Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Monday, 20 August 2007

AFaire to Remember

She being of like intent,
the fair Lady Sharalyn and I went our way to Gig Harbour towne,
for we longen on pilgrimage to goon,
to seken straunge Renaissance strondes.

We could scare imagine the wonder of the new shores that would this day be presented us.

We arrived in full regalia, Shari in a Renaissance gown she made all in one evening, and I in my green jallaba from Morocco, which doubles nicely for a European period piece. The first bit we stumbled on was a potter, making bronze pots, the old fashioned way. We saw how incredibly hard it is to do, with two young men pumping for all they were worth to get the wheel spinning while the potter molded the metal. They spun it fast enough that smoke arose from the engraving of the potter.
There were, of course, battles, armor, and costumes galore.

We came across this woman shortly after I complained that there were no beggars to make it the true Renaissance. Now everything felt complete.

Shari's dress actually has those rings with the string going through, all laced and corded up and down the back. Each ring had to be individually hammered into the dress.

I found this child blowing bubbles with her hands to be one of the most endearing images of the day.

The fire eater entertained us with a great deal of vamp, as we sat down to a hotdog and corndog. In fact, while he promised a lot of fire, it was mostly smoke. We waited a long time while he joked about not being prepared, and been given the wrong schedule. But I will give him props for having a relaxed stage presence for the uneventualities of life. Most of his shtick was juggling too, rather than fire-eating. It was only at the end that we got to see this- the fire eating. Evidently, most fire eaters die after five years, from the chemicals they ingest.

Mary Queen of Scots and King Edward came out to dub the children. Used to be that they blessed childen, but that's probably a bit too Christian now. I commented to Shari how the kind of crowd that's drawn to a Renaissance festival tends to be one that's not so big on Christianity- and therefore a major part of the Renaissance is missing and lost to them.

One of my favorite parts of going to Jamma f'naa, the main square in Marraksh, was the storytellers, gathering a great crowd of men around them as they gesticulated and entertained in the fine nuances of Dareeja, Moroccan Arabic. This is what we did in times of old, and still do in faraway lands. So I was disappointed not to see this at the Renaissance Faire. And then, soon after I expressed this, there he was. We caught him in mid-story, telling a classic tale of the Little People, and a man caught in their underworld. He was warned not to eat of their food, or he would be trapped there forever. He was one of the few who have remembered.

Unfortunately, Sharalyn and I had not heeded the sage advice, and had eaten at the faire, and could therefore never leave. But having left the fairgrounds, we then entered upon a new and truly magical land.

Monday, 13 August 2007


Tara is what Scarlet O'Hara called her land, the land she grew up on and learned to love, the land she would sacrifice all to obtain once again. In a life of constant moving and ceaseless travel, for five years The Land was our Tara, our physical center, and the place containing all the memories of childhood.

Faithful readers will recall when I first blogged about these experiences, back in '84, just as we were leaving the community. Our yearly reunions are typically in Battleground, Washington, or more recently, in BC. But for the first time we had our community reunion down near The Land, in part so that we could hold a memorial service for my brother Seth, our brothers in Christ, John and Fred, and now Autumn. It was only my 2nd time returning to the land, to Tara.

It began with a bus ride to Steve and Julie's in Portland, where I had learned the pain of the kidney. Pain somewhat reminiscent of the discomfort of the bus ride down, with a young lesbian couple across the aisle who really needed to get their own room. Happier times were in greeting Paul and Steve at the bus terminal, and preparing for the next day's caravan to Rouge River, in Southern Oregon, and our campground.

We lived depending on God, through officework, the band Servant, donations from the movie Brother Sun Sister Moon, growing crops, procuring (dumpster diving), and most of all, the treeplanters, working for Weyerhaeuser. They broke their backs and worked unending days on the slopes, taking what they earned and giving it to the common purse. One of their few extravagances was to stop for the best cheap ice cream in the Northwest, at Rice Hill. Over the years this became a tradition for all of us in the community, as we drove past, and we honored that tradition again. The ice cream is still good, though no longer cheap. As I'd not had the opportunity for many years, I splurged on 4 scoops, peppermint and banana.

We stayed at the Rouge River Campground, which has far too many trailers right cheek by jowl. We were the only ones with tents that I could see. Good company, but not much to speak of in the campground itself, so I'll jump ahead to Saturday, when we went out to the Land. Other than to mention, that every other reunion I've been to, there have been tents available, and so I didn't think about getting one, and therefore had none the first night. I slept in a bed roll on a partial mat, with a canopy over me- much as did when sleeping in the desert of Zagora in Morocco among the Berbers two years ago.

A mile from our land was a cornerstore, the center of the booming town of Wilderville. It was on this road that I had to jog for PE, following Servant's lead singer, Bob, in the year of schooling we had on the land. Here also my dad and Paul saw a bear. Or a big black dog. Bear sounded cooler. And my mom comforted there a dying man after an intense motorcycle crash.

When my brother, John, and Fred died in a head on car accident with a front-loaded kerosene camper, we buried my brother and John on the land, and had a memorial stone placed for Fred. In the span of twenty years, the marauding blackberries had taken over the site, and when me and my mom went there one day to clear it off, we couldn't find the gravestones, even after spending a good amount of time hacking at those weeds. I tried a number of times to get her to go out with me to clear up the blackberries more, but it took Paul and his family coming out over the last few years to truly make it presentable. They raised the stones, laid down gravel, and with the help of Paul Andrews, placed a bench and raised an arch commemorating the site.

We began the memorial with Steve sharing some of his thoughts, and then he opened it to others to share. One story in particular touched me.

Paul's wife, Priscilla Andrews, shared a story that I was involved in, but have no memory of. The day the policemen came to tell us of Seth's death, I was overcome with grief, and threw myself to the ground, pounding my fists. My mom came to comfort me physically, and my dad's words, I will never forget, for the kindness expressed towards a ten-year-old though my dad was in the midst of great grief, sharing in a way that I could understand: "Honey, you'll never see your brother again."

My best friend outside the community at the time was Stacy, and this part I don't remember. Priscilla shared how I called over to the Andrews, and asked Stacy to come over, saying my brother died. Stacy, only ten years old himself, understandably was shocked by this, and hung up the phone immediately, telling his mom that he thought Jed was crazy, for he had just said his brother died! After calling back, and confirming, Stacy did come over, and spent the day with us, consoling me and others. He insisted at that young age in staying there with us by himself, and not needing his parents with him. When his mom came to pick him up, he shared with her that he had received his calling to become a pastor- a calling which he continues to this day.

Many others shared. I felt a burden to lead in a song from Brother Sun Sister Moon, I wasn't sure why- "Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace", with music by Donovan. (And according to Wikipedia, the music is now available for the first time on iTunes.) The film was one that the community used as a ministry tool, drawing thousands to Christ, and the ideas of Francis became foundational for us. Our theology was never systematized into Queries or a Confession, but rather was expressed through music, in the songs of Servant, and Brother Sun. So all there new the tune. But I had forgotten the final stanza until we sang it, and I realized why I'd been lead to it.

"It is in dying that we are born,

That we are born,

to eternal life."

And so we planted a shrub, and placed a sculpted fairy, to remember also Autumn, who parted from us so recently, and too soon.

After the memorial service some stayed to contemplate, and others to wander around the land, which the current owners Fish Hatchery Creekhad graciously allowed. We had a creek running through the land, the end of Fish Hatchery Creek, before it poured itself out into the Applegate River, also running next to the land. Today, in the midst of Summer, it was dry, with a large tree in the middle of it.

In the four places I lived on the land (for even in one location, we always moved), one was by far the scariest, beyond the creek, on an adjoining property. There I had the front room, with tall glass windows, from floor to ceiling. Now remember, in Oregon, Sasquatch is real. He's not a myth. And that was about all I could think of at the age of 11, as I sat there in the midst of the primeval forest, surrounded by tall trees, and darkness. And then I heard a voice, saying, "It's okay, Jed, it's okay." It is the only time I've ever heard the audible voice of our Lord. And I was able to go to sleep.

It was good to see that the Applegate beach was still present, and I paused alone to watch a pitch black egret fly down the river, to land in the trees above me. Many a bold but selected-against crawdad was caught in that river, and roasted to feed a community of eighty.

On the back lot we had a giant field, great for growing crops and playing tag. (But I learned to my great misfortune, not bicycle tag, where you tag people on bicycles by stopping them. Actually, more my angst and Jeremiah's misfortune, as he is the one who went flying over the handlebars and got knocked out from the experience...) We had a small barn to hold our farming implements. It's gratifying to see that so much of what we built still stands. Now the owners run a golf course on the back acres, with the participants camping out in the adjoining woods. A different kind of bogey than Sasquatch now roams these woods.

It is odd, but over the years, I've learned recently, they have actually shrunk the scientific standard of an acre. It's the only explanation I can give for how small everything seemed. I remember to walk to the gravesite used to be very long walk, or to the houses at the back of the Land. Now it is less than what I typically walking downtown Seattle when shopping.

The finest house I ever lived in, without exception, was the A-Frame, pictured here with me along side it. As my dad was often gone at this time, it was usually just me, my mom, and my little brother Cody in the A-Frame. It too, had mysteriously shrunk, but the current owners had also gutted it and were in the process of a remodel. When we lived there, it was just the triangle, with my brother in a small hidey bed, and my room upstairs, in the loft.
There were two other A-Frames, but one was destroyed years ago by one of the Applegate floods. (The field pictured above is a flood plain, making it excellent for growing crops.) The other A-Frame is still standing, and for the first time all three former child residents had returned- Hannah, Rebekah, and Jeremiah- along with their three children.

Besides a creek and a river, there was also a pond on the Land, which we expanded with a backhoe to create a small island. This was the pond that I, Seth, and another almost drowned in one day, if not for one of our adult Sisters rescuing us.

The finest animal in the world is the pig. There really isn't an argument with this, as the year of my birth, and recent events in Seattle have proven. After crying to the end of Charlotte's Web, I was given the gift of a beautiful piglet on one birthday. There were too many pigs named Wilburta around at the time, so her name became Charlotte.

She ate a lot. We had long conversations, and I learned some basic pig, as I've shared before. Most importantly, she kept to her vows and commitments to our Lord, believing that Paul the Apostle offered the best advice. Throughout her long life, she refused all the attempts at mating, and remained a virgin gilt. You've got to respect that.

These pictures are the slough created from where there was once a pig, 20 years ago. A testament to how an invasive species like the pig can completely transform a landscape with it's rooting, taking generations for it to recover. But in the process of succession, new life takes hold, even if only fleetingly.

Big BarnBetween the pigpen and the main barn was a idyllic spot, filled with a plant like bamboo which grows wild in Southern Oregon, surrounded by blackberries. This plant was excellent for making trails in, constructing homes, and hiding precious objects. In a time when every crush is innocent and pure, I created this place with the girl I liked, until the younger kids one day discovered our hiding place, and irreverently and unintentionally came through and trampled all the paths. First Kiss Meadow
Two days before we left the community forever, I gave her my most precious items- a collection of Christian fantasy books (the Tower of Geburah series), and in the midst of the bamboo-plant, had my first kiss. Well, more like gave it, and that poorly- pecking on the nose. The bamboo plants are long gone, leaving only this grassy meadow.
We had a small garden near the Common House, at the head of the land, to provide easy access vegetables. Adjoining was the office, for Servant, the ill-fated Rooftop Records, and finally, Fish Hatchery Common School, named after the creek, my 7th grade year of schooling, where I and some ten other children attended. My classroom was a space for two, as there were no others my age, and the other student had to be brought in from outside the community. Vivian Wilson taught science, and my mom history and literature, and both opened up new horizons for me.
Common House extension
When we first came to the Land, there was an old barn that one day became a giant bonfire, and the Common House- all else we built in the five years on the Land - including the extension, so that we had a place to gather for meals below, and for the men to sleep above, rather than in an old drafty barn. The extension is seen from this angle. I learned this weekend that the original structure was over 100 years old, and the deed was signed by President Grant. For those remembering the 2nd Servant album, this is the house pictured on the cover, representing the heart of our ministry, in community.
Common House - front view
My mom oversaw construction of a beautiful walkway, with every stone and brick hand-placed, as an entrance to the Common House.
We would often gather in front of the Common House, in this one place of manicured grass. This is where we prepared for our pageants, Halloween outings, festivals, and worship.

It was good to see, as we left, there was an abandoned car sitting out front. Just like when we lived there, except there were usually twenty cars, and half of them not running. Our Lord said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter Heaven. And yet in the same breath he promised that no one who has not left lands, houses, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, will not receive 100-fold lands, houses, mothers, brothers, and sisters, and persecution, in this life, and in the life to come, Eternal Life. Truly, as we embraced Holy Sister Poverty, I found this to be true. For I had 10 homes, and 20 cars, and 80 dear Brothers and Sisters.

The evening and morning of the next day was a bit anti-climatic. An enchanting time of pizza at a new restaurant at the Wilderville store, and I got a tent the second night! However, as you can see, it stood only with much jury-rigging by Jeremiah Johnson. Yes, that's a pole in the back to hold it up, the wrong pole for that tent threaded through it, and a string going up to the tree above.

This is our Land. A place is meaningless. It has no inherent value, and God is no more present there than anywhere else. But as Lewis pointed out, we are spiritual amphibians, taking part in both the physical and spiritual realms. A place contains memories, and the ghosts that happily haunt our lives. This is what I found again, returning to Tara.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Moussem Arabiya!

Every two years, there's an Arab festival in Seattle. I didn't hear about this one until just a few days before, and I was all over it.

A wonderful weekend actually, starting off with volunteering at the aquarium, where we got the most amazing plankton drop. We drop a net over the side of the pier a couple times, to see what kind of plankton might be swimming there. I tell people that this is the stuff you swallow when you swallow ocean water- plus the 7 million viruses in a tablespoon of seawater that you can't see.
Lebanese Booth
But never before have I found such a rich diversity in one haul! All under the projecting microscope, there were copepods and fish eggs, a flat worm and numerous shrimp, jellies and - wait for it- even an amphioxus and a miniature scallop, crawling around! The scallop was just like it's larger cousins, but transparent, and we could see it's foot moving about on the scope. Amphioxus is our closest living invertebrate relative, looking like a simple fish with a notochord (primitive backbone) and dorsal hollow nerve tubeIraqi Booth(primitive nerve cord). They most commonly seen in plankton trawls or sediment dredges, but in all my life, with many trawls, I've seen them in a sample only twice before. Taffy Pull

Then it was off to the Arab festival, where I spent all weekend, minus the aquarium and Meeting Sunday morning. Subconsciously, I was expecting something along the lines of the annual Arab festival in Dearborn, Michigan, which goes for blocks and blocks. Honestly, that was a poor expectation, with Dearborn having the largest concentration of Arabs in North America. This festival was still well-represented though, with three venues. I met up with a number of friends, some new, some old, and gained a lot of valuable contacts as well.

Dancing was a significant portion of the event. Watching was fun. Participating...well, there were three workshops. I missed the debke workshDebki Folk Dancingop due to the aquarium, and showed up to the next. It was mostly women. I asked to make sure, and was told that, yes, guys could be part of it too- you just don't shake your hips as much. Turns out, no, not so much. It was pretty much a woman's dance. And highly embarrasing for me. Oh- I forgot to mention. It wasn't in an isolated room. It was in the middle of a large room, in front of a large audience, watching. And I didn't feel like I could leave in the middle of the dance- but as soon as it was over I was very gone.

The performed debke was much more comfortable to watch:

Moroccan BoothBesides wonderful dancing and music, there was the atmosphere. Suddenly, I felt like I was back in a Middle Eastern country again. And not some sort of Disneyfied version either. This is how the people dress over there- some Western, and some traditional. All within a block of the Pacific Science Center and the Science Fiction Museum, in the middle of Seattle Center, and yet, a whole new world. It was good to be invited to sit down again on froshes and drink some tea, and relax in a pool of Arabic.

There were moments of disturbance. Guys with large signs about how you need to be saved by Palestinian BoothJesus, and yelling out passages from the Bible. Two issues I have with this. One, Numbers is one of the more boring passages. There are more exciting ones. Two, it was in English. I wouldn't have minded as much if they'd tried to fit in with what's going on.

More disturbing was a representative walking around in uniform in front of the country booths. While we are bombing their countries and killing their citizens, supporting countries that engage in apartheid against Arabs, I just think it's a bit gauche to walk around in front, sharing the good news of the US Army.
Lybian Booth
I had know idea that Lybia had a secondary flag- but then Lybia is perhaps the most mysterious of all the Arab countries.

Underneath there were the booths, where I found there is a Washington State Moroccan Association, which I of course signed up for. There were actually about three different booths for Morocco, the most heavily represented country there, which was good for my wholefully fousha-deficient Arabic. And the Moroccans had the most bling going on too, with a full salon set up to lie in.
Moroccan Booth
Below, also a great mini-store, where I got some tasty zahtar, a Lebanese oregano delicacy, sometimes with meat. Evidently there's a fully stocked Arabic store in the area, but all the way up in Everett. And a couple organizations for defending the civil rights of Arab-Americans, and the rights of Arabs abroad under US rule to continue to live. And then one travel agency, Caravan-Serai, whose patron looked vaguely familiar. She looked at me for a bit, and also thought I looked familiar. It turned out that I volunteered a few times for her, Rita, five years ago! She had been trying to get an Arab museum together at the time, and still is. She has a large collection, and no permament place to house it.

But even more intriguing, she recently returned from leading a tour of Yemen and Suqutra, and is planning another such trip in January- and could easily get a very reasonable priced trip to only Suqutra for March. Something to check out, to be sure...