Friday, December 11, 2015

A Year of Displacement

They tore us from our home
And we fell
Onto the earth
And we discovered that we were here all along.
So we pitched our lodge, lit the fire and made a nice cup of tea, cooked some dinner and sat down as a family.
Circling the hearth. 

Summer land and winter land continue now, indifferent and untended, set aside by conservationists and Eco-villageists. We continue as a displaced culture. Currently 1:5 of the population of the planet are displaced.

We discovered there was new life on the way. New and small and delicate life, to be kept secret and hidden. 

Then Brooks Newton, owner of Hidden Springs Wellness Center and founder of Seven Generations eco-village set the sheriff on my family and I, when we were living at the traditional Winter Spot. 

"I was angry with my friend
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe
I told it not, my wrath did grow."

-W Blake

came to understand myself and my oppressors as an expression of 'place'. Not just a physical place, piece of land, but an expression of place in time. A constellation. But it's not like it's like that just for the families, couples and individuals of Tipi Village, or these circumstances, it's like that for all of us. We are individuated expressions of a collective. There was no other option for things to become what they became. We were never going to become unwoven, after all that infused life shared. We frothed out of that place, a natural process, like all of the other life; oaks, firs, ants, skinks, deer, grass, mycelium. Nothing more than an expression of Place. The new land title holders seemed to take offence to this in a way that they didn't with all of the other things growing and living there. Not just because they tore us from our place for no reason other than their lawyer put the fear of law into them, but the subsequent blame and vilification that we mostly got to hear about second and third hand as political spin. It's understandable because without such there would have to be an admission of some wrongdoing. These people are life coaches, chiropractors, relationship counsellors, yoga teachers and the like and appear publicly as almost saintly. We've had no direct communication since that time. I think they understood our way of living as a 'lifestyle choice', because that's how they understand their world; it's all choice and it's all lifestyle. It's an attitude of the privileged. "You could have gone and gotten a job at McDonalds and social housing" was the retort recently with a mutual friend,"No," I said,"That's not an option any more, look outside, look at the world, socially and ecologically. Why would I contribute to that when, unhindered, I know how to shelter and feed myself and my family in a good way." Why would I put my children through the fallacy of 'lifestyle choice' when their life is essential, direct, on the ground around the fire and has been since they were born? Would one say the deer exercise 'lifestyle choice'?

So as an expression of place, that place said, in a human voice,

= An Eco-Village with a name co-opted from the Iroquois Confederacy which, it turns out, had no consideration for one generation, let alone seven:

In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all of your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground- the unborn of the future Nation.”

That time passed.

We moved deeper into the woods adjacent to the place from where we were arrested. Hidden and safe. Life still growing in Kayla. January and cold and wet, though not much snow. With tipi orders to fill we pitched the shop on a level open spot on the 'wrong' side of the fence for the new title holders. 

They made us take it down, I think because they weren't trusting us, or life and it's process. They called us 'a booger you can't get rid of' behind our backs and then accused me of name-calling when I opened an email with “Dear Good King Rod”. But then this gave them legitimate reason to eschew communication because we weren't being civilised, because we were 'too upset' and 'angry'. An illustration of a culture that maintains social control through condescension. I have never been upset, angry or even civilised enough to send armed agents to deal with my problems.

Will you hold me,

Will you hold with me that moment
When you picked up your phone
In your very nice house
And spoke those words
Of love and betrayal

Did you cry
More or less
Than I
Than the men who came after your call
Your knights dressed in black and weapons of suppression
And deniable oppression
Who peered through my doorway
Into my home
Upon a family of six
Upon a living breakfast hearth
Excused because it's his job
He's following orders
And he has to pay the rent
And feed his family

Are you excused,
Did you have to pay the rent?
Did you have to feed your family?

Hold these moments with me,
Moments now engrained with my being

Hold the moment when you cried with us
In the sacred circle
And we opened to you
And you said:
We call it Seven Generations because we want to be living as you do, in seven generations”
We believed you
Do you believe you? 

Just hold me,
Hold our children, please
Tell them, cry with them
When they ask you, and they will
And quench your unquenchable tears
On that co-opted phrase
Seven generations starts now
I am so sorry
What have I done?
What can I do?

Hold Rod with me,
Hold these words,
You can go ahead and tell Steve that we can pay ten thousand more and close within seven days”
Hold Kayla in the crown of our home
Facing off the sheriffs
Standing for interwoven place
First Generation
Backed by our strong allies

Hold that moment when we were fresh from filing the lawsuit 
For the right to be entitled
And we saw you
And ran up to you
With the excitement of children
And you were shopping for shoes
Just hold that
For one moment

The moment we heard you were both going on another vacation
So we called Rod
And he reneged

Hold the thousand dollars
The court now demands from us
Because of those actions

Hold that because
My bank account has 
Eighty six dollars and thirteen cents
How much does yours have?

Was it hard for you,
Or was it your most convenient option?
Was it harder to maintain a respectful dialogue
To sit up until four in the morning
Working out the future of our 
To stretch beyond the comfort zone of
relationships defined by
Was it hard to consider
The uterine generation
Then, too, imprisoned by your hand

Or will it be easier to acknowledge
The worthiness
Of a larger,

A reality exciting, new and unknown
Still present and forgiving
Still accessible.

We went and pitched the shop in Drew's yard and started working on orders. A couple of tipis and linings and a Baker tent. Drew lived over the hill in the ranch buildings on Buckhorn Road, still part of the same Mosby ranch, turned out to be five square miles, not 1600 acres as previously stated here, now entitled to Rod and Brooks's pet project.

 Drew runs sled dogs and arrived in the Buckhorn Valley shortly after we did, down from Alaska. He had a lease on his plot which is why he could invite us there. We started parking at the ranch buildings and it was a lovely walk up the hill from Drew's barn to our lodge, even in the sleet late in the evening on the way home from a town visit. It was lovely because the world is and I remember crying on occasion, making that walk. Sometimes we would sing,"Come on family, we do not walk alone. We can walk together as we sing the spirit song." Drew belongs on the old frontier in the libertarian sense, more as a trapper than a homesteader with Manifest Destiny entitlement. Sometimes we'd see him careening past our lodge, pulled by his dogs on his mountain bike. He had a relationship with Rod Newton as he had helped him when Hidden Springs Wellness Center was fighting AT&T to stop them erecting a cell phone tower nearby their centre in town. He had also informed Rod that the title to the ranch was available. This didn't save him from eviction orders.

In retrospect, I think as a family we were a bit traumatised from the experience of arrest and displacement. It was winter and we were pregnant so we took a trip up to the school district maintenance yard in Eugene and took one of their old buses. A good deal on a 1987 Chevy Bluebird with an 8.2l Detroit Diesel engine and an Alison standard transmission. 

We removed the seats (the bit between the seats and the walls had 28 years worth of schoolchild detritus, sometimes a bit kind of oozey, sometimes hairy), gave it a good wash and furnished it with a floor, walls, bunk beds, a wood stove and other bits of furniture. Mostly re-purposed and up-cycled from around and using good old hand tools. The Yankee screwdriver came in splendidly useful. 

We eventually pitched our lodge by the barn so that we could work on the bus. Proper nomad style it was, desolate and empty buildings lashed by horizontal rain with a small contingency of cosy mobile dwellings inhabited by the remaining people of the community.

 The bus has, so far, brought us closer to the road but we're still tipi snobs. The bus also provides the ability for us to carry several sets of poles (including the Big Lodge), our lodge and Rogue Dwellings' shop. Navigating these rapids of life, the bus was later likened to a barrel, like one of those in which people go over Niagara Falls. It helps with all kinds of displacement, being an eco-village/conservation refugee but best of all the migratory nature of our living.

Clusters of self-conscious, prius-driving, blue polyester Patagonia wearing, clipboard-wielding eco-villagists would walk by, surveying their potential and we'd all be there, in our homes, casually observing. Mostly we wouldn't let them get away with their inane grinning indifference and we'd attempt engagement. Usually they were in a hurry and had to leave, almost as soon as they came, with valid excuses. Sometimes it would get a bit too raw and real and they would dismissively and fearfully beat a hasty but nonchalant retreat. I do recall myself shouting after James Haim and Melanie Mindlin one time, “Go on, run away- keep running!” -Loud raspberry sound-,”I fart in your general direction!”... It was one of those moments when we could have all fallen into a big laugh but they appeared horrified at this 'angry' Englishman calling obscenities and scurried off. Still too much to ask and not enough compromise. 

Drew left north to run his dogs in the snow and we were three lodges in the yard, the buildings barren and empty, with various random people coming and going, picking up the left- over pieces of Drew's presence.

One of the local 'free' papers, in which Hidden Springs runs an ad wrote an article about us. It was basically a review of our blog and an interview with Jim Haim. We were not contacted for interview or comment which surprised some who asked us about it. Jim later denied any involvement with the article. There were a couple of points that were defamatory, one that our 'lifestyle' is supported by this blog- all money raised is still being held by the Way foundation except for what we used to pay the lawyer and printing costs for Hearth Tidings etc. And this point about the 'central disagreement' over the 'belief' in land 'ownership'. One can own a piece of paper stating title to land, thereby giving one entitlement to the use and abuse of land and it's inhabitants under a given paradigm but it is plainly a false premise. One does not eat, breath, drink or is supported by those pieces of paper yet all the land supports us all. All the time. There are ways of working with the county planning department; they are receptive and curious. We could become a private campground, one of numerous ideas. There was no mention in the article of the better part of a decade calling this place home for dozens of people, men, women and, most notably omitted from the article, children. It's a shame that the article stayed at the level of ideology and spin, defining Kayla and I as the Land Liberation Project and Seven Generations Village as the Land Stewardship Project- a new name picked when publicity began. Rod's last phone call to me was just over a year ago. He was telling me that we should change the name of Land Liberation to 'regeneration'. He offered to mentor me in exchange for participation in the sweat lodge. I didn't decline his offer but I reminded him that the sweat lodge, prayer, is not for sale and is for all. The central difference between us and our adversaries is that we're not telling them where not to live.

Jim Haim and Greg Carey came by once, to see us rather than avoid us, but with a piece of paper from the county about our dwellings and their 'illegality'.*

*Living nomadically in tipis in the woods is, apparently, 'illegal' in Jackson County since the millionaires in their splendid house in the Soda Mountain wilderness hired “the best land use attorney in the valley” to re-interpret the county code to make it so. Now, in steps the incoming millionaires who live in a splendid house in town, with multimillionaire investors to pay money for title to five square miles of Buckhorn Valley. Apparently they are also using “the best land use attorney in the valley”. Furthermore, the millionaires in the valley are going to want to be on good terms with the millionaires on the mountain because they have to have their project be a success. Millionaires on the mountain are notorious for complaining to the county about building codes. They have another splendid house in LA where they spend much of their time. Also, the millionaires on the mountain bought title to the place where we used to summer and it has valuable transferable building permits. We got caught up in the middle of some kind of millionaire land grab. Millionaire in the valley, on one of his influential phone calls to Kim, Kayla's mother, which Kayla and I heard after being released from gaol that fateful December night suggested that Kayla and I "go after" millionaires on the mountain, because “They are a much better example of the 1% than we are”. I don't know anything about percentages but apparently Mrs Millionaire in the Valley inherited from the Wriggley's Corporation. We've been shafted by millionaires all over the place. I think it's because we challenge what gives them power and we know that fiscal conservatism is contrary to social liberalism because of the unequal and unfair (and unsustainable) power structure that it perpetuates. Both sets of millionaires would probably consider themselves liberals. Questioning such power in such a way, perhaps, exposes that hypocrisy. Their notion of 'Democracy' belongs to those who have the privilege to be in a position to pay money for it. The land endures and holds all of us, whether we realise this or not.

So we dance,
Sword dance,
And we learn to be skilful and sometimes we stumble but their swords are dull and lifeless and we still dance barefoot.

Anyway, there's Jim and Greg telling us that we have to go right away or they are going to get fined by the planning department. We tell them that we're working on the bus and doing all that we can to improve the situation, we're not staying in Drew's yard, a time and place we later called the Refugee Camp. Jim tells us that if we pay the delinquent rent then it can all go away. We tell him that is an example of extortion and land held by the sword. He calls us name-callers etc. etc...Jim rents out houses in town and is a rent collector.

A couple of days later some private detective comes around trying to tape a piece of paper on our lodge, fumbling and nervous as Kayla and the kids observe. The paper doesn't stay in the wind and he picks it up from the ground, Kayla telling him that Drew (to whom it addresses) doesn't live in this tipi, best try the empty house. He posts it there and it's from the office of "the best land use attorney in the valley" giving us 24 hour notice to vacate the premises.

Then Jim comes around with a surly minder and a piece of paper for us to sign stating that we will be gone by midnight on March the 20th, equinox and that we will not return unless Rod and Brooks allow it. There are a few of us present when they come. The surly fellow, shaven head doesn't acknowledge us as he comes into our home until we override his indifference. I ask who he is and why he's here. I had the feeling that Jim was afraid of physical violence and brought his fear. He's some special friend of Jim's. We have some good conversation with the handful of Tipi Village participants and those two. For the first time, after being pressed, Jim acknowledges that they could have been more skilful with the situation. He says they had no choice and it was really hard for them. I propose that it was actually the most convenient option for them, hard would have been sitting in circle until four a.m. and finding consensus. He said they called the sheriff because it would have been weak for them to ask us to leave (puts on an effeminate voice,”please leave”). We agree, it would have and it was weak. Jim says we're trying to make out like we're some neo-indigenous displaced by some corporation (Seven Generations Village LLC). Hmmm, we say. We don't sign it because we're working on the bus, the barrel, and we have no intention to settle in Drew's yard anyway. “Perhaps you can make a paper aeroplane out of it” I suggest as Jim is stepping out of our lodge. He grimaces, or perhaps some kind of smile, and returns with, “Well, I didn't think you'd sign it.” 

By now it's April, the bus is cosy and we're hoping we're beyond the boundaries of contention, bimbling around and seeing what guidance presents. One of the nights we spend in town a cop comes by in the morning and tells us we can't sleep in our bus in town. We are kicked out of the woods and now we are kicked out of town. It's more risible than offensive. It illustrates a culture with only the capacity to accommodate a narrow band of conformity. Anyway, it's novel and we enjoy a little leisure time in town. We were keeping a connection to the sweat lodge, full and new moon, being an important ceremony.

Sometimes people ask,"So where are you guys living now?” and my answer, not really that facetious is usually something like,"On the ground around the fire.” With a bit of an apology. Through the experience of forced displacement we have discovered a much more holographic, multi-dimensional perception of the land, especially the Buckhorn Valley sweeping up to Soda Mountain, and this is beneficial.

The last communication we had with Rod or Brooks was published in a previous post on this blog. The last communication we had with Jim Haim was an email telling us to collect the Sweat Lodge things piled by the new gate on Carter Creek. Another new gate, especially for us, put up by moneyed people. Another multimillionaire Louise Gund happened by when we were in ceremony. She reluctantly shook my hand when I presented it with a welcoming hello. Really soft hands. Her money comes from the Gund teddy bear family. The Sweat Lodge site is adjacent to her fence and land to which she is entitled, all along Carter Creek. She had some notion that we were going to burn the woods down, even though it was spring and wet, woods that she believes should be free from fire and people. She lives somewhere in the San Francisco bay area, also in a splendid house. We said we'll put the fire out when we're done with it. She started complaining how dare we stop her doing what she wants to do and she took her little plastic water bottle and tried to put the fire out. It was easier to look on with bemusement than offence, even though we were cooking dinner for the kids on a little fire by the bus at that time, "Oh, your kids will be fine I'm sure" she scowled. She said that she's worked really hard to own that land, for the animals. I didn't tell her that I work really hard to not own land, for all beings. 

The final indignity was when I went to see if our youngest son's passport had arrived. We had been waiting for months for it after various delays and expecting it to our old mailbox. The new occupant of Drew's house, across the road from a rack of about three or four mailboxes fixed to a couple of old iron tractor wheels came walking over just as I was about to drive off (the passport had still not arrived). I got out of the van with curiosity and shook his hand,"I'm Ande" I said, 
"Oh, I know who you are. You should leave." I didn't recognise him but later realised it was Jim's surly minder, "You are trespassing" he continued, becoming more aggressive,
"I'm not trespassing, this is the public highway."
"You're going to have to make me"
"Leave or I'm calling the cops" 
"Go ahead and call the cops, I'm on the road, definitely not trespassing. Are you trying to intimidate me?" 
He made an eye rolley kind of sigh,"Be intimidated and fuck off" he said, turning away.
"Well, I'm not and you can fuck off." was the best I could come up with at that point. A few days later we receive a call from the mail carrier informing us that the new people had,"tore out the mailboxes".

Silken handed lawyers. Heirs and heiresses. Facile, leering estate agents, the world does not belong to you, it belongs to All of Us. Do you think you can have your land, separate from the rest of the planet, perhaps floating alone in space? Is it your air breezing through your trees? Your water flowing over your rocks? Your inevitable wildfire? Ask any psychologist if suppression is sustainable. And you! Do you think you can exist without the rest of humanity? Rich without poor? Do you really think that my loss is your gain?

We have entrusted the wellbeing of our world to the moneyed, for some reason, and it looks like they're making a mess of it. Well, they have made a mess of it. See if there's a gap between that rhetoric and the reality of a world about as geo-politically dystopian as it could be. Any worse would be apocalyptic, surely. Moneyed people, from my experience, are the least qualified to manage land and resources precisely because their relationship to such things is unfelt and indirect. Arvol Looking Horse, Oglala Lakota, nineteenth generation keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Bundle, whilst speaking at the World Peace and Prayer day said,”Mother Earth is not a resource; she is the source of life”. Moneyed people tend to know the price of everything yet the value of nothing. Those people know the price of permaculture (and the like) experts from far off continents yet are clueless to the value of the keystone inhabitants of a place. We can't continue to treat the source of life as a resource to be exploited. It's simply not sustainable. Fiscal conservatism is one of the main problems, socially and ecologically. It all comes down to unequal distribution of wealth destabilising a wholesome social structure in a distorted way. Greed and excess is celebrated. Generosity becomes a virtue instead of a fundamental.

I'll have my birthright, thanks very much, and I'll participate in our world under my own terms. You can keep your food stamps and dole money and paternalistic ways of compensation and coercion. I never signed a social contract of a diminished place with Great Mother. She deserves and requests no less than my full power. Reciprocated. Same as for all life here now.


Summer came and at solstice time we migrated back to the High Country with an intention to give birth. We found ourselves beyond man-made 'property' lines and began to understand more deeply that the land is already liberated.

We pitched our lodge and the shop and made an extra tipi as a Birthing Lodge. Also took care of some orders.

It was a quiet time with no Big Lodge and we were no more than four or so families. Our new daughter was born outside, under a White Fir tree. On Mother Earth and free. A few minutes after she had breathed her first breaths Kayla and I looked at each other and said,"Now What?".

The reality of badged uniformed armed officials came when the geese had started their Southerly thing. I have come to see them as an elemental force, or as a part of the fauna of a place. Geese and men. We had a good forty days post-partum. We struck and loaded everything into and on the bus and took to the road after delivering a tipi in the Illinois Valley. Travelling down Highway 1 along the rugged Pacific coast. We've been on the road for a couple of months at the time of publishing, travelling through worlds forgotten by families growing on the ground, sourcing our elements directly. 

Mostly I have an overwhelming feeling of sadness witnessing the pervasive ecological and social isolation endemic with the current version of industrialised society. I don't know how anyone could raise children in a good way in that world of compliance and 'nature deficient' indoctrination. It is probably possible but it seems that it's something only for the moneyed and indebted, and then it's disconnected- a 'lifestyle choice'. 

We left Highway One at Ventura, just above LA, with the sunset ocean still in our hair, eyes and between our toes. We managed to avoid LA proper, visited family in San Bernardino and childhood memories in Big Bear then swung North and spent some time in Death Valley at the hot springs. All along the way people would ask why we are a family of seven living in a school bus. We are displaced, we say and then try to tell the story, succinctly. We meet many displaced people along the way, not directly displaced by war, like the people flooding in to Europe, but people displaced by economics, living in cars, trying to find work and a sense of self respect. Out of our cultural context, on the ground around the fire, we are poor charity cases. During the pre-arrest contentious time, our adversaries suggested we take a year off. It took me a while to understand that the equivalent would be to ask a house dweller to take a year off. In our context our lives are affluent because our wants are few, contrary to the world of rent and finding a job to pay for that. I ask people about all of this busyness, when we're in town, is to pay the rent/ mortgage, right? Let's try a thought experiment; how would your day be different, today, were you not burdened by rent/ mortgage? All of that human effort, endeavour, compromise put in to paying rent- where does it go? "I know" is the reply most of the time,"But really, it's a question, where does all of that energy go?" "I know, really!". There's been no answer thus far and if you, reader, know, share it in the comments below. My best guess so far is it goes towards the war and to moneyed people.

Now we're stuck in snow in the North Sierra's, hanging out at the library- hence the chance to finish this blog post which has been in the works for months. Holding out for guidance and keeping the trip together. Thanks for reading, thanks for all of the emails and messages and keep them coming, hopefully we can respond to all of you one of these days, or better still share a cup of tea and a song or two around the hearth.