Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hard Choices

The roosters never wake me its always the donkeys. No one ever really mentioned how loud donkeys are. Somehow in the old fable books they came across as quiet and solid. Most of our donkeys are young, and jangly and loose and super loud and I am often thankful that we decided to keep them across the river near the infirmary station that connects the longtrail checkpoints. the first task of the day for the donkeys is carrying up the empty tins from the dinner night before and hauling back down breakfast for the crews going out from the quarantine stations. The three long houses above the river forming a courtyard and gated residence are our quarantine stations. Most of the field workers and youth live down there attending to the interactions with the outside world.

Our numbers can only work for us if they stay within a certain margin. If we have over 200 people eating from the lenses we have all agreed to simply shut the gates and stop accepting travelers young and old. We have rarely had to keep to this rule since the allure of the longtrail is high and the workload and expectations of self discipline are often daunting for people. It takes at least nine months for many strangers to actually become what we consider community members, and in that time we can also observe them for health risks.

The infirmary is also a store and trading station. There are no infectious diseases handled there, we have another altogether removed outpost for those conditions including the various chicken pox that children commonly pass around and even certain advanced cases of substance abuse. We will give any traveller around a week to regather themselves at the outpost quarantine station above the store and restaurant, (the "red house" we call it) and they have to decide to move into the "yellow house" or make their way along the road in a vehicle or the longtrail on foot within that time. One of the resons we have such a steady flow of incoming youth in particular is this is a cross roads between the two possible forms of travel locally. Oh we still get very spooradic flights into the local airports however you still need the roads or the longtrail to get to your final destination.

We also provide a stop for the haulers taking dairy and beef and local products out. Our shop creates tinctures and alternative medicines that are highly regarded. We are very lucky in that our early involvement in the trade and barter routes has led us to the curious position of being able to trade out and back again for almost anything we want.

One thing we cant trade away for though, is the ability for a human community to easily self govern after it reaches 200 people. You must include children in this count because they are part of the process, their needs are part of the groups considerations and over the years we have found that the children often have quite a lot of important things to say. It is precious to train people early on to group consensus anyway,

This morning I must be rambling on about our troubled process because the decisions around Karl and Annie May have my mind wrought up. I can hear my own granddaughter on the other side of my shop feeding our families small penned coop of chickens. We rely on the children here as much as we rely on the adults or the donkeys or the river.

Except in this case there was a problem.

Annie May and her papa Karl were after something on the long trail, and they were not honest about what it was. It was hard to tell if they were hobos from the last set of storms in the south or if they had escaped a quarantine. Either way there were some old patterns and social habits that were going to have to get disrupted for them to adjust to us. It was not unusual for the situations like this to come to light in our midst. We were more generally known for our celebrations than for our austere lifestyle. Its easy to be attracted to our fire spinners and our musicians at the summer forays and festivals. its not so easy to perceive where they get their long lean tan bodies from in terms of the really truly hard work that they all make quick and joyfull.

This morning I can hear a small burst of laughter and some pans clattering down below. There is plenty of residual amps from yesterday so i slip on my robe and turn on the computers. The catwalk in the shop between our houses clangs as I hear my son-in law moving about in the algae incubators siphoning off finished bags into the separators and at the same time filling new bags with water and algae starters. He is probably sieving out the crude side since he has to go up to Eureka today for his work. I hope that he remembers that I need him to sieve and fill the cellulose side also so the 3D printer is topped up.

With a glass of hot tea warming my hands I take a glance at the opening screens. We have some serious applicants for our seven intern positions this year. That will mean that our tincture and salve shop will be maxed out easily.


Karl and Annie May will be riding up to town with Jacob. There is just no other way. Perhaps they could come back later after they have figured out where Annie Mays mother has gotten to...I think that is the real issue. They are more likely to hear news up in Eureka than here at the glass shop. Plus we have been at a hundred and sixty seven for almost a week. That's a bit of a gamble since we have at least twenty of our own out on the longtrail or doing some worktrade in the hills.

Every week there seems to be more people pouring in from the longtrail. The road is used by people with vehicles and by the haulers and it seems that the walkers are wanting to ride now that winter is coming. Maybe some of the juke joints and cat houses closed up for the fall season. They are actually somewhat mistaken to come to us. It is not really that easy for us to place people with rides on the way out on the road...the haulers are our friends but we know that they need to stay safe and ride light.

As Jacob finishes filling the bags on the cellulose side of the upper rafters the fiber optics dawn lights switch on and the building begins to glow. Down below I can see the lights switch on in the big shop and in my dads algae incubators that he ingeniously installed over his hot tub. The soft murmurs of voices outside and the sound of footsteps on the gravel as my kids and granddaughter walk to the vehicle shed. Often they all ride up together however this time he will have passengers and we all agreed it was better for them to stay home.

More than anything this was to save time. There are three quarantine checkpoints on the way up to Eureka, one outside of Scotia and the other entering Fortuna and Ferndale then the big one entering e-town. Sometimes they get finicky with travelers like Karl and Annie May who have old paper work and inconsistent stories told with tight lips.

Little Zoe is knocking at my back door. It is a small pathetic little knock however I recognize my granddaughters tenacious flurry of blows. I open the door in the thin cold morning light, Zoe is darling cute with a little set of knitted mouse ears on her head and matching Grey gloves making her dark coat look festive. Her little cheeks are pink from exertion and her hazel green eyes are twinkling.

"I brought you something gran-ma" she said, just off to the side I could see my daughter hovering, blowing on her gloves and wanting to get back inside. Little Zoe had a small egg crate clutched in her hands.

"FOUR eggs!" she said. "feel them"

I dutifully opened the crate and picked up an egg and put it to my cheek. She showed me her dimple as I mimed big time how warm the egg was, caressing my cheek with the smooth brown orb. The gravel under the wheels of Jacobs car crunched as he wound his way out the driveway, stopping to open the large locked gate at the bottom of the hill. There were two gates.

"Thanks Zoe!" I said "I will use them for my breakfast right now along with my millet bread".

We gave each other a hug and then she scampered off to get ready for school activities.

It was troubling to consider what a different life Zoe was having from that of Annie May. The little painted tea set may have been her first toy in months. She had few if any regular daily chores, and almost no schooling. Zoe had been reading for the last two years, the intense study atmosphere of our small community made it easy for her to get lots of instruction and attention.

The most attention that Annie May had from people outside of Karl was the bare scrutiny of the haulers taking them on and on down the road. She was still too small to walk the longtrail, and to big to be carried on it.

The sun was breaking light as I began to start printing orders for the haulers that would be by to pick up printed parts and supplies tomorrow. Thankfully Jacob re-filled the spinners so there will be plenty of fresh cellulose. Once I get the orders started I will do my yoga and make a quiet egg and toast and tea. Usually I have few hours of work to do up here before the musicians even wake up.

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