Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Welcome Back Cotter (Also Nita)

[continued from this post]

Maya has told me quite a bit about The Hippies, the hapless and idealistic residents of a five-year-old intentional community up the road. Some members have become friends of hers, but she speaks of The Hippies as a group with a mixture of amusement, scorn, and chagrin. When I ask for details, she paints me a verbal picture of well-intentioned but exceptionally clueless individuals who have somehow managed to stick with their wreck of a community over a period of perhaps five years. ("Aha!" you may be saying, "You've found an intentional community nearby! Why don't you stay there for a while?" To which I answer, "Noooo thank you.") I hope to be able to present you with a more complete picture of them in a future post, but for now, you'll have to settle for my first impression:

There's a little boy in the weeds. He's naked, with long, wild brown hair; at first glance, he could be Mowgli. "My name's Seth," he says to me, bright-eyed. "What's your name?" Seth was clearly not raised by wolves; in fact, he has a really good start on this whole social interaction thing. He introduces me to his mother, Alita, a slender woman in a dingy skirt with close-cropped hair, and his sister Leila, a golden-haired toddler in Alita's arms. I shake Alita's hand and introduce myself as a WWOOFer. "Cool," says Aletha, smiling and nodding. She seems shy, or maybe tired. "The dogs ran off, and Maya and Beau went to look for them," I tell her. "Ray's over at the sawmill." She nods, and Seth shoves a piece of paper at me. "I made this," he says. The paper is heavily scrawled with pink glitter glue. Beneath the glue, there are lines of adult handwriting in pencil. "That says 'Seth Age Five,'" he explains. It doesn't. The words there make no sense... or more precisely, I wouldn't want to be in the sort of mindset where they would make sense. "Sure enough," I nod. "Seth, Age Five." Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?

I offer Alita and her children some water, which they eagerly accept. Alita doesn't have much to say, and I'm kind of at a loss for entertaining her, but Seth happily fills in the gaps. A tall, sprangly-haired, heavily bearded man appears -- I saw him earlier, over by their truck -- and stands rocking back and forth on his worn hiking boots. He introduces himself as Mojo. Alita hands him her water glass and repeats my story about the dogs to him, and he chuckles. Someone says something about blackberries, and he points out a bunch of fresh scratches on his bare shins for me. "Yikes!" I say. "You're serious about your blackberry picking." Mojo agrees that he is.  He seems less shy, but not very interested in small talk. He says to Alita, "We're an hour late for the potluck." Alita nods, and they turn to go.

"I'll tell Maya you came by," I offer, thinking maybe they have a message to leave her, but no. I still have no idea why they came. My wary city-dweller mindset suggests they may have been scoping the place out, but I quickly rule out this possibility: they made it past the locked gate, which means they have the combo, which means they are friends.

"Are you coming to the potluck?" Seth calls back to me. "Nope," I say. "Are you having a potluck here?" he presses. "No... maybe some other day!" "Okay!" he yells, climbing into the truck.

An old man arrived at the same time as the hippies, and I thought he was with them, but he actually came by bicycle (an impressive feat in these hills). He immediately made a beeline for the sawmill, and is now walking back this way with Ray, talking animatedly the entire time. Let's call him Ivan: a wiry, gray-bearded fellow who talks a mile a minute. Ray introduces me when Ivan stops to take a breath, and I get a firm handshake and a canny grin minus a couple of teeth. I take the opportunity to mention that the dogs have run off and Maya and Beau have gone looking for them. Ray shakes his head. "They won't find them," he says.

Ivan leaves shortly afterward, Ray returns to the sawmill, and soon Maya and Beau return, dogless. It's dinnertime when Cotter and Nita at last come panting home, covered with mud and burrs, to affectionate scoldings. Maya has secured the loose gate with twine; Cotter won't be leading Nita off again anytime soon.

The mosquitoes are fierce today, so we eat our homemade sourdough pizza in the screened yurt. A feeling of contentment pervades. The dogs are home, Ray has finally finished milling the logs, Beau is reading Lord of the Rings for the first time (he thinks he might like it better than "Star Wars"), and I begin my first blog post since leaving home. I have a lot to say.

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