I am writing this letter to the man for whom I cast my vote three years ago, the man who sailed the ship of change with the power of the winds of hope. I am writing on behalf of those who voted for you, for the future generations whose right to well-being and even existence are in jeopardy, and most importantly, on behalf of the planet earth, which is our only home and the source of all our nourishment and capacity for survival. I hope the man who reads this now can receive these words, not just as a political official in the most powerful position on the planet, but as a human being gifted with the ability to courageously take the steps required to effect the deep, fundamental changes so desperately needed at this critical juncture.
Your time in office has been fraught with a disintegrating economy and fiscal crisis that cannot be mended by any unanimous solution between political parties. The corporate industrial economy which you are trying to revive is based primarily on the assumption of unlimited access to petroleum. As we passed peak oil in 2010, it has become rapidly clearer that an economy which relies on extracting a finite resource is ultimately terminal. The earth processes under which petroleum formed will never exist again, at least within the timescale of human economies. Currently every aspect of life in the United States is dependent on oil, from our electricity, to our transportation, communication, and food systems, to name just a few. Although it is known that the resource on which these systems depend is limited and non-renewable, there is currently little to no support for those few who attempt to create alternative modes of living. Any alternatives to the norm are usually labeled by mainstream media as utopian or unrealistic, yet these alternatives are addressing the far more unrealistic vision of an economy that will continue to thrive on a single resource whose end is in sight. The collapse and lack of recovery of the economy is a clear sign that the industrial system is dissolving, and to attempt to revive it without rewriting the foundations of the system is to assure certain failure.
To assume that only slight modifications to the current system will set it back on course will ultimately lead to such a severe collapse that no attempt at a recognizable recovery will be possible. A time will come when there will be no choice as to how the system will have to change, and any progress in that area will come at much higher cost both monetarily, and also in human life and well-being. Any worries now about the government deficit are incomparable to the deficit we are continually drawing from the earth. The earth is treated as merely the backdrop to human affairs, a supply of free resources which can be extracted from endlessly. Any part of the earth left untapped, from the last old-growth forests, to the freshwater aquifers, to the buried oil fields, is considered economically wasted. Ironically, the utilized resources which are not wasted are quickly turned to irreversible waste within the disposable consumer economy, left to sit in mountainous trash heaps to decompose into toxins, if they can decompose at all. The earth is richly abundant, but only if humans create limits for themselves to allow for its self-renewing processes to take place. If we do not form these limits we will ultimately encounter them by drowning in our own waste, if nothing else.
Over the course of Western history a primary driving ideal has been human progress, a betterment of the human condition through acquisition of knowledge, and wealth and possessions for a more leisurely existence. At the foundation of progress is the idea of unlimited growth, which seemed like a real possibility through colonial expansion and the European discovery of abundant landscapes. Yet, as industrialization has allowed the human population to double three and a half times in the last century, that population has also met the unarguable reality that this planet is finite. As such, the definition of progress has actually come to mean a severe degradation of the earth in exchange for abundant consumer products, and excessive profit in the pockets of transnational corporations. Monetary gain has become the top value in our society, allowing for limitless consumption of landscapes and the destruction of their intellectual, aesthetic, imaginative, and spiritual values.
The corporations which reap excessive wealth from the environment share little of the cost that comes from the destructive patterns of their production. The vast amounts of waste, much of it highly toxic, produced by corporate industry is not accounted for in their production costs. Indeed, the weight of that clean-up usually falls to public services, paid for by tax dollars. Meanwhile, corporations are not only exempt from taking the responsibility to clean up after themselves, they are not even required to contribute monetarily to that clean-up by paying taxes. What money they do contribute to government is solely for the purposes of securing their own interests to continue unlimited extraction of resources from the earth, no matter the harm it causes to the environment or wider human community. If corporations, which are not human beings, are given personhood and legal rights, then the same rights should be given to the rivers, forests, soils, and all other species of this earth who have an equal right to exist as humans. If humans can represent a corporation in court, humans should be able to represent the land in court as well.
One of the arguments on behalf of corporate business is that corporations provide jobs for millions of workers, allowing the population’s basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter to be met. Yet those basic needs cannot be met if the earth is mined and destroyed until it can no longer support human life, even at a level much lower than that enjoyed by many in first world countries today. The economic recession and high unemployment have shown that the way our economy has been functioning cannot provide enough employment as it is. A new economic structure is desperately needed, one that is aligned with the economy of the earth and is based on renewal and responsibility.
The dire need for jobs is evident, but providing immediate employment at the cost of the health and functioning of the environment will only cause far more severe unemployment in the future. Destroying the ecosystems on which human life and economy depend will ultimately destroy the economy, as it is already beginning to do. The debates over the Keystone Pipeline project are one such example, for not only is this project extracting a finite resource, it will pose great risks to the workers toiling in a toxic environment. The pipeline will permanently destroy vast amounts of land and water for a temporary gain, and the effects of extracting and using this oil will likely be the tipping point for the irreversible, catastrophic effects of climate change.
Fortunately, there are other ways to employ the U.S. population that can flourish sustainably into the indefinite future, if they are supported and encouraged. We desperately need solutions for aligning the human economy with the earth’s systems, and investing in the creativity of environmental entrepreneurs will provide growing employment into the future.
One key area which needs reformation, and which could provide far greater employment than it currently does, is in the field of agriculture. The industrial agriculture system, which relies heavily on petroleum, has shown itself to be far more expensive and less productive than once hoped. The chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and the large machines suited only to monocultures, destroy the life-giving properties of soil and erode the topsoil until it can no longer support any crops.
A major disconnect lies between U.S. citizens and where their food is grown, food that is harvested primarily by immigrant workers who are rapidly being deported while crops rot unpicked in the fields. If the argument for deportation is that illegal immigrants take American jobs, why is it that the high percentage of unemployed U.S. citizens are not taking up the work of growing their food? The industrial system has stripped the dignity of the art of food production, as it has taken the dignity of many other forms of employment as well. One way to fundamentally change the disintegrating economy would be to restore the dignity and artistry of the most essential jobs that sustain human life.
The growing, preserving, packaging, transporting, and marketing of the current agricultural system is expensive and wasteful, as food must travel long distances to reach consumers’ mouths. By localizing the food economy most of these expenses would be cut, and dependence on oil for food production would decrease tremendously. Greater emphasis could be placed on the quality and variety of crops since they do not need to be engineered for transportation, which would ultimately lead to a far healthier population overall. Finally, with more U.S. citizens working with the land, the American people would have the opportunity to reconnect with the North American landscape in a way that would inspire a deeper care and respect for the earth.
The most immediate and disastrous consequence of our civilization’s addiction to oil is the exponentially increasing saturation of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Humans have become a force of nature changing the very chemistry of the planet in a few centuries, on a scale that previously took millions of years. It is this composition of our atmosphere that allowed for the emergence of life on this planet, and we are altering it faster than we can calculate its effects. While the predicted consequences of climate change appear to be taking place far more rapidly than the most pessimistic models once indicated, the U.S. government has disregarded this knowledge and has consistently taken no action in any international climate agreements. Although the U.S. has contributed most of any country to polluting and altering the planet’s climate, the government has chosen to put short-term economic gain, for the benefit of a few corporations, before the welfare of the human population, including its own citizens. Humanity has gained the power of a geologic force, but has not shouldered any of the responsibility that comes with such power.
The amount of money poured into defense spending against potential, and often self-generated, international threats will be as nothing compared to the cost of defending against the real and imminent threat of the retaliation of an abused earth. Ecosystems function in such a way that if any single species becomes too numerous and sets the system out of balance, the environment will no longer support the population until it dies back to a sustainable level. While humanity has managed to avoid such natural population suppression with our innovative technologies, it is those very technologies that are now triggering such a potential die-off on a global scale if immediate action is not taken.
The effects of climate change can already be observed worldwide, and the ultimate damage will be determined by whether the U.S. government can extricate itself from the pockets of greedy corporate lobbyists, and take a true leadership position against the greatest challenge to ever face the human species. Addressing climate change and the environmental crises will soon be beyond the disparities between political parties, and of far greater consequence than the outcome of the 2012 election, or any subsequent election. Whether you have one year or five in the most powerful position in the world, your actions in this moment will determine the course of the future for generations to come. If the U.S. takes the lead to responsibly address climate change, every country in the world will follow suit. If not, many other countries such as India and China, will choose not to either.
The darkest periods in history have proven to be the most creative, and you have been given the opportunity to bring about the fundamental change this planet so desperately needs if we are to survive. The pain of making the necessary changes now will be far less than the pain all of humanity and the earth will suffer if we sit idly by and do nothing. As a planetary community we will either all survive together, or the entire earth will die. The earth is an irreplaceable gift which will not exist in the same way ever again.
The geologian Thomas Berry, who dedicated his life to speaking on behalf of the earth and who was the inspiration for this letter, wrote: “While Earth’s resources are finite, what is not limited is our desire to understand, to appreciate, and to celebrate the Earth.” Your decisions while in office will determine the ability of the next generations, your daughters and all those who will come after, to live in the exquisitely beautiful, awe-inspiring, miraculously habitable earth community that you live in. This is the future that is at stake. Please handle it with wisdom.
Berry, Thomas. The Dream of the Earth. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books. 1988.
Berry, Thomas. Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 2006.
Berry, Thomas. The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
Berry, Thomas. The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty- First Century. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2009.
 Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-First Century (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2009), 156.
 Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999), 156.
let’s meet at the confluence where you flow into me and one breath swirls between our lungs – Drew Dellinger
Humanity needs a new cosmology. The Earth needs a new poetry. As humanity’s discordant relationship with our home planet continues to wreak environmental devastation worldwide, no single solution can be put forward that can fully address the crises escalating on the Earth. The most creative answers will come to no avail if they are still trapped within the current mechanistic, reductionist worldview that initially set us so deeply out of balance. How are we, as a species, to address the issues of ecological destruction? The solutions require a creativity deeper and greater than the human alone. We must ask the Earth. As Thomas Berry puts it “…we need not a human answer to an Earth problem, but an Earth answer to an Earth problem.”
The chasm of communication between the modern human and the Earth is great, but not unbridgeable. David Abram posits that our human language is a gift originally from the Earth. “What if the very language we now speak arose first in response to an animate, expressive world––as a stuttering reply not to just others of our species but to an enigmatic cosmos that already spoke to us in a myriad of tongues?” This understanding of language as initially born out of the cosmos cannot be relegated to mere projection; the Earth calls forth the human imagination in diverse ways dependent upon the characteristics of the landscape. Language transcends human creativity alone.
The key imaginative language, the Rosetta stone of reconnection, must be poetic. The cosmos speaks directly to us, telling the story of its unfolding since time began, in the language of poetry. Earth poetry calls to us in the sighing death rattle of an autumn breeze among fiery-hued leaves; it radiates as the rich heat of black humus soil under the exposed skin of curious feet; it cries as the sonorous whale’s melody born through the crashing of a salty ocean wave. While many modern adults have long been closed off to this language, it is naturally available to children as they enter the world with fresh, enchanted senses: they can still read nature’s stories. The Earth has an inherent poetic quality to it, as its nature is “…bound into the aesthetic experience, into poetry, art, and dance,” as Berry notes. Our first task is to listen, an offering of the greatest act of love and respect to the Earth.
For humanity to once again hear the poetry of the Earth, the cosmos must be reenchanted. An innovative mythic worldview is needed in which humans understand their roles within the larger Earth and cosmic community. We need a “…vision of a planet integral with itself throughout its spatial extent and its evolutionary sequence… if we are to have the psychic power to undergo the psychic and social transformations that are being demanded of us.” Berry puts forth in his writings a call to the poets and artists of the world to help forge a new, mythically imbued cosmology that could culturally guide humanity’s survival into the future. “There must be a mystique of the rain if we are ever to restore the purity of the rainfall.”
In his book, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, David Abram explores in poetic language these themes of reconnection and identification between the human and our Earth community. Drawing on his own rich sensory experience of the Earth, he is able to perceive the stories the planet is sharing with all of us. In complementary juxtaposition, Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry’s new cosmology, as presented in The Universe Story, also offers a meaningful, enchanted vision retold from the perspective of scientific inquiry. Both Abram’s, and Swimme and Berry’s, cosmologies present a new mythological story based on an understanding of the Earth, not as an object, but rather as an ensouled subject.
Scientific inquiry has been the driving force impelling contemporary Western culture forward. The objective stance of the scientist has unveiled vast expanses of knowledge previously unavailable to humanity. Yet this objectivity has also masked a myriad of other knowledges, deep wisdoms and mysteries that scientific impartiality cannot perceive. Such a detached position has led to a belief that the evolution of the cosmos, from its first moments of flaring into being, is a sequence of random happenstance, somehow arriving at life and the epiphenomenon of consciousness upon our well-situated, but insignificant, planet. While the scientific method has revealed much that could not be disclosed by our physical or intuitive senses alone, the abstractions it produces have also taken the position of primary truth; “… as a result, more and more of us come to assume that those theoretical realms are more true, more fundamental, more real than this palpable world that we experience with our breathing bodies.” Yet, it may actually be such that these scientific results are best understood when interpreted through our senses and emotions, illuminating the greater depths of scientific facts.
Swimme and Berry tell the scientifically grounded story of the evolution of the cosmos from a sensual, mythic perspective, unfolding the same science in a lyrical, poetic form that reveals those very qualities within cosmogenesis itself. From the “primordial flaring forth,” to the birth of stars, the formation of the galaxies, and the supernovas that forged the elements which seeded new stars and the planets, to the emergence of life on Earth, the complexification of life, and the evolution and cultural development of the human, this story is expressed as a celebratory event. The unfolding of the universe is the celebratory event, for “…celebration is omnipresent, not simply in the individual modes of its expression but in the grandeur of the entire cosmic process.” Each phase of the journey expresses the inherent subjectivity of each event, a thrilling sensuality contained within every fiber of the cosmos.
The Earthly cosmology of David Abram is first grounded in the intimacy of the senses, then moves out to encompass the tangible qualities of the land, the Earth, and finally the cosmos. Swimme and Berry begin at the macrocosmic level, while Abram begins at the microcosmic, yet their two cosmologies ultimately meet in the middle, revealing one story of cosmogenesis and the intimate experience of it in the present moment.
The Earth can be communed with in part by understanding our human similarity to the myriad of living and non-living beings surrounding us.
We can feel the trees and the rocks underfoot, because we are not so unlike them, because we have our own forking limbs and our own mineral composition… are tangible bodies of thickness and weight, and so have a great deal in common with the palpable things that we encounter.
An intimacy inherently exists between all beings in the cosmos, as we each have our origin in the first ecstatic moments of the universe’s flaring forth. This relationship has continued through all time, forming the complex webs of interconnection and symbiosis that make life on Earth possible. Our bodies, like the other bodies in the environment, all partake in the gift economy of the Earth: one organism’s waste is transformed into the nourishment of another. Currently, humanity has become an imbalance in this economy, taking much but returning sterile, or even toxic, waste that is of little use, and causes great harm, to the other organisms inhabiting the planet.
A common perception is that humans live on the Earth, but rather we are deeply embedded in ways our bodily senses are able to reveal to us. Take a breath of air. The air swirling around us, connecting the entire planet in its cycles, extends for miles from the surface of the land and the oceans. We live deep within the Earth because we stand below the layer of air which allows Earth to be what it is. Moreover, the composition of that air, so essential to life’s existence, also would not exist without the presence of life. Life and air mutually create each other. “To put it starkly, the biosphere is not simply in a habitable zone but also makes a habitable zone.” Furthermore, not only are we in the Earth, but the Earth is in us. From the air we breath, to the food we eat, and the water we drink, the Earth itself courses through our bodies, just as we make our course through the well-worn pathways of life on this planet.
Physical nourishment is not the only gift the Earth gives its inhabitants. As mentioned previously, language may be a property of the Earth itself, as well as emotion, imagination, and reflection. If the human has psychic capacities then such ability must lie first within the cosmos, and therefore the Earth. Consciousness, rather than an activity occurring solely within the human brain, may be an inherent quality of the Earth in which we each participate.
What if there is, yes, a quality of inwardness to the mind, not because the mind is located inside us (inside our body or brain), but because we are situated, bodily, inside it––because our lives and our thoughts unfold in the depths of a mind that is not really ours, but is rather the Earth’s? What if like the hunkered owl, and the spruce bending above it, and the beetle staggering from needle to needle on that branch, we all partake of the wide intelligence of the world––because we’re materially participant, with our actions and our passions, in the broad psyche of this sphere?
Just as we inhale the air, we intake conscious awareness. Most importantly, from this perspective, humans are not the only beings inhaling the psyche of the planet, but rather every living and non-living entity partakes in this consciousness, each in their own diversified manner.
Like the landscape, the consciousness of the Earth is diverse, and varies from region to region, affording various insights and ideas to the imagination that differ by location.
There are insights we come upon only at the edge of the sea, and others we glimpse only in the craggy heights. Some prickly notions are endemic to deserts, while other thoughts, too slippery to grasp, are met mostly in swamps. Many nomad thoughts migrate between different realms, shifting their habits to fit the terrain, orienting themselves by the wind and the stars.
The human imagination, and its ability for creative insight and innovation, is sustained by this diversity of the landscape and the myriad of beings living within it. Our ability to create and sustain our existence, to imagine the future, is wholly dependent on the creativity gifted by the Earth. If that gift is diminished, by species extinction and landscape destruction, our capacity to be fully human is also curtailed.
Enclosed in human-made cities and artificial environments, we will lose the capacity to think, dream, and create. The desire to forge a mutually-enhancing relationship with the Earth community is sustained by constant contact with the land, the ocean, forests, deserts, rivers, mountains, and the multitude of species living in these landscapes. If one is insulated from the array of life forces, then one’s desire to intimately know and respect them will dwindle and die. Such isolation leads to destruction for both the human and non-human, since something fundamental to the development of the cosmos is being constrained. As human creativity is stifled, the capacity to imagine solutions to environmental devastation is limited, unleashing a positive feedback loop that furthers ecological ruin and decreases awareness.
If humans treat the Earth and its multitude of abundant life as inert objects, then their inherent subjectivity becomes veiled, and even violated. The opportunity to commune with another ensouled being is lost. As Abram writes,
When I talk of the aspen or the granite outcrop as a determinate object, I push into unconsciousness my direct experience of trees and rock ledges, contradicting my carnal awareness of them as ambiguous beings with their own enigmatic ways of influencing the space around them, and of influencing me.
When we objectify the world in a merely instrumental way we deny ourselves even the possibility to encounter it as a meaningful subject. Once we choose to no longer speak to the Earth, to sing to the sunrise or hum to the cradling arms of an oak, to whisper to a chipmunk or call to a robin, then they will no longer speak to us, either. Even if they do, we will have lost our ability to hear them.
To open up such communication is to take a risk, stepping out of the stability of our everyday human interactions and into what is initially an utterly foreign language. Yet what is most key in all communication, whether between human, animal, plant, river, or soil, is honesty. The words do not have to be directly translated because the intonation and body language, that which all universe beings share, will carry the message, if we can surrender to trust it. Abram writes that he learned to sing when confronting an animal which he had startled, and which might potentially be dangerous if it felt threatened. The song was both relaxing to his own tensed nerves, and communicated that sense of safety to the animal before him. In another situation, when faced with hundreds of curious but angry sea lions, Abram began to dance, offering the sea lions a gift of his humanity portrayed through the animal expression of his body. Mesmerized by his movement, the sea lions were calmed from their initial fury at unexpected intrusion.
Such communication can be opened between humans and plants as well, although on a subtler level due to the greater genetic difference between the two biological kingdoms. Yet the doorway can be opened once again by finding the similarities, rather than focusing on differences, between the plant and the human. If one stands in a forest and listens attentively to the sound of wind through the tree branches, different dialects can be discerned between tree species, and even individual trees. While some might argue that this is not the trees speaking, but merely the wind passing through their branches, then we must be humbled to realize that the same thing is occurring with our own voices when we speak or sing. It is the air vibrating our vocal cords, just as that same air is vibrating the trees’ leaves and branches. Furthermore, it is that same air that is cycling around the planet, uniting the globe as a single being.
The cycling of carbon dioxide around the globe takes approximately a year to complete. In that time each molecule we breathe is circled to distant lands that we may never see with our own eyes. Yet our breath, which has shaped our speech and kept us alive, is distributed worldwide. It has been calculated that every growing leaf on the Earth, within a year, will contain a few dozen of the carbon atoms we exhale in every breath. The words we say, the poetry we speak, are crystallized within every leaf on the planet. We are listened to in a way almost impossible to imagine, indicating the power of our communication. We need to “…take deeper care with our speaking, mindful that our sounds may carry more than merely human meaning and resonance.” There is an “…uncanny power that lives in our spoken phrases to touch and sometimes transform the tenor of the world’s unfolding.”
Children are born into the world with this ability to whole-heartedly commune with the natural world. Indeed, for the very young child there is no separation between her sense of self and her surroundings. It is only with a growing awareness of her body that the child is able to perceive a quality of otherness in her environment. Yet, by emerging slowly from this embedded matrix, she is still able to communicate with the Earth, holding a fascination and sense of awe for all she encounters. Berry believed these encounters are essential for children, “… for it is from the stars, the planets, and the moon in the heavens as well as from the flowers, birds, forests, and woodland creatures of Earth that some of their most profound inner experiences originate.” A child who is able to interact with, and explore fully, the Earth community of which she is a part will be able to grow into an adult with an understanding of her place in the universe, and a vision of the interconnected web that is the Earth, her home. “Only after such an unimpeded childhood does a grown woman know in her bones that she inhabits a breathing cosmos, that her life is embedded in a wild community of dynamically intertwined and yet weirdly different lives.” It is just such an individual who will be open to the poetic communication of the universe, who will participate in its imagination and creativity to devise a mutually-enhancing relationship between the human and the Earth.
It is easy for the rational mind to dismiss the whispered stories of trees and the radiant breathing of the moon as projections of the human mind. No great truth is truth if it cannot be contradicted in some way. A sense of trust must be built between the isolated human and her environment. As that bridge is formed, what first seemed to be arrogant projection is really a deep perception. We are perceiving the similarities that draw connection between the human and the Earth, only to realize they are one and the same: “…our manner of understanding and conceptualizing our various ‘interior’ moods was originally borrowed from the moody, capricious Earth itself.” The human experience of emotions and consciousness are only qualities of the human because they are first qualities of the Earth, and prior to that the cosmos.
Two hundred million years ago, the first mammals flourished into existence as the next stage of the planet’s unfolding. Mammals developed an emotional sensitivity to the cosmos, impressing upon them the wonder and awe of the universe in a new way. It was out of the mammalian line that humans evolved, perceiving the great mysteries of the deep world as the archetypal, enchanted patterning of myth. In the opening to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell writes: “It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into the human cultural manifestation.” These inexhaustible cosmic energies may be the very same energies creating the consciousness of the Earth, in which we all participate.
Myths are the underlying stories that subtly guide the course of a culture’s manifestation. To discover a new myth to guide Western culture, and ultimately the planetary culture, toward a harmonious relationship with the Earth, the dialogue must be opened between humanity and the local landscape in which each human being finds herself. Each landscape inspires different emotions, ideas, and stories, causing the universal, archetypal energies coursing through Earth’s consciousness to take diverse, concrete form in different localities. “For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented, or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous productions of the psyche, and each bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.” Myth, like air or water, is a global, or universal, phenomenon saturated with the qualities of the local, as can be perceived when the local landscape is communed with.
The cultures living in the greatest harmony with the Earth are the indigenous oral cultures spread across the planet. Although each indigenous culture is as radically varied as the landscape in which they live, certain similarities connect their ways of life. Primarily, an oral culture is inherently local, grounded in the region in which they have culturally developed. It seems to be no coincidence that at the same time that the Earth’s ecosystems are unraveling, the planet’s indigenous cultures and their array of languages are also rapidly facing extinction. The diverse languages of the Earth are bound up into the land, and as the land is lost so are its poetic expressions.
The cultures that are causing the greatest environmental destruction carry a noble lineage of writings on religion, spirituality, philosophy, science, poetry, and story that are grounded in a deep reverence, care, and understanding of the Earth. These writings are easily available to nearly everyone in these cultures, yet the demolition of the natural world continues. Abram came to the realization that such a disconnect occurs because these ideas and stories are written down, “effectively divorcing these many teachings from the living land that once held and embodied these teachings.” Without the rich qualities of the landscape engaging every physical sense, these stories lose their sensual depth and cannot impart the full wisdom of the land which inspired them. Only if experienced in the landscape which first spoke the stories can the tales fully convey their meaning.
“Can we begin to restore the health and integrity of the local Earth? Not without restorying the local Earth.” As the consequences of the ecological crises become dire, the importance of learning to hear the innumerable voices of the Earth becomes critical. Each voice in every region is telling a unique facet of the universe’s unfolding, which must be heard and retold, inspiring the creativity to find a mutually-enhancing, self-renewing, sustainable path into the future. The true myth of the universe’s journey, from the eternal unfolding of the primordial flaring forth, to the ever-fleeting present moment, must be spoken as story, as the great myth of our time. This story must carry the voices of all the local inhabitants so that new relationships can be formed between them and each new generation of the human being. Children should be able to carry their wonder of the natural world into their adulthood in a mature, reverent form.
“We know of no other place in the universe with such gorgeous self-expression as exists on Earth.” Humans participate in that self-expression through our own creative self-expression: through our myths and stories, our music, writings and art, our innovation and traditions, and our conscious participatory way of being. It is through these expressive gifts that humanity will be able to step fully into its niche in the Earth community.
The new myths we will tell each other will express a tale of renewal, rejuvenation, and reconnection. The ancient cosmologies of the world were based in celebration of seasonal renewal, the cycles of life, death, and rebirth. The new story of the universe honors the irreversible changes unfurling in the course of the evolution of the cosmos. The sharing of that story brings about a reconnection between humanity and the cosmos, in itself a form of renewal. The mythology of the future is spiralic, a celebratory tale of transformation within the cycles of a living, breathing cosmos. The myth is like the Earth itself, continuously circling the sun while simultaneously hurtling forward on an unknown journey across cosmic time and space.
Abram, David. Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2010.
Berry, Thomas. The Dream of the Earth. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1988.
Berry, Thomas. The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
Berry, Thomas. The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-First Century. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2009.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2008.
Crist, Eileen and H. Bruce Rinker, ed. Gaia in Turmoil. Cambridge, MA: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2010.
Dellinger, Drew. Love Letter to the Milky Way. Mill Valley, CA: Planetize the Movement Press, 2010.
Swimme, Brian and Thomas Berry. The Universe Story. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994.
 Credit for this title must be given to Matthew David Segall, who created the phrase at Esalen Institute in conversation with poet Drew Dellinger, regarding Dellinger’s poem “Planetize the Movement.”
 Drew Dellinger, “Hymn to the Sacred Body of the Universe,” in Love Letter to the Milky Way (Mill Valley, CA: Planetize the Movement Press, 2010), 30.
 Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth (San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1988), 35.
 David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2010), 4.
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.