Wednesday, June 29, 2005

from beside the waterfall

The young Earth First! guys came by to borrow a table and chair for their tabling project: hours outside the local market, talking to people, passing out the latest leaflet and some of the political paper that we print from within this shop. In fact, I should be working on that, not updating the blog.
But the story they told as they said goodnight (they'll be back tomorrow) struck my heart more than they expected. They'd been hiking a couple months back, out in the wilderness near the coast, along the creeks that spill into the ocean. It is a beautiful, wild, and difficult place. They'd expected to be out two days, and were out five. They were often frightened, often struck with awe. And there, at the base of a waterfall, in a hidden, narrow little valley between fern hung cliffs, they found a perfect jawbone. The lower jaw, they said. With all the teeth, they said. At first they feared they'd stumbled on an old burial site, some place that had been sacred to the early tribes. But they carried the jawbone with them as they trekked out, and went to the sherrif.
And I said then the name of the young man I'd known from his early childhood, the second child of a poet friend of mine, who on the anniversary of his father's death had suddenly had some sort of breakdown or crisis, and walked into the wilderness with a small bag of brown rice and some jars of Japanese herbs.
Yes, they'd found the small jars also.
I'd heard he'd been found, but none of the details. And here the two young men, guys he would surely have liked, people he would have guided into the hills he knew well, having grown up among them, were standing in my shop, thanking me for the loan of the table, and telling me how they'd carried that bone out.
I'm so glad, I said. Glad it was you, glad you found him. He'd have liked you guys so much. He was a beautiful person, tall, blond. Had a great smile. I told them about his father, my friend. About the poem that named our region, recited at a gathering so long ago.
They plan to return to the place near the waterfall, taking the family there. Sure, there are questions. But mostly a curious peacefulness.
I think of the vast sky full of stars last night as I left a place west of here where the enviromentalist John Seed was speaking about his forest projects. Planting trees where mountains had been stripped. Not necessarily hopeful, but taking things a moment at a time.
Doing what could be done, now.
"It's all we have" he said.
I might see if I can hike in to the waterfall's canyon with my young friend's sister and mother next month. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The boxes were full of letters, and mice

For two days I have been sorting through Red's boxes, with another friend. He rented a storage locker, and piled it full of what was needed, what might be needed, what might be precious. Boxes of books, many from my shop's free table; boxes of letters, boxes of clothes. And mice. We found three tiny ones and put them, in their nest, gently to the side, hoping their mother will return and move them to safety. In our time of grief we didn't want any more death.
Red was a present, unique soul. Born in Brooklyn, traveled all over. He helped found free kitchens wherever he went, and was often on the front line of demonstrations all over the country, with his flaming hair and his bright blue eyes. In the boxes we found photos of Rachel Corrie, the young woman from up north who died in Palestine. I remember how grieved Red was by her death.
And what do you do with a lifetime of shreds and pieces? We will be giving away a lot of Red's things at the memorial service, for this is what his mother wanted us to do. Little treasures, funny things, have been piled into a special box for his family. And photos.
I left the store in chaos today, my partner in charge, my dogs bereft. But it isn't an ordinary time.
And tonight, at 10 to 8, an earthquake shook our ground. The center was off in the ocean. No one was surprised.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Red died last week

The rain continues, late spring rain, battering the pomegranates and the cornflowers. Sunday morning a friend came with the news that Red had died in detox. He was 54, a wild and kind soul who danced in the streets, befriended the ravens, the wandering dogs, the environmentalists, the feral cats, and my own family. He was at many of the world protests, raging in the streets, dragging an elderly woman from beneath police horses (she turned out to be an official attendee at the event he was protesting). He was street wise, eccentric, brilliant. Says a friend "he had almost nothing--and he was willing to give it all away if someone needed it". Memorial on June 18, down the street, in a big vacant lot.