Lost Valley Highlights
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Location: Lost Valley Ecovillage
Today is my last day here. Though they do have computers for visitors to use (some of which even run Linux -- yay!), I haven't felt much inclined to sit and write very often or very long. In times past, the monitor screen was my world. More and more, I've come to find that to me, the online world mostly feels like a dead, stale, boring place. Though it's still highly useful for communicating with people far away, and sometimes reading blogs can provide insight and mental stimulation, I don't want to live on the internet anymore. Never has this been more true than now, after spending my days surrounded by trees, birds, gardens, chickens, and this community of kind, beautiful, thoughtful, caring people whose visions, ideas, and interests feel so compatible with my own.
That said, I know that this site provides the means for those back home and others who are interested to follow my journeys, and I want to be faithful to them, so I'll endeavor to record a bit of this while it's still fresh and I'm here amidst it. (And yes, I've also been keeping a relatively terse hand-written journal; it helps as a memory aid and a place to record random thoughts for myself, but I don't think transcribing that would make very interesting reading for others.)
Enough preamble. On to the experiences and memories; just pieces.
On the bus from Portland to Eugene, I sat next to a man whose home is the road. He loves his life, and lives it fully. His goal was to reach Humboldt, California in time for the April 20 holiday, but he only had enough money for bus fare as far as Eugene; the rest of his journey would depend on hitching rides from others headed in that direction.
While we rode, he shared many survival tips and stories with me. When the bus arrived in Eugene after dark, he and I walked the streets in town for a while, sharing one another's company a bit longer. I was laden like a pack mule, walking awkwardly with heavy duffel bags, packs, and bags strung from my shoulders, arms, and hands. I had to stop frequently in attempts to re-adjust, or simply to let my muscles rest. Obviously, I was very new at this. In contrast, he walked easily, carrying 2 small packs containing everything he owned or needed.
We stopped to rest on one of the benches at a mass transit station, and he proposed a trade: My larger backpack for his two smaller packs. We could each remove all our possessions and switch. I took one look at his bags, and declined. Though my midsize pack was sub-optimal for this use, I didn't think switching it for 2 smaller, lower quality bags would help at all. In fact, I theorized that it would make my situation more difficult. Besides, that pack had been a holiday gift from a family member.
Then, he offered to "throw in" the poncho he carried with him in a tight roll. I looked at it. Made form soft wool, it appeared to be hand-woven, and beautifully so. Historically, my default habitual instinct would have been to keep what I have, being wary of such a trade from a complete stranger, but just for kicks, I tried it on. I didn't have to think long before deciding. We had a deal.
We proceeded to entertain bystanders, who looked on askance as we hurriedly splayed our possessions out on the benches, switched packs, and proceeded to arrange our things in their new places. After rearranging everything into place, relocating some of it into my duffel compartments, I didn't even need his second backpack, and handed it back to him. He gave it to a gawking teenage boy who was about to board a bus. "Merry Christmas!"
The backpack I got was nothing special, but the poncho was another matter. Beyond the obvious practical value, I learned that he had obtained it at a Rainbow Gathering from people in Colorado. In a superficial sense, he and I had simply traded one possession for another, but this felt like something much more. I had just been handed a tribal gift! The synchronicity of it all overwhelmed me.
Before parting ways, we talked about the possibility of meeting one another again, maybe later in the summer, somewhere east of here, as the family gathers again to create a portal out of Babylon, bringing heaven into the earthly realm.
After a restless night on the ground in Eugene, a morning bus ride out to Dexter, and a long, heavy walk past many sparsely spaced suburban homes surrounded by massive lawns, I remember approaching the Lost Valley Nature Sanctuary in midday. Here was a real forest, right in the middle of it all! Though the sight of the trees was magnificent, it was really the sounds that brought me into awareness of the truly sacred nature of the place I was entering. Birds, so many birds to hear! Singing brilliantly as the breeze rustled the trees and foliage. I collapsed, exhausted, threw my bags on the ground, and knelt to give thanks. This had been a long time coming.
Upon making my way in and encountering a group of people scattered, lounging on the grass in front of the lodge as they finished their lunches, I remember how "at peace" they all looked; everyone was fearless as I approached. It's hard to describe, except as a contrast to the way people in town typically behave (even in a city as friendly as Missoula). Absent were the averted glances, nervous hushing at the approach of a stranger, or fake smiles used as a mask. Here, an ambient happiness, deep and genuine.
Even after being here for days, I found my automatic, reactive senses disoriented by the lack of subtle, subconscious intimidation and fearfulness that often become so common in "normal" society that we tend to lose awareness of it. Here, people could "be" their genuine, true, wacky, ridiculous, loving selves everywhere they go, and no one would cut them down for it.
Ironically, for me, this environment triggered the resurfacing of some painful memories, and at times, I found myself reliving past wounds, which normally would have sat dormant beneath the surface of a closed consciousness. Here, in this safe space, I could open up and heal from the culture of abuse, even amidst the general social milieu. No judgement, only acceptance and mutual support. A shock to the system, psychologically speaking.
Every morning, I would wake up again to those happy sounds of birds in the trees around my tent, with roosters crowing in the distance.
I loved working in the garden, learning how to stir the soil with a pitchfork without tilling it so that the different types of micro-organisms beneath the ground at different depths could be preserved, with a goal to enrich, rather than deplete soil fertility in the long term. Planting seeds, transplanting baby cabbage, watering the growing ground, and being watered.
I remember hanging out in the lodge, drinking tea, having conversations (and listening in as others much wiser and more experienced than myself discussed) about permaculture, what it takes to build community, the collapse of industrial civilization, how to deal with government building codes (whose classifications tend to be way behind places like this, presenting tricky obstacles which require cleverness to get around), tribal cultures past and future, and the nature of thought and mind.
I remember the bliss of soaking in a hot tub heated by wood fire under a moonlit starry sky, and watching The Living Matrix documentary in a hi-tech yurt home.
I remember walking around barefoot, chanting mantras in the meditation yurt, and hugging the trees as they healed me.
I remember playing drums, making music, singing, hearing others sing. I remember the talent show, basking in the group's collective love and appreciation of one another.
Now, as this last day draws to a close, I find that I've been sitting here for several hours, getting lost in these thoughts, delving into memories to write this, and I still need to prepare for tomorrow morning's departure. So with that, I'll send this along, and hope it brings some benefit to those who read it.