Saturday, August 7, 2010

The weather has turned. Two nights ago, for the first time in ten days, rain. Good for the garden, but not so good for walking up hills in flip-flops.

My latest expedition took me to the hillside home of Guujaaw and Marcie. Guujaaw (“drum” in Haida) was born in Masset, a descendent of the Gakyaals Kiiqawaay Skedans Ravens. For many years Guujaaw had a studio practice, but now, as he puts it, he spends “less time on art and more time on politics.” Since 2000 he has served as President of the Haida Nation. Marcie is originally from Delta. The garden is mostly her doing.

I say “mostly” because Guujaaw does not like non-native flowers and would prefer that they not be planted on Haida land. But because he is a negotiator, a compromise was reached: Marcie can grow nasturtium, lobelia and cosmos, but in pots, like the ones on the steps outside their longhouse-inspired home.

Marcie and Guujaaw’s garden is nowhere near the undertaking of Benita’s or Marlene’s. What it does have is a more apparent relationship between flora and fauna. Cupping the south side of their deer-proofed vegetable patch is a chicken (or “sqaw”) run. When I asked Marcie where she keeps her compost, she pointed to the chickens. “They get the scraps, we get the manure.”

The point was brought home later when Marcie absently picked a caterpillar from a lettuce leaf and fed it to a chicken.

Our next stop was The Edge of the World Festival at Tlell. En route, Adele, who has been known to describe Tlell as “less a town than a state of mind,” took me to where most Tlellians live: a Chelsea-of-the-forest filled with galleries, open studios and homesteads, many of which were built by 1960s counter-culturalists.

One such couple is Barb and Noel, owners of a spread on Richardson Road. Though both spend a sizeable amount of time tending their garden beds and chickens, Barb has becoming increasingly active in Sitka Studio Art and Books, while Noel seems happiest at the centre of a redecorated hollow tree, where we jammed (me on guitar, he on harmonica) before making our way to The Edge of the World.

Fortunately we were not so late as to miss the blessing by the Haida Spirit Dance Group. Following that, I purchased some of the islands’ wares (berettes made from recycled clothing, a packet of polished shells and a hackey sack), then a big bag of popcorn to nibble on while I watched Wendy Watts, Quebec’s FM Hi LOW and Honey Brown, who, at their most relaxed, sounded a lot like the Allman Brothers Band at their drug-addled best. Although I would have liked to stay for my old friend Kinnie Starr (she supplied music to a lyric from my book Hard Core Logo, which she then performed on the film version’s “tribute record”), Adele, her family and I were fading.

Our return to Charlotte took place at dusk. Along the way I counted twenty deer. Like Adele and her kids, the deer consisted mostly of moms and teenaged daughters.

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