Every once in a while I decide it's time for a fast. There is some evidence that fasting is good for one's health as well as the mind. The first fast I did was on a vision quest let by a friend, Tu Bears — three days out in the woods alone seeking guidance. True visions for me are few, but insight and new understanding is always received and that is enough. I always try to follow the original direction. But….
Wednesday after a 12 o'clock lunch I headed up the Navarro River and Rancheria Creek a couple of miles planning to find a good spot to stay until Saturday noon. I'm writing this on Friday evening so know that I spent two days beside the River though am still continuing to fast at home for the last day. The reason for early departure I suppose is age related but an occasionally fluttering heart and other pains along with considerable weakness made me think I had better be closer to home to finish. That sense intensified by much of my quest having been steeped in the subject of death, not so much mine but that of the planet as well as all of mankind. In preparation for the coming extinction, which is predicted by many scientists to include humankind, what should we do, what can we do? How should we prepare? How will we act in the end?
I am not intending to write about all of that here but to just give you another River report. On the way in I bumped into a traffic jam of sorts at the combo-controlled gate installed by billionaire Jeff Skoll to the entrance of his Shenoa retreat situated by Van Zandt’s Redwood View Resort. Jim Rutherford was trying to get in to the Blackbird Farm open house up the hill and Michael Wilson, Susan Spencer and others were trying to get out. On her way past, Susan said there was lots of good food. Blackbird Farm by the way is owned by a Southern California couple named John and Joan Hall who pay themselves over $600,000 a year to run their nonprofit charter school enterprise of which Blackbird Farm is a part. One of the pickups in the jam was driven by a Skoll employee hoping to make the gate work better. This gave me the opportunity to ask, "What's up?" about the ugly roadwork along the River on Skoll's property that I reported on a couple weeks ago. He gave me the name of a man (which I have forgotten) that bought a neighboring chunk of land from Congaree and had, without saying anything to anybody, started his own brand of road maintenance on Skoll's land trust protected property which forbids his methods. And then that man's damned Cat broke down. So there it sits, an erosion-making, silt producing danger begging to be fixed, if possible, before next winter’s rains. If I took a bulldozer to anybody’s property without permission I'd be in jail. (Here I fantasize a whole bunch of Valley vineyards that don't meet my specs.)
After staying road-bound for a bit, when I first hit the water I was greeted by an eight inch turtle that only slowly, seeming reluctant, got out of my way. Later, snug in my camp, I was visited periodically by three different varieties of butterfly, only one of which took time to crawl headfirst, bee-like, into the lingering azaleas for sips of nectar.
Once in the evening a mama mallard followed by nine, teenaged-size young slowly made their way past. The following evening waiting for an encore I noticed another mom with six little ducklings upstream a short ways scoot around for a bit in a pool and then snuggle into a stand of reeds for the night.
On Friday before I left, a single otter made its way upstream to the pool adjacent to where I sat. It spent over half an hour diving and surfacing and climbing on the rock near me. The day before I had clambered on that rock and noticed several dry piles of crawdad laden poop, wondering which creature had deposited them. Now I know.
Friday morning maybe 11 o'clock I headed home and was said goodbye to by the same (I surmise) turtle that greeted me earlier, who this time scurried off a low rock to plop in the water with me as I passed.
As I walked below the Wentzel property and vineyards I daydreamed that if I collapsed there I might holler to his workers who might or might not save me. Then I dallied with the thought of the long-shot benefit to riverside vineyards, and if such ever happened I might have to stop pointing out their callous practices in gratitude. In my weakened state I had to stop periodically to rest and one of these stops was beside Wentzel's pump where I found it pumping away, sucking precious river water through a 3" pipe — for wine. No respite from the improbable until it happens.
At the convergence of Rancheria Creek and Anderson Creek I was reminded that up the Rancheria there were the normal but insignificant amounts of algae. Now commenced the vineyard-refuse-laden water from the streams making up Anderson Creek, and the algae growth significantly increases and I despair.
Skoll's pump, though in place, was not running, but it will. Goldeneye has not yet installed their river pump but with their past insults, herbicide-pesticide use and for proffering alcohol to passing motorists including drivers not just passengers they get no pass from me.
Definitely it was cheating, but just as I was to say goodbye to the River I happened upon a blackberry patch with a few ripe tip berries. I ate seven. Feeling, you realize, that I was obligated to honor them for their long journey from the Himalayas or Europe just to make sure we Americans could experience their succulent gifts.
Even with that meager sustenance I was too exhausted to pull on my pants so I walked the last leg along Rays Road in my undershorts. The river seemed to approve.