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Welcome to Quarry Hill's Blog!

Quarry Hill Creative Center in Rochester, VT, founded 1946 by Barbara and Irving Fiske, is Vermont's oldest alternative community and at one time was probably also its largest. In the 60s -80s, as many as 90 people lived here.
It was and is visited each year, often in summer (but in every season, really) by visitors from all over the world.
We welcome interesting and creative people who are peaceful, bring no weapons, don't believe in hitting children or killing animals, and enjoy the beauty of Vermont and of themselves.

Most of us do not adhere to any particular dogma or religion, though many do find Eastern philosophy closest to our own thought (some of us are also members of the Quakers/Society of Friends).
We value the individual, particularly people who are energetic and have a sense of humor.
Visitors are welcome-- and prospective residents, too. There are some places for rent, others for sale. If interested, get in touch!
And, please follow the Blog and comment whenever you like!

"The symbol is the enemy of the reality, and the reality is ever one's true guide, true friend, true companion, and true self." Irving Fiske, 1908-1990

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sister Wives Honeymoon Special (First Published, in a slightly different form,at

Many TV-watching Americans (and others, I’m sure) have now seen Sister Wives on TLC, a coming-out-of-the-closet reality show about life in a fundamentalist Mormon/Latter Day Saints polygamist sect.
It seems to be unusually honest, the revelation of a way of life so different from that of conventional married life that it is, I am sure, difficult for many viewers even to imagine living in this way. ("Creepy" is an adjective I've heard a good deal when discussing the show and the concept.)

My own  life has been very little like that of the Brown family. Yet, I have a different perspective on the issue of multiple relationship:  different than that of   the Browns and also quite different from that of most  "normal" monogamists.
I’ve lived in the world(s) of polygamy and polyandry in two different communities: one a place of openness, choice, and freedom, the other a quasi-Manson-like situation of the late Sixties in which women were possessions, playthings, and servants.  I have never lived in any version of Mormonism as the Browns of Sister Wives do, but all the same I can relate to the concept of "sister wives"—both the happiness and the pain of sharing one’s lover and one's whole life with other (close, sisterly) women. In this situation, one can become very close to one's sister wives (In some cases, one is close with the “other woman” before the shared man comes along). Even today I miss my friends who were also "sister wives"—some of whom are still close friends, though there were surely times when I’d have been delighted never to have to see some of them again!
The women of the Brown family seem to find themselves caught up in very similar feelings. With characteristic honesty and an openness that makes this show worth watching, the three older wives express their feelings. They both wish to include the fourth wife and resent her at the same time, not without reason.
Kody Brown, the husband, and Robyn, his fourth wife, have just been married—not only for time but, as Latter-Day Saints believe, for eternity. In this special episode—produced after the series concluded for the season, evidently in response to the curiosity of monogamists about those who live what they call “The Principle”—the two go on an 11-day honeymoon. Robyn is young, dark-haired, and attractive despite being the mother of three by an earlier marriage, and it is clear that Kody is in love with her and as excited as a teenage boy about being alone with his present love.
She seems to understand how the other women feel, but is not really willing to alter her experience of love and marriage in order to placate them. She does, however, urge Kody to call home, to express his affection for his other wives, and to be sure to really experience that affection. I thought it was sensible and endearing of her to do so!
Kody and Robyn seem to enjoy their freedom (no kids to look after). They rent a honeymoon apartment, surf, swim, and look happy and carefree. Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- an ingeniously designed three-apartment house in which Kody spends a rotating cycle of nights with each of his wives--the  other wives, Meri, Janelle, and Christine, watch the children and talk about their fears and resentments as well as their desire to accept Robyn. They want to create a whole entity out of the various elements of the extended family.Towards the end of the show, their wish to include her and accept the change in their lives becomes far more pronounced, at least for the moment.
One has to admire the three older women, who pull no punches about their feelings. Each has been married to Kody for many years, and it is clear that they feel hurt, jealous, and abandoned. They talk about the brief honeymoons they had, and the simplicity of their weddings. They seem to realize they are not as societally attractive as Robyn, yet each has a certain rare beauty, the beauty of women who like other women and share their lives together in a way that is helpful to each and, unfortunately, too little known by women who live in a one-woman-one-man relationship.

While they do deeply believe that the inclusion of other women is a religious act-- a way to make the love they feel for one another and their husband greater and open the doors of heaven to them all-- they are also  clearly upset and jealous in an earthly sense. Second wife Janelle puts it bluntly. “I perceive any time he spends with her as cutting into our time. It’s the fact that he’s focused somewhere else for 11 days, and on one particular person for 11 days. That’s frustrating me.” Janelle, a strong-looking, earthy woman, explains that her relationship with Kody has never been “romantic,” rather the closeness of fond friends. (Still, they have many children, including a newborn!) Yet, an 11-day honeymoon is taking too much away from the family, she feels.
Meri, Janelle, and Christine, it seems, never had as much time alone with Kody as Robyn. I remember well the sense that a period of ten or eleven days made a relationship seem like a singular and special one. In one communal situation in which I lived, the “Ten-Day Marriage” was popular for a time—a way of getting to have a sort of mini-monogamy with someone to whom one was deeply attracted. By spending ten or so nights together, it was possible to more deeply explore the quality and potential of the relationship—or conversely, to become tired of the person with whom one had so desired those ten days. Though this wasn't always the case by any means, sometimes it was thought a way to “run out,” get over, a particular relationship.
I found myself wondering if the other wives could be a little afraid to complain to Kody (or to Robyn). To say they don't like having her around would be not only anti-Principle and unwelcoming.  but has the potential to very quickly drive Kody further away from them. Still, it is clear they  feel they are uncertain how they will get back to a more reasoned, more fully shared life. Will each of them feel as though Kody (of whom one person I know said, "What a jackass"), would really rather be with Robyn than with any of them when their new life settles down to business as usual?
There is no question that multiplicity has its place in nature. In one amusing passage, Kody and Robyn visit the San Diego Zoo, where a sincere tour guide shows them a group of rhinos, and explains earnestly that three or so females will “hang out together,” and will only find a use for the male when the time comes to mate. Robyn and Kody look both justified and barely able to contain themselves, overwhelmed with laughter.
As the Brown family has put itself in a difficult position by appearing in this show—I have read that they are under investigation for bigamy—I cannot help but wonder what made them wish to expose themselves in this way. The desire for 15 minutes of fame? Possibly money to help keep their enormous family fed and housed?
I see in Kody Brown’s eyes a kind of zealous stare to which I am not a stranger. Perhaps he—and I am not saying that he doesn’t believe in every aspect of his religion—feels a publicity-hound drive to display his family's life to the public, a drive which clearly the wives share, to one extent or another.
Possibly they believe that by doing this, they will be able to alter the state of polygamous families, to bring on a lawsuit that will validate their lifestyle. And--as Rosa Parks could attest-- sometimes this kind of action does bring on change.

One more word: I constantly felt, watching Sister Wives, that the three other wives, despite Kody’s hopped-up, hyper assurance that he loves them, are very insecure. They talk a great deal about the time they will spend with him, the substance of their own personal relationship with him. But is more than a little like having a relationship with Jesus (in that he's not around in the flesh all that much)?  Is the reality of a marriage with him still a reality?
The reality of marriage to many men can be, unavoidably, that youth and beauty are the bottom line of romance. Does Kody Brown love his other wives still as lovers, or more as security-figures, mothers of his children? (I appreciate and admire  that the Browns say that their  children have the right to do whatever they want when they grow up, and not to be forced to marry anyone they don’t wish to marry. This makes their life-style a lot more palatable, certainly to me.)
Do the other wives feel--they  seem to, especially Meri-- that their relationship with him is not the same as his relationship with Robyn? Meri, wife #1, tells him bluntly over the phone that they are unhappy with the long honeymoon and the entire situation.
Kody wants Robyn to have the experience of being with him alone; he wants to be with her alone, too—and he seems to believe that the tension surrounding his marriage to Robyn is normal, an unavoidable transition that comes with taking a new wife. And perhaps this is true. They probably do need some time alone together.

I cannot help but feel that real love should include everyone in the relationship, no matter how many that relationship contains. Do Kody’s wives even have a choice about what he does? Could any of them say, “We can’t handle another wife?” It’s unclear what the story is, though Meri apparently suggested Robyn to Kody as a possible fourth wife. The group of Browns has spoken of the marriage as being a “democracy,” but is it really? (I hope so.)
They come to the conclusion that Robyn needed 11 days‘ honeymoon and that it is “selfish” of them to have wanted him not to spend so much time with Robyn, but the situation still feels tense. The other wives say they understand that Robyn “needed” the 11-day honeymoon…yet it must seem to some of them, at least, that she got much more than any of them did (none had what might call a lavish honeymoon).
One hopes that all the wives feel they are getting what they need from this relationship. Robyn urges him to make sure he loves all his wives—that this gives her a sense that he will always love her. I can understand loving more than one person; and I am sure that the love they all have for one another is real. If only the women could have other husbands: and why not? (At one point during the series, Meri, whose 20th anniversary with Kody it is, speaks of her loneliness and jealousy. She says, in essence, “How would you like it if there were another man?” Kody blows up and says that the idea of her another husband is “vulgar.”) Due to their religious beliefs, they won’t have other men in their lives. The best hope one may have for the family is that all of the Browns will be able to blend and support one another. Love conquers all!

Is it interesting? Yes—at least for some, certainly for me. I want to know more about this story, and will go on viewing the show if it renews for another season—despite my husband’s saying “How can you watch that stuff?” (Yes, I have only one husband. I watch a lot of stuff, including Say Yes to the Dress and, my favorite three shows, House, MD, Mad Men, and In Treatment.
I look forward to seeing how things develop in this universe, the world of real, honest-to-goodness Big Love. I am very well aware that I am writing here about real people who have a life together, children who are brothers and sisters, and thoughts and feelings. Their story is fascinating, and I wish them well…and hope, to be sure, that for their kids' sake, they avoid trouble with the law for having been so honest about the truth of their lifestyle.

Sister Wives Honeymoon Special aired Sun., November 21, 2010 on TLC

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