Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: Spring training is upon us!

Backstage at Reggae on the River, 2017...

Backstage at Reggae on the River, 2017...
The author of Mark's Work

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks
Why I grow flowers

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Air-borne bees

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast
Love is the greatest power.

Beauty abounds!

Beauty abounds!
Crossing the Eel River at French's Camp

If you've seen one butterfly, you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.

If you've seen one butterfly,  you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.
Butter in the fly...

July Jewels

July Jewels
Bees to the Kingdom

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017
Something I have always wanted...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"You Are Beautiful"


If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done.  However, it is my custom to use my blog to not only recount experiences, but to extract from them some sort of sage assessment. 

Each episode will consist of a vignette written to stand by itself, but which will also link with all of the others to attempt to imbue the reader with a basic understanding of what the attraction is to gathering with thousands of others along the Eel River every August, when it is most likely to be hot.

#9: “You Are Beautiful”
I have prattled on already about various former-student sightings at Reggae on the River, 2015, and how they inevitably lift my spirits. I have long since gotten over that awkward moment when another adult accosts me, obviously recognizing me from past times, and I am clueless.

“Hi, I’m Mark,” is always my go-to, figuring that it automatically requires a like response. Sometimes I get lucky and I have my game brain on, or as in the case of Samantha and Caleb, whom I saw on Friday afternoon not that long after I got there, I actually recognized. I had just seen them a couple of months ago, when they delivered Toby the cat to us, down at Harwood Hall, and it was nice to touch base with them again. 

It’s been ten years since I walked out of my classroom for the last time, and not a day goes by that I do not reflect back on the sixteen years I spent at the middle school. “Make wise choices,” I told my students. 
“Don’t get into something for the money; instead, get into it for the love of doing it. Look at me.”

Yes, look at me; I’m the guy who jumped up on the tables and ran around the classroom on top of them, to demonstrate action words. I’m the guy who used to pay students school currency when they caught me making mistakes. 

I was not the infallible dispenser of knowledge. “I make mistakes,” I would tell my students, and when I stop making mistakes, it means I am no longer human. Might as well take a gun and put a bullet in my head and put me out of my misery.
I miss those days and have said repeatedly, that were it not for the emphasis placed on the standardized testing, they would have had to drag me kicking and screaming from the classroom. The public school system is skewed, simply because it is the only organization on the planet that groups human beings simply based on their age level, but it’s the one we have to work with.

All are expected to learn at the same rate and the instructor must have the talent of an NBA performer and be able to entertain his or her charges for the designated period of time.

What about the kids who come to school each day, hauling excess baggage? The kids whose parents are flakes, and can’t even keep it together enough to make sure their kids make it to school, let alone eat properly, or be prepared?

And what about  the kids whose parents are involved in the cannabis industry, whose friends can’t come around for a few months each fall, because there are plants drying all over the house. But they better not be flapping their jaws...

I was strolling along the row of food vendors, vaguely considering a root beer float in the 100-plus degree weather on Friday, when I saw Felix coming directly at me. I recognized him instantly, beard and all, simply from the intensity of his eyes.

He greeted me enthusiastically. “I love what you guys are doing up on your mountain.”

“Great success!” I responded, and faster than Collie Buddz can get a crowd rocking, Felix was off and running with a series of questions that I was completely unable to answer. I mean, maybe the first one, but it became apparent immediately, that Felix had inquiries-and concerns-that could only be addressed by Casey.

“They’re all heading to Oregon,” he went on, trying to explain, that which I did not grasp. Another shock, I know.

Buddha! I should know the answers to these questions...I have heard the spiels so often. That being said, however, it is all so complex, I am still struggling to understand how everything fits together.  It has to do with establishing the legitimacy of connoisseur cannabis on the same level as wine, and the legitimacy of cannabis farmers. That much I know.

Having followed Casey around long enough already, including spending many hours at the Eel River Restoration Project booth, I should have had the answers to Felix’ questions, but I did not. So much of Casey’s time is spent politicking, it’s really crazy.

Between the work he is doing to organize the Emerald Growers Association (EGA), and the labor amongst the local politicians serving on the Board of Supervisors for Mendocino County, it’s a wonder anything gets done on-farm.

Organization, regulation and clearly defined parameters for an agricultural commodity that rivals that of the wine industry, are among the goals he has in clear sight. Oh, and he’s tired of being perceived as a criminal, for providing medicine for his community.

I was sauntering along in the middle section of the bowl, the part between the first row of vendors that paralleled the stage, and the Beer Garden. Revelers had gathered in small groups in the area, and moving around was infinitely easier than in the crush of the main bowl.

I spotted Lito and Sonny up ahead and angled over toward them. Sonny has been part of my world all along because he is good buds with Nathaniel, and it’s always fun to see him. The two were amongst a circle of friends which included a young woman, whose face reminded me of a student I had taught back in the day.

Judith? It has to be. Judith who was on Student Counsel, and instrumental in one of the most powerful activities I had ever been involved in, as the middle school lead teacher. This was a school-wide survey on violence, the results of which profited everyone involved, in a most positive manner.

I circled around and stood just to the side of Judith, known to all of her friends as Judy. She became aware of my presence, checking out the goofy oldster with the musteard down to his nipples, with a questioning look. It took a delayed second or two before the light went on, and to my delight, she let out a shriek and opened up her arms for a hug.

Again, we exchanged pleasantries, the content of which now escapes me, except that the tone was one of extreme gladness. We may as well have sat and chatted animatedly for three hours, for all of the difference the brevity of our encounter made. 

I had not yet come down from my magic carpet ride, as I stepped regretfully away to continue my meanderings, when I glimpsed another young woman who looked familiar, who had been standing in the shadows.  I decided that it was too coincidental that another individual could look so much like Fawn, and not be Fawn.

It has to be. Calm, collected, so aware for her age of what it means to be a caring individual who puts others’ needs in front of her own.

She would have been in sixth grade the first year I taught, 1990, and I had had her in my class for reading and language arts as a seventh grader, my second year. Paul and I took 27 seventh graders to Yosemite that year, including Fawn and a fellow student named Moese, who touched a lot of people in his short tenure on earth. Mo would unquestionably have been in this same venue, were he still with us today.

Not a spotlight kind of person, Fawn had been content to watch from a distance, until I realized who, indeed, she was. As intense as I was already feeling from my emotional meeting with Judith, the ceiling suddenly lifted, me along with it.

I floated on air over to Fawn and hugged her tightly to me for a second, before stepping back and inquiring gently, “Were you just going to let me mosey along my way, without saying a word, Dude?”

I know I was fighting back tears simply because the situation called for anything but. I had connected early on with Fawn on f/b, and have found her to be the exact same perceptive individual that she was as a middle schooler, only with a heightened sense of comprehension, when it comes to the human condition.

Her posts are inevitably positive and she is a source of inspiration for me and, I am sure, for many. So it was with a great deal of joy that I made this connection in the person.

Whatever we discussed in that brief moment eludes me, except to say I went along my path with an exuberant lilt to my gait, not produced by the heady feeling that cannabis invariably delivers, what Casey likes to call a face-punch.

The first time I tried that phrase, it came out funch-pace, so it stuck. I was funch-paced.

Then there was Brett, about to attend his last two semesters at San Diego State, where he is majoring in engineering. So epic! Once reintroductions were made, and we chatted, he commented that the thing he remembered most about the middle school, were the Shakespeare productions. 

“I was the villain Don John in Much Ado About Nothing,” and indeed he was, knocking my socks off with a performance that belied his far more relaxed nature in the classroom.

Engineering! So truly awesome to hear such enthusiasm. And San Diego! These “kids” are getting out and about, and it’s grand.

I saw Jessica briefly, an individual who goes back all the way to WellSpring, and we reveled in my being there for a moment, before going our separate ways. So upbeat, always! So capable of instilling a positive slant on every situation she encounters.

I saw Matthias, another individual I have maintained contact with because of his friendship with Casey. As always, he took my breath away with the fierceness of his hug, a man profoundly respectful to me. It is always “Mr. O” and it will always be so. I have much love for Matthias.

Before I end, I will mention that as Casey and I prepared to skedaddle, towards the end of Albarosie on Sunday night, I encountered Shane for the first time since he was in middle school. Shane had also starred in a Shakespeare production, “Twelfth Night” as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, opposite Ella, as Sir Toby Belch. 

I wondered who that was standing in the background of the circle of friends. I did not recognize him with the beard, but he saved me the grief, by simply saying, “Shane” How cool is this?

Finally there was Dakota, again a middle schooler the last time I saw her, except for a moment at the Emerald Cup, last December.

I hope Dakota does not remember that I confused her with Savannah the last time we met. I mean, I knew it was Dakota, but I thought she was the sister who had just had a baby.

Dakota was dressed for the heat in the late afternoon sun, in a modest bikini. She was with a circle of friends, including Conner and Lito, and she was beaming. I gave her a quick hug and stepped back to make with the palaver for a minute before moving on.

Before I wandered on, however, she made a comment that I will never forget. Appraising me with her head tilted just a tad to the left, she murmured, “You. Are. Beautiful.”

Hey, maybe it was my ancient ears and some wishful thinking, and what she really said was, “The weather sure is hot today...” And by beautiful, she wasn’t talking about my crusty features.

She means that I am here, a retired school teacher, an English teacher for Buddha’s sake, and I am thriving. I have traipsed outside the lines and it’s all good.

Tomorrow: Ghetto Youths Crew and others 



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