…next year if the pine trees don’t crush us and our hearts stay brave:
The pine forest path from our car to our shelter sings a corridor of shade-dwelling gifts: juneberries, paw paws, young hickories and hazels, gentle forest medicine plants, rattlesnake plantain, tea. along the way deadwood lies across the contour helping slow the manic Spring rains (should we be so lucky as to welcome them who we depend on completely to live) into the thirsting sandy earth, collecting decaying life and decaying along with it to feed the tender saprophytes. King stropharia wine caps bloom in the pine straw in this newly humid earth, hawks nest in the tops of loblollies, and the trees are blessed with what we weave and sculpt and paint and carve.
Our bold vulnerable silly and dignified bunny-like octagonal shelter, an inside that every day courts the outside, barely more interior than a nest and as fragile and as much a nurse of early dreams of flight, wears a cloak of trellised passionflowers opening the alien impossibility of their blooms enough to repel government officials, linear thoughts, obsessive anxieties, productivity measurements, budget concerns, and repressive missionaries and also distracting enough to distract from distraction, visitors lowering their smartphones like weapons before a miracle as the buzzing radial life pulls everyone a little bit deeper into the sometimes lucid dream of their life in which they soon are drinking passiflora tea and wine and finally like tendrils grasping at empty space remembering what to forget.
Butterflies and persistently curious bee mimics, hummingbirds we are mutually indebted to, house-rabbits doing their daily cocky dance for the watching hawks upon the deck and a sleeping tree cat dreaming of raising her babies in the tree tops, and the earth shrine of a handmade kitchen that uses no coal, oil, gas, nuclear or ecocidal dams to prepare the prismatic food that blesses us from the earth in defiance of all greyness, the food always part wild with bitter flavors that wake us and nectarous flavors that tickle our mouths into ravenous pulpy grins and hearty flavors that let us become nests for each other and for peace. The perennially unwashed molcajete’s accumulated memory of a thousand spices, herbs, meals, seasons, rains, oils brings a hint of absolutely everything that is into each meal for those who become nothing enough to taste it. Sweetgum railings protect all of us from falling from our high home just as the perfumed sweetgum medicine again and again keeps us our health from falling into sickness and suffering, just as the ecstatic smelling sweetgum charcoal we make and bury keeps the precious mineral jewels in the soil from falling out of the earth and into the waterways. Meanwhile our circus stop-sign of a yome billows our simple protest to the sky: you are our breath and our star and we will not participate in that which harms you any longer, we will stop.
Beneath the deck a shady bar without walls makes no money and is corpulently wealthy with ten thousand half-feral laughs. The under-deck bar emerged naturally from our bodies’ simple need to duck out of the Piedmont’s soul-refining summer Sun but became known to visitors as half speakeasy, half medicine house where few gins ever get served without a kiss of smilax root, honeysuckle flowers, or sweetgum. Here we honor rest, friendship, intoxication, silliness, chance, and especially the specific kind of aliveness that comes from one of us growing up awake in Florida’s teeming interior.
Continuing downhill two great shoulders of charcoal-mulched blackberries, blueberries, juneberries, otherberries absorb greywater and rainwater and explode with a ‘pestilence of berries’ enough for everyone to experiment and make cocktails and fruit leathers and paint our face with berry dyes and smash berries anywhere on our bodies really and throw berries at sassy ducks and give away cuttings to visitors to create their own berry pestiliences for which they can only blame themselves.
A secret skink, anole, and snake nest brush pile we skillfully pretend to be totally oblivious to, occasionally saying ‘i sure hope there aren’t any long hungry sinuous mouse-eating copperhead-devouring black snakes in there!’, sits securely in its messiness slowing erosion and deterring all but the bravest warrior mice above the zone 1 herb and vegetable garden that we feed and water with duck and goose energy and forest leaves and our pee and our slow worm hotel compost and in which we shamelessly have an herb spiral, yes an herb spiral, a big unapologetic spiral nipple of the earth with ten thousand specific microclimates, one of which some totally forgotten variety of amaranth somehow migrates to, takes a deep breath and says ‘finally someone understands me!’ before bolting twenty feet high and covering ten square meters in miniscule black seeds.
Near this, a small greenhouse and near this the new cavernous entrance to the old kind certainty of a root cellar which doubles as an ancestor shrine, triples as a tornado shelter, quadruples as a secure archaeological store of all our buried for generations after ours waiting even millennia to sprout seeds of the first and always reincarnating dreams of our true hearts, and quintuples as somewhere to get some earth quiet when the neighbors funk a little too loud again, sextuples as the most predictable yet still somehow overlooked hide-and-seek-spot, and octuples as somewhere to sincerely practice freestyling that is not ready for the world / the world is not ready for.
Around it all, a real forest garden bordered by forest; the dream of living without having to disturb the soil, of food fed by its own stretching exploring roots, of food that is also habitat, of food the main labor for which is continual harvesting and joyful making use of the precious leavings, and all through it places for humans and ducks and geese including and especially the small glorious emerald pond fringed by edible and medicinal water plants that cleanse water and bird and human, that grows duckweed to feed the ducks and people, that hide frog and fish and fly, that buffers the frost and the soil temperature, that quenches fires and gentles the air, that breathes dew crystals into the wind and gives us a tranquil reflection to be with as we sit on the small screened porch of our humble hippy log cabin bathhouse in the cool rainwater bathtub in which we try by holding still to catch the full moon in our belly buttons as if our navels were ancient astronomical calendars only to find that the full moon in your belly button is mysteriously ticklish making holding still impossible.
From here, a winding wild path back to the forest where we are helping the young succession woodland move into its next life as an oak-hickory forest…
…an in-the-heart-of-the-wild milpa garden in which I have finally, finally learned to grow the corn that has so unexpectedly become my north star
…a gentle terraced slope meadow of quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, barley, and old wheats to run our hands through, to watch the wind in, to sing to, to watch the stars in, to make a treehouse in, to nourish the earth of our bodies
…a creek that has been dug out, slowed down, protected, healed, held, loved, pooled, meandered, honored, worshipped, and relied on
…a herd of sassy wild goats who wake up our eastern energy and call us to play, who are equal partners in our forest cooperative, whose smells are prohibited by municipal code from being within ten thousand feet of any office buildings for fear of prompting mutiny, whose bodies we take in grief and praise to give us the strength to lift our bodies to work again, our hearts to beat
…a community of other souls beginning to gather in humble dwellings who ache to burn themselves up completely in joyful aliveness, in service to the wild, in devotion to the love that is the ultimate fruit of mother planet earth.
This is my dream for next year.