Church of the Open Forest

WHOA!!! Got a new Puter, MAJORLY disorienting, about settled in now, but hadn’t been able to get into blog backstage ’til right now!!! Missed ya.

And I can see the handwriting on the wall: it’s gonna be midOctober betimes I talk with you again… after a (relatively) homebound summer, I’ll only be home for 8 days this coming month. The workshop schedule on the website would reveal all..

So here’s about the little chapel in the title… quite the ‘shaggy dog story’, as I’m gonna start over THERE and end up over HERE… in fact, there’s something that needs elucidation: about shaggy dogs. That’s a misnomer. It’s spozed to be SHAGGING DOGS. ‘Shagging’ is the name for that gait a dog takes on after he’s nosed around a bit, and then heads on outta there– a pace that can be maintained for MILES. A loose trot. The dog just GOES. All over the place, apparently aimlessly but directed no doubt by nose radar… like the tale about to unfold.

After a long and misdirected search we finally found OUR SPOT on the planet. I’ll delve into the mechanics of that search at a later date– suffice it to say now that here we are happily ever after (17 years or so) in Hermit Hollow!

My husband had halfamillion dollars of real estate in Los Angeles before we met, and was totally burned out on such dealings, so I leaped at the chance of handling all the negotiating. We’d arranged to purchase 16 acres, ALMOST far enough outta town, with a ‘way funky old house and a collexion of sheds– but water, electric and fone were established, quite a plus from the 3 bare parcels I’d been moved onto before.

We were buying the place from some smalltime loggers who held stumpage rights: soon as the papers were signed, they planned to come in and cut all the big trees.

So I dove into this whole negotiations thing like Miss Fanatic Naivetee… I got the name of the timeber cruiser and dealt with him after the papers were signed.

“So, Gordon: d’you think we could drop a couple culverts in the creeks where you’re yarding the logs across? They’re only Class II streams but it’d save their banks… and what about horse logging? Dennis McKay’s logging with horses down in Wendling– maybe he could come on weekends. Yknow, the ground’s real soft in February, and the horses’d have less of an impact…”

And so on…

At one point I thought to call a lawyer. I got on one of those national plans (are they still around?) where you paid a small monthly fee for telefone advice, review of paperwork, etc., and they assigned me to this hawkeyed woman whose approach was the opposite of mine: I leap gaily in over my head, trusting that no dangers lurk underwater or on the far shore, while she prowled the banks first, flagging all potential hazards…

Basically, she was ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIED over the agreement we’d signed with the loggers– they could’ve dropped trees on all the buildings, fone & electrical lines, and we’d’ve had no recourse!! I was scolded thoroughly and warned ominously NEVER TO SIGN ANYTHING AGAIN without proper supervision…

So. I did say a lot of prayers at that point, but must also say I continued with my naive enthusiasm… next was,

“Gordon! When’s Cal Emmert coming to cut the trees? I’m gonna be right there– this is so exciting! I want to photograph EVERYTHING!”

Gordon: “Uh, Lady, we just got a contract for 300 acres of trees at a Boy Scout camp in California. The paperwork’s about the same for 16 acres as it is for the 300– you want to buy stumpage rights from us? Let’s see…. 55,00 bd ft at $450 a thousand… minus $2300 to rock the roads, minus Cal’s felling fee, minus, minus… that’d be $14,850.”

Me: “Ooh!!! Gordon, I’ll call you right back!!”

(Dials up The Bank of Mother in Connecticut…) “Mom! Mom!! Can you lend us $14,850 for the trees??”

Mom can lend us $10,000.

I get back with Gordon: “Gordon! I have… $8500 cash money! (Cagey me, I’m starting to catch on…)

Gordon mulls this over. He says, “Huh. They want $14,850.00, and you have $8500…” (I’m holding my breath. The gulf between the two figures is ENORMOUS.)

Gordon continues: “Oh heck, I’m no good at negotiating. They say the bottom line is $10,000. Can ya do $10,00?” Me: “Gordon, I’ll call you back tomorrow night.” (YAY!!!!!)

Next evening we finish up the negotiations. Gordon lapses into Chat Mode. He asks me, “Say… are you a member of the…. Church of the Open Forest?”

Instantly, I know what he means. “Yes, Gordon, I am.”

“Me too”, he says. “Yknow, my wife wants me to get a desk job, wear a tie and all, show up at 5 every night for dinner, but I’d DIE if I had to do that. I just gotta be out in the woods.”

(Yes, Gordon, I think. And when you leave the woods, the woods leave behind you.)

He allows as how he’s the guy who came up with “beauty fringes”— that little strip of trees along roadways that hide the clearcuts lurking behind… “Nobody should hafta look at THAT mess…”

I tell him that we’ll be growing an old growth forest on the 16 acres.

So. Time passes. Youngest son goes off to seek his future. Menopause strikes! Hormones plummet. My husband wears a jacket in the house, hides behind the newspaper, tries to avoid conversation as any remark is potentially confrontational. His now feisty wife shucks her clothes and runs out to jump in snowbanks… and my internal crisis is of the same magnitude: after 5 sons, an empty nest. Spiritual crossroads.

What next? I look at the possibility of THEATRE. Always drawn to Performance Arts. Working as Artist in Residence in the public schools for a decade called that forth… but hey, where’s the integrity on that path? I live so far out in the woods that what entertains me is not the same as for citydwellers, and I never go to the theatre myself: life is too interesting to sit watching imitations.

The solution was: becoming ordained. Street theatre for a Higher Purpose: ceremony. Impact of the Infinite. And I named my little church after Gordon’s: The Church of the Open Forest. So much of my life has been spent with a foot on either side of a chasm, and my conversations with him reflected that.

On official outings I wear a pin of the Goddess bearing a labrys, the two-bladed axe that represents both physical and spiritual, and the transformation that comes from cleaving ties that bind. Tool of two worlds…

My mother church is the International Association of Spiritual Healers & Earth Stewards in Seattle. It was formed by a lawyer who became exasperated over having to represent his massage therapist friends in court for stepping over the line between physical and spiritual. Frankly, my situation at Saturday Market was the same– I had an extra chair, and all SORTS of folks would dive on it and spontaneously tell me the most intimate details of their lives. Most times, I didn’t even catch their names… I would continue with my spinning wheel and ask now and then, “Wow, what do you think you might do next?”

That was a decade ago. Nowadays I’m more discerning. I keep the extra stool folded up except by special dispensation, and instead of wearing rose quartz (unconditional love) I carry with me KUNZITE (more discerning). And after a couple years’ sabbatical, interest in my ministry has burgeoned forth again… form still indistinguishable. I’ll keep you posted…

Secretary stuff: remember, I won’t be posting again ’til after midOctober… and with all the time waiting around airports I’ll be studying up on how to get fotos from a digital camera onto this site: stuff for purchase, for joy, for curiosity.

May your dreams come find you when you wake.

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