Friday, October 17, 2008

A Class Apart



The "G" team came out of the hills yesterday. Its been really busy ever since. They brought bales of dried algae from the algae mats up at the bear creek diesel spill restoration project. They do a lot of tarp work and a lot and a lot of plain old work.

This is our restoration, repair and repurposing team. This is the select group of people who slowly track and exhort the return of the salmon. For the last five weeks they have been doing diesel spill repair on a shell house and building a timber construction fishery station. Once they started dredging the mouth of the river and concurrently they restored the flows on the main fork here in Humboldt County the whole thing really started cleaning out and the coho came back in a steady stream of guided ancient spirit salmon. We had the stories of the arrival of these salmon from the Hupa, Karuk and Yurok to the north on the bigger of the seven dragons to guide us in their care.

It was the music that brought them. In this case I mean the G team rather than the salmon however I wouldn't rule out the influence of music on the salmon either. Our musicians had developed a combination of songs from the ancient silk road woven in with the Californios fiesta style, heavily supported by a New Balkan movement that created a place at the traditional music table for all of the band geeks to sit with the dumbek and tabla players, and watch the commanding tribal dancers do their American Tribal Style improv together, their soul dance.

Asha and I walked down the hill in the bright moonlight leading the way for a small company of musicians who will join the G team at the new Blue house for a special morning of singing. We are getting ready to put in a new set of kitchen type gardens today at the blue house and we like to start that activity with lots of deep melodious singing. The G team really enjoyed the music also, they were mostly fire dancers and musicians themselves who had created a sort of structure of two or three bands in their own company over the decades. They are lean, and tanned, and dressed in somewhat whimsical and expressive clothing considering they spend so much time out in the bush shoveling gravel.

Restoration became part of the steampunk thing when it began to provide seasonal jobs during the employment stimulation act. All of my musician friends already knew that they could use my house as a jumping off point for local seasonal employment. It was a simple step away to have them come here right from the summer circuit of festivals and concerts to do their winter recording. The enticement was the ready company of so many other fun musicians who play the same tunes.

That was back when we had lots of large scale festivals that everyone drove many miles to attend. It was easier when the festivals became smaller and more locally driven. It took years of council and walking and talking the golden trail from festival to festival to convince them to all become sustainability and repurposing festivals. Really it was just a couple of years of begging like mad right after the millennial turn. Once we created the urban free festivals (mostly through "pirate" and "steampunk" events) the system became a viable one for the artists again as long as there was decent right livelihood work at the other end to get them through winter. I mean they couldn't all live in the hinterlands of India and Bali every winter forever. After a certain point they had to decide where they wanted to live because of the cost, the time, the potential for conscription or quarantine by force, and the availability of travel slots.

So our corridor became the little India of the north. All of the same musicians had spent so much time abroad studying with the masters when it was possible; that it was a convergence of the music scenes of Istanbul, Seville, Samarkand, Hollywood, Bollywood and Kabul here just above Garberville.

Outside of the garden area this morning we are going to create from the formerly somewhat scrubby ground, looms a structure that we can see as we approach the blue house. Its tall and conical and obviously mud and cob because of its organic roundness. All summer long we have been throwing pots at the glass shop and firing them off when we run the forge ovens for the glass. We are making an ancient style dovecote. The pots do not have bottoms on them, we slice them off when we take them from our foot driven pottery wheels. The pots are instead stacked o n their side like bricks with cob as mortar in a large circle, with about six feet or eight feet diameter empty space in the center after you build up the tower about two stories tall. Its around a thousand or so pots (which is great practice by the way). Mostly the whole structure is built around a wooden frame and a doorway set in a wattle and daub circle at the base to protect from predators(the doorway faces north so you can maximize the birds use of the south west exposure). It works like this: when the doves all nest in the pots they mostly kick their manure to the inside on the structure. Once they start nesting they provide a very passive source of meat in that occasionally nestlings get kicked out and are collected in the daily collection of bird droppings. Its a soup ecology here in norcal.

We established one over at the yellow house about three years ago and it works really well. Somehow we even have some big fat city pigeons living in there now. Its funny because people always thing of the country as quiet, however when it is alive it provides a constant stream of sound. Especially at the yellow house with the donkeys and the dovetower.

There is a small circle of people awake and greeting the dawn together with tea in hand as we walk into the yard further. Annie May is excitedly winding her way around the laps and legs of the firedancers standing around the small burner and samovar. She is wearing a leather cap with a brim that Tarran had sewn for her this last week. After spending so much time in the male company of the donkey wizards she was shy at first when these stunning and vivacious women came off of the mountain together with their feathered and tatooed consorts. Of course she was unsure how the politics of her situation would change since she had lived a hard life on the juke joint trail where often the partying and hobo camps meant she would be left to the side alone and abandoned. One thing you could depend on with Annie May already was that she was a quick study and a fast learner. It was a crime that she was kept in a stroller and forced to "play baby" until she was almost six. By then you could see she was not so immature and the game was up. Here she was learning fast to skip and jump, dance clap snap and whistle.

"She wants to learn poi" said Simone, following my glance to the bobbing head of our last refugee. I made the classic face of "yes thats very interesting and good", putting my finger to the side of my cheek as if to say "Hmmmmm...Yes!". Simone flashed her bright blue eyes at me and tossed her red and blond streaked hair to the side. She was wearing a long vest with fake fur trim in bright red that matched her hair...she was always impeccable decked out like this. The G team rolled out of their beds in the morning pretty much looking this good. The look was mostly developed long ago at Burningman at the Black Rock City gatherings. A sort of repurposed chic. One of the things that they liked about our details in the woods is that it seemed to be more a continuation of that lifestyle. Our way is the heart and those that come to it find our path a precious thing. Inside the lights were on and the music was already forming up in that lovely chaotic stretching of tuning and picking at the instrument. Part of the trick when it is cold and misty like this is to just sit with your instrument in your lap for a while so that it can warm up from the latent heat of your body. Otherwise everyone has to tune twice, once tuning a cold stick and again once it warms up.

Tea sounds good.

Inside there are some low cushions and futons to sit on as well as several simple wooden stools and a small table. With a warm cup in hand I reclined as is our custom. Waiting to catch her eye, I gestured to little Annie May to come sit next to me. She was shy of me, yet not fearful. We listened to Calvin warm up and play his snaky little violin. It was an Indonesian snake skin fiddle that looked like a small banjo or jimbush. It was played standing up with a bow sort of like cello. The sound was alive with emotion and the interior world of Calvin.

In the softly breaking dawn, in the pause before the work starts in genuine, Annie May and I sat and listened as the little snaky song grew sad and full of longing. Every now and again I could see she was passing glances with Simone, they had the start of a heart bond of friendship. Obviously Annie May had survived by being resilient and finding surrogates everywhere. In our case clearly she had found her home and we had found another jewel. It seemed like she had grown already, or maybe just gotten more sure of herself physically in the space she was inhabiting.

Already it had come up with one of the neighbors, this question of her joining the class in our little cozy warm schoolroom up the hill at the honeycombed greenhouse. There were other children who walked up or were brought up in Donkey carts from the yellow house."OH" so I said, "You really want Annie May schooling all the other children in how much wild pussy and booze she has seen out on the juke joint trail?".

It was a direct reference to a conversation we had had about how useful Annie May had become to Tarran. She was spinning around the donkey barn saying "Useful...useful...usefully" wildly and ecstatically like it was a long song. We motioned for her stop, reminding her of the presence of the animals. She seemed to be able to respond fastest to sign language and we used that commonly around the animals. It was more like a game to her.

"Kurt said that all he had use for was booze and pussy and that I was no good for either". Annie May said by way of explanation after she had gathered herself together. Probably I winced even though I tried not to.

This morning in the gathering company in the Blue house she was wildly excited yet entirely physically composed. Already she was starting to mimic the physical attitude and spark of the G team Wymmn. There was no "A" team or "B" or so forth. There was just the "G" team and everyone else who either worked the field teams or worked in the kitchen or was a musician or tech or trader. We used to have trade workers who could use our wireless access, and eat and sleep in trade for usually almost five hours a day of work. Eventually there was a group of these workers who stayed on more permanent sometimes doing work trade in the hills and we moved them up into the green house to prepare the food and live a more hygenically removed life. It was possible for them to send home credits online or build them up for whatever purpose and reason. Even if it was a ridiculously expensive ice cream cone for himself and Annie May like it was for Tarran when he rode into town the other day. He still got credits trickled into his account from recordings he had made years and years ago. Firebreathing pirate punk on the accordion even then.

For Tarran the choice was simple, he wanted Annie May to have her very own first ice cream cone. Of course he also brought back packages and mail from the post office on his heavy loader Worldbike.

This morning Annie May crawled up to my shoulder while the music began to play for the dawn. She whispered in my ear "someday I am going to BE in the G team". Her eyes were sparkling at the discovery of this secret in herself. Her face was getting tan and you could see little freckles dusting her cheeks now. I nodded and winced my eyes at her making a serious smile, as if to size her up for her potential and possibilities, "Oh Yes" I mouthed at her. Acknowledging at once that she was right to not interrupt the music and that she will assuredly master herself enough to be one of these brave and strong young lions bringing repair and health to the forests and streams of our beloved little dragons.

1 comment:

Mud Mama said...

I wish we weren't so far apart geographically. I think we need to dance together :-)