The MOST Newsletter Winter 2010 Volume XII
A Project of The Peregrine Foundation
P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 / telephone:
/ fax (415) 282-2369
Staff: Ramon Sender, editor; Vivian Gotters, Pam Read Hanna, Sandi Stein,
Contributing Editors; Tomas Diaz & David Hatch, HTML wizards.
The MOST Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion, and encourages
the expression of all views.
The opinions expressed in the letters published are those of the
correspondents and do not necessarily reflects those of MOST editors or
Winter 2010 Volume XII
-------------- "What Go 'Round Come Around" -------
MOST Newsletters Table of Contents
Bob Sharpe, Mon, Dec 6, 2010: Bob Sharpe, tai chi teacher
and Wheeler grad, remembers Whitefeather
Whitefeather (Charlotte Daniels) d. July 28, 2010
Whitefeather and I were contemporaries at Wheeler's Ranch
during the "First Incarnation," when I was there from March to September,
1970. Those were busy, crowded and happily chaotic days, and it was later
not surprising to us that we didn't recall having met or casually conversed
at that time, though, looking back on it, we found we had many mutual friends.
Although the Ranch was at various times called "Ahimsa," and, "Open Land," it was usually tabbed a "hippie commune" in the press. And for awhile it was called "God's Land," and good old God did manage to hold off the sheriff--for awhile. Many later thought we might more accurately be described as a "free collective," since personal relationships, property and dwellings weren't mutually owned and there were no required meetings, work or cash donations. But call it what you will, it was unique, and surely a major influence on most of us for the rest of our lives.
Somewhere in regards to something along the lines of Open Land, along with Wheeler's Ranch, should be included nearby Morningstar, Star Mountain and Morningsong. Though not exactly one of a piece, each in its own way was one of a kind, and as an alternative lifestyle setting they were closely connected.
During my time there during the "Second Incarnation," (1976-1985), Whitefeather and I met almost immediately and became close friends. Along with O.B. Ray, she was my most directly personal intellectual and artistic associate and influence, though that list could never be complete without including our mutual friends Greg and Eileen Walley, Bishop and Peg Saltzman, Bob and Margie Robbins, Cal and Ambriel Popelka, David and Gloria, Hibu Sunstone, Larry Crum, David Poole, Donald Price, Greg Pinard, and Moses and Delia Moon from next door at Star Mountain.
Kumbaya Maupin-Daniels, Whitefeather's adopted daughter, occupied a special place in the pantheon.
I also remember many fine high times with Wilder and Penny Bentley, Mark and Joy Pinard, Big Mike Robbins, David Lee, Jill and Janet, Lydia and Mary Ann Wheeler. And of course those lovely children on the Land, Nick, Harley, Emeka, Elbee, Sugar, Matthew and Nicholas John. All those individuals contributed something lasting, necessary and unforgettable. And every one developed further there as someone whom I regard as having been an honest and respectable thinker in his or her own right, including the children.
Bill Wheeler, too, was not merely the trustee of the Land, but a consistently interesting and stimulating artist and individual. I think it inescapable that all of us were in some way inspired by Bill.
If I have temporarily forgotten anyone from that time it is because the years have unkindly dulled my memory, but not my warm feelings towards them.
It can sometimes be easy to live with people who completely agree with you, especially in a setting where they are more or less required to. But it can be far more exhilarating to live with people who allow themselves to air their differences, to come together in a cooperative way so as to move their individual and collective ideas forward, and to greatly enjoy each other's company in as free and liberated a lifestyle as can be attained inside or outside of contemporary society. The Land can step forward to receive its laurels there.
I recall an idea current at the time:
"We cannot possibly all always agree on everything, but we can agree to disagree, to work things out regardless so as to live together in harmony as a free and open people, and to mutually insure that no one goes away from here having been injured by anyone else here."
That amazing proposition proved successful and I have always felt it was, to us as individuals, our most important achievement of all.
Those were tumultous times of advanced intellectual and artistic importance, the wider aspects of which were not fully understood by society at large, and to a lesser extent by us as experimenting but loving individuals at the time. But fuller details of this I think will someday occupy a clearly distinctive niche in alternative lifestyle history.
---------- ---------- ----------
I also knew Whitefeather very closely during the period 1986-2001. My later travels elsewhere in the world drew us away from direct personal contact after that, but Whitefeather and I were forever friends. I was living outdoors on Mount Tam during the period 1986-1990, and outdoors near Fairfax subsequently. Whitefeather, Kumbaya and Hibu were frequent visitors there, and I an even more frequent visitor to them. I especially recall Hibu's husband, Ron Baron, and also Whitefeather's companion, Dovie Diver, as being with us then.
During the period 1986-1999, or close to those parameters, Whitefeather was living in the small apartment behind Denis Peron's famous "Gay Castle" on 17th Street in San Francisco. I was there many times for many high times. It was Whitefeather who introduced me to Dennis in 1984, and although he was always open and fair to me, I think it was Whitefeather's influence that allowed me to participate, albiet in small, in the prescient and studied conversations among they and others that resulted in the composition and passage of the Medical Marijuana Initiative, and the first San Francisco Open Marijuana Club. The struggle for complete marijuana freedom still rages, but I recall a comment made to me by Harvey Milk, in the fall of 1976:
"Not everyone is ever going to like marijuana liberty, because it threatens establishment control over people's personal lives. The end of this conflict may be further off and harder than we think, but that victory will always be in sight."
In 1990, Whitefeather was the one person who most greatly assisted Gil Block ("Sadie, Sadie the Rabbi Lady") in his campaign for the Concord city council, as well as I as his campaign manager. There was no important decision made by either of us before, during and after that campaign that was not done in consultation with Whitefeather. Gil's fearlessly open and media-intensive candidacy in a campaign which; "is for an office I do not want to win and would resign if I did win," resulted in overturning a publicly menacing and openly religiously bigoted anti-gay political movement in that city. A reporter once asked Gil; "Since you're gay and Bob is hetero, would it not be better if you had a gay number two?" It might have been easier, in terms of dealing with Gil's gay political and media supporters, but we three all laughed as Whitefeather, overhearing the remark, was so kind as to comment:
"It is our opponents who are benighted and exclusive, not we ourselves, and we accept friends with skills where we can find them."
In 1999, Whitefeather, Gil Block and I went into an equal three-way partnership in a publishing company, "Fog City Press." Each of us was to produce a book, and each did. Whitefeather's, "A Gay History of the Castro," was perhaps the first, or certainly among the very first, gay histories of that era, and included priceless anecdotes, histories and analyis of that crucial and decisive time in the Gay Rights Movement. With all the similar ones that have followed, hers is still one of the most accurate, intimate and compelling, and must surely occupy the shelf of any serious gay historian.
Gil's book, "Confessions of a Jewish Nun," was perhaps the first book on gay transvesticism to be inclusively humorous, serious and authentically historical. Lucidly written, and revealing of both the participants, friends and opponents of that approach to life, it, like Whitefeather's, is as informative and readable a book today as it was then.
My own, "Tai Chi Odyssey," came out a little later under different publication, but contributed to the forward progress of that art, and was produced by Fog City Press during our partnership.
All these books were influenced by Whitefeather's comments, and by her absolute determination to get our work into print. Business and friendship have to be two different things and every business partnership encounters at least occasional challenges and individual points of view. But I don't recall that we ever had an artistic or aesthetic argument, and not one word in any of them was ever dictated by any other author than its own.
Professional publishing is a terrific struggle requiring facile knowledge in a number of areas, including writing and editing, formatting and printing, office and financial management, personality skills, distribution and publicity. Not one book out of a hundred ever makes it past copyright into print distribution, and not one in ten thousand makes a best-seller list. Fog City Press was a significant intellectual, aesthetic and technical leap for us as individuals and as a team. Being such disparate personalities in some ways, I still can hardly believe that we actually managed to produce and distribute a worthwhile and commercially acceptable product. None of those books was wildly successful, though I think we eventually did get our money back out of the volumes themselves, and I occasionally see used copies in bookstores in San Francisco and abroad. I think that eventually, all three of these books will be re-released.
__________ __________ __________
Anecdotes about Whitefeather will always be legion, but typically:
As an individual, Whitefeather was always mentally on top of the ball. She was seldom in poor spirits and kept her personal life, physical surroundings and accouterments, and professional and personal activities well in hand. It's so much easier to deal with people who have that quality. In public and private she was open-minded, strongwilled but amenable to reason, cheerful and uplifting to those around her, incurably optimistic, a notably gracious hostess and generous to a fault. For her and those in her company, life could be regarded as a magnificent adventure, in which each person has their own unique and accepted part to play, and she had a special skill at making it so.
Whitefeather's approach as a hostess often reminded me of Nero Wolfe's; "a guest is a jewel upon a cushion of hospitality."
It's hard to live around people who lack confidence in themselves, or who are unwilling to help instill confidence in others. Whitefeather would support--and go so far as to assist--any rational proposition, even in someone with whom she might personally disagree about something, if she thought it would help that person or the Land as a whole.
No one who knew Whitefeather could fail to remember her as a cook. She was someone who had that talent and who worked at it. Characteristically, she never insisted or soured towards anyone who didn't particularly want to eat anything she prepared as their hostess, though I don't recall any gormands with palates superior to mine ever declining at least some substantial part of any meal. But if she did serve something experimental, she made sure there was something customary alongside it as an alternative. And there was always more than enough. Even after we left the Land, and "enough to eat" was no longer a consideraton to any member of our group, that rule never varied.
Shortly after the start of the second incarnation, her house burned down. (They were all shacks on the Land, of course, in the early days, put together from scraps dredged up from here and there.) Watching her rebuild was like watching San Franciscans rebuild after an earthquake. Nothing on earth was going to stop that one.
Whitefeather was an intelligent and mentally agile person and no one could fail to acknowledge and respect her presence in any conversation. As O.B. used to say; "Gifted and accomplished people make themselves that way, and they make everyone respect them for good reason."
Any conversation with Whitefeather could soon turn into something substantive. I particularly remember several between she, O.B. I and a host of others, at the round table at the library, about the Land, its internal mechanics, its relationship to the world at large, and it's temporary and ultimate meaning. In that setting it was easier to verbalize things which many people were thinking, but which pressing affairs made it difficult to examine in detail. There was always a "cleared intellectual space" when Whitefeather was around. O.B. once commented:
"If we and our ideas are nothing but nuts, at least we're all in the same bin together." I said; "And we've got plenty of different varieties." Whitefeather added; "And we're going to keep them all."
Whitefeather was an initial supporter and contributor to the Open Land Library. She said; "If you really mean to start a library, Uncle Bob, you can have any book in my house."
Whitefeather and I were also contemporaries in Berkeley during the late sixties and often shared anecdotes about those fascinating days.
Whitefeather used to describe death as being "temporarily final." That could just as well have described her attitude towards life's obstacles. She often went well out of her way to be a loving person towards even casual strangers and could both take and rationally consider an objective, as well as subjective, argument towards anything. She would always find a way in regards to any obstacle or difficulty, to build anything as high as it could go or to salvage something valuable and lasting from any ruin.
Whitefeather was as human as the rest of us, with virtues and faults like the rest of us, as O.B. used to say, "Temporary guests in these rugged hills of the earth." But whatever other reaction to her than anyone who knew her ever had, in all her positive or negative components, I think it certain that all would agree that as best she could be:
"Whitefeather was lovingly indomitable."
Tomas 12/7/2010: A majority of the alumni of Open
Land and the sixties in general are over on FaceBook
carrying converstions just as the Diggers are over at the Digger
Tomas maintains this Morningstar Website (laurelrose.com) for the alumni of Open Land, along with Morningstar, Wheeler's Ranch, Star Mountain and Morningsong.
This website is a continuation of the Morningstar Newsletter.
The Morningstar Newsletter was edited letters to Ramon from the folks that first populated Morningstar Ranch.
The newsletter was printed by Ramon in a rather grand style and was almost impossible to place on line.
The Morningstar Newsletter just looked different online.
But it continued for a while online until folks realized the difference between the two newsletters. The first and original newsletter was sent privately by Ramon to folks that lived at Morningstar Ranch. This online version is very open and not very private. When folks realized that their emailed stories about Morningstar were going to be viewed by the world they stopped sending or asked us not to post their letters here.
So Ramon stopped the mailed Morningstar Newsletter because
it was too expensive to print and send out to seventy or more people that
had once lived at either Morningstar Ranch or Wheelers.
The online has slowed down quite a bit because it is not private. So I maintain this site hoping that it will fill up with Morningstar Ranch biographies.
I also gathered up all the links to websites that people have (that were at Morningstar Ranch) and posted them here at this link:
The second part of this letter is to ask for detailed Morningstar Ranch biographies from each of you to place here on this Morningstar ( not so private) website.
Something great has happened in the last few years and that is the blog. Which is turning out to be an interactive new history of Morningstar, Wheelers and all of the old and new communes.
I ask you all to create and post to a blog. It is very simple and free. Blog start page by Google.
Once you have created a blog email mail us and we will post here on our Blog Page.
MOST Newsletters Table of Contents