Sunday, July 12, 2009

Valleys & Bluffs

We set out on Friday afternoon, C Monkey and I, heading south, toward the border. I'd thought we might have a better idea of where were going if we followed the Mississippi, so we cut East until we reached the water's edge and traveled in the cool shade of the high bluffs while we talked about the shape of life, of cultural vs. personal, neurosis vs. symbiosis, fiction vs. truth. We talked of shamans and food, of language. We passed a rainbow tree, and many flowers of different colors. Turning West, we were drawn along the lush, green slopes of the Root River valley, until a fork in the road led us South, through a little place called Choice, which looked strangely similar to a place I dreamed about not too many months back... no big deal, though, just up a hill and change of drivers. My turn. The roads got curvier, steeper.

Somewhere just before or after Choice it struck me that it's really been a damned long time since I had any fun. My mind set, for the better part of the past year, has been something rather less than carefree. Fun?? It got me thinking about what was, or might be, and it occurred to me that, for my part, "fun" usually means doing something where I'm likely to get dirty and/or wet and that I ought to be prepared for either or both at pretty much all times. We crossed an imaginary line into a foreign land called Iowa. C Monkey threw me a good one about how "the poor have to get funky, because it's free." Hell yes we do. The roads got smaller, dirtier.

Twisting roads with changing names makes getting around a whole new adventure, in a place unknown... We passed by a tiny country store (which we should have stopped in. durr.) and pulled in at around six, still an hour ahead of our hosts, so we stretched our legs and took stock of what was growing in the ditches until a couple clouds of dust came whipping down the road and turned into smiling faces. We unloaded a car and truckload of stuff into their new place, shared a few beers and talked into the night, telling jokes, watching fireflies in the fields and lightning on the horizon. Good to be with friends in the Beautiful Land. I slept well.


Saturday morning we all slept in just a little and then shared a lovely, long breakfast, of the sort I rather love and rarely have the opportunity to enjoy...there were duck eggs scrambled with onions, greens, juicy fat mushrooms, snap peas and loads of garlic, home-made goat feta from our friends at Honeymoon farm, spicy chorizo, freshly baked sourdough compliments of CM, vanilla yogurt thick with cream, succulent apricot, sweet rainier cherries, dark coffee, juice, and sunlight at the new kitchen table, along with much gabbing. After breakfast we drove a couple miles down the road, to a cedar grove on a stone outcropping over a nearby valley, and then down into a gulley where we bushwhacked a little and mucked around in the river for a while. Round about noon, C Monkey and I took a drive eastward to visit the effigy mounds, where a celebration of local native traditions was taking place. On our way up the path to the mounds CM spotted a large toad on the hillside, perhaps four inches big and wearing colorful brown and sienna spots--an auspicious greeting. Despite its being a park and the damned mowed grass around the mounds, we found quite a powerful place there. It was a strange juxtaposition, from the top of the bluff, of rare old trees and deep ancestral remembrance against the sound of motors and senseless shouts from the river below, which was plugged with boats and boaters carrying out their imperative. Further inland, memories surfaced and I was once again drawn to my knees, as those of you who have felt the pull of the ground will understand, for reasons nothing more, or less, than to be closer. Along our way we encountered a number of friendly but clueless tourists (including one smiling man who gave me a chill with his alien glance, as though he was truly not of this world) and it was not particularly strange but still rather sad, to feel somehow chased by strangers through a sacred place. We came to know a few new plants and heard a few new calls over the course of those seven miles. A good afternoon. The toad was still there, in the same place, when we came back down.

cool spikey grass i've never seen before.

Then north and west we sped, to Seed Savers, to hear Greg Brown play his annual concert there. A pleasant setting, of apparently quaint farm-like buildings (one of which was actually just a rather nauseating gift shop) backed by a ridge topped with tall white pines that caught the golden evening light and a few goldfinches as well. Swallows and bats swooped overhead, heirloom chickens clucked closeby. We and a bunch of other white people sat a grassy hill and took in an excellent set by Greg and friends (Pieta Brown, Bo Ramsey, John Penner)--dark, deep and seriously lovely, with a few good laughs. A couple of those songs broke my heart for the umpteenth thousandth time and a couple others made me wonder quite a bit, and I can't wait to hear them again. Greg's daughters joined him to sing backup vocals, somewhat timidly, for a few tunes and Iris Dement took the stage for one old fashioned tune
--a sweet surprise for me, having recently missed the rare chance to see her at the Cedar. It was a relaxing night and nice scene, if a little reserved--or perhaps "dull", as Greg put it (nice.). Have to admit that it made me miss Winnipeg a little (especially as we followed each other down a wooded path lit by a single string of white lights), although one of the best things about this concert was its scale, the sense of community and family. Greg ended the evening by sharing his hope that this would still be going on here, one hundred years from now. I would hope, if our humanity survives one hundred more years, that every community will have its own gathering place, built around the food we grow and share, our work and art. I'd dreamed of building one such place at Turning Earth. We may yet do so.

Somehow I ended up leaving my therma-rest chair there, a rather significant loss of somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred bucks, and of my only means of sleeping and sitting comfortably out on the trail... Ah, well. Perhaps it will inspire its new caretaker to go backpacking, as finding that Whisperlite did for CM and I, many years ago... Nice score for someone.

Back to the farmhouse, down a dark and curving narrow road, just the kind I long to drive at night. Back on high ground, we were met by an apricot moon hanging just above the horizon, as luscious as the day. It was a good night to go to sleep early. Sadly I slept like a convict, with the moon on my case.


Sunday we were treated to another delicious breakfast, much like Saturday's only perhaps even yummier. We took a hike around the hills and valleys, through fields of daisy fleabane and wild parsnip (which gave me a nasty blistery burn, it did) up to our necks and higher, munching on black raspberries and a few ripe gooseberries, scoping out mushroom patches, talking about plants and admiring the new stomping grounds. I was getting anxious--maybe just tired, maybe knowing we had to leave soon, maybe just needing a nap or a few hours alone... Time to go.

red-winged black bird babies nestled in a wild parsnip.

check out the beautiful geometry of this plant. queen anne's lace, wild carrot, daucus carota, who introduced herself to me during a trip to South Carolina last year. i've yet to really know this one, but now i know where i can gather.

home, sweet home.

The weather, for the entire weekend, could not have been more lovely. Wide blue skies and green landscapes, cool breezes and warm sun, a bit of rain. Our friends' new place is a fine old house, homey, welcoming and seemingly unhaunted. The collection of books, art, oddities, tools, junk and what-not that these two have amassed is something close to magical, and it was inspiring to see it taking shape in a new space. It was rejuvenating to spend time with friends who care nothing about the things that don't matter and care deeply about the things that do, and who love good food, good words, good water and good plants. It was heartening to feel the potential in their sweet little farm. But being there made me question rather seriously where in the world I really want to live, and how... That and lack of sleep left me feeling divided again and it was a long, winding drive back, tired out and wanting very much to get home, wherever that might be. Looking forward to getting back there one day soon.

yet another yellow flower whose name we don't know.

1 comment:

fremenine said...

About that spikey grass...I still don't know its name but saw a bunch of it on a walk by the river on Sunday. Funny how you have to go somewhere else, sometimes, to keep your eyes fresh enough to see what's in your own backyard...