I used to joke with Colin that I could make soup from stones, and in the early days of our marriage while we he was building his career and I was leaving mine to become a stay-at-home mom, that soup-from-stones thriftiness helped to get us through. The ability of mine to make the most of what we had came from the life I had growing up and being raised by my mom and dad who had shunned their traditional upbringings and chose to lead a very unconventional life.
In 1967, Gypsy and Joaquin (my parents), met while walking down the street in Soulsbyville, California. Gypsy’s outfit was a bra and underwear and Joaquin was immediately interested. They hit it off and began a life that began with a lot of socializing in Marin County and San Francisco, living in communes, and eventually led to Joaquin building a home for our family on the back of an old truck which my family would come to call the “Gypsy Wagon”. On July 18, 1970, Gypsy was pregnant and in labor and Joaquin pulled the Gypsy Wagon down a dirt road in California and up to an old cabin in the woods. Joaquin would play the role of Doctor and my five year old sister would play the role of Nurse. This is how I came into the world.
We spent years in the Gypsy Wagon, traveling the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, living in more communes and more and more off the grid, eventually settling at Croy Gulch, California for a while and then ultimately deep in the mountains outside of Yreka, California where my dad built our cabin and outbuildings by hand, using lumber he milled from the logs on our land.
In the younger years, I enjoyed the huge parties my parents would throw, the potlucks, and living off the land. But as I grew older and around fifth grade, the isolation began to be really difficult for me. When school ended for the summer, I’d say goodbye to my friends knowing I wouldn’t see them again until the fall. We had no phone, television, running water, plumbing, or electricity and were completely shut off from the world, with the exception of a radio.
It was my version of an involuntary isolation and began years of introspection and struggle for me. I wondered why I was born into this life and started to realize my views on the world were very different from my mom and dad’s. I’d spend countless hours looking at photo albums of my parent’s childhoods and couldn’t understand why they would leave their traditional upbringings to choose this life of struggle and isolation.
But during this time, I found strength in myself and taught myself things that would bring me joy. Sewing on a treadle sewing machine, baking when ingredients would allow, exploring our land, and building little villages from twigs and bark where I would dream of my future life. A life that I would choose.
When our current mandatory isolation due to Covid 19 took effect, I couldn’t help but think about the children who might feel a bit like they are on their own at home while out of school and might be facing difficult circumstances and the families who are struggling with loved ones who are ill and stretched finances. All of this made me withdraw from posts that I would normally do, like projects in the home we’ve been building, and so on. The way I understand how this quarantine has affected me is that it brings back difficult memories of mine and because I’m on strong footing in my life now, I have a bit of survivor’s guilt, if that makes sense.
Instead, I want to try and focus on bringing out my soup-from-stones mentality. So, while we’re under mandatory isolation, I’m going to periodically post about happy little things that come from not much but are filled with love and hope and are things inspired by what that little girl Serena learned along the way.
In the meantime, trees are beginning to bloom and branch clippings make the most beautiful arrangements, like this one. See you soon. Love, me
Stay-at-home mom, Serena Thompson, dreamed of creating a fun and happy little event to sell her vintage and handmade goods. In 2002, she and some friends held the first event in her neighbor’s barn. The sale became wildly popular and began attracting visitors from across the country and recognition in national magazines. Today the event fills the Spokane County Fairgrounds and features hundreds of creatively and carefully curated spaces filled with vintage and handmade goods. Many describe it as a bucket list event, magical, inspirational, and the best vintage & handmade fair in the country. Serena describes it as the happiest on earth.