Books

Books by Patricia Mitchell Lapidus, in order of publication:

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Sweet Potato Suppers: A Yankee Woman Finds Salvation in a Hippie Village, published in 2003 by R S Press, Savannah, GA.  Second Edition published in 2009 by Tall Woman Tales Press, now Walking Tall Tales Press.

Excerpt:  In the late 1970’s I was declared a terrorist by the government of the United States.  I was considered dangerous not in myself but in my collectivity with some 1,200 other folks, many of them children.  Our family lived for almost ten years in the related communities known as The Farm, founded by Stephen Gaskin and his followers.  (When in 1984 Don and I moved into town, rented an apartment, bought a car, and took jobs for wages, we were apparently no longer a threat.)  How a tiny village frightened the most powerful nation on earth is one part of my story.

Sweet Potato Suppers: A Yankee Woman Finds Salvation in a Hippie Village is the story of a personal awakening from a generations’ long sleep.  The sleep seems to have happened like this:  During centuries of trouble—war and plunder, European feudal law, famine, plague, the persecution of healers and dissidents—cruelty became a common, invisible part of the character of every woman and man.  Each person experienced heart-injuring events they re-enacted blindly in daily relationships.  Thus, while they made heroic efforts to benefit their children, they also frightened and scarred them.

This writing began as an apology to my children for the trouble they inherited.  I wanted them to know their history, especially the deep old roots of family pain.  And what The Farm, embedded in their early memories, had to do with it all.  What began as an internal family message grew into this book, the story of how one family, while living in community, began reclaiming its soul.

 

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Gideon’s River, a novel, Walking Tall Tales Press, 2010.

Twelve-year-old Gideon has a temper, wishes he didn’t have a temper, and doesn’t know how not to have a temper.  Gideon goes to great length to get rid of his temper and to pull some love from his absent father, who lives beyond the Catskills.  Gideon’s mother, watching her son get into a series of heroic troubles, learns that she can’t help him until she grows her own confidence.

The novel shows how the generations tend to flip roles in the classic drama of “the bully and the wimp.”

 

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Ren Hen’s Daughters, Walking Tall Tales Press, 2009 and 2017, expanded.

Many of these poems were first published in literary journals such as Peregrine, Off the Coast, and Green Hills Literary Lantern. 

Song Sparrow

A song sparrow with the grace of clear purpose

feeds steadily on round millet seeds.

His precise activities and coat—

brown spot at mottled throat—hold him ho!

one whose lines will not lapse.  When he

flits to the bush to begin his morning song,

a rapturous offering stronger than any I

have sung, I wonder at the size of the soul

of a bird.

Soul, in bulkless thread, rivers

as hugely through the songbird as through me.

 

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The Farm That Tried to Feed the World: Why Local Farms, Sharing Communities, and Transition Neighborhoods Matter to All of Us, First Edition published by Outskirts Press, 2013, Second Edition published by Walking Tall Tales Press, 2017.

The Farm That Tried to Feed the World is the second book about The Farm, this time community in the Catskills that was a sister to the one in Tennessee.  Sweet Potato Suppers covered five years spent on the Tennessee Farm.  The Farm That Tried to Feed the World covers an addition four years of life in the Catskill community, much of it in memoir style, though the final chapter shifts to a recap of five books that help an understanding of what in our world mitigates against the sharing life.

Excerpt: On The Farm we were doing our best to identify the unsaid and say it.  We called it the subconscious.  But it was only subconscious to the person.  Anyone else could see that there was, for example, anger disguised as tears or as criticism—and lack of confidence below both tears and anger.  That brings us back to how and why the sort-outs worked.  A foundation belief was that someone we trusted could give insight that could help us change bad habits and uninspected ways of thinking.  We had seen the trouble created in the larger world by people who thought they were being rational when they were not.  It seemed paramount to shed our baggage—and at the same time not to complain about the past but to stay in the present and give one another our goodwill, our smiles, and plenty of encouragement.  Each Sunday Stephen spoke about some aspect of the wider culture we had come from, and the more transparent one we were creating with chagrin and courage and love.

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Walter Moose on Oak Hill, Walking Tall Tales Press, 2017.

Written for my grandson, in these tales a kindly and awkward moose takes the young Zachary by time travel back to the days of the boy’s great-grandfather growing up on Oak Hill.

Excerpt from The Moose in the Sandbox:

“Why are you sitting in our sandbox?” asked Zachary.

“I love sifting sand,” said the moose.  “Come and join me.”

“I can’t get in there with you.  You are taking up all the room and lapping over the back.”

The moose looked around at his rump.  He sighed.  “Can’t be helped I guess, since they insist on making these things so small.  Would you like to hear a story about your great-grandfather up in Maine?”

“Not particularly.  I don’t like old stuff and anyway I’m not going to listen to anything until you get out of the sandbox.  You are not a little boy.”

The moose looked himself over carefully.  “No, I suppose I’m not.”

 

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Tummy Story 2017. I am 75 years old. I stand straight and walk briskly.  I live independently, spend time with grandchildren, and write.  Such longevity and quality of life are a surprise.

         I expected to die young.

 What to Feed a Baby, 1942.  A six-weeks-old infant lies in a baby carriage in the family’s kitchen.  Born underweight, she is hungry.  For the last hour she has been crying in an insistent high-pitched scream.  Her arms and legs beat back and forth, drumming her distress.  She has kicked out of the swaddling blanket.

The baby’s big sister toddles from the carriage across the kitchen to grab their mother’s skirt where she stands washing dishes.  The baby pulls on the skirt and says, “Ow!”  It is one of her few words.

 

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Swamp Walking Woman and Other Fables.  These tales are based in part on stories my father told—like his straight-faced account, rendered on top of Mt. Katahdin, of how the rock walls built by hikers as shelter from the wind were originally Civil War fortifications.  My father’s stories were in the tradition of lumberjack tall tales, the most renowned of which are of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Excerpt: On the afternoon of the second day she walked across one such small island and almost stepped upon a little girl asleep on a grassy hummock.  She stepped back and looked around for the child’s parents.  She called out, but as before only her own voice came back in muffled echoes from the misty wasteland.  The child yawned and moved.  In the mud the woman found a single footprint with large spreading toes.

 

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Uncle Lije’s Long Wait for Love and Other Stories.

Excerpt: Uncle Lije and Peggy, with Elizabeth on her arm, tip-toed out and closed the door softly.  They sat on the porch where he played bird songs on his flute.  He could play so true he got robins and song sparrows and cardinals to come around and sit in the lilac bush cocking their heads this way and that, trying to see one of their own on the porch.  Then Uncle Lije would hush the flute, causing the real birds to sing up double.

 

 Eyes of an Eagle and Other Stories of Long Ago.  Whether regarded as creations, memories, or visions, these stories of long ago pull the reader in.

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Excerpt:  When that swaggerer Fod-he declared time to move to the high plains, I tied my grass carrier over my shoulders and hid in the top of a tall calki tree among the broadest leaves.  My mother shinnied up the trunk and pulled on my foot until I was forced to come slipping down with her or fall through too much air.  I was puff-headed with grief, my thoughts gone on the wind like flower seeds.  Gi-benni, my mother’s helpman and my father, had been kind to me.