(Chapter 16 of
Dreaming As One
Poetry, Poets and Community in Bolinas, California
1967 - 1980

by Kevin Opstedal


''The Indians thought of it [Bolinas] as a healing place, but would not make it a permanent residence. I think I understand that.''

–Aram Saroyan

Aram Saroyan and his family left Bolinas for Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 1984. Bill Berkson held on until 1993, when he relocated to San Francisco, where he was teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute, a position he holds to this day. Bobbie Louise Hawkins left in the early eighties, taking up Anne Waldman on her invitation to teach at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Duncan McNaughton, left, and returned, and left again in the mid eighties and nineties. He and his wife Genie, currently live in San Francisco, but they still own a house in Bolinas.

In the mid-eighties MacAdams was one of the founding members of Friends of the Los Angeles River, an organization dedicated to saving and restoring the much maligned L.A. River. It's clear that the environmental activism that he was so deeply invested in during his Bolinas years hasn't left him. He is currently the Board Chairman of Friends of the Los Angeles River, and is writing an ongoing long poem about the river and his involvement with it. The first three sections (or ''books'') of this poem have been published as The River: Books One, Two and Three (Blue Press, 2005).

As Lew Welch had written, ''It's in your head and hands. Take it anywhere.''

Just about every poet that lived there has said that the time they spent in Bolinas was the most magical, crazed, exceptional, and memorable of their lives. ''The Bolinas community was a lot of fun,'' said Bill Berkson, ''and very instructive in its own of times confusing manner. Country, rural or ex- urban living was what we all were after and enjoyed as far as each one could.''

Duncan McNaughton said, ''The fact is, then and now, it is a real town, with the wildest possible permission for the expression of individual need that I have ever seen anywhere.''

Poets and poetry continued in Bolinas after 1980. Poet Joe Safdie edited and published his magazine Peninsula there in the late 80s, and Stephen Ratcliffe started his Avenue B Press. Charlie and Marylu Ross, who came to Bolinas via Naropa in the 1980s, published a series of chapbooks under the Smithereens Press imprint, including titles by Berkson, McNaughton, Kyger, Thorpe, Kearney, Bill Brown, Dotty le Mieux, and Magda Cregg. Still, of all the poets who lived in Bolinas during the sixties and seventies only John Thorpe, Bob Grenier, Stephen Ratcliffe, Donald Guravich and Joanne Kyger still live in Bolinas.

A July 9, 2000 article in the New York Times described Bolinas as ''the Howard Hughes of towns''. The people of Bolinas are still fighting to protect their community and the battle to limit population growth and the construction of new homes on the mesa is ongoing. The incredible increase in property values in Marin County has brought in young professionals who find Bolinas a hip place to buy a house, erect a security fence, and visit on the weekends. Not very popular with the locals, to say the least. A website for surf lessons in Bolinas includes detailed directions and maps to the town. The outside world is again intruding. The last time I visited I saw a bumper sticker on a pickup truck that read ''Why do they call it 'Tourist Season' if you're not allowed to shoot them?''.

A recent development, noted in the January 20, 2006, issue of the Hearsay News, was the name change of The Bolinas Border Patrol to ''Bolinas Community,''—the association of The Bolinas Border Patrol with the United States Border patrol was seen as having Fascist overtones and potentially offending to Latinos. Somehow a trendy political correctness doesn't quite jive with the shadowy, outlaw/guerrilla concept of The Bolinas Border Patrol. But so it goes.

The values that were formed in the early seventies are largely still adhered to—respect for the natural surroundings, and an honest desire to protect this peaceful and beautiful place from uncaring outsiders. The Hearsay News still appears three times a week. A walk down Wharf Road can still elicit that hippie vibe. And the sign on Highway 1 is still missing.

The Crystal in Tamalpais

In Tamalpais is a big crystal. An acquaintance told
me the story. A Miwok was giving his grandfather's medicine
bag to the Lowie Museum in Berkeley. He said this man
took him over the mountain Tamalpais, at a certain time
in the year. I believe it was about the time of the
Winter Solstice, because then the tides are really low.
They stopped and gathered a certain plant on the way over
the mountain. On their way to the Bolinas Beach clam patch,
where there is a big rock way out there.

                                                                Go out to
the rock. Take out of the medicine bag the crystal
that matches the crystal in Tamalpais. And
                                                       if your heart is not true
                                                       if your heart is not true
when you tap the rock in the clam patch
                                                                a little piece of it will fly off
                                                       and strike you in the heart
                                              and strike you dead.

And that's the first story I ever heard about Bolinas.

                                     - Joanne Kyger


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