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07 November, 2010

Fall Back

I should be writing this a few months from now, and feel compelled to apologize as a member of Procrastinators Local #1111  (pronounced  by membership,"ee-levvendy-levven.")

But sometime last night or this Sunday morning we set clocks back and get a free hour, courtesy of the cosmos' poor compliance with arbitrary human timekeeping schemes.

And fall back asleep.

Or maybe write a bit. Fall back into a comfy chair, heating pad on shoulders sore from yesterday's drive.

Yesterday's drive! Back then, when daylight was saved, and not squandered, I headed to the hills with a bunch of native weavers to learn something about beargrass. It's a native lily used by tribes for weaving. The long skinny leaves are ready-made strips that take dye well, the kind of raw material that will draw people up in the mountains, driving three-and-a-half hours winding through rain, fog, and hunters. And of course in the old days, that would have been days on a horse. And in the older days, days and days on foot. Everything you harvested, you hauled.

Not so today, with nice paved roads (courtesy of American socialism). So it is possible for an elder to go take part in gathering, teach the younger people how it is done, give them skills and knowledge that native people need. Teach them what they need to do to get by in times of hard, and values to remember in times of easy: give them culture to fall back on.

You thought I'd forgotten about the title, didn't you?

So anyway, those same roads also allow people to pull in with some underpaid labor and pull out at the end of the day with a fuckin truck-load of beargrass. Or salal or whatever else they are ripping from the ground and feeding to the global trade machine. Like all roads, these are also corridors for ob-noxious flora, fauna, microbes and what-all that spatter off tires and crawl out of campers. And it's fair to say (I mean, if you believe in science) that this 20th century web of roads and the fumiferous exudations of cars have contributed to the warming climate that especially threatens mountain plants like beargrass.

In the face of all that, what's a plant to do? Fall back til there ain't no more place to fall back into.

Well now I'm getting a little ham-handed with the 'fall back' thing. Or maybe mantra-ish. If you are still reading, you get a vote.

Native people fell and fought back with a tide of settlers and armies that demanded land and would not take peace for an answer. Almost nowhere in  this land does it look like it did when under native management. Depressing.

Of the remaining places hosting life-forms that tribes need to maintain their culture, a large portion are public lands. Of course commercial resource extraction occurs on and under them (with little public benefit, thanks to GOP objections), but at least there is greater than zero potential to avoid environmental disasters and manage public lands for conservation (thanks to ecologically-informed socialism).

And maybe a place recognize that native understanding of the land, of beargrass and all the other things that have been harvested sustainably for millenia, for as long as humans (or any othert big ape) has been present in the Americas, that maybe this highly evolved perspective has special value. That native gathering practices, beyond being a treaty right begrudgingly accomodated, are part of a larger culture that contains the knowledge needed to manage the land to keep providing in times hard and times easy. Not falling back on nostalgia, but looking seven generations ahead.

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