Susan Stornetta: A new view to my perspective

Glen Price’s letter to the editor in the June 12 issue of the Appeal refers scathingly to “Californication,” the People’s Party and “that Berkeley chick that likes to get high and write nonsensical columns.” It also suggests the Appeal has been duped into publishing this “tripe” for the sake of balance.

It’s hard to experience the changes that a growing population brings, crime, congestion, and strangers in your newspaper, espousing weird ideas. And “californication” is everywhere, from traffic congestion and unaffordable housing to political and religious beliefs. Citizens seldom can influence politicians who make the decisions that drive development.

When my family moved to Minden in 1956, Nevada’s lifestyle was rural in the extreme, with little traffic and lots of space. Many people were related, or knew each other as friends or neighbors. In a small town, life becomes comfortable and everybody shares similar feelings and ideas. We know where we stand and what’s expected. Today, there are so many people, and things change so fast, that there’s little chance of developing that sort of intimacy.

In reality, change is a basic constant. We are made of atoms, each cell a miniature solar system of electrons constantly orbiting around the central cluster of neutrons and protons, sealed into a bubble. Without that basic change, we wouldn’t exist.

I’m pretty sure I’m “that Berkeley chick,” as Price refers to two of my columns. In the Appeal of March 13, I expressed my amazement at how different UC Berkeley was from Douglas County High School in 1958. I attended UC Berkeley for three semesters, but came nowhere near developing the personality that might define a “Berkeley chick.” And, this was long before students began the Free Speech Movement and political sit-ins; I never heard of the People’s Party. I returned to Nevada, got a job, married and had two kids, then completed two degrees at UNR. I was privileged to work and travel extensively in Nevada’s wonderful back country. The second column (June 8) described the benefits cannabis provided for my attitude and health.

My parents lived through the Depression of the 1930s and the war years of the ’40s. I can’t forget the despair I saw on my mother’s face in her less guarded moments. Their lives, bounded by fear, lack, and a rigid modesty didn’t invite confidences, were no doubt stifled by the needs of five children. There was little fun and no conversational exchanges with my parents and I grew into somber adult.

I needed a different experience of life. I didn’t want to be trapped by fear and anger, but to be comfortable with myself. In many churches in Berkeley, and in Nevada, I searched for a genuine spiritual experience. I studied different philosophies in depth, to no avail. The 1960s convinced me that politics involved lying and prejudice; I had a strong suspicion that nothing relevant to this search was to be found there.

I experimented with psychedelic drugs looking for an alternative to the discontent I saw around me on so many faces. Life seemed empty and joyless, filled with meaningless activity and chronic dissatisfaction. I knew there must be something more, and cannabis, a low key psychedelic, offered me new ideas to explore. It also let me experience gratitude and joy on a level I’d not felt since early childhood.

There’s that thing about being high. I’ve spent lots of time low, feeling that life is sterile and meaningless. I’d much rather feel elevated than depressed; joy is rare in today’s world. There is a time and place for “high,” not while driving, nor when at work, nor times when I have responsibilities to take care of. Being high all day is deadening, so it’s usually an activity at a day’s end.

My writings may seem nonsensical, since I can’t cite scientific proof to support my subjective intuition about the intimate connection between the body and mind. My life has been a quest for spirituality and truths about living well. It’s easy to criticize such a dreamlike goal, but it seems to be my life’s journey, and nobody is required to read my columns. But, thank you, Glen Evans, for your letter, for it gave me an opportunity to consider my ideas from a fresh perspective.

Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and a longtime Comstock resident.


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