If I were a flat farmland kind of person and if I wanted to live in Ohio and if there was more wild space there and if I werent loving life on wheels: I WOULD LIVE IN YELLOW SPRINGS OHIO!
And here is why: Giant Arts Community. Progressive as Portland OR. Tiny as a little podunk town. Biggest delightful traffic issue: bikes everywhere. Quirky. The Sedona of the East (according to the rawfoodbar guy there....who also happens to sell everything related to the vortex in the Yellow Springs Gorge) Great Food. Magical springs with waterfalls and deep pools. Every single person we met is peaceful and happy and gives the BIG hello.
(Naked Ed has been living at Lily Springs in Northern Florida for 20 years...One of the least domesticated humans I have met.....)
Still in the Allegheny National Forest
What more could someone want? It is a grey rainy day. Before the rain started, JC took the dogs on a little walk through the woods and came back with another armload of wild mushrooms. It is official: we have more mushrooms than we can possibly eat. What a great problem. Garnet Yam Curry with wild mushrooms is simmering on the little stove, Bean is curled up in my sleeping bag on the bed (still smelling like fresh skunk spray).
JC has gone to the library in Warren to do some on line work. When we were both in the village of Warren, we got hungry and asked someone where to get a good vegetarian meal. I had already gone through the grocery and found no organic produce and only Silk sweetened soymilk. Slim pickins’ in Warren PA. The woman we asked about a vegetarian place got very excited to tell us all about the Greek restaurant a few blocks away. JC is more trusting than I am and was ready to get a table. I asked to see a menu before we sat down. Nothing vegetarian on the menu except an iceberg lettuce salad. Jc (wearing his Vegan tee shirt) asked the chef if there was anything vegan on the menu). The chef looked at him like he was not only wanting to eat Greek, but was speaking it, too. I explained that we were looking for vegetarian food that contained no dairy or eggs. The chef smiled….”I don’t think we have anything like that.” It was true. This guy obviously knows his stuff. We thanked them and left, pulling the giant circus advertisement off the window on our way out the door.
Later I went to a little cyber cafe to do some work and the bought a cup of tea as my "rent" for taking up a seat. I asked if they had soy or rice milk and the person behind the counter looked a little puzzled while responding, "We have 1%."
I know that most people think we are crazy to not eat the carcasses of our extended family and not contributing to the violence of animal agriculture. So be it. More and more people are becoming our kind of crazy every day.
We humans are a funny lot. We argue that, like cave people, are meant to eat other species. But the same people will argue that we are not cave people and are too civilized to poo in the woods. We want to pick our form of domestication very carefully. While at Summerfest, I was asked where we pee when we are living in our camper. (The camper has a toilet, but we don't use it.) So I tell them we just go out in the woods. The next logical question is where do we poo. Only one brave person started to ask us that and then said “nevermind…I don’t want to know where you do that.” We are pretty strange animals. We spend lots of money designing and purchasing systems so that we can excrete our waste into perfectly clean drinking water. Then we spend more money to design and build systems to remove the waste from our drinking water so it can get recirculated to be drinking water again. We have had the most natural things domesticated out of us. I personally have had to undomesticate myself. I was in my late teens when a wonderful group of outdoor women helped me learn to pee outside. I am not kidding. Before that, if I were outside, I would lean against a tree and close my eyes and pretend I was sitting on a toilet. Only then could I pee. These women taught me a true squat. I remember all of us coming out of a log cabin and squatting in a circle chatting the whole time. As natural as….well as natural as peeing. I was sledding with my niece and nephew when they were very young. They had to pee and asked if we could go home. I asked them if they were don’t sledding. “No Aunt Rae, but we have to pee.” I taught them both how to pee outdoors right then and there. Neither one had ever done it. I told them that they were peeing like the animals and that we people are actually animals, so it made sense to pee like animals. They loved this. When we got back to my parent’s tidy suburban home, my sister was there to pick them up. We were all sitting around, when my sister noticed the kids were missing. She spotted them in the backyard…one little girl squatting and one little boy making pee designs in the snow. My sister opened the patio door and yelled to them “What the hell are you doing?” Their big smile reply was, “Mom, WE ARE PEEING LIKE THE ANIMALS! WE ARE ANIMALS!”. My sister shot me a look that said “What have you done to my kids?” We humans really are strange animals. Dump any of us in the woods and we could not survive. We would not know how to stay warm, get food, follow one direction out of there. Dump any other land species out there and they would have no problem surviving. We know how to use computers and program a dvd player, but we don’t know how to grow a carrot. A while back I was in my garden with a young woman I had met that day hiking. She came home to have dinner with us. She had grown up in a very wealthy family and would never have to work a day in her life. She grew up with maids and nannies in a mansion. I asked her to pull a few carrots for the salad. Her response, “Which ones are the carrots. I don’t see any carrots.” She was standing right next to the rows of carrots. I said, “Right there.” I pointed to them. She told me she didn’t see any carrots and looked completely baffled. When I came over and used the garden fork to loosen the earth at her feet and pulled out five beautiful Nantes carrots, she looked like she had seen a miracle. “I have never seen carrots growing before….that is amazing!” At 24 years old, she had seen a miracle….one of a kirgillion everyday miracles that we rarely notice. Life has to slow down for us to catch them in our ears or our vision. Even my life….a life that is fed by all sights and sounds not human made…..gets going too fast. I spend too many hours staring at a computer screen or listening to the cell phone stuck on my ear. Now, here, in this magical quiet forest….life has slowed down and reminded me of all that feeds me. Birds as the loudest sound, wild greens for breakfast and wild mushrooms for dinner, time to watch the strange creatures in the pond as they surface for air, watching at night as the fireflies meet the stars at the horizon.. and, of course, peeing like the animals and remembering that my most centered and honest self is that undomesticated part of me.
A slow sweet day in the national forest spot we are calling home for a few weeks. I watched a mucky pond for hours with Bean. Bull frogs, miniature eels(?), silver and golden fish, tadpoles….. I had been wondering how she could spend so much time staring at this pond. I soaked in the clear creek next to the pond and then joined her. I figured I would check it out briefly and then walk back to our little home on wheels. But I couldn’t stop watching all the creatures who kept coming to the surface. I got as obsessed as Bean…. She occasionally stopped and looked up at me or came over to my corner to see what I was staring at and she might be missing. We were pond mucking partners…. All this after a long deep nights sleep. The forest is healing all the tiredness and all the stress that my body and heart have held for far too long.
Brown basmati rice is on the little stove cooking… JC is outside in his little chair reading the wild edibles book. He was sitting there reading it an hour ago when I walked up with an armload of wild mushrooms (chicken of the woods)….our dinner.
My daily mantra: “What is all that stuff we have back there in storage?” Our camper is twenty feet long by 8 feet wide. Two adults, two dogs and more storage space than we need. We use fewer than a third of the clothes we brought and half of the office supplies. So what the heck is all that stuff stacked to the gills in the storage unit in Athens? I ask myself this everyday.
You put all that effort into making a well put together ceremony and then when the big day comes you are going on less than four hours sleep and the sound system isn’t working and you find out there are two event planners at the conference. One of the event planners lets you know you are crazy to try to organize it on your own. By the end of the day, you know she is absolutely right. But you let go….finally at the end of the day you look back and say to yourself “I didn’t read my vows…didn’t say what I wanted to say about how much I love JC… and I should have taken his hand after the ceremony and gone to the wine or cake table, we should have planned more (maybe even rehearsed?), we should have toasted our friend Joe who pushed us toward each other, I should have made the time to comb my hair before the ceremony (or at least look in a mirror), should have, could have and didn’t.”….you go over and over the ceremony in your head…then you go over the whole day before the ceremony….and you replay the day a thousand different and better ways…..And every time your mind starts to go there, someone comes up to you and tells you something that makes you realize It Was Perfect As it Was. The closest we came to rehearsing was me making a deal with JC. If he agreed to not call me "wife" in his vows, I would agree to make my vows less than 200 words. I cannot be someone's wife....and no one is my husband. It sounds too much like ownership. We are a team who choose each other each day. Here are just some of those comments that brought me to the reality of loving and accepting the ceremony and myself “as is”: -No fewer than 12 people said that they had given up on finding a loving partner in life, but now, after being at our ceremony, their hope was renewed that there could be LOVE and there could be someone they could make a life with. -No fewer than 40 people said that it was the most honest and beautiful wedding they had ever been to (Really? We did not have a clue what we were doing, at least not in the official wedding sense)
I am like this after a workshop, too. I look back and only see what could have been different or better. Then someone will say something to me or I will look back much later and see that there was good in it.
At 4 am on the day of the ceremony I was sitting at one of the public computers with Robert Victor the astronomer. We were looking at the weather webpage. This guy knows weather. He is an expert at what happens in the sky for crying out loud. So, when we saw that there was a 60% chance of hail and high winds mixed with thunderstorms, we took it seriously. When he said that 7 pm (the time of the ceremony) was the center of the predicted storm window and that looked like trouble….I took him seriously. I scrambled to find a back up place to hold the ceremony. The cake maker (Fran Costigan www.francostigan.com) said to just set up in the backup spot and forget about the outdoor space. My father said the weather would be perfect….no problem. My brother said to set up outdoors and just be ready with the back up. I trusted my brother and my dad. Of all the people I asked, no one had the 80 plus years of experience with life and weather that my dad has. My dad and I have not always seen eye to eye, but I know enough to know when to listen up. This guy knows how to play the odds and trust. We set up outdoors. The rain started in the afternoon, the clouds moved in. It was not looking good. At 6 pm, the rain looked even more determined. I walked over to the ceremony a little after six with my fancy thrift shop India dress and my uncombed raggle taggle hair (now getting wet in the rain). I began setting up chairs and candles and wine glasses and wildflowers as if the rain was not falling. The people started coming from all directions at about 6:30. The rain had stopped, the clouds were less dark. JC waited in the west and I waited in the east. We would come from different directions because we have had long lives and are coming to this relationship from very different paths.
When we arrived together at the ceremony space, the clouds parted, the sun blasted through and a huge double rainbow appeared. My dad had called it perfectly.
We dedicated the ceremony to all the people who love each other and are not allowed to legally marry in this country. We asked people to speak out about this and to work to change it.
So, we do all this planning and we go through a ceremony with at least 300 people there sharing our love…..loving us and us loving them and still I have not realized what I have committed to.
It was two days later while I was filling a little plastic gas can at the gas station that it hit me. How strange. I was pumping the 2 gallons of gas. I suddenly felt it…..I felt it with my whole being. I have chosen another person to be my life partner. I stopped pumping the gas and closed my eyes. Still holding the pump nozzle in my hand, I felt the breeze hit my cheeks. I felt this commitment and love. I filled with gratitude that JC would choose to love me as fully as he does and that I would love him right back. Feeling it fully for the first time, it felt so RIGHT. I opened my eyes and smiled while I pumped the rest of the gas into the little red gas can. I laughed as I looked around at the ridiculous place that my realization had happened. Only now, while writing this, am I remembering that in the book Peaceful Warrior did Dan get his enlightenment teachings from a guy at a gas station. There must be something about mundane everyday things that allows us the space to relax and feel things fully. I have a friend who goes to the drive thru car wash when she wants to relax. Once her car got stuck in the middle and she was so relaxed she sat there for a long time….not realizing she was stuck in the middle with the blue brushes scrubbing away.... until the workers finally came out to rescue her.
We have been getting emails and calls from friends and family who were at the ceremony and at Summerfest and are coming back to the conference next year and bringing friends with them. The Summerfest family continues to grow. We are so grateful for our giant loving community. It is so rich that I cry happy tears when I think about it.
Now we are in the Allegheny National Forest stinking like skunk. There is JC trying to get reception with our little antenna stuck on a branch...no luck...which is for the best. Bean (the younger dog) had her first direct skunk encounter. She got sprayed right in the mouth and all over the head and chest. All we had was organic diced tomatoes in a can. I rubbed her with the whole precious can of them, but I am guessing that the folks who said tomato juice meant it. Canned organic diced tomatoes with basil did nothing. We rubbed the little red chunks all over her until she looked like a black olive and tomatoe salad. After a rinse, she flew into the camper, straight up on the bed and dropped her head on the pillow. All four of us and everything in the camper smell freshly sprayed with eau de skunk butt. We found out that there are two very distinct types of people out here on the road. The nice and honest ones who walk into our skuncumference and simply stop mid-sentence to add: “skunk, eh?” and the others who just turn and walk away. I have come to love the smell of our pepe le pew camper and JC has stopped noticing it, like a hairdresser who has done perms for 20 years and doesn’t think his salon stinks. This guy is definitely the perfect match for me. Who else would let our skunked dog sleep between us with her head on the pillow? Who else would put up with this and all my other shenanigans?
I live with JC Corcoran, and our beautiful goofy rescue dogs,Bean and Bapu. We live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We are busy veganizing Santa Fe and the world. I live to hike, bike, swim, rescue animals, and love being a voice for those species that human society has not learned to connect to and learn from.
To see more about us and our work, visit www.plantpeacedaily.org.
(Rae is the family blogster)