Green Valley :: Art
Art Wohl had the look of an El Greco saint -- long and dark, bearded -- and the personality of an early Clint Eastwood character -- the silent stranger. He lived in the arts and crafts shed behind the "monastery," which was the main housing and dining building. I have no idea how long he had been there when we met. The shack he lived in was a mess -- disused art supplies and materials all over. It had once been the pride of one Helen Lee Barclay, one of the original members of the community, who had decided to move to the New York campus. Art had some idea of restoring the art program and it was from him that I first heard the term "art therapy."
I was intrigued.
Art was also interested in the laboratory in the administration building. He decided to give me "nitrogen therapy." I recall something like a dentist's chair that I sat in while he hooked me up to a tank of nitrous oxide. I was supposed to conjure up a compulsion I wanted to rid myself of. I thought about candy bars. I held the image, with my hand up. The gas turned on. When the image blanked out, I dropped my hand and the gas turned off. It was miraculous. I had no urge to eat chocolate for weeks. But the effect was due less the therapy than to my crush on Art.
It was a cool spring in Florida and he taught me how to make a fire in the building's fireplace. One evening kids came in, sat around the reception area with a fire burning, and Art played in violin. Jazz violin. I was awestruck. It was one of those rare perfect occasions.
I wanted to be in love with Art and wanted him to be in love with me, but I had competition. A young woman from Antioch College arrived on the scene -- one of those Sixties women who didn't shave her underarms. She was very aggressive and zeroed right in on Art. When I saw the little tramp emerging from his shack one morning, I figured my chances were over.
But I still followed his lead. He decided to teach t'ai chi to a small group of us. Even though I had been diligently avoiding it, I figured what the hell. He wanted to give us a total experience, so we went into the woods and laid on the ground to do relaxation exercises. Hours later I realized I'd been nearly eaten alive by chiggers -- exploding into welts that we're nearly as miserable as the earaches. Ah, romance.
It wasn't quite over with Art. I went to Miami Beach with Bill and Enid K. to help them with a GVS booth at a special ed conference. We were also going to display psychedelic light boxes ("relaxation devices") built by Art's brother. To my delight, Art followed us down. We had something like a date. Dinner and dancing.
Dancing. I had gotten through high school and college without learning to dance. I had no groove. And here was Art, taking me into Miami to a Cuban dance club. He actually knew dance steps and attempted to twirl me around the dance floor. "I'm a dancer," he said in his mysterious way. And I'm a klutz, I thought.
I thought that night in Miami might have fueled the little something between us, but when we got back to Orange City, Art remained aloof and the Antioch bitch was still on the make.
My frustration with men has often led to bold decisions. It was May. Lee Ricketts asked me to go north with him and 10 kids to start our own farm on the Buck Brook property. People thought there was something going on between me and Lee, but there wasn't. He simply thought I was a hard (if unskilled) worker. I'd already been making plans for my next phase in life and had accepted a scholarship to graduate school at Stanford, but I said yes to Lee, figuring it would be fun to spend the summer in the Catskills. And it would put an end to my obsession with Art.
After I left Florida, I saw Art one more time. He, his brother Ed and his brother's best friend Chuck visited. Art and I hardly spoke. I still worshipped him, of course, but my time was being monopolized by Paul S — someone who was cheerful and (surprise) devoted to me. By this time, my best friend Trish had joined me there at Buck Brook. The two best friends — Trish and Chuck — fell in love and eventually got married. I'm getting way ahead of myself, storywise, but it's important because it was through them that I found out what happened to Art:
Art moved to California and became a full-time violinist with a New Age music group. He was also a dance therapist. In 1989, at the age of 51, he died in a one-car accident. He had never married.
I arrived at Green Valley School in Orange City Florida in February 1971. Around May, Lee Ricketts and I drove 10 kids north to the Catskills to start our own little farm adjacent to GVS' Buck Brook Farm. I left the Green Valley family, with my future husband, in August of 1972.
Green Valley was a residential program for troubled kids and a sixties-style commune for its staff.