Remembering Elizabeth Gips

what follows is long: part ream, part commentary on the dream, part letter to Elizabeth. delete it if it;s too much, enjoy it if you can. and if anyone is interested in joining our on-line dream group, e-mail me

love, Judith


Subject: DREAM: Crystal Remains of People, and Guidebooks to the Wilderness
Date: Mon, May 28, 2001, 11:18 AM
From: Judith Gips

Elizabeth, my aunt, died almost exactly 36 hours from when I awakened with this dream.

first dream I've recalled in weeks, 2:30 a,m. awakening.

I'm in a living room in someone else's house, or maybe it;s no longer someone's home but an office in a converted older house (some kind of informal, friendly business...). there are shelves of books on every wall, and a large desk pushed with a lot of books and papers in small stacks on it. into one corner.

I'm using the library, taking books off the shelves and browsing. there are maybe two other people in the room with me. we're sort of informally (again) planning a trip into the wilderness., not necessarily together or for any of us; just looking at possible itineraries.

there's some talk among us about Ina May Gaskin's daughter, who died at age 20 about 15 years ago. I take a few other books from the shelves. some people have speculated on the sugars that are left when people die. someone in the room in speculating, or one of the books I look on is, about extraterrestrial sources an explanations of the crystals that remain (say, after a body is cremated) and what is left behind. I see something on on near the desk that could be a sample of these sugars. I examine it closely. it does look like a "lightly refined" form of table sugar - off-white to light brown crystals that are not uniform in color. they look four-sided in structure to me but I remember enough basic chemistry to remember that they are probably six-sided if they are anything like edible sugar. if it were a lab product, it would be said to "contain impurities." or someone else ...takes a paperback book down from the wall that looks like one of my old editions of Spiritual Midwifery, missing its back cover, with a motif printed all over the front that is reminiscent of some Buddhist design (the one on Spiritual Midwifery, when viewed carefully, has storks!). it is more of a guidebook than just a book about home birth, and has some maps of places in the mountains that some of the key people who wrote or were featured in the book have been at various times. I see that there is a map of a place that Dawn, the small, disabled woman who became a physician on the the Farm and who died at age 43 in 1992 or so, used to go on horse-camping trips with teens from the Farm. it sounds like some of her remains were scattered here, but I'm not sure.

in the books, with the passage of time (20 years or so), the various hypotheses about what happens to the bodies when these sugar crystals are found goes through some changes. but the theme that keeps reappearing is that these crystals, though unusual and not the "usual" ashes that remain after cremation, are being found from time to time when people have been buried, place on scaffolds, or scattered after cremation in remote locations.

then I'm looking at another guidebook that really is some kind of camping guide.. It was bold-face headings at the beginning of each place it discusses. I thought I was looking at a guide to the West Coast, maybe as far as Alaska, but I see it is not that organized, or perhaps it goes by latitude because we are dreaming about places that are in the Far North (e.g. Land of the Midnight Sun), one place is called Scotia but it is not near either Scotland or Nova Scotia on the Canadian Atlantic (we have a Scotia in northern California) might be in Alaska or the Canadian Yukon, whoever. I'm thinking, as I skim the description and look at maps, that at this time of the year (it is nearly summer, as in making life), it must be extraordinarily beautiful with these long days when the sun sets at 11 p.m. and rises by3 a.m., but I wonder how I would adjust to the fluctuations between the light available over the course of a year, or even in a single season? maybe my sleep problems would be worse without the "zeitgeber" of our temperate-zone light-and-dark cycles.


I wondered, on awakening, if this dream were about Elizabeth's death. though it's Shabbat, and I usually avoid the phone on Friday night/Saturday though I'm not conventionally religious about it or anything, I checked my phone messages to see if someone had left me a message that Elizabeth died in Santa Cruz. no word there.

the following just sort of poured out of me as I cogitated on the dream. if it's too long, don't bother reading it, or, as Barbara "Feather" suggested, save my comments for after you've had your own "takes" on what the ream might be saying if it had come to you. thanks for listening to the Longwinded Comadre once again! Judith

one take on the "wilderness" theme: the previous night, I pulled out my favorite book on Jewish spiritual life and thought, Honey from the Rock, by Lawrence Kushner, after feeling restless at night and getting up to light a candle for Elizabeth. the author writes in there about the meaning of the wilderness, about Moses' wandering after escape from slavery in Egypt, about taking off for the barren and wonderful places. I read from this wise an often funny book at our informal memorial for my grandmother 13 years ago. I will probably read some of the same passages in honor of Elizabeth. I;ll quote from it here in a subsequent post.

a connection between Ina May's eldest daughter and Dawn, who are both dead, and Elizabeth, who's dying, is that they were all on the Caravan with maybe 200 other people when Stephen Gaskin's followers first traveled around the US in a convoy of schoolbuses and then settle on the land that became the Farm in Tennessee. Sydney, Ina May's daughter, was five years old at the time. Dawn was about 20. Elizabeth was one of the eldest members of their community at 49. she lived on the Farm their hard, pioneering first eight months or so there in 1971. Stephen could be quite tyrannical with his spiritual authority then. it was hard, physically and emotionally. Elizabeth came back out to California and spent that Christmas with my family in Los Angeles (I was in high school) while debating whether to return.

Ina May's book, Spiritual Midwifery, has been an influential book in my life, especially in its "tripping advice" on dealing with challenge (though I must say I;\'m not always up to not complaining.) though I have some points of departure from some of the authoritativeness of the midwives, both in terms of the "management" of birth and in terms of the emotional/social control over other people in the community. I've long had a push/pull with the Farm, have learned tremendous amounts about them (hey, these folks and their books taught me about natural fertility awareness, tofu cheesecake, and how to make birth a joyous and sensual experience, all things that have been tremendously useful to me in the last 25 years.) I've corresponded with Ina May and her fellow Farm midwife Pamela Hunt, and wrote a few articles for their journal, Birth Gazette.

for many years, I've been wanting to develop this thesis as a sociological thing (I've published a little anthropological/sociological writing, majored in medical anthropology in college, and would like to go professional with it): the mantle of spiritual power passed somewhat from Stephen to Ina May and the midwife crew as their practice, and acclaim, developed, and natural home birth became the sacrament that replaced psychedelics as a focal point in their community.

one thing about Elizabeth and me, how we're alike and how we're different...I never took to psychedelics or even to marijuana the way Elizabeth did. she has said the two most important events in her life were the first time she dropped acid in 1966, and getting together with Paddy (early 1980s).

I'm a middle-age hippie now too, about the age Elizabeth was at the time of her first acid trip. but I always had other ways of "getting there" in terms of spiritual experience. and I agree with something Ina May said in another book she wrote, about breastfeeding and in which she discussed her eldest daughter Sydney's then-recent death. Ina May has pointed out that too much has been made of 1960s-1970s hippie culture being a drug culture, disregarding the real contributions "we" made to health practices and care including a return to natural birth and breastfeeding, to healthy diets and new ways of thinking about food, acoustic and non-acoustic music an other arts, and to technologies from non-chemical farming and food production to alternative energy sources and construction methods and materials to radio an communications technologies.

Elizabeth: we didn't always agree, and sometimes I took offense at your style of dealing with people (especially when I was one of those people!). it took me a long time to be direct with you about feeling put off by the ways you sometimes acted in a way I saw as authoritative and bullying. (sort of like Stephen, eh?) because my mother was angry with you for years and years, and didn't want you around much, you were always sort of larger than life for me. I had a lot of problems with my mother growing up, and I was afraid of her for a long time, and sometimes I was afraid of you. it was really when my daughter was an infant (she's six and a half now) that I felt I could approach you at all about these things, about feeling I really love you and wanted us to be able to enjoy time together, but that I felt backed against the wall sometimes.

I'm glad I made the effort. I know that your rudeness is something you were working on for many years, and that you didn't want to push people away. an I know I had a considerable part in whatever misunderstandings there were, too.

I'm glad we're family, and that we were able to become good friends despite our personality quirks and disharmonies at times.

I love you.

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