New Year’s Eve Prep

Finding Allies

“We’re on our way to the Art Center to work on stuff for the New Year’s Eve parade. Anybody else want to come?” Charley issued a cheery invitation to anybody in earshot in Gaia Natural Foods, while Ursula gathered up edibles to sustain the group artistic endeavor.

A dread-locked head popped out from behind the produce aisle. “I keep hearing about the parade. What’s the deal?”

“The young people started it ten or so years ago. We rent the community center and hang out with costume trunks and music and potluck goodies. Just before midnight a lot more people turn up and we all head down Main Street with flaming torches, giant puppets, and banners. There are drummers and general shenanigans. This year Ariel’s brass marching band friends from Portland are coming so the music should be particularly fun.”

“I’ve heard about that part. What are you doing at the art center?”

“During this week between Christmas and New Years we take over the large common room at the Art Center and get creative. Some puppets last from year to year but it’s fun to make at least one new big thing. The huge skeleton man and turtle finally got eaten by rats in my daughter’s barn. I don’t know if the guys will want to get down the big bird they hung up at ReBound. But when we left last night it looked like a dragon was beginning to take shape.”

“It’s really fun,” said Ursula coming up. “You never know who or what is going to show up. The young folks have already made one trip to ReBound scavenging for likely materials and will probably make a few more. I’ve got fabric I’ve been collecting plus other odds and ends. I want to make a bunch of banners this year.”

“Maybe I’ll come by. I’m pretty good on the sewing machine. I’ve done a lot of theater work.”
“Perfect,” said Charley. It really is street theater.”

“Is the parade legal?” asked an older man overhearing their conversation.

“The kids always wanted it to stay anarchistic like it was in the beginning,” answered Charley. “But us parent types rented the hall for a staging area the second year and by the third year felt we should honor the City’s request to work on some of the logistics. Small town politics, you know. For one thing, it was making things awkward for our friend, Tad, the police chief. Then the City made us apply for a permit that involved paying 300 bucks for event insurance. We went along with it that year to keep the peace. The next year a group of us identified with it were out of town and the parade happened anyway. The following year we pointed out that it had taken on a life of its own like Times Square and that the City’s insurance covers it just like the 4th of July parade they sanction. They agreed to mellow out about it if we would help with security. So we round up volunteers to wear vests at the intersections. The whole thing only lasts about twenty minutes from start to finish.”

“Who’s we?” asked the man.

“Cedar ReSources  – a citizens group that is working towards sustainability in our area villages. We see the parade as a great community building opportunity. It doesn’t hurt the economics of the holiday week either. Now there are parties and bands at a number of venues and people make reservations at the inns along the street months in advance.”

“Come on by the Art Center to see the process. For sure show up for the fun on the 31st. You could even wear a security vest,” Charley offered.

Ursula reappeared with her basket loaded. “OK. I’ve got cheese and wine and chips. Carrots and cauliflower. Molly is making hummus. Raven promised brownies. That should hold us for the afternoon. I’m figuring we can order some pizzas for whoever is around at supper time.”

“Let’s grab some beer.”

“I hear they’re making animal masks this year like the ones they did for Solstice,” said the young girl behind the counter. “I’ll be there when I’m off work.”



The Art center was already humming in creative chaos when Charley and Ursula arrived. Beer bottles from the night before and active looking latte cups were scattered amidst piles of fabric and poles, glue guns and scissors. A young girl Ursula didn’t know was making fairy wings with Maddie from Elder House. A couple of sewing machines stood idle at the moment but obviously had been put to good use judging from the clutter around them. Ariel’s cadre of teenagers doing papier mach masks had been joined by Thea. Raven was helping Orca and Summer turn a rainbow colored tent into a dragon’s head. Its tail was a roll of green nylon fabric Cali had contributed from her garage stash.

As Ursula spread out provisions, a group came in the door. “More materials,” said Carlos as he and Marina came gaily through the door. “Buckets for drums. We want lots this year. And look at this cool wire mesh. It’s gotta be good for something.”

“Here’s some more sparkly fabric for you fairies,” offered Marina. “It came in just as we got there. How ‘bout these placemats for the dragon’s eyes?”

“Phew!” said Ursula quietly to Charley. “Looks like we’re on a roll here. The last couple of years have been kinda flat. The news of the brass band coming helps.”

“It doesn’t hurt to have Marina and Arlo around, plus Ariel’s new energy. The flock of birds seems to have landed – at least for the moment. Plus Thea and Mariposa for their first New Year’s. Looks like our Intention juju is still working. There’s Finch Terranova too.“

“Such a dance we all do, keeping the energy moving,” Ursula said, moving to give Charley a hug.

“It’s worth it,” he smiled down at her and kissing her lightly.

“It is indeed. Warms my heart, it does. As always.”

“Molly said to tell you that she and Gabe will be down after ReBound closes,” Carlos relayed to Ursula.

“Ursula, did you bring your animal picture books?” called out Ariel.

“Yes, and the Ted Andrews book on animal symbolism in case some of you want to look things up.”

“Can you tell us more about Power animals?” Thea asked.

“I like the way your mask is taking shape. That’s a good way to bond with your Cougar another degree, isn’t it? And you’ll have fun playing with it. Did you tell them about how you got your new friend?’

“Yes, but not everyone can do that formal shamanic process right now. Finch and Zydeco are having trouble choosing what to make.”

“Owen would probably do an emergency session,” Ursula laughed, “but short of that, I’d suggest thinking about some animal you love. Just let one come into your mind. Do you ever dream of animals? Especially if you have more than once.

“ I’ve been dreaming about Elk lot,” said Zydeco.

“There you go. I’d say that is an important messenger for you to explore.”

“But I’m kind of afraid of them when they turn up around ReBound.”

“All the better,” responded Ursula. “Dig into that. As Starhawk says, ‘Where there’s fear, there’s power.”

“Who did you cuddle with as a child?” Ursula continued turning to the others.  “Did you have an imaginary animal friend? It’s really about listening to a call…. Even just opening one of these books at random and seeing if the creature pictured resonates.”

“I had a raccoon friend,” said a skinny teen with multi-colored hair.

Ursula thought she might be the daughter of the woman who worked at the Locovore Garden but she couldn’t remember her name. Sierra? Cheyenne? “That would be a great connection for you.”

“Can you have more than one power animal?“

“Absolutely. I have several as does everyone I know. Sometimes you’ll have a main one for a time. A particular part of your life or a season. And it’s not just animals, remember. It can be trees, plants, even the Earth herself. Stars, gods, goddesses, angels. Anything that feels like a guide or an ally to you. A helper. Something who’s qualities you would like to share or learn from.”

“Awk Awk,” Raven laughed as he flew past with a handful of potato chips.

“Raven and I identified so much with our first animals that we changed our names to join them. He always has been a trickster sort and loves sparkly things.”

“And you are such a Mother Bear person.”

Finch picked up one of the books on the table and started leafing through it with a thoughtful air.

Marina at a Crossroads

Marina stood at the crossroads – both literally and figuratively. Home for the holidays, she stood hesitating, quite unsure of which way to turn. She’d left the house in a flurry of confusion, needing to stretch her legs and gulp in lungfulls of the sea air she’d been missing.

It was actually a Y intersection, a “Place of Hekete,” Greek Goddess of the Crossroads. To the East was the Beaver Pond. Now part of the local Conservancy Trust, it had been saved by neighbors of her grandparents’ generation from being filled in and built upon. The first eco-battle she remembered. Did the beaver still live there? No evidence of them at the moment. Houses had sprung up in recent years around its perimeter, but the marsh looked healthy, still doing its job of catchment for the waters draining down off the Mountain into this little valley. Certainly the mallards were happy today. In two months the place would be ringing with the territorial sounds of red wing blackbirds by day and the peepers by night… She pulled her mind back from the spring joys of her growing up years here.

A quarter turn to West, huge waves were visible over the wildly waving grasses of the dunes. The tide was high. Even as a child she’d loved this vantage point, the earth of the Mountain firmly at her shoulder while the sea beckoned her to come play. Immediately Northwest, the rushing stream from the Beaver Pond cut through the dunes after passing the tangle of old-fashioned roses and the ghost of the old tavern that used to stand in this spot. Her parents remembered it burning down before she was born. Would her children find these same spots to play in if she were to settle here? “What children?!” she chided herself.

She spun completely to the North to glory in the Mountain, its top ridge voluptuously curved like a woman lying on her back. Marina could draw that outline in her sleep. Indeed, it often haunted her sleep.

Focusing on these landmarks brought her another degree more firmly Home. Should she be moving back to help make sure that all such places were protected? She knew that the Convervancy Trust was starting a push to acquire estuary lands along the bay and…. “Hush! My only task at the moment is to figure out which road to take for this morning, not decide my whole life.” Or was it?

If she headed South she’d soon be in town – coffee, headlines, Shirley’s cinnamon buns and people by the dozen to greet and catch up with. Was she ready for that?  She could shock people in her present life by pointing out that where she grew up there were no traffic lights for 25 miles in either direction. When she brought friends up here, she loved showing off how interconnected she was with almost everyone they bumped into – parents and grandparents of her contemporaries, childhood friends themselves. Those she had ridden the bus with. Those who’d gone to Illahee with her. Those who worked at the gas station now or served her coffee, or had probably made the scones. Those who were teachers – she had a classmate who was Athletic Director now at the high school and another who was the Spanish teacher…. Those with children…. her ovaries ached at that thought.

It would be cold along the beach road. She could take the path that skirted the south end of the pond and up over the ridge. There were new condominiums up there that she had been avoiding, fearful of their impact on the old trail. Would the salal and huckleberry still tower over her head? Could she still look back at the little farms, including her sister’s on the lowest slopes of the Mountain?

She’d come down the road from the East in the new morning, her brother-in-law feeding the animals in the barn, her younger sister Cali still asleep with her baby curled beside her. Other members of the eclectic household had been in various stages of morning business. Back there was coziness and camaraderie. Challenges too. The electricity between her and Gabe had been unmistakable last night, making her wonder why she had stuck to her lonely sleeping bag on the window seat…. Or she could stop at Sitka House to see if anyone there was up. Coffee would be offered or one of Owen’s herbal brews. Perhaps a leisurely breakfast….
To the north was the aerobic trek up to her parent’s house, its very smells familiar. Every light switch right where her hand knew it would be. Every pot that clattered in the kitchen just as it had always been…. Her parents busy with their good deeds, carefully not asking too many questions about her own plans of the moment or the longer term…..

Or she could turn off the side road and head to the Illahee School yard. That beloved place where every stump and thicket held memories. She could while away time on the swings or search out funky hideouts the current crop of children had created in the wooded hollows of the several acre site. She knew where the key was so she could even wander inside for more familiar smells.

As she stood there, balancing on one foot and then the other, a huge red dragon kite – its claws outstretched – rose above her out of the dunes, seemingly in response to her plea for direction.

“Nope. I’ve got no answers for you,” it grinned at her. “Neither would Hekete. I’m a stand-in this morning for the statue of her you haven’t yet made for this crossroads. All I can do is assure you that you’re on the right track. The questions are good ones. You will find your way.”