Monday, September 24, 2012

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.

Symposium

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.

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 26 Post-Lo-Fi-Morning

Last night, 2 people come to me to see if I would still be guiding in the morning.  I tell them to catch me at my office and that I would be up early.

A few friends come by in the morning as I make waffles and coffee.  I chat and share waffles with W and S.  K arrives as planned and we spend a few minutes getting organized.  K is from Portland and was one of the players in a performance, Dirt Stage. 

We head up to the Grave of Vitus Bering, which stands near some especially find cedar stumps.  The plan is to go cross slope in a reverse direction that I haven't gone before.  There are drainages all along these hillsides that people who stay down on the "farm" are unaware of.  Some of these are surprisingly deep.  They also tend to have blackberries surrounding them.  We run up against one and I take us uphill to round the thorn patch.  When we hit the second, I take us up again onto what becomes quite steep and tangled ground.  Again, I have led us to someplace I've not been to.  The slope breaks back up above us just a few yards and I tell K that I need to go look at that.  It is the diagonal road cutting across the slope.  Again, we are close to the squatter's cabin, and K opts for a visit.  As always, I stop before the cabin comes into view and let her go first to have a bit of discovery to herself.  We talk about it.  We climb up on the big boulder to see the view that the builder had before the brush grew tall.  She is content to sit longer than I figured, which is okay with me. 

As we walk back we find that we have a mutual friend from Portland.

At my office, something I hoped for happens.  Last year, I told a story to a guy that I met at that years Lo-Fi.  It was a story about a bully from when I was a Boy Scout, a story that came to mind as I held A's seed bomb in my hand.  A story about an egg duel, cheating, and just deserts.  He asked me if I knew what happened to that bully, and I did not.  When I got home I began to wonder if that guy knew the bully (because I used his real name - since it was such a unique and proper name for a bully).  I looked the bully up and found that he lived about 10 miles away from Smoke Farm (we were both from Minnesota).  Well, the guy did not know the former-bully, but it was a fine end to a story that took a year to tell.  That is Smoke Farm, more than you might think.

August 25 - Lo-Fi

It is the day of the festival.  I am up at 6 am.  All year, I have woken up when the light arrived in the valley.  I head over to my Guiding office and brew cowboy coffee and make waffles - I have brought my waffle iron as a luxury for the weekend.  I take a short morning walk and find Mimi Allen laying limp in an upholstered wheelbarrow reciting poetry.  I move her 50 or 60 yards enjoying the poetry and thoroughly strange experience.  I leave her sideways in the road where no one can avoid her.  Lo-Fi is off to a fine start.

My friends from Eugene, C and J, arrive early as I told them to, because they did not have advanced tickets.  I give them a little run-down on how the event works as they find that the planned information is a little too little (which is not necessarily a bad thing). After setting up their camp, they return to become my first guiding clients for the day. 

We head up the creek as I had done yesterday,  and we bust the brush, as I had done yesterday, but instead of a cross slope hike, we turn uphill.  It is a deeply cut deer trail, almost as incised into the hillside as if it had been done with a shovel, that turns us onto ground that I am not familiar with.  We find a nice nurse log that is near 6 feet in diameter at the base.  It is a place for a mossy rest.


 Higher up we hit more dense brush, a bit of a crawl with a bit of swearing on my part, but one complaint on theirs'.  Finally we come out on the diagonal road near the great twin stump.



We take in the squatter's cabin while we are in the area, and then drop down the diagonal road to the river.  I point them upriver toward some art installations and then I head back to my desk to wait for more clients.

I find myself sitting alone at my desk for some time.  People are more leisurely about arriving at Smoke Farm than I am.  My specimen wall has few visitors, so far.  I would like to see the other art, but I feel that I have to be here for anyone that wants to go into the forest.  Very very few people that come to Smoke Farm for any reason ever go off the beaten track, and I am aware that I am a rare opportunity to see something that almost no one else will see.

Notes from Smoke Farm - 68 specimens and 4 photographs
Eventually, visitors begin to find the wall.  They spend time with it and it works.  My artful insecurities disappear.  I wait for clients.

I have also been incorporated into Tess Hull's Questing box project.  She has seven chapters of a story hidden in boxes that people must find.  Each box tells you how to find the next.  Chapter three sits on one of my specimen boxes.  It tells you to find me in and that I will take you to chapter four in exchange for a story about being lost.  I have hidden the box up the creek on the prettiest of nurse stumps, but no one will ever find it without me.


It isn't until about 5 in the afternoon that someone comes to me to find the box.  I take M on the walk.  He is having a great time.   It is a good two hours after sunset when the next person finds me. They worry that it is too late to bother me, but it is not.  I ask and they both have flashlights, so I we head out into the forest and up the creek in the dark.  I stop in the creek bed and make them tell me their "lost" story.  Then I point to the box.  Like M, they are having a great time.  This is Lo-Fi...you have to take part, you have to play one of the games to really appreciate the festival.

August 24

It is the main artist set-up day for the weekend's Lo-Fi Arts Festival.  A few dozen artists will be here installing artwork and installations throughout the 300+ acres of Smoke Farm.  I have just a few minor things to do having installed my work earlier in the week.  I walk out to the Grave of Vitus Bering and build a bench of split cedar fence posts that I have found lying in the forest.  I set up my desk for my Guide Service to Wilder Smoke Farm.  Then I have little to do.  I can't deny that seeing all the people here is a bit uncomfortable for me.  Watching them, I know that they have a different relationship to this land than I do.  It's not that one is better than the other, it is just different.



So, I have time to do something I have not done in too long.  I have time to explore the forest one more time.  This is what my Smoke Farm year has been.  Wandering with purpose.  Thinking about what I have found.  I pack my gear and head up the creek.  When I turn more north I plow through the densest of brush for 50 yards.  I have forgotten how tough this spot is and wonder about my plans to guide people through here.  But, the forest opens up soon enough.  I find the big logging pulley and soon enough I find the broken bottle that lies under a fern.  I've been here before and it amuses me that I can re-find such insignificant objects in the darkness of a rugged cedar forest.  I hit the diagonal road not too far uphill from the squatter's cabin, which I continue on to.  There is always a distant creative feel to the cabin and whether that feeling comes out of me, or goes into me from the site, it makes no difference.  It is just so.

Tomorrow, I might lead someone here.  They will earn the visit.  They will remember the better parts of the work.