Who are my cultural forebears in this life I’m pursuing far from family and my childhood home? I admit that, as a middle class white newcomer to New Mexico who’s launched a back-to-the-land gardening project, I have some in common with the migrating hippies of yesteryear. At least in their earliest ideals, they were motivated by concerns about unsustainable consumerism and visions of a more meaningful way of life, concerns and visions that I’ve come share.
Now, how can I pursue those original ideals without recreating their movement’s harmful hypocrisies—the ethnocentric sense of entitlement, the invasion of others’ homeland and resources, the disruption and appropriation of others’ cultures?
The obvious first lesson: Acknowledge the long, rich history of indigenous peoples in this region. Reject old Anglo-American fantasies that the West is a pristine wilderness here for the taking.
From there: Respect the rights and heritage of those who have been here long before I arrived, and approach this place graciously and humbly, as a guest and an apprentice.
Just as importantly: Know that others’ cultures are sacred to them, and are absolutely not mine to attempt to adopt, especially in the context of this region’s painful legacy of conquests. Remind myself that no matter how eager I may be to learn from everyone I encounter, I have no right to force myself into others’ communities; I am not entitled to practice their ways in part or in whole.
This is my starting point as I set out in search of ancient knowledge and guidance to help my garden thrive. I’m sure I’ll stumble as I go, accidentally offend or overstep my bounds, and continue to adapt.
But I think there’s hope yet that, “hippie heritage” aside, I can do this well.