The first time Barbara Foust visited the Common Ground Fair, she was in the midst of buying her house and had exactly one hour to spare. She decided to spend it attending a presentation in the Whole Life tent on an unfamiliar kind of dowsing. But the scheduled speaker never showed up and, in some desperation, someone in charge noticed Barbara had a pendulum in her hand and asked her to address the group. She did, and she liked it. “The gods were having fun that day pushing things around,” she now reflects.
Later that year, she heard the Whole Life area might fold and she stepped in as coordinator. That was six years ago, “although it’s all one big year to me. It’s been a real joy.” She now shares her responsibility with two co-coordinators. “I think it’s wise to have other people who know where things are, and we’re compatible.”
Barbara’s home in Maine also came as something of a surprise. She and her husband, a retired English professor, lived in southeastern Pennsylvania for 32 years. They had 73 acres, an old stone house and a log bam. Her husband always said, “We’ll stay here,” and she assumed that was true, since he had made it “an absolute heaven.” But one day, he jumped off his tractor and said “I’m ready to go fishing.” Just as much to her surprise, his ideas about where to move jibed perfectly with hers. After all, if you want to fish, “Maine is a nice juicy spot.”
Serendipity abounded. Their youngest son, who lived in Randolph, offered to show his parents the house he and his wife “were going to live in someday” – although its size placed it well out of their reach. It was a two-and-a-half story Federal house, a former stagecoach tavern, with a new wing added on. When they drove by, a For Sale was up. Another son, experienced in construction, inspected it and pronounced the house “worth fixing up.” Barbara and her husband bought it without ever having been inside. “We slowly moved up and have never looked back.“ They live in the main part of the house, her son and daughter-in-law in the wing. “So we have a beautiful house,” she says, as well as an earthly Paradise. Her daughter-in-law is a “passionate” gardener and “has made this place into an Eden.”
In Pennsylvania, Barbara was a school nurse and then, around the time of the Bicentennial, she started a business spinning, weaving, and dyeing with vegetable-based dyes. She worked at the Cooktown Folk Festival, an annual nine-day gathering. But an accident made it hard to use her hands, and in any case, “I hated thinking that people considered me the expert” in those fields, so she stopped. In Maine, she is active in the Midcoast Quaker Meeting in Damariscotta and in dowsing. She dowses “constantly” and has pendulums ”all over the house.” She finds it ”very very useful” in healing work both for herself and others. She now hosts an official chapter of the American Dowsers Association in Pittston.
She is happy with MOFGA and the Fair. “This year was wonderful,” she says. It was obvious “from the first day” that they would need more chairs at the Whole Life Tent, so fifty more were set up and were almost always filled: “People are really getting ready to take charge of their health and lives.” She thinks the way the whole Fair comes together “is always a miracle. It’s an enormous under-taking.” Everyone involved makes it happen and makes it joyful: “They are wonderful, open, neat, loving people. I am a healer and God knows we need healing. It’s great to share that. I just really love doing this.”
– Ann Cox Halkett