I began to breathe deeply, as I never had before, sensing out my own sustainable rhythm, wondering if I had the strength for a full session of such intensity. My body began to rock back and forth with the force of my breath.
Soon the pain in my neck injury became overwhelmingly dominant, tensing my jaw and seizing up my mouth. I desperately tried to release it. I felt that this pain was all there was, and all this experience was going to be. The image of the place I injured myself appeared clearly in my mind, and began to feel a surge of anger for the burden of this injury. I cried burning, angry tears. My body started moving, to find any way to release the pain, stretching through various yoga poses and finally pushing my head into the ground. I asked to have my neck pressed against, while I pushed back with all the frustration and anger of built-up pain. With a yell that surprised the quieter side of myself, I felt spent, and dropped to the floor. Curiously, the pain seemed gone.
Pale greens and blues appeared below me. I was a butterfly, with the orange and black patterning of a monarch. I was drifting over a pond, seemingly endless: a sky blue pond covered in a sheen of green plants.
I lay on my back and felt my belly swell, pregnant with the whole Earth. I could see the oceans and shapes of the continents in their rich colors across the surface of my skin. A question kept running through my head: “How do you give birth to the entire Earth?”
I sat up and felt myself transforming into a tree, my hair going deep into the earth as roots seeking out the waters at the heart of planet. My arms extended toward the sky and sunlight as growing branches.
As the music shifted, I plunged into tropical seas, still in the form of a butterfly, yet able to easily swim through the waters. A great whale appeared before me, swimming with me, over me, around me, twisting and diving. It was a dance through the undulating waves. I learned how to keep breathing beneath the water, and also how to breach the surface for greater quantities of air. I saw a tropical volcanic island rising out the ocean beside us.
The whale and I dove down, deep into the purple-black depths of the ocean. I was not afraid, although I felt I should be. At the base of the volcanic mountain a small, glowing opening became visible. The whale entered and, a moment later, I followed.
Inside the volcano stood a column of glowing flame, reaching to the mountain’s summit. The whale was gone, yet seated by the inferno was a golden griffin, embodying the whale’s spirit. The griffin looked at me, then flew straight up the flames of the volcano and out of my sight.
I wanted to follow, yet found I could not fly. I saw I had arms and legs and though I still had butterfly wings they could not bear me through this heat. I looked up, not knowing how to proceed.
As though in answer to my question, a thin ladder descended to me. It was made of spun ropes of white light. I gained my footing and began to climb, continuously looking below as the floor of the volcano moved further and further from me.
As I reached the volcano’s top and ascended out of the mountain’s core, I realized the volcano was now dormant. The rim of the opening was covered in rich, green mosses and tiny white flowers. I ran my fingers along the edge, feeling the soft sponginess of the plants. I stepped out of the opening and began tentatively to descend along the rocky slope. A valley lay below me, with the turquoise sea along the shore to the left, and a line of hills and mountains to the right. I was looking at the world with which I had been pregnant.
As I departed the slopes of the volcano and entered the lush valley, I encountered the tree I had previously become. I looked at her and knew she was me, yet was also aware that my consciousness inhabited my current body. I lay down at the tree’s base, curled around the trunk. I felt my body transform into an earthworm, and began burrowing into the Earth, descending and burying myself deeper into the soil among the tree’s roots. I consumed the rich, moist earth and felt it pass along the length of my body.
After some time beneath the ground, I looked up at the tree and into its branches far above. Purple butterflies danced among the emerald green leaves. I longed to join them. I started to climb through the rough bark of the tree, inching my way along, until I became aware I was now a little, fuzzy caterpillar, climbing up the trunk, hoping to reach the branches and the dancing butterflies.
I found a branch, my branch, and hung off of it. I began creating a dark cocoon around myself. It was sightless black inside, yet after some time within the chrysalis a peach glow filled my sight. The space was dark and light, ebony and warm pink, in the same moment. I lay there, waiting, for an eternal expanse of time.
My physical arm was wrapped around my body and my hand rested on my left shoulder blade. My hand was tingling with numbness, and I felt this tingle spread from my hand throughout my back, the growing pains of wings sprouting. I lay still within my cocoon.
Slowly, so slowly, I at last started to emerge, but the crack in my chrysalis let in cold air. I was not yet ready to encounter the world.
At last the time came for my debut into the great world. I crawled out and perched on a branch. I sat there for a long time, perfectly still, with my wings spread open wide. Then, with the aid of a soft gust of wind, I fluttered onto a breeze and truly flew for the first time.
I dipped and soared over purple and yellow fields, through white dandelion puffs, and over a sparkling, indigo river that hugged the roots of the encroaching hills and mountains. Riding an air current, I was carried to the mountain summits, and viewed an unknown land beyond. Small cottages dotted the pastoral landscape. A stone church with lavender glass windows stood on a rosy slope.
I alighted on the church threshold. I was colored entirely white, with a human body and expansive, ivory wings. Barefoot, I walked into the dark, empty interior of this place of worship. I danced on my toes along the aisle, both defying and paying homage to this sacred space.
Beating my wings, I ascended up through the church toward one of the open windows and perched on the ledge. I looked below me to the stone church floor, then gazed out the window into the twilit landscape.
I took wing again, and flew into a majestic redwood forest, passing between the massive, ancient trunks as a tiny, bright butterfly. I began to hear the cries of those breathing around me, cries that sounded like every animal and every stage of human life. I felt their pain and knew it was my own; it was the pain of the entire Earth. Compassion and empathy poured from me like a warm stream, holding those around me, caring for these differed embodiments of our single universal soul.
I felt myself pregnant with the Earth once again and knew I had to birth it, to rebirth the Earth. How? I kept asking. How? I felt the immense responsibility of this task, knowing that if I did not accept it, no one would. But, how? Tears streamed from my eyes as I struggled to bear the weight of this realization.
I saw the whole Earth before me, suspended in blackness, and I fluttered around it as a giant monarch butterfly. I heard the joining of all voices; all sentient beings, every human and every animal, joined together in song. As they all sang together, I knew the Earth was healed. I cried to the depth of my being.
After a long period of resting, seeing nothing, feeling nothing, I found myself on a beach after sunset, the painted waves lapping around my ankles and calves. A tropical forest stood behind me. The waves were crashing, the trees swaying in a great wind. The trees began to fall, and I heard the wailing and mourning of the people who called the forest home. I stepped among the people in the forest and looked at the severed stump of a mighty tree. From the trunk’s center a shoot began to grow: fresh, supple and spring green, crowned with a single white flower. There always remained hope, I communicated to the people around me.
I stepped alone into a forest pool lit by moonlight and bathed, drinking deeply straight from the pouring waterfall.
I found myself again among the same tribe, and together we began to walk. I was leading them out of the forest and up a steep hill. As we reached the hill’s crest, a vast plain spread before us out to the sea. The sun hung low in the sky, coloring the landscape ruddy gold. These rich grasslands were to be our new home.
I was transported into the night slums of an endless, ruined city. Trash and broken glass, twisted metals and decrepit houses filled my entire vision. Once again I was the white being with ivory butterfly wings, and I stepped barefoot through the destruction before me. Shades passed silently among the buildings, indicating the presence of other beings, wrapped in tragedy.
Looking into the sky I saw this wreckage was illuminated by the full moon. Stepping onto a moonbeam I walked upward into the sky to dance with the moon. I felt as though I were escaping, yet when I looked below I saw green plants growing up between the cracks, covering and weaving together the broken world below. I looked around myself and danced among the silver gems of stars and the hanging pearl of the moon. I danced until my breathing slowed and I came to rest within my own body once again.
Rebecca – an 18-year-old girl looking for something new from the world
Henry – an 18-year-old boy, full of spark and sinew
Gloria – a woman in her early 60s, paced to the life of the farm
Steve – a farmer in his early 60s, an artist of the earth
Tony – a 24-year-old man searching for integrity and a new way of thinking
Ingrid – a 25-year old woman, the embodiment of song
Mike – a 39-year-old man built of muscle and kindness
Seth – a 29-year-old man, always longing for winter
Note: Two slash marks in a line indicate that the next actor’s line begins there.
The stage is split at a diagonal with the right half lit. The floor of the stage is planted with a living garden: vines of tomatoes on poles, stalks of corn, pepper plants, lettuces, and also a few unplanted beds. The dark earth is real. It is deep summer at a biodynamic farm in Covelo, California. The lighting indicates a cool morning, and a light mist clings above the ground. Rebecca, Tony, Ingrid and Mike are working along one of the beds hoeing the soil, while Henry and Seth are kneeling tying up tomato plants. Everyone is covered in a layer of soil which is smudged on their clothes, dusted on their faces and engrained in their hands.Nothing exists outside this field, outside the six of them right there in that moment. Ingrid, Tony, Henry and Rebecca are singing “Sixteen Tons,” while Seth and Mike hum and sway along, occasionally joining them.
Ingrid: (Singing.) “You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?”
All: (Singing.) “Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the company store.”
Tony: (Singing.) “I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine.”
Tony& Henry: (Singing.) “I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine.”
All: (Singing.) “I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal,
And the straw boss said––“
Ingrid: (Singing.) “’Well, bless my soul.’” (No longer singing.) Hey, let’s do our version. I like it better. (Laughs and starts singing again.)
“You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?”
All: (Singing.) “Lots of veggies and out of the petroleum debt
Monsanto don’t you call me ‘cause I won’t go
I’m digging for soul down in Covelo!”
Laughter, then a moment of silence and muscles at work.
Rebecca: This is my favorite time of day here. Smell it. It’s so… fresh.
Tony: The sun isn’t blazing hot yet either.
Seth: This morning, when I was bringing the horses up the lane, the mist was so thick I could barely see the fence of the blackberry field.
Mike: Most of it is burning off now though. Look, you can just see a little mist hiding under the trees over in those fields.
Tony: Looks like it’s going to be another scorcher.
Rebecca: What was it yesterday? 110°? 112°?
Rebecca: I don’t know if I can handle much more of these temperatures.
Tony: Sure you can! Toughen up girl!
Rebecca: Hey! I’m trying.
Henry: (Guiltily.) Anyone else hungry?
Tony: Yeah, I could go for some breakfast. What’s the time?
Ingrid: What do you say we go in at 8:30?
Rebecca: Works for me.
Henry: Just tighten my belt here….
Mike: Henry, just remember you’ve got a good bowl of my porridge waiting for you in the kitchen!
Tony: And fresh eggs…
Seth: Ingrid, is there any of your sourdough left?
Ingrid: I think there’s a loaf and a half or so.
Rebecca: I saw Gloria putting new butter in the Apprentice Kitchen!
Tony: Score! Mo’ butter, mo’ better!
Mike: Our breakfasts are the best!
Henry: It’s a good motivator.
Rebecca: Mike, did you know? I never liked porridge till I tried yours.
Henry: Me neither actually.
Mike: Well you two, I’m honored you like mine.
Ingrid: Doesn’t everything just taste better here?
Rebecca: Absolutely. (Looking directly at Tony.) I don’t think I ever want to leave.
April 25, 2006
An acoustic guitar plays as we are taken to the beginning of this story. Henry and Rebecca enter dressed in clean work clothes. Rebecca’s hair is plaited in two braids, making her look younger than she is. It is their first day as interns at Live Power Community Farm. The day is bright and sunny, but not too warm.
Rebecca: Well, it smells the same.
Henry: The sweet aroma of cows…. (Takes a deep sniff at the air.)
Rebecca: Oh be quiet. The place feels different when we’re not here with our class.
Henry: Yeah, no one whining about how they don’t want to sleep in the barn.
Rebecca: Well I’m glad we’re not sleeping in the barn.
Henry: Oh it’s not so bad.
Steve and Tony walk by upstage deep in conversation, but out of earshot of Henry and Rebecca, and then exit.
Rebecca: I wonder who that was?
Henry: It’s Steve! You have to remember // Farmer Steve!
Rebecca: No, of course I remember Steve. I mean the younger guy.
Henry: Maybe one of the apprentices?
Gloria enters and approaches Henry and Rebecca. She speaks slowly, with a soft, deep voice, often as though her mind is on a different, pleasant thought, far away.
Gloria: Welcome! (She draws both Henry and Rebecca into a warm hug.) Look at you both. We’re figuring out where to put you, where to have you sleep.
Rebecca: We brought tents.
Gloria: Good, good. Have you eaten?
Rebecca: Actually // no.
Gloria: Come have lunch, then we’ll get you settled… okay? Okay, over here. (Steve and Tony enter. Tony is wearing glasses and some faded work clothes. Steve is wearing a light green, plaid flannel shirt.) Stephen, you remember Rebecca and Henry?
Steve: Yes, hi. You ready for some work?
Rebecca: I think // so.
Steve: Good, good. We have work. Always lots to do.
Gloria: And this is Tony. Tony, Henry and Rebecca.
They shake hands, Tony holding Rebecca’s hand perhaps a little longer than he held Henry’s.
Steve, Gloria, Henry, Rebecca and Tony enter the Apprentice Kitchen, a square room on the left diagonal of the stage. A magnificent willow tree stands beside the one-room building and a large musical triangle hangs from one of the eaves. The Kitchen has a dusty, dark green floor, an old black stove covered in cast iron pans on the Upstage Left wall, a sink downstage of the stove, an ancient faded sofa against the right wall, and a pine table in the center surrounded by six chairs. Ingrid, wearing a grungy red shirt and bare feet, is humming and stirring yellow lentils at the stove. The table is laden with a bowl of mashed sweet potatoes topped with shredded coconut, a wok of cooked greens, a metal bowl of salad, a pitcher of cold well water, and mismatched plates and cutlery in stacks. Everyone sits down and begins serving and passing the dishes.
Henry: This looks really amazing.
Rebecca: Yeah it does. Thank you so much.
Ingrid: Oh no thank you! I was just trying out some new dishes. So I hope you like them. The greens are a bit different. (Takes a bite of the greens and laughs.) Oh well. They’re still good for you!
Gloria: Ingrid these are our new apprentices: Henry and Rebecca. They came here years ago as kids through the Waldorf program.
Ingrid: That’s so exciting! Welcome.
Tony: How long are you guys here for?
Rebecca: Just two weeks. We have a break from school to do this internship kind of thing, and we both decided we wanted to come back here to Covelo.
Mike enters, wearing a shirt with so many holes that it barely constitutes as a shirt. He beams at Henry and Rebecca.
Mike: Why hello! Hello everybody.
Tony: Don Miguel!
Mike takes a seat.
Mike: Ingrid, Ingrid this looks good. Hello. (He nods to Henry and Rebecca as he serves himself.) I am Mike.
Henry: My name is Henry.
Rebecca: I’m Rebecca.
Mike: Good, good. It’s good to meet you. (He starts to eat.) Ingrid, did you put purslane in these greens?
Ingrid: (Giggling.) Yes!
Tony: (Starting to look at the greens in disgust.) Oh really?! Is that what is so, so––
Ingrid: (Laughing fully by now.) Mucilaginous?
Henry: What is purslane?
Steve: It’s a weed. And it’s all over our fields. Too bad we can’t put it into the CSA shares! It’s okay to eat, just a little slimy.
More laughter from all.
Ingrid: It’s a great word! You really get the feeling.
Rebecca: (To Gloria) So once we get our tents set up––
Gloria: Yes… you should both be in the blackberry field I think. Would that be good Stephen?
Steve: That’s fine.
Gloria: And then you can start by…. hmm. Can you do a deep clean of the kitchen? It could use it.
Rebecca: Um, yeah // ok.
Henry: Sure thing.
Both are clearly disappointed they are not starting out in the fields.
Steve: We’re going to start prepping a bed for lettuce, Mike. And Ingrid, when you’re done in here. Tony, could you start // working on….
Gloria: Oh I’ve already got him chopping the wood we pruned from the willow. It would be good to get it stored away.
Steve nods at Gloria’s request, knowing that she holds a different power than him in the life of the farm. Fade to blackout as everyone finishes eating.
It is later the same day and Tony is chopping wood with an axe and a wedge outside the Apprentice Kitchen. He is no longer wearing glasses and has cleaned himself up, making him look younger. After a few moments Rebecca enters and starts watching him shyly.
Tony: Hey hey, how’s it going?
Rebecca: Fine, thanks. Henry and I just finished the kitchen.
Tony: How was that? It really needed it, eh?
Rebecca: Yeah, it did. I don’t know, I was kind of hoping to be doing more, well, outside.
Tony: No worries, you’ll get plenty of that soon.
Rebecca: Good. (Pause.) Hey, you’re not wearing your glasses anymore.
Tony: Oh. No. I’m not. (Awkwardly.) I guess I was wearing them because it was raining so much. Now that it’s a bit dryer….
Rebecca: That’s funny.
Rebecca: It’s just, well, I find the opposite. The rain always fogs my glasses up.
Tony: (Lamely.) I guess that does make sense…. (He takes a swing at the log he is splitting to try to complete his thought.) You want to give it a go?
Rebecca: Uh, not really.
Tony: You wanted some outdoor work.
Rebecca: I guess… okay. I’ve actually never split wood before.
Tony: That’s alright! I’ll show you.
Rebecca: I don’t think I’ll be any good at it.
Tony: You’ll do fine. Here, this looks like a good piece. (He takes a medium-sized log and sets it upright.) Now take a swing at it. (Rebecca goes to swing and Tony stops her.) No no, here. Hold it right here. (He moves her hands toward to end of the handle.) That way you’ll have the force of the whole axe coming down on the wood.
Rebecca: (She swings and partially misses.) See? I can’t do this.
Tony: Sure you can. A month ago I couldn’t either. Try it again.
Rebecca: (Reluctantly.) Alright. (She swings and the axe hits home and sticks.) Oh my god, I did it! Now what?
Tony: Great! See I told you could. Okay, so now we take the axe out, and put this wedge in where the axe was, like this. Now, you use the back of the axe to hit it, kind of like a sledgehammer, like this. (He shows her one swing.) Now it’s your turn.
Rebecca: Oh no. Okay. I can do this.
Rebecca swings the axe and hits the wedge, but weakly. Over the course of the following conversation she keeps trying and slowly splits the wood apart. Meanwhile Tony takes another axe and wedge and works on a much larger chunk of wood with a few knots in it.
Tony: So you and Henry were here before?
Rebecca: Yeah, we came in 3rd grade with our Waldorf classes, and then again in 9th grade. It’s part of the curriculum.
Tony: The way everyone here talks about Waldorf I feel like I should know more about it.
Rebecca: Oh! Have you heard of Steiner?
Tony: Rudolf Steiner? That’s the guy who started biodynamic farming, right?
Rebecca: Yeah. He also started the Waldorf school system.
Rebecca: It’s basically an art-based school. We did painting and drawing, music and so on, in all our classes.
Tony: That’s amazing! Maybe I would have actually liked school if I’d gone to one like that.
Rebecca: I can’t quite believe I’m almost finished with it. I’ll no longer be a Waldorfian.
Rebecca: Yeah. It’s what people who go to Waldorf call themselves. Waldorfians. I know, it’s kind of a weird name. Or Waldorks. That’s a terrible one.
Tony: That’s hilarious!
Pause as the two of them work.
Rebecca:So you’ve been here a month, is that right?
Tony: About that long, yes.
Rebecca: I’d have guessed longer.
Tony: Oh yeah? Why’s that?
Rebecca: I don’t know… You seem quite comfortable here.
Tony: Do I?
Rebecca: I think so. Where are you from then? I mean, originally?
Tony: I grew up in Maryland.
Rebecca: And you came all the way out to California to come to Live Power?
Rebecca: How come?
Tony: So many reasons. I needed to find something new, to live in a way that I feel is ethical and responsible.
Rebecca: What were you doing before you came here?
Tony: I worked at a health food store in D.C. called Mamma’s. Among other things. It was a fun place. But I needed something different. Or something more. Food fascinates me. It is such a vital thing. Actually it’s the most vital thing in life. Think about it: you can’t do anything if you don’t have food.
Tony: Too few people, in our culture now, think about where their food really comes from. Or how it affects their bodies and their health.
Rebecca: You mean conventional agriculture and so on?
Tony: Definitely that. That’s the worst. But also food that is marketed as healthy or (Gestures quotation marks.) “environmentally friendly” but really isn’t. Like so much of the stuff we sold at Mamma’s: that wasn’t sustainable, it wasn’t healthy.
Rebecca: But didn’t you say it was a health food store?
Tony: But what does that mean? People don’t think about that kind of thing, they just take it for granted that someone else is making sure their food is healthy or safe.
Rebecca: Not everyone. Some people think about it.
Tony: No, you’re right. Like Steve and Gloria. They’re out here doing something really different. They’re challenging the easy way of life of going along with the mainstream culture. I’ve lived in that culture, I tried it, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. Life feels more real out here. The work we’re doing, that’s what life should be all about.
Rebecca: Or at least a part of what life is about.
Tony: Maybe. Maybe not though. Maybe we’ll all realize one day in the future that this is the only true way to live.
Rebecca: (Reluctantly.) It could be. I don’t know.
April 26, 2006
Steve is in the field by one of the empty beds showing Henry and Rebecca how to hoe the soil. Tony is already at work hoeing the remaining unplanted soil. Mike and Ingrid are weeding in the background and holding a conversation between themselves.
Steve: We’re going to prep these beds for planting. I came out yesterday with the horses and the compost spreader, but we still have to integrate the compost into the soil.
(He picks up a clod of compost and crumbles it in his hands as he speaks.)
Compost is the gold of the farm. In Steiner’s lectures on biodynamics, he talks about managing the farm like it’s a single organism. That’s what we’re doing here. Manure from the animals goes into the soil for the vegetables, the vegetables feed us and the animals, and we and the animals both use our physical power to do the work on the farm. It’s a complete cycle.
(He pauses and looks out towards the horizon, taking in the 44 acres that are his farm.)
Right. What we’re doing is aerating the soil, breaking up these clumps. Take the hoe and hold it like this, so that the edge is always catching at the soil. Never cut the soil straight down. Instead come in from the side and lift to bring air into the earth. Build up the sides of the bed away from the path to form a mound. Then we’ll rake it afterward. Sound good?
Henry: Yup, got it.
Rebecca: I think so!
Henry and Rebecca start hoeing their bed, getting into the rhythm of the work. Meanwhile, Tony has just finished his bed and comes down to work near Rebecca.
Tony: Hey girl. Glad to be outside now?
Rebecca: Definitely! I’m glad it warmed up a bit now the sun is out. It was freezing this morning!
Steve: You should come back in the summer. You’ll get plenty of heat then, and three inches of dust over everything.
Henry: Oh really? How hot does it get?
Steve: In the hundreds. 100° to 110° sometimes. Pretty hot.
Tony: Oh man, that’ll be intense.
Rebecca: Steve? What’ll we be putting in these beds? Once we’re done hoeing them?
Steve: These beds here will be lettuces. We plant it every few weeks during the season, but since it’s one of the few early crops we need a lot to fill out the shareholder baskets. Lots of greens in the spring.
Rebecca: Are those the CSA shareholders?
Rebecca: Sorry, and that stands for Community––?
Tony: Community Supported Agriculture.
Henry: I’ve read a bit about it. It’s a pretty awesome system.
Rebecca: So the CSA people pay you for a basket of produce every week?
Steve: Sort of. Shareholders invest in the farm at the beginning of each season. In return we give them a weekly basket of veggies. They share the risk with us, if a crop fails or there’s a drought. I think it works better than a farmers market because nothing goes to waste. We’re not forced to overload the land just for profit.
Tony: I’m telling you, CSAs are the way of the future man. It’s the way the world will have to go if we want to stay afloat in the long run.
Steve: It works well for us. And with all the Waldorf School groups that come through we do pretty good. Actually we have a group coming in today. I should see how Gloria wants to start things off with them.
Rebecca: That’ll be fun! I love working with Waldorfian kids!
Tony: Yeah, the school groups here can be really great.
Steve exits. Henry starts working away from where Tony and Rebecca are speaking.
Rebecca: You know, farming’s pretty different from how I imagined it would be.
Tony: How so?
Rebecca: I guess I never really thought about how essential it is. I always thought of it as––I feel a bit bad saying this now––but kind of mindless drudgery. But it’s not! It’s like a careful art, in its own way.
Tony: Those are the words of Mother Culture you’re fighting against.
Rebecca: Mother Culture?
Tony: Yeah, you know, the mainstream way of thinking. The voice that says you should spend your life working at some office job so you can buy lots of stuff, and somehow that stuff will make you happy. It’s a term from Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael. Have you read it?
Rebecca: No I haven’t.
Tony: Ishmael is a big part of what inspired me to change my attitude and the way I was living.
Rebecca: Sounds interesting. I’ll check it out.
Tony: You really should. (Pause.) That’s cool that you’re conscious of this kind of stuff at your age.
Rebecca: What d’you mean?
Tony: Oh I don’t know, I didn’t think about anything besides myself when I was in high school.
Rebecca: Oh… Thanks? I’m not sure what to say to that.
Tony: You just seem, more mature for your age.
Rebecca: (Laughing.) How old do you think I am?
Tony: Are you, let’s see? Seventeen?
Rebecca: I’m eighteen.
Tony: Oh well, not a big difference.
Rebecca: It is when you’re eighteen! Why? How old are you?
Rebecca: Nooooo, I’ll get it wrong. I don’t want to do this!
Tony: Oh come on, try.
Rebecca: Okay… Um, twenty-nine?
Tony: Twenty-nine?! You think I look that old?
Rebecca: Um, no? Sorry. I don’t know.
Tony: I’m twenty-four.
Rebecca: Oh. Well that’s not so bad.
Tony and Rebecca meet up in the middle of hoeing the bed and stop, looking at each other.
It is later that evening in the Apprentice Kitchen and it is dark outside. Rebecca is sitting on a chair with her feet in a tub of warm water. Tony walks through and pulls out a guitar case.
Rebecca: I didn’t know you played guitar!
Tony: Yeah, I used to be in a band back in Maryland. (He sits on the couch.)
Rebecca: Nice. What was the name of your band?
Tony: It was really my brother’s band. It’s called The Sketches.
Rebecca: That’s a pretty sweet name. (Tony strums a chord, then another.) Would you play me one of your songs?
Tony: Sure. What do you want to hear?
Rebecca: Oh, I have no idea. Whatever you feel like playing.
Tony: Upbeat sounding? Or would you rather something mellow?
Rebecca: How about something upbeat? I could use it right now. I’m totally exhausted!
Tony: Sure. Yeah, okay. (Thinking for a moment.) Okay. This is called “Empty Bulb.”
Tony begins to play. As he does, Rebecca becomes enraptured with him and the music. She begins to fall in love without even realizing it.
Tony: (Singing.) “She came and went and when she left
He came to understand himself
It had to happen.
She came and went and when she left
He made his claim and paid for it
He had this habit
He had to have it.
“She asked him softly,
What are you doing the lights are out?
Asked him softly,
What are you doing the lights are out and electricity is gone.
You oughtta know by now my love isn’t that way.
“She came and went and when she left
He stayed away with confidence.
She used his brothers,
She fooled her lovers.
“She asked him softly
What are you doing the lights are out?
Asked him softly,
What are you doing the lights are out?
Asked him softly,
What are you doing the lights are out and electricity is gone.
You oughtta know by now my love isn’t that way,
You oughtta know by now my love isn’t that way
When the lights aren’t out and electricity is on,
You oughtta know by now my love isn’t that way,
You oughtta know by now my love will never change.
“She came again, again she left.
One day she’ll understand herself.”
Rebecca: That’s really beautiful. Who is it about?
Tony: My best friend from back home. He’s been in love with the same woman for something like seven years. It’s never really worked out for him.
Rebecca: Does he know you wrote the song about him?
Tony: He knows the song. I don’t think he knows it’s about him though. Do you play?
He offers Rebecca the guitar.
Rebecca: Oh no, I don’t play guitar. I tried once but it kind of failed. I’ve gone through a lot of instruments though: I used to play harp and silver flute and some other instruments. Now I just sing.
Tony: You want to sing something with me?
Rebecca: I guess. I’m not that great at it. I have a quiet voice.
Tony: That’s alright! What do you like to sing?
Rebecca: Well, I worship The Beatles.
Tony: Nice, nice. Well, let’s try this. (After a moment of figuring out chords and keys Tony starts playing “With A Little Help From My Friends.”)
“What would you think if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?”
(Speaking) Come on, let’s hear you sing!
Tony & Rebecca: (Rebecca singing quite shyly.)
“Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my––“
Henry and Ingrid enter the Apprentice Kitchen laughing, and partially cut off the music.
Ingrid: The cows were // just––
Henry: Rebecca you missed out, (Catching his breath.) the funniest // thing just happened––
Ingrid: Ooh Tony you brought out the guitar! I’m so // glad!
Henry: What are you guys playing?
Tony: Just playing some Beatles. Wanna join in?
Henry: Oh yeah for sure!
Rebecca: Tony was just playing some of his own stuff too.
Henry: Oh yeah? You write songs?
Tony: I used to.
Rebecca: It was really good. // Really good.
Henry: Nice nice.
Ingrid: What song were you singing just now?
Instead of answering Tony just starts playing “With A Little Help From My Friends” from the beginning. As Henry sings Rebecca gains confidence in her own voice and sings louder too.
Tony: (Singing.) “What would you think if I sang out of tune?”
All: (Singing.) “Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends.”
The group starts to split into harmonies naturally.
All: (Singing.) “Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love.”
Tony: (Looking directly at Rebecca and singing.)
“Would you believe in a love at first sight?”
All: (Singing.) ”Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time.
What do you see when you turn out the light?
Henry: (Singing.) “I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine.”
All: (Singing.) “Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm I get high with a little help from my friends,
Oh, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.”
Lights begin to fade with the singing.
All: (Singing.) “Do you need anybody?
I just need someone to love.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love….”
April 27, 2006
Purple darkness fills the stage. A rooster crows through the darkness. Once, twice, three times. Behind the planted rows of crops an orange sun rises, illuminating the encircling mountains of the Round Valley. The sun chases away the early morning mists. Suddenly it is after day break, as though the sun has been up for a couple hours already. Alone, or in pairs, Ingrid, Mike, Tony, Rebecca and Henry enter the Apprentice Kitchen. Ingrid starts preparing eggs, Mike stirs a pot of porridge, Tony picks up the guitar and Henry sits on one of the chairs at the table.
Rebecca: Ingrid, can I help you with that?
Ingrid: Oh of course! Here, can you cut up this kale?
Rebecca: Sure thing! (She starts to cut fresh, sturdy, kale leaves.)
Ingrid: Everyone good with a kale omelette? With a little curry?
Tony: I’m down.
Henry: Sounds great.
Mike: Mmm-hmm. These breakfasts are the best.
Rebecca: I feel like I earned it after two hours working already!
Tony: Man, this is the perfect pace for me. Work to warm your hunger up, and then porridge with all the toppings, fresh eggs and veggies. Mmm, mmm, mmm! Awesome man!
Henry: This is the best I think I’ve eaten, probably ever.
Tony: Don Miguel! What’s in the porridge mix today?
Mike: Well Tony let’s see: we have oats, some rolled wheat berries, millet, spelt flakes and I’m trying out some quinoa. So you all have to tell me if you like it. I don’t know about this quinoa, but who knows, it may work.
Tony: Hey we should try it uncooked some time. Just soak it, you know?
Mike: Now Tony, that’s an interesting idea. Why don’t we?
Ingrid: Ooh with the raw milk from Bess? That would be rad.
Henry: So you soak the porridge before you cook it?
Tony: Of course.
Rebecca: How come? Why don’t you just add water and cook it?
Mike: Well you could do that… But Sally doesn’t recommend it.
Rebecca: Who’s Sally?
Mike: Ahh, The Book of Sally, The Book // of Sally. Tony, you’re the real expert.
Ingrid: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Tony: (Laughing.) Why thank you Mike. (He gets up and takes a large yellow book from the book shelf and lays it on the table.) Sally Fallon wrote this book called Nourishing Traditions.
Rebecca: Oh my mum has that! // Never read it though.
Tony: It’s like, the food Bible or something. It’s all about unrefined foods and food preparation. I was so stoked when I talked to Gloria about coming here and she said they were all into Sally cooking. I was like, yes this is the place for me!
Rebecca: So what’s this Sally way of cooking like?
Tony: White flour, sugar: we don’t eat any of that processed crap––
Rebecca: You don’t eat any sugar?!
Rebecca: But, why?
Tony: Because it’s terrible for your system. The stuff just destroys your body.
Rebecca: It does? Then what can you eat?
Tony: Everything that’s whole and good for you. Look how much great food we have here. None of this is processed.
Henry: Alright, what do you mean by processed? Because isn’t cooking technically a process?
Tony: Good point. I should say unrefined. Like the process of refining wheat into white flour and sugar cane into white sugar.
Rebecca: Don’t you get tired of not being able to eat that stuff? It’s so yummy!
Tony: I did when I first started. Everyone does I think. But after a while you don’t miss it anymore. Healthy food just tastes so much better.
Rebecca: Oh, so you haven’t always eaten like this? How’d you find out about it?
Tony: A few years ago I developed this chronic digestive illness. Over the last few years I’ve been controlling it through my diet.
Mike: That’s pretty impressive Tony.
Ingrid: Who first turned you on to Sally then?
Tony: I found a book called Patient, Heal Thyself and it had a whole new approach to medicine. I had been on sixteen pills a day but through the diet these guys developed I got off all that medication.
Mike: And that, Henry, is why we soak the porridge, because it removes the phytates // from the grains. It’s easier on the stomach that way.
Ingrid: Natural plant toxins basically.
Tony: You should do it with all grains, nuts and legumes really.
Ingrid: Oh that reminds me, I need to put tonight’s beans out in the solar cooker. Rebecca would you mind finishing up the omelette?
Rebecca: Sure no problem.
Henry: (Clearly excited.) You have a solar cooker?
Ingrid: Mike built it! Come check it out when these beans are ready to go.
Ingrid takes a bowl of soaking beans from under a towel on the counter and pours them into a cast iron Dutch oven. She then chops up an onion and some garlic and adds them, along with some herbs, salt and pepper, to the pot.
Meanwhile Rebecca adds the kale to the eggs and is watching them cook. She then takes a piece of cheese and grates it into the eggs and folds it in.
Tony: Henry, I was thinking about what you asked me last night, about which was my favorite of my own songs. Think I came up with one.
Henry: Oh, sweet.
Tony: It’s called “Sleeper.” Wanna hear?
Henry: For sure.
Tony: You guys mind?
Ingrid: No go // ahead.
Mike: Not at all Tonito.
Rebecca just smiles at Tony. He takes that as a yes.
Tony: (Singing.) “Each morning I wake up in the world I went to sleep in.
Every day in this place is a new reason to keep dreaming.
I’ve been having trouble trying to sleep I can’t go on,
Living this life like I’m already gone.
“Time changes its pace in the workplace,
Free time is fleeting.
And when you’re relieved of the time sheet
It resumes speeding.
And I’ve been having trouble trying to sleep,
I can’t go on,
Living this life like I’m gone.
“Sleep comes to those
Who are willing to accept
That they are no one
And there’s nothing whole left to hold on in this world.
And I know it better to wake up than to remember
That you’re still stuck from nine to five alive or dying,
Dream bears the key to safety,
But will that be enough to free or save me?
“Heavy head hanging in your hands,
Burdened by the weight of falling sand.
Ten pounds of pennies,
Too many for one heart.
It’s so hard to wake up,
So hard to know the difference between love and lust,
Distinguish answers from questions.
And I know it’s better to wake up than to remember
That you’re still stuck from nine to five alive or dying,
Dream bears the key to safety,
But will that be enough to free or save me?”
A pause as everyone takes the song in. As Tony has been singing Mike has set the table and Rebecca puts the pan of eggs out.
Ingrid: That’s pretty intense stuff Tony.
Rebecca: Well, now I’m depressed. No offense or anything.
Tony: None taken. No, that’s what it’s supposed to make you realize. Don’t get yourself stuck in that life. And see, here I am! I’m here because I couldn’t live like that anymore.
Rebecca: (Laughing awkwardly.) The, uh, the eggs are ready.
Tony: Excellent. (He says “excellent” like “egg-cellent.” Everyone sits and starts serving themselves. Tony is the first to serve himself the eggs. He sees that there is cheese melted through them.) You know Rebecca, next time you shouldn’t put cheese in the eggs.
Rebecca: What? Why? But I // thought…
Tony: This cheese that we have here is raw and the cheese makers work really hard to keep it that way. It has all the enzymes that are naturally present in the milk that make it digestible and nourishing for the body. So when you cook it the cheese gets pasteurized and all those enzymes and bacteria are killed.
Rebecca: (A little hurt and unsure.) I’m sorry. I didn’t know // that happened.
Ingrid: It’s fine don’t worry // about it!
Mike It’s all good. You didn’t // know!
Tony: I mean, it’s okay, every once in a while. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so harsh.
Rebecca: I won’t do it again. I just thought it tasted good.
Ingrid: It tastes great! That’s the problem sometimes.
Tony: (Cutting himself a piece of raw cheese.) True, but it tastes even better like this! Here. (Handing a slice to Rebecca.) Try it on its own. Now that’s what real cheese should taste like.
April 30, 2006
A small blue pavilion canopy is erected between the fields and the Apprentice Kitchen. Ingrid and Mike are seated and cutting seed potatoes into pieces so one “eye” remains per piece. Tony is standing at a high table behind them on which seed flats are set, almost all of them planted with small tomato plants. He is filling one with a compost, soil and eggshell combination in preparation for planting. Rebecca and Henry enter together, laughing.
Ingrid: Hey guys! What’s happening?
Henry: (Taking a seat near the potatoes.) We were talking to the parrots on the porch.
Rebecca: Did you know when the phone rings they say “Hello?”
Mike: There’s not much in life that bothers me, but those birds….
Tony: Anyone up for parrot stew tonight? I’m cooking….
General laughter among the group.
Ingrid: I’ve been trying to teach them to say butter.
Tony: Mo’ butter mo’ better!
Mike: Mo’ butter mo’ better indeed.
Henry: So what are you guys working on?
Ingrid: Seed potatoes! Here, take a knife, and see how these potatoes have four to five “eyes” on them? We want one “eye” per piece but with enough potato so that we can plant it. You may have to keep two “eyes” on a piece, it depends on the potato.
Meanwhile, Rebecca has gone over to where Tony is working. Ingrid, Mike and Henry hold a quiet conversation from which only little bits of laughter escape.
Tony: Hey girl! How you doing?
Rebecca: I’m fine. Can I help you or should I do potatoes too?
Tony: I’m almost done, but I suppose I could tolerate you helping. (He smiles.)
Tony: (In a thick Cuban accent, imitating his father) I was only kidding! (In his normal voice.) No of course you can help! I’m prepping this flat for transplanting. Can you weed that flat? Then we’ll transplant half the seedlings to this flat I have here.
Rebecca starts weeding a tomato flat.
Rebecca: These are tomato plants right?
Rebecca: I love the smell of tomato leaves. Here, smell this. (She gently presses a leaf between her fingers and holds them up for Tony to smell.)
Rebecca and Tony lock eyes for a moment.
Rebecca: (Looking away and indicating a small pile of pulled weeds.) Is this where I put the weeds?
Tony: Yes ma’am. But aren’t Waldorfians supposed to say a prayer every time they pull out a weed or something? Maybe you could transplant that to your fairy garden back home and save a life.
Rebecca: Nooo! (She throws a weed at Tony in retaliation as he laughs.) Hey, I’m not that weird!
Tony: (Taking the weed.) Thanks! I was feeling a bit hungry. (He starts chewing on it.) Mmm, so tasty!
Tony: And slimy. (He spits it out.)
Rebecca: Serves you right!
Tony: Cute braids. (Tugging one.) You look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.
Rebecca: I do not!
Tony: Rebecca of Live Power Farm.
Rebecca: Wasn’t she like, five years old? What are you saying? I look like a little kid?
Rebecca: (Throwing another weed.) You are so…. annoying! I’m going to ignore you now.
Tony: Aww come on you could never ignore me. (Pause as Tony tries to think of a way to get her to pay attention to him again.) I feel like I’ve known you longer than just a few days.
Rebecca: (Forgetting to ignore him.) Really?
Tony: Yeah. You seem, I don’t know, familiar.
Rebecca: Oh. How so?
Tony: We just met and already you’re throwing weeds at me!
Rebecca: Well, you were pestering me. (Tony gives Rebecca a gentle shove. Laughing, she shoves him back. Really it’s just an excuse to be in physical contact.) You actually do too. Seem familiar. (Pause.) Can I start transplanting these now? Or are you still primping your soil there?
Tony: Hey now, this is a very careful, secret recipe // for soil––
Rebecca: (Sarcastically.) Uh huh, yeah sure.
Tony: No really it is: see, we have the eggshells making their little calcium layer here on the bottom, then some oak leaf litter, then some compost and finally some soil. See, very special recipe. Probably devised by Rudolf Steiner in one of his moments of transcendent genius right?
Rebecca: I don’t know! I just went to his school!
As Tony and Rebecca are finishing the tomato transplant the conversation with Mike, Ingrid and Henry comes to the forefront. They are talking about funny words.
Ingrid: I love that word! Proboscis!
Tony: Excuse me? That sounds // dirty.
Mike: Isn’t it that part of a bug?
Ingrid: Yeah, the big curly bit on the front?
Henry: “What a big proboscis you have.” “Yes the better to whatever you with my dear!”
Everyone collapses in peals of laughter. Tony and Rebecca go sit down with the others and start cutting potatoes.
Rebecca: Henry, you’re such a creeper! Oh no, did I cut this potato too small?
Mike: Ooh, maybe a little bit.
Tony: Shh… Just put it in there // anyway.
Henry: Ingrid, what was that kid’s name again? The one you brought into the kitchen at lunch.
Ingrid: His name is… William!
Rebecca: That poor kid.
Ingrid: He looked so alone! All the other kids in the Waldorf group were busy churning butter, and he was just sitting by himself.
Tony: So you took him away and brought him to the Apprentice Kitchen?
Ingrid: He said it was his birthday…
Henry: But in like two weeks, right?
Mike: He looked so sad with that little candle in his hand.
Rebecca: In the apple candleholder….
Tony: Did you notice when we sang “Happy Birthday” to him it kind of sounded like it was in a minor key? (Starts singing but changing the notes so they sound dissonant and minor.)
(Singing.) “Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you…”
(Speaking) I can’t do it! It’s too eerie. I think I just ruined the Birthday Song.
Rebecca: There was something about him that was a little creepy.
Tony: Like you could imagine him following behind you in the shadows or something.
Henry: Maybe it was William who killed that chicken Rebecca and I found!
Everyone laughs again.
Mike: Henry, now that is horrible.
Tony: What, he just sneaked out to the coop in the middle of the night…?
Henry: William the Chicken Demon.
Ingrid: This poor kid!
Tony: I know, he’s like the sweetest, most innocent kid, so naturally we demonize him!
Ingrid: (Starting to sing to herself.) “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the––“
Tony: (Singing.) “William eats tonight!”
Rebecca: Oh no. We’re bad people!
Henry: (Singing.) “Hush my darling, don’t fear my darling––“
Tony, Rebecca & Henry: (Singing.) “The William eats tonight!”
The lights fade as the whole group goes through a full a capella round of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” interspersed with intense laughter, as they continue to cut potatoes.
May 3, 2006
It is dark outside and the night sky is a blanket of diamond stars. Henry, Rebecca and Tony are sitting around the remains of a campfire where the canopy from the afternoon was previously set. Tony has his guitar.
Henry: Such a good harmony man.
Tony: That’s so sick you guys are into The Shins! Great taste in music guys.
Henry & Tony: (Singing.) “I find a fatal flaw
In the logic of love
And go out of my head.
“You love a sinking stone
That’ll never elope,
So get used to the lonesome
Girl, you must atone some
Don’t leave me no phone number there, hey la de da.”
Tony: It’s such an upbeat song, but such a downer subject.
Rebecca: I feel like it’s the only song of theirs that really tells a story.
Henry: Some of their lyrics man, they’re way out there.
Rebecca: Like “New Slang.” What is that all about?
Tony: That was such a good time tonight, singing with those Waldorf kids. They’ve really got some talent. That one kid though, with the harmonica? He’s got something going! The way he could play “Piano Man.” I haven’t played that song in years but he just brought it out of me.
Rebecca: You’re really good you know. I’ve never seen someone who could just play any song on the spot like that.
Tony: Nah, it’s really just–– (Interrupting himself.) No. Thank you. (A long pause as the three of them take in the full beauty of the stars.) I can’t believe how beautiful it is out here. It’s like something out of Lord of the Rings.
Rebecca: There is a certain Middle-Earth quality to the Valley.
Henry: I could keep living like this. I feel like a hobbit. Barefoot, close to the earth.
Tony: Plus we get to eat like hobbits here!
Rebecca: So true.
Tony: There’s some magical power here I think. Something deep in the earth. It feels like, well, the perfect place to fall in love. There’re no city lights to darken the stars. They’re just right above you––
Rebecca: Almost like you could touch them.
Another pause as they absorb the world around them.
Henry: I think I’m going to crash you guys. I’m pretty knackered.
Tony: Alright. Have a good night dude.
Henry: (To Rebecca) You staying out a bit longer?
Rebecca: Yeah I think so. For a bit.
Henry: Well good night! (He exits.)
Rebecca: Good // night!
Tony: Sleep well!
Another pause as Tony and Rebecca realize they are alone together. Rebecca unbraids her hair and lets it down. Throughout the following scene they slowly get closer together.
Tony: Your hair looks pretty like that.
Rebecca: Thank you. (Pause.) If you don’t mind my asking, why’d you leave The Sketches? I mean, you’re really good.
Tony: (Sighs.) I just couldn’t do it anymore.
Rebecca: Why not?
Tony: Oh, so many reasons. (He is pained to tell this.) It wasn’t what was right for me. All the waste that comes with the music industry, the pressure to “make it.”
Rebecca: Oh. I see.
Tony: We did pretty well too for a time. We opened for David Grey once in front of eight thousand people. It was nuts. But it isn’t what I’m looking for anymore.
Rebecca: So did the band break up when you left?
Tony: No. It was always my brother Charlie’s band. As long as he’s in it, the band will be The Sketches.
Rebecca: Was he upset? When you left?
Tony: Yeah. Of course. Of course.
Rebecca: Have you talked to him since you moved out here?
Tony: Not really. We didn’t leave on the best of terms.
Rebecca: I can imagine.
Tony: It was such a huge part of my life. I left college to be in The Sketches. And now I have so many bad associations with music.
Rebecca: But you still like playing, don’t you?
Tony: Yeah. Well, I love it––of course I love it––but I hate it too now. I don’t know how I feel about music anymore.
Rebecca: I’m sorry if I’m bringing up stuff I shouldn’t.
Tony: I don’t mind. I haven’t really talked about this to anyone yet. (Pause. His thoughts have shifted but Rebecca doesn’t yet realize it.) Six years….
Tony: ….Give me your hand.
Rebecca gives Tony her hand. He holds it gently, touching one side, then the other. Then he carefully presses his lips to her hand, making her catch her breath. The thoughts running through her head are “This is such a bad idea. This is such a bad idea!” Then, just as gently Tony pulls her into a long, perfect kiss beneath the stars. The scene fades out but the stars remain.
May 4, 2006
Dawn light is just beginning to flood the farm. Rebecca and Tony are lying asleep together on the couch in the Apprentice Kitchen. Rebecca wakes up and, without waking Tony, slips outside. She looks around the farm, quite serious for a moment, then smiles, spins around and then runs off Stage Left.
May 5, 2006
It is late afternoon in the fields. Henry and Rebecca are at one end of an empty bed of soil with a metal stake in the ground. Rebecca is showing Henry how to make a tension knot on the string between the two poles. Steve, Tony, Ingrid and Mike are all filling up plastic trays with onion seedlings from a wheelbarrow full of flats.
Rebecca: You take the string and wrap it around once, then put it through this part, and then back around. See? Then it holds tight while I walk… (She starts walking towards the other stake.) over to this one, and we do the same thing over here.
Henry: Can I tie the one on that side?
Rebecca: Sure, go ahead.
Rebecca goes to fill a tray with onions while Henry ties the other end of the string. Steve gives a demonstration before everyone starts planting.
Steve: We want these about a hand-width apart from each other. Hold your trowel with your thumb on the back and one finger straight down to support it. It’s better for your wrist that way. Put the trowel straight into the soil like this. Lift it up and back––you don’t want to compress the soil––and hold the soil out of the way. Plant the onion with about an inch of the plant below the surface. Don’t compact the earth too tightly around the onion. Just enough to hold the plant up. If you stand over the string they should all end up in a straight line when we’re done.
Everyone spreads themselves evenly along the bed, a few feet between each person. Henry is at the front of the row, then Rebecca, Tony, Ingrid, Mike and then Steve. They plant in silence for a few moments. It is hard work but Steve’s techniques are efficient and everyone moves into a sort of rhythm.
Rebecca: I want to come back. This summer.
Rebecca: Will you come with me? It’ll be our last summer to hang out.
Henry: I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple days. Let’s do it.
Rebecca: I don’t want to leave. I’d almost rather skip graduation.
Ingrid walks forward to get more onions.
Rebecca: Well, kind of. (She walks forward to get more onions as well.)
Ingrid: You thinking of coming back?
Rebecca: I think so! I know this sounds a bit crazy but, well, these have been the best eleven days of my life!
Tony looks up at Rebecca on those words but she doesn’t notice.
Ingrid: That’s wonderful! (She gives Rebecca a hug.) You guys have been great fun to work with.
Rebecca: I feel so happy here. I haven’t been this happy in years to be honest.
Ingrid: Well, I look forward to you coming back.
It is early evening on the farm and a rosy purple light fills the air. Rebecca is alone on stage.
Henry: (Calling from off stage.) Rebecca! Hurry up! We want to get going before it’s totally dark.
Rebecca: I’m coming! Just give me a second… (She is trying to find Tony. Finally he enters.) There you are! I was looking for you.
Rebecca: I wanted to….say goodbye.
Tony: I’m glad we met.
Rebecca: Yeah, me too. I // wanted to get–– (“your contact information.”)
Tony: Here. (He hands her a folded piece of lined paper.)
Rebecca: What’s this?
Tony: It’s the lyrics to “Empty Bulb.” I think you said you wanted them.
Rebecca: Oh. I did. Thank you. (Pause.) I have to go. Henry’s waiting for me.
Tony: I know.
Tony takes Rebecca’s arm and pulls her to him. He goes to kiss her on the cheek, but she turns and kisses him on the lips. They both seem a little surprised.
Rebecca: (Whispering.) Bye.
Tony and Rebecca’s hands separate last as Rebecca walks off Stage Right. Tony watches her go, then gets the guitar from the Apprentice Kitchen and walks off into the dark, strumming chords. A moment passes. Rebecca runs back on stage. She is crying lightly. She looks around, sees Tony is gone, and then exits Stage Right. The stage darkens to black.
End of Act I
July 2, 2006
It is late afternoon at Live Power. The air is heavy with heat, with dust, with summer. The crops in the fields have grown since the spring and are laden with fruits and vegetables. A picnic table and benches now stand outside the Apprentice Kitchen, partially shaded by the willow tree. Mike is standing at the table rolling oats in a grain mill. He whistles to himself while working, perfectly content to be doing nothing else. After a few minutes he goes inside to get more oats.
Rebecca enters dressed in summer street clothes. She walks slowly, taking in everything around her. She walks up to the willow tree, strokes its bark, runs her fingers through its leaves. She walks towards the fields, reaches down to the ground and lifts a handful of rich, black soil and smells it before watching it fall through her fingers. She breathes in deeply.
Mike walks out of the Apprentice Kitchen and Rebecca sees him.
Mike: Rebecca! You’re back!
Rebecca: I am. I really am.
Mike embraces Rebecca.
Mike: It’s good to see you. Good to see you. You look taller.
Rebecca: Do I? It must be all the good food I’ve been eating! No more sugar.
Mike: Good for you. Well, you’ll eat well tonight. I made––guess what?
Mike: Sure thing! Solar-cooked black beans.
Rebecca: Where are the others?
Mike: Ah, the others are gone––
Rebecca: They’re gone?
Mike: For the day.
Mike: They’re at the biodynamic apprentice meeting. In Ukiah.
Rebecca: How come you’re not there?
Mike: I couldn’t bring myself to go. Getting too old.
Rebecca: You’re hardly old!
Mike: I like staying home.
Rebecca: Do you know when they’ll be back?
Mike: Maybe an hour? Hour and a half.
Rebecca: Oh, soon! I’m glad.
Mike: (With a wink.) Tony’ll be wanting to see you.
Rebecca: Did he tell you about… (“us?”)
Mike: He did. It’s so sweet. I’m happy for you guys.
Mike: After you left last time, Tony was just moping around. Couldn’t get him to laugh or nothing. So I said, “Tonito, what’s up with you? Your mind is some place else.” And that’s how I got him to tell me your little secret.
Rebecca: So no one else knows?
Mike: Maybe Ingrid. Steve and Gloria I don’t think know. But they know you’re coming back right?
Rebecca: I called Gloria yesterday to double check. She said with summer here they’ll be needing the extra help.
Mike: And Seth probably knows.
Rebecca: Seth? Who’s Seth?
Mike: Ah, right! He wasn’t here when you were. Seth’s the new apprentice. Funny guy, funny guy. He’s a skier.
Rebecca: Can’t wait to meet him.
Mike: But what about Henry? Didn’t he come back too?
Rebecca: He’ll be here in a week. But I couldn’t wait that long.
Mike: Understandable. Understandable. Okay, I’m off to my cabin. You need anything?
Rebecca: No, I’m good. I remember where everything is.
Mike: Course you do.
Mike: Yes, Rebecca?
Rebecca: I’m so happy to be back. It’s great to see you.
Mike: You too Rebecca. I’m glad you’re back too.
Mike exits Stage Left. Rebecca walks into the Apprentice Kitchen, pours herself a glass of water from the sink and brings it outside. The quality of the light is changing from the gold of late afternoon to the magenta of early evening. Rebecca takes a long drink from the water, stops and looks at the glass, then laughs to herself. She finishes the glass of water, lies on one of the picnic benches and stares up into the wide sky. The scene fades slowly to black as Rebecca hums “Empty Bulb” to herself.
It is later the same night, Rebecca is asleep on the couch in the Apprentice Kitchen, with one dim light on. Headlights flood part of Stage Right and there is the crunch of a car approaching on a gravel driveway. Three doors slam. There are quiet voices from off-stage. Tony, Ingrid and Seth enter from Stage Right. They speak in lowered voices.
Ingrid: Thanks for driving, Seth.
Seth: No problem.
Tony: Yes, thank you. Do we owe you anything for gas?
Seth: Nah, don’t worry about it. My treat.
Tony: Thanks man.
Ingrid: It’s late, I need to go to bed!
Seth: Yeah, I’m gonna hit the hay too.
Tony: (Laughing.) Hit the hay!
Seth: Right, I guess being here certainly changes the context of that phrase.
Ingrid: I think I’m still tired from bucking hay last week.
Tony: Aren’t we all.
Ingrid: Good night Tony.
Seth: Sleep well.
Tony: Good night you guys.
Ingrid and Seth exit. Tony watches them for a moment with a curious look on his face. He then enters the Apprentice Kitchen and sees Rebecca on the couch. Tony looks at her for a moment, almost believing he must be dreaming.
Tony: (Soft and sweetly.) Damn.
Rebecca wakes at the sound of his voice.
Rebecca: Hey you.
Tony: Wow. You’re here. You’re really here.
Rebecca: Is that okay?
Tony: It’s perfect. (Rebecca stands and kisses Tony tentatively, questioningly.) More than perfect.
Tony: You have no idea.
Rebecca: I think I do.
Tony: Come on. I’ll show you our trailer.
Rebecca: A trailer, eh? Classy.
Tony: Hey! No you’re right. But you’ll like it. It’s cozy.
Rebecca: Can’t wait.
The scene fades to black as Tony and Rebecca walk in the direction of the fields, fingers intertwined.
July 3, 2006
Steve, Gloria, Mike, Ingrid, Seth, Tony and Rebecca are all sitting around the picnic table under the willow tree. Steve has a large farmer’s calendar spread out in front of him. Gloria is making butter by shaking it in a jar with a marble. Ingrid is wearing black cowboy boots without socks, which she wears for the rest of the play.
Ingrid: Happy Monday!
Gloria: Happy Monday Ingrid.
Steve: Hello there Rebecca. Glad to see you’re back. Can always use your help. Especially now that it’s summer.
Rebecca: Well, I’m really happy to offer any help I can.
Gloria: (To Rebecca.) You and Seth have met by now, right?
Rebecca: Not officially. (To Seth, offering her hand.) Hi! It’s good to meet you finally.
Seth: Good to meet you too. I’ve heard a lot about you. And Henry.
Rebecca: Uh oh! I hope nothing too terrible.
Tony: Sorry girl, yeah, we told him about how lazy you guys were.
Mike: Always sitting around eating in the kitchen.
Tony: Sleeping in every morning.
Rebecca: Hey now! I only slept in that once and it was totally by accident! And I apologized like a million times.
Steve: (Enjoying the joke but needing to move on.) Alright alright. Let’s get started. I want to get back out before it gets too hot this morning. First, Rebecca do you want to read the Steiner verse this morning? We’re on number… twelve. You can read it in German right?
Rebecca: Yeah, I’d be happy to.
Gloria hands Rebecca a little book of poems.
Gloria: Here’s the page.
Rebecca: Which should I read first?
Gloria: How about in German first, then English?
Rebecca: Okay. (Pause.)
“Der Welten Shönheitsglanz,
Erzwinget mich aus Seelentiefen
Des Eigenlebens Götterkräfte
Zum Weitenfluge zu entbinden;
Mich selber zu verlassen
Vertrauend nur mich suchend
In Weltenlicht und Weltenwärme.”
“The flush of beauty round the world
forces my soul to search her depths
for godlike powers, to set them free
and send them winging out into the world,
to leave myself behind me
in trust that I shall find me
there in the Light, there in the Warmth again.”
Rebecca: What book is this?
Gloria: Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul. He wrote one verse for each week of the year.
Rebecca: At my school we spoke a morning verse and a closing verse every day together.
Tony: You had such a different education than I did.
Steve: Rebecca, thank you for reading that. So… today is a root day; I want to get into the carrots and onions for some weeding. Tomorrow is a grey day, which isn’t great for harvesting, but that’s our schedule. We do have a seed day later in the week though, which corresponds with the cuke and squash harvest, so that’s good.
Rebecca: Sorry, do you mind if I ask, what’s a seed day?
Steve: Yes, a seed day. Well let’s see. There was this woman, Maria Thun, and she did something like twenty years of experiments with crops and the revolutions of the moon. She found that when the moon passed in front of the different constellations it affected certain plants in various ways.
Tony: Crazy stuff, man.
Gloria: You know the elements of each astrological sign?
Rebecca: You mean earth, air, water and fire?
Gloria: Each part of the plant corresponds to an element. When the moon passes in front of an earth sign, you have a root day. Air sign is a leaf day, water sign a flower day, and fire sign a seed day.
Rebecca: Did you say something about a, what was it, a grey day?
Steve: Yes. Those are the transition days, when the moon isn’t crossing in front of any particular constellation.
Ingrid: What can we use those days for then?
Steve: Anything really. They’re great that way.
Seth: How closely do you follow this?
Steve: We do the best we can.
Gloria: Things can get so busy around here. They’re more like guidelines.
Steve: Mike, how are the cukes and squash numbers looking?
Mike: They’re coming in pretty fast now.
Steve: I have it down that you’re harvesting them Mondays and Thursdays?
Mike: Uh huh. I got about a tub and a half of each this morning.
Steve: Mmm…. You were out there a while. Can one of you join Mike on the cuke harvest?
Rebecca: I’ll do it!
Steve: Great. (He writes this down.)
Rebecca: That’ll be fun! Oh Steve?
Rebecca: I was wondering––and I don’t know what the rotation is right now––could I possibly do animal chores? While I’m here?
Steve: (Turning the page back of his calendar.) We probably should do a new rotation anyway. Do you have a preference if you do morning or evening?
Rebecca: Either one’s fine for me. (She wants evening chores.)
Steve: Okay, Rebecca you’ll take the evening chores over from Tony and…. Seth would you be interested in doing morning chores? Ingrid, you’ve been on that for a few months right?
Ingrid: Yeah, but I don’t mind doing it.
Steve: Let’s give you a break for now. Seth you think that’ll be alright?
Seth: Sure, sure. Will be great.
Gloria: (Still shaking the butter.) Meals.
Gloria: Meals. We should figure out the schedule for the meals this week.
Steve: Oh. Right. (Pulling out another piece of paper from his calendar.) Looks like all the days are signed up. Can you all just double check that this works still?
He passes the sign-up sheet amongst the apprentices.
Ingrid: Oh! Here. Thursday lunch is empty. I can take it if you want.
Gloria: You have a lot of shifts on there already. Rebecca? How would you feel about cooking Thursday lunch?
Rebecca: Nervous. (Everyone laughs.) No that’ll be fine. I’ll figure something out.
Steve: Good. Alright let’s head out to the garden, see what needs to be done this week.
Gloria: Wait a moment. Let’s give this butter a try.
Ingrid: Ooh there’s still some sourdough I baked on Saturday!
Ingrid runs and gets the bread from the Apprentice Kitchen. Meanwhile Gloria opens the jar of butter and removes the butter solids into a wooden bowl.
Tony:Now that looks good.
Gloria: And good for you.
Tony: All those poor people thinking butter’s bad for you. They’re missing out!
Mike: Mo’ butter, mo’ better!
Seth: Mo’ butter, mo’ better.
Ingrid: I brought some honey too!
Everyone starts serving themselves butter and honey on bread.
Mike: We’re having quite the little feast!
Steve: Don’t take too long.
Gloria: Give them a minute.
Tony: We’ll take it out to the field with us.
Steve, Mike, Ingrid, Seth, Tony and Rebecca all walk out to the fields eating their bread loaded with honey and butter. Gloria cuts herself a second slice and eats it while sitting on the picnic table.
July 11, 2006
It is early on Tuesday morning, the harvest day. It is 80° Fahrenheit, which they all consider a cool morning. Steve, Mike, Tony, Ingrid, Seth, Henry and Rebecca are out in the fields harvesting. They each have their own jobs to do: Tony cuts lettuce, Ingrid and Henry cut spinach, Seth cuts kale, and Mike and Rebecca cut basil. Steve goes from bed to bed, harvesting, checking crops, assisting where needed and somehow doing more than everyone combined.
Mike: You’re a good basil buddy, Rebecca.
Rebecca: Thanks! I think the smell of the basil kind of wakes me up. I’m pretty tired this morning.
Tony and Rebecca both yawn.
Mike: Look how much these plants have grown since last week!
Rebecca: They’re getting wider! More like… bushes.
Seth takes a wheelbarrow of kale off Stage Left.
Mike: It’s probably because how we’re cutting them: the shoots we leave are the ones going off to the side.
Rebecca: Of course! Man, look at this leaf. Look how crisp and gorgeous it is!
Mike: Not a hint of wilt on any of these leaves.
Tony walks by carrying a box of lettuce. Meanwhile Seth returns with an empty wheelbarrow and starts harvesting corn.
Tony: Mike, I have to say it. You look like a garden gnome, squatting there like that.
Mike: You know Tony, I aspire to be a garden gnome.
Tony: I don’t know how, but these may be the heartiest lettuces I’ve ever seen. This heat doesn’t seem to faze them much at all.
Tony pauses to remove a head of lettuce from the box. Henry passes with a wheelbarrow of spinach. Ingrid has moved on to harvesting corn with Seth. They are close and affectionate, but do not let that interfere with their work.
Henry: What kind of lettuce is that?
Rebecca: I’ve never seen lettuce that shape before. // Look at it! This perfect geometrical form, like a globe and triangle combined.
Henry: You’re kidding.
Steve is testing for the first melons.
Tony: You usually think of iceberg as that nasty stuff in cafeterias.
Mike: These are gorgeous.
Tony: They are. They are.
Tony puts the lettuce back in the box and takes it off Stage Left. Henry follows behind with the wheelbarrow.Rebecca and Mike start packing up the basil when Seth walks over with an ear of corn. He holds it out for Rebecca.
Rebecca: For me?!
Seth: A bug got into this one.
Rebecca: And I can really have it? (She starts eating the corn cob raw.) This is better than any candy.
Mike: Doesn’t even compare.
Rebecca: Thank you, Seth.
Steve walks forward carrying a honeydew melon. Ingrid walks over with him.
Steve: The first honeydew.
Steve splits it open with his pocketknife right there and hands a piece to each apprentice. Tony and Henry reenter from Stage Left.
Ingrid: It smells like flowers!
Tony: Mmm mmm. It’s literally, it’s melting in my mouth!
Henry says something indistinguishable while juice runs down his face. Mike and Ingrid are laughing at how good it tastes.
Seth: That’s it, we’re not putting these in the baskets. We should keep all these to ourselves.
A meow is heard from offstage.
Steve: The cats would like to say the same thing I think.
Henry: Cats really go for the melons?
Rebecca is nibbling on her corn ear again.
Steve: And the corn. Ahh, looks like we have our own little ear worm right here!
Rebecca: (Through a mouthful of corn and melon.) They’re just so… scrumptious! I can’t help it!
The scene begins to fade as all remaining harvest is removed Stage Left. The lights remain dim while the buzz of cicadas, the crow of a rooster, and the mooing of cows is heard. Meanwhile Steve, Mike, Ingrid, Seth, Tony, Rebecca and Henry reenter with the harvest Stage Right. The wheelbarrows and tubs are now covered in damp burlap. The apprentices bring with them a long table, some large washing tubs, a hose and stacks of wooden baskets with shareholder names written on them. The lights fade up slowly as everything is set up. Each person has their own crop to wash and arrange in the share buckets, and they work throughout the entire scene.
Henry: What are those?
Rebecca: Peppers. (She holds up a narrow yellow pepper.)
Henry: Really? But they look so different, kind of long and thin.
Rebecca: They’re tasty though.
Henry: They’re sweet?
Henry: Can I try one?
Henry takes an enormous bite of the pepper, pauses and then starts coughing. Rebecca starts laughing, and as everyone realizes what Henry has done they start to laugh as well.
Henry: It’s, it’s (Cough.) It’s….
Rebecca: And that’s my revenge for you jumping out and scaring me on my way to the outhouse last night.
Henry: It’s a… hot pepper.
Steve: That’s a really hot pepper.
Rebecca: Besides Henry, you should know better. You know I can’t stand eating peppers! How would I know if it was tasty?
Ingrid holds up a long, thin, pale purple eggplant.
Mike: Looks like a dolphin.
Tony: Like a dolphin’s p––
Ingrid: Oh hush.
A parrot squawks loudly.
Steve: Those… parrots!
Seth: Why do you have them?
Steve: Don’t ask. Did you know avocadoes are poisonous to parrots?
Seth: No kidding.
Steve: Wish I could grow avocadoes in this climate.
Mike: I hear we have a new member to our herd.
Ingrid: Oh Mike it was rad! Tikka must have given birth just before I came in to milk this morning.
Steve: Gloria was there for the birth, wasn’t she?
Ingrid: She wasn’t. Did she tell you what happened?
Steve: Just briefly.
Seth: This all happened after I’d brought the cows in to feed this morning?
Ingrid: Yeah, Tikka was in the barn already so she couldn’t go anywhere to give birth. So when the calf was born she, well, she kind of landed in the manure trough.
Rebecca: Oh no! Poor thing.
Tony: Welcome to the world. It’ll probably be her comfort smell.
Mike: Right. The smell that’ll always calm her down.
Ingrid: That’s not the best part though! I got Gloria, and she comes running into the barn with me, and when she sees the calf she yells out: “Holy shit!”
Henry: That’s what we should name the calf!
Ingrid: I could have! Gloria let me name her: Calypso.
Rebecca: I’d love to see her! She must be so adorable.
Ingrid: She is. She’s lovely.
Mike: Does she look like Tikka?
Ingrid: She’s the same reddish brown as Tikka, but she’s covered in these creamy white patches. Definitely a beauty.
Henry: (Singing softly to himself.)
“Falling, yes I am falling,
And she keeps calling me back again.
Rebecca: Henry? You mad? About the pepper.
Henry: No, no I’m not. I’ll get you back though.
Rebecca: That’s fair. Question? Can you teach me that song?
Henry: “I’ve Just Seen A Face?”
Henry: Sure thing.
“I’ve just seen a face,
I can’t forget the time or place
That we’d just met, she’s just // the girl for––
Rebecca: Wait, wait let me sing it with you! Slower.
Henry: Ready? One, two…
Henry & Rebecca: (Singing.)
“I’ve just seen a face,
I can’t forget the time or place
That we’d just met, she’s just the girl for me
And I want all the world to see we’ve met.
Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm mmm mmm.”
“Had it been another day
I might have looked the other way,
But I had never been aware,
And as it is I dream of her tonight,
La, di, di, da di di.”
Henry, Rebecca, Ingrid & Tony: (Singing.)
“Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling me back again.”
Steve, Mike and Seth exit carrying baskets.
Henry, Rebecca, Ingrid & Tony: (Singing.)
“I’ve just seen a face.” Ingrid exits, still singing.
Henry, Rebecca & Tony: (Singing.)
“I can’t forget the time or place
And we’d just met.”
Henry exits, still singing.
Rebecca & Tony: (Singing.)
“She’s just the girl for me
And I want all the world to see we’ve met.
Mmm, mmm, mmm, la di di.”
“Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling me back again.”
Tony and Rebecca have a moment together, just gazing into each others’ eyes.
July 25, 2006
It is another harvest day, deeper into the summer. There is the faintest sound of flies buzzing around the Apprentice Kitchen. Rebecca, Tony, Mike, Ingrid, Seth and Henry are sitting around the table eating lunch. Everyone is grateful to be in the shade.
Ingrid: Good carrot soup Rebecca.
Rebecca: Thanks! I wish I could have thought of something cold to make.
Mike: You made a delicious salad.
Rebecca: My cooking repertoire is still pretty limited.
Henry: Not as limited as mine!
Rebecca: At least I’m not as nervous as I was that first week! (Pause.) Hey. This is weird….
Mike: What’s that Rebecca?
Rebecca: None of us are sitting where we usually do!
Ingrid: Hunh. You’re right.
Tony: Does that mean that I’m Don Miguel? I can do that.
Tony tilts his head down but looks up at everyone with raised eyes just like Mike does. His perfect imitation elicits laughter from everyone.
Ingrid: Tony, I guess that means I’m you.
Rebecca: I’m Henry––
Henry: And I’m Seth!
Seth: So I’m Rebecca?
Mike: Which means I get to be dear Ingrid. Alrighty, here I go!
Mike starts humming to himself, picks up a handful of peanuts still in their shells, looks at them for a moment, and then crushes the entire bunch violently. He then carefully picks the shattered peanut pieces out and eats them with smug satisfaction.
Ingrid: That is not how I eat peanuts!
Tony & Seth: Yeah it is!
Ingrid: Yeah. Yeah I do! Well then here!
Ingrid starts cutting her salad with two steak knives.
Tony: Ingrid, what are you doing?
Ingrid: I’m cutting my salad like you do!
Tony: I don’t cut my salad with two knives!
Ingrid: You do! I see you do it like this all the time.
Rebecca: (Laughing.) He uses a knife and fork. Like this!
Rebecca demonstrates how Tony cuts salad. Mike tries to say something but can’t through his laughter.
Seth: That looks so difficult. (He tries to replicate Ingrid’s cutting method.)
Henry: Have you guys ever tried eating without your thumbs?
Tony: I beg your pardon?
Henry: Without you thumbs. Like this.
Henry holds his thumbs flat against his hand and then tries holding a knife and fork with some difficulty. Everyone starts laughing and trying to eat that way too.
Tony: Rebecca, pass me the water?
Rebecca tries to move the water pitcher without her thumbs and barely manages.
Rebecca: I can’t…. do it!
Ingrid goes to get some celery from the fridge.
Seth: This is so hard to do!
Ingrid: Woah! Check out this celery. (The old celery falls over, limp in her hand.) It’s so…. flaccid.
Tony, Rebecca & Henry: Ewwwww!
Tony: That word should not be used that way.
During the commotion of the meal Gloria enters with a printed article and a grave look on her face.
Seth: Oh hey Gloria.
Gloria: Hi Seth. (Pause. The apprentices look amongst themselves, wondering who will speak first.) I uh… Hi. It’s hot out today.
Gloria: It’s hot out… today. I uh, just got off the phone with our friend, Dan. He sent me this article.
Gloria lays the article on the table.
Henry: “Amazon Rainforest ‘Could Become A Desert’.”
Gloria: Dan does research work on climate change. They’ve been doing experiments with Amazon tree species to see how long they can withstand a drought.
Henry: (Reading.) “The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world’s climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.”
Tony: Holy shit.
Gloria: You’re not kidding.
Rebecca: How do they know?
Henry: (Looking at the article.) Looks like they covered chunks of the forest to see how the trees cope without rain.
Tony: Let me see that. (Henry hands Tony the article. Tony starts reading.) “The trees managed the first year of drought without difficulty. In the second year, they sunk their roots deeper to find moisture, but survived. But in year three, they started dying. Beginning with the tallest, the trees started to come crashing down, exposing the forest floor to the drying sun.
Ingrid: How long’s the Amazon been in drought now?
Gloria: Over a year.
Rebecca: So that means….
Tony: It could start really soon.
Pause. The flies buzzing in the blazing heat become the overwhelming sound on stage. The sound rises slowly throughout the remainder of the scene.
Gloria: (Taking back the article.) The Amazon holds 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide. If it dies global warming could increase by 50 percent.
Rebecca: My dad went there. When I was little. To the Amazon. I can’t imagine a world without it.
Seth: Maybe it won’t happen like that.
Tony: It’ll happen some other way then. We’ve been doing too much damage for nothing to go terribly wrong soon.
Henry: It feels pretty real right now. With this heat wave.
Mike: I better go hitch up the horses.
Mike exits. The sound of the flies buzzing continues to escalate. One by one each person takes their plate to the sink and then exits silently. Soon only Tony and Rebecca remain. Tony looks at Rebecca, takes her head in his hands and kisses her on the forehead. He then exits. After a moment Rebecca takes the pitcher of water and starts drinking rapidly from it until she finds it difficult to breathe. She then pours the rest of the water over her head and stands there dripping in the hot, dusty Apprentice Kitchen. Blackout.
July 28, 2006
Tony and Rebecca are sitting side by side in a row of tomatoes, tying up the long vines to the rows of metal fencing. As they work they also remove the excess shoots growing on each plant.
Rebecca: Look at my hands! The tomato vines are staining them black!
Tony: You sick of that smell yet?
Rebecca: No, not yet. I think it’s going to my head though.
Tony: Well, tomatoes are related to tobacco. Maybe you’re getting a slight high.
Rebecca: I think I am. Tobacco’s a nightshade?
Tony: Tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes, all that. Related.
Rebecca accidentally bumps a tomato and it falls from the vine.
Rebecca: Oh no! (Whispering.) I knocked one off! Can I eat it?
Tony: (Also whispering.) Only if you give me some.
Tony and Rebecca feed each other the tomato, giggling as they do.
Rebecca: I don’t understand how some people don’t like tomatoes! These taste like sweets!
Tony: Better than sweets.
Rebecca: You know what I mean.
Tony: I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a tomato this good from a store.
Rebecca: Here, you have some juice running down your face. (She wipes it off with her hand.) Oh no! Now I got that black stuff all over you.
Mike enters pushing an empty wheelbarrow.
Mike: I have something special to show you two. Now watch very very closely.
Mike walks towards Stage Left with the wheelbarrow. Standing on the edge of the stage, facing away from Tony and Rebecca, Mike holds out his arms. A chorus of moos and baas from the heifer and sheep herd suddenly fills the stage.
Tony: Wha…? What the…?
Rebecca: All the animals are running towards him!
Tony: Mike! How’re you? What?
Mike: My dear animals! I am your messiah!
Tony: Alrighty Don Miguel. How’re you doing that? Do you have something for them we can’t see?
Mike: Nooooo Tonito. I’m their god.
Henry runs onto the stage through the fields.
Henry: (In a loud whisper.) He’s been feeding them the old pea plants all morning!
Henry runs off stage again.
Tony: Ahh. Very good Mike. Very good.
Rebecca: Mike. The Cow God.
Mike takes a bow to the cows and sheep and then a bow to Tony and Rebecca before exiting the stage with his wheelbarrow.
Tony: Ahh, Don Miguel. What’ll we do with him?
Rebecca: I signed up for my fall classes this morning.
Rebecca: No tell me.
Tony: College is a lot of money.
Rebecca: Yeah. I know.
Tony: You think it’s worth all that debt?
Rebecca: I guess I’ll find out, won’t I?
Tony: You’re just doing it because that’s what everyone thinks they’re supposed to do after high school.
Rebecca: No I’m not.
Tony: Sure you are.
Rebecca: Tony. I’m not. Believe me.
Tony: I just think you’ll regret it. All that money. Think how much you’re learning right here, and you’re not paying a thing to be here. They’re paying you!
Rebecca: Just because you left college doesn’t mean I can’t go. (Silence.) Right? Right?
Tony: Let’s not talk about this anymore.
Rebecca: Tony, I’m going to go at the end of the summer. Okay?
Tony: Okay. Whatever. (Pause.) Did I tell you what Seth said this morning when we were cleaning out the corral?
Rebecca: (Still annoyed.) No, you didn’t.
Tony: Rebecca. I’m sorry.
Rebecca: I know. (Pause.) What’d Seth say?
Tony: He said…. Well, one of the calves, the black calves, was standing there with this vacant look on his face just like–– (He makes a dull-witted face.) But he had this big pile of manure right on his head. Probably stood too close to his mom’s rear-end. And I’m feeling groggy and awful and don’t feel like talking, but Seth turns to me and says, “Check out my pal Shit-For-Brains!” And I just cracked up man.
Rebecca starts laughing. The story breaks the tension between Tony and Rebecca.
Rebecca: I think it’s an extra 5° in these rows!
Tony: 120°? I don’t doubt it.
Rebecca: I’ve got to stand up. I can barely think. (She stands.) Ohh. Wow. (Tony stands as well.) That breeze is…. lovely.
Suddenly Rebecca swoons from the heat and starts to pass out. Tony supports her as she slumps.
Tony: Rebecca! Rebecca!
Tony: You okay?
Rebecca: Uh huh. Unh unh.
Tony: You need water.
Rebecca: Tony? I think I love you.
Tony looks at Rebecca for a long moment, then kisses her.
Tony: Right. Water. Now.
August 9, 2006
It is early evening right before dinner. Mike is seated at the picnic table with a large batch of dry beans spread out in front of him. He is sorting the beans, picking out the damaged ones. A large solar cooker sits on the table next to him, positioned to catch the last rays of the sun. Henry enters from Stage Left.
Henry: How’re the beans today Mike?
Mike: Looking pretty good Henry. Pretty good.
Henry: Kidney beans. Nice! And what’s in the solar cooker?
Mike: Now in there you’ll find some red lentils. Do red lentils sound good to you? Red lentils sound good to me.
Henry: I can’t believe you built this solar cooker! I want to make one, set it up on the campus lawn when I go to college. How sweet would that be?
Mike: That’s a good idea Henry. They’re not too hard to build you know.
Henry: Or I could go the easy route and make the insolating cooker like Ingrid has inside.
Mike: A box lined with styrofoam and a whole lot of towels! Don’t get much more simple than that.
Henry: But for that one you need a stove to start the cooking process. This beautiful thing (He indicates the solar cooker.) takes nothing more than sunlight.
From off Stage Left there is the aggravated whinny of a horse followed by a loud yelp from Rebecca.
Henry: Did you hear that?
Mike: I did Henry.
Henry stands and starts walking toward Stage Left. Rebecca enters trying to look like everything is normal.
Henry: What happened?
Rebecca: What do you mean?
Henry: We heard you yell.
Henry: Wasn’t that you?
Rebecca: (Quietly.) Yeah.
Henry: What happened?
Rebecca: (Ashamed.) Gypsy bit me. Please don’t tell anyone.
Henry: What? Why? // Let me see it.
Rebecca: It’s embarrassing.
Rebecca reluctantly rolls up her right sleeve. A massive bruise is forming on her arm, spreading from her bicep down past the elbow to her forearm.
Henry: Oh my god! You should get some ice on that.
Rebecca: I don’t know what I did! I was bringing her in from the corral and I turned away to lock the gate and she just clamped down on my arm. I dropped the lead // for a second.
Henry: Did she get away?
Rebecca: No. I was kind of just running on automatic. I grabbed the lead and got her in the stall. I don’t really remember how. At least she didn’t try to kick me again. If I hadn’t been holding that piece of wood that separates her from Pete her hoof probably would have gone through my stomach.
Henry: Sit down. I’ll get you some ice.
Rebecca sits at the picnic table and tries to avoid Mike’s eye.
Mike: Gypsy got you pretty good didn’t she?
Rebecca: I feel awful about it. I can’t figure out what I did wrong.
Mike: That’s just Gypsy. She can be a real bitch.
Mike: She’s bitten me a couple times.
Rebecca: You? But you’re so good with the horses.
Mike: Doesn’t mean she’s good to me. (Henry reenters with a bag of ice in a towel.) Gypsy’s bitter because the other horses pick on her. She’s just taking out her frustration on us.
Steve enters from Stage Left. Rebecca quickly rolls down her sleeve and tries to hide the ice.
Rebecca: (Whispering.) Don’t tell Steve. Please just don’t tell Steve.
Mike: Steve, looks like Gypsy got herself another victim.
Steve: Uh oh!
Mike: Show Steve your arm.
Rebecca rolls her sleeve back up.
Steve: That’s a real beauty you got there. You know what I do when she bites me? I punch her in the face.
Rebecca & Henry: What?!
Steve: Either that or reach in her mouth and pull her tongue real hard.
Henry: I can’t believe you do that.
Steve: Only way she’ll learn not to do it.
Rebecca: I don’t think I want any part of me in her mouth again!
Steve: Then you got to punch her.
Rebecca: But that seems so harsh!
Mike: Doesn’t really hurt a horse to punch it.
Steve: Just enough of a shock they’ll learn not to hurt you first.
Rebecca: Well there you go.
It is later that night and a full moon fills the sky. Tony and Rebecca are sitting out in the fields with some blankets, pillows and candles. They are eating fruit and dark chocolate.
Rebecca: You think something’s going on with the two of them?
Tony: Nah. Could be.
Rebecca: I think something’s going on with the two of them.
Tony: Looks like a full moon tonight.
Rebecca: Wonder what that means for the plants. I think they’d be really happy when the moon is full. (She nestles closer to Tony.) Amazing sunset tonight. The sun setting on one side of the valley, the moon rising at the same time on the other.
Tony: I guess that doesn’t always happen, does it?
Rebecca: Only when the moon is full.
Tony: You’ve explained this before. How’s it work again?
Rebecca: Okay. If it’s waxing the moon rises before sunset, if it’s waning it rises after sunset.
Tony: Okay okay. Nope. Still don’t get it.
Rebecca: The moon goes around the earth // and the earth goes around the sun.
Rebecca: So every day the moon is in a different position to us and to the sun. When you have a full moon it’s on the opposite side of the earth than the sun. (Using her hands to demonstrate.) Here’s the earth, here’s the moon on this side, and here’s the sun on this side shining directly on the whole part of the moon we can see. Now the earth is turning so the sun disappears at the same time the moon appears on this side.
Tony: Ahh I see.
Rebecca: Then the moon keeps moving, and we keep moving, so the amount of the illuminated side of the moon we see changes each night. When it gets over here the moon is between the earth and the sun. So we don’t see any of the bright side of the moon. And they both rise together.
Tony: And that’s the new moon.
Rebecca: That’s the new moon.
Tony: You really think something’s going on with the two of them?
Rebecca: Definitely. Pretty sure. Maybe.
Tony: How’s your bite?
Rebecca: It’s fine.
Rebecca: No. But you looked happier when I said it was fine.
Tony kisses Rebecca.
Tony: I feel sorry for Gypsy.
Rebecca: Not going to lie, I’m not really in that place at the moment.
Tony: She’s at the bottom of the social ladder with the other horses. Once, back when I was on animal chores, I was bringing them all down the lane for the night. Suddenly Jackson and Laura start picking on Gypsy and chase her all the way back down the lane. I had to jump the barbed-wire fence to not get crushed!
Rebecca: I still love working with them. They’re such beautiful, powerful animals.
Tony: My relationship to animals has changed since coming here. It’s a kind of dilemma. We lock them up or fence them in. And they work so hard for us. We couldn’t grow anything the way we do here without them. Yet, isn’t that a form of slavery?
Rebecca: Is it? We treat them well. But it’s true. That they’re working for us.
Tony: Ah, but that’s the thing. We work for them too, see? We can’t just up and leave the farm. We’re responsible to them.
Rebecca: But we made ourselves responsible for them
Tony: It think it’s more of an exchange. We walk down the same lanes as them.
Rebecca: Literally. What about eating animals though? You’re not a vegetarian anymore.
Tony: You haven’t killed an animal, have you? (He knows she hasn’t.)
Tony: Not yet.
Rebecca: Not yet.
Tony: It’s a powerful experience. Their sacrifice makes you want to enjoy the meat. Enjoy every part of it, enjoy how it nourishes you, how good it makes you feel.
Rebecca: I think it’s an important thing to be able to do. If you eat meat you should understand what it means to kill it and prepare it.
Tony: Well get to it girl!
Rebecca: I will. I just haven’t gotten the chance yet.
Tony: In May I took the guitar out to the corral. Started playing for the horses. I played Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.”
Rebecca: Ingrid told me. She said it was so moving she almost cried.
Tony: Did she? (Pause.) You know, I think you’re right. She and Seth did get together sometime in the last few weeks.
Rebecca: I know! I’m telling you. They’re totally twitterpated. You should see them when they don’t think anyone’s around. It’s really sweet.
Tony: What’s this place doing to all of us?
Rebecca: It’s romantic here.
Tony: Except that we all smell like manure!
Rebecca: Besides that….
Tony: (Biting into a peach.) Good peaches.
Rebecca: What if I didn’t leave? I could finish out the season. Maybe start college in the spring.
Tony: You know what I think.
Rebecca: Yeah. I know what you think. What time are you leaving tomorrow?
Tony: 11:00. You gonna miss me?
Rebecca: No. Yeah! Of course I will! You excited to see your family?
Tony: Gonna be quite something. It’s been a while.
Rebecca: I think it’ll be good.
Tony: Do you now?
Rebecca: I do.
August 13, 2006
It is mid-afternoon on Sunday, the only full day off. Rebecca comes running in to the Apprentice Kitchen.
Rebecca: Has Tony called? Oh. No one’s… in here.
Rebecca goes back outside and starts walking toward Stage Left. Henry enters carrying a headless chicken in his left hand.
Henry: Hey hey.
Rebecca: What the hell do you have there?
Henry: A chicken.
Rebecca: Did you find it that way?
Henry: No. Oh Rebecca it’s pretty bad. Funny too.
Rebecca: Alright, what’d you do?
Henry: Nothing // nothing!
Rebecca: Uh huh.
Henry: Okay. Ingrid was moving some hay bales, and one fell… it fell, it fell right on the chicken. (Rebecca gasps.) So we moved it real fast and this poor chicken kind of stumbles out. We were hoping it was okay, but then it started running into walls and falling over and stuff. Ingrid wanted to at least give it a nice death so we took it over to this patch of grass and were stroking it. We figured that we could just cut the artery, you know the one in the neck, and it would all be over.
Rebecca: Oh no.
Henry: Neither of us really knew where the artery was or what we were doing! When we went to cut it blood started squirting out everywhere. Like Monty Python. I don’t know what we did wrong. We ended up just cutting the whole head off so the chicken wouldn’t be in pain any longer.
Rebecca: What were you planning on doing with it now?
Henry: I want to try to cook it. Wouldn’t want it to go to waste.
Rebecca: We could make chicken stock! And we can kind of honor the chicken’s… sacrifice that way.
Henry: Do you know how?
Rebecca: We can figure it out I guess.
Henry: Start with boiling water. To get the feathers off.
Henry and Rebecca go into the Apprentice Kitchen and put a pot of water on the stove to boil. The lights dim, then rise again. The chicken is now hanging from the eave of the Apprentice Kitchen. The pot of boiling water stands on the picnic table, and Rebecca and Henry are plucking the feathers from the chicken.
Rebecca: This feels so weird!
Henry: Smells kind of weird too.
Rebecca: It’s looking more like food though.
Rebecca: Have you noticed that we don’t sing as much as we used to?
Rebecca: Like in April? We were singing all the time.
Henry: Too tired now maybe. There’s so much more work during the summer.
Rebecca: (Indicating the chicken.) Yeah, and look how we’re spending our day off.
Henry: I got a song.
Rebecca: Go for it.
“When I wake up early in the morning,
Lift my head, I’m still yawning.
When I’m in the middle of a dream,
Stay in bed, float up stream.”
Rebecca: Obscure Beatles. Love it.
Henry: It’s pretty much how I feel today.
Rebecca & Henry: (Singing.)
“Please don’t wake me, no
don’t shake me.
Leave me where I am.
I’m only sleeping.”
The lights dim, then rise again. Henry and Rebecca are now sitting at the table gutting the chicken.
Rebecca: Are you ready?
Henry: You mean to go to college?
Henry: Totally dude.
Henry: Yeah! Aren’t you?
Rebecca: I’m not sure. What if I stayed on? Till the end of the season?
Henry: You could. It doesn’t seem like you though.
Rebecca: I know. (Pause.) Maybe that’s why I want to do it.
Henry: Who are you doing it for though?
Rebecca: What’s that supposed to mean?
Rebecca: Well yeah.
Henry: Or Tony?
The lights dim, then rise again. It is now early evening. The stock is now simmering on the stove and Rebecca is stirring it. Henry is seated at the table.
Henry: It’s starting to smell really good.
Rebecca: What a weird day. Hasn’t it been?
Henry: I suppose. Different anyway.
Rebecca: (Quietly.) The farm feels different without Tony here.
Henry: When’s he get back?
Henry: Well that’s soon at least.
Rebecca: No it’s not.
Ingrid enters, carrying her journal.
Ingrid: Hi you guys!
Ingrid sits down at the couch.
Rebecca: Ingrid, is that your journal?
Ingrid: Yeah! I was just writing up the story about Calypso’s birth! Remember how crazy that was?
Henry: Oh yeah, in the manure trough and everything?
Ingrid: Such an incredible day. Anyway, I found this amazing poem! It’s called “To Be Of Use.” Can I read it to you guys?
Rebecca: Yeah, of course.
Ingrid: It kind of captures what I feel we’re doing here.
“The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
“I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
“The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.”
August 21, 2006
It is 5:00 in the morning and before sunrise. The sky is a cool periwinkle. Rebecca enters the stage pulling an empty fifty gallon barrel. She works slowly, in a determined, yet tired manner. She goes offstage and returns with a hose. A rooster crows. Rebecca fills the barrel with five gallons of water. The sky is beginning to warm. Rebecca takes a small packet of white powder from her pocket and measures out an eighth of a teaspoon.
Rebecca: (Under her breath.) Silica.
Rebecca adds the silica to the water. The rooster crows again. Rebecca picks up a long, smooth stick with a rounded end that is leaning against the willow tree. She stands facing part of the horizon where a glow of pink is forming and closes her eyes.
Rebecca: Shhh… Alright.
She looks at her watch, once, twice, then takes it off and puts it far away from herself. She takes the stick and puts it into the barrel and begins to stir. She is creating a vortex in the water, and then when it is spinning full force she breaks it and stirs in the other direction. She continues doing this as the sky begins to warm, the birds begin to sing and the rooster ceases his crowing. The image of the spinning vortex appears as a projection in the sky, engulfing the scene. Rebecca continues to look at the point on the horizon where the sun should be rising. Suddenly the first molten edge of the sun rises above the surrounding mountains. The stage is bathed in rose-gold light. When the sun is fully past the horizon Rebecca holds the stirring stick still and nods her head toward the sun.
The sun is setting behind Live Power Farm. Tony walks out carrying the guitar and sits at the picnic table. Each character addresses the audience directly throughout the entirety of the scene.
“A jet just flew across the moon,
The winter sky is a dark blue,
And this feeling reminds me of you,
The simple pleasures we once knew.
“We use to float away,
Drift through days
Wonderfully weightless and warm.
We use to float across the gate,
Beyond the bounds of logic… we’d wake.”
Mike enters Stage Left.
Mike: I remember our gatherings around the compost piles in the mornings. It seemed to be a good time for us to greet each other and philosophize, or catch up on and interpret our nights dreams. We seemed to try and find meaning in them for each other. I always enjoyed that. I used to think I didn’t dream until I came to Live Power.
Ingrid enters through the fields and stands Center Stage.
Ingrid: Happiness is planting tomatoes at dusk. Raking, weeding, planting, wizzle shizzle, singing, conversations on what love is. Mike rolling his oats. Steve going out to plow at 8:00 pm. Gloria wanting the kids to have a real farm experience. Giddy laughter with Seth…. There is nothing more real than this.
Seth enters from behind the Apprentice Kitchen.
Seth: Summer was just a time to make some extra cash for the ski season. A couple summers I worked on a road crew. Make good money doing that. You get a different kind of return from Live Power though. We may not be making much cash here, but this work nourishes the soul.
“A jet just flew across the moon,
The winter sky is a dark blue,
And this feeling reminds me of you,
The simple pleasures we once knew.”
Henry enters Stage Left.
Henry: A family of barn owls built a nest above the shed where we kept the harvest. I used to sit out there, right before dusk, and wait for them to fly out. They’d always come out at that time to go hunting. I saw one of the young owls once; it looked soft as down.
“Hovering above all things,
Aloft the ego economy,
Where there is no you and me,
The altitude where everything
Is too far away to be seen separately.”
Mike: I remember harvesting squash Monday and Thursday mornings. Rebecca was harvesting cucumbers at the same time. Fun to bring back tubs full of beautiful squash, wash them and leave them to dry while we ate breakfast.
Ingrid: Bucking hay––sweet, sweet hay. A twelve-year-old driving the truck and working like an animal…. Planting lettuce. O-hoeing onions, tomatoes! Delicious exhaustion.
Mike: Transplanting was fun, as was weeding. I know everyone else did a lot of that. Somehow I did less than the others. I spent too much time horsing around.
Seth: Mike was real good with the horses. Gentle, almost like he was one of them. They made a perfect team.
Henry: I used to feel guilty leaving the field, even if it was to just go to the outhouse. Everyone was working so damn hard. What right did I have to up and leave in the middle of it?
Seth: An August afternoon. It was supposed to rain that night. Rare thing in the Round Valley summer. Had to get the whole garlic crop in before nightfall. Hours upon hours with our digging forks, turning up each dry garlic bulb. I’ve never slept better than I did that night.
“We were young and everything we touched
Turned to gold and then to rust.
We moved on.
But in time we grasp the strings too tightly,
In this fight we…
Forget how good it feels to let go.”
Mike: And of course those breakfasts were the best. Never have I had such a good time at breakfast as we did in those days.
Ingrid: Mmm honey and butter and cornbread.
Mike: We were blessed. Thank you Steve and Gloria and all of us. That was special.
Ingrid: Continuing to idolize Steve….
“A jet just flew across the moon,
The winter sky is a dark blue,
And this feeling reminds me of you,
The simple pleasures we once knew.”
Steve enters through the fields.
Steve: I used to play music, but now this is my art. This farm is my masterpiece.
Gloria enters Stage Right. She walks up to the musical triangle hanging outside the Apprentice Kitchen and rings it loudly. One by one, each person on stage walks into the Apprentice Kitchen and sits down at the table. Only Mike remains outside the Apprentice Kitchen when Rebecca enters.
Mike: I’ve got something for you. Here here. (He hands Rebecca a beautiful piece of driftwood.)
Rebecca: Thank you Mike.
Mike: You’re drifting on in the world, but you can take a little something from here with you.
Mike and Rebecca follow the others into the Apprentice Kitchen. The lights fade as the sun sinks below the horizon.
August 23, 2006
It is early morning and Steve, Mike, Ingrid, Seth, Tony, Rebecca and Henry are planting leeks. They work around and with each other elegantly, each so comfortable with the others’ movements and work habits that they form a kind of dance. There is no need for words. This is the last time they will ever all work together, and their silence reflects that.
August 23, 2006
It is later the same morning. Rebecca is standing Center Stage, alone. Her packed bags are piled up on the picnic table and the guitar leans against the table as well. Rebecca addresses the audience directly.
Rebecca: I remember the way the sunlight was catching his tears. His eyelashes were sparkling with the morning sun.
The lights dim and then rise again. Tony stands alone at Center Stage, playing the guitar.
“A jet just flew across the moon,
The winter sky is a dark blue,
And I just thought that I’d tell you
I miss you…
I miss you…
The scene slowly fades to black. A recording of “Empty Bulb” plays after the curtain has closed.
Lemon-sugar gingko leaves
Litter the hardening ground,
Lingering remnants of autumn past
Line the path inside.
Liminal land set in glass,
Luscious blooms and humid leaves,
A world within, a world without,
Lapping waters, warm air,
Water lilies, lily pads,
Epiphytes and orchids.
Remove the glass,
Ruin the leaves,
Reds, golds and vermillion
Would not bloom here.
Withered by wind,
Wrecked by rain,
Rattled by winter
Let the leaves live on
In their womb,
A lurid womb of glass.
Let the lilies bloom
Without lapse of season,
Moist moss meander
Slowly over slippery stones.
is in the sound
heard from an open window:
strands of long grass,
the sound of satisfaction
Soggy leaves lie drenched,
like forgotten cereal
in absorbed milk
A dancing line
of colorful domes,
umbrella mushroom caps,
process up and down
sheltering those beneath.
Their whirling colors
dazzle the landscape,
the grey landscape,
grey, green and dark brown.
the Earth cried
for the rain,
when it finally came.
all rivulets of life
pulled up in the roots of
chaparral, yellow grass,
old oak and redwood.
Rain is different here,
the world floods,
roads become rivers,
your feet drown,
your vision blurred,
your thoughts obscured.
mists rose from the rain
in redwood branches
turning the world
into a spun web
My sight becomes
Green and silver-white.
I am desperately grateful
for the sound
In the stillness of the world at the breath of dawn, I stand upon the deck of my longest home in this lifetime. Balanced upon the edge of a mountain, this house faces South poised in anticipation for the winter sunrise. A thick layer of pearly fog lies like a downy blanket over the valley below and stretches to the edges of the world. During the depths of the night the fog poured in from the ocean like wolves running stealthily over the Western hills. Yet it all lies calm before me now, appearing as a flat field of snow in the shadow light.
I am set high above the world, my vision unobscured by the fog, like a queen in an unwritten fairy tale, with a clearer view of the heavens than the earth below. As dawn approaches the veils of night are pulled back one by one, turning the sky from midnight black to a misty periwinkle. Where the sky descends to kiss the horizon it blushes a vermillion and rose glow that spills out onto the duvet of fog and stains it a pale magenta.
In the moment before sunrise the surrounding world holds its breath. An outline of pure, molten gold appears on the fog’s edge at a single point on the horizon. A moment passes. Then two. Not until after these moments have gone does one realize the sun has already begun to rise. These brief minutes are the only time of day the sun casts its long shadows with a coral-hued light. A wide scene unfolds below as the dark curtain of night is rolled back. The sun reveals the peeling olive paint and the warped boards of the deck upon which I stand. Growing on the railing are faded lichens entangled with brown pine needles that fell long ago. Pine cones become one with the balcony wood as they are overgrown and once more return to an earthy wholeness. Each ancient iron nail that dares poke its head above the surface of the wood casts a timid shadow. Yet the disrepairs of home can be forgotten in these brief minutes at the day’s commencement.
Each needle of the pine overhanging the deck fades from teal-black to a rich green in that moment when the sun ascends above the horizon. Secret crevices in the tree bark are momentarily unveiled as light pours in to awaken any sleeping creatures hidden during the night. A solitary hummingbird rests upon a slender branch. He is an old friend; the dancing hummingbird we call him. With each dawn, music pours forth from the open glass doors of the house to act as an instrumental mirror to the sunrise. The dancing hummingbird sways in rhythm to Grieg’s “Morning Mood” from his Peer Gynt Suite. A light breeze picks up the melody while the yellow California grasses whisper back in a sighing harmony. The air is crisp and fresh with the scent of dew upon the flowing breeze.
The winds descend into a small vale directly below the dilapidated deck and rustles amongst the foliage. The breeze turns the leaves in every direction revealing their pale bellies to the sunlight. Some leaves glimmer silver in the dawn’s light, others sparkle with a gold-copper tone. The little valley rises in the South-West to meet a low, rolling hill covered in a sea of short emerald grasses. The proudest feature of this hillock is a pair of redwoods growing side by side, one slightly taller than the other, standing like an amorous couple fixated only upon each other.
The redwoods are the only obstruction to the view laid out below me on the balcony. They hide the scene that lies beyond and also frame it, giving the view both perspective and depth. Beyond the redwoods stretches the melting blanket of fog which cannot remain under the sun’s rays. It dissipates into isolated patches and finally becomes nothing more than memory. Below, the interwoven valleys stretch on, filled with layers of misty trees backlit by the new sun. Full clarity has yet to come into the scene. Just beyond the edge of the last definable tree comes the golden glint of a vast expanse of water. The sun will never reach into the expansive deep that lies below the imperceptible waves of that bay. The morning sky unifies into a pale blue and the last stars are veiled. The sun reveals the earth only to hide the heavens. Everything the sun reveals will also cast a shadow and nothing in this scene will ever be entirely visible to our eyes or our minds.
Myths and legends have surrounded the deep, cold Loch Ness of the Scottish Highlands for centuries, evoking fear, wonder, curiosity and obsession in the hearts of locals, travelers and readers alike. (Figure 1). Tales of the Loch Ness Monster are famous worldwide, but there are other stories of water beasts far older than that of Nessie, reaching back at least fifteen hundred years, and perhaps much further. The loch has certain properties, such as great depth and low visibility, that give it an air of mystery which might have inspired some to wonder what nameless creatures could hide beneath the waves. Humans have lived near Loch Ness for millennia, since the end of the last glaciation 10,000 years ago. They have hunted in the forests, tilled the fields, and built homes on the loch’s shores. Urquhart Castle was built on the loch’s edge due to the strategic view it offered of the expansive body of water. Myths of various water beasts have been persistent in Highland lore throughout history, but it was not until the 1930s that the legend of one particular monster in the loch began to develop. The increase in monster sightings coincided with the construction of a road on the northern shore of Loch Ness, which opened up the area to tourists and other visitors interested in the Highlands. Whether the Loch Ness Monster truly exists, or is a long-upheld mythological tradition, is still impossible to answer, because the loch itself is not easily explored and hides its secrets well.
Figure 1 – Map of Loch Ness
Creation Myth of Loch Ness
There is a legend of the creation of Loch Ness, which was passed down in Highland tradition, and finally recorded in 1914 by William Mackay in his book Urquhart and Glenmoriston. In this myth, there is a bountiful and fertile valley sheltered on all sides by high sylvan mountains. The valley was fed by a pure spring with the powerful property to heal any disease, a blessing bestowed to those who dwelt in the vale by Daly the Druid. Daly laid a protective stone over the spring and he commanded that it should be replaced immediately following the drawing of any water. He said, “The day on which my command is disregarded desolation will overtake the land.”
For many years the people followed the Druid’s advice and were diligent to replace the stone each time they drew water from the spring. One day, a woman went to the spring and left her child at home to play near the fireside. Just as she had finished filling her pail with water she heard her child cry out and knew he was in danger of being burnt. She rushed back to her home and saved the child, yet in her panic neglected to cover the spring once more. To the dismay of the people living in the valley, the spring overflowed and began to rapidly fill the long, narrow vale. The people retreated into the mountains and lamented in Gaelic: “Tha loch ‘nis ann, tha loch ‘nis ann!” meaning, “There is a lake now, there is a lake now!” and the hills and mountains echoed back their sorrowful cry. The loch has remained in this same valley, and to this day is known as Loch Nis (Witchell 12) (Figure 2).
This story demonstrates that Loch Ness has been a subject of fascination for the people living near it far back into history. The idea that a former civilization lies inaccessible beneath the waters is just one of the many unanswerable questions regarding what is invisible in the loch. The origins of the loch in human history have become the subject matter of legend. However, the actual origins of Loch Ness predate human habitation of the area.
Figure 2 – Aerial view of Loch Ness
The Great Glen Fault and the Last Glaciation
Loch Ness is located in the northernmost section of the Great Glen of Scotland, a large mass of land situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea (Bridgland 5) (Figure 3). The loch lies near the Great Glen Fault, one of three fault lines in Scotland. The Great Glen fault is the most active of the three and is the main source of most tremors and earthquakes in Britain (18). It is possible that early human settlers might have attributed such tremors to the rumblings of a hidden monster rather than to the fault line.
Figure 3 – Map of the Great Glen
During the last glaciation over 10,000 years ago, Scotland was covered by 4,000 feet of ice. Nothing but the tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, which is 60 miles to the southwest of Loch Ness, was left exposed (Witchell 9) (see Figure 3). The glaciation smoothed out the sides of the Great Glen and created landforms such as the long, thin double-basin of Loch Ness, the largest lake in all of Britain. (Bridgland 19, Jones et al. 38, Witchell 9). Strone Point, a strategically positioned spit on which Urquhart Castle was later built, was also exposed by the glaciation (Bridgland 19) (Figure 4).
Figure 4 – Strone Point and Urquhart Castle
Without the great weight of the glaciers, the landmass of Scotland rose slowly by a few millimeters a year. Fjords once connected to the ocean were eventually cut off and became inland lakes. Over time these isolated lakes lost their salinity due to rainwater, tributary rivers, burns and streams. Certain marine species, such as salmon and trout, were trapped in these lakes and evolved to survive in the new freshwater environment. This evidence of other adapted animals has inspired theories regarding the ancestral origins of the Loch Ness Monster (Bauer 11).
The long, narrow body of Loch Ness progresses in a line of “unbroken straightness” which is “unquestionably beautiful” to behold (Baddeley 230). Altogether the loch is 24 miles long, and yet a mere mile and a half wide (See Figure 1). Its depth is, as of yet, unknown; the deepest humans have ventured is 820 feet in a submarine, yet sonar testing suggests the loch may be 975 feet or deeper (Figure 5). In its entirety the loch is approximately 263,000 million cubic feet in volume, making it the largest in Great Britain (Witchell 10, 9). The London paper published a piece on Loch Ness in 1652 describing it as
a standing water called Lough Nesse, which hath a property never to freeze, and is foure and twenty miles long, and in some places is two miles, and in others three miles broad, and lyeth betwixt the Highlands so that she will doe excellent service by preventing the Highlanders to make their passage that way, which is frequented by them (qtd. in Bridgland 110).
The Highlanders were a great source of fear to the English, who saw them as savages, comparable to the “Red Indians” of the Americas (Bridgland 124). The aforementioned property of Loch Ness to never freeze is due to its depth and volume. The heat generated by the loch throughout the winter months is equivalent to burning two million tons of coal, and keeps snow from settling on the ground in the immediate area. This helps keep the surrounding land, which is often plagued by cold mist, storms, and few hours of sunlight, much warmer than if no lake were present (Witchell 11).
Figure 5 – Cross-section of Loch Ness
Rich woodlands of birch, hazel, oak and pine lie on the western side of Loch Ness (Baddeley 230, Bridgland 21) (Figure 6). The Ruisky Forest is known for its enormous trees; some specimens of birch have reached nine feet in girth on occasion (Tranter 121). The area is home to a variety of large or rare animals, such as the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), which is the largest bird in Britain, and the red deer (Cervus elaphus), the country’s largest known animal. The elusive Scottish wildcat (Felis sylvestris grampia) still can be found on occasion in the Highland woods, which was also home to wolves (Canis lupus) until the last was killed in 1743 (Witchell 11-12).
The woods surrounding Loch Ness rise to approximately 1,000 feet up the hills before giving way to heather moors, peat bogs, and bare rocks (Barron 233, 50, Tranter 121). Rosy hued hills give way to mountains, which rise more than 2,000 feet on each side of the loch. The River Ness issues through a gap in the mountains at the north end of the loch (Baddeley 150, Witchell 9). The foothills are close to the shore on the eastern side of the loch and the area is dominated by scree, which are small mounds of loose stones (Baddeley 230). For the most part, the shores of Loch Ness are quite steep and drop sharply off into the water (Witchell 11). Although humans have lived in the Highlands for thousands of years, the land directly surrounding the loch has been developed slowly and much of the original woodland remains (Witchell 11).
Figure 6 – Woods around Loch Ness
Early Human Settlement
Very little is known about the first inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands. They migrated in log canoes and hide-covered boats up the coasts of Britain approximately 10,000 years ago, not long after the end of the last glaciation. Evidence has been found, in the form of high concentrations of shellfish remains, along coastal areas where early humans traveled (Bridgland 19). There is also more recent evidence dated to 5,000 b.c.e. of hunter-gatherers living in the area. A hearth, along with flint, shells, and red deer bones, were all excavated from a site in Inverness, the city just north of Loch Ness (Figure 7). Another site with shellfish debris and red deer antlers was found in Muirtown, just across the River Ness, which date to approximately 4,000 b.c.e. (20) There is some evidence, such as hazelnut trees growing in a greater concentration than usual, that early hunter-gatherers managed some of the woodlands around Loch Ness as a food source. After 3500 b.c.e., when agriculture was developed in Britain, early farmers cleared some of the woodland near the loch. Little evidence remains of these farmers except a few objects made of stone. Three stone axes were found in 1892 near Loch Ness that date to the beginning of agriculture in Britain. They were most likely used to clear the woodland to create agricultural fields (21) (Figure 8).
Figure 7 – Flint tools and fragments
Once agriculture commenced in the Highlands, the farmers began building settlements, but still very little was built on the shores of Loch Ness itself. The exceptions to this were structures built for their strategic view of the loch, such as Fort Augustus on the south end and Urquhart Castle close to the north end (see Figure 1).
Figure 8 – Stone axe
Jutting into the loch from its seat on Strone Point, Urquhart Castle is arguably the most beautiful structure near Loch Ness (Bridgland 5) (see Figure 4). The castle was a stronghold for over a thousand years and was originally built as a Pictish fort. Little is known about the Great Glen of Scotland from the 1st millennium c.e., because the inhabitants did not keep written records of their history. The first written account of the area was compiled in the 2nd century c.e. by Ptolemy of Alexandria, but many aspects are inaccurate (25). Sir Thomas Urquhart wrote in the 1650s that the castle was founded by his ancestor Beltistos Conachar in 554 b.c.e., but the eccentric Sir Thomas also claimed that he could trace his lineage back to Adam and Eve, and much of what he wrote has been dismissed. An Irish nobleman named Conachar did, however, receive Urquhart Castle in 1160 c.e. as a reward for fighting on behalf of the king of Scotland (47). The Durward and Comyn families controlled the shores of Loch Ness in the 13th century, and were each successively rewarded possession of Urquhart Castle for services to the Scottish crown (52). Alan Durward built the castle into the largest stronghold in the Highlands in the 1230s, and it was further improved by the Comyns after Durward’s death in 1275 (53-54). Its size and strategic position on the loch made it a covetable stronghold for many lords over the centuries (62). The English captain, Edmund Burt, described Urquhart Castle in the mid-18th century as having
a pleasant and romantic situation, commanding a most agreeable view of Lochness, almost from the one end of it at Fort Augustus to the other at Bona, and also of the lands woods and hills surrounding the loch on the south east and north (qtd. in Bridgland 124).
The woods near Urquhart, renowned for their deer, were kept as hunting grounds for the nobility in the castle (Bridgland 69). Some timber was harvested, however, and sold in Inverness. Urquhart became a nexus for trade in the 16th century, and goods from the surrounding area were gathered there before being shipped down river to Inverness, from which they were further distributed. In addition to timber, the furs of beaver, fox, and pine marten were sold, as well as salmon and trout catches from the loch. The trade created constant water traffic between Strone Point and the River Ness (71, 69).
In addition to castle fortresses, Highlanders used another defensive structure particularly associated with lochs to guard against attack. These are crannogs, a structure within the loch built on either stilts, or an artificial island, or sometimes a combination of the two (Figure 9). Crannogs were linked to the mainland by a causeway which could be removed if need be. Some lochs in the Highlands contained many of these, but Loch Ness is so deep only one was built on the human-made island Eileen Muireach, also named Cherry Island (Bridgland 24). The Loch Ness Monster has been sighted off of this crannog, and there is the possibility that the crannog has even been mistaken for the monster (“A Guide and Tour of Events and Places Around Loch Ness”).
Figure 9 – Crannog
Highland Myths and Monsters
Although Loch Ness is believed to be home to the most famous of Highland monsters, this creature is by no means the only one in Scottish lore. An ancient tradition in the belief of monsters and spirits dwelling within Scotland’s lochs includes denizens such as water-horses, kelpies, and water-bulls, among others (Tranter 79, Bauer 159). For centuries the animal believed to live in Loch Ness was called the ancient name Each Uisage, Gaelic for water-horse (Holiday 88). Parents told their children not to play near the shores of Loch Ness for fear of another mythical creature, the water-kelpie (Bauer 2). A kelpie is traditionally known as a sly creature that lures weary travelers from their paths into bogs or lakes where they subsequently drown (Witchell 13).
Oral traditions within the Highlands, and in many other locales around the world, speak of giant sea serpents. Celts, Vikings, Irish Picts, and even Native Americans told tales of malevolent sea monsters that would prey upon unwary seafarers (Bauer 12). Located only a mile or two from Loch Ness, on the grounds of Balmacaan House, are Neolithic carvings of giant sea serpents drawn by early human settlers (Holiday 134). Ancient ritual and symbol stones carved by Pictish inhabitants of the Highlands also depicted serpents and other monsters. It seems there was widespread belief in the Great Glen of large and mysterious loch inhabitants, for multiple bodies of water even bear the name Loch na Beiste, Lake of the Beast (Tranter 79).
The earliest records available referring to monsters in Loch Ness were written by Celtic missionaries who traveled through the Scottish Highlands spreading Christianity in the 5th century c.e. (Tranter 79). The most prominent of these was Saint Columba, who is said to have encountered a water monster in the River Ness (Bauer 159). The tale is recorded by the abbot Adamnan of Iona in his most famous work Vita Columbae, or The Life of Saint Columba, which he wrote sometime in the 7th century c.e. (Barron 51).
Fourteen hundred years ago, in the year 565 c.e., Columba saw in Loch Ness the aquatilis bestia, as Adamnan named it (Holiday 2). In one version of the story Columba came across a group of Picts burying a man bitten by the monster. Columba placed his holy staff upon the man’s chest and brought the man back to life. A different version tells of a Pict who was killed by the monster while swimming. Seeing this, Columba ordered one of his men, Lugne Mocumin, to swim after him. Mocumin did so without hesitation; when the monster reappeared, Saint Columba made the sign of the Cross, saying, “Thou shalt go no further nor touch the man; go back with all speed.” In terror the monster retreated immediately and Mocumin’s life was spared (Witchell 14). The third story of Saint Columba and the monster is one in which a peaceful agreement was made between the two. The aquatilis bestia willingly towed the Saint’s boat from one shore to the other, and in thanks Columba granted it freedom within Loch Ness for eternity (Witchell 14).
Mention of the Loch Ness Monster reemerged in written history in 1520 when Fraser of Glenvackie supposedly fought and killed the last dragon left in Scotland, yet it was also said that he was not such a hero as to have defeated the Loch Ness Monster (Witchell 15). Despite such stories, many locals living near Loch Ness are adamant that there never has been a tradition of monsters or mythical creatures living in Loch Ness (Bauer 160).
The Modern Monster Myth
From reigning of the Water-horse
That bounded till the waves were foaming,
Watching the infant tempest’s course,
Chasing the sea-snake in his roaming.
– Sir Walter Scott (qtd. in Holiday 1)
The story of the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as Nessie by Highland locals, was unknown outside of Scotland until fairly recently. Not until near the end of the 19th century was there any widespread mention of this particular monster, and the first official sighting was published in newspapers in 1933. To this day the existence of Nessie, or a group of Nessie-like animals, has never been officially proven (Bridgland 7).
Reasons for the recent mention in history of so large a creature may be related to the inaccessibility of the area to large numbers of tourists until the 19th century. As fear of the supposedly savage Highlanders decreased, tourists from southern Great Britain traveled through the Highlands to see the lochs and castles (Bridgland 124). The tourism of the time focused on spectacles such as Urquhart Castle rather than the beauty of the landscape. A guide to the Highlands published in 1889 described Loch Ness as such:
… after entering Loch Ness at Bona Ferry, we have Aldourie House, an old baronial mansion, on the left. On the right the hills are of a ruddy hue, and, as we proceed they gradually develop into mountains, but there is nothing specially noteworthy until… Glen Urquhart slopes down to a pleasant bay on the right hand, and the old fragmentary ruin of Urquhart Castle acquires from its position on the promontory a strikingly picturesque appearance (Baddeley 150)…. We pass perhaps the most picturesque bit on Loch Ness––the fine but fragmentary ruin of Urquhart Castle, standing on an almost isolated rock which projects into the lake (231).
Interest in the loch itself, and what might live within it, was not inspired until improvements were made in 1933 to the A-82 Highway, a 23-mile road running along the north shore of the loch (Tranter 79) (see Figure 1). A screen of trees was cleared, offering a better view of the water, which might explain the increase in monster sightings that year (“Loch Ness Timeline”). There have been over a thousand sightings of Nessie; in 1934 alone there were over twenty sightings, all on warm, calm days (Bauer 169, 160) (Figures 10 and 11). The locals do not disregard the possibility of Nessie living in the loch, and according to Nicholas Witchell it is a “real issue for which so many people have been fighting for so long” (124-25).
Figure 10 – Surgeon’s photo of Nessie
The diver Duncan MacDonald was commissioned in 1880 to examine a ship that had sunk at the southern end of the loch off of Fort Augustus (see Figure 1). Not long after he had been lowered into the water he began sending desperate signals that he wanted to be pulled back up. When he emerged he was pale and shaking and refused to speak of his experience for days. Finally when he did speak he said that, as he examined the sunken ship’s keel, he had seen an enormous animal lying on a shelf of rock next to the ship. He said “It was a very odd-looking beastie, like a huge frog.” From then on he never dove into Loch Ness again (Witchell 17-18).
Figure 11 – Nessie near Urquhart Castle
Most reports of Nessie sightings have been similar, describing a large animal with a long neck and small head, between 20-30 feet long and sometimes with flippers on the side when that portion of the animal is visible. Many disbelievers of the myth speculate about what this creature could be, ranging from giant eels to escaped circus elephants (Jordan) (Figure 12). Some believe that when the River Ness is high, animals may come in from the North Sea such as seals, otters or even small whales (Bauer 160) (see Figure 3).
Figure 12 – Elephant
Author F.W. Holiday has drawn a connection between Nessie and the giant marine Orms, or sea serpents, which the Norse called Sjø-Orm, and which inspired the serpentine form of their ships (120). Roy Mackal, a professor at the University of Chicago in the 1970s, theorizes that the monster is descended from an embolomer, a giant primitive amphibian thought to have lived 270 million years ago (Witchell 142). This theory matches Duncan MacDonald’s description of a large frog.
The most popular belief of what Nessie’s species might be is an evolved descendent of a plesiosaur. The plesiosaur was a marine, fish-eating dinosaur living in the British Isles but thought to have been extinct for the last 70 million years (Witchell 141) (Figure 13). A breeding population of plesiosaurs may have become landlocked in Loch Ness once the land rose after the last glaciation (Bauer 162). The most common descriptions of Nessie closely match the way scientists believe plesiosaurs once looked: a long neck and small head, larger body and flippers on either side. However, it seems unlikely that a group of plesiosaurs survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs 165 million years ago. Even if they did, it is even less likely that their descendants also survived during the glacial cycles in Europe up until 10,000 years ago (“Loch Ness Timeline”).
Figure 13 – Plesiosaur
Although no animals have yet been proven to live in the loch, Robert Rines and Peter Scott, of the Academy of Applied Science (aas), gave the animals official species protection in 1975 under the name Nessiteras rhomboptyryx, meaning “wonder of Ness with the diamond-shaped fin” (Bauer 25). In June of 1975, the aas took a series of photographs with a high-quality, camera suspended deep into the loch. The camera was able to penetrate the murky water somewhat, and it seems its regular flashing attracted the attention of a large animal at last. Nicholas Witchell’s book The Loch Ness Story was published a year before these findings, but he released a second edition in which he describes the experience of viewing some of these photographs:
The animal was facing almost head on to the camera. Beneath the body were two clearly definable appendages. The skin looked very rough and potted, even at this range (which had been estimated at thirty to forty feet), and was a red-brown colour (Figure 14).
…The picture that came on to the screen was, without a doubt, and I make no apology for the continued use of superlatives, the most remarkable animal photograph ever taken….
It was the head of the creature, in close-up detail from a range of only eight feet…. The head occupied the left-hand section of the frame and was more or less in profile: the open mouth of the animal showed what appeared to be teeth inside it; a prominent, bony ridge ran down the centre of the face into a thick, hard-looking upper lip, one on either side of the central ridge. Most remarkable of all, there were two clearly defined stalks or tubes protruding from the top of the head (149) (Figure 14).
Figure 14 – Body-neck photograph
Reproductions of these pictures are of very low quality, which leaves them open to skepticism. The pictures provide proof to those who already believe and further reason for doubt to those who do not believe. Part of the fascination with the Nessie myth is that it never has been proven and is difficult to do so. If affirmative evidence were to be found it is likely interest in the subject would fade.
Figure 15 – Gargoyle head photograph
Ecological Inspirations of Mythology
What aspects of this particular loch might inspire and perpetuate such a myth as the Loch Ness Monster? A feeling of mystery and gloom is embedded within the landscape, from the heights of the flanking mountains to the depths of the cold loch. Edmund Burt described the mountains surrounding Loch Ness as having “stupendous bulk, frightful irregularity, and horrid gloom, made yet more sombrous by the shades and faint reflections they communicate one to another” (qtd. in Bridgland 124).
The loch itself has many qualities which might inspire myths of monsters lurking beneath its dark waters. It can flood its shores easily, making it dangerous during times of high rainfall. The catchment area is large enough that the level of the loch can rise quite rapidly (Witchell 11). As an example, Loch Ness is recorded to have risen nine feet between 1843 and 1847, and in 1849 it rose four feet in just one day and flooded the adjacent land (Jones et al. 44).
Loch Ness is oligotrophic, which means that it is deficient in plant nutrients yet has high oxygen content in the depths (Jones et al. 43). The waters have a low pH value, and the acidity combined with its steep banks do not allow for significant plant growth (Witchell 11). Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster have been attributed to a floating island or a vegetation mat, however, this is unlikely due to the loch’s unfriendly conditions for plant growth (16). The floating island could possibly have been the single crannog built in the loch, but such a mistake is doubtful.
The waters of Loch Ness are acidic because a large quantity of peat debris is washed down from the bogs above the tree line by the tributary rivers. The peat particles are suspended in the water fifty feet below the surface, making the water opaque and apparently quite eerie for divers. Although the surface temperature of the loch varies with climate conditions, the waters below fifty feet, at the line where visibility is limited, remain a constant temperature of 42°– 44° Fahrenheit year round (Witchell 11). Sediment accumulation has been increasing in Loch Ness since 1820, when the Caledonian Canal was constructed (Jones et al 44). The canal connects Lochs Ness, Oich, and Lochy, and runs for 60 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea (Witchell 21) (see Figure 3). Sediment deposits from the canal have further decreased visibility in the loch, as have higher erosion rates from afforestation. In the 1980s, land near the loch’s shores was plowed and planted with tree plantations, causing topsoil to erode into the loch (Jones et al. 45).
Many people drawn to the myth of the Loch Ness Monster speculate on why, if there is a breeding population of large animals, no carcasses have ever been found. There is a local saying about Loch Ness: “the loch never gives up its dead.” Due to its great depth and cold, the loch claims dead bodies and sinks them to the unknown depths of the lake bottom (Witchell 146). This feature of the loch is one that might inspire fear and curiosity as to earlier inhabitants of the Great Glen; all evidence of the past lies inaccessible on the lake floor.
The suggestion has been made that Nessie, or the population of Nessie-like animals, has been killed by pollution in the loch (Bauer 165). Nine sewage works empty into Loch Ness and have slowly been adding excess nutrients and causing eutrophication in the loch over the last few decades (Jones et al. 38). The existence of the Loch Ness Monster has never been proven to the world, but if the chance were lost due to human negligence it would be a great loss to science and mythology both. The legend of the Loch Ness Monster has been upheld by its uncertainty and its roots in oral tradition, and there is the hope that it will be carried into generations of the future as well.
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster, and of so many other mythical Highland creatures, stems from the human imagination and the inspiration provided by a mysterious landscape. The conditions of this landscape were created before humans were even present in the area. The glacial cycles and the rising land formed a steep, cold freshwater lake; centuries later that process inspired the idea that an enormous animal might have been trapped within the lake. The only observers of the loch were those living in its direct vicinity, from the early hunter-gatherers to the nobility of Urquhart Castle and the tradesmen of Inverness. The isolation of the Highlands kept sightings of Nessie to a minimum until the 20th century when the myth exploded into a worldwide fascination. Whether there is, or was, a Loch Ness Monster is not the question to ask of this landscape, but rather why this landscape inspired the myth. The gloom of the mountains, the eerie invisibility in the water, the unknown depth, and the fact that all dead bodies sink to the bottom all offer reasons to believe more lies beneath the waves than is known. Loch Ness is an ecological system perfect for the creation of a myth.
Baddeley, M.J.B.. Scotland (Part I); Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Highlands. London: Dulau & Co., 1889.
Barron, Hugh (ed.). The County of Inverness. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1985.
Bauer, Henry H. The Enigma of Loch Ness : Making Sense of a Mystery. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986.
Bridgland, Nick. Urquhart Castle and the Great Glen. London: Batsford, 2005.
Holiday, F.W. The Great Orm of Loch Ness. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1968.
Jones, Vivienne J., Richard W. Batterbee, Niel L. Rose, Chris Curtis, Peter G. Appleby, Ron Harriman, and Adrian J. Shine. “Evidence for the pollution of Loch Ness from the Analysis of its Recent Sediments.” The Science of the Total Environment. 203(1997): 37-49.
Jordan, Mary. “Elephantine Theory Stirs Misty Waters of Loch Ness.” The Washington Post 8 March 2006 Web.7 May 2009. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2006/03/07/AR2006030701434.html>.
(A long shiny wooden table is set center stage with two large candelabras filled with lit candles. Everything in the room suggests wealth. The table is set with two small crystal bowls of strawberries cut up into cream and there is a tall glass of champagne at each place. A WOMAN sits on one end opposite from a MAN. They are both dressed formally in black and eating in silence.)
WOMAN: They’re the first strawberries of the season.
MAN: (Not really hearing her.) Mmm… that’s nice.
WOMAN: Six years… we’ve been doing this.
MAN: Hmm? Oh the strawberry thing? (With false enthusiasm.) Yeah, nothing like anniversary traditions.
WOMAN: (Beat) Why do you do that?
MAN: What do you mean?
WOMAN: Like just then! Why’d you have to write off what I said.
MAN: My god, what did I even say?
WOMAN: About our anniversary. You just, just, well it’s not what you said it’s the way you said it and ––
MAN: Why do women always say that?
WOMAN: See you’re doing it again! You just… dismiss me.
MAN: What–– You make it so hard for me to talk to you.
MAN: Everything. Every little thing has to offend you.
(The WOMAN picks up her glass and takes a sip, then starts to cry.)
MAN: What’s the matter now? That’s your favorite champagne, I bought it especially for tonight.
WOMAN: You’re such a –– (Choked back by her tears.) It just reminds me that –– (Starts crying harder.)
WOMAN: (Controlling her tears.) It’s okay. I’ll be fine. It’s just, I can’t really take much more of this. (Pause) I had a dream last night. I woke up shaking. I’m actually surprised I didn’t wake you up.
MAN: I was… exhausted.
WOMAN: Doesn’t matter. (Beat) It’s hard to remember the beginning. Always is with dreams. But it was grey and foggy, I was young again, about sixteen or so I think. I looked… too beautiful really, but I knew it was me, yet it looked nothing like me at the same time. I just knew. I was in a forest; around me a hurricane was raging. It was dark, confusing, I couldn’t see. Suddenly this long hand, it–it had no fingernails, it was the size of me or bigger. It plucked me out of the forest and just threw me… away. Into nothing. (Pause, then starts again with difficulty.) I wasn’t anything anymore, just eyes––watching. Blackness was everywhere, but it was filled with stars. In the middle of it all was this wrinkled, hairless man, with… those hands. But he wasn’t a man. He was a demon. The devil. He was there in front of me, unimaginably huge. And he was plucking at this craggy little world which just floated in front of him. It wasn’t round. It was like a floating rock covered in little trees. That’s where I had been. And he had made that world-thing. As a toy for him to destroy. And his hands continued plucking at it… relentless, harsh. But then the world, it started to turn, and as it turned it just… left. It left him alone there in the blackness. And I saw it fade into the distance. It was free. Then these words were spoken, as if by some almighty voice: “It’s not round but it can still turn.”
MAN: Where are you going with this?
WOMAN: (Beat) I can’t do this any longer.
MAN: Oh. (Starts to cry.) Couldn’t we just…
WOMAN: No. Don’t you see? We’ve been over it so many times and… it’s just not going to work.
MAN: But… I love you.
WOMAN: I do too. But…
MAN: But what?
WOMAN: I have no power. Can’t you see that? We’re just… imbalanced.
MAN: So this ends because we don’t have balance?
WOMAN: I need… I need to have my own power first.
MAN: But… aren’t you happy?
WOMAN: No. (Beat) I thought it would work, but, last night, the dream… I’m shocked you didn’t wake up.
MAN: Over a dream you had? That’s why you’re leaving?
WOMAN: It left us! Don’t you see!? Last night it left us. I woke up covered in blood. Why didn’t you wake up?
MAN: (Starting to shake.) It… what?
WOMAN: I can’t try again. It’s too hard. (Pause) I want a baby so badly. I wanted our baby so badly. (Pause) And, and… you don’t. No, don’t argue. That’s why it won’t work.
MAN: The champagne… I didn’t even think. You… drank it…
(MAN comes over to WOMAN and holds her. They are both sobbing.)
WOMAN: I love you so much. I really do.
MAN: I know. Somehow that makes it harder.
(MAN and WOMAN hold each other for a long time crying and comforting each other for an uncomfortably long time. They make eye contact, then kiss, at first softly and then passionately. The WOMAN then breaks away and looks at the MAN with a deep sigh.)
WOMAN: I’m going to go now.
(WOMAN gets up to leave, is almost at the door when the MAN gets up and goes to her.)
MAN: Just one more.
(The look at each other as though about to kiss. Or not. Blackout..)
(A long table runs the length of the stage. It is covered in a long, white tablecloth which goes to the floor. The room around the table is dark. On the floor surrounding the entire table are hundreds of lit candles of different shapes and sizes. There is a large bowl of cream and an equally large bowl of strawberries which are right at the center. There is a bottle of champagne on the table and two empty glasses. Giggling quietly a WOMAN and MAN, who are both dressed in loose white linen clothes, climb up onto the table and crawl towards each other till they reach the center. They sit with the bowls in their laps and feed each other the strawberries with cream throughout the entire scene,)
WOMAN: They’re the first strawberries of the season.
MAN: (Speaking with his mouth full.) Mmm… that’s nice.
WOMAN: We should always do this.
MAN: Hmm? Oh the strawberry thing? Yeah, nothing like anniversary traditions.
WOMAN: We should make it an anniversary tradition!
(MAN pours two glasses of champagne and hands one to the WOMAN.)
WOMAN: Oh, no thanks.
MAN: What’s the matter? That’s your favorite champagne, I bought it especially for tonight.
WOMAN: I know, I’m just not… in the mood. Maybe… later?
MAN: Alright… (Looks at her for a long moment.)
WOMAN: I had a dream last night. It actually woke me up it was so real.
MAN: Yeah, I noticed you woke up. You didn’t seem upset or anything though, so I fell back asleep. I hope that was okay…?
WOMAN: Yeah, yeah, no of course it was.
MAN: (Stroking her hair.) Tell me about it.
WOMAN: It’s hard to remember the beginning. It always is with dreams. But it was grey and foggy, I was young again, about sixteen or so I think. I looked… too beautiful really, but I knew it was me, yet it looked nothing like me at the same time. I just knew.
MAN: Too beautiful? (Laughing) Huh, it couldn’t be too beautiful to be you. No one’s more beautiful than you.
WOMAN: Hmm… that’s nice to hear. Anyway, let me finish. I was in a forest and all around me a soft breeze was blowing. It was pale green, like in spring, and the light was coming through the leaves. I could see everything, every detail of every leaf. Suddenly this hand, bigger than me, came down and picked me up. I thought it would be terrifying, but I felt warm and safe and… enclosed. It held me so tenderly. All of a sudden I was pulled out of the forest and I was no longer myself. Just eyes watching. Blackness was everywhere, but it was filled with stars. In the middle of it all was this wrinkled old woman, with… those hands. But she wasn’t a woman. She was a god. The goddess. She was there in front of me, unimaginably huge. Floating in front of her was this perfect little world, a glowing egg covered in little trees. That’s where I had been. And she had made that world, as something for her to love. She held her hands around it, just barely touching it, and it turned in the warmth of her palms. And then she turned to me and the world left her hands and came toward me… and then, I don’t know. It just, filled me. The world was inside me.
(The MAN and WOMAN look at each other as though they are about the kiss. Then the WOMAN takes a cream coated strawberry and stuffs it into the MAN’s mouth and bursts out laughing.)
MAN: Where are you going with this?
WOMAN: Where do you think?
MAN: I… hmm.
WOMAN: Are you happy?
MAN: Right now? Of course. I have a beautiful wife, a––
WOMAN: No I mean, really happy. Deep down. Because I know we can’t… we don’t… have a lot. (She yanks her side of the table cloth to reveal the far end. The elegant table turns out to be a long chain of picnic tables all covered with one huge cloth.) You know.
MAN: That’s never bothered me. You know it’s never… why are you asking now?
WOMAN: Last night, the dream… (Beat) I always look forward to this time of year. When the world gets warm and safe again. Strawberry season. (She eats a particularly large strawberry.) Mmm. So juicy and sweet and… it’s worth the wait.
MAN: (Inwardly) Hmm…
WOMAN: You can’t just have them when you want. It has to be when they’re ready. That’s what makes them so worthwhile. (Beat) The time is ripe, I guess.
MAN: You mean…
(WOMAN nods with a twinkle in her eye, then throws her arms around the MAN and kisses him.)
MAN: Wow. Wow. I’m…. wow.
WOMAN: I know.
MAN: The champagne… I didn’t even think. You… didn’t drink it…
MAN: I love you so much. I really do. It’s, well… I know it has bothered you sometimes but, well there are times when I would look at you and I would picture you pregnant. Glowing. And now… (MAN reaches out and puts his hand on WOMAN’s belly and rubs it softly. The both look at her belly for a long moment.)
WOMAN: So… let me ask again. Are you happy?
MAN: Are you kidding? Come here.
(MAN pulls woman toward him and they kiss with all the passion in their souls and then the WOMAN breaks away. She picks up the strawberry bowl and takes out the last strawberry and dips it in cream.)
WOMAN: Just one more. (The MAN and WOMAN share the strawberry, alternatively taking bites from it until it is gone.)
(ANA and HENRY, in their late teens, are sitting on opposite sides of a booth table in a 1950’s-style diner which is filled with people, mostly families with children. The booth seats are deep cherry red. ANA is a young woman with full, red lips and long, sleek, dark hair which falls almost to her waist. She has a slender waist and full hips and breasts. She is entirely unaware of her own beauty. HENRY is small for his age and won’t get much bigger over his lifetime. He has bright, blond hair, an eager face and a twinkle in his light brown eyes.)
ANA: Wait, wait, pH stands for power of hydrogen? What. No way. That’s super cool. It sounds like intergalactic forces or something. Powers of hydrogen: the Almighty Ones. Buh-nuh-nuh-naaahhh. (Mockingly sings Beethoven.)
HENRY: I guess I never thought it was cool: power of hydrogen. (laughs) I’m such a nerd for knowing the def for that.
ANA: Nahh… well actually yeah, but you know all of us are nerds really. Anyway, we’re like the sexy nerds, you know? Who are all into LOTR and Han Solo and shit. Not those nerds who are, like, living under rocks eating pond scum right? We’re like, badass.
(HENRY and ANA both laugh.)
HENRY: So speaking of nerd-dom, I was talking with your grandma yesterday…
HENRY: I, uh, needed some advice. Figured being an “elder one” and all she’d have some useful knowledgeables in her.
ANA: Yeah, you’re pretty nerdy asking my gran for life advice. So what was it?
ANA: Yoouuu knoooww.
ANA: Dude, just tell me what you asked her about. We’ve like, known each other forev’s so just spew it out already.
(During the following line ANA looks at HENRY with big eyes while sipping from a giant coffee cup.)
HENRY: Umm, ahh… huh, yeah it sounds – well we were talking about…um…huh. Oy okay – stop looking at me like that – uh, (with wavering voice) love?? – yeah, okay, umm…
(Very long pause filled with copious amounts of blushing.)
ANA: (Staring down into her cup.) Oh. (smiling mischieviously) Nerd.
(HENRY and ANA look at each other for a long moment, breathing heavily. “Hold Me” by Fleetwood Mac is playing on the jukebox. Suddenly HENRY gets up, moves over to ANA’s side of the bench. He never breaks eye contact. Then HENRY leans in and starts kissing ANA with the deepest passion of his soul. His hand moves up her thigh and she gasps loudly. Then, without removing their clothes at all, they begin to have passionate sex in the booth.)
ANA: Oh god…god, oh god!
(People in the diner start to stare and suddenly there is a general uproar as parents try to screen their children’s eyes.)
Grab the coats! Now!
What a disgusting place! I’m never coming back!
(A five-year-old CHILD breaks free from his MOTHER’s grasp and runs towards HENRY and ANA, who are entirely oblivious to the entire scene around them. The CHILD kneels on the seat of the opposite booth and gazes at the couple.)
MOTHER: Come back here! What are you doing? Don’t look!
CHILD: But why not?
MOTHER: Because! It’s filthy!
CHILD: No. It isn’t. (smiles and returns to looking at the couple) It’s life!
(Blackout. Lights fade up and everything is set as it was at the opening of the scene with ANA and HENRY on opposite sides of the table.)
HENRY: Well, yeah. I’m a nerd, but I’ve known for, like, ages that you’re into me. You’re not that great at hiding it. Anyway, you’re a nerd toooo….
ANA: Okay. (pause) Yeah I do. (blushes deep crimson) But don’t look at me like that. OMG you’re totally having dirty thoughts right now! (giggles heartily)
(EMMA ROSE is sitting in a rocking chair holding a cup of tea. The light catches the steam rising from the tea. Her granddaughter is sitting at her feet.)
EMMA ROSE: Yes… yes… oh yes. I know what it is you’re feeling. I know… I know it’s hard to believe I was once as young as you. But I was. Oh yes… I was. I even looked like you. It’s like you were my own daughter. My own daughter… (Pause) she doesn’t look like me, your mother that is. No, she looks like her father. She could always make me smile. She has his eyes… his eyes.
But yes, don’t let me get distracted. Yes, yes… oh yes, I’ve felt what you’re feeling. I’ve felt it. I was not much older than you are, just eighteen or so. Yes, I was eighteen, I remember. And he was perfect… unattainable. He made me so nervous my heart would quiver in my throat. Yet I didn’t know. Just his subtle hints… I always wore my hair up to keep it out of my eyes. It was long then, even longer than it is now – if you can believe that! And, one time I took it down, shook it all out. Just shook my mane of dark, dark hair. It was more wild and tangled than your hair is, not so sleek and beautiful. (She strokes her granddaughter’s hair.) He saw me take down the mane and he just glanced up casually once, and said, “Your hair looks pretty like that.” Pretty like that, that’s what he said. And then he just went back to what he was doing. He later told me that he once picked a huge bouquet of wild flowers, but let them die, all hidden away, because he couldn’t bring himself to give them to me. Hmm… he was sweet indeed.
You are such a blessing in my life. Such a woman… blooming, blooming right before my eyes. What a lucky young man this love of yours is. Does he know? (Her granddaughter shrugs her shoulders.) You don’t know? Oh he knows… oh yes, yes he knows. He’s a lucky one. (Laughing) Probably terrified. Indeed… a very lucky one. Your father was lucky too, lucky to be with my beautiful daughter. And she has… his eyes… (She trails off into silence.)
I’m sorry, look at me getting distracted now. Yes, we were out one night just talking. He and I. Talking about the things in life that you feel are so serious and important when you are young. And I remember the stars that night. I’ll never forget the stars. We were lying on our backs, buried in the damp grass, staring up at them. There was a whole world opening up above us that just went on and on and on… forever. It was so big and overwhelming that it made me feel safe. Safe in how small I was, safe in how unimportant I was. Yet, hmm… I felt honored. Honored to still be a part of it. And the stars kept winking to each other, winking like they knew what was about to happen, whispering amongst themselves. I stared up at that huge expanse and gave myself over to it. Suddenly I was brought back to earth. He had kissed my hand. So softly, so tenderly and with so much longing. He kissed my hand. I could see those stars reflected in his eyes. Deep, like a reflection in a still pool. He kissed me then. Full, young lips joining in trembling perfection.
I was doomed. From that moment on, I was his. I still am his… wherever he is now. Wherever he is… We woke up in that grassy field covered in dew and golden rays. Oh yes, yes… I am his. I always was, always will be. Of course I miss him. Wherever he is. He’s part of those stars now. He is up in that wide open space. No wonder it made me feel so safe that night. I’ll join him soon. Oh yes… He’s a lucky one, your young man. Oh yes. You’re a lucky one. Yes… we were the lucky ones.
The day was grey and windy and drops of fog clung to the soft, dark curls surrounding the little girl’s face. She was holding a bouquet of golden daffodils in one clammy hand, while the other clung to the hand of her mother. Her mother’s hand was dry and cracked from washing dishes and cleaning house. The little girl bent down and laid the flowers at the base of a black marble tombstone set deep in the damp grass. Across the face of the stone were carved images that set the little girl’s imagination to work. On the left side of the stone was carved a forest of pines, while on the right was a magnificent castle perched upon a cliff. Between the images was the inscription:
Merk Malcolm 1914 – 1986
Doris Malcolm 1920 – 1990
Mr. Merwin Eldred Schlarbaum hated his Christian name. His father’s best friend protested the name and insisted the baby boy be nicknamed Merky. World War I was nearing its end by the time Merky was four years old, and his father chose to change the family name which tied them to the then-despised Germans. He shed the name of Schlarbaum, whose sound when spoken with a Canadian accent did not reflect its meaning “Tree of Paradise,” and instead adopted his mother’s maiden name, Malcolm.
By 1939 Merky, then known as Merk Malcolm, set out from his home in Campbellford, Canada and traveled with a friend to Europe. Upon reaching Scotland, the Second World War broke out and Merk was stranded for the time being. While using his engineering training as the manager for wartime projects, Merk chose to live in Wick, Caithness on the north-eastern tip of Scotland.
Wick was a tiny fishing town with its harbor open to the cold, blue waters of the North Sea. Thousands of fishing boats came in daily, bearing pounds upon pounds of fresh herring. The docks were steeped in the tangy scent of fish and the sky was blocked out by the swooping wings of gulls.
Mr. Malcolm, upon arriving, took to exploring the town, all four corners of which could be reached within an hour from any point. He stopped in front of a classy hotel and glanced up at the swinging metal sign. The letters, spelling “Station Hotel” stood out clear and gold on a crimson background. He stepped over the threshold and noticed he barely had to lift his foot, the wooden step was so worn by passing feet. Above the light-filled entrance was a glass portico with great metal arches. A chipper old man standing behind the counter greeted Mr. Malcolm with a Scottish accent thicker than pea soup. After paying at the counter Mr. Malcolm was shown to his room. The furniture had a refined but well-used look to its deep mahogany wood. He walked across the room to set his suitcase down by the roll-top desk. The brass plate on the desk said “Mackenzie’s Furnishings” in a curling script.
That night, as Mr. Malcolm lay between the flannel sheets, he realized he could not afford to stay in a hotel for an indefinite amount of time while the war raged on in Europe. The next morning he got up early and walked to the old stone church at the upper end of Wick. It stood overlooking the bridge which spanned the mossy green river that traveled out of the mouth of the harbor. Looking up, Mr. Malcolm saw the river wind its way up through thick, pink and green grasslands dotted with white sheep.
Mr. Malcolm walked into the holy stillness of the church. He had come here to find someone with whom he could stay, because he believed the most trustworthy people could be found through the church. Reverend Sinclair, also called the Reverend R. R., was standing at the back of the church with a handwritten sermon in his hand. Reverend Sinclair was known for his lengthy speeches, one of which was interrupted well before the end by a little girl yelling “Amen, Reverend Sinclair! Amen!” The slight breeze from the open church door ruffled the Reverend’s greying, patchy hair. He looked up when he heard firm footfalls on the cold stone aisle.
“My name is Merk Malcolm,” the young man said with his over-pronounced Canadian vowels. “I was wondering if you could possibly help me find a family to stay with in Wick. I’m working now as a project manager for the war effort.”
“Ach, I see,” the Reverend said, “Well, the Mackenzies are taking in officers at the moment.”
Mr. Malcolm smiled gratefully and nodded. Mackenzie, he thought. The name sounded familiar.
The following morning Mr. Malcolm could be seen trudging up the hill from the bridge carrying his one suitcase. The “Scottish mist” that had begun half an hour before had filled the collar of his coat with water and plastered his dark hair to his head. At the top of the hill the streets leveled out and he turned right onto Thurso Street. Glancing at the damp slip of paper in his hand, Mr. Malcolm double-checked that the address was number six. The house was called Wyvelsfield. 6 Thurso Street. Walking on the right side of the street under a row of beech trees he looked left until he saw the brass address glinting through the rain: 6 Thurso Street.
Mrs. Mackenzie, affectionately called Mrs. Mack, was just finishing her early morning porridge. She sat erect in her chair at the foot of the table with her red hair pulled back in a tight bun and her pale lips pursed. Her lack of working taste buds concealed from her the fact there was more salt in her porridge than porridge. A normal mouth would be turned inside-out from the taste, and children were known to bring their spoons near their mouths and then drop the porridge into a well-concealed napkin. But to Mrs. Mack the porridge tasted fine.
In an old Scottish saying, an Englishman was berating a Scot for eating oats, which the English found only fit to feed to their horses. The Scotsman replied airily, “That’s why the English are known for their horses, while the Scots are known for their men.”
Mrs. Mack was just finishing her tasteful porridge when a tall, dark-haired, handsome man walked in through her front gates. Oh, she thought to herself, it must be one of those young officers to live with us. He looks well enough, though I fear this may bring trouble. And she rose from her chair with a sigh.
At the heavy knock, Mrs. Mack opened the front door. She greeted her guest with warmth and made her introductions.
“Oh,” she said, “And I have a daughter who’s in the giggly stage.”
Mortified, the eavesdropping, nineteen-year-old Doris Mackenzie was determined to prove her mother wrong. Miss Mackenzie was not the type of girl who cared much for what people thought of her. She was rather mischievous and had been known to steal fishermen’s dinghies and to set dozens of barrels of fish rolling along the docks.
Composing herself at the top of the grand spiral staircase, Doris pinched her cheeks and straightened the fashionable dress which showed off her petite waist. She laid her hand on the polished wood banister, her hand sweating slightly. Setting her foot on the first green carpeted step, Doris began gliding down the staircase. She glanced once at the handsome stranger at the foot of the stairs and nearly blushed. His eyes were following her every movement. However, she kept her head held high and her eyes straight ahead.
Suddenly, three steps from the bottom the toe of Doris’ little black shoe caught on the carpet. Both of her feet flew out from under her and all of her five-foot-two frame went tumbling down the remaining stairs. She landed in a disgruntled heap at the stranger’s feet. With apparent perfect dignity Doris held up her hand from where she was crumpled on the floor and, with her nose in the air, said, “I’m Miss Mackenzie.”
Cupid’s bow twanged.
Standing by the tombstone on the cold, grey day I knew the story of how my grandparents had met. For years I made up fantastic stories about my grandmother who had once lived in a great castle up in Scotland. The spiral staircase to me was larger than Jacob’s Ladder, and I pictured my beautiful grandmother tumbling not down just the last three steps, but from the top of the stairs all the way to the bottom in flying somersaults. As I grew up I realized that while the fairy tales I had imagined for my family might not be quite factually true, I did come to recognize that the true love at the end of fairy tales did exist and endure between my grandparents.