Living on the Earth is a reference book for making things by hand. Those skills are timeless. It is also a documentation of the Utopian commune movement of the 1960s by an insider, so historians study it. Most universities have it in their libraries.
I also managed to communicate through my drawings the FEELING of being so quiet and so free, living mostly out of doors, without bills to pay, and hierarchies to negotiate. That feeling is easy to forget when one is mired in the struggle to survive in 21st century civilization. This book can call back that feeling.
(Living on the Earth was recently re-released as a thirtieth anniversary, fourth edition with a few updates and additions).
I recently read your inspiring contribution to OccupyWriters.com where you mention the similarities between the Haight Ashbury hippie scene and the recent Occupy Wall Street movements. What do you feel are the most important lifestyle changes advocated by the hippie movement?
The most important lifestyle changes that the hippie movement set in motion, or greatly amplified, are:
environmentalism (including recycling, preservation of natural environment, plants and animals, organic agriculture and the resulting food/cleaning/personal care products), and alternative and preventative medicine modalities (including raw, macrobiotic, vegetarian and vegan diets, yoga, ta'i chi, meditation, massage and other body work, acupuncture, ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, and hydrotherapies like sauna, sweat lodge, hot springs, and colonic irrigation.)
Hippies also brought to prominence drum circles and neo-primitive ecstatic dancing, couples living together without legally marrying first, spontaneous communal sharing of rides, food, housing, land, childrearing, etc., which formalized into the establishment of communes, free stores, free clinics, free schools, food coops, and community gardens.
Apart from being a best-selling author, you are also an established musician and artist. Who are some of your musical and artistic influences?
My musical influences include John Fahey, Keola Beamer (fingerstyle guitar); Phoebe Snow, Maria Muldaur (folk/blues/jazz singing style); Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Mose Allison, Phoebe Snow, Michael Franks (songwriting, jazz/blues); Incredible String Band, Donovan, Bob Dylan, Keola Beamer, Richard Fariña (songwriting/folk-world music). You can read more about my artistic influences on my website.
Has your creative process shifted throughout the years (i.e. one art form taking more prominence over the other)?
Yes, at different times in my life I tend to express myself in one medium more than the others. For the past 12 years I've been in a period of making CDs and doing music concerts that include storytelling, plus making illustrations for eco businesses in Japan. Before that was an eleven year period of owning a wedding business on Maui, when I did lots of floral design, musical performance, designing party equipment and party set-ups, and designing promotional materials. In the '60s and '70s I made a lot of illustrated books and wrote a lots of songs, but I didn't perform very much.
Have you ever considered writing your autobiography?
I have written several autobiographies. One was a live performance I toured nationally for eight months (75 performances) in 2000 called "Living on the Earth: The Musical." In it, I tell stories from my life about how I came to create Living on the Earth, and what happened after I did. In between each story, I sang/played an original song that related to the previous story. I did a couple of performances of the show in summer 2011 in Colorado.
Last fall I recorded an all-instrumental guitar album called "Living Through Young Eyes," which is tunes I loved and learned between the ages of 0 and 25. I plan to release it this summer.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for those who have recently 'left the city life behind' to embark on their 'back to the land' journey?
I suggest that those who are not already conversant in sustainable technology, permaculture/organic gardening, and ecological building construction techniques avail themselves of the many excellent courses on these skills. Two of the first schools to begin offering instruction in these subjects are the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm in Summertown, TN http://www.thefarm.org/etc/, and Lost Valley Educational Center in Dexter, OR http://lostvalley.org/.