Letter to the Class of '61

I am sorely tempted to quote Bilbo Baggins who said, on the occasion of his one hundredth and eleventieth birthday, "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."

Which is only to say that there are few of you here, outside of my beloved fellow Girl Scouts, whom I ever really knew at all.

And yet, here I am, come back to the town whose dust I brushed from my feet too many years ago. Because now, I like to think, I have grown up enough to be able to do so.

That being said, what can I say to you that you don't already know? And what can I say about myself that you'd give half a damn about? Well, I don't know either, but Irene said write a page. So here's a page.

Bright lights, big city. The Chicago years. 1 1/2 marriages. One beloved son. Civil Rights marches. Shaking hands with Muhammed Ali (he looked resolutely over the head of the blue eyed devil). Walking the smoke-filled riot torn west side after King's death. The Battle of Chicago. Working at the Field Museum of Natural History.

Back to the land. Hippie earth mother years. Door County Wisconsin. The other half of the second marriage. One beloved daughter. Milking goats, tapping maples, bopping bunnies on the head. Writing poetry. NOW. Co-ops. First amazing women friends since Girl Scouts.

Biker moll. Green Bay. College graduate at last. Divorce. London pub crawl. Green Bay to Tacoma on a Harley. Pittsburgh graduate school. The Grateful Dead. Psilicybin. The Hellbounders.

Hippie chick. Seattle. The Grateful Dead (a recurring theme) on tour. The Blue Moon Tavern, a living room (Alan Ginsberg and Tom Robbins drank here). Continuing serial monogamy. Some awful bits. Wonderful friends. Creating good spaces to live in. The last two continue.

And somehow I am (as are we all) just a couple of breaths from 70. The kids are all right. Jerry Garcia died, I cried, and switched to opera. I finished the novel I started back in Green Bay, and it will be coming soon to an e-reader near you. Writing another one now.

Looking back on it all, it's been a long, strange, interesting, sometimes painful trip, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I finally got to travel. If I have any advice for you at all, I would say, go to Venice. Go to Istanbul.

The irony of it all is that, looking in the mirror these days, I see my mother. After all these years of following a path of iconoclasm, of hippie deadhead pagan pseudo-intellectual, free-love (it ain't) political leftishness, I look in the mirror and see a nice old Norwegian Lutheran lady. And I'm thinking, that ain't half bad.