The Lofty Chronicles: 8

This continues an ongoing series of posts about a young girl growing up
and pursuing child-led learning at Light Morning. The series begins here

with an introduction. Links to the other posts in the series are here.

A few notes about the following journal entries: Lauren has asked everyone to call her Lofty. In my journal I sometimes use one name and sometimes the other, and she herself sometimes goes back and forth between the two. / We’re a common table community, meaning that we take all our meals together in the community shelter. / We’re also off-grid, so we heat and cook with wood and use kerosene lamps for light.

Tracing Gender Lines

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The Lofty Chronicles: 5

This continues an ongoing series of posts about a young girl growing up
and pursuing child-led learning at Light Morning. The series begins here

with an introduction. Links to the other posts in the series are here.

The Irony of Pinocchio

Sage and Lauren with marigolds

You Can’t Just Say No (Monday, 2 September 1991) Our new grain grinder has just arrived. It’s an expensive machine whose large flywheel should make it much easier for us to convert wheat berries into whole wheat flour. Even seven-year-old Lauren can crank the handle with no trouble. She’s thrilled to finally be able to grind flour with the rest of us.

Unfortunately, the output is far below both our expectations and the claims of the manufacturer. After seeing how little flour it seems to produce, we use a timer and a measuring cup to run some trials between our older, harder to crank machine and the new one. The results clearly show that the new grinder will have to be returned.

Our daughter, however, has not been included in this decision-making process. Lauren’s eyes fill with tears when she learns that we’re going to ship back the beautiful new machine she’s been using to help make flour. All our reasons and statistics are meaningless to her. We who value making communal decisions by consensus have acted as though consensus is for adults only, thereby disenfranchising the littlest member of our community. We have, in effect, become a bunch of neighborhood bullies.

Continue reading The Lofty Chronicles: 5

The Lofty Chronicles: 4

This continues an ongoing series of posts about a young girl growing up
and pursuing child-led learning at Light Morning. The series begins here.

Gifts and Abilities

Lauren, Claire, Myra

A Small Space (Friday, 12 July 1991) It’s close to suppertime and we’re nearing the end of a long day. As we pick up the community shelter’s living room, Lauren’s in a rambunctious mood. Joyce finally says, “This is too small a space for hopscotch or for jump-rope…”

“Or for sermons!” Lauren adds, deftly finishing Joyce’s sentence for her.

We all laugh. Even Joyce has the grace to grin.

Continue reading The Lofty Chronicles: 4

The Lofty Chronicles: 3

This continues an ongoing series of posts about a young girl growing up
and pursuing child-led learning at Light Morning. The series begins here.

Lofty Brown

Lauren at the treadle sewing machine

Lauren’s Stories (Monday, 1 April 1991) It occurs to me to list the books we’ve been reading aloud in the evenings before bedtime over the past several years. Joyce and I have enjoyed this ritual for most of our married life, but the following books are the ones we’ve shared with Lauren since she first started paying attention to the stories when she was three. Now she’s about to turn seven.

Humans have an innate need for stories. Radio and television meet much of this need currently. But since Joyce and I have never had a TV, we resorted to the intermediate technology of books. Prior to literacy was the long and arguably richer oral tradition of storytelling.

Continue reading The Lofty Chronicles: 3

The Lofty Chronicles: 2

This continues an ongoing series of posts about a young girl growing up
and pursuing child-led learning at Light Morning. The series begins here.

Just For the Joy of It

The Light Morning family. Harvest time 1990.

What If I Were the Only Adult? (Saturday, 10 November 1990) Sometimes I get haunting glimpses of what it must be like to walk through the Light Morning lifestyle in Lauren’s shoes. It’s clearly a magical place to grow up, but Lauren is the only child here. What if I were the lone adult living with five or six children? What if it were their interests, needs,and priorities that mostly dictated what I could or couldn’t do, and when I could occasionally go to visit other adults?

It’s a humbling empathy that permits a parental oppressor, however well-intentioned, to perceive the world-view of the oppressed.

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The Lofty Chronicles: 1

Saying Goodbye to Early Childhood

The Lofty Chronicles grew out of a daily journal that I kept for several years during the early 1990’s. Many of its entries were about our daughter, Lauren. She turned six in 1990 and soon asked us to call her Lofty. Since she was the first grandchild on either side of the family, her geographically distant grandparents, aunts, and uncles were especially eager to hear what she was up to. So I volunteered to send them selected passages from my journal each season. I also sensed that a grownup Lauren may one day become curious about her roots.

The reason for posting those long ago journal entries here on Light Morning’s website is that peeking through the day-to-day concerns, wonders, and routines of parenting is a startlingly intimate view of the three core values of this community: living close to the Earth, in a new kind of family, and with a shared transformational journey. These foundational values have already been explored here. In The Lofty Chronicles, however, they come to life in a viscerally specific way.

We see adults trying to live simply, work closer to home, and become more self-sufficient. We watch a mostly self-chosen family of friends and traveling companions work and eat and play together, hurt each other, solve thorny problems, and slowly learn to truly care for one another. We catch surprising glimpses of what it means to “become again as a little child.” And we see that a path of transformation can be both long and arduous. There’s nothing quite like parenting for showing us our shadows and humbling our pretensions. It’s fully as good a teacher as marriage and community.

Now it’s time to let the stories speak for themselves. The Lofty Chronicles will be an ongoing series of posts, making way now and then for posts on other themes. After first setting the stage with a few journal entries from Lauren’s younger years, we’ll take up the story proper in May of 1989, shortly after her fifth birthday.

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Still Mowing After All These Years

Marlene would have turned 80 last month. She and Ron, along with Joyce and Robert, co-founded Light Morning in 1974. Autumn makes me remember Marlene. She loved to squirrel away firewood at this time of year, and help us can up hundreds of quarts of tomatoes and applesauce, and take her beloved John Deere riding mower out for one last gathering of mown grass mulch for the garden.

Marlene died in 2018, shortly before her 78th birthday. Sixteen years ago she wrote a brave story for the earlier incarnation of this website. She called it “Healing Deep Within: Recovering From the Wounds of an Abusive Childhood.”

Next week we’ll share the first part of her three-part story. It’s not easy reading. But it’s a testament to Marlene’s courageous willingness to finally face her demons. And, with the essential help of two strong dreams, to begin to heal.

As a prelude to that intense story, though, here’s something she wrote at the same time, telling how one of her favorite activities as a 61-year-old comes from that same childhood that caused her so much trauma.

Marlene rides the Deere
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Two Roads: 1

In the summer of 2018, I began an 18-month program offered by The School of the Spirit, a ministry “rooted in the Quaker contemplative tradition of the living silence.”
My application to this program, which was called On Being a Spiritual Nurturer, can be found here. During that year and a half, we were to write three “reflection papers,” on themes that were largely self-chosen. This two-part post is my first paper.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood…”
Robert Frost1

Two strands of what might be called destiny have shaped my life. Both have been with me since birth. One is from my father’s side of the family and concerns the Religious Society of Friends. The other is from my mother’s side. It pertains to a visionary community called Light Morning, which has been my home for the past forty-five years. These two roads have sometimes intertwined. More recently, they’ve been pulling me in opposite directions. But whether conjoined or in opposition, the Quaker and Light Morning force fields generate deep undercurrents of uneasiness whenever I consider just how strongly family, genes, and/or fate have determined the trajectory of my life.

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A Bioregional Seminar: 2

These are the final three letters I wrote when participating in a bioregional seminar in the late 1980s. The first two letters, with a fuller introduction, can be found here.

Letter 3: February 1989

Cabin in the woods

I stayed up late last night, trying unsuccessfully to find a theme for this month’s letter. As I finally went to bed, I asked my dreams for help. But this morning I was unable to recall even a single dream. Joyce, however, who was consciously unaware that I had been puzzling over this letter, awoke with a surprisingly relevant dream. It almost seems as though the dream I needed had come through her.

In the dream world Joyce is attending a workshop on environmental issues. Many of the other participants are castigating the government and/or the big corporations for their unresponsiveness to the critical problems facing the planet. Joyce is moved to say that we have no right to demand significant changes from anyone “out there” if we are unwilling to make comparable changes in our own lives.

“The changes we must turn to first are personal changes,” she says passionately. “And they have to be radical.”

Continue reading A Bioregional Seminar: 2

A Bioregional Seminar: 1

Introduction

Katuah Journal

It’s a warm summer evening at Light Morning. I have just settled down to read the newly-arrived Summer 1986 issue of Katuah, the Bioregional Journal of the Southern Appalachians. It’s a homespun publication run by a volunteer crew of artists and activists, poets and homesteaders. Gary Snyder has called it the best bioregional publication in the U.S. Growing out of the mountains of western North Carolina, Katuah Journal comes out quarterly. This is Issue 12. One of the early issues had laid out its guiding theme.

“Here in the southern-most heartland of the Appalachian mountains, the oldest range on our continent (Turtle Island), a small but growing group has begun to take on a sense of responsibility for the implications of that geographical and cultural heritage. This sense of responsibility centers on the concept of living within the natural scale and balance of universal systems and laws. We begin by invoking the Cherokee name Katuah as the old/new name for this area of the mountains and for its journal as well.”

Continue reading A Bioregional Seminar: 1