Four in the Hot Tub 2

Conjuring Together

“What else do we need?” asked Charley coming back to his  question of the evening.

“Hey! You guys want to share this place and this view more? How ‘bout you open it up for retreats or the seasonal holy days or some such? It sure was lovely hanging out here last Summer Solstice,” said Pia.

“You could have your classes here anyway,” added Raven. “It would fit in with the retreat business we keep talking about.”

“How’s that coming?” asked Charley.

“Things are starting to gel in my mind,” said Pia. “I’ve got some ideas of people to call to do workshops.”

“We’ve actually been talking about using this place a little more. Like the hot tub, it seems a bit much to keep it all to ourselves now that the kids are grown and we have the office and store in town. The Aerie we built for the teenagers isn’t getting much use these days. We’re happily private when we’re here, but I think there are ways we could structure things, both physically and timing-wise, to achieve a good balance.”

“Balance is a good thing to be taking into account during the Equinox window. Especially balance like yin yang, not our Western seesaw image,” said Pia.

“I’m hardly using my little hut either,” said Ursula. “What if I change it from my private space to being available for people who want to hide out for a bit? It’s pretty primitive, no electricity and only 10×10, but it sure saved my sanity back in the day.”

“That’s a big relinquishing of a haven that’s been very important to you,” Raven observed.

“It came to me last summer on one of those nights I couldn’t sleep. Full Moon of course. I was sitting here in the tub ‘til I got too pruney and then wandered out to the stone seat to watch the dawn. Looking down over the hut, I saw it as a shared nurturing womb place – and not just for women. Everyone should have a chance to retreat back into the Mother now and then. There’s so much richness and comfort to be gleaned – or challenge, if that’s what a person needed. I was feeling pretty good about the idea when suddenly an eagle swooped in over my head and out through the trees.”

“Wow!”

“Yes, BIG WOW. ‘Ok, ok. I’ll do it, Eagle.’”

“Here’s something I keep dreaming but I haven’t even told Ursula – what if we could manifest ownership of some of the houses here on the turnaround circle,” added Charley. “That one Crystal designed with the great view of the end of the mountain would make such a fabulous conferencing space. It kills me that it’s only used a few weeks a year. It’s all still dreams, of course. Nothing substantial yet.”

“It fits in with our on-going idea of this area for re-creation in some sweet ways,” said Pia.

They all were quiet for a few beats, imagining, feeling, conjuring the possibilities. “So mote it be!” said Pia. “We’re mages enough to get that one in motion.”

“Speaking of getting wrinkly, dear fellow hags, I’m cooked,” said Charley.

“Time for us to get going,” said Pia.

“Wait! One more idea.” Ursula’s creative juices were flowing and she couldn’t quite bear for the evening to be over. The other three groaned noisily to tease her.

“Here, have some water,” she said to stave off the inevitable. She handed them the bottle she kept by the step. “I’m really tired of thinking about what to charge for stuff. I have to do that in the store where the accounting is important. But for other things, I’ve been thinking of putting out a Begging Bowl. You know, like the monks in Asia do, when they go walkabout.”

“’Walkabout’ is Australia but I get the idea,” said her husband.

“It could be used for classes and dance sessions, even here in the retreat spaces. People can put in what they feel they can pay. Sometimes more than the going rate. Less when they’re feeling tight.”

“It would change the old money thing nicely,” observed Raven.

“Exactly! I just have a feeling that it’s time to have more trust that dollars will appear as we need them. Even for an expensive vision like getting those neighboring houses. We’ve done it before. Let’s envision. No. Let’s ASSUME. Plenty. Abundance.

“Abun – DANCE!” crowed Raven.

“It doesn’t do away with currency but it does put things on a different footing,” added Pia. “A nice kind of magic.“

“People could also put in chits for service trades and food and stuff,” said Charley. “I know just the bowl we could use.”

“Ok. I’m done. Let’s do dance on Wednesdays and I’ll teach my class on Thursdays after yoga. Does that work for ya’ll? Cuz I hope you each will come help now and then.”

“That Ursula!” said Raven.

“Fellow Queen Bee,” said Pia. “Now you’re stepping into your Leo Rising in a bigger way. Good for you!”

“Good for all of us. Didn’t you say that our Rising Sign is the energy and skills we need to work on in this lifetime?”

“Yes, in Shamanic Astrology, the Sun sign provides the flavor of the work. With your Cancer sun everything you do will be motherly and nurturing. The Moon sign is what you already have a PhD in. If you do that too much it will become an addiction. You slipped a little into your Capricorn self tonight – organizing things again like you do so well and so easily. Obviously I recognize it in you and I’d appreciate you pointing it out to me when I go there in excess. The Ascendant is what you are here to learn. Your Leo rising means you can now show up big and playfully and not just be making it all happen. I love it that you are still present for everyone, but so much more for yourself now. Good job!”

“Let’s look at everyone’s rising signs and see how we can help each other move forward.”

“Not tonight,” groaned Raven. “This bird needs bed. And Yew Dog needs release.”

“Not tonight,” Ursula agreed. “But would you do another Medicine Group session on it, Pia? It could be an important tool for us each to grow into our true selves over the coming days and weeks and months. ‘Coming into True,’ as Owen says. That’s what we’ve been doing as we sit here under the full moon next to the Oregon Grape. Let’s walk over to The Rock while you’re here. I’m finding it a great place to power up these days. I use it when I am heading off to priestess in circle or communing with the land.”

Wordlessly and still naked, the four of them trooped the few yards to the huge flat piece of basalt that Charley had unearthed with Owen’s help some thirty years ago when they first owned the place. Fallen off the top of the Mountain in a cataclysm centuries before, it now stood like a low table on the promontory at the base of a large Sitka spruce. Ursula bowed to the tree remembering the evening last year when a psychic passing through told them the tree was thanking her and Charley for their reverent attention to the details on the land.

They all stepped up on the table ignoring the sticky spruce droppings. Their arms encircled, Raven began to tone and the others wove their voices around his deep one. With the moon high now in the sky, the power was huge coming to them from the cosmos, the stone at their feet and the Mountain that rose behind them, as well as from the ocean stretching forever in front of them, and the loving trust between them.

“Fire, Water, Earth and Air,” intoned Ursula.

“Spirit,” breathed Pia.

“HO!” They spoke as One, feeling the power deep within their very bones and blood fed by the elements and the spirits of their home territory.

 

“That was a little better,” said Spider to the Council Fire.

“Yes,” said Elderberry, “they seem to be finally learning about generations and manifesting layers of growth.”

“But they went off into organizing and DOING,” complained Snake, “When are they going to learn to just BE?”

“They just can’t resist, can they?” observed Sitka Spruce. “It’s those friggin’ thumbs. I’ve never understood the attraction.”

“You wouldn’t,” countered Spider, the hard worker. “I’ve been inspiring them to be creative….”

“You have been rather showing off this year,” said Sitka.

“I know, but the conditions are perfect and I’m so happy. Things are moving even if it seems too slow for you long lived types. Some of us have to keep time in mind,” said Spider a little huffily.

“Ursula’s class will light up some new ones,” said Hummingbird, another hard worker who liked to see the humans flitting about productively. “That should get some new energy flowing.”

“And you know the dancing is what some of us have been calling for,” said Grouse.

“That’s all probably important but part of me wishes that Ursula, at least, would just hibernate this winter for a change,” said Bear with a yawn.

“What a lot of different influences we are,” observed Beaver. “No wonder they get confused sometimes, poor dears.”

Sustainability Talk

“Welcome to your classroom at Neadatagi House,” said Charley, favorite red teacup in hand as the newly arrived Portland State University Locus students settled on comfy frayed couches and floor cushions. “I’m Director of Cedar ReSources, the local sustainability organizing hub. Just so you know, ‘Neadatagi’ means ‘cedar,’ a tree that was a mainstay of the native peoples of the area. Caliente here is a living, breathing sustainability and permaculture pro…. And my daughter.” Cali took a bow. She sported her usual beret, a red one today that clashed delightfully with her reddish hair. She had left the baby with Carlos.

“What you’re looking at here in our two villages and outlying areas is a broad picture of how a community can learn to take care of itself, no matter what the outside economy is doing. Some of us actually settled here with this vision in mind. My wife and I, for instance, were inspired in part by Portland’s Rain Magazine and the posters they did in the ‘70’s of integrated neighborhoods and communities, both urban and rural.”

“Like the one we have on our wall,” pointed out Michael, his portly form contrasting with Charley’s lithe skinny one. He was practically jumping up and down with his enjoyment of this next stage of his own dream coming alive.

“Yes, that’s one of them,” Charlie grinned. “I love the feeling of slowly but surely making those pictures come true. The dream took a leap when the Logan family transformed their land into a sustainable forestry trust in the early 1980’s. Gordon and Owen and their father who has since died. Their children, Robin and her cousin Obie are now involved. I understand you are going to visit them soon so I won’t go into any detail.”

“So thirty-some years ago,” said Satish, a small, dark skinned young man from India.

“Then in the mid 90’s there were two serious floods – 100 year floods, so-called because they supposedly only happen every hundred years. We’ve had a third one since. At the time of the first our area was completely cut off for several days by landslides and flooded or caved in roads on each of the five ways out of here. Other times big windstorms knocked out power, phone and cell phones for almost a week.”

“I was a kid during those storms,” Michael remembered. “My family was glad we had a wood stove so we could still cook.”

“In many ways it wasn’t that dire that first flood. We all managed. Even the babies who were due waited another week.” Caliente and her dad exchanged glances recalling the family drama of her and her twin’s birth. “But it was a wake up call – and a big goose for putting more of our ideals into practice. What if it had been a major earthquake and its tsunami that affected the whole region? Not only would we be cut off, we would be a very low priority on anyone’s list for digging out if presumably the devastation included Portland and Seattle. What did we have in place if the situation lasted months? It’s one thing to think of the immediate emergency. It’s another to respond after the lives have been saved. And yet another to imagine being self-sufficient if lines of communication and supply (particularly of gas and food) are cut off indefinitely.”

“How did you proceed?” asked Michael.

“We did a number of things over the next few years. Molly Burns and my wife Ursula set up ReBound. We knew it was time to develop the deeper ethic of reuse. We only sort of got it at the time what a community-building mechanism ReBound would be and how it would create such an ethic of the exchange of material goods. I assume you’ll be visiting there soon.”

“Molly and Gabe are giving us an official tour tomorrow. Satish and Zydeco here start work there in the next few days.”

“We also began to get serious about growing our own food and herbal medicines. Community gardens. Farmers markets.” Charley took a sip from his tea. “After we started the Conservancy Trust on an old dairy farm, its barnyard and orchards became the Locavore Center to teach about gardening and research what can grow in the area and what we need to trade for and stock up on. Wheat, beans, coffee.”

“Corn.”

“Chocolate.”

“Almonds.”

“At Benden Farm we’re experimenting with various beans,” interjected Cali, “and olives because cooking and lamp oil is an issue. I wonder half seriously about setting up trade agreements with places in Eastern Oregon if things really broke down. Our crab for Mosier’s grain, for instance.”

“Could be an important link,” said her father. “We also began preserving agricultural lands. Some area growers, including Cali here, now lease land is owned by the Conservancy Trust.”

“The trust totally made it possible for Carlos and I to survive economically,” said Cali gratefully.

“New systems and institutions are important, but community relationships are even more so. It is the connections among us that will keep us safe and secure when things are tough. Thus some activist growers joined the local Grange to cross boundaries with the older farming generation. Plus their building is a good community resource to keep available.”

“We started a Grower’s Guild,” added Caliente as her dad took a sip from his teacup, “so those of us doing permaculture can network and learn from each other. We’re all feeling our way. How does one grow in ways that enhance the earth and its creatures? So much knowledge and skills were lost in just a few generations. We’re learning about seaweed and local plants both for food and other uses. Nettles, for instance, can be used for cordage – rope. So could hemp if we were allowed to grow it legally.”

Everyone laughed.

“We’re proud of our young people taking up this challenge of dancing with adaptability. You folks included,” said Charley. “Maybe this was covered in your class work, but besides sustaining ourselves in the pressure of emergencies, we must also consider the long-term health of the community so we can surf economic cycles. Believe it or not, a high is as hard on us as a low – land prices skyrocket to make housing an even bigger issue for the working people. Luxury stores start to dominate. With our reuse and simple living ethic, we knew we didn’t want to be dependent on chi-chi boutiques. We enjoy the restaurant options of a resort community, but we want those to support local growers.

“Food marketing must have paid off,” said Zydeco, his dark dreads bobbing in his enthusiasm. “I’ve noticed restaurants advertise local produce and meat.”

“We’re proud of that. Have you noticed what else we did?”

“A lot of spas and massage therapists here?” offered Mariposa.

“Right. We figured we’d be better off selling services than importing geegaws. To be known as a re-creation, re-generation, re-storative place. Enter the Healing Arts Guild.”

“Also a shitload of reuse stores and places highlighting recycle art. Did ReBound have an effect on that?” Zydeco was looking forward to his stint at the community’s reuse hub.

“You betcha and our craft stores tend to buy locally or are at least fair trade from elsewhere. The Green Fund helps start-ups and our Local Investment Guild matches up people taking savings out of the stock market to put into local ventures.”

“We’ve all learned how shaky the ‘normal’ financial world can be in the last couple of years,” interjected Michael.

“Absolutely,” responded Charlie. “Why invest your money in faraway corporations with questionable values or even in so-called progressive mutual funds, if you can help forward movement in your own community?”

“Talk about relationship building.”

“Can you give us examples?”

“Buying the River Valley Phone Company when owner Nathan Green died and his family wanted to cash out. We put together three partners, two local and one weekend resident.”

“Quite a coup!”

“Co-op, actually,” Charley grinned. “And its profits go into the Green Fund. Other investment ventures include small elder care houses and affordable rental housing. A retiring carpenter got a loan to go into lawnmower repair at ReBound. Another loan got the Nekelew Hostel going where I hear a few of you are living this fall. Even some of the Conservancy Trust lands have been purchased through investment loans. If you are interested, we could do a whole session on how that all works. The head of the Credit Union would come, I’m sure, and the attorneys and CPA’s who do major share of the Investment Guild’s transactions and paperwork. Michael’s former classmate, Molly’s son, Ethan Burns, is part of that crew even though he lives in Portland.”

“I was thinking to wait for the business students joining us after the winter holidays,” responded Michael. “And let’s take a break right now.

 

Cali sat on the toilet breathing deeply as she thought back on the early days of what her dad was describing. She remembered the visioning murals that her mom and Pia had organized. People at community events one summer had been invited to paint their ideas for the future on aerial views rendered on large plywood panels by some of her artist friends. Little Otter Logan had done a sweetly crude drawing of a fairy house she wanted to build in the forest. Arlo had painted a jitney on the road. Her own depiction of a dream farm had actually come true though not in the place she imagined. How much had they influenced the manifestation of all this? How much had magic been a part of it? Oops, she’d better not dally. Someone else probably needed to pee.

 

“You make it all sound easy, which I’m sure on a day to day basis it hasn’t been. What opposition has there been?” asked an earnest looking young woman when they were all settled again. “Surely not everyone has been okay with what you guys have been up to.”

“We have longstanding adversaries for sure,” said Charley. “They disagree fundamentally with our vision for this place. They think fancy housing helps the community more than conservancy land, not realizing how much the latter raises adjacent property values. But the depth and passion of their opposition goes deeper than that and can get ugly. We represent a threat to the status quo of money valued for itself as a measure of success. In its most crass form it’s about greed and competition. They can’t stand our values of cooperation and sharing. Is it guilt that makes them go after us so fiercely? In denial that anyone could be so foolish as to take seriously values like consensus building and lack of hierarchy. Or, worse, that it could work. That we’re happy.”

“Can you give us examples?”

“I try not to think about them too much cuz I don’t want to give them energy…. The developer who slips in and buys land we have our eye on. Our battle over the Elk Ridge neighborhood. Some city officials were hostile and, at times, downright adversarial. They had trouble groking the need for affordable housing, preferring this to be a place for the rich to vacation and retire in. They stirred up a lot of NIMBY reactions.”

“Nimby?”

“Not In My Back Yard. Visions of meth addicts danced in their heads. They forget that working folks who make the wheels go round can’t afford to be here when land values are high – police, teachers, nurses, carpenters, not to mention waiters and cleaning people. Sometimes out-of-town hirees turn down good jobs at the clinic, schools or the city because they can’t find housing they can afford anywhere up and down the coast.”

“Finding places for students to stay is a challenge,” said Michael.

“Not surprised,” said Charley.

“Some go after us almost on principle,” said Cali. “If we’re for it, they’d better be against it.”

“Of course, in a way they’re right,” said Michael. “You do things differently. Goats and chickens in the middle of town. I’ll bet you drum outside sometimes.” Everybody laughed ruefully.

“’Times are a changin.’ They better get used to it,” said a young man in blonde dreads and raggedy overalls.

“Easy to say but this is a small town and we’ve worked hard to stay connected with all our neighbors. Even the most skeptical and cantankerous are pleased to share a jam recipe or appreciate help with a tree down across the driveway,” said Charley.

“Have people run for public office? Seems like a way to assert power locally.”

“A few, though not enough yet to attain critical mass. Much can be accomplished that way. Personally, I’m better at working outside the system without official support or the constraints that go along with that. But I admire folks who can deal with the bureaucratic sides of things – planning commissions, city councils, county budget committees.”

“The Watershed Council is an awesome cross section,” offered Cali. “Funded by the state, they’re mandated to include the timber industry, local governments and environmentalists. Of course, they’re often hampered by disagreements so there are certain issues they just don’t touch. Still, over the long haul they’ve created useful partnerships that serve all sides. They’ve become real people to each other.”

“We’ve talked about the value of humanizing one’s demons,” said Michael.

“Good,” responded Charley. “You see, we have to work with local governments, et al. because we’re looking to be more than a wholesome tribe underneath the dominant culture. We could’ve gone up into the hills and established a commune. Instead, we’re working for structural change from within. We want to become the power structure from the bottom up. One committee, one group, one idea, one project and event at a time. We bring others of our ilk into the organizations and slowly they come under new values. In a small town there are always vacancies and a need for people to serve. I’m particularly trying to encourage more young people to get involved. It’s great when retirees from the city pitch in but they have a tendency move back when their health becomes compromised or they miss their grandkids or whatever. It’s especially heartening to us when people sign on who have a real stake in the long term here.”

“It’s time for lunch. Thanks, Charley and Cali. This has been inspirational.” Michael made the first move towards winding up the discussion.

“We are so glad you guys are here,” said Cali. “Many hands make light work, as my mom always says. Obviously we’re secretly hoping you fall in love with the place and stay!”

“Even if you move on,” said Charley, “we’re happy to have you spreading the word and starting things up elsewhere. You can reverse our adage and begin to ‘think locally and act globally.’ Ripples on a pond. Don’t forget to check out Lindsey’s and Crystal’s energy efficient buildings and their retrofit of the old school that is the community center in Nekelew. They’ve even hooked up the fitness machines to generators and help heat the pool that way.”

“Bravo!” Everyone clapped.

Harvest Fest 2

“Off she goes,” chuckled Cali, jiggling Menolly who had started to fuss a little.

“Ursula hasn’t changed a bit,” said Michael.

“Actually, she claims she’s slowed down some. At least she isn’t organizing as much as she used too. Playing more. Taking more time for herself in the woods. I don’t know what all woo woo she’s up to there. She says she is ballast on committees now. Like a bee, she flits about networking and fertilizing ideas. Plus she has her store where she does informal counseling through her tarot readings. ”

“I could use one of those,” said Uri. “Does she charge much?”

“She’s flexible and is open to trades.”

“So tell me more about the organic dairies.” Michael was more interested in sustainability details than he was in weird stuff like tarot, though given Uri’s penchant for such things he was more tolerant than he used to be. “Are they able to sell their milk now?”

“That’s an on-going battle. Legally, they can’t market in stores, so most dairies sell to a large regional producer.”

“Not very sustainable from a transportation point of view,” observed Michael.

“Tell me about it. Some sell shares of a cow – kind of like a CSA. But that’s pretty cumbersome. My husband Carlos is involved with Tilth, the regional organic growers network, which is lobbying to get laws changed. It affects egg selling too…. Sometimes I think we need to start a formal religion and declare organic locally grown as a basic tenet. Wouldn’t the government have to accept our right to get our food in accordance with our beliefs? There are special dispensations for kosher and Muslim religious restrictions, aren’t there?”

“I suppose so. T’would be an interesting bit of sustainability research. How’d you come by this marvelous piece of land I hear you’re on?”

“Benden Farm. It belonged to a friend of my parents. When she moved away she wanted it to go into an agricultural trust and was willing to sell it at a bargain rate so she didn’t have to pay capital gains taxes. Win. Win.” Michael stuck out his hand palm at a right angle for a congratulatory slap and Caliente matched it with a grin. “My parents contributed part of the down payment, having just inherited money from my granddad. Carlos’ parents in Bellingham helped too.”

“So this Trust owns the land?”

“They already owned the community garden and orchard here at the Locavore Center. So it made sense for them to have another sustainable farming piece. Though the Housing Trust was also willing to take it on.”

“Do you pay anything?”

“We make payments on the house which we actually own. The rent from Rhea and Gabe helps us keep up.”

“Do you make enough with the gardens and animal products to cover the rest?”

“Well…. my web work contributes and sometimes Carlos does odd jobs. Like almost everyone else here we have to piece it together. Oh listen, Carlos and Gabe are starting to drum. Let’s get some of Arlo and my brother Jay’s beer and go over there for a few minutes before I take you around.”

 

“Good. Uriel is finding his place,” observed Spider to the swallow perched in a nest in the barn’s overhang above the hubbub of the market. “Hopefully, he’ll like this music and will hook up with these young people. Then have a tarot session with Bear Woman that opens him so he uses his gifts to a new degree.”

“I’m having trouble remembering what gifts Uriel chose before incarnating,” said the bird who was also having trouble holding that shape. He kept morphing back and forth between moth and cocoon and bird nest.

“Think elves and fairies and the good works they do.”

“Oh,” said the moth, who actually still didn’t know what she was talking about but wasn’t about to admit it.

“Do you hear that, you cranky Old Ones?” Spider hollered across to the Native Spirits hovering in the trees beyond the barnyard. “I’m certain Uriel hears you and sees you. Things are going to start to change around here another degree. He’s bringing new lightness into play. You watch. You’ve been asking for relief and I think the time is actually coming if you can just be patient a little longer.”

“Hmmph,” muttered the collective cloud of beings she was addressing. “We’ve heard that before. Plenty of good intentions. We give them credit for that in recent years. But actually tuning in? Truly living sacred lives in ceremony? Every day? Not just on the special obvious days? That’s what we need to see before we can release stewardship of this Mountain and Valley, River and Shore. We are not holding our breaths.”

“I’m not either,” responded Spider. “But I am seeing encouraging signs and the Star Elders – planets and constellations – are aligning for big change. Hang in there. Keep nudging them.”

“Don’t worry. Coyote and Raven are on the loose,” said a wavery female voice, sounding positively cheerful. “It even sounds as if some of the REALLY OLD ONES are stirring. What would you say to Durga showing up? Or Wild Woman?”

“Oh Ho! You are pulling out all the stops, Great Grandmother. You know I’m all for that sort of help. Onward and upward, as they say. Just don’t get too crazy.”

 

Towards the end of the afternoon Owen wandered with a jar of cider into the greenhouse where he was accosted with that marvelous humidity that smelled of humus and rich growth. He closed his eyes and blissfully took a deep breath – you could almost call it a swig – of the plant chi that stirred his blood so. Who knows how long he stood there, practically growing roots to join the plants. It was a moment out of time, but when he opened his eyes his human heart warmed to see his daughter Robin in her usual red checked Pendleton shirt and her seven year old daughter Otter in a blue fairy outfit at the far end peering at baby cedar and Sitka spruce trees in pots on the long tables. He walked down that direction tuning into them as they explained to Mariposa, the newly arrived Locus intern for the Trust, about the tree seedlings growing there.

His granddaughter turned and ran towards him clambering up his leg for a hug.

“Hey Papa,” called Robin. “You were part of that first round weren’t you? I was still away at forestry school.”

“Yup. If I remember rightly, forty volunteers came out in the pouring rain and planted all long both sides of the creek. They’re tall and stable now but that summer was unusually dry and we had to haul water in buckets to tend them. Hard hot work. These new babies will go for infill and some other patches here and there.” He gestured out to the south.

“We’re just about to walk down along the trees,” Robin offered. “Wanna come?”

“Totally abandon my post at the cider press?” Owen mused guiltily. “Oh well. It would be good to check on the fences around the past year’s trees, though I’m sure the volunteer tree crew already have.”

They walked together out past the cars parked for this special occasion on the field on the south side of the barn. Otter danced around them, as playful as her namesake. “Will we see real otters today, Grandpa?”

“Probably not – way too much activity for those shy ones. Let’s come back later this week and maybe they’ll put on a show for you. I bet they know how special you are for them.”

“I sure wish the salmon would come back to the creek,” Robin said wistfully as they crossed the lovely old bridge erected that first year. It was showing its age and would need replacing soon, but Owen smiled to remember coming down early one morning to find the bridge mysteriously there.

“Like, what would that take?” asked Mariposa, bringing Owen back to the present.

“To bring back the salmon? We don’t really know. We planted the trees for shade to keep the temperatures of the water down. But we’re a little worried about the neighbor upstream who still uses chemical fertilizer.”

“Run off.” Mariposa nodded with a grimace.

“Will the fish like the woody debris some theories say to bring in?” Owen continued.

“There’s got to be some magical moment when circumstances are right and they feel safe to return,” said Robin. “I have to trust that the trees will call them back. Or the elk.”

“The otters will know when it’s safe for the fishies,” said the wise little one before dashing off ahead again.

“But what if there aren’t any left of the originals?” Mariposa worried. “The ones wanting to return to the creek where they were born?”

“Again we don’t really know. We’re doin’ what we can think of and leaving the rest to the land and water and creatures themselves.”

“Remember when we camped out here and heard the elk whistling?” Owen was still enjoying the visions of the early days and for once was not too worried about the future.

“It’s an eerie, unearthly sound,” Robin explained to the intern. “Almost like whales. They surrounded us.”

“No way. Scary?”

“A little. But mostly powerful.”

 

While her elders talked Otter was poking among the cedars from the first planting, looking for late blackberries. She stopped short to see a stooped elderly Indian dressed in soft skins with a roughly woven gathering basket on her back.

“Hullo,” said the child. “Are you picking too?”

The old woman smiled and gestured towards her basket. “Enough to dry for the winter. I have fish too. They are rich in the streams this time of year.”

“We don’t have them anymore – not right here at least.” Somehow Otter knew this woman was from another time.

“Yes, I am from long ago,” said the elder reading her thoughts, “but you are my granddaughter too. In this time. In both times.”

“How do you know?”

“Isn’t your name Otter?”

“Yessss.” The little girl jumped up and down, her blue wings and sequined tutu twinkling.

“Well then,” the old woman said as if that settled it. “You will remember how to call them back.”

“Who?” asked the little one.

“The Salmon.” The reply was almost fierce.

Otter’s mouth went round with shock. Then nodding solemnly she turned and ran back to the adults.

 

Uri was thoughtful after the Harvest Fest as he drove Michael back to the house they were renting in Mahonia until something permanent was found. Carlos and Gabe’s music had, indeed, been right up his alley and he was excited about the creative prospects for the future on that score. A few people had danced this afternoon but it wasn’t really the venue for that. It would be fun to see what developed when they were in private territory. Did they know about declaring sacred space? He had a feeling they might…. or would be open to it if he set it after a few sessions together.

But there was something more going on here that had him thinking and it wasn’t something he could discuss with Michael who was allergic to things woo woo. Uri had seen lavender light coming from Ursula’s hands when one of the little kids fell out of the apple tree. He had also taken note that she had given the kid homeopathic Arnica – had sent someone to fetch the familiar little blue plastic Boiron dispenser from her backpack. Uri knew it was the perfect remedy for the shock of the fall but also would help with any swelling from the injury. She obviously had some basic healing knowledge. He so hadn’t known what to expect coming to this community. The move was perfect for Michael and he’d had to trust that there was something for his own growth as well.

Actually, he’d seen healing evidence twice because light flared, blue the second time, when the tall henna-haired woman in gypsy garb had reached out to hold the elbow of an older gentleman who was recovering from a previous accident of some sort. Uri had watched the man’s energy ease, especially after adding a little of his own juice from afar.

He had also sensed presences lurking in the shadows and up in the trees, which made him suspect that the Old Ones of the place were still hanging out. A few of the spirits were disapproving and suspicious, but others were vibing a grudging acceptance of the good intentions of folks coming together in the community. A couple of the spirits even seemed to be enjoying themselves.

What’s more a silent conversation with baby Menolly had confirmed their common dragon heritage. This was way more than he usually picked up in a crowd. He must be feeling safer and more open. It was mostly good stuff – aside from the woman in one booth with a thunderous black cloud hovering over her head. He hoped he didn’t meet her again any time soon. Or the homophobic gent who’d glared at him. Had to be expected. Uri had learned not to let it bother him – most of the time. Too much bad energy to take on.

Did Michael’s friends realize what was going on in their midst? Probably they did, but he needed to ask a few questions. Connecting one-on-one with Ursula was a good place to start. She was definitely an elder to consult. He chuckled, wondering if she considered herself an Elder yet. If not, it was about time she did.