by Nelson Holmes
GARDNER- I have the honor of being invited to the Libre Community’s 40th anniversary party and this has started my mental works to pondering. The Southwest, and Huerfano County in particular, has been the destination of many intrepid souls who wish to reinvent themselves and their cultural underpinnings— daring folk who chose to embrace their freedom and engage in a mindful and purposeful approach to their lives. But why was the Upper Huerfano the destination of so many who wanted to establish community on their own terms?
The word “hippie” has become too broad in scope and is used too often as an easy and dismissive label to refer to those whose daring choices threaten the status quo. It hints at one, easily offered, ethos, or one manifesto, that allows us to define a movement in tidy terms with little thought. But what of those experimental communities that rose in defiance of the social constraints of the Victorian era? Or the men and women who ventured into the uncharted American west to begin anew? My guess is that something deeper is at work in the hearts of those who strive to perfect the notion of community. These are people who are willing to accept the responsibility that freedom entails and seek to create a new social construct as an antidote to a society they see as ailing and burdensome. Often this means returning to a simpler more basic approach to living that doesn’t allow for abstraction, but demands presence in the “now.” Others seek to liberate themselves through artistic expression and find the commune a truer, more organic, soil from which their vision can rise. The communards are so varied in character and philosophy that the only descriptive term that need not be shoehorned upon them is “freethinker.”
So why Huerfano? I don’t know that one answer will suffice. Libre, The Redrockers, The Anonymous Artists of America, Archuletaville, all took root here. I guess that, on a visceral level, the space, ruggedness and light of this county speak to something inside those who are drawn here, and each is spoken to in their own tongue and time.
As I read what I’ve just written I become a little disturbed. If a dear friend invited me to their fortieth birthday I don’t think I would ask them to define their lives to this point and offer me a coherent thesis encapsulating their experience. I would listen to their tales and refill their cup should it run dry. I would laugh and dance and celebrate my luck at having been included in such a precious circle. This will be my intention at Libre. Next week, as I anticipate the event, I hope I can offer just enough history to dress the stage and, if I’m lucky, a soft lens to gaze upon the past.