the butter off on my shirt and pants.
I paused, looking perplexed, and they said it again, "It's okay, this is
a free country, and you are free to do as you please." Well, everything
was taking effect, and pleasant feelings of warmth surrounded us all.
I cleaned my hands on my shirt and pants, and resumed eating my corn.
The wonder of the moment was love and pure joy, and I smiled. The
sisters of mercy understood it. They were swept up in a tide of pure,
emotional joy. Butter was placed everywhere, and everyone was pleased
and happy. I was turned on and relieved of my past inhibitions.
All three of us ended up in the outside shower, washing the butter off
After the dinner and the shower, the sun was beginning to go down. Sylvia said that we should go over to friend's place, and I said, "Okay." We walked hand-in-hand a quarter of a mile to Tom's and Andie's house where a campfire was going off to the left. There were people sitting around the campfire, singing campfire songs, and passing smoke. Sylvia and I sat down in the circle, and we said hello. We sang and discussed the nature of the world's plight, while the embers turned red. Joanie read to us from Winnie the Pooh by lamplight. She had good taste. "This is where it's at." And, that is how I met Joanie.
I absolutely loved this period of my life. I was taught by Huw, Sylvia's husband, the beauty of Tolstoy and his short stories. Read Tolstoy. You, too, will find the goodness of his thoughts.
During the first week at Tolstoy I was turned on to acid. The incident with the corn was the first trip. I was guided by the love of Sylvia and Joanie. Later that night I was turned on to Smoke at the campfire. These two incidents happened the same day. Everyone was very pleased with the good emotions of the day.
I was being turned on by two lovely young ladies, the shower was pure gentle clean emotion. Clean and pure, the cleanliness you would expect from the Garden of Eden. These simple emotion were understood as the new emotions of the times. Someone at some point ( my youth and religious teachings ) was saying, "showering with two young ladies was not good", but good for the young nation it was, back to the Garden of Eden.
When you see three young children showering under the sprinklers outside nude, you may understand the purity of the shower, warm lovable emotions were spread about liberally.
These are good times.
I still love these young ladies.
The Trip To Morningstar
The Trip to Morningstar really began at Tolstoy farm, a farming community in the Northwest. While at Tolstoy, I decided to go off to pick apples so the commune and I could have some expense money. I left in early September and headed for the Yakima Valley in Washington State. The valley is known for its large, delicious fruit. I had been in the valley the year before picking apples.
The Chief Joseph Dam, I visit on my way to pick apples. I stopped and wondered at the site. Porcelain, steel and concrete. The adjacent park has a rest room, a place to wash the detailed maintenance of my body, in the evening I roll out the sleeping bag and lay under the stars. I listen to the night creatures, peaceful sleeping.
The winding road follows the winding river. The cold clear water rolls over white, black and brown rocks. I look across the river and see a apple orchard and farther back I see hills. It doesn't matter on which side of the river I am on, the view is the same, looking east or west. This is a long valley, the apple country. All the things that matter are here for the apples. A narrow winding ribbon of road, orchards and river wind forever. I have slept beyond the rail timbers, under the stars here. A good peaceful sleep, waking to the wonders around me.
I knew when I left Tolstoy that I would make good money because of my previous experience. It didn't take long for me to find a job. I only looked for those groves with trees about eight to 10 feet tall. I told one orchard owner that I was a very careful picker and showed him just how careful I was. He hired me on the spot, and I started working right away. I think I was there for about a week. At night I would sleep under the apple trees in the tall grass, wondering and gazing at the stars. While I was there picking the fruit, a man dressed in white came up to me in the orchard and asked if I was Tomas. I said, "Yes," and he introduced himself as Ramon. I said I knew about him from Joanie, who had frequently talked of him. He said he was with a group of people from Tolstoy. He said Joanie, Nancy, her friend Wally, and the two kids were with him. They were on their way to Morningstar, a commune near San Francisco. They asked if I would like to come along. I don't know why I agreed to accompany them. Maybe I said, "Why not?" Anyway, I left within the half-hour.
To this day I do not know how Ramon found me in the Apple orchids of the Yakima Valley?
We traveled in two vans. Ramon, Joanie and I were in one van, and Nancy, her friend, and the two kids were in the other.
We left the apple orchard and headed South. Upon sighting a national park maybe 50 miles down the road, we headed into it. The two vans pulled into a free campsite where we proceeded to set up camp for the night. I made a pine needle bed, something I had learned to do in my youth. Ramon and Nancy both had Coleman camp stoves to set up. Everybody found something useful to do. After we had settled in, we enjoyed the woods. Later before dark, the women cooked dinner. We all talked and had a good time.
The ritual of finding a state or national park was repeated every day. We traveled sometimes 50 miles a day, and sometimes 150 miles a day. We were in no hurry. I just enjoyed my holiday. On all occasions but one we camped outdoors. Some time during the trip we had a pouring, non-stop rain. There was no chance to set up outdoors, so we set up camp in the men's restroom of a national park for the night. I remember a man coming in, looking around, and turning and going back out.
Nancy had the bright idea that she could go into any town and get food stamps. She had previoiusly worked for the state welfare department. So, at the first town we came to, she told us what she wanted us to do. She explained to everyone what the requirements were for obtaining food stamps in California. Somewhere along the line, she said that I should also get food stamps. I gave her a lot of, "But I, . . . but I, . . . but I's." She persisted that I should also get stamps. This lady had balls. As it happened, we all went to the welfare office and went through the red tape. The welfare people didn't know it, but they had been had by a lady with balls. Five of us received food stamps. I received my share of $50.00's worth. Nancy and her friend got the most because of the children. Ramon and Joanie fell somewhere in between. The vans were loaded down with groceries like a pickup loaded with dirt. We could hardly keep the front wheels on the ground. God, that lady had balls.
Once we stopped at a commune called The Church of the Golden Rule. It was somewhere in California. They had a gas station and a store/gift shop on the coast highway. Down below in the valley they probably had 200 to 300 acres of farmland with beautiful farm buildings that were painted white with red trim. Dairy cattle and horses were everywhere you looked. These were wealthy farmers. They invited us in after discovering that we were going to a commune, because Ramon spoke about Morningstar. They could not see any way someone could have a free access commune without going under, but Ramon said, "See for yourself," and told them about Morningstar.
At another stop, the campground had an adjacent park with a large pool. Everybody went for a swim at midnight in the moonlight while it was unattended.
Somewhere along the line we attended a PTA meeting, where we all sat on the floor with the ladies in the lotus position, while Ramon spoke of alternative lifestyles and communal living. After the meeting we milled around. People asked us questions about what we were doing and why. You can imagine how colorful this was. What a sight! Flowers, beads, feathers, and Red Ball boots.
I really don't know how long it took to make the trip down, but it was quite a spell. I had been on trips before, but this time a fun time was had by all.