Monthly Archives: August 2017

Fortunately, It Was a Matriarchy


New Start–109

At the Orchard End of the Orphanage

I remembered the peach blossom breeze
At the orchard end of the orphanage
And I wondered how it would be different

If my mother hadn’t put me there
But then I thought of later when my mother
Gave me a fistful of wistful for her lost first love:

She was earnest to explain to show me
In the mirror where my now brown eyes
This time would have been blue


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”


Gentle Readers,
Taking up where we left off last week, bearing in mind that my rationale for so much biography in a blog dedicated to Sufism a la Rumi, is how it impacted my “religious” * choices. In other words, it gives background for understanding the later pull that Sufism had on me.

Last time, I wrote about being abandoned by my mother to live in a foster home. But that was just for the first year, and then I was moved. It’s funny–I have no memory of moving from Mrs. Murray’s in Oxnard, California, to the “orphanage” in rural Live Oak Acres, a “suburb”of Oak View, which was a “suburb”of Ojai, which was a “suburb” of Ventura. This is to say, truly the epitome of California rural rusticity, circa 1952. This “orphanage” was run by a large Wagnerian woman, (whose shotgun could shatter glass**) aptly named Bertha, a refugee from Oklahoma in the thirties, who had found an interesting niche in the economy. She had a mini-farm with a cow, pigs, rabbits and chickens, plus an orchard full of fruit trees, and umpteen rows of trellised grape and berry vines. She was paid fifty dollars a month (1952 dollars) for each child she “raised.” That was not counting of course the value of our labor, mostly on the farm premises, though sometimes especially in the summer, we were farmed out to local growers to pick walnuts etc, with Mrs. Hunt receiving so much per filled burlap bag.

So, all the children had “chores” we had to do. For one of mine, I had to get up and feed and water 100 or so rabbits each morning before going to school. That was before sun-up. In the winter, I had to break the ice covering the water dishes and clean them and refill them with fresh water. I remember once, no water would come from the spigot, because the water pipe had frozen. I was only eight but I knew ice was brittle and could be smashed to bits by a hammer or a rock. So I reasoned, I would take a big rock and bring it down hard onto the old water pipe, to shatter the ice and make it flow again. But all it did was break the pipe at a rusty joint, which tragically turned out to be above the last cut-off valve. So I was staring at a pipe with an exposed cross-section of ice. But I knew that when it melted, the water would flow from the giant fed-by-a-well water storage tank fifty feet up in the air (gravity-aided to provide water pressure for the farm). And there was no longer any shut-off valve to stop the entire tank-full from flooding the adjacent farm yard. I mean it must have been ten thousand gallons. We were wading in mud, which also was my name at this point.

Fortunately, it was a matriarchy.

Only women had any power on the farm. Mrs. Hunt did have a husband, denombre Daddy Bill. (Note, she was “Mrs. Hunt” and her husband was “Daddy Bill.” ‘Nuff said.) When he was home from work, all Daddy Bill did was smile and watch wrestling on television. And as to the power pecking order, There was of course Mrs. Hunt (Bertha) and under her was her trained eighteen year old, Clara, and under her, a lieutenant, a twelve year old girl named Betty Michael (In the south the girls often had a boy’s name also attached, as in Jimmy Sue, or at least two girl’s names stuck together) and under her was Sandra Sue, Mrs. Hunt’s grand daughter, age nine. (I had a crush on Sandra Sue. But I digress) Now this Betty Michael, fortunately, had a crush on me, though I was only eight years old, albeit reputedly cute. That may be in dispute and so to settle it (you may judge) here is (just below) a photo of me close to that age.


Me at age eight or nine

Anyway I remember Betty Michael sitting opposite me with big lovesick eyes saying, “I wish you were 25!” (In the south they married young girls to older men)

Anyway, I had Betty Michael coming to my defense, saying I’d not known any better and was just trying to do my job without waking everybody up for a consultation.

Well well . . . It appears once again, that I am out of time.
And so, to be continued next post.
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Religious. There’s that controversial word again. Maybe you aren’t aware of this but there is a lot of prejudice against “religion.” Not that a healthy skepticism isn’t vastly merited judging by the corrupt usage the word has fallen into, historically. Just to give an example I refer you to the Spanish Inquisition. Which unfortunately is far from an isolated incident.
And then we have Saint Francis, and even Jesus, as gentle souls who should not be classified in that group.

And then you have for instance Albert Einstein, who gave a nod to religion by saying that indeed he was awestruck by the “mysterious” of this world, and our place in it, not to mention the universe. And he added, “And in that sense, I am a religious man.”

** Or at least, ceramics. Witness the time someone for a joke purloined a ceramic rattlesnake from her mantle and put it in the tall grass hard by her handmade stone house. Having caught a mere grass-eclipsed glimpse, she ran for her shotgun and blew the thing to smithereens.