A Call in the Redwoods: My Hippie Intuition

In my pottery overalls 1969

In my pottery overalls 1969

The trees loomed ancient and prehistoric in the fog. Vic loved their height. He arched his back and looked up to the gray sky. I loved the dark hollows within the circular clusters of redwoods. I climbed down into the earthen bowls and felt protected by the Earth. Vic soared. I nested.

Vic wrapped his arms around a massive tree. Damp-to-the-bone cold, I stood behind him in my red jacket and wrapped my arms around him.

“Let’s have a baby,” I whispered as I pressed my breasts into his back. My words shocked me.

Hugging redwoods and Vic

Hugging redwoods and Vic



“I’d love to have a baby,” he said.

We hadn’t considered the obvious questions. How could we support a baby? Would we stay in California or return to Ithaca? Would Vic finish graduate school and become a physics professor or do something we hadn’t imagined?

In those redwood wombs, the mother instinct quickened. It wasn’t an issue of reason. There was a call. Vic and I said, “Yes.”

Vic, Elaine, and Rufus Diamant

Vic, Elaine, and Rufus Diamant

It was 1969 and anything seemed possible. We were in California’s first state park, Big Basin near Santa Cruz. David Hollenbach and Rufus Diamant, dear friends from Ithaca, were with us. I remember the vast primordial quiet filled with dark tree trunks, rushing streams, and moist forest floor.

At the time, I worked for a design firm working on the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, but I was in love with clay. I threw bowls, plates, and cups and learned to run a kiln at a pottery studio at Stanford. I played with glazes, made messes, and created earthy beauty.

Vic was on leave from his Ph.D. at Cornell. He’d lost interest in astrophysics, but his adviser wasn’t ready to let Vic go, so he arranged a part-time research job at Stanford. Vic was torn and tortured about his decision to leave his Ph.D. The physics job balanced Vic’s second job on an experimental ward for patients having their first psychotic break at San Jose Mental Hospital.

David Hollenbach

David Hollenbach

When we weren’t working, we went to encounter groups where we searched for truth about ourselves, each other, and life. We excavated old resentments and fears and learned to be honest even about hard things. I explored anger for the first time in my life. We went to workshops and weekends—psychodrama, bioenergetics, Gestalt therapy, and various meditation and occult explorations.

We didn’t crack because we leaned into each other in committed love, not tempted to sleep around or experiment with addictive drugs. We cooked healthy food and paid the rent on time. In the Free University scene in Palo Alto, we were a stable, conservative couple.

That day in the fertile redwoods, I knew what to do. The next day, I didn’t change my mind. I stopped using my diaphragm and missed my next period.

We didn’t understand we had just signed the death certificate on our hippie life. We were thrilled a baby was on its way.


What were you or your parents doing in 1969? I apologize about poor photo quality, but thought the images were fun anyway. Hope you also enjoy California Hippie Capers: 1968 or The Art of Argument: Essential Marriage Skills 101.

  1. I didn’t know you were a potter!

    • I was Sharyn, but after we returned to Ithaca and David was born, I didn’t have easy access to a studio and David was a guy who liked to be on his mom’s lap. I couldn’t make it work, so that was the end of the pottery passion, although I hope to returning to throwing a few pots someday. I loved the initial centering.

  2. Woo hoooo! In 1969 my parents were relieved, I think, that there were only three of us kids. Steve was 5, I was 2, Chris was 1. I believe that was the year we all had chicken pox at about the same time. Despite the end of that hippie life, I’m glad you and Vic were embarking on a new adventure called David…. 🙂

    • Yup. That was David calling, Liz. As I said on FB in response to his business award, David always was good at communicating. There’s an equally fun story to tell about Anthony’s entry into life. Coming soon to a blog near you!

  3. Great piece. I was four in 1969. My parents weren’t hippies, but I was born a hippy.

    • Yes, you were, Kathleen. And, shhh… Don’t tell anyone. Vic always thought of me as his hippie chick and I still am. Just a little older and less obvious now, but the values haven’t changed even though the life-style did. Thanks for reading and sending a morning smile my way.

  4. Love this sharing of such an important moment in your lives. So glad you have pictures of that time too.
    I was 10, spent 2 & 1/2 months and my 10th bday in hospital with broken arm that they were going to amputate. They found a specialist in Seattle to fly to Alaska and save my arm. I love my left arm!
    Your boys must love these stories…
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Patti. There’s a great story to tell about my younger son Anthony’s conception, too. Later for that. Thanks for writing and sharing my posts. And thank you for your lovely work and your nimble left arm that I have never seen in person. I know it can type, garden, and hold grandkids.

  5. This was such a sweet glimpse into your life. Thank you, Elaine. I had just graduated high school and was beginning my college adventure, free of parents and Long Island and everyone else’s expectations. I was just discovering a world of choices, protests, sex, drugs, eggplant, Bob Dylan, and … I don’t think I’d like to relive those days but I’m so glad I can remember them.

    • Thanks for your little story, Robin. Those were joyous days for me and the stories to rekindle the happiness I felt. It’s a bit harder to access now, but that happy hippie girl is still alive in me and I like hanging out with her.

  6. I spent the summer of 1969 traveling in Greece with my best friend growing up. She was of Greek heritage and her family invited me to travel to Greece with them when they went to visit old relatives. I don’t remember meeting many relatives but I’ll never forget falling in love with a gorgeous Greek soldier. Wow, what fun that was ;). And hanging out with a beautiful Greek young man made learning to speak the language not only necessary but very entertaining and much easier than using a book (although I carried a small pocket dictionary with me 🙂 I knew I was going back to being an undergraduate at Cornell when the summer was over. However, my cute Greek boyfriend Kostas wanted to marry me after only 2 1/2 months ! Whew ! I knew that wasn’t going to happen but I did miss his kind and sweet temperament when I returned to Ithaca. We wrote letters back and forth for a long time…..no email of course…..how did we survive having to wait for a letter to arrive back in the olden days ? Fun and happy memories. Now my daughter is the same age and traveling to Spain for her spring
    semester. And so it goes…..

    • Thanks for sending the story of your joyful youthful adventure, Lisa. I enjoy thinking of you with a Greek soldier boy. Now I wonder who Rommia will fall for in Spain? That may be a story for her to tell. Thanks again.

  7. Death certificate on a hippie life? I don’t think so. Being a hippie (to me) meant an understanding that love, peace and an appreciation for the earth were core values.
    You have not changed a bit.

    Let’s see, 69? at 12 I was going to an all girls school in San Francisco, riding the cable cars by myself and venturing over to the Haight to see what the hippies were up to.
    I was in a uniform, they were not. It was something I contemplated.
    I remember my mother once telling me when we were driving through that area to roll up our windows. She feared flying needles!

    • You know me too well, Lauren. Yes, my values didn’t change much, although life is different with a baby in the house and the sense of responsibility that came with that–then a meditation teacher, then a house that needed a lifetime of remodeling, then…. I baked bread with a group at the Mid-Peninsula Free University in 1968. We took it the the Haight to give away to the REAL hippies, now called the Homeless. I’m trying to imagine you there in your school uniform. Your mom makes me laugh. What an imagination. Thanks for telling me your story and responding to mine.

  8. Beautiful, Elaine! Great how the two of you stayed so centered amid all those wild choices! In 1969 my daughter–who’s arrival woke me up to a responsible life–was two years old. I had to leave her hippie father in order to make a good life for us.

    • Lynne, it was lucky that Vic was ready to take on his paternal responsibility (he was 29, so not a kid). He went back to graduate school and eventually got a great job. We struggled for a while, but our new path was clear. Raise a baby, work, own a home, and take up meditation.

  9. Another awesome post, Elaine. I always felt as though I was born just 15-20 years too late! I’m fascinated by the late ’60’s/early ’70’s. In 1969, I was 4-years-old… don’t remember much.

    Thank you for sharing your amazing life with us through your writing.


    • Thanks, Ann. You’re just a kid! If you were 20 years older, you’d have to deal with all that comes with being in your 60s. I have had good fortune and an interesting life–with some devastating times. But what human being isn’t smacked around sometimes? How nice that you have lots of time ahead of you to do your good on behalf of Alzheimer’s. We need you.
      How old was your mom, Ann? You’ve probably said somewhere, but because of your age, she may not have been much older than I am (68).
      Yes, fondly and with love,

  10. Glad to have found your site Elaine I enjoy your writing! 🙂

    • Thank you, D.G. And I will explore your site, too. I appreciate your visit and thanks for your encouraging words.
      Warmly, Elaine

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