Night reluctantly relinquished its grip in the shade of those majestic redwoods, the sun still obscured by ridges to the east as Base Camp sprung to life.
Maggie had hung curtains along the back windows of our station wagon, maybe feeling that nesting instinct since she was expecting. Now she was Jane Doe in the Humboldt County Jail, I realized. The previous day and night were starting to emerge from dreamscape I'd barely entered before waking.
Those late '70's Chevy wagons featured a convenient back door that opened like the huge ones on the sides. It took a minute to regain my bearings, barefoot on the duff, and realize somehow I'd basically joined Earth First! Instinctively I migrated to the campground crappers and then the kitchen where I encountered about a hundred people varying in age and walks of life. We glopped oatmeal with swollen raisins into re-used hummus or salsa containers, and some washed it down with coffee. After rinsing our plastic receptacles in cold water, we circled for the morning meeting.
A red-haired woman with large, round glasses, who walked with a cane and called herself, "Spotted Owl," spoke first. "I want to thank all of you new people who showed up after the rally yesterday. Glad to see you. Now I want to make a few things clear from the beginning. Number one, we are here for the old growth redwoods, our ancient sisters. Number two, this is an ACTION camp. FIFTEEN MINUTES CHOPPING CARROTS IN THE KITCHEN DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN ACTION!
"After the meeting we'll be breaking down into smaller, affinity groups, and if you plan on hanging around Base Camp, you WILL be participating!"
The different affinity groups met in circles on the stones by the creek, about ten heads in each. Before we introduced ourselves, Anarchy, who was the facillitator of ours, advised us not to relinquish our real names. "Everything said in these affinity groups is on a need-to-know basis."
Each person gave a brief background, why we were there, going around the circle. "I don't have a forest name, yet."
"He was driving that red station wagon back from the rally," said a girl who identified herself as "Rabbit." Like Anarchy, Rabbit wore army boots to go along with the camouflage garb that seemed to be in style with this crowd. "He was with that pregnant sister who went Jane Doe for the jail jam?"
"Is that YOUR station wagon?" asked Anarchy.
"Lucy's in my girlfriend's name, on the title. She barely made it over the Rockies. Her carb couldn't handle the high altitude. Think she's got asthma."
"We call her 'Lucy,' on account of the loose relationship between the steering wheel and the front tires."
"So we can use that vehicle for actions? Sounds like we could squeeze a team of support personnel in there."
"Use Lucy. She's all yours. I ain't even got a driver's license."
Chaos, Anarchy, Rabbit, and some other women were planning an action they couldn't disclose details to, but the mysterious group was interested in transporting personnel for it. "We're officially commandeering your car tomorrow morning. EARLY."
After we'd broken up the consensus meeting I sauntered back to the parked station wagon. Lucy was a pimp limou, now. Sloppily, thinking of Maggie in the Humboldt Hilton, I rolled our foam mattress and the sleeping bags, stashed them with our clothes and some other peoples' stuff in the redwood duff, set the back seats up, thinking damn this thing is almost like a bus. Great for support personnel.
At the kitchen camp I volunteered to assist with lunch.
This lightly-framed guy with barely a young man's beard, reddish cropped locks that reminded me of the Holy Spirit in the medieval paintings, a confident look in his fiery eyes, seemed to be more or less in charge of the preparations. Said his name was "Sprout." He handed me a bag of carrots and knife, directed me to the cutting board.
Grateful for a means to contribute to the cause, I set about chopping carrots, wondering as I did so if this was going to require fifteen minutes. If I sandbagged, maybe twenty. I tried one of the carrot slices, and had to sample another. I'd never encountered carrots like these. They weren't long and uniform like telephone poles, and they didn't taste like redwood, like the ones in the grocery stores. They were extremely sweet and tender. "Where'd these carrots come from?"
"Covelo Organics donated most of the veggies. They showed up with the Frey wine, from Mendo."
"South of Humboldt. You new to the area?"
"Fresh outta Indiana."
"No way," said this guy who'd been cleaning and cutting beets quietly, nearby. He sported short, blonde hair, somewhat of an overgrown goatee. "I'm from Wabash. Went to I.U." He declined the Chardonney bottle, said he wasn't drinking. "So, they call me, 'Duck,' by the way."
"'Duck?' You a swimmer?"
"Nope. My first name is Donald. So, you know, 'Duck.' Been that way since kindergarten."
"So, how'd you end up here?"
"Read Kerouac's On the Road and decided to go on a spiritual quest, get to know myself. Somehow I hit Santa Cruz, then hitched north on 101. Ran into some kids who were on their way to this base camp. I'm still on a spiritual quest. No idea where that's going."
A voluptuous sister with long, brown dreads merrilly passed the bottle with Duck and I, said her name was Kathy.
"Just 'Kathy?' No forest name?"
"All I do is cook. Nothing to hide."
"I think you guys have had enough wine," said Sprout. "Okay, so are we ready to throw everything together?"
"I say we take a safety meeting before putting lunch on," said Kathy.
"Consensus to that?"
Once the stir fry was on its way, the giant pots of rice done, us kitchen folk hiked across the highway into the redwoods, climbing the steep hill a ways. Before the trek, I snagged a tangerine from the kitchen. Of course I peeled it as we sat in something like a half moon circle on that slope, in the duff, passing a Humboldt hooter.
"You can't just throw tangerine peels in this forest," said Sprout. "They're not part of this ecosystem."
"Bro, you have got to be kidding."
"It's up to you. Leave them there if it doesn't bother your conscience."
"If it was a banana peel, I think that would bother me more."
"What's the difference?"
I jumped, intending to land on the peel and slip, but instead tumbled forwards and rolled down the hillside, through what I was later to learn was poison oak, which is about ten times as strong as the poison ivy they have back East. After that I dusted the duff off my flannel, walked across the highway, back to Base Camp.