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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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A TALE of Quarry Hill in the Elden Days

The month of melting snow. Even if the snow flies in at blizzard strength and lets us know it has not yet finished with our part of the Earth or ourselves, it is growing closer to the moment when snowdrops come up, poking out of places where the snow has slowly melted off, leaving a cave underneath which-- always amazing to me-- is filled with fragrant white flowers.

It is time for the Fish to turn the seasons towards spring and the gamboling lamb of Aries. Soon flowers will be everywhere (well, after mud season and after what one hopes will be a good sugaring season).   I am joyous in Pisces and Aries because it won't be long now before it is really spring, and the daffodils and other bulbs I planted last year will soon arise and grant a  benediction to all of us who had to or wanted to stay through the deep winter. (Even those who didn't can get in on the joy of spring.)

Wind, the voice  of Winter, whistles through the trees,  reminding  me of those days  when Quarry Hill was one of the largest communes or communities in the country-- certainly in New England.  I remember how hard winter was for many (it's not always easier now).  It is the oldest "hippie commune" in the eastern part of the country, as far as I know. Is there anyone out there with a community founded before 1946 and still going?

I remember the neediness, especially in winter,  of the mothers of young children in the "Old Days" at Quarry Hill (the 60s-80s), when we raised the children in four hour shifts, many of which were filled by new people, or people who had no children. Some new people were amazingly talented with kids.  Some whined and cried, little more than babies themselves-- these were probably not suited, at least then, to being with children; and I would usually say, "This person's not ready yet,"  or "I'm not sure this new person is into kids." (Sometimes, the desperate mother myself, because I had a daughter who never slept, I would try to force the issue and get helpers to be with my kid whether they were "right" for her or not, but I regretted it. My daughter usually ended it by saying "I  want my mommy."

But why did the mothers get angry? They were exhausted, the cabins heated by wood, and if there was no father for the child or if their Primary lover was with another, they felt overburdened quite a lot.  They  had to keep getting up and putting wood in the stove.  There's a special panic, not like anything else, exactly, in being the only person in a house heated by wood in the winter, with snow piled over the kitchen windows, and a baby, perhaps restless with a fever or cold or just not a very deep sleeper, dependent on one. 
The mother (and one or two  fathers, but there were not as many single fathers) awaited the morning... I believe the shift was 10 to 2 -- desperately watching  the old dusty clock go around while the baby whimpered.  The mother would be thinking: "God, I hope the helper is in a good head today!  I hope that my baby, little Starflower, or Joya, or Summer, Shaw, or Victor (for Bernard Shaw or Victor Hugo-- male boys were often named for literary figures or artists we admired, while girls received "nature" names much of the time) will play with S---- or J---- or M---- and let me sleep for a while!"
Then perhaps  the appointed hour would come around and no one would appear.
After waiting a long time, perhaps the mother would go out and yell to a neighbor to try to find out what happened to her helper, or might even dress and bundle her child (now perhaps not feverish, but wide awake and ready to play) up-- to find that the helper had forgotten, or was sick themselves, or had decided to go on a trip to see the Dalai Lama speak in Montreal or something of that sort. The whole message of the Dalai Lama, Compassion, would be forgotten in the excitement of going off on a jaunt to see him... or some other figure... or a band. Or perhaps the missing helper was merely still in bed with his or her lover of the moment and was not inclined to get up and help.
Perhaps the helper got up and came along to play, or perhaps the mother ran, irate and distraught, to Irving's cabin to weep and complain (and to be urged not to upset the child, to make her or him feel like a god or goddess, wanted and adored).   Most of the time the Kids List worked. 
We had drawn it from Aldous Huxley's last book, Island, in which the children were all part of a Mutual Adoption Club and, if they were not getting on with their parents-- or perhaps the parents became dangerously overstrained-- the children could go to another "parents'") home and stay with them for as long as it took for the anger in the family-- or whatever it might be-- to shift, alter, or end.
 Then the family,  at least in theory, could reunite.

A young woman named Debbie Venn  was, as I recall, the originator of the Kids' List-- the  adaptor of the Huxleyan vision for the single mothers of Quarry Hill. I wonder if she realized how much agony she was accepting when she began to collect names and match them to children and mothers who needed help. The Kids List inevitably became entangled with the love list (it really had no name that I remember), in which most women had a Primary lover, a Secondary one and perhaps a Tertiary one, which made sense, it seemed to me. That way the male parent had input to his child's upbringing. If he were not the biological father, he soon developed a deep attachment to the child of the woman he loved. (If he didn't, and was a competitive person with kids, he probably didn't stay very long. He didn't feel pampered enough.)  It also gave men the chance to interact with other children, the kids of his lovers, and it widened the horizens of us all. The kids often had fun with these young men who were just learning to care for children and were only a few years away from childhood themselves. There were also young women who came to help, and this deepened the relationship between and among the women... most of the time.

Now the children are grown. Some percentage of them have problems, as who does not? But most are rare and talented and attractive young people with vivid thought and opinion of their own. Many have fascinating professions-- stunt man, makeup artist, psychotherapist, and so on. I admire them all. Mostly,  what I appreciate is that they are close to one another and caring of one another in a way that is rare among groups of young people. It doesn't happen simply because one went to the same hght school as another person. There is a sort of magic about it. I've heard that children raised in Kibbutz situations have similar relationships. I love to see the children (now in their 20s, 30s and even 40s) come home for the All Night Dance Party ( a reunion gathering) once a year and enjoy one another's company.  I am glad to have lived in this place, this time, and to have been able to help to create the conventions of the home in which we all lived. 

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