Posts Tagged ‘Helen and Scott Nearing’

Living The Good Life 3

February 21st, 2013

Living the Good Life, Part Three

The Change Of Seasons

(Continued from the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2.”)

“When I hear people say they have not found the world, or life so interesting as to be in love with it, I am apt to think they have never seen with clear vision the world they think so meanly of, nor anything in it, not even a blade of grass.”  –W. H. Hudson

“I have moments, in these days of national gloom, financial depression, ‘hard times’, when I feel it my duty to be sad, or at least cynical—but cannot be—not in spring.”  –David Grayson, 1936, from The Countryman’s Year.

Looking Back

Oak Trunks, Maples, Fall Snow On Ardis Hyde's "Ornamentals" Garden, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2012 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Featured in the upcoming David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.

Oak Trunks, Maples, Fall Snow On Ardis Hyde’s “Ornamentals” Garden, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2012 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Featured in the upcoming David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.

Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, provided much of the basis for how Ardis and Philip Hyde lived at home. In the blog post, “Living the Good Life 1,” guest blogger Nancy Presser and I introduced Helen and Scott Nearing and looked at how they led the back to the land movement of the 1950s. We also looked at how my parents, Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail of a photography project, in their own quiet way adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.” In the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2,” we reviewed Ardis and Philip Hyde’s upbringing and how this brought them eventually to the country and to their own land. In the following third episode, I write about the seasons on that land and unravel how my parents ensured they would have freedom in life.

Ardis Hyde’s Bookshelves

Besides what she once called “our Bible,” Helen and Scott Nearing’s Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, Ardis Hyde had many other books on gardening, living on the land and country living philosophy on her bookshelves. One of them of particular inspirational content was The Countryman’s Year by David Grayson.

In The Countryman’s Year, David Grayson, while placing his experiences and observations within “the magic circle of the seasons” described his own “Good Life”:

Many years ago I came to the hillside in the town of Amherst where I now live. I bought a few acres of land and built a house. I planted trees and cultivated my garden. I kept bees. I made good friends among my neighbors. Here I have known the best, I think, that comes to any man—times of sight that is also insight.

The Change of Seasons As A Rite of Passage

My mother Ardis reveled in the change of seasons. I learned from her and my father to joyfully anticipate the subtle indicators of change in nature. My mother kept a written log of our family experiences and events, which could easily also be organized around the four seasons. When living close to the land, the seasons are telltale mile markers to keep you awake and aware of your progress or lack thereof, and to remind you that your progress or lack thereof is only fleeting, eventually immaterial in the big scheme of all life. Your own work and life are kept in perspective and relevance to the life around you by the disappearing and returning of life with the time of year.

This Year The Seasons Are All Mixed Up

This year, 2012 into 2013, summer lingered long with Indian summer blue skies and white, puffy unicorn-rainbow-dreamy clouds flitting and skidding merrily around the heavens. Autumn or fall, as we always called it, took a long time to arrive and segued out of summer without much effort. It was hard to distinguish summer from fall and they both carried on much longer than usual. Some tree leaves such as those from the Maples and Aspens turned yellow, orange and red on schedule, while the Black Oaks were late and the Alders, Willows and Cottonwoods hardly changed yellow or orange, but way behind schedule mainly went straight to brown. Finally in November, fall acquired a little of its usual bite and the leaves, having taken a long time to shed their green for brighter colors on many species of trees, suddenly began to blow free in the gusts of wind and drift to the ground.

Just as the leaves started to fall, while the fall color show was still in full swing, suddenly winter blasted in from the Arctic and the Gulf of Alaska with over a foot of snow. We had been swimming in Indian Creek two weeks before the snow began to fly. I had been feverishly photographing the fall color because I had almost completely missed fall in 2011. As a result, my portfolio was a bit thin on fall color photographs. I made up for it fall of 2012. I had been photographing four to five hours a day for months. The arrival of snow brought, I thought, an anticipated break. However, I discovered that snow over the top of fall colors offered a whole new range of possibilities that screamed to be photographed thoroughly. I set to work on this, but found that snow while adding great glory to the cloak of fall, also stripped the cloak away and hastened the march into the barren days of dead winter.

Winter And Spring March On

Last year and the year before, winter seemed to drag on forever, but this year though it hit hard early and stung deep with unusual cold and ice, it seems now to be flying right by. After all, we are just a few weeks away from the first flowers, the snowdrops, which are regularly scheduled to appear within the first week of March. In the early 1960s my mother wrote that the snowdrops were appearing in early April, but for the last 10 years I have observed them arriving in early March. In The Countryman’s Year, David Grayson began his narrative “with the first shy touches of spring” on April 1, when the land is locked in “Endless winter, raw and cold.” New England loosens its grip on winter less easily than the Northern Sierra of California.

For my mother February meant fertilizing. March began preparation for the planting of vegetable starts. This year in February we were doing fall’s leaf raking because fall offered no time to rake the fallen leaves before the snow buried them. The first original snow stayed on the ground for three months until mid February because it froze in place and turned to pure ice while more snow piled on top.

The Nearings’ Philosophy On Seasons And Livelihood

The only mention of seasons by Helen and Scott Nearing in Living The Good Life is in regard to the maple syrup season:

People brought up on a money economy are taught to believe in the importance of getting and keeping money. Time and again folk told us, “You can’t afford to make syrup. You won’t make any money that way.” One year a neighbor, Harold Field, kept a careful record of the labor he put in during the syrup season and of the sale price of his product, and figured that he got only 67 cents an hour for his time. In view of these figures, the next year he did not tap out because sugaring paid less than wage labor. But, during that syrup season he found no chance to work for wages, so he didn’t even make the 67 cents an hour. Our attitude was quite different. We kept careful cost figures, but we never used them to determine whether we should or should not make syrup. We tapped our trees as each tap season came along. Our figures showed us what the syrup had cost. When the season was over and the syrup on hand, we wrote to various correspondents in California or Florida, told them what our syrup had cost, and exchanged our product for equal value of their citrus, walnuts, olive oil or raisins. As a result of these transactions, we laid in a supply of items at no cash outlay, which we could not ourselves produce. Our livelihood base was broadened as the result of our efforts in the sugar bush and the sap house.

The Nearings were interested in self-reliance and setting up their own “self-contained household unit,” independent from the money economy around them:

The Great Depression had brought millions of bread-winners face to face with the perils which lurked for those who, in a commodity economy based on wage-paid labor, purchase their livelihood in the open market. The wage and salary workers did not own their own jobs, nor did they have any part in deciding economic policy, nor in selecting those who carried policy into effect. The many unemployed in 1932 did not lose their jobs through any fault of their own, yet they found themselves workless, in an economy based on cash payment for the necessities, necessaries and decencies. Though their incomes had ceased, their outgo for food, shelter and clothing ate up their accumulated savings and threw them into debt. Since we were proposing to go on living in this profit-price economy, we had to accept its dread implications or find a workable alternative. We saw this alternative in a semi-subsistence livelihood.

Self-Reliance Versus Making Money

The Nearings raised their own food, bartered for what they did not produce, used wood for fuel, built their own buildings from materials gathered from their land, made their own tools as much as possible and kept down their use and acquisition of tools and gadgets made by “the assembly lines of big business.” If they had to have any of these, they rented them for short periods of time. They did not focus on making money, but produced enough cash crop each year for their livelihood and then beyond that turned their efforts “toward social activities, toward avocations such as reading, writing, music making, toward repairs or replacement of our equipment.” They kept all of their operations on a cash and carry basis, incurring no debts or mortgages. The Hydes applied much this same philosophy. They agreed with the Nearings stance on money:

Ideas of “making money” or “getting rich” have given people a perverted view of economic principles. The object of economic effort is not money, but livelihood. Money cannot feed, clothe or shelter. Money is a medium of exchange, a means of securing the items that make up livelihood.

Employing this outlook toward making money did not bring Philip Hyde fame in the traditional sense. He became known for defending wilderness, but he spent more of his time working on conservation campaigns than approaching photography galleries or arranging large exhibitions with major museums, unless they came to him. He and my mother lived life on their own terms, beholden to no one. They were not slaves to tight schedules for workshops, speaking engagements, touring exhibitions and book signings. A few of these events went a long way. Mom and Dad were then free to sit out on their deck and observe the birds arriving in the spring, or to enjoy the dropping of the air temperatures in the evening that signals the approach of fall.

What Is Freedom? Who Is Free?

Walt Whitman offered some guidance:

After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on—have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear—what remains? Nature remains: to bring out from their torpid recesses the affinities of a man or woman with the open air—the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.

While I’m here and not at my place in Colorado, I often look out at the same scene that my parents looked at most of their lives, living here in their paradise on earth. I realize that I have become too much a slave to the dollar, too much a cog in the machine. I see that the internet has in some ways given me freedom, but in others has made me much more dependent on the system and stolen my time. I would much rather read a good classic than yet another article on why I need to “maximize my social media presence.” At least I have the seasons and nature to remind me of what is real, to help me recall who I am and why I am here. Livelihood and economic issues make up an important component of change toward a more earth-friendly society. For a lively discussion on creating a sustainable world and related issues see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”

Recommended Reading (Please Show Your Appreciation And Help Us Out By Ordering Through These Links)

Busting Loose From the Money Game: Mind-Blowing Strategies for Changing the Rules of a Game You Can’t Win by Robert Scheinfeld

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa

The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy And Environment by Chris Martenson

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems by Van Jones

Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender by Thomas H. Greco

The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered by John Michael Greer

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience by Rob Hopkins

Love Is the New Currency by Linda Commito

The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality by Richard Heinberg

The Growth Illu$ion: How Economic Growth Has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet by Richard Douthwaite

(Continued in the blog post, “Living The Good Life 4.”)

Does nature help you remember who you are? How do you celebrate or observe the change of seasons?

Living The Good Life 2

March 14th, 2012

Living the Good Life, Part Two

By Nancy Presser and David Leland Hyde

(Continued from the previous blog post, “Living The Good Life 1.”)

Rough Rock Lower Lawn, Maples, Fall, Shoulder of Grizzly Ridge, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by David Leland Hyde.

Back to the Land movement leaders, Helen and Scott Nearing in Living the good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, share a living philosophy based on self-reliance and living a simple life sustained by farming the land. Ardis and Philip Hyde studied many such books and ways of life and found Helen and Scott Nearing’s model most relevant to the Hyde’s home lifestyle, including daily pace and schedule, food preservation and organic gardening. In the previous blog post, “Living The Good Life 1,” Nancy Presser and David Leland Hyde wrote about how Helen and Scott Nearing led the Back to the Land movement of the 1950s and how Ardis and Philip Hyde in turn implemented the Nearings’ philosophy.

While delving into the first chapter of Living the good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, Nancy found that Helen and Scott Nearing were writing for someone just like her, a city person that had ideas of living a simpler life. Helen Nearing wrote, “…A couple, of any age from twenty to fifty, with a minimum of health, intelligence and capital, can adapt themselves to country living, learn its crafts, overcome its difficulties, and build up a life pattern rich in simple values and productive of personal and social good.” Nancy wondered about Ardis and Philip Hyde. Were they from the city or the country? Why did they choose to adapt to their own situation, Helen and Scott Nearing’s lifestyle and philosophy?

David explained that his mother, Ardis, grew up in the suburbs of Sacramento, California, when Sacramento was a small town that couldn’t even be called a city. About 15 miles from downtown, in the rural countryside lay the Van Maren Ranch. The Van Maren Ranch House sat in the center of the Van Maren Ranch on a small hill that was later removed and is now a shopping center in the town called Citrus Heights, California. Ardis visited the ranch often with her family. David’s grandmother, Ardis’ mother, Elsie Van Maren King, had grown up on the ranch with her three sisters and no brothers. The four Van Maren girls learned to do all of the chores that boys usually do, and when Ardis came along, and later her brothers, grandma taught her all the ranch chores that boys usually did too. David’s mother from a young age was very competent around animals, farm equipment and anything outdoors. Ardis’ father, Clinton S. King Jr., loved the outdoors and loved to go camping. All of the Kings grew to love camping in the Sierra, except grandmother, who went along, but never liked it much.

David’s father, Philip, was born in San Francisco in 1921, but by 1925, the Hyde family moved to San Rafael. In those days Marin County was rural countryside. The Hydes lived in a house in the woods near the train station at the end of the train line in San Rafael. At age four to five little Philip learned to love to play in the woods. When Philip’s older brother Paul died and the family moved back to San Francisco, Philip joined the Boy Scouts and continued the outdoor adventures that he loved. Leland Hyde took his wife Jessie, Philip and his newborn little brother Davy and their older sister Betty camping also. At age 16, Philip first backpacked in Yosemite National Park with the Boy Scouts. After the second year’s annual backpack in Yosemite, Philip wrote “Home” across a map of Yosemite Valley. Philip considered the mountains his spiritual home from this time forward. David discussed in Guy Tal’s interview of him, how during World War II while stationed in flat Kansas, Philip used to ride two days on the train to Denver, Colorado just to get a glimpse of mountains.”

Philip and Ardis Hyde were both from the city, but both had an affinity to the country. Both had roots in camping, farming and wilderness. They both developed a love for the outdoors and even though their experience was somewhat limited then compared to later, they felt at home enough in nature’s company to seek more of it. Many people of all walks of life with much less experience easily learn to thrive in the country, but some connection to nature and the value of being close to nature, lends them the desire that carries them on to further learning and becoming accustomed to country life.

After their marriage in June 1947 at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, California, Philip and Ardis Hyde began taking steps to achieve their dream of living in or near the mountains where they could cultivate a bit of land and sow a garden. Helen and Scott Nearing, for example, considered many places to live: the United States, abroad or in a commune. They settled on Vermont because, as they wrote:

Aesthetically, we enjoy the procession of the seasons. In any other part of the country we would have missed the perpetual surprises and delights to which New England weather treats its devotee… The land that has four well-defined seasons cannot lack beauty, or pall with monotony. Physically, we believe the changing weather cycle is good for health and adds a zest to life… Geographically, we found New England in closer contact with the Old World, from which we did not wish to sever connections.

Ardis and Philip Hyde kept their sights on the United States as well, though they did go abroad for a one year stint in Casablanca Morocco, French North Africa. See future blog posts for their adventures in 1953-1954 French Morocco. The Hydes found and fell in love with the Sierra Nevada first through childhood camping trips, then through Philip’s teenage backpacks, but later Ardis and Philip together connected to the Northern Sierra through an unlikely series of events. As fate would have it, they were on the train to Sacramento to visit Mom’s family one time and they ran across one of Ardis’ old Principia College friends, Patricia Lindren Kurtz and her new husband Cornell Kurtz on their way to their new home in Plumas County in the heart of the Feather River region. The train at that time traveled on from Sacramento up the Feather River Canyon. The Hydes were looking for good paying jobs for the summer of 1948. Pat Kurtz said she knew the owner of Cheney Mill in Greenville, California and that she could get Philip a good job there. How ideal, a chance to be in the mountains for the summer and a good job. There was even a vacancy in one of the cabins at the Fox Farm where Pat and Cornell Kurtz lived at Lake Almanor. The Hydes moved in for the summer and fell in love with the area. In a letter, Ardis described their first drive from Greenville over to the other end of Indian Valley one day. She wrote, “With Grizzly Ridge above Indian Creek lined by trees, this is by far the most beautiful end of Indian Valley.”

Though they did not realize it fully at the time, Philip and Ardis Hyde had found their mountain paradise. Nonetheless, it took nearly 10 more years and many more twists and turns, including attempts at settling in Carmel, California and in French Morocco, before their dream of owning their own wilderness land became reality. After they carved their dream home and paradise out of the wilderness, people visiting it learned by the Hyde’s example many aspects of what conservation and sustainability experts now teach. For a lively version of the larger discussion on creating a sustainable world and related issues see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.” Watch as the personal story of the Hyde’s home unfolds in upcoming blog posts in this series. Read about the Change of Seasons in the next blog post, “Living The Good Life 3.”

Living The Good Life 1

October 11th, 2011

Living The Good Life, Part One

Reflections by Nancy Presser and David Leland Hyde on the book that launched the 1950s Back to the Land movement, Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing, and how Ardis and Philip Hyde implemented the book’s philosophy…

Lower Lawn, Japanese Maples, Aspens, Raised Beds, Apple Orchard, Part of Gardens At Rough Rock, Spring, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde.

Nancy Presser is a California Certified Massage Therapist and Certified Yoga Instructor. A California native, she grew up camping in Yosemite National Park and exploring the tide pools of  the Isthmus, now Twin Harbors, on Catalina Island, California. In 2002, she self-published a cook book called “Fun To Be Sugar Free” and has had her poetry and articles published off and online. She took graphic design classes and majored in Theatre Arts at Tulane and Cal State Long Beach, obtaining further art education by working for Martin Lawrence Galleries and Wyland Galleries. Since 1998 she has been a Massage Therapist and Tai Chi practitioner. Since 2008 she has taught Radiant Health Yoga and Yang Style Tai Chi classes. She now operates a massage practice in the Indian Valley town of Greenville, California.

Living The Good Life With Ardis And Philip Hyde, Part One

By Nancy Presser and David Leland Hyde

The first day I met David Leland Hyde, he introduced me to the life and work of his late mother and father, Ardis and Philip Hyde. David explained his father’s life long dedication to wilderness conservation through landscape photography of the American West. David also shared how his father designed, drew the plans and built the family home.

Even though David was fighting off a mid-winter flu, he still took the time to lead me through the Hyde house and Philip Hyde’s photography studio. David said that his father built the place himself over two years beginning in 1957. Ardis Hyde helped in the evenings and taught kindergarten during the day. They acquired 18 acres and built what was originally a 1200 square foot home plus garage and studio, all on Ardis’ school teaching salary. Quite a feat I think even in the 1950s.

After I knew David better he shared with me that everything around us in the home, the flat roof, the solar hot water panels, the clarestory windows, the raised bed vegetable garden, the fruit trees and the whimsical stone lined pond and flower garden were all ideals of self reliance and low impact living that his parent’s adopted back in the 1950s. The foundation of the Hyde’s living philosophy came from the book Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. This Amazon link goes to the original version which is now out of print and only available used. The new version, The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living, contains the Nearing’s first book Living The Good Life and their second book Continuing The Good Life all in one volume for one low price. Recently, David happened to have his mom’s personal copy of Living The Good Life around and loaned it to me to read.

David is a voracious reader and has loaned or recommended many books to me to read in the time I have known him. However, intuition told me that reading this book was a priority. He first presented Living the Good Life to me in a way that made a lasting impression. He said:

In the 1990s I planted a garden at my place in Pecos, New Mexico. My mother gave me advice regularly and a local green thumb friend also taught me quite a few tricks to gardening in that area. For example, if you plant Marigolds around the perimeter of your vegetable garden it greatly decreases pesky bugs and slugs. As I delved back into gardening, I thought back on the vegetable gardens I had planted with my mother and on the gigantic 40X60 foot plantation that she tended in various years. I also realized that she was probably one of the foremost experts on gardening for butterflies in the Northern Sierra Nevada of California. At the same time some friends of mine had bought land outside Santa Fe, New Mexico and were building and farming. One day while visiting my parents in California, I interviewed my mother about vegetable gardening and gardening for butterflies. I recorded the interview, which turned out to be a delightful discourse between us and illustrated very well my mother’s deep knowledge and love of plants, insects and other aspects of pesticide-free gardening. I wish now that I had made dozens of tapes of her because she was an expert in canning, freezing, preserving, making her own soap, bread, cheese, butter, tofu and many other household items and foods. At the end of our session, she pulled me close and said very seriously, “David, here’s the basis of your mother and father’s philosophy and what we based our home lifestyle upon,” as she handed me her copy of Living The Good Life. She passed on not long afterwards. Ironically, I have only read the first few chapters. Living The Good Life has been on my list for a long time, ever since her passing in 2002. I regret that I did not get a chance to read it and discuss it while she was alive.

Because I now had a key into the insight of Ardis and Philip Hyde, I opened this crucial book to see how I could get to know the Hyde’s better and to learn more about growing a life close to the land. Being a city girl from Long Beach I never lived on the land and I wanted to learn how people did it. The closest I’ve ever come was when I helped create a cooperative organic garden outside San Diego, which we called the Edible Village. We cultivated structures out of plants. We made a dome from collected branches that became a bean and herb garden. We also built a corn maze for the kids and a labyrinth out of plants and rocks. Each participant picked out his or her own stone along the perimeter. We also had chickens and practiced biodynamic composting. I will share more about all of this in blog posts to come in this series. The introduction to Living The Good Life, written in the 1930s, and preface, written in the 1970s, are all about how crazy and chaotic the world was then. What struck me was that nothing has changed. Meanwhile, I have been working to simplify my own life over the last 10 years.

David noticed that I continued reading Living The Good Life more than most of the other books he had shown me. He asked me if I would like to write about my reflections as I read the book and how it relates to what I am discovering about the lifestyle of the Hydes. Helen and Scott Nearing, as well as Ardis and Philip Hyde in kind, had approaches to life that serve as examples that can guide us today toward living more happily and sustainably. What I find most fascinating about reading The Good Life now is that although the first publication of the book was in 1954 and the sixth printing was in 1971, we still have the same, if not worse, chaotic, degenerating society.

Helen and Scott Nearing wrote Living The Good Life after coming out of the Depression of the 1930s:

We had tried living in several cities, at home and abroad. In varying degrees we met the same obstacles to a simple, quiet life—complexity, tension, strain, artificiality, and heavy overhead costs. These costs were payable only in cash, which had to be earned under conditions imposed upon one by the city—for its benefit and advantage. Even if cash income had been of no concern to us, we were convinced that it was virtually impossible to counter city pressures and preserve physical health, mental balance and social sanity through long periods of city dwelling. After careful consideration we decided that we could live a saner, quieter, more worthwhile life in the country than in any urban or suburban center.

For further reading see also Helen Nearing’s latest book, Loving and Leaving the Good Life, written after Scott Nearing passed on at age 100. Here’s Wilda Williams’ Library Journal description:

This quiet and reserved memoir is a tribute to the “good life” and the ideals of self-sufficiency, simplicity, socialism, and pacifism that Helen and Scott Nearing shared for 53 years. Helen was 24 years old in 1928 when she met Scott, a married 45-year-old economics professor who had been blacklisted by universities and publishers for his radical views. In 1932, the Nearings left New York City for a Vermont farm, beginning the homesteading life described in their Living the Good Life (1954), the bible of the back-to-the-land movement. Later, they moved to Maine where, during the 1960s and 1970s, they played host to 2000 visitors a year. For Scott and Helen, old age was a “time of fulfillment. Scott kept his strength and bearing all through his last decades.” But as he neared his 100th birthday in 1983, he chose to leave the good life peacefully by fasting. Helen is a modest narrator, at times so self-effacing that she switches into third person as when she discusses her relationship with the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. Still, her eloquent chapter on death and old age and her loving portrait of a remarkable man makes this a recommended purchase…

Both the Nearings and the Hydes managed to find and implement the Good Life. For a lively discussion on creating the Good Life on a larger scale through building a sustainable world and the issues related to it see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”

How would you define The Good Life?

(Continued in the next blog post, “Living The Good Life 2.”)