Already notorious for its countless New Age gurus, workshops and books, Ashland now gets the full lampoon from a new book, “Ashlandia,” by longtime town resident and writing teacher Caroline “Kitty” Lion. (This paragraph has been changed to correct Lion's first name.)
Lion, a longtime teacher of creative writing at Rogue Community College, has penned an explosive tale of the downfall of New Age guru Phillip, from the perspective of follower and lover Beth. Antagonists of Phillip are two other highly marketed sages, Winky Freedom and Methusalah, with the whole New Age community “crawling over each other to get closer to God or the Universe.”
Although wildly satirizing the culture, Lion says she’s a New Ager herself, especially adoring meditation, yoga and long, transcendent hikes in the upper Ashland trails with her dog, Beowulf.
“Consciousness is a parallel path into our hearts that reflects kindness, compassion, feeling and peace,” she notes. “In Ashland, when I got here 14 years ago, I found a vibrational level so high that everyone is on that search for greater understanding of their own connection to the world and to a god and a universe or whatever.”
Whether it’s cult or culture here in Ashland, the conscious community takes itself very seriously and, therefore, is ripe for satire, says the animated Lion. She calls Ashland the flip side of the materialist culture it pretends to reject.
“We’re desperate for God. It’s something we want deeply. It’s ironic and irony makes for good satire.”
Guru Phillip determines who are the “vertigo children” (a sendup of the Indigo children) and, if your kids don’t make it, he will let your pets be vertigos. There’s the “feminine merge” for healing and awareness. There’s a guru who gets a big ego, leading to his disgrace. There’s getting off all your meds (not gonna happen). There’s a slam at prejudice, still lurking in the neo-enlightened set, she says, against Jews and Native Americans. There’s a shakuhachi-blowing, non-talking, gown-wearing elder, whom everyone, of course, decides is of the highest consciousness.
“I feel great about the story,” she says. “It’s raw, edgy and real. It fits in with what I teach and has classic plot structure, while still not losing its uniqueness.”
It integrates a lot of the history of the Northwest, hippie-beatniks, Jews (she is Jewish and a big fan of Torah), immigrants, the Chinese, the Civil War and Native Americans, as portrayed by a main character, Wild Flower.
Just as in the cafes of the real Ashland, people talk on and on in a circle, getting nowhere, she says, “but it’s a lot better than the other side of the country (she’s a native New Yorker) where everyone has given up on it.”
Her big influences in life and ideas come from Rumi, Ram Dass, Reb Zalman, the Beat authors, she says, “and everything I write is going to question it all. I’m a Renaissance woman who embraces New Age thought and I believe strongly in the search for consciousness. As humans, we have intellect and spirituality both. If you push one down, intellect, we create an impermeable boundary. We need to emphasize the whole human condition and merge spirit, body, mind.”
Lion has written many plays and will teach the subject this spring at Southern Oregon University. She is author of the detective thriller, “Catch a Falling Knife.”
Lion is the mother of four grown Ashlanders and was married to the late John Lion. Both exercised their creative skills in San Francisco’s Magic Theater, where she became close friends with the likes of Tom Robbins and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Robbins blurbs her new book: “I’d follow Kitty to the edges of the Serengeti, and further.”
Noted published Alan Rinzler, a publisher with the early “Rolling Stone,” blurbed her book: “Lion is an exceptionally imaginative author. Her talent, diligence and discipline have produced many entertaining and illuminating books over the years and I’ve enjoyed them all.”
The book is available on Kindle, Amazon, at AuthorHouse (its publisher), Barnes & Noble, and at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland, where she will do a reading on March 23. She teaches one-month, intensive creative writing groups. She is reachable at Klion230@yahoo.com.
Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at firstname.lastname@example.org.