Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weather Report

Have I mentioned that I can’t control the weather? Would that I could.

It's too soon for an accurate weather guess for the camp out weekend, but here's what we know: It has been a very wet, gray spring. Rainfall totals for our little piece of paradise are currently 3” above normal for this time of year and it's supposed to rain all this week. Sequoia and I spent the weekend weed-whacking, raking, and burning piles of pine needles. I don’t believe we have ever been able to legally burn piles this late in the year.

The good news: We can have a HUGE campfire this year. We are investing in new tarps to string over the kitchen and the deck. I’m going to ask the lovely Louise to bring her pop up shelter to put over the picnic tables. Sequoia has been cutting firewood like a mad man. I believe we will stay dry and warm in the meadow.

If worse comes to worse, we’ll camp in my living room and take turns squeezing into the hot tub. It’ll be a hippie slumber party.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pick Up the Pieces

Sitting on a sidewalk in downtown Ashland, a grizzled, grisly road warrior was playing a slow, hauntingly beautiful version of Gold Dust Woman. Stopped me dead in my tracks. I almost chimed in on the chorus, but decided against it; I never know how those guys are going to react. Sure enough, on my way back from the post office I witnessed a bunch of bums engaged in a shouting match in front of the Black Swan. I couldn’t tell if my sidewalk troubadour was engaged in the fray, but he would not have been out of place in that crowd.

He looked awfully old to be on the bum, but he was probably no older than me.It sometimes feels like I’m heading in his direction. By 9:00 a.m. today I was ready to quit – not request mediation, not give notice, just walk the fuck out the door. Nothing like starting the week out right.

Is it over now? Do I know how to pick up the pieces and go home?

Sunday, May 15, 2011


We completed the annual spring inspection of the meadow and have begun preparations for the camp out. Today, I did dishes.

Ever since the lovely Louise set up the recycling center, the camp out's impact on the land has decreased significantly, but not entirely. Every fall, Sequoia and I spend a day putting the meadow to bed. We roll up the carpets and stash them in the cat shack along with the stray chairs, wash the kitchen gear and stash it in a rubber tub, pick up the garbage and make one last recycling haul. Young Cooper often burns trash for us at the end of the camp out; that kid likes nothing better than to stir some stinky ashes. By the time he gets in the car to go home, he looks like a character out of Oliver Twist. Tom kindly takes the household garbage to the dumpsters out on the end of the road. Louise, Peter and Lowell often take a load to the recycling center. There's no telling how many loads of dishes Ruthe and Cat and so many other folks have done over the years (Peter usually does a load in the pre-dawn hours while making coffee, and this after a long night by the camp fire. It's quite impressive.) Despite all the help we receive, the meadow always needs some attention in the spring and fall.

I must have been busy last fall because I did a half-assed job on the dishes. I rinsed them off and stashed them in a box with an ill-fitting lid. On our recent meadow inspection, we found a wet, nasty mess waiting for us. I took it as a message from the cosmos that it was past-time for a thorough bleaching, washing and sorting of the kitchen gear. It's a cold, wet spring day, perfect for staying inside, so Sequoia and I gathered a big load and brought it up to the house. I washed for two hours. My hands feel like parchment paper, but I salvaged a lot of good gear and discarded a lot of trash.

I must be a closet conservative. I'll say this: I abhor waste.

Donations of all kinds are always gratefully accepted, but some things are more useful than others. Rather than bringing a sleeve of Solo cups, bring your own reusable cup. It should be something you don't mind breaking or losing, something visually distinctive enough to spot in a pile of dishes. Rather than bring a package of plastic forks, bring a couple of pieces of thrift store cutlery and add them to our growing pile.

That said, if you show up with a package of plastic forks, I'll be glad to have them. It's all about contributing.

Some day, I'll write the story of how I ended up in the middle of the Cascades with 40,000 hippies at my first Rainbow Gathering. I spent that first Gathering prowling the the periphery, confused and intimidated but deeply intrigued. I did not participate, but watched closely. The next year, I hiked into the Gathering carrying crate of oranges and distributed all of them before I reached the main site. I spent the week hauling wood and water for the kitchen, helping in the MASH tent, generally making myself useful. The stories I heard and the connections I made while performing these services were profound. They literally changed my life.

That's the lesson, isn't it? The act of connecting is just that, an act. It requires effort. You get out what you put in, but the reward always exceeds the effort.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Sterner Stuff

We don't put down deep roots in my family; we've been moving for the last several generations, if not longer. At least once a lifetime my ancestors would load up the kids and a handful of meager possessions onto a ship or into a wagon and set off for parts unknown. Who knows what prompted them to take that leap, what wild fantasies they nurtured in the darkest recesses of their hearts? Penniless peasants all, but they weren't stupid and they certainly didn't lack ambition. They were made of sterner stuff than my generation.

I come from a long line of people who wanted something more from life than the predictable comfort of hearth and home, and who had the wit and courage to seek it out. Misfits, malcontents, seekers of all stripes - it's in my blood.

1. Aunt Clara Seay holding Ruben, Grandma Nellie holding Martha Sue, Aunt Lula Heath, Aunt Ruby Seay, Aunt Mag Seay, Amy, Ruby, Eva & Betty
2. Boyd, Mama, Betty, Eva, Amy, Ruby, Jack & Willie (Janie & Linda yet to come.)
3. Mama, Betty, Eva @ 1940
4. Boyd, Mama, Betty & Eva on Grandpa Heath's horse Stella