Ever wonder where all the hippies went? All the love-children? All the back-to-the-landers? I do.
Was it just a phase? Was it a fad? Do all generations simply create a way to get together and this was just one of those? Like a series of Woodstocks? Like attending college but not for the degree? Like a need to join in, but probably mostly just for access to the gene pool?
Well, part of the answer to that question is that some of them found their gene puddle a long way from the city and stayed on the land they migrated to in the 70’s. The hippies became homesteaders. It wasn’t easy. Not in the least. But some persevered. So, for them, it was not a fad but a way of life consciously chosen and worked at. And it worked out for them. Mostly.
My guess is that, of 100 people out here today, at least twenty-five would have started with at least one foot in 70’s hippydom. Or a close facsimile thereof. Maybe a few more. (Sally and I, for example, immersed our toes enough at the time to buy the property we now have). The balance of off-the-gridders are old fishermen and loggers, early retirees, later-in-life urban escapees, cottagers who commit more-time-than-summer and a few whack-jobs who simply couldn’t make it anywhere else due to a too-high concentration of so-called normal people. I’d guess 10% of our community is made up of social outcasts of some sort or another. Mostly benign, though. And there is room for them.
The latest arrivals are – as you might expect – mostly baby-boomer retirees but we have also greeted a few young people following the same path as their hippy parents or grandparents.
Back to the old hippies: they are fascinating. They have kept – to a large degree, anyway – their ideals, their beliefs, their politics. And their libraries (Ken Kesey, Carlos Castanada, Rachel Carson). They have also added much-needed and much-varied skills and they have created full and enriching lives complete with varied vocations and healthy families.
Of course, they had to make a few changes to the originally promoted idylic WholeEarth plan but it is still pretty earthy. They call it Gaia now and it allows for engaging in the commercial world now and then, employing running water and soap, refrigerators (for some) and keeping to a single spouse. Mostly.
The old hippies are clean, skilled, hard-working and occasionally able to buy new. Still voting Green – but driving an SUV. Still walking and talking off-the-grid but employing computers and cell phones when doing it. And they still think globally and act locally. They compost, there are still the essential organics, recycled items and funky decor but, all in all, it is an integrated lifestyle that proves healthy and fulfilling with much less of the stress, materialism and debt found in suburbia.
From my limited point of view, the lifestyle has proved largely successful. Especially when compared to the inner-city experiment with mass transit, crime, gangs, exorbitant expense, more and more rules and bleak condominiums.
But it ain’t all bliss even out here. The hippy life did not, generally, provide much for old age. Hippies did not contribute much, as a rule, to the pension schemes or RRSPs. They did not, as a rule, make enough money to save any of it. Hippydom was largely hardscrabble.
And now they are getting older.
And that won’t be easy, either. As a generalization, most of them would be like fish out of water if they had to live in the city. Small-box living does not work for people who have lived in the outdoors most of their lives.
Put another way: I don’t think they can go back. They are not equipped financially or psychologically. I can say this, I think, because I have come to much the same place myself. I do not have the desire or the need but I do not think I have the option either.
Which is fine. For me, it is like not having the option to join the war in Syria or live in Toronto (which is worse?). But I am reminded of the old adage turned on it’s head: When God opens a door, he just might close another.
The gates to the city are closed.
Back in the 70’s there was a fork in the road, Some chose the left one and went as far as they could with it. They found a garden. Others chose the right and found the party. They drank the Kool-Aid and ate the caviar. Some of the lucky ones (and I count myself amongst them) went down one road and then back-tracked and tried the other. Maybe a few times.
They and I didn’t get very far down either path, that is for sure, but we did get some perspective. I think. And all in all, everything considered, weighing the two choices (but knowing somewhere that there is a better road altogether)……………well…….I think the left one seems to have a bit more going for it.
It is definitely the road less traveled.