The Lilies of the Field


People look at them sideways as they pass by along their way toward the drum circle.  These street kids are the dustiest, wildest-looking bunch on Sharon Meadow.  They look as if they’ve lived outside for years, and they have.  They share a rugged existence in the forests of Golden Gate Park.  Many of them have small pop-up tents, which they put up each evening and have to take down early in the morning, or else rangers might come and, according to legal guidelines, confiscate everything.  Diaries, artwork, precious family photos, gone.

If someone leaves their tent even for a few minutes, they’re liable to come back and find all their stuff gone.  Most rangers are pretty nice about this, but some are not.  The loss of tent and sleeping bag and warm clothes in this cold, foggy place can be devastating, but most of them are strangely calm when it happens.  Many say it’s happened to them several times.  It’s a very rough way to live, but in the middle of unbelievable challenges and occasional really hard times, something spiritual happens here, though some wouldn’t call it that.

Many of the homeless youth and others who camp in Golden Gate Park are real nomads, living a very hard life but a very free one. They do all the things that the old hobos used to do, have the same skills and knowledge and some of the same social traditions.  Many of them “ride the rails” all over the country, since hitch hiking has been made illegal.  They do this with their dogs and heavy camping gear, some of them in wheelchairs.  They have incredible grit.  They are as wise as serpents and most of them are as harmless as doves.

They live in the moment and close to the bone.  They experience cold and heat and sometimes even hunger and a thousand other hazards out there on the road or in the park.  They can lose everything at any time, through confiscation by the rangers or theft or even by something as silly as forgetting their stuff.  They can lose their dog for inability to pay license fees.  As they move from state to state, they can be arrested for warrants or tickets they didn’t know they had, since they often don’t get their mail.  They live on the razor’s edge, but they live a lot like the lilies of the field.  Many of them don’t call themselves homeless, but “house-free.”

There’s something uniquely satisfying about the hippie culture, whether here at this epicenter or in individual lives around the country and the world.   It’s full of invigorating dreams, bright colors and bright thoughts.  A certain solidarity, an unspoken understanding, has existed from the beginning among the long-haired Pacifists.  Here at the Haight more than anywhere else, it’s expected that people take care of each other, love each other.  That’s what “the Sixties” was all about.           ❦❀❦❁❧❀❧