Living in the suburbs, having children and a husband, driving a minivan: for some this may
sound boring, but it is Cea Sunrise Person’s dream come true.
Person’s memoir, North of Normal (published at HarperCollins) describes her childhood with her hippie-family in the wilderness.
When she was only a few months old, she came up North with her grandparents and her 16-year-old mother. The family set up a tipi camp in northern Alberta, to live hand-to-mouth in the wild.
Her charismatic grandfather was the leader of their camp. He invited friends, smoked pot, took LSD, and was naked all day. As a child, Person witnessed the parties and sometimes she would sleep in the same tipi where her mother was having sex.
“I always had a sense of normal. I somehow knew that the life I was living was far from that,” Person says.
Kids from the city brought toys into the camp that Person hadn’t seen before. When a girl showed her a Barbie, the doll became a symbol of normal for Person.
“The dream of becoming a model started with the Barbie,” Person says.
“One day my mother took me to a store in Calgary and I saw models. I knew I wanted to be one of them.”
After spending a few years with her mother and a boyfriend of hers on the road, Person and her mother returned to the wilderness camp. Person’s grandparents had now moved to the Yukon, to set up their tipi outside of Carcross.
Soon after their arrival, Person’s mother realized she didn’t want to stay in the wilderness and moved to Calgary, leaving Person with her grandparents for a year.
When her mother had settled, Person moved to Calgary. She had a difficult time at first, feeling like an outsider, but soon she buried the “naïve bush-girl”, as she writes in her book.
At 13, she participated in a model contest, lied about her age and was discovered by a scout. Soon she took off for New York and Paris and became an international model.
“For me it was not a big deal to survive in a big city all by myself,” Person says. “I always survived on my own; I never had someone to look after me.”
The skills she had learned in the wilderness helped her. “I could adapt pretty quickly. I have good common sense,” Person says.
As a model she stayed away from drugs and alcohol at first. But when her marriage fell apart, Person had a breakdown, started drinking. One night on coke she beat up her husband. When she woke up the next morning she called her mother, realizing she needed help. Then the healing started.
“(It) took about a decade of acceptance, therapy, and writing the book also helped me. It took six years to write my memoir, because I had to learn about how to write.”
Now Person is living “the most normal life”, as she puts it, with her three children and her husband. She is working on her second book, which will expand on her healing process. Her current book is a wild ride through her childhood, sometimes scary, sometimes hilarious.
What is the message of her book?
“Dreams can come true,” Person says. “Anybody has given opportunities in life regardless in what family you are born. I believe that no matter what your dream is, and no matter in what circumstances you are in you can make any of your dreams come true. But it takes lot of work.”
The book is available at Mac´s Fireweed Books for $ 22.99.