AMERICA BEING A NEW COUNTRY, and now a fragged people who don't know their neighbors let alone honor anything resembling the community we once knew, ancient Selkirk is a reminder, to this American, of how much we've lost. Imagine Thanksgiving, the homecoming game, the 4th of July, the county fair, a commemorative Veteran's Day honoring the fallen all the way back to the Vikings, and the American begins to grasp the significance of what community history is to Selkirk. Half of my family rose from this place, a hill town in an area called The Borders not far from England whose bandits the Scots fought off for hundreds of years. The men doing the fighting are typically described as “ferocious,” in a culture emphasizing hardiness, tenacity and courage. Twenty of us are here to celebrate all of the above.
In 1913 my grandfather, a native of the town where his father had been a magistrate, was standard bearer for an ongoing event commemorating both the Battle of Flodden some 400 years ago and the ancient practice of common riding.
Selkirk's warriors had joined an invasion of England under their last king, James, meeting the Brits at Flodden for a thorough defeat. Only one Selkirkian, a man named Fletcher, survived. He staggered back into town with Selkirk's battle flag, waving it in slow, sad flourishes to silently explain the catastrophe to the townspeople. And then he dropped dead.
The common riding came later. It was an annual mass horse patrol of the town's grazing areas to ensure that the savages the next ridge over hadn't intruded. “These hills are soaked in blood,” a local summed up the area's history, “all the way back and before the Romans.”
It's a great honor to be selected standard bearer as the population from miles around remembers the Battle of Flodden and recalls the days of the Commons patrols. In 1913, my grandfather was a standard bearer representing the Colonial Society, which is not a collection of nostalgic imperialists, but an association of men and women drawn from the vast Scots diaspora. Us returnees were acknowledged as exiles in a large ceremony featuring some witty speeches — “I won't say why Mr. Anderson was exiled” — and quite moving songs celebrating the beauty of the town. This year, my nephew, Robert Mailer Anderson, was standard bearer, a tense responsibility that culminates with the complicated flag ritual in which the standard bearers, in multi-step, choreographed moves set to a single trumpet (I think), re-enact that single surviving warrior's return from the Battle of Flodden more than 400 years ago.
The standard bearer performs the flag ceremony before the whole town. Thousands of people assemble in the town square, all of them intently focused on the American to see if he can manage the physically taxing ritual. Nephew managed in fine style to huge applause.
Earlier in the day, came the Common Riding, several hundred horsemen thundering down the hill, then galloping back up the hill, a stunningly beautiful panorama of charging horses like this guy has never seen.
Selkirk takes these events quite seriously. The whole town turns out, from small children to ancient crones in wheelchairs. As a citizen of a rootless country now characterized by soul-destroying visual uniformity, the presence of so many young people at the week-long series struck me particularly; they were not only growing up in a place architecturally unchanged for centuries, their pride in sense of place was evident when they joined in the hearty, commemorative sing-a-longs. The work of local poets, including Walter Scott, hung from many walls of the town center which, at every turn, presents vistas of meandering stone walls, gardens, tree-lined lanes, and formidable old houses, large and small, also made of stone. And everywhere large, florid men and women. My people! My people! I felt right at home.
I was standing outside one event when there was a burst of applause to which a passing pedestrian responded, “Must have been another lie.” He didn't laugh, but a mere visitor isn't likely to understand the variety of local sentiment. Imagine a visiting Scot stumbling across the Mendocino List Serve! He'd think he'd wandered into a back ward of The Bin, but certainly wouldn't conclude he was reading prevalent American opinion.
FOOTNOTE: The Scots under King James had invaded England where they fought the English of Henry the 8th led by the Earl of Surrey. The English won such a decisive victory, that was the end of kings for Scotland. Only one man from Selkirk's contingent made it home. James himself went down fighting. Many of the Scot troops were aristocrats, as were the Brit soldiers. Those were the days that the ruling classes were at the front themselves.
JOHN CHAMBERLIN has died. A well-known artist and musician on the Mendocino Coast for more than forty years, Chamberlin's ingenuous graphics were often featured on event posters, and he was just as well-known for his gifts as a musician.
A GIANT REDWOOD FOREST in northern Sonoma County that was on the verge of being divvied up and plowed over into a patchwork of high-end vineyards has been preserved by a public-private partnership that engineered what is being touted as the largest land conservation deal in California history.
The group, led by the east-coast based nonprofit Conservation Fund, purchased 19,645 acres of forest known as Preservation Ranch, just east of Annapolis, saving the vast ridgetop groves of redwood from being plowed over for vineyards.
The $24.5.million purchase is part of an effort by the fund to eventually preserve more than 125,000 acres of Douglas fir and redwood forest and use sustainable management practices to conserve critical habitat, restore native watersheds and support local economies through “light-touch” timber management.
The ranch, which is 13 times larger than Golden Gate Park and will be renamed Buckeye Forest, is part of an experiment in Northern California in which redwood groves are being preserved and selectively logged in a way that allows the overall forest to grow faster, enabling the owners to gain credits in the state’s emerging carbon market.
The plan is to improve creek habitat for steelhead trout and restore coho salmon, which were wiped out in the area by repeated logging in the past. Several hundred miles of logging roads will be re-engineered or removed in an attempt to cut erosion and sedimentation that Kelly said devastated spawning habitat in Buckeye Creek and the other streams that drain into the Gualala River. (Courtesy, the San Francisco Chronicle)
TIM REDMOND has been ousted from his long-time position as the main guy at the San Francisco Bay Guardian. This isn't good news for what's left of independent journalism in San Francisco. Redmond has been an unwavering voice for The City's beleagured working people, its renters and all the ordinary people who make The City go, a city long under the sway of big money Democrats. He's also been a strong voice for what's left of progressive political opinion generally.
THE GUARDIAN, the SF Weekly and the SF Examiner are owned by a newspaper chain whose idea of newspapering is life style fluff. As free papers they depend on advertising and legal ads, and, one supposes, the latest in food and tattoos brings in the do re mi.
IT DOESN'T, and newspapers in print form are on the way out anyway, pushed aside by millions of bloggers and the Gizmo-dependent young who don't read anything longer than a tweet. San Francisco is now a one paper town, the fast-fading Chronicle, editorially captive of the forces Redmond has always resisted.
ACCORDING TO fogcityjournal.com, a guy named Todd Vogt who co-owns the San Francisco Newspaper Company which owns the Bay Guardian, “axed Redmond for refusing to cut three of six newsroom staff, according to a reliable source who did not want to be cited by name because of fear of retribution. Vogt is claiming to others within the organization that Redmond resigned, ‘which is a lie,’ the source said. Reached by phone, Redmond told FCJ, “At midnight last night I got a letter from Todd saying ‘your resignation is accepted.’ But I never submitted a resignation.” Asked why he was fired, Redmond said, “Todd and I had a significant disagreement over personnel.”
A COASTAL READER WRITES: Dear AVA, Life is not fair, and death should be more bio-degradable.
About 20 years ago a teenage family member died and we explored options for organic internment. One option we investigated was to have home burial for the body and a ceremony in memory. The Burial Project from the Russian River area came to our home to consult on the subject, although I can no longer find them on the Internet.
If we applied for a burial permit, we would be submitting a formal request creating sanctified land on our property — forevermore. This burial plot on private sanctimonious land would be properly designated as a family gravesite, formal or informal, and attached to the description on the deed of trust. Naturally, some people with long illnesses have plenty of time to prepare for the permit. Others, not.
The pitfalls of even legal burial on family land is that if the property ever goes outside of the family, someone unrelated may own your loved-one’s bones and gravesite — unless you move the remains and take them with you for reburial elsewhere. Ghoulish, but true, this happens. The legal wrangling can be tedious and hideous. Expect one or the other. They all require permits to be legal.
One thing some families do when they take such chances and don’t have time for or don’t want to apply for a permit, is to pay for a regular gravesite in a cemetery plot; secretly weight a “closed” casket to the body weight of the deceased at the time of death; and have a closed casket funeral ceremony with following burial of the mock weighted coffin (sans body) in a regular cemetery. Then hope attendees and authorities believe what they think they’ve seen.
In actuality, you have a small closed-lip private funeral wherever you’ve chosen as your family plot on your private land. Some mourners like the idea of hiding the gravesite in plain sight, rendering it totally biodegradable, site unseen. Others make formal fences, a park or orchard, designating the gravesite in that protected way.
The Burial Project introduced sturdy enough corrugated cardboard coffins which were bio-degradable and would go dust to dust back to the earth with the cadaver, most easily. Today I notice that mushrooms are used to help the body decompose even faster. No cost for embalming, viewing hall, formal coffin and especially, the vault — which are all meant to strangely preserve the deceased’s body. Buddhists cremate the body to help the spirit of the person go on to their next best good. Body preservation is anathema to Buddhist belief.
Preservation of the dead is unnatural. Unless you’re planning on moving the remains around as many times as Lincoln’s well-travelled corpse (which, is reported to still look marvelous after several exhumations); why would you need preservation of the remains?
Some folks choose the secret funeral on private land without a permit, so they don’t get hassled. However, it is almost impossible to keep those attending the private ceremony silent about the nature of the organic funeral located on family land — for all the obvious reasons the Hamburg family is unpleasantly experiencing presently after releasing information about the burial of their beloved on family land without a permit.
Like everything else in life, choice is usually preferred, but there are sensible reasons to not let the burial of human remains happen in watersheds, flood zones, and many other obvious preserved “zones.”
Sanctimonious: Humble, meek, modest, holy.
Dan Hamburg: Pecksniffian, deceiving, false, goody-goody, holier than thou, hypocritical, insincere, pious, self-satisfied, smug, stuffy, unctuous.
The exact opposite of sanctimonious.
No wonder he didn’t know about it.