Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"You just have to love them"

Annie May is used to keeping company with men and animals as she has been a climate refugee her whole life. She is very determined and she is also trying to fit in and find a home here as an orphan, still the way the child has taken to the care of the donkeys is amazing. She and Tarran were up late last night making garlands for the donkeys to wear for our special harvest party today. All of the musicians are coming with us down to the river and we will share a special meal which has already been packed for us in steel containers.

The donkeys know something special is a-foot because of our excitement and our waking early. They are wide eyed and frisky with their flower garlands on their heads. The older lead donkey Whiskey has also got an old straw hat on. We could have taken the sorghum days ago except we needed the one petrol rig to have tires to help carry the children down to the river. Its just too dangerous to have them ride with the donkeys down on the carts all loaded up in the dark. The first patch is just under a mile away however there is a nice turn out nearby and we can bring along some extra food and temporary structures with the stationwagon.

Annie May will be riding with the donkeys. There was no way to convince her otherwise. She passed her health exam yesterday and we moved her into the yellow house next to the donkey pens with the other donkey wizards. Her cheeks are already gaining color. She says about the donkeys: "Its just have to love them". The donkeys do seem to like her, and she carefully explains to them everything that will happen next. She cups their ears in her little hands and whispers right into them the way Tarran does. She laughs when they startle her by braying. Tarran says he does not mind looking after her for now. She has had him make her hair into a stern bun in the habit of the donkey wizards. It is a hard question when to expect her to be able to interact normally with the other children and even possibly attend our small school and gain literacy along with her donkey wizardry.

After we press out the sorghum tomorrow, we will ferment some of it and bottle it with champagne yeast. The rest will be boiled for syrup. The seed will be saved and also used for animal feed. The canes are dried and stored for later alcohol fermentation; we use a biologic to ferment our tincture alcohol. My neighbor to the north will be coming along to cut cane specifically for brooms. Several of our patches have large sections of colored brooms which she makes into hundreds of brooms of several sizes and shapes for different duties.

This year we are pretending that there is nothing different. Usually we have lots of outside visitors and we used to even hold a small regional festival with this beer. Our sorghum beer (along with other botanicals) was the reason so many of these unusual and amazing young people came to us in the first place years ago. Now we will limit our visitors to our usual pals and other vetted members (mostly leaders) of the Upriver Downriver Alliance of Peoples (UDAP). We will still probably have several hundred people visiting and staying overnight, including my adopted Yurok relatives, the Mendo Wymmins collective, and the dairy farmers and drivers. We are also likely to get a visit at the festival from our caravan trader pals, and with so many people coming it will feel as festive as ever. There will be fresh Salmon and grilled meat as well as fry bread and coffee and family cook camps.

This morning as we left the green house and the musicians compound we closed and locked the gates. The sound of a small snaky violin made the perfect accompaniment to the morning light breaking Grey and cool across the valley. Even the donkeys felt the muse and were silent and thoughtful as they listened to the little song. They are easier to handle and they love it when we bring along the musicians. It was dark out and there was a hubbub of conversation and witty jest to soften the reality of it. I had always hoped that we would always keep our gates open, that the roads would always stay open. 101 used to represent freedom and independence. Now I am not sure who we are in this closed state. With the addition of the child we have reached our maximum number. Even with Paul and Theo conscripted (by force I must say) this last winter hiatus there are already two small children old enough to be considered in their place and several others soon to cross that threshold. We will have to consider expansion or contraction.We are considering suspending hiatus indefinitely. Some of the parents of small children want even more seclusion than we are providing. The Braddah force on the mountain has closed the long trail and the hobo's are trapped in the north. Two juke joints have been cleared out and seized in the last two days.

Our way is meant to be welcoming, to give water and food and salt to the traveler.

Who are we with closed gates?


Tom said...

This is quite a poetic post. For some reason I've been thinking about donkeys all week, and about how the donkey cart is the "new SUV" (at least in some places).

Mud Mama said...

Oh I need to pick your brain on donkeys, we're trying to decide on what animal we should get as a BOB (beast of burden) the goats are not strong enough for a lot of work and I have a personal "beef" with oxen and cattle in general. Could you tell me a bit about why you chose donkeys?