Monday, September 24, 2012


I hurry my breakfast as I always have.  I have places to go.

The Closing - Sept 23

Those that stayed the night are here for breakfast and an even more casual time of chatting on yesterday's talks.  I pack my art when most of the guests have left.  S asks me if it will all fit in the car.  I reply, "I don't know".  It never has, but this time it does.

My plans of leaving change and I decide to spend the night.  G gives me one of the most heartfelt goodbyes yet.  M also sits to have one last talk with me.  I think that I might have met - and remember - a hundred people or more just through Smoke Farm.  I doubt that I will return to Seattle in the future, but there is no question on my mind that I will return to Smoke Farm.

When everyone is gone, I build a campfire.  It is the only campfire that I have built during the year.  I read a bit, but I see it as a distraction from what I should be paying attention to.  I settle into my sleeping bag, on the wood deck, in the free air, about 8pm.  It is dark.  I listen to the farm.  I think of the birds and animals that I would like to see once again.  And, I think of a couple animals that I do not want to see at night.

Sometime early in the morning, still in the blackness, I am laying on my right side and my ear picks up the padding of something walking on the deck.  I look over my feet and spot a dark shape some 20 feet away.  This was not there when I settled in.  I clunk my feet on the deck and the feral house cat darts off.


I take K, N, and S on a short hike before the action begins.  N is the resident artist for the symposium and he has created a set of origami figures to be distributed about the farm as markers.  He asks me to take him to some significant places.  We have enough time for the squatters cabin.  Then we continue farther up to the beautiful twin cedar stumps.  On the return we stop near the Grave of Vitus Bering where another one of my favorite stumps stands.  N leaves a figure at each.  Perhaps he leaves a few more, but I am busy watching where I am going.

The symposium starts at 10.  A more interesting and personable group of people could not be found anywhere.  As an inter-disciplinary artist, I find the symposium to be more to my liking than most any other gathering at Smoke Farm.  Burning Beast, as much fun as it is, is about food - it feeds the body.  The Lo-Fi Arts festival does a great job of feeding the heart.  But, I find that the symposium feeds my body, my heart, and my mind.  It is a delightful day of people that I wish I could spend more time with.

Ceremony - Priming the Pump

B shows up in the kitchen while I am making coffee.  He is all focused on getting started sweeping out the loafing shed.  I convince him to go on a hike with me to the squatters cabin.  When we arrive we find that someone has been there.  The two glass gallon jugs that sat on the corner shelves are missing and a crumpled Pepsi can has been left on the desk.  This is not the act of anyone that I have taken to the cabin - I am careful about who I take to my favorite spots.  It remains a mystery of who was here and how they found it.

Done with that, I have a chore to do.  One of my favorite moments at the farm was a winter day when, standing on the river road against the DNR hillside, with no creek or winter drainages anywhere near, I realized that I could hear water running - gurgling - dripping.  Wet defines winter (almost as much as "dark") at Smoke Farm and on that day I could hear the water flowing down the hill through the rocks and thin soil and between the roots and dead wood (it is not unlike the sound of water passing through a well maintained beaver dam).  The sound of water running was everywhere.  So, from my field pack, I remove a pint canning jar, fill it with river water, and replace it safely padded inside the pack.

low down.  the log over the ravine

I head up to the slough and turn left up the hill hoping to pass through the woodpecker forest once more.  It is a steep hike and brushy at times, but I have found this route to be the easiest, or at least the most pleasant way to the top.

the bench just above the woodpecker forest

the final slope

 It has variety, both in vegetation and in steepness.  I stop at the false summit that is just 50 yards inside the forest.  I look over at the true top, maybe 300 yards off and 25 feet taller.  The true top is clear cut.  I decide that I have no reason to go there. 

the hilltop

This hilltop in the trees is what I come for.  I never noticed it before, but the tallest point on this forested summit is a western red cedar stump, one of the old ones. I set up my camera to take video.  I remove the jar and pour the water on the ground.  Then I sit down for a spell and watch the video.  There is no ceremony.  It is just the act of pouring water.  I realize that the ceremony, the dance that the not present anthropologist would have recorded was the difficult hike up the hill.  My chanting was little more than the occasional, "fuck" every time I ran into the thorns of a blackberry vine.  The task is complete.  I have primed the pump for a winter at Smoke Farm.  Winter can begin.

September 20

So begins a long weekend, not that in my line of work I have actual weekends, but still, it is a long weekend of "lasts".

The day starts with a 7 hour drive to get to the farm.  I am no longer a resident of, but rather a visitor to western Washington.  In another week or so I will live on the far coast of the continent.  So, my last few days at Smoke Farm have become my last few days in Washington.  I come early to have the farm to myself one more time.

I find a Smoke Farm work party when I arrive, which is not a surprise.  S suggests that I move my art from the loafing shed to the new dining hall because they needed to put the big black temporary wall up to facilitate video recording of the speakers.  For me, it is just another opportunity to practice installing the 68 specimen boxes in a new space...all good.  And, I do like the design of the new building.

The work party all leaves to return home for the night.  The valley goes quiet and dusk comes by 7, just like it did when I started the residency a year ago.  A quarter moon goes away.  There is no wind.  The feral cat passes by.

After I am well asleep a noise awakens me.  It's indistinct sounds until a flashlight clicks on.  It is B and M arriving to set-up for the talks.  It is only 10:30.  They go on with their business and I sleep through whatever they are doing.