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Living On The Earth by Alicia Bay Laurel

Living on The Earth by Alicia Bay Laurel.
The early '70s was a time of great optimism (and despair in true Dickens fashion). Everywhere people were experimenting with alternative lifestyles, leaving the cities and heading back-to-nature. Communes were popping up all over and those returning to the land had to learn fast the art of survival. With impeccable timing and the feeling that a guide to this new/old way of life was needed, Alicia Bay Laurel wrote "Living on The Earth", an invaluable resource for those seeking to live in harmony with Mother Nature.

Published in 1970 by Bookworks, a small outfit in Berkeley, "Living on The Earth" sold out its first run of 10,000 copies in six weeks. It was picked up by Random House and went on to sell 350,000 copies, making it on to the New York Times Bestseller List. This was at a time when The Whole Earth Catalog was dominating the non-fiction category and Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book" and John Muir's "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive (the first Idiot's guide!) were hits with the hippies.

Alicia's book defied the rules and in so doing created an intimate, often imitated, style. "Living on The Earth" is written and illustrated by Alicia's own hand without the benefit of modern typesetting equipment. This is true to the theme of her book, a how-to-survive in the country manual "for people who would rather chop wood than work behind a desk". It took an earthy Taurus to write a book so full of practical advice. Advice that was scarce among the average urban American family in 1970. I'll bet your parents never taught you how to build a dome or make your own moccasins from soft leather that you tanned yourself!

Fortunately for a new generation of hippies, Alicia has re-edited her book and it is again being published by Random House. It will appear on April 22, 2000, a day that every nature lover knows as Earth Day. It is apropos since "Living on The Earth" is a paean to the Back-to-Nature movement pioneered by Emerson and Thoreau, and emulated by thousands in the '60s and '70s. It is chock full of useful tips on everything from camping to building a dome, making tie-dyes to baking bread and organic gardening to herbal remedies. Although much of this wisdom can be found elsewhere (even on the Internet), it is Alicia's unique hippie style that brings the message home. Hand drawn illustrations on almost every page give the book so charming a personality that it inspired many in the '70s to imitate it.

Do you want to make your own clothes? Can your own food? Build a Kayak? Butcher game? "Living on The Earth" makes it clear that self-sufficiency is hard work and living together in a commune requires facing some difficult realities. Alicia's sage advice ranges from natural childbirth at home "eat some of the placenta", to cremation "pour on kerosene and lots of incense. Burning bodies don't smell so good." In between birth and death, there's a lot of life to be lived, and how we live it is the essence of this book.

If the Hippy Movement achieved anything lasting, Alicia's book seems to sum it all up. Whether quoting Lao-Tsu, "be like water", or encouraging us to "discover the serenity of living with the rhythms of the earth", Alicia shows us that how we live our lives DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Not just by removing ourselves from the rat race or not eating at McCorporation, but by tuning into nature and sharing our lives with other people in a non-technological way. By walking softly upon the Earth we show our respect for all life and we satisfy our souls each day lived in balance and freedom. Whether this concept will survive the 21st Century is something we have the power to determine. "Living on The Earth" has returned just in time to remind us of our connection to nature and our responsibility to each other and the planet.

Added: September 3rd 2006
Reviewer: Skip
Hits: 8096
Language: english


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