Alicia Bay Laurel

I can still recall the sense of fascination that I felt when I first stumbled across my mother’s tattered and treasured copy of Living On Earth. I was eight at the time, and to my young mind, the book evoked a world far beyond its pages. Every letter and line drawing seemed to hold the promise of a better life, far beyond the suburban reality I felt trapped in, even then.
Alicia’s whimsical illustrations described how to construct natural shelters, harvest and dry herbs, and live in tune with the land. The hand-drawn patterns for peasant blouses and ethereal, floor-length maxi skirts were a revelation to me in 1998, having spent my childhood clad in heavy denim and synthetic fabrics. Most of all, though, Alicia’s delicately penned instructions on traditional healing and folk herbalism opened my young mind to a reality that felt at once deeply familiar and entirely unexplored. I was enchanted.
First published in 1971, Living On Earth was Alicia’s guide to simple living. Following its publication, it quickly became a cult classic and remains wildly popular to this day. Unlike any how-to book you’ve ever read, one fan described it best when they said that “it reads as if she were writing a never-ending letter to you and you alone.”
In addition to Living on Earth, Alicia has authored and illustrated many other books, just as lovely and chock-full of visionary wisdom. Some of my favorites include Being Of The Sun and The Earth Mass. Read on for our interview, which includes a rare glimpse into Alicia’s world, along with never before published photos from her personal scrapbook.

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