Dateline: Ladybelle Fiske
I grew up at Quarry Hill Creative Center in Rochester, Vermont, the child of bohemian, artistic parents who didn't believe in forcing children to go to school, or in punishments of any kind. They were particularly opposed to corporal punishment. On our old hill farm of 140 acres, which later became an East Coast Mecca for the hip and unusual, one of the very few rules has always been that one may not strike or denigrate a child (No hunting or fishing on the property, either, though it is not required that one be vegetarian to live here). I spent much of my childhood traveling with my parents and my brother, William (1954-2008), to stay out of school. I learned a great deal from Socratic discourse with my Cornell-educated father, Irving Fiske (see Wikipedia articles on him and on Quarry Hill, both of which I originally wrote), and from my mother, Barbara Hall Fiske, who was one of the few female cartoonists of World War II, and a remarkable tempera and pastel painter. My father had been a WPA writer, a rewrite man on The WPA Guide to New York City (as it's now called), a freelancer who wrote for H.L. Mencken's American Mercury and Coronet, among others, and a playwright and essayist whose work was praised by G.B. Shaw. His article, "Bernard Shaw's Debt to William Blake," is considered a miniature classic. He also translated Hamlet into Modern American Colloquial English, the first to do so. (It would now be perfect played in 1940s gangster costume.) Later, I taught myself more about writing, history and anything else that interested me by reading and practicing. I wrote poetry from the time I was about eleven. My writing has appeared in local newspapers, in Vermont LIfe magazine, on my blog at http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com, (also have a litzine called The Moon Seen in Water at http://quarryhillcreativecenter.wordpress.com)and in many other places. I'm at work on a memoir of this odd life. In the Sixties my parents opened a performance space/gallery/gathering place called The Gallery Gwen on first E. 7th, then E. 4th St. in the East Village. There I came to know some of the best of the Underground Cartoonists such as R. Crumb, Trina, and many others. The entire Sixties experience blossomed around me and for the first time, I had many interesting friends, to say the least. My father, who was a rare and entertaining speaker with an incredibly delicate and well-timed sense of humor, spoke at the Gallery on topics like "Tantra, the Yoga of Sex." As one might imagine, the audience was often standing room only. He really spoke of comparative religion and the value of the individual, and many who heard him speak (and me provide quotations and commentary for him) wanted to come to Vermont. In the later 60s and 70s, people began to build houses in Vermont, travel with us to Florida, and share both child care (on a four hour schedule) and lovers. There was much experimentation with ways to open the psyche and rid oneself of old trauma and conditioning; there was a continual struggle for survival, and there was a lot of laughter. As one of those who -- from the age of 14-- felt responsible for the place, I often had to make sure things were under control, that people didn't steal from the locals or go naked into town. The place evolved into an art colony/community/rental corporation. My brother, now deceased, was the President for a number of years. In 1990 my father died in the arms of one of his three lovers (he and my mother had divorced but remained relatively friendly). After this, there were a few peaceful enough years till some of the residents tried to sue the family to take control of the land. In time this was settled, in sensible Vermont style, by mediation. People now have leases on the land under their houses and the owners continue to keep the land and charge a fee for renting spaces. The old community ways have changed, but we keep a focus on the arts, on the rights and needs of children (whom we educated in our own school for many years, and most of whom came out very well), and on the importance of the individual and her or his creative freedom. Quarry Hill is always on the change, and so am I. I attended college later than most in life, and there, as well as through my own thoughts and my association with the cartoonists, became interested in popular culture and the state of society. I attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference twice, once on a scholarship from the Vermont Arts Council, and was a Full Fellow at Vermont Studio Center (a competitive status). My memoir, titled (possibly) Prospero's Daughter, is nearing completion. R. Crumb has said he will do the cover for it and major publishers have demonstrated interest. What has it been like to be a kind of Queen of the Hippies, a child of complete freedom, and a person who has responsibility for an entire mini-society all at the same time? I hope the book will give a picture of this life. So far I've heard of no memoir like it, and I look forward to writing the rest of it while posting on this site and others. I am married (since 1984) to a remarkable and devoted man, and have two grown children, Joya and Andrew. I have recently published on Associated Content (audio, Vermont's the Peak for Foliage), and at Examiner.com I am the Burlington (VT) Homeschool Examiner. In the past year I've been at work on my memoir/life and times, and have also been working as a freelance writer for KidsVT, a local paper. I also continue to maintain my own blog, http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com.
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