What was the ultimate harmful hypocrisy of the hippies who washed in and out of New Mexico back in the day? In my assessment, a lack of commitment.
Rebelling against the status quo was easy enough and an attractive fad. Committing to a new way of life was something else entirely, and before long a majority of the West’s counterculturalists burned through the last of their original idealism and enthusiasm. They rolled in when the getting was good, and receded when times got tough—when the novelty of a new place wore off, when drug-induced highs bottomed out, when free love turned costly, when group dynamics grew tense. When all that intensive farming started to seem more menial and difficult than it was worth.
In the absence of a real connection to place—deep roots and relationship—it was all too easy for bands of young drifters to pull up the tepee stakes once more and truck back into town in search of a supermarket.
Rina Swentzell of Santa Clara Pueblo writes of her own semi-nomadic years at the height of hippiedom in her memoir “In the Center and on the Edge at Once.” Here she reflects on some of these dynamics:
Instant communities of the hippies were hard to maintain and sustain because rootedness in place is long term. Sustainability takes intimate knowledge of soil, water, and wind. Life in fast motion and short-term commitment to any place are pure consumption. We were all tourists, in effect. And we do change and affect any environment with our simple presence. Those hippies and other newcomers wanting pure air, direct communication with nature, and simplicity of life helped change that which they desired. Yet we keep moving fast and easy, without commitment to place. (Voices of Counterculture in the Southwest p 151)
So in the spirit of hope that I can transcend the failures of so many of my forebears, both actual and adopted, here’s my commitment.
I’m not originally of this place. And frankly I can’t promise that I’ll put down permanent roots and remain here for the rest of my days.
But I commit to get to know this place and form a meaningful relationship to it.
I commit to being fully present and involved in the well-being of this piece of earth for as long as I am here, stewarding it for whoever comes after me.
I commit to caring for the health of this soil, receiving whatever rains fall and ensuring they aren’t wasted, cultivating ecosystems of worm and seed and microbe in which each creature nourishes the others (myself included), and guarding against the many modernday threats to these interconnected lives.