In the late 60’s Truchas became the location of an unofficial commune drawing to it rock’s elite. This came about when Lisa and Tom Law bought acreage here, with a house and barn. Originally part of the music and, then, movie business in Los Angeles, they had famous friends and associates from both. In Los Angeles they lived together in a mansion called The Castle where they rented rooms to the likes of Bob Dylan. They ended up moving to the Bay Area—Marin County—and living in a cabin at the time the Haight-Ashbury was beginning. They had a dream of living off the land and, in the mid 60’s began to explore alternative lifestyles.
Originally they came to New Mexico seeking a natural birth for their first child, something not readily available at that time. Once here, according to Lisa in her book, Flashing on the Sixties, “We could feel the vibrations of the presence of thousands of years of Indian nations living on the land.”
They became involved with one of the first communes in New Mexico called New Buffalo which was located in the small village of Arroyo Hondo north of Taos. It was a back-to-the-earth movement, which suited them. The Pueblos out of Taos helped the New Buffaloers as their friends and teachers. Those seeking new ways found vibrant, living examples in the old ways of the Indians. They were of the land and they lived their spirituality—exactly what the people of the commune were endeavoring to do.
Eventually the Laws settled in a large adobe house in Abiquiu for the winter with thirteen other people living in the one structure. Lisa admits to disliking the lifestyle and lack of privacy so, when she became pregnant with their second child, they moved back to Los Angeles. There they hooked up with the Hog Farmers, a California “traveling” commune that moved around the country in old school busses. Two of the busses remain in Truchas. While with this group they were hired to help prepare the festival grounds for Woodstock. Lisa was responsible for setting up the free kitchen for the event.
In the 60’s people were disillusioned with our government, the Vietnam War, and our economic, religious and social systems. There was a vast movement looking to change the existing structure and communes were part of this. We hear the 60’s mantra, sex, drugs and rock and roll, but the shifting energy was about much more than this, although these did become some of the agents for change. It was a time of social unrest and upheaval; the civil rights movement was born, new spirituality explored and, through marches and protests, a president left office and the war ended.
Regarding the communal living movement of the time, author and satirist, Paul Krassner, who was a friend of the Laws, says, “A sense of community is what the extended family is all about. People taking care of one another. It was perceived as a threat to the economy. We didn’t buy insurance. We pooled cars. We made our own clothes… The consciousness came from people getting in touch with what is really important… it served to break through the cultural conditioning. Now each succeeding generation has that much less de-conditioning to do… So if I had to sum it up, it was a spiritual revolution.”
In those days people were searching for something that was real. Some wanted to come back to the land and, in the late 60’s, that’s what the Laws decided to do in buying their farm in Truchas. They wanted to settle, try farming, raising animals and their own children. Their famous associates followed and their own informal commune was born. My friends, Shawn and Julie, own the old Law farm and they have pictures of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix leaning in their doorway (enough reason for Shawn not replacing the old door jam). Shawn is an ex-rodeo bull rider and Julie’s a hospice nurse. They still farm the land, raising goats, horses and chickens, fruits and vegetables.
In 1969 Life magazine came to Truchas to do a story on alternative religious beliefs and lifestyles, interviewing the Laws and photographing their farm. Any hope of a peaceful existence ended when legions of the curious came from all over the world to learn how the Laws had created their lives.
I believe many of us still want something simple and real, that we’re still drawn to a more earthy existence. I feel we’re in a new time of change when people are seeking alternatives to the lives being lived. Many of us are, once again, questioning our government, our social/economic systems, the wars, Guantanamo Bay. Some of us believe there should be more than a daily alarm clock sending us off to jobs we endure. We suspect the forfeiture of our more creative desires is somehow linked to the overall societal structure, built, in part, to keep us living and working by rote.
The Taos Pueblos are still here, living examples of another way. All of my artist friends and I are here on the High Road announcing a different path. But societal systems are entrenched and not so easily thrown off.
I don’t think there is momentum for the same kind of upheaval as happened in the 60s, however, I believe, many of us are rising up and acknowledging there is a better way. We are working for change. I feel we are in the midst of another spiritual revolution, one founded in acceptance and love and in taking responsibility for our choices and our work. We are living it one person at a time. And there is power in the one. As we grow and become our higher selves, we send out ripples of change to those around us who are also seeking more. The possibility exists that without protests, love-ins and be-ins, a revolution is none the less brewing and another significant shift could occur in our lifetime.