Saturday May 12, 2001
Narrow Highway One wound along the Pacific coast, laying itself down for the people who were traveling to the tiny village in Northern California, once called Greenwood, which lay in a fog direct from Brigadoon. Out of the silver mistiness emerged the soft, tender persons strengthen only by their will to do a ceremony that would heal, fill and release the great hole in the center of each life around which they were dancing. And dancing we were in the nervous anticipation of the unknown. Even as baskets were packed into trunks they were patted with prayers that nothing had been forgotten on the list of things we were to bring; hoping be adequate to the job before us.
As Tish drove her greatly loved, old frog-wagon into the parking lot of the community's center, familiar faces appeared out of the fog with the completeness of fond memories. Barely out of the car I was seized by Marilyn saying, "I have someone you must meet!" Steadying my still half-folded knees she lead me over to a woman whose face bore the tracks of the desert, whose straight gray hair witnessed to her years and whose sparkling eyes were hooded with her meditations. "This is my oldest friend Shirley. But I mean I've known her a long time. Actually you are my oldest friend, Jane. But you understand. You two have to get to know each other." With these words Marilyn buzzed away, swift as a bumblebee leaving us two strangers to work out our own connections. We each mumbled a few polite words before returning to the most immediate concern – unloading the cars and carrying our stuff inside the building.
As I was re-crossing the parking lot I saw Hannah, walking alone, came toward me. I walked toward her with my hands held out palm up to apologize to her. As I told her of the situation (at Ghost Ranch) when I had passed her by without speaking she shook her head as if she had no memory of it. So I had carried this little stone of regret that had only hollowed out a place in me but had no touch with her reality.
At the doorway I met a woman, Silver who remembered me from last year by calling out "Corn Mother!" and simultaneously, as Kay Like came by, she named her "Little Bear". She was like the great recorder who names the things of the world as we entered the low, wooden building.
Many people had arrived earlier and had already established their territories with rugs, backrests and blankets piled with bags and boxes. Out of habit they had been placing their buckets and vases of flowers up on the stage so no one had tried to sit in the paths they had made on the trackless wooden floor. This was why there was just enough space in the circle left for Tish and me. Martín was already striding into the room so while he changed from his outdoor boots to the ceremonial felt boots there was enough time to make a cup of tea and get settled into place.
The room was filled with a complete circle of people lining all the walls. The little side room was also full – but of willow branches. The floor was completely covered with bundles and piles of branches. Only light from the high window bounced out of the fog to sift down on the cut limbs. Chris, Marilyn's oldest son repeated his job of last year: of going from person to person to get their sandwich order so the ladies at the grocery could make them up by noon. As he knelt down by me he greeted me with: "You are looking great!" With such words from a handsome young man, who could think of eating? I was almost sad to say I had brought my own sandwich.
Over sixty voices warmed the rather chilly room as people repeated the phrase from neighbor to neighbor: "Hi, I have seen you at one of the ceremonies but I have forgotten your name." and "Which one were you at where we could have met?" Above this hum the mellow sound of the conch shell call began to circle. As the human voices receded the sea shell throat was pulled around us as if the oyster was closing, or the nautilus circling to pull each back into herself /himself – deeper and deeper. Just as the innermost point of the person was reached words, a prayer in Tzutujil, reversed the flow so the inward journey now unwound to expand outward and upward leaving no place in the universe untouched. We only returned when Martin came back to English to say: You may say these words with me: "Kiil, Utziil, Sac bey, Sac Coló, Qán coló, Nimlaj taq Kaslimal, Majun Loulo' nkokutuj, Choqá,, Chajalniel, Nimlaj Matioshiiil, Oxlajuj Matioshiil." Though the words were familiar to our ears they came from our tongues in the short hesitant phrases of repetition. Only when the prayer was repeated in English did our voices swell up out of our hearts and our understanding with standing under our hearts. Spinning around and around on his left foot, Martín pulled us together. Then he walked the circle shaking hands as he greeted person with recognition and freshness. It was good to see his face again and to feel his breath again.
Blessing first the person on our left we began the group blessing. First the blessing for the guiding of their north star by touching the crown of the person, then blessings on the right ear and then the left, blessings on the nose that finds the good smells of friends, blessings on the lips that take in the fruits of the earth, blessings on the chin that willed us for this undertaking, blessings on the throats that sing out our words, blessings on the right shoulder that carried our baskets, blessings on the left shoulder that balanced the loads, blessing on the elbows, right and left, that bent with the burdens, blessings on the wrist from which our deeds flower, blessings on our hands that make the vessels of elegance for the spirits, blessings upon our hips which contain our desires and passion, blessings on the knees that come to the earth in thanksgiving, blessing on the ankles, right and left, that guide our feet over the stony paths, and finally blessings on each of the feet, the little grapes that live on the earth, blessings on the windy caves of the lungs and for the heart that centered. Then the blessing was repeated for the person to our right. Then turning away from the circle, facing outward, each repeated the blessing ritual for the ancestors. Only our breathlessness told us that we had just done some gentle stretching calisthenics. It felt good to fold up our knees on our pads, sneak a sip of tea and prepare to listen to Martín talk.
Today, the sermon was on the interconnectedness of our bodies and the universe. An interconnectedness that reflected, reminded, and magnified the touch of the things farthest away with that which was deepest within ourselves. An example he gave is the idea that the Milky Way is the intestine of the Universe. Though the Milky Way can also be viewed as "a beach of stars to which the dead are rowing in boats made of tears and oars of songs" by the Mayans, with a little imagination, one can find the sun in our (Martín says gallbladder; I say liver because one can live without a gall bladder but not without a liver – (a live –er). Martín ran through a list of comparative organs and some people took notes, an act that always bothers him, so he ridicules the note-takers by saying, "You make notes so you don't have to remember."
The reason for Martín's preaching, as he laughingly calls it, is to prepare us for the thinking behind the parts of the boat ceremony so we can understand what we are doing, and to give the spirits time to come into the room and to keep the rest of us occupied while the latecomers come tip-toeing into the room.
But what he really wanted to explain to us was the Mayan idea that the world has five skins, or hoops or levels that are all spinning at once. For us to make the ceremony we need to pass through these levels which also have a connection to the systems of our bodies.
|First there is fire. Out of the fire comes stone (as lava) which becomes earth, rock, bone. So this is our bony structure. Still deep within our bones (as marrow) is the spark of fire, the cells that can make all the other parts of our bodies in the same way that the dirt on the earth manifests, through our foods, the various parts of all growing bodies.|
|On the earth is woodiness that manifests in plants. This is our food because even when we eat animals or animal products, they have already eaten the plants for us. So the wood-ness of the earth becomes our flesh, muscle and tendons system.|
|Fire is all around us, but when it collects into a visible body we see the lightning. The lightning in us is our nervous system.|
|The water, the moon, the rain, given to our bodies becomes blood that bathes, cleanses, transports, and nourishes all the other systems.|
|Air, as a gas or oxygen manifests in our lungs to fuel the fires of changing food into energy.|
Here he explained how "unnatural" breathing is for us. How we live nine months underwater and know only that way of taking in nutrition and giving up transformed matter. Then suddenly, in the moment of being expelled from the mother's body (this was the day before Mother's Day) the little baby does not know what to do with all this brittle, dry, cold air around it. It's little nose still has a plug of mucus in it and yet instinct, the will to live, forces the body to contract and suck in that first hot stinging breath of the fire of gas. And if the baby cannot do this one it's own we have learned to tap it so that a tremor goes through its frame sucking in the air.
The purpose of all of these ideas is to remind ourselves that god is not something out there in the all, although there are worlds of mostly unseen spirits around us, but that god is in us – that we are god. He said, "It is more important to know the god within us, that this god sees us than to try to see a god."
After a few more people slithered into the room on their apologies, Martín begins to discuss water. Water on earth is connected to the moon (as is our water, our blood). All water desires to return to the ocean, as rivers do. Here the heat of the fire raises it up so that it can fall to earth and race as fast as it can to the sea; always with the face of the moon in it. So then we were to invite the Grandmother Moon to join us by creating a place in the very center of the room for her. Here was a large clay bowl made by Kay the year before. Draped over one side was laid a lei of plumeria which someone had brought all the way from Hawai'i. He described how we were to take the water we had brought from 'happy places' (not bought in a store but from springs or wells) to pour into the bowl. But first we had to find a partner and pour the water from our two containers into one stream. From opposite sides of the room persons would step forward to stand on each side of the bowl. Each would add their own breath to their water, then hold out their container to let the other person add breath. Then raising and lowering the water containers five times, they would kneel and pour the streams of water into together.
At first the rotation of whose turn it was systematic and then it got out of sync and a person would step forward at the same time as another. When the old lady I had met in the parking lot stepped forward, she was all alone in the wide circle. How happy I was! She was the exact person I would have wanted for my partner! I jumped into the circle rapidly so no one else could claim her. As we were pouring the water I remembered her name was Sure-ly.
After putting away the rest of the waters, we got a bead, a piece of jade (many of us had only turquoises) or other bead. Now hooking up with our newly found partners we danced the beads, our tears, our longing for the sea shared with the rivers. Hand in hand, arm in arm, no one alone; we circled the room singing as if song would take us to the moon. Bending low before the bowl, together the partners chimed: "Mother, it is good to see your face again. Mother, it is good to feel your breath again." and out of their joined hands the beads would drop into the bowl.
Singing and circling we praised the grandmother of waters for attending our togetherness. Now the partners began moving their little territories marked out with blankets together so we were sitting with them instead of our friends. Four mothers were there with their children (the youngest was 15) and the tension rose in the room as their kids moved into the new configurations of partnership.
Martín now asked us to unpack all the things we had brought with us. On the folded square of cloth we laid the beads, the feathers, the papers, the pen, the whistles or flutes, the candles, the cornmeal. Because the majority of this group had done ceremony before with Martín he had to do very little checking on our feathers or beads. Because we had different colors of cloth, he took a few moments to explain the meaning of the colors in Mayan that is different from the Native American Indian concepts. Red is fire, yellow is fat and abundance, blue is for plants. He made a detour to explain that the Mayans do not see blue and green as different colors. They only differentiate between "near green" (green) and "far green" which is blue because in nature green that is close looks greenish and yet green high on the mountain seems blue. I found it interesting that the Japanese and the Hawai'ians have the same perception.
White was not appropriate for this ceremony because it was for mourning, and black they did not consider to be a color but all the colors together and gray was not recognized as being a color. One lady's cloth had pale lavender hue but everyone else had stuck to the instructions. Shirley and I smiled at each other as we noted my fabric was the same hue of blue as hers was of a light green. We had picked the two sides of green for our fabrics.
It was now 1:00 so everyone broke for lunch. Before we left, Martín explained how to give gifts back to the earth for the food we were taking from it. We were instructed to take a bead outdoors, put our breath on it and lay it on the earth. A piece of our dinner was to be put in the ceramic bowl beside the bowl of waters.
Shirley and I were instantly so engrossed in talking she waved her daughter Zoë off to buy her sandwich and Tish went off the kitchen to prepare her sardines. We were each interested in knowing how we had met Marilyn. Shirley had lived in Ukiah and taught at the Waldorf School where Marilyn's children went and where Marilyn had taught. Somehow, when Marilyn was living on Martha's Vineyard, in a little side story of her life, she and Shirley had met again and it was at this time, they together met Martín. Suddenly I knew the rest of the story because Marilyn had told me of how she and another woman had met Martín, how they had taken him in, fed him, talked to him, listened to him and realized that he needed to be holding workshops so many could experience the ceremonies he had given them in repayment for their kindness. So Shirley was this other part of the story! How good the connectedness of this felt! By now Zoë was back with the food and they went off together to eat. The room was nearly empty and very cold so we began closing doors (which had been wide open all morning) and turned up the thermostat.
Tish and I debated about going outside but the fog seemed thicker than ever and I knew how Tish aches when she is cold, so we just stayed in our places to eat. As we sat there, Kay Like came over and knelt down saying, "I want to apologize to you for something that happened last year here. You asked for a ride to Point Arena and the woman I had ridden with refused to take you. I felt really badly about that. If it had been my car I would have taken you, but she was so adamant about it I bowed to her opinion."
Vividly remembering my feelings, I assured her that Marilyn had been able to cart me around and that finally even Tish had given me a ride. So it all worked out.
"But, I felt we had excluded you." I admitted that I had felt the same thing, and felt it very deeply. She acknowledged that she knew how hurt I had been and was sorry for it. Then I began to talk about clay and firing and we smoothed over the rough place with terra cotta.
Directly across the room in the morning I had seen Kersten and noted that she was with someone I had never seen in Point Arena. Now she joined our group and I found out she was part of a group that does shamanic journeying. She began to tell of finding teeth on Bowling Ball Beach and we were laughingly calling her the Tooth Fairy. So there we were: Corn Mother, Little Bear and the Tooth Fairy. Only later in the conversation did I find out her real name was Roberta and that she was a dental hygienist.
The circle was already forming again when a group came in. From their red faces, deep breathing and wind-blown hair, we could see that they had gone down to the beach for their lunch. Their offerings were place in the bowl attractively arranged on half-shells. Suddenly the bowl stopped looking like a compost pit and was an elegant sacrifice.
Back in his boots, with his hair tied back and new earrings, Martín was ready to proceed. First he apologized for taking us through the skin/fabric ritual, because it seemed to be a repeat of other workshops, but he said it was important that the cloth be turned into our hides and that took a bit of doing. Like last year, one person laid on the floor while the partner covered him/her with the yard-square cloth so that the face was hidden. I went first. It felt good to stretch out on the floor and let my face stop being whatever I wanted it to project by just letting it sag around my ears. Only the pain in my left heel kept me from totally relaxing. Finally I was able to let my foot droop into a comfortable position. I kept wishing I had pulled my skirt down over my ankles. Strangely enough, this time, I was not bothered being under the cloth, being a seed in the ground, being a child in the womb, being an insect out-molting from its skin. I shouted for release along with the other voices but I was very happy right where I was.
Slowly Shirley, with her wise eyes twinkling pulled the cloth off of me. She did it so gently she forgot to snap it into the air. After she helped me up, she forgot to give it to me. I wondered how many of these ceremonies she had done. I thought it had been many. Now it was her turn and I could stand by her side listening to Martín's eloquent poem as he lead this group in their begging for release. I pulled away her pale green covering as if I was helping a small frog getting out of its own skin. I think she was very tired as we only danced a few steps so we just stood there with our arms locked around each other swaying to the thumping music of the much younger people leaping and landing on the wooden floor.
Then we made a circle out of the square room as we stood side by side with our clothes rolled into a ball under our armpits. We took our skins and began to bless the person to our left. Everyone did the same thing so this meant that as we were blessing, the person behind us was also blessing us. We repeated the process with the partner to the right, then turned away and repeated the blessing with our ancestors while facing away from the circle. Finally, facing each other inward over the circle we wiped the thirteen points of 'flowering' on our own bodies. Then we folded the cloth in half to tear it into two pieces. One piece was thrown over the shoulder and the other half was now also torn in half. And then both of these torn in half, and half again giving eight equal strips.
My fabric was so hard to tear, I had gotten my shears and was cutting starts for tearing. Many other people needed help cutting their fabric and would hold out the cloth for snips. I knew I needed to have two sets of four strips, but somehow with the cutting for others I got confused. Martín seemed to add to my confusion by saying we needed to have ten strips. I began tearing my strips again as I tried to figure out how to equally divide eight to have ten. Martín told some small story about how Mayans count as the air filled with fabric fibers. I was trying to catch up with others and do the math in my head as I continued to tear my stripes into every smaller strips. Then he instructed us to count to thirteen and again I was off trying to figure out how to get thirteen equal strips out of ten. Then he ups the ante by asking us to count to 260, the number of days it takes for a baby to develop and the principle number on which the Mayan calendar is based. Finally it dawned on me as I noticed no one else was tearing up their strips but just counting them over and over so that the numbers were used up but the strips stayed the same!
Four of the strips (I had eight) were to be tied by a knot on one end. These we were instructed to take home. Here we were to tie knots on each of the streamers. One streamer was to be knotted for each time we had been hurt by someone, the next one knotted for each time we had hurt someone, the next for each time someone had blessed us and on the last ribbon, a knot for each time we had been a blessing for someone else.
Back on our rugs we got out the beads and the cornmeal. In the center of each of the four strips (again I had eight) we were to put a pinch of cornmeal, on which we had breathed, along with a bead and tie this in a knot. These we laid aside to begin making our own little shrines or spirit homes. We could either make a 'house' or a boat. He asked for a show of hands how many wanted to make a boat and how many wanted to make a house. By far the majority wanted to make boats, but since I had been thinking that I should make a house for several months, I decided to make it under these conditions. The home should be small so there would be room in the big boat for all of them. We should decide its size by using the measurement of the distance from our outstretch thumb to little finger.
That morning, when Tish arrived to pick me up, she came in the jeep when on the phone she had said she was coming in a truck so we could transport our long branches. Therefore I had left all the side branches on them along with the leaves. Overnight it had misted so they were all wet. We had to cut away all the leafy branches in order to get the poles in the car and to bring in less moisture. Now, I needed all those short ends. Following the others into the willow room I spied a pile of very thin dark willows. I asked the woman (who was Tish's partner) if I could borrow some of the small ones. They were wonderful black willow! I had not seen black willow since being in Ohio. I felt so rich with my little hoard of twigs. I measured and cut enough to tie together the sides. Then I began carving my prayers on the twigs.
the tree raises up
This year I remembered to save the shavings and had brought the little bag containing the chips from the carving done on the sticks at Ghost Ranch in October. What a good feeling it was to feel this continuity with my previous prayer. As we worked Martín walked around singing songs to us. As we worked we got quieter and quieter. When he sang a song he sings when he rides his horse, he sat down on his felt coat as he rocked to his melody. Into our constructions he told us stories interspersed with the songs which he accompanied himself by shaking a tiny rattle.
For the third time I had seen his little ceremony with the rattle. He would ask if anyone had a rattle. Last year several of the rattles offered to him he gave back as 'being too big'. He would try out the various ones for heft and sound. Finally Kay Like produced a very small, very unusual one, and that was obviously handmade with much care. This one he chose for his instrument. I could feel how honored she was that her rattle had pleased him. From the five or six very small ones offered I felt that these persons knew of his asking, knew what he wanted and had sought out and brought rattles hoping to be able to loan him one of theirs.
When I had four sides of my house framed up, I got very uncomfortable. I just could not make the 'roof' of my house flat. I wanted it to soar, to be uplifting. So I just sat until I could figure out how to do it. The limberness of the remaining twigs reminded me that I could easily make an arched ceiling. Which I did. Naturally I could not make two arches the same size, so one was smaller than the other. I made the high side the 'front' by tying two uprights to make a door.
holding together a house
holding my nots
the spirit space for ancestors
built by imagination
With the arches my little palm wide house was now huge. By being so large it would take a long time to tie on all the wood I needed to enclose walls and ceiling. Already Martín was walking around the circle inspecting our results and judging how far we had gotten. As I looked up I saw many people were already done their boats! They were already decorated with beads and feathers and the cloth. Martín joyfully showed us the boat made by Marilyn's son, John. His was a sailboat about a foot long. My house didn't seem quite so over-large. When Martín came to Tish he noted that she had not made a door in her box. She was aghast at her error. He laughingly bent up two diagonals, which could be tied up to make a lovely arched door. When he saw mine, he murmured "Utz, utz" (good, good). As he was saying how each of our homes looked like the people we were, he pointed back at mine saying how tall it was and how like me it was.
I was dismayed when he called out that we were now going to dance our houses/boats. Mine was only a shell, a sketch, but it was all I had. Singing the song he had taught us that morning, "shoe ta knee a wah he; you why ee ani o-hio" with its variations, we stomped and twirled with our new creations clasped to our breasts like little children. Around and around the room we circled our dancing. Our faces were shining with sweat and happiness.
Then we laid our shrines around the water bowl Grandmother so that they looked like the petals of a multicolored flower. We were instructed to take our 'homes' home for the night. There we were to sing to them, tell them our own stories of our ancestors. Before going to bed we were to place in them an article from our childhood and another from one of our ancestors. We were to take them to bed with us to dream with them.
I got home at six and Werner already had dinner ready and waiting on me so we quickly ate and I was able to get right down to work on my house. I went outdoors to get the twigs we had cut in the morning to weave them in as walls to my house but Werner had picked them up and disposed of them. As I wandered around the yard trying to find where he had tossed them I passed the cedar trees. Suddenly their perfume wafted to me on the foggy moistness and I smiled as I thought of using them instead of willow twigs. Buddha, the cat, was delighted with the house, and the twigs. He took fresh sprig of cypress from the pile for himself that he dragged over to his chair. Weaving them in the sidewalls was so helpful in giving the structure of feeling of coming together.
clothed in cedar
weaving ribbons of heaven
spirit houses for bodies
gone these many years
I tied my eight strips with knots of cornmeal to the ridgepole of the house but did not like the way they drooped spoiling the feeling of the arch. Then I remembered Martín saying we could braid our streamers. Across my mind came a picture of seeing the method of weaving for a surface I had seen done with palms in Hawai'i. I was delighted to see that this method made a stretchy surface that followed the arches and bent to accommodate both sizes pulling them together.
We had been instructed to tie flowers to our shrines. It had bothered me last year when I visited the big house we had made on the beach and saw the dead and dying flowers hanging on it. The scotch broom leaves, stems and flowers had turned a satanic black. The creepy experience with the lei in Hawai'i made me even more sure I did not want to rob the flowers of their sexual glory just to carry my prayers and make my house look better than it was. For this I had already made god's eyes out of wool from Lezlie's sheep that I had hand-spun in preparation. These were my flowers which I tied on front and back.
looking for god
I find in myself
in god's eyes
made by branches and wool
twisted by stories and tales
faces of my ancestors
sparkling with fire
beads given the names:
Lula, Erma and Cuba
I could not figure out how to use the clay beads I had made and fired in the wood stove until I got the idea of making a necklace of the ones with faces on them to be my ancestors. It was a shock to find out that I had just seven for my seven generations! I took a small handmade book to write down all their names as I sang to them. This I tied it in with their faces to which I had given bead throats and limpet shell halos. That gave me the idea of adding one of my own handmade books. I really hated to give up one of them because they are all so unique and unrepeatable but I did it because I am grateful for all the good work I have had in the past year,
Werner was already going to bed but I still had my knot work to do. Though very drowsy I began thinking of the many various instances when I had good or bad memories. How good it felt to get them tied down into something physical and to get rid of them. As I thought about the Rev. Hope stuff I just kept making the knot fatter and fatter. As tears dropped down spotting the blue fabric I thought the tears looked like beads so I tied a bead on for each tear. But there were good thoughts, and memories of blessings on the streamers, too. So came the idea to sew feathers on those places. Suddenly I was no longer tired. All the memory cords were no longer a knobby umbilical cord-looking mess but the basis for a pattern of beads and feathers. I saw the pattern of my life taking on a new and almost understandable form.
made with tears
watered with a life
offerings – ourselves
Almost unable to walk when I got out of my chair at long last, I put the cat to bed, grasped my spirit home to carry it upstairs. In the last second I remembered to put in the little book I had 'written' and illustrated when I was six (terrible grammar and spelling in it) along with the thimbles from Aunt Evelyn and Naola.
Sunday May 13, 2001
I woke up wishing I had had a better dream, but this was what I had been given.
It was Christmas time and all my children were with me and Werner in Hamburg. The kids, and I, had been making gifts with all the rush and last minute excitement that goes with this. I was trying to make sure each one had what he/she needed to make their gifts just the way it wanted to be. But as the holiday drew closer it seemed there were a few things we needed to finish them up. So the kids and I decided to go to the city for one last trip.
We quickly got everything we wanted and were on our way home when we encountered so much traffic that the cars were bumper to bumper. That wasn't so bad but the people were also excited and nervous so there was a lot of cutting in and out and jockeying for space. In backing up to let someone else turn in front of me, I gently bumped the car of the person behind me. We quickly saw that no real damage was done and I was able to go on my way. But within a few blocks, I swerved away from a rapidly on-coming car and side-swiped a parked car. I had to drive ahead to get to a safe place to pull off the road and by the time I found such place (a Christmas Market was going on and cars were parked in every available space) a cop car had pulled up behind me with his lights flashing. Wanting to take up as little space as possible I began to back up toward his car. Bang! I hit it! No real damage was done but the situation was serious. I gave Heidi money for the U-Bahn and sent her off with the other two in tow. I went into the Police Station (which fortunately was just across the street) to explain what was happening. I did not know if I would just get a ticket or would be jailed or what. I was very surprised when the policeman's assistant, a woman, handed me three metals dangling from necklaces made of twisted wire and a set of handcuffs! She said not a word but I understood that I now had three offenses and the next one would incarcerate me. She put all the things in a small white paper sack and I was soon on my way. As I drove along I wondered if I should tell my family about this. As I walked into the house I actually thought of stuffing the sack in a closet before they saw it but then I decided that what was was and since I would be living with this, so could they.
I had plenty of time to type my dream up because Tish was not coming by until after 8:00. Werner had offered to drive us up and pick us up but Tish was glad to save him the extra trips. I wrapped up one of my people pots for her and stuck money in it for the gas. (Gas prices are now $2.45 a gallon here.)
is it a kite
or is it a bird nest?
Werner wanted to photograph my spirit house. I knew Martín had requested that we not photograph our houses (he had said this in the group after a camera flashed a couple of times) so I told Werner of this but he still wanted to do it. I said that I was going in my room to type up the dream and whatever he did was up to him. It was easy to hear the doors opening and closing so I knew what he was literally doing behind my back. When I rolled up my dream to tie it into the house, it came to me that I could smudge the house in case being photographed 'really' had affected its spirit. I always have a hard time keeping the smudge sticks lit long enough for a complete smudging but this time I could not get the fire to go out. I smudged the cat, the whole house and myself but the sage bundle was putting out such a huge cloud of smoke that the rooms were solid with layers of white. Finally I carried the house and smudge stick outdoors and let the wind add its blessings and movement to the smudging. As I was doing this Tish drove up so I smudged her also.
Her spirit house was so charming and as Martín said; it personified her completely. It was the proper size Martín had designated and perfectly square and solid looking. She had tied tiny pink roses at all of the joints with miniature sprays of baby breath. Her house was so like her I wanted to weep. We had to pack the car with even more care, but were soon on our way. As we got to Rollerville Tish realized she had forgotten part of her 'stuff' so we turned around and drove back to get it. She kept apologizing for making us late but I felt very calm about the situation – willing to do whatever needed to be done. I had promised Shirley that I would come early so we could exchange stories over our shrines but the only thing that I really worried about was the thought that if we came in late and Martín had already started; how would I get to the bathroom crossing in front of all those people? I was willing to risk whatever for the calmness to let Tish do whatever she needed to do to feel comfortable. We were late and people were already taking their places but by rushing around I was able to get to the bathroom only to find the paper was all gone. I used the tissue in my pocket and asked Marilyn where there was more so I could replenish both bathrooms. She said she would have to go to the store for it.
I unpacked my things. The many ohs and ahs my house got were almost embarrassing.
It was interesting to see who could give compliments and who narrowed their eyes as their mouths turned to stone before they looked away. Soon the conch shell was sounding, rounding us up, pulling our minds together on the being known as Martín. He was in good form, full of energy, smiling and very happy. The prayers were short as he was eager to get to the building of the boat. He laughed and joked as he divided up the circle of people into five unequal parts. Some of us were to become the door, some the 'sides' and two were to make the back and front of the boat. We were to bend the willow into a circle big enough to pass over our shoulders. It is interesting when one of these groups forms to see who will become the CEO, who follows instructions and who makes corrections. While we were doing this I saw Martín go into the willow room, cut a stock measured from his sternum to his outstretched middle finger. Ever so quickly he carved his prayers on it in a beautiful design that spoke of the many times he had done this very act. Then he got from a cloth his parrot feathers that he tied on one end.
We continued to add branches and knots to get the hoop as round as possible. He turned over a bowl to use its bottom for a stand for burning copal. Things were definitely heating up! He had cautioned us about not sticking our hands inside the hoop so we would loop the string by holding it above the hoop and dropping it over and catching it underneath. One woman, missed these instructions and was doing it 'wrong'. A lady, who had seemed quite a character already at Ghost Ranch (and who had traveled here from Minnesota – so a dedicated groupie) told her of her error. The lady just wilted and started to back out of the group in embarrassment. The Minnie lady immediately said, "Continue to work, I will sit underneath to catch the string for you." I put my arm around the shy woman and pulled her back into the group and she did make a few more loops of twine. Then we began to pass the small ball of twine around so each of us could add more loops and knots. It became a game with the Minnie woman sitting below the hoop with her hands upraised to catch the falling string. When it was my turn I was surprised that when I dropped the twine I didn't really drop it completely but held on to it jerking it out of her reach. In grabbing for it she stuck her hand up through the hoop laughing as if I was playing with her. I was so shocked at my behavior but was truly thankful that she and the others saw the situation as play. Just then Martín walked up and saw her sitting under the hoop. A look of horrification passed over his face and he very roughly grabbed her, yanking her out while he waved his dark feathers over and over her. She seemed pleased that he had noticed her and had given her a special blessing with the feather wand.
Again he warned the group not to pass their hands or fingers inside the hoop. Holding it lightly by only the tips of our fingers each group danced the hoop they had made. With the last of the series of movements, Martín would tap two of the people to carry the hoop to the side of the room. Here he instructed them to set the hoops edgewise on the floor about five feet apart while balancing them with their fingertips. The rest of us were to get our houses/boats. We danced them anew and then he instructed us to pass through the hoops while carrying them. Suddenly I wished I had made mine much, much smaller and sturdier. How was I going to wiggle through those ever smaller hoops with my hands occupied with balancing my shrine without breaking it, falling on it, or embarrassing myself. I was very thankful to be at the back edge of the group so I could see how the others did it. Martín would tap a person to begin their dance through the five hoops of existence. On the other side we were to welcome each person as they were newly arrived. The first woman, who obviously had done this before danced and twirled, swirled and stomped, sang and cried as she went through each loop. I began wishing I was about a country mile away from this scene. Me? Dance like that in front of strangers? Me? Act that crazy and ecstatic? About mid-way through the process, Martín caught me hiding and sent me forward. The couple holding the loop saw that I was not as bendable as the younger people and that my arms were very full so they raised and lowered the hoop so I could get through without too much trouble. Instantly Martín was on them for not keeping the hoop in the floor. Somehow I wiggled through the rest of the hoops without embarrassing myself or remembering if I did. It was such a relief to have that done, to be so warmly welcomed, kissed and hugged and greeted. One by one the hoop holders places were taken by others and they danced through.
Then Martín gathered up the hoops by inserting his prayer stick through them and asking Chris to hold up the other end of the stick to carry them to the middle of the room where they were smudged while we sang and stomped. With a dramatic motion he withdrew his stick allowing the hoops to crash to the floor. Again the hoop holders picked up the hoop they had helped to make and these were again placed as they had been when we crawled through. Now the rest of us were instructed to begin tying the long willow branches to the bottom to lay a keel. While we worked we were to sing a song that was special to us or associated with some aspect of our families. It did not have to be holy song; just one that had meaning to us. To the quiet murmur of the blending of all these songs, Martín kept time by striking a turtle shell with a deer antler.
Again, it was interesting to see who would boss, who would follow and who did nothing until someone told them what to do. And it was interesting to see who would untie 'shoddy' work and replace it with their idea of how the boat should look. I found bending over or squatting on the floor to be very hard so I helped Silver cut strings. Instead of singing we talked about raccoons. She works at an animal shelter that rescues wild animals. So many interesting stories she told me. As I carried around the handfuls of cut string to the others I noticed a stranger, an attractive woman wearing bermuda shorts, standing by the boat. I stopped before her wondering what she wanted or whom she wanted to see. Her eyes were looking beyond me watching Martín approach. As he came to stand beside me, before her, it was as if she spoke to the two of us in a low voice. She had come to ask Martín's assistance in the tribe's quest to have the bones of their ancestors returned to them. Somehow they found out that many bones were stored in the Berkeley museum, just in drawers and boxes and they wanted to have them back. This seemed like such a perfectly natural request my mouth hung open as she explained the troubles they had gone through trying to get the authorities to return them. She asked for prayers and Martín assured her that he would ask us to add to our boat, as he pointed to it, prayers for them also. Then he asked if she would like to put an offering in. She said she would go to get something. As she was turning to go, Martín leaned toward her and asked, "The name of your tribe, again?" "Pomo." She said. ""Pomo." he repeated. The word sounded so foreign in his mouth. These were "our" Pomos and now his mouth had taken them onto his tongue.
Earlier I had found a branch with many leaves on the end and placed it as the prow. But what a surprise later when I walked around the front to find that the actual prow was now about seven feet longer. Someone had made a beautiful butterfly out of bent willows. This was the proper figurehead for our spirit ship. As I was admiring it Martín came by and was also taken by the marvel of its being. As some began to point to it to show it to others he told us the Mayan word for butterfly and said Mayans never point at butterflies or rainbows because they are too special. As he said this he stuck both hands into his armpits.
I knew the boat was supposed to 'hold' our shrines but saw that we did not have enough branches for a solid bottom and sides. Then I noticed someone weaving in the limber black willow. What a great idea. As the idea caught on the interspaces were closed in. We used up all the wood we had. Martín was worried about the weight and a couple of times lifted a side of the ship up to see how heavy it was getting.
We soon get a chance to find out how heavy it was as we had to sing it into life (just then the sun broke through the fog) and then when exhausted from singing at the top of our lungs, had to lift the boat and dance it around the room. It seemed bigger than every as so many people added their bodies to its own size. I was lightheaded with hunger and need for air and was very glad it was time for a lunch break. But first Shirley and I had to tell our stories to one another. Tish saw I was busy and went ahead to make and eat her lunch alone. I thought this session would take maybe five minutes, ten at the most. But Shirley was 74 years of living and had a very long story to tell her boat and me. As she talked she kept smoothing the streamers with her gnarled fingers so that the ribbons rayed out like petals. She would forget where she was in the story (she was surely as hungry and tired as I was) but she kept plowing through it. It was as if the more tired I got the slower she talked. When I would sit up straighter thinking that now she would stop and I could do mine, she would add some new story. When it was finally my turn I told a greatly abbreviated version of my linage. For such a big house I gave it a very condensed version of my life.
By the time we were done, Tish had finished eating and wandered off somewhere else so I got my basket and headed outdoors into the warm, and welcomed sun. There were several boy/girl pairs eating together and I did not feel like intruding. At first I thought of sitting down alone but saw that the woman from India and her mate were on the bandstand so went to joy-n them. I shared my cashews with them and tasted their watermelon. When I came back in I found Tish, who seemed rather upset. She had found out that she had left her purse at home. This meant that she was driving without her driver's license. I was not concerned but she was very upset about it but didn't say much. Marilyn showed me her tick bite and talked about her fears of getting Lyme's Disease from it. When I went to the bathroom there again (still?) was no toilet paper or hand towels. So again I told her and she got really huffy about 'having to go to the store for toilet paper'. I asked her if she wanted me to go and she said, "No, no; I'll do it." I realized how upset she was over the tick bit as I wonder what else was bothering her?
People were so eager to begin to tie the flowers on to the boat. As they waited for the rest of us to assemble a few began to tie on a blossom here and there. But first we had to be blessed before beginning this part of the work. We were instructed to take a small bunch of flowers from the stacks and racks of them arranged on the stage. I had none and hesitated to try to substitute my 'god's eye' for fear of being wrong before the group, so I saw the young punk-looking artist from New Mexico with a huge bucket of flowers and asked him if I could have a bunch. I tried to make for him an eloquent speech with my asking but he was not impressed. As I tilted my head, not knowing what else to say to him as plea, he said, "You have lovely earrings!" "Ah," I said, "then let the beauty of my earrings be the eloquence I need to ask for your flowers." Smiling broadly he offered me the whole bucket.
With the flower blessing we learned to simultaneously give and receive blessings at the same time. You have to really snuggle up to do the reaches but by now we all knew each other's sweat and had taken it on as our own. We blessed right and left and turned away from the circle to bless our ancestors. As we turned back to face the center I saw a park ranger standing in the open doorway. Marilyn left the circle to go to him while Martín finished leading us through the rest of the blessing. Then he instructed us on how to tie the flowers on and disappeared. I walked around the boat searching for 'my place' to mark with 'my flowers' and after waiting for the others, was able to get close enough to the port side to tie my wand of purple chrysanthemums to the edge of the boat. There was such a mob feeling as people crowded around to tie on flowers. Americans really love decorating! The flowers seemed to have wings for petals as they flew across the room to alight on every available surface of the boat. I sat back on the floor and just watched them. I knew those thousands of flowers were adding greatly to the weight of the boat and that we were going to dance that boat until our arms fell off. So I rested, and watched and nodded as I sang to myself the manifesting song. One woman came by and dropped a sprig of sage in my lap so I tied it on one of my braids with a bit of string lying on the littered floor. The smell that wound itself around me was like new young strength and I instantly felt so much better that when the call came to get our spirit homes I was completely there. Now we made two rows, on each side of our beautiful, beautiful boat across from our partners. Holding our shrines like the new babies they were to us, we stared long and lovingly at the partner causing a force field of love to criss-cross over the boat. First one side was led in an affirmation of longing directed to this person one had gotten to know so well in such a short time. Most of us could not sing out these words of love and longing without tears. If nothing else, Martín is very eloquent devising these poems on the spot and changing them for each side so that it seems he has snagged the images from the deepest part of us. The phrases, "I will not abandon you. I will not forget you." always touch us older ones the most. Those who could reach the boat (the lines were far longer than the boat) wiped their tears on it. Again we sang to our partners, our shrines, the boat, ourselves, the whole world in each of these things. Then we could put our spirit houses in the boat. As usual, I hung back letting others put theirs in first. When I finally stepped up, near the prow, the floor was completely covered, I tried to wiggle in a bit of room, but it would have meant pushing aside others so I just couldn't. I just stood there with my spirit house still in hands. It seemed that I had truly made it too big and now there was no room for it on the boat. People began to look at me because I was not following orders. Everyone was waiting on me to do this part before proceeding. Without knowing what to do, I walked around the boat looking for a small eight square inches for my thing. People stepped back to let me around. Finally I spied a small space on the port side. As I bent over to place the house I saw that I was leaning over the very bunch of chrysanthemums that I had used in my blessing. This was truly the only spare spot in the whole boat.
Now we waited expectantly for the next step – the dancing of the boat, but before we began, Martín began to talk. He had an announcement to make: We would not be taking the boat to the beach to launch it into the sea as we had planned. The park ranger had evidently heard of the plan, had come to forbid us to 'pollute' the ocean and the beach with our boat. Our faces mirrored disbelief so he repeated again that we were not able to take the boat on the Elk Beach. He hung his head and apologized saying he had failed to put protection on this part of the ceremony because the other four years there had been no problem and he assumed it was all right. Some raised their voices asking what we could do. He suggested we try to find a truck to haul it to another beach or even a field where we could let it sail until it disintegrated. Kaye Like was standing in front of me and spoke up that her neighbor had a flat bed trailer. She could call to ask him to come to help us haul it away. "Maybe, we could even take it to Mote Creek." I leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Or even Hearn Gulch." She was thinking so hard she seemed punch-drunk. While she stumbled around trying to figure out what we could do, Martín suddenly faced with an empty hour and half began to devise little jobs and ceremonies to fill up the time. Also, this meant that several parts of the beach ceremony could not be done and he had much to explain to get us to understand what all we must do on our own at home now. Our spirits were very low and no one really wanted to do anything more. Most just wanted to give out the gifts and get going home. But we still had stuff to dispose of. The bowl of water couldn't now be put in the creek but had to be poured outdoors in a field. The oldest woman (Shirley) and man with the youngest boy (15) and girl (18) were to take charge of this. "Remember to pour the water out without a sound so the spirits of the earth are not shocked." Martín warned. All the connectedness of the two days began to untangle, come unknotted and fall away as the group itself began to disintegrate.
But first we must dance the boat. We began to sing, very slowly and softly. But as the verses piled verses on verses we got stronger and stronger. Suddenly the whole group realized that this was the end of the boat ceremony for us, this was the last love, devotion, work we could do for our beautiful craft and we swelled with the sap of a bud just ready to burst open with desire and passion. We lifted the boat and it was lighter with all the flowers on it and the shrines in it! We danced forward and backward, singing and stamping with the boat proudly sailing through the air above our heads. It was so light we were not lifting it but hanging on to it to keep it from floating away. Or maybe it was floating and we, like frightened survivors were clinging to its sides. We were weeping with exhilaration and sorrow as we finally set it down in the place where it had risen up under our hands. Some walked away quickly, and others stood holding on to the boat and their weeping. "Hey!" yelled someone, "what about the flutes?" So we quickly pulled out our flutes and Martín taught us the simple melody that is used in Guatemala. When a woman is in labor, the children are all given flutes to "sing the new baby into the world". We were piping our boat, our grandmother, our body for spirits, into this world. As we huddled around the boat with the air sharp with song I saw tears in Martín's eyes. Swaying his body to this tune new to us and new to the boat he raised both hands over his head. Each time we completed a sequence, he lowered a finger. With the last finger's closing a ringing silence came down on the room. With a same motion we all flung our flutes into the boat.
We had been instructed to write a letter to "our unknown soul"; a love letter to someone we did not know. The only way to get a glimmer of an idea who this soul might be was to stare deeply into the eyes of that no-longer stranger partner of ours. For this letter we were to use "a beautiful" paper. As Shirley, from Arizona, unrolled a heavy gray-brown paper, I asked if she had made it. It looked like some exotic bark paper. She smiled craftily: "It's part of cardboard box that had been out in the desert for a year!" We finally wrote our letters knowing that back home (not here as I had done at Ghost Ranch with Robert Bly) we would give these to someone with whom we would not normally associate. Shirley told me a little story of one of her experiences. She lives out on 30 acres with three other women and there is this man who has some deep problems who wanders harmlessly over the land. One day she saw him and gave him her gift from another ceremony (she has partaken of many and heads the one in Arizona) and the poem she had written to go with it. When he read the poem he said that the mental health group he attends published a small paper and he wanted to try to get them to publish her poem. She thought it was a charming thing for him to say and promptly forgot about it. Months later, he came by bringing her the paper and there was her poem!
With this happiness we exchanged our gifts. I apologized for the size of mine. I knew she had flown in from Arizona and I offered to ship it to her. She opened the raffia tied tissue paper very carefully and seemed genuinely happy to have a sea kelp goddess to go home with her. Arizona will be good for the kelp doll. That dry air will be sure to keep her crisp and the texture of that cardboard box. She gave me a packet of seeds an Indian man had given her. She had no garden so was passing them along. She began to tell me a story of a story he had told her. We sat there peaceably enjoying stories until a call distracted us. We were all needed to carry the boat out. Was the truck here? Where was it going? It turned out we had to carry it out the big doors and around to the back (to hide it) while it was decided what to do with it. We sang even as it felt wrong to be going east with it.
I saw Kaye's worried face and asked her what the situation was. The man who could help us was not at home, but his wife was. She did not know if she could hook up the trailer to the van by herself but she would try. Kay was to call her back to see if this was accomplished. It was strange that of all these people, not one had a cell phone. This was not a yuppie group. Many people began to leave, some of us began to clean up the center, and Martín held court wherever he was – signing books, and telling stories. It was as if he had to fill up the hole in the ceremony with himself.
When Kaye came back smiling we knew the flat bed was on its way. Several people began to reroute their way home so they could accompany the boat and help launch it. Kay had decided Mote Creek was the best place. People were getting hungry (it was now after five o'clock and it was interesting to see how food appeared, was passed around, as we partook of an assortment of raisins, nuts, potato chips and apples. I realized that I had better get to the bathroom while I still had the chance. The floor had been freshly mopped, all around the circle around Martín, so I took off my shoes to cross it. When I came out this last little group was going out the door so I walked with them. As we stood by Martín's car, as Hannah loaded the last box of unsold books and tapes, he took out a magazine, The Sun, and showed me an article of an interview done with him. I noted the issue. Then one of the women who joined the group said it was already up on his web site. I asked him when his next book was due and he said, "In autumn, I still have the last chapter to write." "Blessings on it." I said. "Are you coming to the launching of the boat?"
"No." he said looking at the silver bracelets he wears instead of a watch, "My job is over at five."
I stared at him in disbelief. After all that ceremony, all that correctness, all that love, all that endeavor, all that, all that – he was walking away from it? As usual, when I should get angry I don't know how to act so I simply do not act at all. I just hung my head and walked away. It seemed to take forever for the trailer to get to Elk (surely the woman must be scared pulling that big thing over the curvy road as well as down and up the bad Greenwood Creek. I stood with a group without talking. Just listening to them and trying not to listen to the thoughts I wanted to think. I saw Martín take his parrot feathers off the prayer stick and to hand it to Kay. She was beaming a bewildered smile. I don't she knew at that moment what he had planned for the rest of the day.
We could hear the van and trailer roaring up out of the creek and knew it was coming before the woman could begin to maneuver it off of Highway One into the little dirt road to the Community Center. As if magnetized, people gathered around her. When she got out of the cab I grabbed her and gave her a big hug of thanks. "Hugs are what I have come for." she said with a big laugh for such a tiny woman. With great speed and no ceremony, the trailer was opened and we were lugging the boat aboard it. Naturally the boat was much longer than the trailer, so we had to reposition it diagonally but it still stuck out about eight feet over the back. "We'll need a red flag for this." I said. Standing next to me was John Llewelyn, the seaweed man. Looking down at his belt he grabbed up the red streamers which he had not yet knotted up (or maybe he had no blessings or no hurts?). I quickly tied his life memories on the back of the boat. As we began drifting away to our cars, some still getting instruction on where the beach was, we re-entered the parking lot. And there was an empty slot where Martín's rented car had been. While we had been busy loading the boat he had disappeared – shaman-like.
Tish was eager to get out before she had to drive among other cars and after my dream of the morning I was glad to help her so we buzzed off ahead of all the others. As we drove up the steep slant of Greenwood Gulch there was a terrible rattling in the back of her car. At the top of the grade was a new wide pull-off they had left when they had last repaired the road. So we were able to park off to the side. While she rearranged the water bottle and aluminum pan that had been making the fearful engine destroying noise, I walked down the old road to look over the side. I had always wanted to stop here but usually we were in too much of a hurry to get to Mendocino or Fort Bragg for a halt. She, too, came to enjoy the view. Then she said, "I would love to see the truck go by here with the boat." Great idea. So we stood there looking north and very soon we saw the glow of the flowers coming down the highway pulling a string of cars behind it. We hopped in the car to hook ourselves on to the end.
At the crossroads and turn-offs it was a treasure to see the faces of people who had to wait for us to pass before they could turn on to the highway. We said we wished we had tied flowers on our cars. When the Sheriff's car came down the road toward us I tightened the tendons in my jaws and neck wondering if the ranger had contacted other authorities to watch where we were taking the boat. I turned to watch his white car fade into the glare of sea mist with deep gratitude. If he had turned around, it would have been on our tail that he would have ridden. And here was Tish with no driver's license following a banned boat and unregistered sea craft.
I am sure that Marge, the driver of the trailer also knew she had to be very careful. As she drove through Point Arena we were all well below the speed limit. People on the sidewalks stared in disbelief. We smiled back in disbelief at what we were doing.
So late in the evening we expected Mote Creek to be deserted. But we were surprised that the whole parking lot was completely filled. The surfers were taking advantage of the high tide and the last bit of sunlight. Cars got parked willy-nilly off the road and the guys began telling Marge how to back her trailer into the parking lot. With so many expert drivers it soon became obvious that this was not going to work. They got the trailer and van just off the road so we unloaded the boat as quickly as possible with care and unseemly haste. Even though there were only about 20 in our group, the boat did not seem heavy. We carried it over under some willow trees and set it down. Some had to go get their cornmeal, and knotted streamers. Kay asked us to wait for while Marge parked the trailer so she could join us. Unconsciously we formed a circle tight around the boat – as if our bodies were its protection. Tracy started the "shoe ta-ni" song and thus we stood there, with Kay at the stern, singing the song louder and louder. One of the half-naked surfers called out asking what we were doing. Marilyn called, "It's Mother's Day!" We couldn't help bending over with snickers at her apt defense. As we sang I had my head down when I realized I was seeing the red flag. Just as I thought I should take that off to give to John, he walked around the prow. "You need this." I said as I bent down to untie it. "Funny." he said, I was just thinking that maybe I should get that back." Soon Marge joined us with her Airedale and now we were really local – we had a dog with us!
Kaye gave the word, the singing got stronger and with a heave, the boat was airborne. I somehow was still at the prow so took up the lead (and got to carry the lightest part of the load). As we went through the gate and the path angled, there were cries of warning as those at the end were swung against the parked cars. By going slower, and swinging the prow around, we were launched on our path. And what a marvelous path it was. Our boat was covered with flowers but the hillside was even thicker with fresh lupines, mustard, radish, arnica, thistles, Scotch broom and California poppies.
and blossom bright
path to the sea
surrounded by friends
where I go when lonely
We were swimming the boat through a smudge of flower perfume warmed by the late sun, watered by the sound of the brook bubbling over the rocks. Bees, jolted from their sipping places joined our parade. The tallest flowers reached out to brush the boat with welcome and blessings. Our singing was made louder by the goodness of the place that was accepting our sacrifice.
on the beach path
the tiniest plants
As we came to drop off from the meadow to the stones, I stepped aside – afraid that I might slip and fall in the loose dirt. Now the song that had been in unison came to me in its parts as each person on this side walked by me.
on the beach
the willow boat blooms
steps to the sea
each tide leaves a mark
the lines on a face
the tracks of tears
The younger people were able to carry the boat right to the water's edge. Now was the question: Do we leave it here on the beach with the cornmeal trail (as Martín had instructed us to make it) or do we launch the boat?
open to all
on the beach the shelter
for the spirits
a wind from the moon
blows the sea waves higher
I had to laugh as I heard someone say, "Let's take a vote!" Imagine a Guatemalan ceremony proceeding on the outcome of a vote! Maybe that is what you have to do when the ceremony becomes leaderless or obtains multiple leaders. The voices of launch! launch! overcame any other opinions. "Cornmeal. Cornmeal". It seemed the wind on the beach took away all our words so we only used the ones we really needed. The path to sea was made. I was pleased to see Kaye bend down, when someone was hesitant about making the footprints, and with a practiced flick of her fingers did jaguar tracks (which I had never seen) and even the couple more for the road-runner! It was her finest moment!
or a cloud of pollen
blessing the boat
the shaman smiles
as the offering flies
I took off my socks and stuck them in my pocket while others rolled up pant's legs and took off their shoes. There were enough brave men to take the prow out to the deepest water. Though I knew I was too old to be wading into the surf, I grabbed a mid-ship section and at the cry of Kay, the boat with our animal legs proceeded into the surf. We held on as well as we could against the surge of the cold water. We supported the boat until it floated, it floated! We passed it along from hand to hand until the guy farthest out (up to his chest in water) grabbed the stern and held it against the incoming wave and then launched it with all his might into the trough which received it perfectly. Our cries and cheers seem to propel it outward. It was beautiful, as the butterfly would lift high up out of the water when the wave slithered under it. Like a great fish, bounding and bucking in joy to be bringing the water in the willows and flowers home again. Even without a keel, the boat met each wave straight on with its prow. A slight south drift carried the boat from our path.
As I started to wade back to shore I slipped on a big underwater rock and would have gone down if, my flower giver, admirer of my earrings, from New Mexico had not caught me, held me up and steadied me while I got my footing again.
As I climbed back up the beach I could not help crying out, "Look!" and pointing to the west. Just at this moment the sun was sinking behind the golden cliff to our right. "Perfect, perfect" we murmured.
Now the beach was very cold. The guy who had gone out the farthest and was the father of the launch began stripping off his wet clothes. The women shivered for him but he did the wisest thing; to get out of the wet things. People began to hand him garments off their own backs. Nothing was planned, but everything was flowing perfectly. Everyone was being taken care of.
I hadn't realized that Marilyn was in the group, but suddenly she was standing beside me, saying like a mantra, "beautiful boat, go beautiful boat. Next to her stood Tracy and Kaye with their eyes and complete attention centered on the ever-smaller boat. Now the sun was gone into sea and yet the boat was still raising its proud head for each incoming of gold reflected down from the clouds. Now there was a streaming toward shore a fan of haze from the boat as over the water came flowers, flutes and the most sea-worthy of the boat shrines.
When Kaye turned to leave, Tish and I walked with her. No one could talk. We could hardly walk. We were so shaken with beauty, with rightness, with glory, with the power of what we had witnessed. I was touched to see Kaye slip a folded bill into the donation box at the park gate. She understood so much. I was so proud of her. I was proud of Point Arena, Point Arena people who had come to the rescue of the ceremony and who had stuck with us through its ending.
Monday May 14, 2001
Right after dawn Werner and I drove to Mote Beach. All the way along the road I scanned the flat sea for a rounded raft of flowers but it was only as we surfaced on the stony beach that I spied the boat beached off to the left. The beach was heavily strewn with new sea weed tangles, a many flowers, 10 –12 flutes, a couple of knotted clothes and several small boat shrines which had sailed the seas and had come back to shore.
a flotsam of flutes
tangled in sea grass
The great Grandmother boat was becalmed about 25 feet from the cliff, high and dry from the ebbing tide. The shadow of the cliff and the overcast skies dimmed the interior of the boat but I could see that most of the flowers from the bottom had been taken and replaced with coils of seaweed.
the ship of soul flowers
on the shore
Big tangles of sea grass had pushed aside and woven themselves into the remaining shrines which for some reason or other had managed to stay with the boat.
floating on the sea
with a cargo of seeds
In the prow I recognized Shirley's boat with its well peeled and prayed over twigs. The streamers she had smoothed yesterday were wrinkled but the color was very brave with seawater. As I walked on father south I found a perfectly made little boat with the rigging for the sails a rosary. It was the boat that had come the farthest south so it had evidently been the most sea-worthy or maybe Mary, Star of the Sea had taken care of it.
While I stood singing to the boat, the sun broke through the clouds. I played my flute to the scattered flutes and to the spirits who I felt were now here. Later when a surfer guy came to the beach we decided the moments for us were gone so we would leave him alone in this place for him to discover it for himself without him questioning us.
At home was all the stuff in e-mail (fix my poem in Lynx, have you seen? will you do? send me this) that had come in over the weekend. There was much to do, to untangle and to find my way back to working again.
After lunch Werner asked if I wanted to go back to the beach. There was no real reason for going back. I felt I had seen the boat, done what I could for the boat and myself but if he was offering this chance it meant I should take it.
along this path
a boat was borne
the flowers hum
in the voice of bees
As we walked down the path, still under partly cloudy skies, we met a young couple burying something in the grass. Their arms were full of plunder they were carrying off the ship. The girl held in her hand, as she tried to hide it, the lovely ceramic ocarina I had last seen in Tish's hands. Her face said she was delighted with her find but instinctively she knew she did not want me to see what she had taken.
On the shore we found the tide had receded out even farther. I had never seen it so low on this beach. I walked the beach as far as I could to the right, crossing Mote Creek and delighting in its rush and fall to the sea.
last run to the sea
rides the rocks
Farther ahead was a family of Indians who were picking mussels. I did not want to intrude on them so I turned to walk over the shelves of shale out to sea following the creek water.
the years the water
runs to the sea
rounding out a life
grandmother leads a toddler
I love it when the water pulls back to show its bottom instead of covering its ups and down with a smooth sheet of water. Here the shore is new every minute and no one else has run their eyes over it so it is prickly and alive with sparks, glowing and smells. I wasn't as interested in checking out the boat, as I was to explore the many rocks and tide pools that were new to me.
in every rock
Yet, it was strange how, as I looked in among the rocks I barely saw the black turbans, the hermit crabs in the olive shells, the strawberry anemone. I was looking for a flute! – one that had not gone to the beach and thus had already been found by sea and taken by the tide. In the morning, when they had laid all around me I had no desire to even touch one let alone consider taking it. Now I felt driven to find one. I had the idea that if I found one I would go play the songs for the boat. I slithered and slipped, scaring myself silly that I might let the old lady fall and break a bone or two, but still I persisted in searching for a flute. Wandering around with my head down, going where it was easiest to get around the tide pools or wet rocks I forgot where I was. When I came to a perfectly round "bowling ball" I thought I recognized as the one directly before the boat. As I looked up, that was where I was.
by the rocks
I walked toward the shore thinking I would now surely find a flute to take the place of mine that I had not brought along. I marched resolutely straight toward the side of the boat but did not find a flute. As I got closer I had strong urge to look inside it again. To my surprise and great delight, there lying on its side, was my spirit house. I righted it again as gently as I could; who knows who was in it now? Another little boat with many tiny red streamers had tangled in the cedar branches and had wrapped other tentacles around the willow to anchor itself and my house to the willow frame. They were still inseparable. I wondered why I had not noticed my house that morning. It had not been that dark on the beach, and I thought I had looked fairly carefully all over inside. Had it been so well hidden in the shadows? Or not even there at all? It was too big to be overlooked!
tied to the boat
the beauty of flowers
our invisible souls
offering a home
built by prayers
Now I really needed a flute, but lacking one, I began to sing to my house with all my happiness. As I swayed back and forth with my hands folded on my sternum, a spot of sun shone on a yellow stick stuck in the side of the boat. There it was; the flute I had searched for without knowing why I wanted it.
in the beginning
all spirit – all holy
a world boat
I wanted to stay with the boat, to pipe one more melody but felt I should go back as I was feeling tired. So I said good-bye to it again and tucked the flute back in its hiding place.
white clouds sail
above the sea
rain carried inland
to the pilgrims' garden
Suddenly I felt too tired to walk all the way back to where Werner was, so I sat down on the nearest log. As I stared numbly and dumbly at the tumble of rounded rocks I noticed a dark triangular shape. Upon picking it up I saw it was a fang tooth, probably broken off by a sea lion fighting over the springtime females. I had never found a tooth on the beach before. Now I searched for more teeth as hard as I had previous searched for a flute. As I continued to scan the area I found another strange thing. It was a piece of bone with a tooth-like projection. Two teeth in one day? What was going on? What did this mean?
stones from the cliff
the willow craft
A middle-aged man in cut-off jeans and thick boots came down on the beach. As he passed me, he stooped and picked up a purple chrysanthemum. "I've never found flowers on the beach before." he said to me. "It is a special day." I quipped. He kept right on walking with his head down until BOOM! he saw the ship of flowers whose wake he had been plucking. Quickly looking inside he picked up the first 'boat' he saw. I could see it was Shirley's. At first I thought he intended to plunder the boat so I held my head as if I was staring out to sea but my eye balls were rolled as far to the left as they would go to watch him. To my surprise he stood there smoothing the wrinkled streamers. The wind caught them up fluttering them against his hands. The touch seemed to please him and he caressed the boat. Instead of laying it back down where he had found it, he began to tie it to the first hoop in the very center at the top. He was so concerned that the streamers be straightened out and able to flatter in the breeze. Seeing his empathy for what was there, I felt I could trust him and it was time to go, to leave him and the boat to enter into their own relationship. I stopped watching him and just sat there with my chin on my cane letting my thought wander off the leash.
Suddenly I felt I had to leave the beach and I thought Werner was glad to see me stand up and head toward the path. As we got up the little cliff between stones and meadow I saw on to the flowering path – Hannah and Martín. I whispered to Werner who we were meeting. As we came abreast of each other on the very narrow path, I stepped off into the waist high growth as Hannah met me. "Hello," I said as Werner stepped off the path behind me. She said a curt "hello" and sailed right past us. So I said, "Hello" to Martín and he stopped. Looking at Werner, he said, "I know you. I read your book last night. Very fine work." Werner thanked him. And then no one knew what to say. In the ensuing silence I thanked him for a fine weekend, adding that last night had turned out fine also. Then he asked if this was the beach the boat was on.
I said it was. "Do you want me to go with you to see it?"
"No." he said he wanted to be alone to make some gifts. Then he excused his behavior by saying he had been surrounded by to many people all morning. He just wanted to enjoy the beach.
I changed the subject with: "There are Indians gathering mussels off to the right." Then we discussed whether this was the season or not to gather mussels. He seemed rather bored with our polite talk. So I said, "There is jade on Gualala Point Beach."
Suddenly he was there again and interested. He wanted to know how big the pieces were and I let my fingers show him the pea-size. "Here we are glad for these," I nodded to the several marl rocks Werner and I had in our hands." He said he had just unloaded his pockets in the car. I could feel Hannah fidgeting to get to the beach so I said a parting blessing and: "enjoy the beach; this is perfect weather." Hannah looked at the cloudy sky and back at me as if I was not quite mentally balanced. "No wind." I explained.
And now it is raining out the sunset.
While watching the last light fade, I saw several dark lines moving across the seas. I was sure that Martín had done a ceremony to call the sea to take the boat back out to deeper water and these were the big waves coming to do his will. I had seen him so this with the dead sea lion last year and so was perfectly confident he could and would do it for the boat.
Tuesday, May 15, 2001
I had just bought some acreage out in the country. Instead of having the usual farmhouse and barn this place had three long shed like barns sitting parallel to one another. They had not been used for a long time but were not dilapidated or falling down. Just abandoned and let go. In the one farthest to the right I had cleaned it up and established a sweet little cabin in it. I was so pleased with the place and felt most happy with its great potential. I envisioned many people coming here to visit or stay as long as they wanted as soon as I got it all 'fixed up'. The only small cloud on the project was the rumor that some man lived out in the third shed. People said he had become a squatter there and the previous owner had been afraid of tossing him out because he had threatened to burn down the whole place. They wanted to sell anyhow and this was a way of getting rid of both problems at once. I had walked all over the place, I thought, but I had never seen any one else around nor had I seen signs that someone was living still in the third shed. Still there was always the thought in the back of mind that if had gone, he might come back.
There was lots of work to do and be done and I was a bit worried living here alone if that guy ever showed up so I was very, very pleased when Achie said he was at loose ends and would enjoy helping me get the place in order. We decided that Achie could take over the second shed, cleaning out the amount of space he needed and that we would begin with the repairs on the third shed as soon as Achie was settled in. I took Achie over to the shed to show him around. As I was going in the barn door I happened to glance across at the third shed and I saw the gleam of a white hand reaching out. I grabbed Achie's hand whispering for him to come to the window to look. He, too, saw the hand (to my relief; I was afraid it was there only because of my fears). I said, "That guy is back. What do I do about him?" Achie felt we should simply call the cops and let them remove him for trespassing. I was not sure this was the best thing to do because the cops would only frighten him, send him off but he would surely come back again to burn the place down. I was glad Achie was here with me, but I was not sure he or his advice was what I really needed.
Yesterday's rain continued to fall all morning. In my mind's eye saw the boat cresting the waves with the flowers enjoying the freshwater sprinkling. By noon there was only a fine mist blowing in the air. It seemed the perfect time to visit the empty beach.
The beach held several surprises for me. One, the stones were perfectly dry. The rain had stopped here long ago. And the boat had stayed on the beach. It had been moved to a higher level by the tide but it was still in its same place by the crumbling cliff. As I walked around the boat fist-sized rocks rained down from the steep cliff above.
Even more of the personal shrines had floated away from the boat and now littered the beach. Taking the guy's example of yesterday I began to tie them, with their fabric ribbons to the boat. I walked up and down the beach gathering up all I saw to carry them back to the boat. Someone had torn some of the pages out of the book of my poems tied to my house; but otherwise it was the same as yesterday
The flute was still tucked up under the foliage where I had hidden it yesterday, so I played for the boat and the returned boats. On my way back to the parking lot I picked up trash along the way.
Back home I realized I had not tied my house to the boat! And I wished that I had done this. "But maybe it had to make its sea journey first." was my thought.
Wednesday May 16, 2001
Our day got so full we did not go to the beach until sunset that proved to be the high tide. The boat was now only five feet from the cliff and the highest waves surged under it.
willow wand boat
the sea comes and goes
As I stood watching the waves flow under it, the prow swung around and I was sure it was going to launch itself. The north wind was blowing very hard. I tried to sprinkle cornmeal around it but the wind caught up each handful making a pollen-like cloud that surrounded the boat with a beautiful golden light for a second. As the sun set I piped it down feeling that with each wave the boat would launch. With the fierce winds a choir of angels topped each golden-tipped wave. The setting was perfect to receive the boat.
takes down the setting sun
with a flower boat
lifted by a wave
into the last light
from a beach of sand
to a beach of stars
As long as I could see, the boat seemed to try to launch itself. Yet it seemed some great hand held it back or would push it back from each wave. I felt that it could not go as long as I watched so we turned back following the light of the bare earth path away from the beach.
Thursday May 17, 2001
When I was living in the States and my children were staying with their father in Europe, Heidi became very upset with the situation in which they were living. She came to America to see me, to tell me of their troubles and asked me to help her. It was easy to say yes and to return with her. In some ways she was very glad to be back 'home' (happier than she had been in my house), back in school, back with her brother and sister, with her life, but it was true that some facets of the way they lived were out of whack.
They were living in what had once been a very ritzy hotel but which had fallen on hard times. The rooms were huge with high ceilings but no windows. The carpeting was ragged, worn and dirty. There was basically no furniture in any of the rooms. Each child had a sleeping bag and a little pile of belongings, often in a corner of one of the rooms. The rooms were arranged in a U-shape around a small cemented in atrium in which there was a beautiful marble fishpond. I was surprised to find the fishpond looking so good with a bubbling fountain, plants and fish. Heidi showed me this feature with great pride and it was obvious that much care and maintenance had gone into it. In my tours of the rooms I had not seen a kitchen so I asked Heidi if they had to eat all of their meals in restaurants. She opened some folding doors in one room that revealed a tiny closet with a perfect stainless steel efficiency kitchen. Since it was close to a mealtime I offered to make dinner for the children. When I opened the fridge it contained only one small, frozen sausage and a dead goldfish that was now bright green. I looked in the cupboards. One could see that food had been stored here because there were pieces of cereal, flour, and crumbs but nothing was available to make a meal. I offered to go shopping with the kids so we could stock up and get whatever they wanted to eat. Heidi pointed out to me that what I was wearing, the clothes I had worn on the trip were not appropriate and that I should change before going out. Then, and only then, did I realize that my luggage had not yet arrived in our rooms. I called the desk and they said that a mistake had been made and the suitcases had been sent on to Washington. There was nothing to do but forget this problem and give it the time it took to solve itself. I again offered to go shopping with the kids but they all refused to go out with me in these clothes.
I knew that B. had one room for himself, which I had not seen, nor wanted to see, but if I could not go out to buy the food he would have to do it. I knocked on his door, which he refused to open so I bent over to talk to him through a keyhole. He said that there was food in the fridge and that we should use that. I got angry with him saying, "How can expect the children to be fed with one small FROZEN sausage and a dead and rotten goldfish?" "Well," he answered, "it is protein." "But that is not enough for a meal." I was so angry with him that I took my fist and banged on the door and to my surprise it opened. There he stood, buck naked and as fat as a Sumo wrestler. Wordlessly I knew where all the resources were going. As I glanced around his room I saw that it was crammed with appliances, machines, computers piled high with clothes and gadgets. I just gave up and turned away from him.
The kids would not leave the apartment with me dressed as I was, so I went out in the hallways to see if I could find someone to help me. The hallways were huge, more like lobbies rather than the usual tunnels. I wondered why so much space had been given to this aspect of the hotel and thought that these rooms were designed for women who liked to acquire stuff and they had to be so big in order to move in all the furniture they wanted. This thought gave me the idea that only rich people could live like this so my chances of finding some one to loan me enough clothes to go shopping were fairly good. As I wandered around I met several kindly looking women (mostly the intelligent professor's wives types) who I would stop to tell them of my predicament and to ask if they would loan me an outfit so I could shop for food. Each of them was very kind to me, but no one could give me any of the help I needed. As I walked though these lobbies, I saw in one another of these marble fishponds. But this one was empty of water. As I looked into the bottom I could tell from the dirt that the people were using it only to dump the water from their mop buckets. As I thought of what a waste this was, I became dizzy and would have fallen in (it was about five feet deep) except I put my hand up on a metal hood projecting over it. I felt I did not understand this place nor these people.
As we came to the beach, my first thought was that the boat had truly gotten away in my absence the night before. When I finally spied it down the beach and closer to the cliff wall I told myself my feeling was mistaken. For some unknown reason, instead of walking directly to the boat I made a little detour up by the driftwood shelter. I almost stepped on a mass of blue fabric. With a jolt I realized this was my shrine. It had gotten away the night before and had returned. The strand of beads was broken but for some reason, one bead person had remained. The loose end of the string had tangled in the wood so that it was still tied in place. The book was gone as were the cypress walls (which I had not tied down but had only woven in). The roof was sagging but the braiding was still holding the rest of it together. I held it in my arms singing to its return and then took it around the corner, where the wind was blasting so hard it was hard to breath. I quickly tied it onto a hoop, singing it into place.
in a sea of sun
on a rocky beach
we walk with a wobble
At home I had gotten the idea that one reason the boat was having trouble launching was the fact that the long prow and stern had a tendency to drag along the ground even when the boat floated. So I had brought some small rope with the idea of tying the ends so they bent upward as they had previously when the boat was new. It was so hard to breath in the strong wind that we had very little strength as we tried to lift and bend the soaked wood, but we did our best. The ropes looked ugly but it felt good to see the craft take on a boat look again. If I had been able to think more in the wind I would have looped the ropes in so they were not so noticeable. Also, the wind was pulling loose more of the chunks of rock from the cliff, scattering them all around us. It seemed a place in which we should not tarry.
old eggs of the sea
slipping from the cliff
seeds of other ages
Friday May 18, 2001
With our sun usually comes a wind from the north, as it was yesterday. But today the world was cloudless without a breeze – a perfect day for the beach. Knowing that the lowest tide was in the afternoon, and since we were eager to explore more of the tide pools of Mote Creek we went down as soon as we could. The boat seemed to have made itself a permanent home on the little rise of rocks before the cliff. I had brought flowers, cornmeal and a whisker from the cat. I sang and played my flute (in a briefer ceremony as truthfully, I was eager to explore the outer reaches of the reef).
Mote Creek now flows as a stream about a yard wide, but the flower covered hills evidence that once little Mote Creek was a mighty river, a gushing pipe one hundred fifty yards wide. So mighty was this waterway that it wore away both cliffs down to the shale bedrock. On its left side, where the water only purled and swirled it left a reef as long as the matching cliff. The old riverbed is much deeper though now it is greatly filled with the rocks it has gathered to itself like a nesting hen.
a cat on a book
the way we walk on a beach
unable to read
The reef matches the ones on Bowling Ball Beach, just to the south and around the bend of another headland. It even has its one perfect bowling ball just to establish the family relationship. It was between this ball rock and the one hanging yet in the cliff that the Grandmother Boat had chosen to be.
by the rocks a spirit boat
Usually when I walk tide pools I find rocks or shells that seem to want to be in my pocket to go home with me. I was surprised that after my long walks my pockets were still empty. Was I getting bored with this beach? More selective? Less needful? Maybe the beauty of the light on the wetness of the rocks was enough for me. As I came back to the edge of the sea in the tiny sand part of this rocky beach my eye was captured by the redness of a desert canyon or Navajo sandstone. Ah, but the shape spoke of an ocarina. I bent down to pick up a small terra cotta turtle. Neither flute nor animal, but this creature was surely one of the passengers of the boat that had fallen out here during the first launch. And now it had come back to shore. It's little incised feet were worn smooth by its crawling over the stones in the rock of the waves. But its eyes were bright with water drops and its chin, was smooth but defiant. I well knew it had been given to the sea and was not 'mine'. But here it was right on my path and I felt it wanted to be rescued, so it now sits here holding my memories in its brightness. If it now wants to go back when these words have anchored those days, I am willing to part with it and its lovely lavender fragrance which proves it had been loved and cared for by someone else before.
Saturday May 19, 2001
While I cleaned house, picking up so many of the things that surround my life, I kept asking what should I take to the boat today. In some small way, I felt that having the turtle obligated me to 'return' with something else. In my heart I willing to give back anything that asked to go to the Grandmother Boat. By late afternoon when we walked the flower-filled path to the sea I had only my flute and my cane. Would the sea ask for one of these?
The boat had been pushed by the starlight tide firm against the cliff. It seemed to have hollowed out a cave for itself to hide in. As the flowers fade and are torn off by the waves, the colors of the fabrics and streamers become the brightness among the green and the branches that attract the eye and pull one's feet hurrying over the piled stones to see this strange craft.
As I rounded the corner, and saw how a large chunk of cliff was cracked and sagging forward I warned myself not to follow the boat under the rocks if they should so wish. Walking a wide curve I saw that now the large white 'ancestor face' stone was supporting the front end of the boat. And on it someone had placed an abalone shell. Empty it seemed to ask for an offering. What? What? I kept asking myself. Unable to know or understand, I walked to the water's edge where there is a larger rock comfortable enough to sit on. The weather was sunny with only pleasant breezes so I sat here to serenade the boat with prayers and flute music. Well, I do not know if 'music' is the right word to use. This flute, made by a river man, a friend of Bambi's, of dark walnut in the Navajo fashion would never carry tune. From the beginning it has let me know that it sings only to the unseen and that I have very little control over it or the sounds that it makes. Without moving my fingers it will play up to four different tones. It will repeat these in a pattern as it teaches me what it wants to play. Over and over the sound is repeated until it manifests.
Bowing with the flute on my outstretched hands I noticed a glint of red clay in a half-round form. One of my ancestor beads had gone to sea, gotten battered and now was lying at my feet. Happy to have it again I put it in my pocket. What a find! How glad I was to have it again. As the sun got hotter on my bare head I decided to walk back up the beach for one last good-bye to the Grandmother. As I stood before the empty, asking offering shell, I took my bead from my pocket to leave it with her.
Sunday May 20, 2001
I was working with a group of mental health professionals who were developing a radical new way of relating to patients. For our use we had been given a long- unused shed. Long and low, parts of it had a wooden floor and other sections were just packed earth. Although it was only a shed, and very old, it was decided that if I could, if I wished, to live in part of it. Having it occupied would be helpful we developed the rest.
I was excused from the other work while I fixed up (cleaned up) the section where I had decided to live. The floor, made of old wide boards, would have been lovely if they had not been smeared with nameless things that left behind various tired colors. If I had the time and equipment, if I was going to live permanently I would have had the boards sanded down to their original beauty. Unable to do this, I decided to paint the floors green. As I sprayed the paint across the broad places I notice that something was on the floor. Looking closer I saw that the terra cotta turtle was there and now was sporting a shiny green shell!
Since I was determined not to show up again with empty hands and pockets, and remembering that Martín had instructed us to light the candles one week from the day of the launch, I took three tea lights and a box of matches. At breakfast we had heard a bell tinkling. In came Bu, the cat dragging about six of his toys tangled together. I had the thought that he wanted to offer one of his toys. I picked up one and laid it on the cabinet with the knapsack for the beach. He is very possessive about his toys and knows his favorites. I have watched him 'count' them by sniffing each one after I have cleaned to see if I have thrown out any. By the time we were ready to go to the beach, he had not taken his toy back, so it went with us.
As we pulled into the Mote Creek parking lot, we met a young woman alone with her dog, returning from the beach. She had a marvelous piece of dried kelp in her hand. "What a lovely creation you have found!" I greeted her. "Yes, I want to make a trumpet of it." "I make dolls but I never thought of making a horn; good idea." She quickly put her kelp in her car as if I might take it away from her! Then turning around to seem to be friendlier, she said: "There is a very interesting raft or thing that has washed up on the beach. It was covered with flowers. It looks like it was part of some ceremony." "Ah, that I want to see." I said.
Just as we arrived at the edge of the beach a tourist couple were talking with a local couple about the boat, now lying at the edge of the water far from the cliff. We overheard them discussing what it could be.
"A burial ship for a Viking." the red-haired guy said as he called back his shepherd pup.
"A part of a wedding ceremony." said his pretty young companion.
The tourist guy smoking a pipe suggested it was an offering. With his words, he and his wife started off to see it. I sat on a log to let them have their time alone with it and only started down the beach when they had gone on around the corner. However, when they saw me at the boat they came back to talk to me. I had been standing at its side talking to it when they came up. I expected the usual tourist conversation and questions. To my surprise, the man began telling me of his ancestors. Not only did I listen, but with small comments, I encouraged him to tell me his whole story. Only when he finished did I tell him I felt that I felt such stories were exactly what the boat wanted. He was nonplussed by my comment.
Though his wife continued to dash here and there collecting shells and rocks I began to attach Bu's gift and to light the candles that kept the ever stronger winds kept blowing out. The man saw my predicament. Using his lighter he was able to get them all three lit before the next puff of wind took the flames away.
building a shelter
out of the wind
poppies and lupine
the language of lovers
ignites the flowers
While they made two trips carrying off their treasures I piped the blessings into the boat. Back and forth between the boat and me the woman passed with her hands full of the sea treasures. Then in front of me she stopped. I nodded to her and wished her a safe and exciting trip and she bowed to say: "And I wish you a good life." Her blessing touched me as she did look or seem like one who usually gave blessings and yet hers was such a good one – one I will use in the future.
in a flower boat floats
Monday May 21, 2001
The inland hot weather is filling our world with heavy fog. Our coast is coated with a powdery rain. It was mid-afternoon before the sun began to break up the land locked clouds. On the way down, I could see that Bowling Ball Beach was clear but that Mote Creek was still secret in its fog. Within a quarter of a mile the weather went from sun to shadow.
The Mote Creek Beach was shadowy but at the end of the path laid the boat! So the strong south winds of last night had carried it from its cliff cave to a pile of rocks and driftwood closer to the creek. As I walked toward it I found a few more of the shrines had come returned to land so I picked them up and tied them on the boat. I saw that a string of puka beads was tangled on Bu's toy. I could not tell if the sea had put them here or if someone else had tied them there. On the side of the boat more beads caught my eye and then I saw they were seaweeds that looked the very same. As the boat becomes barer, there seems to be more beauty shining through it. Like the tiny white stone that has lodged in the fork of a branch and the festoons of various sea grass. The colored threads began to shine out even as the fabric ribbons frazzle out smaller and smaller. I saw an iris bud putting forth a new bloom and one rose bud was as red and colorful as it had been a week ago. Out of the fog had come new life for the boat.
the offering open
a new flower
tied to a beached boat
high above the tide line
Tuesday May 22, 2001
Was it because the fog was thicker than ever today or because even more of the greenery has been stripped from the Spirit Ship; but today it seemed the boat and its passengers had fallen asleep. Wrapped in seaweeds, and the silence of no wind there seemed to be only dreams in the boat. Have the spirits now gone to through the arch of the Milky Way on the wings of fog? It felt as if about 90% of the vibrations that had been in the boat were now either gone or sleeping.
In walking the beach to find any flotsam from the boat I found only one abalone shell that was perfect as an offering cup because still had its holes and had been broken in just the right place to attach it to the boat. Finally I am learning that I have to tie down the things to be in the boat. I was sure I had put a sacrifice in my backpack, but when I looked it was not there. There was only the tiniest pinch of cornmeal in the bottom of my sack so I made the longest prayer with this smallest offering. Maybe the boat needed less 'food' because so many spirits have left? I do not know anything.
anchoring the boat
the stony beach's dream
Wednesday May 23, 2001
Even though the beach was brighter with a high fog that shifted in the north wind enough to let slices of sun through, the Spirit Boat, lying in the same place, as yesterday seemed even more deserted. Today it felt like about 95% of the spirit life was missing, sleeping or vacationing. We are in the dark of the moon; is this it? I brought flowers, corn, cornmeal, a sea kelp lady-doll, incense, my songs and prayers: every thing that I missed having yesterday. With a long flute session (I have to admit the songs are getting better) there seemed a bit more life floating around the boat even though the tide was at its lowest.
Two older women and a young man came on the beach, took one look at the Spirit Ship and quickly headed down the beach to the left. Later when they passed me to cross the creek they each kept their heads down in order not to have to look or speak to me. In the parking lot I discovered they were from Montana. I had hoped that by my leaving they would feel freer about getting acquainted with the boat. I feel it needs many kind hands, many visitors, and many gifts. Lacking this, it is surely in a steep decline. I tied up the broken prow again so it will not drag and tangle in the seaweed again. I wonder if the strong north winds and a very high midnight tide will take it completely away or just for a spin in the bay of stars.
Thursday May 24, 2001
Last night, as the darkness was lightened by the passing of the fog at high tide, the house was whacked by a strong north wind. As I lay in bed listening to it howl in the opened window I imagined I could see the Spirit Boat afloat on wind as it once had been on water. Even if the tide failed to sweep it away, surely the wind would roll it (possible!) down to the water's edge.
When we arrived on the beach along with the sun and still-strong winds the boat was there in its very same place but it seemed invisible. There were five sets of fishermen arranged along the shore at similar intervals but I had the feeling that not one of them even looked in the direction of the boat. When I sat down nearby, huddled in the wind-shadow of huge driftwood log, it seemed no one could see me either.
It was so pleasant to sit there in the warm sun letting dreams come and go with the waves over the shoals. Seals swam in the bay attracted to the bait the fishermen were feeding them. While idly turning over some stones I found one of my candles washed out on Sunday. It is interesting that it has stayed with the boat as they both moved up the coast.
I took a walk to the south beach looking for any lost personal boats but found absolutely nothing. There are sixteen boat / houses I have tied to the boat (and one tossed in the parking lot's portion of poison oak where I will leave it). The other forty-four must have escaped the shore pull of the bay to go on their travels alone. The rocky beach where the boat first landed has been scoured away down to the wavy shale ridges of bedrock. In just ten days the beach has changed its mask so often. As the high low tide approached all the fisherfolk left and I could sing to the boat as loudly as the wind and I wanted. Since the tides tonight will be even higher I gathered the dried bullwhip kelp bulbs for new dolls. The boat recedes into the beach as surely as if it had floated away.
Saturday May 26, 2001
Yesterday I practiced not going to the Spirit Boat but by this evening I was feeling how much I wanted to go back to see how it is. It has shrunk even more into the piles of flotsam as it stays in the same place it has been since Monday – not moving even an inch though the night tides have been very high.
As I walked around the boat I saw that someone had ripped off the abalone shell-offering bowl, had taken the shell beads there and the puka shells that had hung on Bu's toy. The flute, in its hidden place, was also gone. The candle and cornhusk lay on the ground where it was dropped in place. So the boat has let go of another layer of its meaning and cargo. I tried to not feel 'ripped off', I really tried to feel 'what is is' and 'this is the way it goes' and 'the things are continuing on their journey' and I do not want to 'hold on to the fruits of my actions' but I could not help wondering what kind of person could break, tear and cut away things someone else had attached to something as obviously a ritual object as the boat is. This process even went so far that the 'ship shrine' that had been thrown into the poison oak by the parking lot is gone. It was easy to see the trampled grasses where someone had clambered up the hill and entered the circle of driftwood to get it. However, as far as I could see, none of the shrine boats on the Spirit Ship had been taken.
The heavy fog blowing into the evening even faster than the sun was sinking cast a melancholy feeling over the whole beach. I prayed to the spirits even though there were a couple sets of fishermen on the beach. One Hispanic man had his children with him who played in the driftwood lair far from the boat and seemed to pay no attention to me. A couple of men came by and looked at the boat but I was down by the creek at the time and could not hear their comments.
on the beach
everything in the sea
goes back home
children play in tide pools
as if they have no memories
Tuesday May 29, 2001
As it got closer to sunset I had such a longing to go to see the Spirit Ship so we just went. No one was on the beach and the boat was in exactly the same place in the high tide line of piled seaweeds. As I stood by it singing to its very clear emptiness, my knees bumped against the bow of its side at mid-ships. The very strong north wind was blowing against my back making me somewhat unstable on my feet wobbling in the rocky pile of rotting sea plants. Reaching down absently to steady myself I was shocked to find myself lifting up the side of the boat. It seemed almost weightless. As I straightened up even more holding on to its lightness, the wind caught it and before I knew what was happening, the craft was rolling down the steep beach. It landed in the water upside down. Somewhat appalled at what I had taken part in, yet accepting it as something almost beyond my control, I did feel badly to see the boat lying there upside down. So I waded into the surf to right it, to bless it and to wish the skeleton well on its journey of tides whenever, wherever or whatever it may be.
I stayed and sang to the vessel of our compassion as long as there was light. When it went, so did I, reluctantly leaving our acts to their fate.
unable to leave
the evening sun light
Friday June 1, 2001
I have been trying not to go back to the beach, knowing that the boat could not have launched itself with the even tides of the past few days, and thus would be still beached. I did not know why I wanted it to be launched, to make its final journey across the blue water. If it could not do this, I did not want to look at it so sad and worn out – like a person wanting to die but unable to cross that last threshold. I still had the feeling that my help in letting the boat to roll down to the surf was like helping a person commit suicide.
But suddenly, as the sun began to
sink tonight, I forgot all these thoughts when I felt I really wanted to go to
the beach. Within minutes we were out the door and had upped and down the two
miles of road to Mote Creek. When I got out of the car I saw the waxing moon
over the cliff and knew in my mind the photo I wanted to have. Ignoring Werner I
ran down the path dropped my bag and started shooting before I had caught my
breath. Yes! the scene was just as I imagined it only the sun was setting faster
than I thought.
where the boat
the waxing moon curls in
So I got sunset, moon rise and a high tide right where I wanted me to be. Satisfied with what I had and seeing the cliff go dark, I turned to the boat. It was now nestled deep in a bank of rocks and sea grasses and the tide was adding itself and more cargo of rocks and kelp. Though I had told myself the ship was 'empty of spirits' and needed to have no more photos made of it, I was captivated by the way the foamy surf rose into the still solid willow framework.
the boat basket
of sea foam
When I walked back up the beach, my path led me across the place where the boat had laid. I was stopped by finding by the sight of the leftover ear of corn, the candle and a knotted string lying together. The realization that these elements of the boat had stayed together in this place where the boat had been was, to me, evidence of the persistence of memory. I was comforted by the idea that the beach has a memory; the boat has a memory; offerings have a memory, even when I forget. That what had been done was not forgotten, that something wanted this event remembered.
June 2, 2001
We got a late start to the beach, so that what little sun there had been during day was already lost in the evening fog and cold. But, I decided I wanted to go after all, so we went. After I got there I was sorry I had insisted on going. The ship looks so bedraggled, so shopworn, so devastated I could hardly bear to look at it. To me, it seemed like the skeleton of a dying person; wanting release from this life. It was so finished, so done, so dark and yet I did not want our relationship to end. I kept thinking it would be better if the ship would catch a big wave to ride off in the distance where I would no longer have to see this daily disintegration. As I thought about this, I realized that I truly had no choice in the matter. I neither had the power to will the ship outward-bound, nor could I stop it from rotting here on the beach. I felt I was committed to it no matter what it decided to do.
Because it looked so terribly forlorn, (and because there was no wind so late in the evening) I stayed a long time singing my prayers to it. The path was very dark as we followed our noses from sea smells to land smells and the one last chirp of some bird.
Sunday June 3, 2001
The three-week earthday of the butterfly-spirit boat so I just had to go back to see it. I took it a new flute, and a shell lei. Even a bit of evening sun came to the beach for the event. The boat is now about one-third full of sand and rocks and liberally draped with sea weeds. All of the flowers are gone; except! I found one of the god's eyes that I had not seen for several weeks. Aside from being tangled with tiny shell-encrusted sea weeds, the god's eye looked as good as new.
for a willow boat
While piping prayers, a lone woman and her dog came on to the beach to go to the south end. Thus, I could sing as long as I had breath in the strong wind, and still had time to bury the flute in the sand on the port side. I also buried the lei after tying it on the same side. The boat seems somewhat cheerier after these festivities, so that when the woman came back by, she stopped to talk to me. She had a friend, Alice, who had been to the ceremony, so it felt good to be able to truthfully admit to the whole history of the boat to her. Her main comment was:
"They look like prayer flags." referring to the streamers of fabric.
And the boat does look as if it is capable of launching a few more
prayers before it returns to the hills from it, as willow trees came.
where the willows were
As we were leaving the beach, Werner picked up some driftwood sticks. He began to drum on a log – a sound that made the whole beach dance. What a fanfare! and then the night came covering the boat with more than sand and stones.
Wednesday June 6, 2001
My grandson, Shaun, and his girlfriend, Jackie, had come up from Oakhurst to visit us. At dinner I had mentioned the spirit ship but still, I was surprised when left the table that they asked to go see it. So piling the dishes in the sink and piling ourselves into the car we raced the setting sun to Mote Creek.
The first comment was: "Oh, it is bigger than I thought it was!" I tried to see the boat with their eyes, to forget its beginning when it was covered with the flowers as it tends to remain in my memory. What is now on the beach could seem to a stranger, a very bedraggled remnant of faded beauty. But they seemed to have a respect for even these remains.
I took photos of the kids in the surf and tried again to perfect a photo I had taken on Sunday with a shadow over the boat. They sat quietly on a log while I did my prayers and played my flute. Why should I be surprised that my grandchild has so much understanding and respect for the same things I do?
Sunday June 10, 2001
While I was putting some things away in the garage, (our company is gone) I noticed a pointed wooden stick protruding out from under a pile of odds and ends. As I pushed aside the pillows and bits of carpeting, I saw that the stick came from the bundle from the ceremony with Martín held in October at Ghost Ranch. At that time, time and space had gotten away from the organizers of the event meaning that we had no place to put items we had gathered for "Our Flowering Earth". All Martín could suggest was that we take the bundles back home to find places for them in our own neighborhoods. For a while I had kept mine by my desk waiting for inspiration about where to put it. When none came and a fit of housecleaning took over, I must have put the bundle out in the garage. I was a little shocked that I had so forgotten it that stuff had actually gotten laid on top of it.
I took the bundle back into the house where I carefully opened it. I immediately saw that it 'needed' quite a bit of new loving and realized that it had not been ready 'to go' out last autumn in the condition that it was. I gladly saw the work planned for the rest of my day and began to fill the bundle with prayers, blessings, and objects charged with my mana. By evening I felt too tired to even think of going out into the gale winds that were blowing. The sky was clouded over with the new weather moving in the oldest coldness. But I knew that that today was the fourth week of the launching of the boat and giving it my bundle felt like the perfect birthday gift. I wanted to stay home so much that I pendled to see if I really had to go out tonight. I did, and we went to the beach.
As I got out of the car I realized that I had forgotten my cane. I actually wondered if I should take this as a sign that I should not take the bundle to the boat because I am very cautious walking my old brittle bones out on the stony beach. As I stood there questioning what to do, I saw someone had left his or her walking stick at the edge of the parking lot. Well, there was my answer. The stick, whittled to a good point, was a bit too short for me, but better than nothing, I thought. Then just a few yards down the path lay another walking stick that had just been dropped as it was abandoned. It was much used and heavier but just the right length!
Amazingly enough the setting sun came out under the clouds and the wind
was already dropping into night. The flute I had brought last Sunday was gone.
Whether it was taken by salt waves or hands I could not tell, but it was gone so
I just sang my thanksgiving to the poor tired boat. In its stony sides I dug a
hole, tied the bundle to the long poles, covered it with seaweeds and then more
stones. While I was working I noticed my hand was bleeding and that the blood
was dripping on the cloth. We will see who has the courage to plunder a
blood-smeared bundle. After checking from all angles that none of the fresh
fabric from the bundle was visible, I sat on the still warm stones to sing to
the bundle in its new home and to the ship with its newest passenger. There
seemed such peace on the beach. The waves came ashore with the small sounds of
lakes. The light gentled each thing with a long, loving shadow; night came out
so effortlessly, it was more like a benediction. An osprey flew low overhead as
it screamed out, "Beeeeee!"
June 15, 2001
The ship continues to seem to sink into the earth by the fact of tides heaping more and more seaweeds on the shore. In places the new level of the beach is four feet higher than the rocky sands of a month ago. The boat has lodged itself at the very top of these deposits so it takes a bit longer for the additions to pile up with the highest tides.
The past several visits have revealed that I am watched when I come to the beach. Often when I arrive there is not a sign of life anywhere from cliff wall to cliff wall. Yet the longer I stay I will feel I am being checked out. A dark round eye appears to be looking for the shrimp in the moldy mounds but the parallel body stance shows me that the resident song sparrow has me clearly under observation. It seems he (she?) sits or stands very still until I spot her presence. Then she merrily hops back and forth from one end of the boat to the other as if expressing her care and watchfulness. Without question, I am given the message that she is much more faithful than I am; that she stays here night and day; and never lets the cold north wind keep her from her post. She is always alone. I have tried to outstay her – not leaving the beach until she goes but she never lets me win at this game.
The waves had washed away the stones I had piled over the bundle but it was still securely tied to the side of the boat.
June 26, 2001
After a solstice week of very high nighttime tides, that seemed to bring in a rare three-day rainstorm, I went back to Mote Creek to check on the spirit ship. I was apprehensive about what might happen to it when the many Independence Day visitors swarmed over the beaches on the coming weekend. How relieved I was to see that the shore was empty. Yet I was able to find that the ship had buried itself completely in seaweeds, sand and rocks. The protruding hoops or handles had been flattened. To the unsuspecting eye, it was no different from the rest of the beach, yet a shadow shape still gave a hint of what was now hidden.
the spirit boat goes
into the light
And the rocks nestled in the curve of one of the
former loop gave the appearance of the manifestation a stone body; complete with
eyes and mouth. There are no accidents.
in the spirit ship
July 9, 2001
After the Fourth of July crowds left the coast, I felt concerned for the welfare of the ship. I was wondering if anyone had disturbed it, walked over it, kicked it because they could not understand what it was and the meaning it had.
I was so astounded when I approached the boat. It was lying exactly as it
had been at my last visit. The humanoid stone creature was unmoved. Neither
tides nor crowds had touched a thing. I was so grateful, so glad to see the boat
after the long absence, that I sang for a long time. Only the sun seemed to tire
of my efforts and slipped away when I wasn’t looking.
I felt the miracle of the little figure was so powerful it had to be shared. So I called Kaye to tell her about it. She too had a story of her visits to the ship so we agreed to get the 'locals' together for a round of sharing.
July 13, 2001
When I agreed that our little group could meet at my house before going to the beach to visit the spirit boat, I had thought: fine, I only need to open the door. That I can do. Then later I began to think of offering something to drink. And then I moved to the idea of us sitting around the table talking and noshing on corn chips and salsa. Then I found out that others are bringing ‘dishes’. All my alarms and fears of how to serve food to others kept nagging me. I would try to forget about this factor, to concentrate on the joy of seeing new people, getting acquainted with persons I admired, but the fears were like dust balls that appear or disappear without reason and just when you think you have scooped them all up, another sails out into view.
In the afternoon the sun came out of the heavy fog, which felt like a good omen. It certainly raised my spirits but also had the effect of highlighting the dust in the house. I rearranged some of it and cleaned off the table. By then a car was pulling into the driveway.
While Roberta and I were still by the car talking Kaye arrived, so we all went into the house together. Roberta and Kaye seemed happy to chat together while I put the corn on to cook and set the table. It was a very strange experience to do my ordinary kitchen work to the sound of voices coming from the living room. I liked that. It filled up some space in me that I usually keep covered up with a dark cloth.
With Roberta’s homemade potato salad, and Kaye’s rice and shrimp casserole we shared our food. When we began eating much more slowly, and taking very small second servings, I heard another car arrive. Tish was able to come after all. She had come at exactly the right moment. Now Kaye was able to tell her story of her experience with the spirits at the boat. Perhaps she will not mind my retelling it here:
She, knowing much about Guatemalan numerology had waited until 20 days after the launching of the boat, to return to visit it. When she arrived on the beach there were several other people there so she felt she could not do any sort of ceremony. So she merely spoke quietly to the boat and then walked on farther down the beach, crossed the creek and found a comfortable place to sit. She simply sat there, watching the waves roll in, soaking up the atmosphere – a comfortable ‘just being there’. When she glanced down at the beach she noticed some dirt-covered shells. Hmmm. Usually shells on a beach are sea-scoured and spotlessly clean. Her old instincts from days of being an archeologist kicked in to tell her that these shells are old ones which have been buried. Midden. There must be a midden somewhere. She turned around to look at the cliff wall behind her and there it was. The perfect place for a tribe to live – just up the hill from the stream. She realized that the ancestors of this place had showed their place to her. Now she began her prayers in earnest with tears rolling down her face. They were here; it was not her imagination or a wish.
Later, when she walked back to the path, she had a sudden feeling she was not ready to leave the beach. So she turned her footsteps to the left, beyond the path on the tiny walkway between the cliff and the rocky beach. Suddenly a rock sticking out of the earth caught her eye and she pulled it loose. It was a worked stone. She could see it had been chipped to have a sharp edge – could this be a scraper? Again she wept her thanksgiving for the manifested gift. Later she asked her friend who is a professional archeologist if she too saw this as a humanly worked stone. (Kaye would laugh her deep throaty chuckle at herself for being unable to accept the magic of the gift.) The archeologist easily agreed that the stone had surely been a scraper. It was not perfect and probably had been abandoned before it was totally finished, but someone had surely started working the stone.
Hearing Kaye’s story and feeling the slide of the sun made us eager to get to the beach, so we stacked the dishes, put away the food and gathered up our things. Kaye smudged each of us to the shake of rattles and we were off. I was shocked to find the parking lot almost half full with cars, pick-ups and vans. Most of the time when we have come here I have the beach alone for myself. I had a moment of wondering if we would have the courage to do any sort of ceremony among that many strangers. I knew Kaye had doubts about the rightness of my taking photographs so I asked her if she minded if I brought the camera with me. She hesitated a long time before she said “okay”.
As we walked down to the path, Kaye sang as she swung the prayer stick Martin had given her, Roberta drummed and Tish and I shook our rattles and bells to let the ancestors know we were coming. At the log pass to the beach Kaye stopped to sing out our request to advance. All the occupants of all those cars were far out to sea sitting on their surfboards. So the beach was open to our meeting the ancestors. The sun had already set behind the cliff but low-flying puffs of fog sailed overhead. These caught the rosy glow of the setting sun on their undersides that they reflected on the sea. As the smooth sides of the waves rose up, a shiny crimson curve briefly appeared on each. There was such a golden warmth to the red that it felt full of energy, warmth, light and a pinkish love.
We advanced to the place where the boat lies buried in sea weed. It looked very much as it did when I was there on Tues. The only change was that my gifts were missing from the large offering stone and someone else had placed a beautifully marked pebble there. Kaye sang the remembering song as the rest of us stumbled along behind her. She had brought a bowl of cornmeal. She offered it to each of us to add our breath and then knelt to pour it into a perfect hollow beside the stone figure. Then she put the marks into the offering and sang our gift out of the world. As she waved her feather wand, one yellow/blue feather fell from it and fluttered to the ground. My first impulse was to pick it up to hand it back to Kaye and then I realized that it, and Kaye’s song and offering, had been taken. Still, it seemed wrong for the feather to just lie there on the bare stones. Then Roberta stepped out of our line to stand closer to the ship to drum for it. The waves came crashing on shore with their own rhythm like a giant counterpoint accompaniment. One truly had the feeling that the waves were playing with her and she with them.
When she finished, I got out the flute. At one point while I was being played I felt a movement behind me, but was too taken to pay any attention. Then Kaye led us in more songs. I made a prayer in thanks for my dream. Kaye stepped forward, picked up the fallen feather and tucked it in by the cornmeal. Ah, that action was so right and I was greatly relieved she had done this. Roberta drummed, rattles shook and we swayed in the wind as the sky grew darker and darker. We became caught in a web we were reluctant to break. None of us wanted to stop sending out our love. Finally of one accord we turned so we were facing one another and drew in our spirits. Then Kay said to Tish, “You heard it too, didn’t you?”
“Heard what?” asked Tish.
“You heard the flute music repeat from over there.” Kay was pointing to the area above the creek.
“I don’t know what I heard.” Said Tish.
“But you heard something because you turned to look in the same place as I did at the same time.”
Tish worked to acknowledge that she had heard whatever Kay had heard, but she was not as sure as Kay was that there had been ‘answer’.
I took this as my gift and thanks that my gift had been taken. I had no desire to also ‘take’ a photograph. The pile of now sacred cornmeal had put a hand over my lens. As we started to leave the beach, still very reluctant to go, Kaye offered to show us the midden. Like children romping across the stones the three ran ahead. I followed, stopping to greet the creek with its smear of pond scum at the corner of its mouth as it now runs slower and lower each day.
At the midden we found more the limpet shells and black turbans which had been washed out in the solstice rain. Looking up at the cliff we could see that just this one storm had washed down 4 – 5 inches of soil. One cow parsley plant had lost all the earth around its carrot-like root. I wandered off to go to the seawater and the rest looked for shells. Later Tish showed us what she had been given. It was a tooth fang or claw – none of us could really identify it. But this was her gift from the evening.
With the last of the nautical light we went back up the flower path. In the parking lot we simply could not part. So we stood there, not feeling the cold wind, sharing our stories of teachers and teachings. We felt that a sense of community was building within us and we promised to do whatever it took to care for this tiny flame.
Back home I made sure Roberta got her gift for the evening – a copy of The Land of Seven Realms. As she looked at the cover photo, she cried out, “That is exactly where I stood when I made my decision to move here.” It was too. She and I (to take the photo) had been at the edge of the parking lot outside of the Gualala Point Park.
July 21, 2001
Last night I had wanted to go to the spirit ship in the evening to mark the passing of a week since our little group was there, but I was very tired. The wind was blowing so hard the house was shaking and the fog was thick and cold. The weather was more than uninviting; it was downright aggressive. It was easier to stay inside fighting with the installation of a smart-reader that I seem too dumb to get to work. As nothing functioned properly I felt more and more wrong about what I was doing.
So today, with the fog blown away, the sun shining down with its mid-day warmth down on a good morning of work it was much easier to go to the beach. Halfway there, I realized I had forgotten to put my flute back into the trunk. I decided not to ask Werner to go back home for it. As we drove into the parking lot we were surprised to find it was completely full! Not a space was open. I thought of simply going back home to come back at sunset, no matter what the weather. Just then a car began pulling out, so we were able to park. Thinking of this many people on the beach, I was glad I did not have my flute. The deeply dust-covered cars told me everyone here was local. It would have been very hard for me to stand out there, in front of all these surfers to play to the spirits of the dead.
The path was lonely, except for several new piles of dogshit dotting the path as if with brown chunky milestones. I concentrated on singing and sniffing the still-fragrant flowers and weaving between them. The thimbleberries, which were only blossoms when we brought the boat down this path, were now turning from a pale pink to a sweet red. Only the poison oak around them kept eager fingers from picking them. The cow parsley was in umbels of seeds; some had bowed their full heads to the earth as if to give the seeds instruction on where they were to go.
On the beach a group of surfer-guys sat directly by the spirit ship. My first thought was that I would simply find a still place somewhere else on the beach to talk to the spirits. But the strange shape the ship had taken would not let me do this. Ignoring the boys and their loud voices, I walked around the grounded ship. Somehow the high night tides of the week had pulled most of the rotted seaweeds off the frame. The boat had been turned so the south end was now highest on the beach, but still pointing to the south. The north end had been bent back so the boat seemed broken in the middle. The prow and stern, on a beach-sized clock would be pointing to 4:30 or maybe 10:00. The mid-ship was deeply covered with stones and sand.
a broken boat
the path to the sea
I could hear, in the pauses of the boys’ conversation when they were staring at me, but I felt safe to offer to the spirits my love without shyness or hesitation. Since it seemed there was nothing I could do that would move them from their perch on the silver driftwood log, I just ignored them. As I was standing there, rocking and singing, a dog, a real Indian dog – yellow, white and brown, thin, beaten and unloved, with very sad eyes came up to me. He put his head down at my feet and I thought at first he had found something to eat near my foot. But he stood absolutely still in this pose for a long moment. When he looked up again, he looked deeply into my eyes and I knew my prayers had been heard. He walked away and I left the beach for the picnickers and surfers.
July 23, 2001
Even though my morning seemed stacked six feet high with things to do and half-done everything else, I simply let it all go to sleep and went to the beach. Last night, even in my dark sleep, I could hear the extra noise of the higher tide and kept wondering if the boat would unbury itself to go off to sea. But no, there on the beach I could still see a bit of tied together willow branch sticking out of a heap of rock. Not one shred of threads or fabrics was to be seen. This was the first time that all the colors of the boat were hidden. As I walked around the huge mound, I could see that there were now three pieces or ends of the boat extending outward from the piled up rocks. Satisfied that it was all there, I got out my flute and stood at the highest point overlooking the mound and the incoming tide. When I bowed the flute at the finish I noticed that lying by my feet was one section of ribbing, without any covering of seaweed. So the boat was now in several pieces. More than I had thought.
After more prayers and some photos, I looked a long time at the mound trying to decide where to put my offering. One place attracted my attention but there seemed no rock there that was worthy. So I looked around and found one with a white circle on it. Ah, that seemed right. So I carried it over to the spot on the mound where it seemed the offering should go. When I knelt on the stony surface to place the cornmeal on the rock, my eye was pulled to a spot of blue. There was a familiar pattern to that blue that had nothing to do with seaweeds. As I pulled back the tangles of grasses, I saw the roof and even the tied together structure of my spirit house. The bead tied in the fabric was still attached. I was so delighted that the boat showed me my addition to it, I grabbed up the camera to photograph the tiny miracle along with the offering of cornmeal. For the first time the camera ‘lost’ a photograph from the boat. I have learned the limits of my trespassing and even more grateful for the gifts that the spirits of the boat have allowed me to have and save. Blessed be!
July 24, 2001
Yesterday, when I lost the photos I thought the spirits had blocked my shots because I had taken something forbidden, I was wrong. I knew the battery was low, so I recharged the camera and today when I took new photos I noticed the numbers seemed wrong. Only later did I discover that all the photos from yesterday were still in the camera, still safe and still giving me lessons.
On these photos I saw where a perfect offering stone laid right in the bend of some branches, the best possible placement. But since I did not see this in the reality of yesterday, I laid my own stone where I thought it should go – and there I found the remaining scraps of my little shrine. And, because I see so poorly through the tiny weird viewfinder on this camera, the offering was accidentally cut out of the picture! So it all worked out for the very best. What adventures my inquiring spirit and these ancient ones are having.
August 4, 2001
In the evening we went to Mote Creek for the high low tide. The pile of rocks over the spirit ship is even higher but the ends sticking out are more exposed. It is as if the configuration of the ship is now holding, gathering and piling the stones upon itself like a burial mound. The sea shows its might by raking away at the edges. I cannot figure out how it can have three ends but they do form a nearly perfect triangle.
There was only one surfer still trying to coax a ride out of the ever-flatter waves. On shore was his buddy playing a fairly new guitar. As I walked toward the boat ground I scanned him to see if he might join me but quickly saw that I would embarrass him. So I proceeded as if he was not there and this seemed to suit him perfectly.
I made my prayers of invocation and offering. When I played my flute I could hear him strumming along behind me and this felt very good. I had a moment when I wondered if I should try to photograph the boat (it is not very photogenic anymore). As I sat on a log asking if I ‘needed’ to take a photograph, I got a clear message-idea that, “this is the way we teach you. You take a photograph so later you can see what we are trying to tell you.” Immediately I knew this was accurate, so I walked around the mound taking photographs whenever my interest was arrested. How surprised and delighted I was to find this picture, my gift - a witness to the presence of spirits, in the camera.
After my prayers of thanksgiving I walked back off the beach. I passed quite close the guitar player and thanked him for joining in on the song for the ancestors. “Whatever.” he shyly replied. Werner and Florens were sitting on driftwood farther down the south beach so I walked over to sit with them. We watched the surfer come ashore, a couple obviously from the city, he was wearing a silk dinner jacket, take a short walk separately down the beach and soon the sun was slipping behind the western cliff. Florens walked down to speak to the waters. Werner and I stood facing the sunlight as it crept up our bodies. For me, this was too much like death so I walked into the shadow with all the strength and confidence that I could muster instead of just waiting for it to come to get me.
August 22, 2001
I was one day late for the celebration of the Spirit Ship’s one hundred day anniversary. I had hoped that we would be celebrating early, on Saturday, with a group ceremony but no one showed up. All the fine promises from the north fizzled out with the press of school starting and autumn activities warming up. Roberta and I were so disheartened that we simply let the day go. Yet as the hundred-days date slid up toward me, I was very aware that something should be done. Then Tuesday evening, when I had planned to go to the beach alone, I had gotten so upset over the neighbor cutting down all the trees behind our house, there was no celebration left in my heart. Last week I had gone to the beach when I was feeling sick and discouraged and my offerings had no power or love in them and were received as such. So I waited one more day and gave more time of the long day to preparing myself for thanksgiving and joy.
The weather seemed to be holding its breath waiting on me to do something. There was absolutely no wind and even the water had pulled away from the beach. High fog arched from cliff to cliff and to the edge of the sea. Only on the horizon was a glint, a line of light that skittered over the flat, flat sea. Once in awhile a wave would rise up out of the oily plain, a fin would form of sea water but it sank again below the pull of earth before curling and crashing with power and joy. Black crows carried the darkness on their rusty wings.
The shape of the burial mound has not changed since the solstice. Even my piled rocks stay in the same place. On them my offerings seemed smaller than ever as the beach stretched far out to sea. Though there was no wind, something played the flute with cry after cry for being and manifestation. Just beyond the kelp beds cormorants and pelicans feasted on a school of fish I could only see as birds flying low. So much was closed to me and my knocks on the doors of mystery were very feeble.
Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2001
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