Thursday, 27 November 2014
Friday, 10 October 2014
Friday, 15 August 2014
This past week the Beehive has been abuzz (ha ha ha) with preparations for the Blackfly Ball. The inhabitants of the hive are always shifting, coming and going. One leaves and two more come to take their place.
Rosie arrived yesterday after hitching from the West Coast. She, Steph, Althea and I went to visit the Indian tribe on the border of Canada. We went to help Leslie (of Nori harvesting) help her and her partner Fredda make White Pine medicine.
The Indian reservation is located a few miles west of Calais. It's a preserved area belonging to, and maintained by the tribe. We were welcomed warmly by Leslie, Fredda and their friends and family and we set about the day long process of making White Pine salve.
Its creation is simple in theory, but it takes practice and patience to make it correctly. First, you must harvest the White Pine branches in June and strip off the bark. Then you put the stripped bark in large jars full of olive oil. You leave this to steep in a cool place out of direct sunlight for a month until the next full moon, and then you drain the bark and keep the oil. Then you repeat the process twice more, and with each full moon cycle you add more bark.
The result is a potent oil for curing all kinds of ailments; headaches, rashes, skin problems and stress. Even about a year ago, I don't think I would have understood and felt the reverence that this ancient art of medicine deserves. I don't think that things are black and white in this world and I don't believe that if you can't see something, it isn't there. Fredda was telling me about his dreams while we sat round the fire on the edge of the lake. He dreams of remedies and is very matter of fact about them. When he wakes up, he makes them from the plants laid out in his dreams and they work. Leslie says that he's gifted with a very strong third eye, and he sees things others can't.
In the reservation we also harvested Pearly Everlasting - this is a flower that when dried and smoked in a pipe gives the smoker prophetic and way finding dreams...but only if the smoker is female. Sorry fellas! We brought some back to the hive and we'll get together one evening this week to have a sistas smoke session.
After the White Pine gathering and bark stripping, Vicky (a member of the tribe) Steph, Althea, Rosie and I went skinny dipping in the warm lake. Vicky told us all about her beautiful Indian sons ("so biiig, sooo handsome! ") and it was wonderful to hear all about her family. While naked. In a lake.
After a moose burger and fried zucchini (courgettes to you and me) we headed back to the hive for one last big meeting before the Blackfly Ball.
While being in Machias I've been constantly being hounded by mosquitoes and moose flies and when a group of us went to the mountain overlooking the ocean to view the full moon at midnight ( Sophia, Steph, Pam and Rosie) I was eaten alive by the fuckers. Luckily I have a pot of magical White Pine salve from Leslie which has cleared them up.
They've almost all healed now and today ( one day before the Blackfly Ball) a group of new people have arrived. They consist of many "crusties", a subculture identity which describes kids who travel America hitchhiking and train hopping, breaking their wanderings here and there at various collectives to help out for a few weeks before moving on to the next state. One thing that had been mentioned a lot since they arrived is their amazement at how functional and industrious the Beehive is. Apparently, many collectives resemble Daisy's squat in the first episode of Spaced, instead of what the Beehive is and represents - a functioning home of like minded people, with no one in charge and everyone working in the understanding that labour generates wealth, of all kinds.
Everyone has a job to do, and we all have a purpose to our day. If you need to take time out, you go for a walk or head down to the Gay Moose for some non vegan food (amazing lobster rolls) and if you're truly out of control, you head to Skywalkers or Thirsty Moose to swill some beers and discuss the blueberry harvest with the local Machias crew.
The point is, we wake up and if It's you're turn to make lunch, you make it. If it's your turn to clean the bathrooms, you clean them. If it's your turn to organise the library or the costume closet, you do it. If you need a break, you take one. There's no one in charge but everyone is relying on each other to put in the labour required to keep the hive functional and maintain the high standards of the house.
The Bees are also responsible for looking after their own metal health - if you're an introvert, it's your job to make time for yourself in the day. If you need to be alone, you tell people leave you alone, without the worry of hurt feelings. With the arrival of the new bees before the Blackfly Ball, this has become important. With people sleeping in every corner, in the library, at the Grange, down in the parlour, personal time is a prerequisite for being a happy and functioning bee. I tend to walk the Sunrise Trail, making sure to keep an eye out for the odd bear.
The good weather left Machias when I was on the last chapter of Stephen King's 'Misery'. I can picture the exact moment - I was sitting in a small bar overlooking the gateway to East Machias on the Sunrise Trail, and the sun was ferociously hot. I could feel my face and shoulders burning but looking up I could see a huge storm formation coming in. I've never seen a cloud like it. Huge, covering miles of sky and blue and black in colour and the middle of the cloud sagged towards the earth as if it was so full of rainwater it was going to explode.
That evening, the rain came in. Thunder like I've never experienced rattled the windows of the hive and wind and rain howled through the gaps under the doors.
The morning was fresh with the smell of fresh earth but a heavy mist hung over the town which still hasn't lifted as I write, and this is sad because tomorrow is the Blackfly Ball! We've all been pulling together to get everything prepared for the ball - lights have gone up in the park and Knox and Muppet have been recruiting bees to put up structures and booths in the grounds. I've been working making bunting out of old Blackfly Ball posters and some new bees have been making animals to hang from Bad Little Falls Bridge (the waterfall that divides the town and leads to the estuary).
The house still smells like skunk after Ida the dog got skunked full in the face. We've washed everything twice but the house still smells like arsehole. I think I'm getting used to the smell now. I have the vague suspicion that I potentially smell of skunk too - it could be the reason I've been getting strange looks at the coffee shop.
On that note - I'm off to the coffee shop. Until next time friends xx
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
I'm not sure what I was expecting.
I arrived in Machias after a long bus ride. I went from sunny Portland on the seacoast to Bangor (which is where Stephen King lives FYI) It's a strange non town from what I could see, straddling a freeway with a Wendy's diner next door from the bus station. The only people at the station with me were an Amish family and a really friendly dog that didn't seem to belong to anyone. It hung around outside watching people as they came and went.
From Bangor I got on the West Bus, a small rickety white bus that journeyed further into the North. I was the only one on board and the driver was chatty. I was relieved and delighted that he'd heard of the Bee Design Collective as after my journey North I was beginning to worry about how remote the landscape was getting. Main roads made way for dirt tracks, and small little houses and farms became a rare sight.
He told me that the Bees marched to their own tune. Everyone knew them around here but they don't do things that normal folk do. He advised me that if I was looking to see normal Americans, the Bees ain't that (direct quote)
The bus was so rickety and the roads were so hard that is was hard to hear what the driver was saying. From what I heard though, he was backing up what I knew of them. They're a self mobilising collective, educating about the rejection of corporate colonialism and militarisation in the Americas.
Every year the Beehive organise the Blackfly Ball, an epic celebration of Machias and the work the bees do. People flock to the hive from all around to listen to music, meet like minded people and support the bees.
The Beehive house itself once belonged to an old trader of the town back in Victorian days. It's a jumble of odd bits and pieces, useful pieces of plywood, a sprawling kitchen full of handmade gadgets and mixed crockery. Everywhere you look there are beds. There's a bed in the tree house and in the old tour bus. The library has a old sagging sofa surrounded by piles of books and instruments and the studio is full to bursting with Mesoamerica (epic illustration that took 10 years to create depicting resistance to a neoliberal model of development) prints and original sketches.
The Bees themselves are always changing, coming and going. There's Muppet, the organiser who knows where everything is and how to get it. He is a calming, eccentric presence and contrasts with the passionate and thoughtful Mandy who is another core Bee. She and the lovely Emma teach the migrant kids at the Blueberry school while their parents work the blueberry harvest, and they help run the house with a calm, coordinated presence.
Althea is funny and kind, Ryan from California is larger than life and passionate. Steph is welcoming and includes everyone, Sofia from Sweden is a fellow illustrator (and my roommate) is devoted to mindfulness and bring supportive and Pam from Florida operates on another level, serene and caring. She reminds me a bit of a jedi master.
There's a trail that leads out of Machias called the Sunrise Trail. You can walk for miles and the other day I did just that. I went for 10 miles without seeing another human soul. It was 3pm and the day was a scorcher. I had just turned back to walk back to Machias and I was listening to my audiobook when I saw something moving out on the trail before me. It was a bear cub. My insides turned to ice.
I have just finished rereading Bill Bryson's "Into The Woods" and in this wonderful book he discusses contradicting advice he had read on bear attacks. Basically they all say different things but the one thing they all say is that if you see a baby bear, shit yourself and die because you're toast. The mother will be around and there's nothing you can do about it. I was not surprised at how scared I was, my heart rate went up and my breath became quick and panicked. The baby bear watched me and then walked off the trail into the woods. I made a made dash and sprinted down the trail. I must have run flat out for about 7 minutes. The trail is an old railway so you can see for miles down the track. No sign of bear. Thank Fuck for that.
Next blog - I'll be looking at the crazy detail of the Mesoamerica poster, the art of harvesting nori at the beach and the Beehive prepares for the Blackfly Ball!