They stayed away from West Virginia until the early 1990s, when they settled in Morgantown and opened a clinic. Coming back to West Virginia was easy, Harman said.
"We knew the state, and we knew the people."
Harman said she and her husband have had a lot of good years here.
On a wall inside the clinic, there's an explosion of cute, sometimes bewildered faces -- photographs of just some of the babies the couple has helped deliver during the past 20 years.
Their office still cares for expectant mothers up through the first trimester and offers a variety of other kinds of treatment and care for women. They just don't handle births anymore.
"It's sad what happened with the insurance," Harman said, looking at the photos. "The good news is I have more time to write."
Getting published wasn't instant. Harman said she was rejected more than 80 times before an agent took her first book, "The Blue Cotton Gown," a memoir that covered her daily struggles as a nurse-midwife and some of the women she came to know.
Her second book, "Arms Wide Open," was a kind of prequel to the first book. It talked more about her "hippie days" and how she gradually became a midwife.
Both books are surprisingly frank.
"I started with writing about myself and the courage of ordinary women," she said. "People often write about important people, but I think it takes quite a bit of strength to go through life."
Harman's latest book, "The Midwife of Hope River," is her first foray into fiction.
"I decided I wanted to stop milking my own life," she laughed.
Set in coal country at the start of the Great Depression, the book follows the story of Patience Murphy, a 36-year-old midwife, Harman described as "too old for courting and wanted in two states."
She chuckled. "There are a lot of issues in the book besides birthing babies. The book deals with race relations of the time, coal mining, poverty."
Still, the novel does draw quite a bit from Harman's background, though she added that unlike her memoirs, she had to do a lot more research.
"Like taillights," she explained. "I wrote a scene that included a reference to taillights on a car, and I wasn't sure if they even had taillights in 1929."
Some cars did and some didn't, Harman found out.
Looking forward, looking back
Harman is pleased with her surprise second career, though becoming a writer wasn't something she imagined for herself when she started out living in that first commune in Minnesota.
Where she is now in her life is so far away from where she was. Sometimes she misses the life of the commune.
"It was a peak time in people's histories," she said and smiled. "It was a great time to share work and make music at night."
However, Harman didn't think most of them were very realistic about the life they'd embraced.
The routine, the struggle for sustenance and the austerity of trying to live outside of society ground her down.
"I've always loved nature, the beauty of it, but the plodding of the work on the commune, the life, I stopped looking at nature. I felt like a beast of burden."
Harman said, "Our problem was we were so extreme. I think it might have worked if we'd have made some compromises. We were always striving for sustainability, but the lifestyle wasn't really sustainable. Living life on 'Little House on the Prairie' sounds great, but after 10 years it wasn't a lot of fun."
Still, she added, communal living hasn't lost its attraction. There are still a lot of positive ideas in trying to create a sustainable society outside the hustle of the mainstream.
Harman said she knew people who'd gone back to it -- gray-haired retirees, mostly. People who've embraced the ethic of group living but with the wisdom to accept a few compromises, like keeping a vehicle and taking advantage of improved technologies like solar and wind power to retain a certain amount of comfort without losing independence.
"Get away from what you don't want, but don't give up running water," she added.
Harman is happy with her life now. With her first novel under her belt, she's already considering a sequel and also working on a children's book. She isn't really considering giving up her day job, though.
"I love what I do," Harman said. "I love my patients, and I love being a writer. I think it's just easier to get up and get going when you love what you're going to do."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.