Only Steal From The Best

We’re all having to do more with less right now. The fat times are behind us, and we are all having to hone our craft. What does this have to do with stealing? It depends on your point of view, as so many things do.

The old Tales, read closely, are all about point of view. Is it Deirdre’s fault the men of Ulster fought a bloody battle, or is it theirs? Who raises the sword? Who causes it to be raised? Did Medb cause the Men of Connaught to be strayed and destroyed because she was female, or is that just the way many a cattle raid turns out? As my grandmother said, “It depends on whose ox is being gored.” The place of gender in Irish culture, and the culture itself was changing in that time, and the versions of the Tales we have reflect that.

I was listening to the radio last Sunday and a wonderful segment came on. It was about a book called “Steal Like An Artist,” by a man named Austin Kleon. The segment can be heard here. Through the miracle of ereading, I was once again able to download the book to my iPod from the public library before the show was even over. We live in such magical times! I have tools now that I could only dream of when I first started busking.

Kleon’s point was that we are all the product of our influences. We all create based on the work of others. Without the Tales written down over a thousand years ago by people whose faces I will never see, whose names I will never know, I wouldn’t have the stories of Deirdriu and Blodeuwedd to draw on. Without the recordings of Steeleye Span, Capercaillie, and many others to draw on, I wouldn’t have had voices, patiently playing the same tune over and over while I sang along until my voice could do the same things theirs could. If we surround ourselves with the best that our culture has to offer, we, too, will be able to offer our best in return.

Stealing is both a bright line and a slippery term. To take someone else’s work and claim it as my own, that is stealing. To admit that my work is built on the work of others, that is homage and the simple truth. Retelling the old Tales, for example, is a long and venerable tradition. They need to be fit to the spirit of the age they are told in if they are to have their true power. The versions we have, after all, are the Tale as told at that moment in time, not a timeless perfect version to be held up as the Definitive Work. It is the work of the storyteller and the scholar to read the older versions and understand the context in which they were told in order to grasp the essence of the Tale, to separate the nut from the husk. Morgan Llywelyn, to give but one example, does this beautifully. To read her novels is to be led to the heart of the Tale, and back to the source of it, if, like me, you don’t ever want the story to end. Give someone the passion for knowledge, as she does, and you light a fire in the head. Who knows where that will lead?

To bring it even closer to home, I am listening to an album right now, called The Dance Goes On, by a duo called Blanche Rowen and Michael Gulston. I fully intend to learn a number of songs from it simply because they’re already half in my head and won’t let me be until I learn the rest of them. I urge you to give them a listen and then run, do not walk, to buy your own copy. You see, I want to learn how to light such a fire in others as they have lit in me. I’m listening to it now, and have been since I got it. I know that my first album, limited as its circulation was, did that in at least a few people. I replaced a few tapes for people who played them to death and get occasional requests for a CD of it to this day. To me, that’s the highest compliment I could receive, and it brings the fire home to hopefully make the next recording even better.

Songs don’t live unless they’re sung. They live on the breath, and in the moment they are heard. I hope to leave this world knowing that my songs are on the lips of others, and so I too give life to the songs of others. But I credit, and I buy recordings, so the artists can continue to make music. To me, that’s the bright line. Besides, it’s so embarrassing to be caught.

We are so rich, in this beautiful and terrible age we live in. We have the wisdom of the ages at our fingertips, and such power that we can destroy ourselves. If we do not truly step into our power and the responsibility that goes with it, we may not have a next generation to gift our wisdom to. The chain of beauty may truly be broken. What a wonderful time to be alive! What a chance to make the art that may play a part in bringing us though this time into the next age! It truly does all depend on your point of view.

Three Drops of Honey For Three Drops of Blood

Three Drops of Honey for Three Drops of Blood

My eyes stare up at the blue of the sky
My blood runs over the rock
My life was mine to live
I took my part of it with me

Three colors I could love in a man
Snow white, night black and crimson red
I dreamt of him till he came to me
I took his hand and stole us away

Mine was the cry that struck
Fear in the men of Ulster
I screamed from my mother’s womb
My life was bounded by that shriek.

Only Conchobor’s women
Raised me to womanhood
I was claimed by a king
Before I was even born

But I made my choice
Uisliu the finest man I’d seen
Then the chase began
Across the isles we ran like deer

Those were the days of the life I chose
My bonny man my heart’s delight
Running made life sweet
For the king would never give me up

Three birds came to us,
beaks all smeared with honey sweet
They flew away with drops of our blood
And we to Ireland returned

Battle to Ulster came,
My beautiful lover lay in his blood
Just as the druid said
My life the coin that bought their lives

I was the king’s again
Rolling away from the bloody field
Littered with Ulster’s pride
I leapt from the chariot

My eyes stare up at the blue of the sky
My blood runs over the rock
My life was mine to live
I took my part of it with me

 

An embryonic song. I have tried to write Deirdriu’s side of the story for over twenty years. A look at an article from 1913 gave me the image that opened the conduit.

I understand, I really do. After all Deirdriu went through, after all the choices that were made for her, I can understand why she simply wouldn’t care what anyone else thought about her story. She lived her whole life on someone else’s terms. When she finally made her own choice, she never had a place to lay her head two nights in a row. She had the sense to stay away from Ireland, but her boyfriend didn’t. Why should she want anything but peace once it was over?

She has it, I hope, but we need to understand her story, for all the women whose choices are made for them. May I eventually tell it to her satisfaction, in song.

In The Footsteps of Goddesses

There are three goddesses who are the main inspiration of my trip. First of all, I’m going in search of Scathach, the woman warrior who gave her name to the Isle of Skye. From London I’ll be going to Inverness, and from there to Skye. Destination: Dun Scaith

There’s very little to be known about Scathach, her surviving claim to fame is as the teacher of Cuchullain. She apparently stood in a way in the place of Chiron to the warriors of Greek myth. Does that make a woman warrior as mythical a being as a centaur? Well, to some, I suppose it does, but most of us know better by now… I have been trying to write a song about her for years, and this castle, ruined and of dubious connection to her as it is, seems like a good place to cast about for clues.

Scathach, after all, must have had a lot more to her than simply teaching men to fight. What did she do to gain her experience? Her exploits had to be well known in her day. Is she another aspect of the Norse goddess Skadi, the hunter and skier, who also was known as the shade? Scathach’s name means “shadowed one,” and like Scathach, little is known about Skadi, though there’s more about Skadi than Scathach.

The second goddess is Brighid. I plan to visit her well and her sisterhood in Kildare. Erynn Rowan Laurie has kindly put a guide to getting there on her website. Brighid herself was long ago kind enough to give me a song, and I would like to give it to the well, and the Sisters, if they’ll have it.

The last goddess is Macha, whom I’ve written of before. The first song I wrote that I consider to be worth anything was my final project for a Celtic literature course. I was more than a little annoyed with a certain group of Ulstermen, who didn’t want me carrying a sword, and I was quite taken with another Irish tale related to the Tain, which explained why the men of Ulster were afflicted with birth pangs whenever their province was attacked. The short version is, Macha, the goddess of sovereignty in Ireland, a horse goddess who shares much with the Welsh Rhiannon and the Gaulish Epona, married an Ulsterman and got pregnant. Her husband got drunk at the races, basically, and started bragging that his wife could run faster than the king’s horses. She was forced to prove it. She won the race, had her kids on the finish line, and cursed the Ulstermen before dying or leaving, depending on the version of the story you read. The race was run at Emain Macha, so I’m going there as well.

There are plenty of other songs that I would like to sing in other places on this trip, but those three are the essential ones, and the core of the next album. Amusing, I guess, that the other two deities were more than happy to have me tell their stories, but The Shadowed One requires a wild goose chase way the hell up to Scotland to a place that may or may not be her home which might or might not result in a song. I don’t mind, I love adventures. If I end up cold and wet walking my way across Sleat in the middle of the night, at least I’ll have an interesting story to tell. It won’t be the first time I’ve done something of the sort, after all.

We Are So Wealthy!

We all have such riches, things that we’re not even aware of! Things that make our lives better, that make our communities better places to live. I realized this this morning, lying in bed with my iPod. All it took was a notification email from the public library. One of my holds is waiting for me. My first reaction was “Oh no! I haven’t finished the two books I already got last week, and I know I can’t read all three before they’re due!”

Then it hit me. I have more books than I can read. For free—or at least, at the taxpayer’s expense. Collectively we have the wisdom of the ages at our fingertips, all we have to do is walk into the library. We have a plethora of beautiful buildings to keep this treasure in, and we have a staff of professionals to take care of it for us, file it in a way that allows us to find what we want quickly and easily, even access some of it remotely. I can place a  hold for a physical copy of a book literally from my bed, and sometimes, I can even check the electronic copy out and be reading it in mere seconds.

What a wonderful use of our collective power as taxpayers! I find this to be useful and enriching, but what I really love about it is that anyone, down to the homeless, can access all this information. People who can’t afford to buy or store, say, the latest Jared Diamond book, which is what I’m currently reading, and which prompted this tiny existential crisis this morning, can read this book for free and then hand it back in. Barring theft or destruction, that book will always be there and can be checked out again whenever we please.

I can’t recommend this book, _The World Until Yesterday_, highly enough, actually. I lost my tiny mind for a moment because I was afraid I would have to turn it in before I finished it. As if it were necessary that I digest that whole thing at once! What I love the most about it is that it expands my view of humanity through time. It makes me remember why I love archaeology and anthropology so much, and it is adding greatly to my perception of war and how it shapes our relationships with each other.

I was wrong, unfortunately. I had the idea that war was a relatively recent invention, and that warfare was a path we set our feet on when there was no more “away” to move to when we had disputes with each other. Sadly, this is not true. An archaeological site from 5000 BCE with 18 people dead from blows to the back of the head burst that bubble for me, as well as a reminder of the film “Dead Birds,” which I saw in school years ago. We have always had ways of treating each other badly for stupid reasons.

However, as I also learned in school, just because a practice has a long history does not mean that it must have a long future. We learn from our mistakes, and we can change the stories we tell. Change the story, and you can change your life. We always have a choice, and if there’s one thing I know about humanity, it’s that we’re the most adaptable, flexible species on the planet. We are worldchangers.

We are storytellers. Sit still, quiet down, and you will hear the voice in your head. You won’t be able to turn it off. And why should we want to? What we can do is become aware of it, and really listen to what it says, and then let it go. Like a river, the eddy is always there, but the water that creates it is different moment to moment.

I am a storyteller. I choose carefully, and lately a lot of the stories I tell are about war. How we idealize it, how we discover over and over again that it’s a lot easier to start one than to get out of one, and how it’s never worth the price we pay for it. Most of all, I tell a story of how we can evolve beyond it. War is never a good idea. It never solves the problem, all it does is change the circumstances. We have to fix the problems caused by the fighting before we can get back to the original problem, and many times we get so distracted by the process that we never do get back to that.

I believe that knowledge is an antidote to war. Diamond made me remember just how long history really is. Seeing the scope of it helps me see the way out of war. There have been some other excellent books written about war lately, and most of them I have been introduced to via the public library. Paul Chappell, a West Point graduate and a professional soldier, has a lot to say on war and how we can finally move beyond it, as well as Frances Moore Lappe’s excellent book Ecomind.

Above all, Diamond’s description of how small the worlds of the First Peoples who still engage in traditional warfare are made me feel so sad. It made me realize just how far we have come towards ending so many forms of injustice. I can hardly imagine not being able to go twenty miles from home for fear of being killed simply because I strayed into someone else’s territory. We have a long way to go, but I know we can do it. I know that I will never pick up a gun voluntarily unless it’s for food or recreation. I will certainly never have one in my house for personal defense, no matter how often I get robbed. Stuff can be replaced. A human life never can be, and nothing I own is worth killing for.

That brings me back to why I follow a bardic path, and I’ll leave you with a triad on this:

The three principal duties of a bard:
The first is to learn and collect the sciences.
The second is to teach.
And the third is to make peace, and to put an end to all injury.
For to do other than that is not usual, or becoming to a bard.

We Are The Groundbreakers

We all stand on the shoulders of others. We can see farther because we have their revelations to build on. If we listen, and learn, we might just be lucky enough to carry the whole species forward. Today, what I’ve heard and read has made me feel that we can carry the whole planet forward, that we’re going to make the right choices and do the tasks that are set before us.

I heard an amazing broadcast this morning: Re-creating the world with Michael Meade and then I read an amazing post: We Are Still in the Pagan Playground so Let’s Play!

These led me back even farther, to college and some of the ideas I was exposed to there. Years ago, my favorite archaeology teacher gave me a real touchstone. She spoke of the excessive weight given to what she called origin myths. The farther back you can push a bit of knowledge, the truer it is seen to be and the greater its importance. She thought that that obscured, rather than revealed the truth, and that lecture taught me to peel back the layers till I get to the kernel of the matter ever since.

So paradoxically, we need the past to build on, but we can never get too comfortable with what appears to be the truth. The one sure thing about the truth is that it’s ever-shifting. To pin it down and write it in a book and assume that that’s the end of it is to kill it. That leads me to yet another thing I learned in school. At San Francisco State I was lucky enough to have a number of very good instructors, who knew their business and gave me not truths, but ideas. My Celtic literature instructor told us the Druidic idea that the knowledge travels on the breath, that to write it down is to kill it. But she also told us how the Druids had learned from literate cultures the value of writing down knowledge, lest it be lost completely if all the holders were killed. So we have the great books of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, where Tales we would likely not know otherwise were written down in the shape they held in the time they were recorded. She was also wise enough to let me write a song rather than a paper for my final project, which allowed me to experience this truth firsthand, and helped me create the musical path I walk today.

A Tale, after all, is always the same, unchanged. Good fortune accrues to the listener and the teller when it is told truly and completely. As my Irish dance teacher told us, the steps are always the same. Then she’d show us how the step was done in the north, in her youth, and how it was done in the south–though it was of course the same step. In the same way, the Cattle Raid of Cooley is the same whether it comes from the Book of Leinster or Morgan Llywelyn’s _Red Branch_. The wonder of our age is that we can see these versions side by side and hold the paradox in our hands. We can see the relationship of truth and idea, and how they are shaped as they pass through time. Is this what the Druids who understood the value and the necessity of recording their knowledge knew, and was this the fruit of their labors that they never saw in the way we can with all the examples we now have but which they were prescient enough to envision?  

Knowledge is carried on the breath, the world is a never ending story. Anyone who’s ever meditated realizes how pervasive that voice in our minds is, how difficult it can be to even become fully aware of it and taste the silence between its stories. Once again, paradox. Thoughts are sources of wisdom, but they should never be allowed to be our masters. In his broadcast, Michael Meade told a wonderful story of an old woman in a cave who wove a beautiful garment. When it was unraveled completely, she took the end of the thread and began to remake it, the wisdom she had gained the last time she wove it only adding to its beauty. He illuminated the great crossroads we stand at for me, as well as the process we are going through in order to create the new world that is in the process of being born. Can any of us doubt that the world is falling apart even as we speak? Things we were once so sure of are threatened, and in some cases literally swept away. We are left to pick up the pieces and build again. Destruction and creation are one and the same and that is a good thing. Life is a journey, a story, a process.

The image of the birch, the first tree in the ogham, the colonizer of new ground came to me as I read the words of Damh the Bard. All the beautiful ideas of the modern Pagan movement are seeds falling on fertile soil. We draw from our past the mythology and wisdom that is there, but at our best we are growing community that is solidly rooted in this time and place. We’re still in the beginning, we are tending the first trees growing in this new time. This is a powerful, wonderful time, and I feel very lucky to be alive now as this next cycle is shaped. This new knowledge is every bit as authentic and valid as the long-established roots of the yew, and only time will test it fully. But the beginning is now. After all, when we reach the last tree of the ogham, it’s time to go back to the beginning and take up the birch again, bringing the learning to the next level.

I follow a Pagan path, by and large, but it is only a shell within the Unitarianism I was raised in. Try as I might, I can’t find the edges of that idea. I can’t really call it a belief system because I can’t think of anything we believe in, except perhaps coffee hour and the exchange of ideas. The sanctuary of the church I was raised in has always been big enough for any idea I care to bring into it, and though I see the inside of it rarely, the idea of it, and its reality are always solidly at my back. I know I will always have a home there. As my father told me once, we don’t have to go to church every Sunday because God trusts us.

If I have any faith at all, it is in humanity, and the web of life. I believe that together we are smart enough to handle anything. If we just take a deep breath and look honestly at ourselves and our world, we can not only live through the great changes that are upon us, we can be the calm awareness shining out of the eyes of Gaia that we were evolved to be. Part of a greater whole, not rulers standing apart from creation. Not all of who we appear to be now serves this whole, but if we accept who we are, we can change. We will change anyway. The only question is, will we do it consciously, or will we let the consequences of our actions do it to us?

Giant (Stan Rogers Cover)

Happy Samhain, here’s a track for the beginning of the Dark Half of the year:

Giant (Stan Rogers Cover)

I’ve never seen a stone circle, but it’s one of the things I hope to do next summer. I dream of singing this song at some circle, perhaps Callanish, or wherever else seems right. Seems only fair, after all the times I’ve sung it, and all the images that have come to me while so doing. The finding of the proper place will be as much fun as the singing, if not more so.

I’ve sung this song a lot over the last few days, in BART stations, and last night at the Freight and Salvage. I even sang it today for Giants fans. After all, what else did I have that was even remotely related to baseball? People were so high from the parade that most of them didn’t really care, as long as it had a beat–if they noticed me at all, that is.

Playing in BART stations is proving to be quite rewarding, as long as money isn’t the yardstick. My voice is improving, and I’m building a repertoire that’s more interesting than just the stuff I used to do at Faire. Giant, for instance, is a Stan Rogers song and something that could never have been written in any other era but our own. If you’ve never heard him before, you are in for a treat–and you really should hear Giant from his lips, he does it better than I ever will.

Tonight, after all, is a night for ancestors, and Stan Rogers is definitely one of mine, musically speaking. He and all the others whose recordings played for me tirelessly till I got it right–or at least got all the notes in the right place, made me the singer and drummer that I am. I hope someday to be good enough to do that service for musicians as yet unborn, should my own songs stand the test of time. I might stand at the forefront now, carrying their tunes on my breath, but others have to take up the songs or they die. Even caught as they can be now, on magnetic tape or bits of code, songs have to be sung, not just listened to. The great gift of recorded music can be a curse as well, causing us to shut our mouths if we don’t believe that we measure up to what we hear. So I sing Stan Rogers, and Bert Jansch, and even Todd Rundgren on occasion, and use their perfectly preserved bests as inspirations and teachers, a way to get better than I am now. A way to hitch my wagon to a star, as my ancestors bade me do.

Harvest

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It isn’t fall without a harvest of some kind. This year I am blessed. Tomatoes and peppers in the back yard, my busking, which is a harvest of all those years of practice and skill building that I didn’t realize I was doing. My favorite harvest of all is the crush, though. It is something my dad has done since before I can really remember, and it has accordingly been woven into my life, part of the cycle of the seasons. There have been years without it, but even then, I always think of the grapes in August and September.

At its best, it starts early, early in the morning. Accordingly, we had to get up at the crack of oh-dark-thirty. Of course, if I hadn’t left my wallet and 5# of meat at work, we could have slept in a bit longer, but it did add to the experience I suppose. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge heading for Novato before dawn. We saw the full moon in darkness crossing the Bay Bridge, and tendrils of fog were added to the experience on her more famous sister. It was one of those perfect mornings where the marine layer is low on the water, but the skies are largely clear above. One of those mornings that persuades people to move to San Francisco where they learn what is, to them, the awful truth, that it is indeed cold and gray here most of the time.

We met up in Novato and drove to Windsor. The vineyard was beautiful–they all are, but this one was something special:

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We picked merlot, and we had a lot of people this year wanting to have the whole experience. With ten people, we picked 400 lbs. in less than 45 minutes. The fruit was beautiful, sweet and small and perfect:

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Since there was really so little work to do, I took a moment to talk to the vines. Muin, the vine, has an ogham correspondence. Some see it as the bramble, others the vine. Having grown up in the Bay Area, I see it in both plants. Muin is the path of the voice, the strength of it to unite as the vine and the bramble climb on the backs of other things to reach the light. Whether that be a trellis, a tree, or an idea, the principle is the same. Muin has a dark side, however. Beautiful words are not necessarily true, and a vine can strangle that which supports it. Wine brings misery as well as joy if its power is not respected and understood.

I didn’t have much time, and frankly, these vines were singing only one song, of joy and completion. They were focused on fruit, twinkling purple and green in my mind, one soaring note of fulfillment. I was busy too, it was all too soon time to leave, to tell the rest of the story, to set the table and the equipment, to coax people into the harvest dance. Come, take off your shoes, wash your feet and feel the grapes between your toes. Just like Lucille Ball, it only feels icky for a moment, till you remember what your ancestors knew. Wine is magic, the god is trampled beneath your feet and rises stronger than before. Plunge your hands into the bin, pick out the stems until the must is soft with grape skins and seeds. Let it rest, and next year we will feast and drink what this year was fruit soaking in the summer sunlight. Or some other year. By now my dad has been doing this so long that there’s always quite a selection. To me, that is the taste of home.

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The Isle of Skye

Yes, I know it’s not in Ireland. But it’s on the list of places to see. Scathach, like Macha, is one of those people from myth that doesn’t get much ink. If it weren’t for her, Cuchullain would never have become the warrior he did. In fact, there are only two sources that I’ve ever found that mention her at all, and the story of Cuchullain’s training is the one with the most info. I think she deserves a song. I would love to write it. I’ve been trying to for years, but there just isn’t enough material. The story of Cuchullain’s training tells us about him, and the day to day running of Scathach’s school, but next to nothing about her. She might have sprung up from the island she teaches on for all we are told.

There are possibly related stories. The Norse Skadi shares a lot of the same spirit. And the Scythians are another possible Indo-European connection. But I don’t want to be a Roman, calling every similar deity “The Gaulish Jupiter,” or “The German Hermes” or some such.

What does Scathach have to say? What song might she and I make together, if I go and ask her? I plan to start here: Dun Scaith.  It’s a pretty forbidding place. I gave Google Earth quite a workout last night. And a friend of mine tells me that she was told that the Isle of Skye is a place you visit in the summer, the wind is so strong trees don’t stand up to it.

Maybe that’s the point of this particular adventure. It doesn’t feel welcoming to me, it feels like I’ll be coming back empty-handed. But wasn’t that what Cuchullain faced? Scathach is not an easy teacher. The ruins of a castle that might have been built on the site of her fortress is a pretty nebulous place to cross half the world to see. A shadowy connection to begin looking for The Shadowed One. But when I look at Dun Scaith, I see that bridge that Cuchullain leaped. I see a story so changed by time that the original warrior woman whom it belonged to is all but gone from it.

Does she even care if we know it? Or is she happy to have it lost in the shadows? I don’t know. But I know there’s only one way to find out.

Busking total: $6.40. $4891.00 to go!

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Something is Definitely in the Air

I don’t know if it’s my situation, or all that hopefluff I’ve been loading like psychic carbs all week, or if we’re truly on the brink of change, but I can feel it. As if the whole world is pregnant with ourselves.

The chips are down. I’m counting out transit fares till next payday on my clipper card. I might have to borrow against my busking money in order to hit the BART stations this week. I have a friend living in my living room. My partner’s possible new job fell through this week. But we’re all working hard, doing whatever we can to turn this around. The friend has work, and is working to get more. My partner has a job, and is working all the harder on her freelance work. I’m working my job, and working on my gear–I made a new skirt, and have a look at the beginnings of my new bodhran case:

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I’m also busking, as always, and learning repertoire. There are three open mikes that I know of this month, September 18th and 24th at the Freight and Salvage, and September 29th at MoJoe’s Cafe on Sacramento and Blake in Berkeley. And there are other things on the horizon.

I love this road! I am happy to be walking it, no matter how hard parts of it are. I truly would not be anywhere else but farther along it, given a choice. At last I am doing what I was meant to, following my dreams wherever they lead. And I am in good company. It’s hard for everyone right now, after all.

What’s your road? What are your dreams and what’s driving you toward them? I’d love to know because we all grow stronger, knowing we’re not alone.

Busking total: $10.40. $4941.75 to go!

Worlds Apart

That was just the recharge I needed. Well, maybe not the three nights of steady drinking, but nothing that morning coffee didn’t set right. Getting to spend the day barefoot, in my leine, listening to bands and hanging with my clan, now that was a taste of the world I want to live in.

The shape of this world, the feel of it, is more important than the details. It begins with a group I’m part of, that becomes more itself when I, or any other part of it arrives. A clan, a tribe, where hospitality is at the core and we all pitch in to do what is needful, getting it done and making it part of the fun. A group where we all are after giving and receiving our gifts, to each other, and to the world. The world is a better place for our being in it.

The Games run like that, as far as I can see. People pick up after themselves. The privies are cleaned regularly, and the campground is amazingly clean considering the fact that most of us are dependent on the facilities inside the Fairground for running water. People drink mightily, and pile their bottles by the trash cans, where they’re picked up at least once a day. People and groups are welcoming. Even if they’ve never seen you before, you’re treated as part of the clans. I always know more people when I leave than I did when I arrived. And no one cares a bit what I wear–something that rarely happens in the outside world.

The task now is to keep that energy and bring it back with me, in this neighborhood full of litter and tags, where people treat each other as strangers if they haven’t seen them before. We can do better, we will be forced to do so in the not too distant future if we don’t make the choice ourselves soon.

Yesterday was hard. I met with more indifference at Berkeley BART, which is generally my best station, than I ever have. The singing felt good, I was in better voice than I’ve been in a long time too. I can fill that space with voice and drum now, without blowing out my voice, and my repertoire has expanded back to the point where I can fill 45 minutes solid before I have to start throwing in repeats.

But there are people who smile, regardless, and people who hang around for whatever reason, and the green and growing earth is still to be seen everywhere if you look for it. I spent the weekend sleeping and walking on green grass, and there are trees to be seen from the BART train. There is grass growing through the pavement, and the UC Berkeley campus is half forest. The sunflowers have finally bloomed in my yard, and the tomatoes are ripening. The raspberry bush, all but dead two months ago, is actually going to put out flowers this year. Life, and hope, are everywhere.

What shape is your perfect world? Where do you see it peeking through in this one? Can you do anything to bring it into being?

 

Busking total: $4.85. $4952.15 to go!