Monday, June 25, 2012

We Could Be Heroes

Monday morning after the campout, the last camper's truck pulls out of the meadow and heads up the hill. The roar of the engine fades, a breeze picks up and ruffles the tarps. Bird song, the creek murmuring in the hollow. I am alone.

I usually experience this moment with Sequoia, but this year I was truly alone, the last woman standing in the meadow. After three days of sharing this vast space with my far-flung friends and family, it was empty. Y'all left the meadow in better shape than you found it. There were a few grocery left behind, but not much: three watermelons, half a box of graham crackers, unopened bags of marshmallows, a cooler full of soda (but no beer; funny, that.) The dishes were done, the garbage picked up. Louise organized the recycling center and hauled three bags to town. The meadow was in great shape, but the ghost of the gathering still inhabited the space.. The campfire was still smoldering, camp chairs still scattered around the perimeter. A pile of blankets on the deck where my nephew passed out, a deck of cards on a tree stump, an Oprah Magazine draped over a camp chair, its banner headline declaring "HOW TO GET BETTER WITH AGE." There's 50-something Oprah, smooth, sleek, styled, lyrcra-ed and airbrushed, photoshopped next to 21-year old Oprah. The juxtaposition is designed to impress us with how great she looks at her age and, don't get me wrong, she looks great. I guess I just have a different definition of "better."

As I load party leftovers into the back of my car, I catch sight of my reflection in the window glass. My hair looks like straw, my skin looks like leather, my clothes are caked in dust, I'm wearing the same puffy vest I wore all weekend which is covered in ash and pocked by flying cinders. I'm dusty, dirty, exhausted, and fully and completely happy.

The corollary of the moment after the party described above is the moment before the party, which is usually hectic and sometimes anxiety-filled, but this year more the most. I often say that I can't control the weather, but that doesn't mean I don't feel responsible for the weather. When I invite people to come all the way out to the Colestin, I feel like I owe them good weather. (It's a symptom of my particular brand of neurosis.) As we watched the cold front move in Friday morning, as the storms began to break hard that afternoon, I must admit, I had a bit of an anxiety attack. I was convinced that a) no-one was going to come, and b) anyone who did come would be miserable.

Then folks began to arrive and the laughter started. Tarps went up, the campfire roared to life, people started preparing food and firing up cookstoves. More arrivals, more laughter. Cloudbursts turned to drizzle, stopped, and then repeated the pattern again. It didn't matter. We gathered under the tarps, ate, played music and had a fine, fine time. There were unforeseen advantages to the cool weather. No flying clouds of dust, no socks full of stickers, no flies! The land was green and glorious, profuse with wildflowers. The disk golfers could play hard without being killed by heat.  The advantage was reflected in some amazingly low scores and a few never-to-be-forgotten shots such as the "Skip-Ace." Yours truly took advantage of the cool to lead a select group on a hike from hell, giving us all a new appreciation for the lyric "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now could see." And the music! The music was incredibly eclectic this year. Danny and Noah's deep jams, the beautiful Ham Jams, campfire harmonies, a Serenader rehearsal on the deck, new players, old players, all different kinds of players making music under a tarp in the rain. Incredible. Almost everyone stayed dry in their tents overnight and, when the cold and the wet got to be too much, many folks hiked up to the house and took a hot tub.  Not bad campers, not bad at all. We had a seriously good time in the rain. We must really like each other.

2012: The year of the stalwarts.  Here's to the camping heroes.  This is how to get better with age.

Photos will follow soon. I love you all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Voodoo Queen

According to my sources in the Big Easy, St John's Eve is this Saturday, June 23. It's a big night for practitioners of voodoo. Marie Laveau was said to do rituals on the Bayou St John that night. As it happens, I've visited both Bayou St. John AND Marie Laveau's reputed gravesite (although, rumor has it she isn't actually buried there. What else would you expect from a voodoo priestess?)

Sounds like a marvelous night for a moon dance.
Oddly, Bobby Bare (Bobby Bare????) wrote a song about Marie Laveau

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Guide to the 2012 Colestin Camp Out

Greetings Campers,

It appears that some of our beloved regulars won’t make it out to the Colestin this year, which breaks my heart. But, it looks like we are going to have a few newcomers, which makes me very happy. I thought the first timers might appreciate a Guide to the Colestin Camp Out.  If any of you camp out veterans want to offer additional advice, feel free to weigh in.

Based on the considerable experience garnered in the last 17 years (!!) of Colestin Camp Outs, here are three rules, one request and a few helpful hints:
Colestin Camp Out Rules
Rule One:  Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the love; love is the law, love under will.  (Thanks Aleister Crowley!) Do whatever you want to do. As long as it comes from a place of love, you can’t go wrong.
Rule Two: Do it yourself. Pitch in. Participate. Whatever you contribute, be it time, energy, money or materials, will be deeply appreciated and will bring closer into the circle.
Rule Three: No impaired driving beyond the property line.  If I catch you, I’ll tackle your ass and take your keys away.  If you find yourself unable to drive and unprepared to camp, you are more than welcome to sleep at my house. You won’t be the first.
Colestine Camp Out Request.
Please do not fall into the fire or into the creek or off the bridge. Please do not break a bone on the slip and slide.  Please do not go flying off the tree swing.  In case of emergencies, we have first aid supplies and the Nurse is on duty, but injuries are a total buzz-kill.
Colestin Camp Out Helpful Hints
The 2012 Camp Out is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 22-24. Come when you like, leave when you please.  Directions are available upon request.
Some of us smoke pot; just saying.  See rule number one. We do ask smokers (tobacco and others) to be conscious and considerate. Please do not smoke in the kitchen. Please police your butts. 
Dogs are very welcome; we love dogs.  Most visiting dogs are off-leash and the occasional fight breaks out, but rarely anything serious.  Of course if Bad Dog Sophie comes, all bets are off.
Dinner is potluck and served around 7:00.  I’m cooking salmon on Friday and Saturday will feature “mixed grill” and Stephany’s famous “pot o’ something.”  How vague is that?  Contributions of other main dishes, sides, salads, bread, drinks and desserts are encouraged and greatly appreciated.  Hopefully Dogboy will show up to captain our culinary ship and commit capital food crimes.
The kitchen has prep tables and cold running water but no electricity.  There are usually a few Coleman stoves and barbecue grills going but we can always use more. We have lots of plates, cups, cutlery, a few kitchen knives and cutting boards.
Breakfast, lunch and snacks are ad hoc. Whatever you leave out on the table is fair game.
We provide a keg of beer and drinking water.
I usually have plenty of candles and matches, but we can always use another lantern.
A screened, well-ventilated outhouse is located just steps away from the main meadow.  Flush technology requires a 10-minute hike up hill.

Expect very cold nights and steep terrain. Bring warm clothes and sensible shoes.
Expect tics, snakes, bugs, and all the other joys of the outdoors. 
Campfire? Why yes, a big one.
Brother Dutch organizes daily, epic, disc golf matches. I believe EZ currently holds the course record. Laney is the only person to ever hit a hole-in-one during regulation play, which earned her the honor of having that particular target renamed “Laney’s Dirty Little Hole.” Be careful what you wish for.

Louise went to trouble of setting up the recycling center, so please use it. Young Cooper will gladly burn your trash for you.
Be kind to the animals.  Dr. Jeff, our resident ornithologist, can help you identify the local fauna.
There will be music, lots and lots of music, loud, drunken music, played until the wee hours. If you hear someone playing Ziggy Stardust on the banjo at 3:00 a.m., don't be alarmed, that's just the Kid. Don’t wait to be invited. Jump in. Sing, dammit.
Construction of the slip n’ slide will be a game day decision, dependent on the weather.
Elijah is in charge of security.
Colestin or Colestine?  It’s spelled both ways.  Pick the one you like best.
Life along the Cottonwood Creek is good.
Much love,