1974, November 26: Letter from Peter to G&H

Three-page letter, typed (double spaced) on onionskin “Racerase Bond” erasable typing paper.

Handwritten at top of first page: P.S. Thank you very much for the suitcase & all the treasures therein…

November 26, 1974

Dear Parents,

--Hi, it occurred to me that I wanted to write you, even though I wasn't sure of what to say.... Events proceed here at their usual dizzing pace (that was supposed to be dizzying -- anyway, things are whizzing) and this seemed like a good chance to sit down and relax.... It's 10 pm Santa Rosa time, but I a.m. Wednesday Philadelphia time, and Marcy, Jed & Joaquin are sleeping soundly -- they got back at 3:45 this morning (I had been waiting since 3:00 at S.F. Airport)after a couple hours' stopover in Dallas, then J&J actually made it to Redwood School at 10:00 --!! Add to this an escapee (Larry cut school yesterday, and then again today ... we caught him running away today and brought him back, but he ran again tonight ... so we had to call the sheriff and report him gone ... he won't be found until he wants to be) ... and consequent phone calls with social worker and visit from deputy sheriff ... and preparations for Thanksgiving (George's mother and brother are coming from Oakland tomorrow afternoon) ... and five trips to Sebastopol ferrying boys and shopping ... and of course the normal course of cooking, washing dishes and clothes, feeding animals & plants & kids ... and you can begin to imagine the fullness of our days recently* ... also, the licensing inspector-agent came and passed judgment on our scene a few days ago -- we pass. (etcetera) (e.g. the dog just now had a puppy…) (etcetera) (e.g. three different people wanted to know, in past two days, how to set up a home like ours…) (etcetera)

Well, beyond the mundane trivia, the "stage business" so to speak, the plot-lines develop: since George & Ivan will probably not be going to Nonesuch Farm School beyond this month, I might be teaching a mathematics course there starting in January after the school returns from its three-week trip to Baja Calif. (volunteer at first, then paid after my worth is established) ... Marcy as you might know is returning to school next semester as an unclassified grad student, taking anthro & ethology courses ...

Handwritten at bottom of page: * “There are no problems, only opportunities…" (D.J.Hamrick)

since we will only have three foster kids if Larry leaves, we are thinking of buying a smaller house & less land in a more rural setting (and renting this house out to five or more Sonoma State students) ... we're also buying into a hot-springs property in New Mexico mountains, completely surrounded by National Forest (a big backyard...)(it's nice to know your neighbors...) ... for $1200 down and $500 a year, we'll own (with 49 other investors) a 200-acre hot-springs, and own two acres of it to build on ... we want to make it a natural-healing resort ... I'm entering an accredited program offering a non-resident MA or PhD in humanistic psychology, wherein I would submit a thesis describing our work here as a research project for the past year, and obtain an advanced degree ... (etcetera) (etcetera) (etcetera)

I have drawn much inspiration from the following sets of Gosanka poems (waka format: 5-7-5-7-7 syllables: translated from the Japanese, then transposed into this form in the English), written by Meishu-sama ... ... ...


An education

Producing those who cannot

Tell good from evil,

Discriminate between them,

Offers only pseudo-truths.

How can the world grow

Through surface learning alone!

Let us help open

The way for a true learning

Of spiritual matters.

In our world today,

While men of deceit, ego,

Increase in number,

Those who possess true wisdom

Become scarcer and scarcer.

Handwritten at bottom of page: P.S. You should be getting a copy of Dr. Jess Lair’s book “I Ain’t Much Baby--But I’m All I Got” soon … we think it is super-beautiful & very useful, & hope you will find it most beneficial ......... also hope you like these Waka-poems ....


Though we speak of love,

Tell others to have mercy,

Our words are no more

Than wind whisp'ring in pine trees,

Unless we turn them to deeds.

We are only men,

Not gods, so how can we pass

Judgment carelessly

As to whether other men

Are good, whether they are bad?

The freedom of choice

Is a gift God gave to man.

Let us never force

Our wills, our thoughts, on others,

Or let them force theirs on us.


It seems God allows

Dark forces to oppose us

So they can be used

As rubbing stones to polish,

Cleanse our spirits, our bodies.

Let us purify

Both our spirits and bodies

And give of ourselves

In sincere service always

For God's Cause, to save the world.

Let us purify,

Cleanse our spirits, minds and hearts,

So we may be used

As God's instruments to help

Purify, cleanse the world's clouds.


Let us make our way,

Walk in God's Eternal Light.

Then we can feel sure,

Can live with full peace of mind,

Even in this dark, dark world.

While we live on earth,

Let us have true faith in God,

Do all that we can

For the welfare of others

Quietly, without fanfare.

In our search for Truth

We may read thousands of books,

But all our seeking

Ends in failure, illusion,

Unless we have faith within.

(All these four were chosen at "random", wherever the book opened).

Much love & Light from -- Handwritten: Peter, Marcy, Jed & Joaquin

Handwritten: P.S. I’ll send you a whole book of these poems, if you want…

Another note, handwritten on a small slip of paper, clipped to the above (probably attached by Helen) and thus presumably from around the same time, possibly sent with the Jess Lair book:

Dear Parents——

I hope that you will enjoy this book as much as I did, & find it as useful…

I love you,


(aka Peder)

P.S. Please pass it on…


I feel like a lot of the gifts from G&H arrived in suitcases, which makes me wonder what we did with all those suitcases. I certainly don’t remember having a surfeit of suitcases when I was a kid. (But I feel like A Surfeit of Suitcases would make a good title for something.)
“they got back”
See previous couple of letters for more on our trip to visit Marcy’s mother in Philadelphia.
“George’s mother and brother are coming from Oakland”
I’m a little confused, because a couple of letters ago George’s mother was in Little Rock, Arkansas, so I was assuming that was where she lived.
“the dog just now had a puppy”
Until I read this letter, I had no idea that our dog had ever had puppies! In the previous letter, in September, she was in heat, but no indication that she had gotten pregnant.
Also, I think from here on, the dog is no longer referred to as our “foster dog.” I assume sometime around here, the decision was made that we would keep her.
Nonesuch Farm School
As I mentioned in my notes on the previous letter, this was the alternative school for kids who were too old for Redwood School. I assume that this means that George and Ivan switched to public school, but I’m not sure.
“Marcy as you might know is returning to school”
This did happen, but I’m not sure when. At some point, I hope to contact Sonoma State and ask them for her records.
A.k.a. Don Hamrick, the founder of Harbinger.
“buying into a hot-springs property in New Mexico”
Another plan that’s never mentioned again.
“I'm entering an accredited program offering a non-resident MA or PhD in humanistic psychology”
And another plan that’s never mentioned again. (Peter had previously mentioned a related plan, a year and a half earlier, but as far as I know he never followed up on either of these ideas to get a graduate degree in a psych-related field.)
“5-7-5-7-7 syllables”
Technically, various Japanese poetic forms don’t count syllables, but rather moras. But a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this post.
Founder of our church.
I Ain’t Much, Baby—But I’m All I’ve Got
Apparently an early self-help book. For more, see Goodreads.
“at ‘random’”
Presumably the quotation marks are meant to indicate, as usual, that Peter felt there was some guiding force or principle involved (such as God, the Universe, synchronicity, or the Cosmic Coincidence Control Center), rather than real randomness.
“(aka Peder)”
I really don’t know what to make of that aside. His middle name at birth was spelled Peder (which had been Helen’s father’s name), but he had been going by “Peter” for years at this point. Possibly he was just feeling fond of his parents and wanted to let them know that he still respected the name that they gave him? Dunno.
Added some time later: A couple of later letters from Helen (1, 2) are addressed to “Peder and Marcia,” so apparently George and Helen had continued to spell Peter’s name with a D, so maybe Peter’s “(aka Peder)” here was a nod to that.

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