“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.