Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Welcome Amber Lea Starfire and a Guest Post: "The Age of Aquarius"

Amber Lea Starfire is the co-editor of the anthology Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s and '70s.  Today, she shares a fascinating look back at a dynamic, idealist time in American history in her guest post, "The Age of Aquarius". 


The Age of Aquarius
by Amber Lea Starfire

We believed it was the dawn of a new age of spiritual awakening, bringing with it world peace and an end to poverty, sickness, and hunger. And this Age of Aquarius, this astrological movement that was to last thousands of years, began with us, the youth of the ‘60s and ‘70s. It embodied the hope and aspirations of an entire generation: "Harmony and understanding/ Sympathy and trust abounding*.” We believed in that harmony and in love and all the good we perceived as residing in the human spirit. We looked for its revelations in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, found our own personal expressions in the land and communal living, and we were hungry for alternatives to the status quo, which we perceived as stifling, unimaginative, and profoundly unoriginal.

I was fourteen when Aquarius hit the airwaves, and a ripe eighteen when the Jesus Freak movement was at its height in California in 1973. The movement’s idealism and contempt for traditional religion swept my new husband and me up and tumbled us back into the world, Good News Bibles in hand, with strong beliefs in simple living, faith healing, prayer, and the works of the Holy Spirit. We moved to Portland, Oregon and joined one of the quickly growing hippie-fundamentalist churches of the time. 

Like many others then, we lived in a commune, but we were a commune of musicians with the common goal of evangelizing for Christ through music. My husband played piano and I played flute in a band named The Beulah Land Band. We played in coffeehouses and on street corners and during Sunday morning worship sessions. We went to Europe and shook our tambourines and preached in front of the Grand Central Station in the middle of winter. 

The band broke apart many times—over disagreements about finances, over who would lead, over the realities of everyday life that didn't fit the life we had pictured—reforming and continuing each time with a different set of musicians. We shifted from contemporary gospel to Celtic music and everything in between.

Over time, those of us that had lived and played music together had children, found “real” jobs, moved into homes of our own, settled in and settled for less. Our churches grew into mega-churches, while our music found a gentler rhythm. Many of us divorced, and moved on, leaving our idealism and religion behind.

Now forty years or so later, I, like many others, look back upon that time as a wild, crazy time of unbridled passion for something more than what life seemed to offer. Eventually, I found my center and ways to express myself in music, art, writing, education, and business. Others, like me, moved on, yet I think there's a part of us that still believes in the promises of the new age: peace and love and beauty, and the words of John Lennon's song, Imagine. We are still searching for evidence that the ideals we came of age believing can be achieved.

Perhaps that is why the stories and poems in Times They Were A-Changing carry such strength of feeling and resonance—for men and women who were there and for those who are weren’t but sense the sweeping power of the times. The promise of the Age of Aquarius is still with us; it’s up to us to fulfill it for ourselves.

Amber Lea Starfire with husband, Eric, at commune on Oregon Coast in 1974.

* Lyrics to "Aquarius" by the 5th Dimensions, made famous by the musical, Hair, in 1969.

Amber Lea Starfire, whose passion is helping others tell their stories, is the author of Week by Week: A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts & Meditations (2012) and Not the Mother I Remember, due for release in late 2013. A writing teacher and editor, she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and is a member of the California Writers Club in Napa and Santa Rosa, the Story Circle Network, National Association of Memoir Writers, and International Association for Journal Writing. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors. 


Just in time for the holidays, Linda Joy Myers, Kate Farrell and Amber Lea Starfire launch their anthology Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the '60s and '70s. The book is the perfect gift for opening discussions with friends and family members and illustrating what a powerful time the '60s and '70s truly were.

Forty-eight powerful stories and poems etch in vivid detail breakthrough moments experienced by women during the life-changing era that was the ’60s and ’70s. These women rode the sexual revolution with newfound freedom, struggled for identity in divorce courts and boardrooms, and took political action in street marches. They pushed through the boundaries, trampled the taboos, and felt the pain and joy of new experiences. And finally, here, they tell it like it was.

Through this collection of women’s stories, we celebrate the women of the ’60s and ’70s and the importance of their legacy.

Paperback: 354 pages

Publisher: She Writes Press (Sept. 8, 2013)

ISBN-10: 1938314042

ISBN-13: 978-1938314049

Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ‘60s & ‘70s is available in print and as an e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and She Writes Press and Indie Bound.

Find out more about the book online:
Times They Were A-Changing blog: http://www.timestheywereachanging.com
Twitter: @womensmemoir60s

More about the Editors:

Linda Joy Myers is president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers, and the author of four books:Don't Call Me Mother—A Daughter's Journey from Abandonment to ForgivenessThe Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story, and a workbook The Journey of Memoir: The Three Stages of Memoir Writing. Her book Becoming Whole—Writing Your Healing Story was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award. A speaker and award-winning author, she co-teaches the program Write Your Memoir in Six Months, and offers editing, coaching, and mentoring for memoir, nonfiction, and fiction. www.namw.org. Visit her blog at http://memoriesandmemoirs.com.

Kate Farrell earned a M.A. from UC Berkeley; taught language arts in high schools, colleges, and universities; founded the Word Weaving storytelling project in collaboration with the California Department of Education with a grant from the Zellerbach Family Fund, and published numerous educational materials. She is founder of Wisdom Has a Voice memoir project and edited Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother (2011). Farrell is president of Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter, a board member of Redwood Branch of the California Writers Club, member of Story Circle Network and National Association of Memoir Writers.

Special thank you to Wow - Women on Writing for providing this stop on the Times They Were A-Changing blog tour.
To learn more about this tour, check out: www.wow-womenonwriting.com 


  1. Great post, Amber! I enjoyed reading about your experiences during this particular time period in history. Thank you so much for hosting Times They Were A-Changing on this tour, Audry!

  2. Thanks, Audry! This is such a remarkable post by my co-editor, Amber Lea Starfire, and discusses her personal experiences not at all covered in the book. How we progressed from being "wilder" and outside counter culture to adapting to the demands of later decades was a fascinating and enriching journey! I wonder how many women today find that they can sow creative "wild seeds" in their youth that bear fruit in their maturity?

  3. Audry, Thx for hosting a post about this creative and honest book.
    Amber Lea, Thx for being one of those honest voices, and for conceiving and editing this anthology. I was a Jesus Freak too! (Still am, though not as single-minded as life pulls and pushes in less simple ways.) The 60s & 70s were full of such upheaval, with the pendulum swinging "far out" and beyond. As it swings back again, we have not lost all momentum, but idealism has waned. Perhaps someday again our children will raise the banner! This book will offer advice and courage by first-person example.

  4. Yes, Amber captures so well an aspect of that era that is not as well known. What a era it was, as you say Marcia! We editors loved reading about all the different angles of those times, from the political, to singing and celebrating, alternative movements, and the marches that we hoped would change the world. We captured these moments through the lens of the stories in the book.

  5. Sometimes it seems as if our inner "young woman" would like to be recognized for her risky ways--back in the Times, daring to do what should not be done, wanting to have the status often given to young men. As Amber says, "There's a part of us that still believes in the promises of the new age." It's a legacy still so bright, captured in this book. At least I think so!

  6. Thanks for the compliment, Renee.

    Marcia, you're right that we swung to extremes during that time, riding a pendulum of energy, inspiration, creativity and a sense of righteous purpose. We haven't lost our idealism, but perhaps we have muted that passionate sense of righteousness. And, having lived more of life and gained wisdom from it, we've become more gentle.

    We had hope of a better future which I think, sadly, young people today do not feel as much. Perhaps the stories in this anthology will inspire some to action--for themselves, if not for society.

  7. Audry, thank you for hosting this post.

    Amber, thanks for your fascinating description of this slice of ‘70s life. I didn’t know about hippie-fundamentalist churches (not that I’d have joined one…I was in solid rebellion against anything church-y!).

    I agree that we haven’t lost our idealism. Some people feel discouraged, yes, but the movement to create a peaceful and just world still seems very much alive. We went wild in the ‘60s and ‘70s as we shattered conventions and declared what we stood for, but then we had to discover what it means to live up to those ideals and what a monumental task it is to change the world (or a single community, or ourselves). Some of our lives, and much of world, had to fall apart before those ideals could send down deep roots.

    I am inspired when I find even young people who hold the vision for a new world (the Age of Aquarius). It may be taking longer than we imagined, but I am still imagining. I think many of the other anthology authors are, too!

  8. Great post, Amber! When I first read the Calls for Submissions for this anthology, I SO wanted to be able to write something for it, but nothing would flow from my old brain, down to my finger tips! That's probably because all I could write about concerning that era was that I was very much removed from the "hippie-ness" of it all. << I think I just made up a word there! It could've worked I think, how I was so mainstream, yet longed to be one who made a difference in the world. I definitely am going to buy the anthology, especially because my friend Marcia G. (up above in the comments) has a story in it!


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