Werebrock had donned his emotional blank mask. This was common practice, unfortunately, for his real face was unattractively contorted with pain. Besides hating to see that pain, reflected back at him as it would be from the tranquil water of a nearby lotus pond, he hated to subject the rest of the world to it. He grunted, and complained to Bjorn about the laziness of the other interns, as he threw himself into familiarization with appropriate power drill protocol. Drilling holes in tubular bamboo takes some getting used to, and the concentration it took to do so acted as a long-tethered life preserver for his conscious mind. It kept his head above the burbling waves of his inner sea, which were dangerously high, though exactly how high it is impossible to say because the waves were still miles out from the coast. Serpentine shadows danced below his bare feet, the emotions and futures he was failing to manifest. Those of Universal love and personal success were there, but also self-hatred from the fear of being a fuckup. He wanted to let his team of saurians spiral up, burst through the foam, and take him with them. He desperately needed to ride them away, and whip through the air like feathered snakes from the olde Mayan faith. But fear remained. What a shitty life preserver it makes. His cowering snakes got the cold shoulder, as did the mosquitoes drowning in his sweat; as did Bjorn. He avoided hating himself by projecting his problems onto friends, and mostly just stayed in character with his mask. The reader might want to hear that Werebrock has since made amends with these other characters… we’ll see what happens.
When it was time for lunch, Werebrock climbed the driveway and indulged in a bit of spelt bread. Spelt is a gluten-free grain, right? Why does good people propagate such lies?! Our newly realized, gluten-allergic protagonist experienced plummeting energy levels. The rest of the day would be devoted to a class on bamboo construction, and he had already spent weary hours in the field, so decided to take a long nap. As his eyes closed and his lips slowly smacked together, he dropped a silent curse on the grain addiction that had laid him out as surely as a punch in the face. His party animal totem, the Rolling Rock Beer ape, would not have been pleased.
That evening was still. Over the vegetable garden, shards of sunlight overflowed from the tree’s canopies, and the motes they illuminated were full of fairy-looking creatures. These could only be seen plain if you squinted, paid attention to your peripheral vision and kept the lofty intellect’s floodlight respectfully dimmed. Werebrock woke to this laidback twilight vibe, so ideal for contemplating benevolent mischief, and his wretched Greek tragedy mask cracked and started falling off. He was feeling better after napping.
Happiness had not been in the forecast for this evening, as you probably surmised. But in Werebrock’s dreams, the serpents were brushing up against his legs in frustration with his square emotional loop, and they were tickling him and he had to laugh. Now, if he would just accept the mystery in his waking life… but no, he was still in the habit of pushing them away. His tired soul is not responding, and he ignores their frustrated play. To the badger/man’s credit, in some of the dreams and some of his waking hours, too, he’s been clawing through the smokescreens that separate us from the big Whathaveyou; he’s threading his life into the tie-dyed, balaclava-clad fringe of the emerging civilization’s tapestry, and it’s an uphill struggle. He’ll realize he can just hop on the wyrms and fly up the mountain. Soon. Eventually. Maybe. Whatever, El Mundo Bueno is worth all the struggle and heartache it takes to get there.
Werebrock peered through the bank of windows that lined his couch. With an air of courage, a woman of regal bearing and a fearsomely built warrior were striding up the herb-lined driveway. They turned out to be Ashevillage’s Cob Princess, and her partner Cuchulain. They were come for the night. ‘Parently, the Princess and the Big Cheese of Mountain Gardens go way back, and she had steered her crew here so she could catch up with him ‘afore the Gathering. “My gawd,” Werebrock thought to himself as he caught site of the Princess’s handmaidens, “I’D like to go way back with these dapper dames! Ummmm ummmmm.” Later, he would have the chance. But as has already been said, tonight he was being tired and unsure of himself. So instead of exerting with the effort to mesh with this new troupe, tattooed and bare-bellied cuties though they were, he flitted into the background and found the rest of the Mountain Gardens Crew, amicably kicking the manure pile. That is to say, they were shooting the shit, focusing on kicking the tires of the cosmos. Which is what they are usually doing. Werebrock joined in the stomp, for a bit, and then crawled back to his sett to sleep some more.
On Friday, our hero’s itinerary increased in density. An annual Gathering, where the local permaculturists can sparkle their souls for each other, was located just three miles away. He got there early with purpose two-fold. Though the festivities would not begin in earnest ‘til the morrow, he felt that politely asserting his right to not pay a bourgeois-priced gate fee shouldn’t be put off. Simple locals do not need the food & tent space being taxed for, he reasoned with the registrars. Also, it was fixing to be a busy weekend, and he wanted to put in some volunteer hours to defray the core group’s stress levels.
This pitching in consisted of a few hours of dishwashing & brushing shoulders with the Cob Princess’s handmaidens. They were versed in the arts of pleasing hippy tummies, while Werebrock was versed in the art of cleaning other people’s dirty tools. It worked out great, and the ladies were o so appreciative. As they chopped seaweed and boiled meaty vegetarian stews, they swayed leaped and sang through the close environment of a culinary stainless steel jungle gym. Golllley, grooving with touchy-feely scullions makes for a damn good time. He would have liked to stay longer than he did, but the pretext for rubbing shoulders with said sudsy coquettes drained away with the dishwater. Plus, he had to beat a hasty jog back to Mountain Gardens if he were to be on time; the estimated arrival hour of his due-in Dadio was fast approaching. O fuck, I forgot to mention! The Elder of the Mackateewa Mackipoo tribe which Werebrock will one day scion, was about to arrive at a dignifiedly late hour. Not too late to go drink elderberry/honey wine and stare at cavepeople T.V. with the Bears, of course. But I was late in the mentioning it. One thousand apologies, dear reader (;
Saturday morning the protagonist rose early, & cooked brown rice, with raisins, spice, pumpkin seeds & shredded coconut. He and E-Mack ate and moseyed amazingly prompt-like, considering their shared heritage of disrespect for clocks, and linear time in general. When they got down to the riverside happening, they found that some Gathering folks were already clamoring to visit Mountain Gardens. E-Mack himself, because of his night time arrival, had had no opportunity for visual appreciation of the grounds. Werebrock was duty-bound to give them a grand tour, so all wishful ogglers piled together in a gasoline-fired chariot and shot back up the mountain.
The shadowy figure of El Queso Grande hovered way up there, where only a trained eye could spot. He was hailed by Werebrock, but refused to come down. He suggested, with as few words as possible, that their newly arrived guests wander his wasteless land awhile. He then fully disappeared, back into his towering shack. Werebrock nudged the bewildered visitors into paradise and sat down for a breather.
After a short spell, the group converged on a patio. Queso G came to, carrying his game face. He explained ‘em around the geography with which they were newly acquainted. Both Mackipoos were inspired, and gurgled to each other in hushed tones of excitement. The stimulation was crashing through their minds, like a flash flood through a dessert canyon, lined by water wheels.
Werebrock: See, these evergreens are left over from the days when Joe paid the bills with a landscaping business. Now they’ve grown up and compartmentalized the garden into more manageable chunks.
E Mack: Hmm, very interesting. Back home, we could plant a couple rows of Christmas trees on our field’s border for privacy & windbreak. At the same time, we can plant a row of fruit trees alongside them. By the time we’d Christmassed the pines to extinction, the fruit trees would be ready to assume their tertiary functions, as well as, well, give fruit.
The Mackateewa Mackipoos spent the later portion of that day in workshops. E-Mack tackled head-on a demonic pyramid scheme. Nobody had expected to find one there, but somehow a green-clad vampire had latched on the brain of a workshop presenter.
Werebrock went on a “plant walk” with neo-primitive folk-hero Frank Cook. He is a wandering plant guru with much wisdom to share. When you read this blurb from a workshop he did last year, you could see how the two Mack Macks felt they’d experienced the far light and dark sides of da movement:
“October 6-8 Ancient Relations/Abundant Futures: A plant wisdom shindig and alchemical tea party With Chuck Marsh, Patrick Ironwood and Frank Cook
At MoonShadow in SE Tennessee. Contact their website: www.svionline.org for more information
This weekend will explore our connections to both wild and cultivated food and medicine plants. Our time together will be an opportunity to deepen your sacred connection to the plant kingdom through neo-shamanic practice, wild plant walks and gathering, plant processing (elixirs and ferments), an exploration of the cultivation and use of common and uncommon food and medicine plants, and strategies for incorporating them into your home and community landscapes. Join us as we celebrate the wondrous connections between plants and people, increase our plant skills and knowledge, and scheme ways toward an abundant future for all life.
Frank, Chuck, And Patrick are intrepid explorers of the many dimensions of the plant/human/ lifetime passion for discovering plant wisdom and cultivating the edges of a nurturing, conscious culture for our times.” (http://www.wildroots.org/frank/index.html)
“Awww, ya know,” drawled E-Mack with a sigh after the failed exorcism, “in the Bible it says ‘Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.’” This prompted Werebrock to relate his thoughts on possible Taoist and Permaculture variations on the proverb. Werebrock was having fun, and he was starting to get into the groove that he had missed out on while making the bamboo rack. A little later, the two settled into the planning group for the fire quadrant of that night’s community-wide ritual
Every year at this Gathering, the participants design a magical rit for communal performance. This year, the grand ceremony would be centered on mourning the loss of hemlock trees. This may warrant explanation, for y’all not living in the Eastern Deciduous Forest Biome. You may recall an entry on Noble Savagery from earlier in the season, in which Bjorn and Werebrock hailed one another over the span of a tree. Werebrock had climbed the tree, a hemlock tree, in order to spray soapy water over it’s friendly, awl-shaped needles. This was intended to surround a scad of little white masses that could be seen dotting the boughs, encasing them in bubbles and killing the rampaging insects inside. They are a prolifically fucking aphid species from Japan, which arrived in this country some 40 years ago by the hands of ignorant nursery-workers. The hemlock analogs in Southeast Asia have been dealing with this god-damned “wooly adelgide” for a long time, but our poor hemlocks don’t know what hit ‘em, ‘cept that it hit ‘em hard and hit ‘em where it hurts. The trees are getting their sap supped like Mina Harker by Dracula, and they’re dieing in droves. You can cry now. Yarg! Sniffle.
The fire folks brainstormed, and decided on doing symbolic dance, together with song, and an effigy burning. They considered Rainbow Family songs and Cherokee stomps, Chinese Dragon formations and head banging. Eventually their agreement alighted on a Nigerian dirge with symbolic fire language, together with a generic, lightly choreographed conga line (“Wave around like a flickering flame!”). After going through this routine a few times, the Mack Macks split off to privately reflect on the day. They also did some laundry, and discovered a surprisingly delicious Tex-Mex joint.
Ever since they were reunited, a Zen-tinged synergy grew to easily noticed levels between the son & the father. This report, having been ordinarily rare in the years before, took on a permanent feel. Doing the laundry was a particularly illustrative, outwardly visible symbol of these deeper changes; they were washing out more than mud. On the surface, all that happened was a pilgrimage to the Laundromat in a “campground”, which is actually a trailer park that the proprietors must mislabel, for fear of North Carolina government strictures against heavily stereotyped communities. On deeper levels, bad-smelling emotional sediment was washed from the family’s old, sore wounds, and they offered their hearts, clean, to the fresh air for healing.
Getting back to the Gathering, the Mack Macks joined with their fiery crowd. Trays of cookies were passed around, as one of the Community Elders offered a newly told Creation Myth. People helped the old one along with laughter, and kind, harmless jeering that was part of its telling. When that was done, the whole assembly rose as one and began ascending to the ceremonial glade. All the different groups chanted. At the head of the procession was a giant Wooly Adelgide model, woven from smartly split bamboo strips. The sun had sunk below the Black Mountains, and torches cast flickering shadows on the spectatorless parade.
At the glade, their Storyteller gave an invocation and, quite excitingly, started a sacred fire by bow drill. Everyone cheered and whooped. Then around the circle, the Wiccan elements- Fire in the South, Water in the West, Earth in the North, Air in the East and Spirit in the Center and throughout- were called up and invited to party. And party they did, as you would have seen had ya been there that night. In Werebrock’s humble opinion, the most beautiful and provoking performance was from the champions of the Earth quadrant. Their people leaped & stomped, & clacked rods together as they flamencoed with the giant, bamboo woolly adelgide effigy, who was illuminated with a strobed flashlight. Some of them were bare-chested, some were masked and some were caped. The Fire Group burnt a Chinese-style bamboo spirit-hut, as offering, which also carried some of their sadness for the hemlocks up in the smoke. After the 5 groups were finished, the circle was opened, and they walked in silent procession to the party glen. One can’t do better than to quote the letter Werebrock wrote immediately following his experience there:
“& this deserves its own paragraph. I just got back from a full on Dionysian frenzy. It was a dance around a big blazing fire, clothes flying off to the rhythm of a whole line of drummers. My Dad’s here for a visit, & I escaped back home with him (to Mountain Gardens) before his amazed in mind exploded,- (he hadn’t imbibed in that big, earthy, Hawaiian phallus/vulva thing
The eternal present had become the late hours of the following morning when the family woke. They had asserted their right to a good rest. Divine leisure, baby- let everything arise and happen on its own schedule! As soon as the Mack Macks were up and ready to socialize, a neighbor came by to claim a favor. He just needed help getting some special rocks out of a hole he’d dug up in the woods, & Werebrock, you wouldn’t mind coming to help for the 10 or 15 minutes it would take to get it down to my truck? Of course not, good sir, but on the condition that Sancho would accompany. Lonely old bachelor farmers can be creepy to hang out with alone, ya know?
After a fifteen-minute drive, the neighbor’s pickup began struggling up a windy gravel road. It slowly vvvroommmmed, past empty RV hookups and through a wide, freshly mowed parkland. There was short grass and tall trees and no humans to be seen. No wonder, the area had its original charm hacked away. “This damned place,” Werebrock muttered from the back of the auto. He crooned & hummed a joyful tune. Gatherings like that one they’d just experienced, they lift chips off your shoulder even as they fall on you. Also, they are especially good places to charge up your inner boombox.
Then, the car was at the end of the passable road. The neighbor led our Mack Macks half a mile up the mountain. They went through laurel hells, around ground bee nests & past giant holes, dug at random by 200+ years worth of rock hounds. “This place ain’t called Micahville for nothin’” intoned the laborious neighbor. “There are over 200 abandoned Micah mines in Yancey County alone. There are also emeralds, rubies, feldspar…” The dude is passionate about minerals, and this passion drove thee intrepid trio to the highest hole, where two boulders filled with kyanite awaited their robbery.
Somehow or other, the Mack Macks and Neighborino wrestled both boulders down through the forest. The author can’t say how, really. He dabbles in the absurd, but if he tried to tell you that Neighborweenie insisted on boxing up the first boulder and then tying it to a dolly, he would have to admit to being more than a bit silly sounding. And if he confided, that the group packed their semi-precious cargo out through the unsmiling thorns of smilax thickets, & past patches of semen-reeking lobster fungus, it might begin to sound unfortunate, which it was not. Did I mention that a nest of yellow jackets whose larvae had just been eaten by a bear waylaid the troupe? The hurrying humans were made to feel the wrath of these desperately grieving insects. On the second trip up, for the second boulder, the buggy wake was avoided.
Werebrock began to feel that this particular sojourn was a parable on human greed, one he had not intended to be written into. He wanted to make his ancestors proud as he could, under the circumstances, and so he just carried the second, larger boulder in his arms. What’s the point of having the build of a Sasquatch if you don’t enjoy performing such feats on occasion?
As the idiots drove home, Werebrock stared out the window. He was not at all proud of their subdued quarry. The early afternoon rays of Sunday sunlight streamed through a bank of clouds, and the mountains they partially veiled seemed to toss a half-spiteful spit wad at him. The kyanite boulders glittered. Eyes that his soul had borrowed from the Creator wandered down from the resentful mountains, and his gaze fell to a Baptist church as they sped by. It must have finished delivering its daily dose, he thought, for the zombie congregation was pouring onto the driveway. There, a shaggy, black dog, buzzing with shit flies and unanimated as the day before it was born, lay waiting, presumably to be devoured in communion with a certain bloodthirsty sky god. “Well, that’s not a bad omen,” Werebrock thought sarcastically. Somebody would surely be dieing in this story’s next chapter, but only the green and white “Kyanite Dr.” signpost heard his prediction. The pickup turned onto the main road and revved its engine.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have. All of the adventures of “Werebrock”, Badger Johnson’s sometimes alter ego and hero, are fictional. To a degree. Everything illegal that he does is COMPLETELY fictional, embellishment on the life of this law-abiding anarchist. So, if you understood that Werebrock ate some possibly psychedelic mushrooms, the reader is to take it that Badger has been ingesting only shitakes. Eating shitakes is a profound experience. After all, how many other sources of easily grown, near-complete vegetarian protein can you name off the top of your head?