Probably the central concept of shamanism, wherever in the world it is found, is the notion that underlying all the visible forms in the world, animate and inanimate, there lies a vital essence from which they emerge and by which they are nurtured. Ultimately everything returns to this ineffable, mysterious impersonal unknown -Douglas Sharon, Wizard of the Four Winds: A Shamans Story
Today’s entry was originally started on November 2nd. It has taken that long to finalize it. I get these bumps in the creative process, and the main bump is the Internet for some reason. Even though I use the web for gathering information, I have noticed of late that it is also a very large distraction. (this is not news for everyone I am sure) So, I am trying to cut back a bit, and try things differently.
This entry is built around The Ridge During Bapaboka (Maidu/Fall), which was the time that we finally got away from Oregon for just under a week. Originally we planned a longer journey, some 2.5 weeks, which would of taken us to Arizona to visit family, up the California coast etc into Oregon… well it didn’t happen. We did take an abbreviated time, and this article came out of this. We were not able to visit all that we wanted as it was anyway, due to the fact of health, time, and business issues; and I am profoundly sorry that those visits will have to be delayed a while longer.
We cover a large area in this edition; from quotes of George Eliot, to the music of Robbie Robertson. We visit again with the Maidu in a time of myth and magic. As we are concentrating on the San Juan Ridge, I feel it is only appropriate that we visit with Gary Snyder, who lives upon it.
On The Menu:
Robbie Robertson – Ghost Dance
The Quotes From George Eliot
The Ridge During Bapaboka (Maidu/Fall)
Maidu Tales: The Girls Who Married The Stars…
Native Son: Gary Snyder
Robbie Robertson – A Good Day To Die
Interview with Mary Midgley (Thanks Dale!)
Dark Galaxy Crashing Milky Way Party?
Evidence Of Stone Age Multi-Tasking
Robbie Robertson – Ghost Dance
The Quotes From George Eliot:
“Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.”
“Conscientious people are apt to see their duty in that which is the most painful course.”
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
“Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.”
Click on the wee pics for bigger ones…this was initially started 3 weeks ago. Thanks to all whose patience this has tested. There is an underlying theme to this article, which in my mind is In-habitation… It has been bouncing around my brain quite a bit lately.
The Ridge During Bapaboka (Maidu/Fall):
That Classic On The Road Photo….
Getting There: We went off to visit Dale and Laura, (with a dollop of time over at Leslie & Roberto’s, and then over to Will Penna’s.) This was our first time for a vacation together (on our own) since before Rowan was born. We drove to Medford on Monday, and stayed with our friends the Nixon’s at Ashford Oaks, their home on the north rim above central Medford. We drove down the next day, stopping off at Mt. Shasta, where I seemingly became afflicted by memories/ghost of earlier times. (maybe more on the later) We flew down the road past Dunsmuir, Redding, Anderson and further south. As I was driving along, memories flooded in of the countless times I hitchhiked/drove through the valley .
It seemed like the longest drive, but then I haven’t ventured far as of late. Last time south was to Mt. Shasta for my Mother’s memorial service 7 years previously. I enjoy being on the road with Mary. It was beautiful, sunny and just about right, except for the heavy traffic. How did 5 get so busy? Redding was a bit hellacious and all, crazed people zipping in and out like mad… eventually we made it to our exit and headed through the marshes and rice paddies to the east. Strangely enough, I had forgotten that I had travelled this road some 40 years before.
Up On The Ridge: The San Juan Ridge is a striking anomaly in the topographical maps of Norte California. The foot hills rise out of rice paddies, bird sanctuaries (from the remnants of the ancient west coast flyway) up to ridge. Driving along, past the hyper-ancient remains of an ancient continent (Lemuria!) dead ending in Smartville California (no really) you go perhaps another 10 miles to a visible bump, and then go downhill and you have missed it on the way to Grass Valley.
Off Highway 20 you find gated communities of transplanted nouveau riche unable to sever their ties to suburban living and bunker mentalities with artificial lakes, medical facilities, minimalls ad-nauseaum. These areas are contained within their fences; more than likely the fences keep the inmates in, and the surrounding areas safer for it.
To the south you find small towns, and small holdings cobbled out of old cattle ranches now transmuted into horse paddocks… anomalies in this area of oak, and the dragon bones of ancient volcanic eruptions bouldering through fields as if thrown there by giants in a harsher age.
To the north, the land runs wilder. Defined by the Yuba River snaking through, sending her tributaries up deep gulches and sheer drop offs. this was once gold mining country, (as it all was) up through French Corral (once the largest “city” of Norte California if my memory serves me) going towards where Lew Welche walked away from it all in 1971. Settlements are sparser here, It is a land that time has passed by on both sides of Highway 20.
Mary sitting amongst the boulders on the Ridge…
It’s ancient economy that lasted thousands of years was based on acorns (if an economy can be based on mutual cooperation and the long dance) climaxing with the Maidu people who were eclipsed by the coming of the 49′ers, gold and then cattle came in vogue for some 140 years. Since then, artist, writers, and cannabis farmers have taken hold. I would venture that without cannabis, this area might be far sparser populated than it is now. It is not unusual to be driving at night and smell what seems to be a dead skunk, don’t be alarmed, it is the local cannabis farmer burning stems and shake to remove the evidence. So The Ridge has never actually suffered from the gentile civilizing influences of the coastal and valley communities. Yes, there may be pockets of gated suburban compounds springing up, but the land doesn’t take to them to well. It looks as if aliens had landed, and imposed something truly foreign. In time, with possible hiccups in the steady diet of cheap energy, these enclaves may go the way of older ghost settlements in these hills.
The Meadow with wild turkeys…
Sitting outside in the morning sun, looking up towards the ridge, you can see the buzzards riding thermals as they have for countless millennia. They spiral in ancient gyres, tracing out mysteries, illuminating secrets that they only can decipher. There is a slight chill to wind, but from what I understand, this won’t last so long. I sit, surrounded by birdsong, musing over a notebook as I reconstruct parts of an earlier life. I find myself now able to hold up “periods” of my life as if they were frozen moments in time. This passes. The land speaks. It always does. I can hear a pulsing beat that could be taken for drums, or the beating of wings. It is early; there is a mist rising off the meadow.
Skull Rock down into the canyon
There is a dusty softness to this land. I lived with it for many years, in other parts of California. The oaks and the manzanita, scrabbling up and down the hills… Big Sur has a version, Mt. Shasta and Lassen as well. I discovered this version, when I was quite young. We lived in Sacramento, and would drive on the weekends up into the Sierra. Memories, waft up, and then vanish of course. I am not so old yet they will come with great clarity. Give me a few years, and it will all be crystal clear.
Late at night, the Coyotes come out. Mid week, two packs were in a deep howling competition. One pack would go off to the west, then the other to the east. Scat in the morning on the drive, Coyote has been after voles, and eating berries. Sophie (the wonder dog’s) hackles go up when she sniffs the scat. She knows bad company when she smells it. She looks around, trying to figure out where the tricksters are hanging out. She is sleeping in the truck, so at night who knows who dances around the Land Cruiser?
Wednesday/Thursday night, the pack to the east catch something. Perhaps a fawn. There is a screaming going on under the moon. Not quick, not elegant, but do they ever play… A long time, I dream about it, hearing snuffling around the door in early morning fugues. I hear a BOOM! against the wall. What the hell was that? Not Coyote, as he tends to be a bit more elegant. Ghost I guess.
At Dale & Laura’s: The time we spent at Dale and Laura’s has those moments of stillness… We slept down in their converted barn, where their offices, workshops, library, Zendo etc. are located. It sits next to a field, that I figure was a paddock at one time, though the fences are gone. It is a magical place, silent, full of light during the day, and pitch black at night.
I had been curious about their land since they first moved there. Every time Dale & Laura visited here, we would end up somewhere along the line talking about it. I understand why now , having been there. It is a special place, and It lends itself to stillness, and finding a bit of the inner silence. You’ll find yourself staring up into the pines and manzanita as I did many times…
Discussions do break out here, in fact it was one of the real joys of the visit. Poetry seemed to be one of the main themes, and transformation of the self, and society. We had some great talks, ranging late, late into the evening. There is a heck of a lot of writing going on, and the sense of discipline behind is very cool. I wish I had that sense of discipline, but the old stuttering dyslexic mind of mine almost precludes it with some serious mental alterations… 8O}
Beating the bounds…
On our last day, we walked the bounds with Laura and Dale. Their love of their land is palpable; hesitating here, there and taking in what needs to be done this season and next. A sense of stewardship that I recognize. I have seen this love time and again when people find that place where they have “gone to ground”.
Robert & Leslie out near Big Sur…
At Robert & Leslies’: We met Robert & Leslie through Dale & Laura. Laura (I think) turned them onto Turfing, and we bumped into each other on Face Book. (yes, I confess!) They visited us this last August on the way down from an art-show in Seattle. They have lived up on the Ridge for several years, being kinda local and all, having grown up over the hill in Nevada.
The House of Art….
I have featured their art before, from HiddenSpringsDesign.com . On the second night down, we went with Dale & Laura over to visit and for dinner. They kinda live out there, but what an amazing drive. Their property was almost taken by the fires this past August. Luckily, it didn’t happen. We spent a great evening, talking, drinking moderately, and enjoying the very fine company.
We got to come back and visit on Thursday, and was able to visit their studio(s). The studio is an amazing building, originally a dairy barn, it was built in the 1850′s. The original structure is clad now in metal, but it has an amazing feel inside. The lower level is where the cement and stained glass work is done, (Roberto) and the upper level is where the woodworking is done. (Leslie) Sophie was able to really play about at Leslie & Roberts, they have two amazing dogs, Bodie & Kiara pups really tho 9 years old. The 3 dogs romped whilst we hung out.
One of the things I notice with Rob & Leslie is their attention to the moment, and the sheer joy that jumps off of their collective skins. Their combined artistic talents are pretty overwhelming. We puttered around their home, looked at the spring (yes actual spring) in their basement. Then we went off to Nevada City, to run errands. Rob had to drop off a piece at Mowen-Solinsky Gallery on Broad St. (great place!) and then we dithered off to the pub with John Mowen, a most amazing guy. We sat back, and had some delightful IPA, talked art and just hung for a couple of hours.
Driving North: We went north the next day. Sadly we couldn’t hit Will’s, my health was playing silly games with the lymph system and allergies and I had to head north. We hit the road, and stopped again in Mt. Shasta to pick up a cup for Rowan. We got out, and walked about on the main street. In a way, it felt good. I feel alien to it, as though the form is there, nothing remains really of the place I knew, and the times we inhabited there. It was sweet, but getting on the road was sweeter. Riding up through Siskiyou County was lovely. I always liked the ride through there. The volcanic hills, the slow transitions in the terrain. The greatest treat though was as we approached the border, low flying clouds. Up over the Siskiyou past, into fog & cloud, and then breaking through, to sunshine above, and a swirling sea of fog on the valley floor. We drove past Ashland, and on to Medford.
At Randy & Deirdre’s:We arrived up at Randy & Deidre’s late afternoon, to find dinner on, and drinks at hand. Randy and Dee live up on the high crest to the north of Medford. Their house is situated just below the ridge line, and has a view over the valley, and across the Siskiyous. Truly one of the most breath-taking of locations, and it is such a quiet place. Wildlife abounds, and the deer are everywhere, to Sophie’s delight. During the fall this is a place of mist and clouds…
Randy & Deirdre cooking…
Sometimes it is like an island above a sea of fog… As it happened, we got to hang for Halloween night, watching Nosferatu and Dawn of the Dead. Life, she is sweet. Randy and Dee cooked up a storm while we were there, Randy is the master of the barbecue, and has lately taken to curing his own bacon! (ummmmm bacon!) They are perhaps the most relaxed couple that we know, we always have a nice time with them. Both are from the south, and they have such a great take on life, and live at a wonderful pace. I was very happy to have visited them, not enough time together since they moved to Medford from Portland.
Randy, Deirdre & their daughter Bailey…
Coming back north, I realize how at home I am here in Oregon. It’s the moisture and the green woods folks, and Portland. I love her as I once loved London, Amsterdam, San Francisco. But, I have gone to ground, at least for now. I do promise to get back out on the road more often, it was a breaking of habit, and we had a sweet time with dear friends.
It has taken me awhile to write it all down, but finally it is here.
Maidu Tales: The Girls Who Married The Stars…
Two girls who were of an age to dance the puberty dance, were dancing it. And having stopped dancing just at dawn, they both slept. Toward morning the two girls, who were sleeping, arising, went off to dig roots. When they returned at night, the people all danced the round-dance.
Having finished the round-dance, they danced forward and back. And just as the light came over the hills, while it grew brighter, after having run off after the one who carried the rattle, they (the two girls) went to sleep. They dreamed. “If you have a bad dream, you must dive into the stream after having pierced your ear-lobe. Then you must blow away all evil from yourselves. Thus ye will arise feeling entirely well,” she said. So their mothers told the two girls.
They dreamed of Star-Men, but did not blow the evil away from themselves; they did not pierce their ears, did not bathe. When the dance was over, they went again to make camp with their mothers at the spring to dig roots. And having arrived there, they camped. And going to sleep at that place, lying on their backs and looking upward, they talked.
“Do you want to go there?” said one. “If I got there, I should like to see that red, very bright star.” Then the other said, “I also, I should like to go to that one that looks blue. I wish I might see what he looks like!” Then they went to sleep. As they slept, in the morning they woke up there, where the Star-Men were.
The old woman hunted for them back here. She hunted to find where they had gone. She kept looking for tracks, but could not see them, could not trace them; so she went back, weeping, to the house. When she returned, the people got back from a hunting-expedition. They kept coming back; and when they had returned, they searched. They kept looking for tracks, and, not finding them, they went back. And so, having returned, they remained there.
Meanwhile the two girls staid up there in the sky, and were married. They talked together. “Our mothers, our fathers, our brothers, have felt very badly at not being able to trace us,” said the younger girl. “You wanted very much to come to this country; and I, believing you, came thus far. It is making my father feet badly, my mother feel badly, my brothers feel badly. It was your idea,” she said.
“Our mothers gave us very good advice. But you, not believing her, when you had bad dreams, did not pierce your ear. It is for that reason that we are living far away here. I am going back. If you want to remain, you may stay. All my relatives are thinking about me. I feel very badly. I ought not to speak that way, but I have said it. I feel very badly, thinking about it,” said she, the younger girl.
(The other) said to her sister, “Let us both go back in some way! Let us go and gather some kind of food! We shall learn something in time.” So they remained. To each a child was born; and they, making a hut at a little distance, staid there. After they had remained there for some time, they said, “These children ask for sinew.” So the husbands gave them sinew. Again, “They ask for sinew,” they said, and the men gave it to them.
Meanwhile the two girls made rope. Every day, “They call for sinew,” they said. And they gave them sinew. So the two girls kept making rope, until night they made rope. Letting it down towards the earth, they measured it. “How far down does the rope extend?” they said. But it did not quite reach the ground. So they still said, “They ask for sinew. These children are eating a great deal, but only sinew,” they said. And the two men believed.
And so the two women kept making rope until it was sufficient, till it reached all the way down, till it reached down to the earth. Then having made the children remain, they came back down. Having fastened the rope, and just as they were halfway down to the end, the children began to cry, kept crying and crying. “What can be the matter with those two children! Suppose you go and see,” said one of the men. Then one went over to the house; and going across, when he reached it, there was no one there but the two children only, crying.
When he had looked about, he saw the rope hanging down hither. So he cut it; and the women, who had almost reached the ground, fell and were killed. And one of their brothers, who was still hunting for them, saw them. And the rope was there also. Taking that, he went off to the house; and, arriving there, he told all the brothers, “Our two sisters are dead,” he said.
Then they went, and, having arrived there, lifting up the bodies, they brought them back. And having carried them there, they laid them in the water. In the morning the two girls awoke, and, waking, they came out of the water, came back to the house, and after a while they spoke.
“She spoke that way. When she loved him much, I talked with her, talking like her, I followed her,” said the younger girl. “She said it would be good to go to the place where the man was whom she had dreamed of while dancing. . . . She said that truly; and I, thinking it was said in fun, said the same. When we had said this, the men we loved did, indeed, do so to us. When we returned, they, learning about it up there, cut the rope, and in that way we died,” said the youngest one, speaking to her mother and relatives.
“One was a very red man, who ate only hearts. One was a bluish man, who only ate fat. There are many people of that sort, each always eating but one kind of food. Some eat only liver, some only meat. There are men of that kind,” said the younger girl. But the other girl said nothing. And thereafter they remained there in the olden time. That is all, they say.
Native Son: Gary Snyder
this poem is for deer
I dance on all the mountains
On five mountains, I have a dancing place
When they shoot at me I run
To my five mountains”
Missed a last shot
At the Buck, in twilight
So we came back sliding
On dry needles through cold pines.
Scared out a cottontail
Whipped up the winchester
Shot off its head.
The white body rolls and twitches
In the dark ravine
As we run down the hill to the car.
deer foot down scree
Picasso’s fawn, Issa’s fawn,
Deer on the autumn mountain
Howling like a wise man
Stiff springy jumps down the snowfields
Head held back, forefeet out,
Balls tight in a tough hair sack
Keeping the human soul from care
on the autumn mountain
Standing in late sun, ear-flick
Tail-flick, gold mist of flies
Whirling from nostril to eyes.
Home by night
Still picks out Taurus
Low, and growing high:
Dancing in the headlights
on the lonely road
A mile past the mill-pond,
With the car stopped, shot
That wild silly blinded creature down.
Pull out the hot guts
with hard bare hands
While night-frost chills the tongue
The cold horn-bones.
The hunter’s belt
just below the sky
Warm blood in the car trunk.
the limp tongue.
Deer don’t want to die for me.
I’ll drink sea-water
Sleep on beach pebbles in the rain
Until the deer come down to die
in pity for my pain.
No Matter, Never Mind
The Father is the Void
The Wife Waves
Their child is Matter.
Matter makes it with his mother
And their child is Life,
The Daughter is the Great Mother
Who, with her father/brother Matter
as her lover,
Gives birth to the Mind.
Pine tree tops
In the blue night
frost haze, the sky glows
with the moon
pine tree tops
bend snow-blue, fade
into sky, frost, starlight.
The creak of boots.
Rabbit tracks, deer tracks,
what do we know.
There Are Those Who Love To Get Dirty
There are those who love to get dirty
and fix things.
They drink coffee at dawn,
beer after work,
And those who stay clean,
just appreciate things,
At breakfast they have milk
and juice at night.
There are those who do both,
they drink tea.
this poem is for bear
“As for me I am a child of the god of the mountains.”
A bear down under the cliff.
She is eating huckleberries.
They are ripe now
Soon it will snow, and she
Or maybe he, will crawl into a hole
And sleep. You can see
Huckleberries in bearshit if you
Look, this time of year
If I sneak up on the bear
It will grunt and run
The others had all gone down
From the blackberry brambles, but one girl
Spilled her basket, and was picking up her
Berries in the dark.
A tall man stood in the shadow, took her arm,
Led her to his home. He was a bear.
In a house under the mountain
She gave birth to slick dark children
With sharp teeth, and lived in the hollow
Mountain many years.
snare a bear: call him out:
Old man in the fur coat, Bear! come out!
Die of your own choice!
this girl married a bear
Who rules in the mountains, Bear!
you have eaten many berries
you have caught many fish
you have frightened many people
Twelve species north of Mexico
Sucking their paws in the long winter
Tearing the high-strung caches down
Whining, crying, jacking off
(Odysseus was a bear)
Bear-cubs gnawing the soft tits
Teeth gritted, eyes screwed tight
but she let them.
Til her brothers found the place
Chased her husband up the gorge
Cornered him in the rocks.
Song of the snared bear:
“Give me my belt.
“I am near death.
“I came from the mountain caves
“At the headwaters,
“The small streams there
“Are all dried up.
I think I’ll go hunt bears.
Why shit Snyder.
You couldn’t hit a bear in the ass
with a handful of rice!”
Robbie Robertson – A Good Day To Die