| And I'd add "Every WOMAN, too!"|
Logo from Hobo and Sailor Design
One of the formative influences in my life was the Whole Earth Catalog. It embodies the Hippie paradigm with which I've identified my whole, so-called adult life. And within that fascinating work, what drew me especially - over and over again - was the section entitled Nomadics.
To me, its every page breathed freedom. And not just freedom, but romance. The Road! The Horizon!! Oh, how they called to my institutionalized soul, my eyes bound round by looming apparition of civic duty (Vietnam) and career. On bikes and boats (writ small in my awareness, as yet), in buses, in tents and afoot, my generation was going walkabout!
Nomadics. Apparently the word speaks for itself. When I went in search of a toothsome definition, I came up empty handed! WHAT?? Dictionary, no. Online, I got the usual zillion hits, but no definition! Nomad and nomadic, of course, but not nomadics.
So I'd better take a stab at it:
nomadics, /no -MAD-iks/ Plural noun [usuually treated as singular] The art, science and study of nomadism and related skills and technologies.
Well, the war ended before I came of age, and I felt all the conflicted relief of one who would have gone, but was not called.
So I went career bound via college on a full financial ride for po' boys from small ponds. But it had a quirky catch upon which my fortunes turned: any money I earned in summer went directly to the school. That meant all my summer expenses - food, rent, utilities, and everything else - became debt.
What to do? Well, I'd never seen much of America outside of SE Alaska. I stuck out my thumb and hit the Road, bartering work for rides and food.
I loved it - the US, Canada and the Road! Three summers adrift, breathing in the glorious vistas of the New World, meeting unimaginable characters and forging, with them, a fireside philosophy of Nomadics.
But the glow of the sixties was fading. It was the early 1980s, and the country had turned sharply to the right. The ideals of peace, love and tolerance; living lightly in harmony with the earth; the rejection of the military-industrial complex were marginalized, spun and commodified into oblivia.
[I know, I know... but they were ideals, and for all the flaws, they inspired and motivated a generation.]
They were being supplanted by a hard-edged reembracement of wealth and power; a 'rugged individualism' that read 'you're on your own, Jack and Jill'; and intolorance fired by a style of Christianity deaf to the words and example of Jesus. One of the early consequences was widespread rousting of the mentally ill from institutions.
The practical effect on the Road was that, in three short years, word of hitchhikers who'd been assaulted went from rare to nearly ubiquitous. Unstable persons with psychological problems are hard to distinguish from 'ordinary' wanderers. Nomads were no longer seen, in the main, as interesting travelers, willing to exchange value for value, but as vulnerable ne'er-do-wells somehow asking for trouble. And as always, when such a mindset takes hold, the real ne'er-do-wells act that mindset out.
The Road had become positively dangerous.
Well, I was now 'my own man', free to decide the course of my life. Careers looked bleak and pointless to me. I was working, sporadicallly - contract jobs as a computer consultant covered expenses without demanding much of my time. Interesting, but unfulfilling.
The Road still appealed... a vehicle of some sort? But vehicular vagrants were no more welcome than other mobile homeless and stick out all the more. Cars, vans and buses are expensive, tied to the oil economy and confined to roads. Not to mention the shabby, polluting, wasteful nature of it all. At least hitching, I felt I was increasing the per capita efficiency of the vehicle [how lame is that??].
One day at the library, going through free boxes of books being purged from their shelves, I came across Ken Neumeyer's Sailing the Farm: A Survival Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean! I stood there, trembling, the book in my hands, as connections met and fused. Just reading the cover had precipitated my moment of satori!
My life had circled back round to Nomadics. The art, the science, the skills; shared with us by our mentors and comrades.
That's what I write, here. That's what I hope to share and encourage, paying down the debt.
With gratitude and humility, and the knowledge of what might have been.