Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Possum Living

In the late 1970's an 18 year old home schooled (before there was really a term such as "home-schooled") girl/woman wrote a book on her life, on a pitiful typewriter which had to be rigged with a rubber band attached to the wall to get the carriage return to work. This book was Possum Living: How To Live Well Without A Job And With (Almost) No Money. This became somewhat of a "cult" book when released, despite being on the tail end of the back to the land movement, arguably actually past that time. What I believe made this book so popular with free thinkers, back to the landers, and a great many mainstream folks is Dolly's wonderful honesty, straight-forwardness, and the fact that she and her father were not nut jobs or extremists, they were not even making their choices for ideological reasons, but as she put it out of laziness (I don't for a second believe this latter claim, as they worked, but enjoyed that work!) 

They did not flee to the country, or disdain the suburban life, rather they lived what appeared to be a normal suburban life in Philadelphia but without "real" jobs, instead living off of the produce from the garden, the meat from their rabbits and from what they could catch in the rivers, and off of the hooch that they distilled themselves... They had all that they could want, even more because unlike their neighbors they had freedom to live, time to live, and of course wholesome food to eat. 

Dolly was taken out of government schools in the seventh grade, and clearly did not suffer for this "loss" (what would otherwise be objectively be called a great advantage!) as she went on to get a college degree on her own and to become an aerospace engineer for NASA. She retained the understanding of what it means to live life intentionally, not because you are trapped as a "wage slave" or even as a tax slave (in the US you spend at least half of your time working to pay for some form of tax!) . 

So why do I bring up Dolly's story now.. well her book Possum Living struck the same cord with me that it struck with so many in the late 70's, so much so that she was brought onto the Merv Griffin Show (think Oprah but in spades!). After many computer troubles, I had lost my digital copy of Possum Living, and sadly could not even recall enough of the book or author to google it but thankfully stumbled across it again thanks to a fellow blogger who linked to a list of "free" ebooks, from which Possum Living had been removed. Now normally I will admit that this new would have been disappointing, after all I was not to get the book again free, but it was removed because a publisher had opted to reprint the book! What better time? When the economy is in far worse shape than it ever was in the 60's or 70's and appears to be headed for complete collapse thanks exclusively to the Keynesian economic practices of the last several administrations.. So while I may miss out on having the free copy, I look forward to buying the updated version, with a new introduction. 

Interestingly there is a series of youtube videos which were clearly made a year or two after the book came out which documents Dolly's life at the time. These are wonderfully positive, encouraging, and enlightening videos and I encourage all of my readers to take the few moments it takes and watch them: 


This is pure realistic intentional living, without ideology, without harm to any others, and without any pretense. I hope only to come close to her example. 

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