Posts Tagged ‘The Good Life’

Living the Good Life 6: Search for the Good Life

February 27th, 2018

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Six: Ideas From and Review of Chapter One—We Search for the Good Life

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences.“)

“Such is the superiority of rural occupations and pleasures, that commerce, large societies, or crowded cities, may be justly reckoned unnatural. Indeed the very purpose for which we engage in commerce is, that we may one day be enabled to retire to the country, where alone we picture to ourselves days of solid satisfaction and undisturbed happiness. It is evident that such sentiments are natural to the human mind.

~ John Loudon, A Treatise on Forming, Improving and Managing Country Residences, 1806

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Lower Lawn, Raspberries, Apple Orchard, Raised Beds, Midsummer, Rough Rock, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 2015 by David Leland Hyde. After return from Midwest travels.

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I interviewed her for possible magazine articles about her locally popular organic gardening, preserving and food preparation. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living. They lived a low impact sustainable lifestyle long before “sustainable” became a word or a trend.

Because Mom passed on suddenly, I only ever made one tape recording of me interviewing her. I regret not having started sooner and filled a cabinet full of tapes of her. After that first recording session on a bleak January day, she gave me her personal copy of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. She first paused to hold the book to her heart, put it in my hands with weight and gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

This series of blog posts looks at how Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail in pursuit of flora, fauna and photographs, adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.”

Part Six: Searching for the Good Life—Based on Chapter One

After the Hydes experienced a series of setbacks and mishaps while attempting to make a life and a living in Carmel, they first moved to Casablanca, Morocco, where they worked for an American company that planned and built military bases. Stay tuned for more on Morocco in future blog posts. Working in Morocco with little overhead helped them get ahead financially and rebuilt their confidence as Dad had great success at work mentoring another photographer. Don’t miss the earlier blog post in this series, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.” Also for more about the Hydes’ early career, rising to meet life challenges with mentoring from Ansel Adams and touching briefly on their adventures in Morocco, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 5,” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”

The blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel,” ends with Mom and Dad returning to the mountains and finally acquiring land where they could build a home. However, before this became possible, they did a great deal of soul searching, home location research, and made a study of various gardening approaches, building methods and house designs.

In Living the Good Life, Helen and Scott Nearing described how they lost their livelihood in the Great Depression and grew weary of the worsening conditions and limitations of city life. By the time the Back to the Land Movement gained momentum on the West Coast after World War II, the Hydes and their like-minded contemporaries wished to escape the city and “Live in the country, in a decent, simple, kindly way,” as the Nearings put it.

In an interview by the now defunct Darkroom Photography Magazine, more recently republished in the blog post, “Philip Hyde at Home in the Wilds,” Dad disavowed the idea that he and Mom lived “too far” from any cities or even large towns.

“I don’t think it’s isolation, I think it’s insulation,” Dad told the Darkroom Photography interviewer. “We’re insulated from a lot of urban influences that I’m not all that interested in. Don’t get me wrong… I like people… But I guess I like them in small quantities… What’s most important to me is to be able to look out the window and see the changes of the seasons, or the rain pouring down, or the stars at night…”

While livelihood stood out among other considerations in looking for the Good Life for the Nearings, Dad had a sense, even a kind of faith, that if he lived in the wilderness that he wished to defend with photography, prosperity would follow. Mom and Dad made their exodus from the San Francisco Bay Area during the boom just after The War, while the Nearings left New York City during the Great Depression twenty years earlier. The Nearings’ observations at the time apply just as much today, now eight decades later and certainly applied during the cold war when Mom and Dad were settling in the mountains.

If profit accumulation in the hands of the rich and powerful continued to push the economy toward ever more catastrophic depressions; if the alternative to depression, under the existing social system, was the elimination of the unmarketable surplus through the construction and uses of ever more deadly war equipment, it was only a question of time before those who depended upon the system for livelihood and security would find themselves out in the cold or among the missing. We disapproved of a social order activated by greed and functioning through exploitation, acquisition and accumulation.

The Nearings explored Europe, Asia and much of North America before deciding to remain in the Northeastern U.S. for the seasonal aesthetic beauty of big snow in the winter, budding greenery in the spring, heat and swimming in summer and the “burst of colors in the fall.” Physically they discovered that “the changing weather cycle is good for health and adds a zest to life.” As can be read about more in the blog post, “Living the Good Life 3: The Change of Seasons,” Mom, Dad and myself in my time, all have loved the change of seasons.

The Nearings had a threefold purpose they sought in the ideal life:

  1. “A life based on the values of simplicity, freedom from anxiety or tension, an opportunity to be useful and to live harmoniously.”
  2. To make a living in conditions that “enlarge joy in workmanship, give a sense of achievement… promote integrity and self-respect… assure a large measure of self-sufficiency… and make it easier to guarantee solvency…”
  3. “Leisure during a considerable portion of each day, month or year, which might be devoted to avocational pursuits free from the exacting demands of bread labor, to satisfying and fruitful association with one’s fellows, and to individual and group efforts directed toward social improvement.”

“I’m not really trying to play the money game,” Dad said. “Photography has provided a living, not a bad living at all, but when I left the city… I knew that I was leaving behind the opportunity to make lots of money. I think that when I first chose photography, I knew I was choosing the pleasures of creativity over the consolations of wealth. I define success for myself in terms of lifestyle. Success is freedom and opportunity to do what I want to do.”

For the Nearings the “road from New York City to the wilderness was short in miles but far-reaching in social consequences.”

We were leaping from the economic and social sophistication of a metropolis to a neighborhood in which few of the adults and none of the youngsters had ever visited a large city, in which every house was heated with wood and lighted with kerosene. In the first year of our stay we piled the children of several neighbor families in the back of our truck and took them to get their first glimpse of the ocean, to see their first train, to attend their first movie and treated them to their first ice cream soda.

The Nearings started as “summer folk,” who are disliked by the local population because they “do not intend to stay long or work much.” “Summer residents do no great harm if they occupy abandoned land, or marginal land unfit for agriculture. However, many of them let their pastures go back to woodlots, which is detrimental to the agriculture of the state when the land goes out of production. The more summer people the more demand for factory goods and specialties in stores shipped in from out of state. “Summer folk,” for the most part, obtain their dollars out of state and exchange them for canned goods in the local market rather than growing their own produce.

The social consequences of turning the countryside into a vacationland are far more sinister than the economic results. What is needed in any community are individuals, householders, villagers and townsmen living together and cooperating day in, day out, year after year, with a sufficient output of useful and beautiful products to pay for what they consume and a bit over. This is solvency in the best social sense. Solvency of this nature is difficult or impossible except in an all-year-round community.

Therefore, the Nearings soon became all-year-round residents of Vermont. The Hydes also started as summer residents in the mountains. Their first residence in Plumas County at Lake Almanor was at the Fox Farm, a small community where they knew the Kurtzes and the Kurtzes knew most of the others. The summer of 1948, when Dad worked in the Cheney Mill in Greenville, was Ardis and Philip’s first summer after their marriage in June 1947 and their first summer in the mountains. The next summer they also spent in the wilderness. Ansel Adams helped the Hydes obtain a job at the Parson’s Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. They were to live in the renowned McCauley Cabin for two months and act as caretakers of the Sierra Club owned Parson’s Lodge for the summer, talking to visitors about the Sierra Club’s work and making photographs. Dad sung the praises of mountain life:

Went out this afternoon in the late low angle light and made more negatives of rocks, trees and Cathedral Peak, a photogenic, but difficult scene. We’re really beginning to realize what we have here in Tuolumne Meadows. We have no clock or watch. We eat when our stomachs announce the time for it and go to bed when it seems like the thing to do. We get up when we’ve had enough sleep. We feel no strain toward getting something completed by a certain span of time—it just takes until it’s done. This is altogether a wonderful way to live. We’re busy now laying plans for making it a permanent way of life. Why strain for security in the city when you can live in the mountains each day to the utmost—never seeking for tomorrow because you’re busy living today? Living is a full-time job—why relegate it to the leisure hours left after a hard day at the office? Why slave for retirement at 65 when all you mean by retirement is freedom to live. You can live now, live today. These Tuolumne days seem to bring out ever more clearly the things hinted at in our Greenville days and these sojourns in the mountains bring us into increasing contact with those who have found ways to live in the wilderness.

The Nearings 20 years earlier in Vermont were also looking for ways to live in the mountains full-time. They laid out their garden to produce a year around crop that more than fed their family. Another piece of the income puzzle turned out to be saving and buying properties in the neighborhood to operate as wood lots for firewood. Land was still very cheap at a handful or two of dollars an acre. The forests were good sources of income for many rural towns.

One piece of property the Nearings bought from Frank Hoard. He had licensed his land to Floyd Hurd and his wife and 11 children to harvest the maple syrup under a share agreement when the sap ran in the spring. The Nearings continued the same share agreement, ended up with half of the maple syrup harvest, and discovered that “maple syrup in Vermont is better than cash. It sells readily and does not depreciate.”

Here was something on which we had not counted. In a syrup season lasting from four to eight weeks, owning only the maple trees, the sugar house and some poor tools, and doing none of the work, we got enough syrup to pay our taxes and insurance, to provide us with all the syrup we could use through the year, plenty to give away to our friends and to sell. We realized that if we worked at sugaring ourselves, syrup would meet our basic cash requirements. We were surprised and delighted to learn that here might be the answer to our problem of making a living amid the boulders scattered over the green hills of Vermont… The possibility of sugaring for a living answered the second question: how to finance the good life. Our next job was to determine the way in which the good life was to be lived.

The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living The Good Life 9.” The next two blog posts, Parts 7 and 8 in the series, will cover the ins and outs of various plans and designs for Living the Good Life. Part 7 will further examine the similarities and differences in methods and lifestyles between the Hydes and Nearings.

(Read more, “Living the Good Life 7: Nearings’ vs. Hydes’ Design for Living.”)

Living The Good Life 2: From City to Mountain Paradise

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.”)

58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 1

January 18th, 2010

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1964, by Philip Hyde. Named One of The Top 100 Photographs of the 20th Century by American Photo Magazine

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Revised January 17, 2010
Originally written 2005

From 58 Years In The Wilderness:
The Story of Ardis and Philip Hyde Traveling, Defending and Living in the Wilderness

Introduction First Draft

Two days of rain battered our white plastic rain fly. The 20-foot-square white tarp hung from ropes tied to trees on the two diagonal corners and to stakes in the ground on the remaining corners. Under the tarp our orange four-man tent billowed in gusts of wind.

I snuggled into my down sleeping bag in the tent and listened to the drone of rain. Just outside the front flap of the tent, though well under the rain fly, squatted Mom. She held a Sierra Club cup with a decaf coffee freshly poured from the small teapot on the grate down at the fire.

It was April 1970 and we were backpacking in Coyote Gulch in the Escalante Wilderness, Utah in an area that later became inaccessible as the waters of “Lake” Powell drowned the mouth of Coyote Gulch. My dad, Philip Hyde, a freelance landscape photographer, often worked with the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations such as the Wilderness Society and National Audubon. He found out about this spectacular red-walled canyon full of arches, overhangs and green seeps slipping over hidden ledges, because the area was part of a proposed wilderness and more than once put forward as a potential National Park. By 1970 Dad’s photographs had already appeared in dozens of books and before the United States Congress, Senate and many other state and local political leaders on behalf of wild lands all over the Western U.S. His photographs were applied to more environmental campaigns than those of any other photographer of his time.

Ardis and David, Camp at Icicle Springs, Coyote Gulch, Escalante Wilderness, Utah, 1970, by Philip Hyde. Baby Deardorf 4X5 View Camera taking a break, Hasselblad in operation. Ardis Hyde writing in the trip log.

The wind picked up and the rain fly pelted the tent roof, keeping me from dozing off and getting my daily nap I usually had in the afternoon at age five.

“Where’s Daddy-O?” I asked, up on an elbow to see Mom.

“He’s getting firewood.”

“In the rain?”

“He must have had to go farther than expected and decided to hole up under an overhang or something,” Mom said.

“Hmm. I hope he’s all right.”

“Now David, your father is a very capable man. Do you want more hot chocolate?”

“Yeah,” I sat up, pulled my Sierra Club cup out and held it up to her.

“Say please,” she responded.

“Please,” I said.

She carried my cup down to the fire in the rain, balanced it on a rock, lifted the larger kettle from the campfire with pliers, tilted it and poured into my cup spilling only slightly. She delivered the hot chocolate to me, safely squatting and dry still just inside the tent and without shoes.

“Let that cool again now,” she said.

“OK,” I said, balancing the cup to the side and scrunching back down into my bag. “It seems pretty dark.”

“There is plenty of light left,” she said.

The wind and rain blended into a rising roar. I was back down into my bag but up on my elbows. I shivered though I was a mummy in down. I sipped tiny scalding tastes of hot chocolate. The light from the campfire flashed and flickered dimly on the tent ceiling. The shadows deepened. Every few seconds I heard the splitting of limbs or the thunk of twigs on the tarp. The fresh smell of masses of water pounding sand and sandstone was punctuated with bursts of lightning followed by deafening cracks in the sky.

Just then Dad appeared with a large arm-full of wood.

“You sure are soaking wet,” Mom said. “Why don’t you come in and take off those wet clothes?”

“I need to get a few more armloads of wood,” he said. He began to jog off into the rain but she stopped him.

“Philip?”

“Ardis?”

“There’s hot chocolate here,”

“Ummm,” he said kissing her quickly on the lips and running. “Thank you love, I’ll have some in just a minute.”

I snuggled deeper. Mom poked the fire. The rain fell even harder. It seemed the raindrops were bunching together in torrents and falling like waterfalls on the flap bucking in the wind.

Mom never doubted Dad’s capabilities. She added her talents to the collaboration perfected and imperfected by time and exposure to a spectrum of weather conditions. Dad fixed flat tires, dead batteries and broken equipment with patience, ingenuity and often little resources. Mom planned and prepared. She managed the food and supplies. She supported emotionally, physically and spiritually. She kept the daily trip logs, read the guidebooks and for fun studied plants, animals and especially birds.

Preparing for excursions, Dad studied the geology of the area he would scour for picture possibilities. In the field he knew the weather. On his studio wall he kept a chart of more than 20 types of clouds. He could often accurately predict the weather by looking at the sky or indicators like the barometer and thermometer. He kept a constant vigil for the light and atmospheric conditions favorable to photography.

From their marriage on June 29, 1947, until Dad began to lose his eyesight in 1999, he spent an average of 99 days a year in the field. Mom accompanied him more than half the time. They traveled mainly between April and October in the Western United States camping, backpacking, driving, riding horses, mules, trains, planes and boats to access wilderness for almost one third of every year of his working life. Summers were not the best months for photographs, but that was mainly when he traveled, so that Mom could go along in her time off from teaching kindergarten.

The summer of 1955 was typical of Dad’s early career. After buying a 1954 Chevrolet Pickup in March from Brett Weston, a contemporary photographer, Mom and Dad spent 12 days in April in the California Redwoods, across the state, 300 miles west of their home in the mountains of Northeastern California. Then Dad turned around and journeyed alone 600 miles south of home, May 3-14 to photograph Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Continuously for the next three months Mom and Dad backpacked, camped, river rafted and drove thousands of miles through Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. This included three river trips: 13 days on the Colorado River through little known Glen Canyon, 26 days on the Yampa River in Utah and Wyoming inside Dinosaur National Park, and five days on the Ladore River, also in Dinosaur. By August 16, after three weeks in Wyoming in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park on a Sierra Club Pack Trip, Mom got a ride home with participants, but Dad continued on to Glacier National Park, Montana for 10 days and Olympic National Park, Washington for two more weeks. Dad did not see home until September 10.

Why did the pair spend one third of their lives pursuing this unusual brand of adventure?  (Rhetoric question. Part of the text.)

(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 2“)