(for bear stands looking, silent owl and gray owl – a story of mythical creatures redwood empire style)
Mythical creatures have been a part of the land as long as magic. The story of the red elves is not about beings living in nature but about beings that are nature itself. This is their story.
“we’ve enjoyed these rolling hills and this twisting river for ages before the tall people came this way. Now they’ve scarred these hills, darkened this sky, changed this river, build roads that go nowhere and everywhere else and made the animals as well as the peace and serenity of this land scarce. They sing a song, this land is your land, this land is my land, but they sing one thing and do another. Unless they change their ways; they are not to be trusted. With all the marvels that they posess, and the seemingly endless cleverness; they should be the caretakers along with us of these places we share. Instead, as long as they miss the point, they may very well ruin it for us all.”
– Rolando Skywatcher, elderelf from the summer solstace speech, year of the great blue heron
one weave of all mind you, of all,
weave without end.
separate and finite threads
linked magic in infinite tapestry.
each and every thread alone,
yet bound and woven deep into all.
(from The Weave by JC)
Not long ago or far away, above the beloved twisting emerald river that later would be called Shibaikai and then the Russian River; the red elves danced and played. The caves and underground digs high above the river terrace had been home sweet home as long as the oldest of them could remember stories passed down from grandfathers from greatgrandfathers from greatgreatgrandfathers and on and on. In the gentle seasons when they weren’t expanding or repairing their knollhouses, they’d regularly spend time in the magic open air redwood halls that followed the river below. These sequoia giants were their hallowed halls, stretching off from ferns and sorrell to clouds and sky. They followed the river from high in the hills all the way to the coast. Paths through the misty giants were cavorted on by old elves and young elves full of silvery bell like laughter which pealed through sweet fir and wildflower perfumed west edge air.
Skipping and dancing around bears, deer, squirrels, all the flying things and swimming things were their daily doings in the ongoing celebration of life. Their lives were proof of the deep peace which all the living things of the forest shared. The red elf children played hide and seek with each other and the occasional adult as the rays that moved through the big red standing people chased and strobed them. The giants watched and listened and swayed to the music of the wind and breezes and of course, the elvin laughter.
After dark around the campfires, the elder elves told stories of the days when things were very different. The young ones learned the stories that had been passed down so they could tell them again to the ones not born yet and so they could do the same. During the mild months the little people often journeyed through the now silent giants along the winding green river to the great water which stretched to the horizon.
When they reached the place where the jade river met the expansive aquamarine, all the red elves would break out in the songs of the rocks and the waves. They sang their joy in perfect harmony under summer sky filled with gulls, cormorants, herons, osprey, falcons and countless other flying creatures. The elves would sit on the cliffs and large outcroppings of rocks and watch for hours the waves and twinkling light drifting through the wonderful arched rock south of the river mouth until the last vestiges of daylight were long gone. The young ones would recite the names of all the rocks and tell the stories that had been passed down to them. When all the rocks names had been spoken they’d mimic the surf and breeze with their own concert of sighs. When darkness was complete, it was time to light the prepared evening fires, cook the community meal, play games and share stories until it was time for dreamland.
Days beside the big water found them gathering shells and bits of driftowood and various other treasures to decorate themselves and their homes. Sunsets and sunrises on the faroff horizon were occasions when all the company would be silent and introspective without the usual chatter and laughter.
When it was time to head back up river after a few days and nights of coastal visit they’d gather up shells and driftwood and flowers and rocks and begin the journey home. On the trek home the young ones would mimic the calls of seals and gulls and osprey to say, “see you next time”, all the way to those inland ridges of home.
In those months that the hills were gold and the days were warmest they’d pick dark purple and red berries until all their bellies and bags and baskets were full. Their gentleness towards each other, the other living creatures and the land that gave them all life was as palpable as the land they walked on and on which they left no trace of their passing. Red Elves didn’t live off the land, they lived with it and for it. The land and they were one. Even though they were all separate threads, like the poem read, “one weave of all mind you, of all”. To say life was good and that this was paradise would have been an understatement.
Although paradise was a season of quiet warm days and cool clear nights full of winking stars; it was also a season of storms and swollen river raging with countless raindrops and runoff from hills and mountains. Paradise was even when banks were expanded and moving with churning flotsam and muddy turbidity. In the winter season the river changed everything. It left its usual course and tore new pathways. It changed the land and brought new surprises every time it did. Even the season of gray skies and misty haze and dark clouds was paradise.
This story begins at the time when the tall people were another storm that first trickled and then flooded in and changed the land of the red elves forever. The tall treed wilderness that stretched unfenced for dark green miles and abounded with wildlife was about to change at the whims of the new invaders. Now there would be stories of the tall people as they divided and fenced this land. Stories of how they bought and sold the earth which no person could ever really own. Stories of ridiculous things and ridiculous doings that would test the peace and happiness of the red elves. Now, the ridiculous would bring tears instead of laughter, and a malady to the spirit of the land.