I had a wonderful time at California Coast Music Camp. I was sorry that camp was over, but this year I had a sense that there were good things waiting for me. Last year I felt I was leaving it all behind.
As I wound my way through the golden hills, dotted with oak, I was hopeful that I was going to be seeing Rosie soon. We had made plans for her to come up after camp, but I had been out of contact with her all week and had no idea what was happening in her life. I felt that having some space, without having me to talk to, might be helpful.
When I finally got to a place where my newly-charged cell phone could function, there were four voice mails, but the reception still wasn’t consistent enough to pick them up. As soon as it was, the phone rang, with my daughter’s ring . . . and we were back in touch!
It was soothing to hear her voice. She sounded light and happy . . . best of all, she was waiting at my mother’s in Richmond. She filled me in the happenings of her week and it sounded as though her time at home had been as powerful as my time at camp. That was a validation that we were each where we needed to be! She had made good use of our time apart.
We talked for a good part of my drive and I was pretty well caught up on her activities by the time I arrived at my mother’s.
They were preparing for a family dinner . . . My brother, two of my brother’s girls, cousin Gail, perhaps cousin Vicky, were going to converge at the condo in Richmond.
My mom sent us off to pick up more crab for the gumbo she was making and I basked in being able to be with Rosie alone.
While we were out, Rosie gave me a necklace that she had chosen for me. It is a puzzle piece that interlocks with the one she has on her necklace. We are each other’s missing puzzle piece. I wear it proudly! It also says “Home”, in the Chocktaw language of some of our ancestors (I would take it off to note what else is on it, but I don’t want to take it off).
After the gumbo, we watched a film my mother had found about the Treme’ district in New Orleans. I knew nothing about it and it helped me to understand more about where my mother’s family comes from, though they were from a different part of town.
Rosie and I had our slumber party on the living room floor and the next morning after breakfast, we worked on the lyrics to a song that I started long ago and had not finished. It was about how inconvenient wings are to carry around, when you are unwilling to use them. Rosie had some good ideas and the song seemed to take form. I like the way we work together. It is as though my mind just expanded! I can think of things without even thinking them. She is the best songwriting partner I have ever had!
We worked on it until it was time to meet up with my brother, David, his girl friend, Betty, two of his daughters, Alyana and Tamaya, and his son, Rhico. We drove out to Rowell Ranch in Hayward for the Bill Pickett Black Cowboys Rodeo. David had a connection with the organizers and we got in early and found some good food, good seats and a hat for Rosie.
The rodeo was a bit too corporate for my tastes, but it was fun to feel the differences in the atmosphere between this and the rodeos I was used to. I had always wanted to go to this event, but had never made it. I loved being there with my family. I, like most people, have ingrained in myself the idea that cowboys are white. It was an opportunity to notice how much influence the media has in forming our views of the world. It was fun to share both my “blackness” and my “horseness” in the same event. Rodeo music never sounded so soulful!
Rosie and I left early, we still had to drive to San Juan and we were both tired from not sleeping well the night before. We beat the traffic jam going out, as we had beaten the one coming in, by being early in our departure.
We visited with my mother for a while, she had wanted to give Rosie her mother’s rosary, but Rosie couldn’t accept it, due to her religious beliefs. It was an uncomfortable moment for both of them, but Rosie made it clear that she was very appreciative of the thought. I was proud that she was that clear about her beliefs and was acting on them, though it was difficult. I think my mother would be, as well.
We drove separately down to San Juan, stopping at Trader Joe’s for supplies and made it home in time to eat and sleep. The next morning, after talking for hours, Rosie accompanied me on our first “Take Your Daughter to Work” day.
A couple of foals had been born while I was away and they needed handling, as well as the other 13. I enjoyed having Rosie’s presence and was excited that she got to watch me do what I do. It is one thing to have it described to you and something else to experience it. I was curious about what she might observe. Debbie, the woman I work for, was more warm and welcoming than I had ever seen her. I was touched by her efforts to welcome my daughter.
After work, I made a run to the bank to cash my camp check and then we headed to Big Sur. I wanted to share that part of my life with Rosie. I didn’t know if the road would be open, due to the fire, but I figured we’d go as far as we could.
On the way down the coast, we stopped at the Wildcat Canyon house that my friend Ric Masten grew up in. We stopped the car, got out and walked back to the bridge overlooking the house. I told Rosie about Ric’s mother locking him in the tennis court to “baby-sit” him. We couldn’t see a tennis court from where we were standing.
A couple from Spain stopped also to look and I invited them to drive down Spindrift, a beautiful residential area, behind us. They accepted the invitation and thanked us when we met up with them again farther down the coast.
We stopped at Rocky Point to take in the view. I wanted Rosie to feel it. It is one of my favorite places to see the coast from and because it is at the mouth of the canyon I once called home, it has special meaning for me.
I had Rosie take in the expanse of the coastal scene and then close her eyes and I drove into the mouth of the canyon. When she opened them again she was tightly enveloped in a gorgeous redwood canyon. I am eager to hear her description of what she experienced.
We drove up the canyon, driving past the “road closed” sign, not knowing what we’d find. I didn’t know who would be home, but then, I never do!
I called out a few landmarks, places I once lived, the house Jennifer Warnes used to live in. We got to Green Ridge at the top of Murray Grade and pulled over on the side of the dirt road. I had intended to just walk up to the Masten’s. I figured Rosie would at least get to see the house that had had such an impact on me when I first encountered the lifestyle back when I was 15. That was when I first saw that one could choose to live in such an amazing place and way. When I first realized that it could be your everyday experience.
I noticed that Norm Cotton’s gate was open and just “followed the feel”. We walked down his driveway and called out to him as we approached. There was initially no answer, and then heard him reply from upstairs, where we had probably awakened him from his nap.
He invited us in, and we sat and told the story of our meeting to him. He shared some photos with us of his land in the Sierras, inviting us to come up sometime.
He also told us stories about his contra dance band and showed us photos of a tour he went on to New Zealand. It was a contra dance tour. There were some 20 dancers and Norm was one of four musicians on the tour. It sounded like a great time. He did a little stride piano demo for Rosie and then he pulled out his fiddle and guitar and he and I played a little bit. First he on fiddle and me on guitar, then he let me play his fiddle and he played guitar and then piano. I gave him back his fiddle and we did a little improvising. The first time we ever played we had done that and Norm had never tried before. He had really enjoyed it . . . and did again!
Norm got a phone call, from his girlfriend, Theresa and while we looked at the New Zealand photos, we were invited for dinner and accepted. I am always amazed at how things unfold, perhaps I shouldn’t be. It is like watching a flower open up in the sun.
I mentioned that we had been intending to go up to the Masten’s and Norm asked if we would mind helping him with something first. One of his backhoes, he operates heavy equipment, was down at the Grimes Ranch down on the coast in front of the canyon and he wanted to retrieve it. He had gone down to get it, but noticed some bulls in the field and it was a long way out to the backhoe. He had put it there, due to the fire. He didn’t want all of his heavy equipment in the same place.
We drove him down and someone was there to open the gate. The bulls had been moved elsewhere and Norm was able to walk out into the field. We lead the way up the canyon with our warning lights flashing to warn oncoming cars. It was a slow adventure . . . easily savored.
We left Norm behind when he was out of the crease of the canyon . . . on the grade . . . and drove up to the Masten’s. We parked in Billie’s driveway and walked up the road to Jerri and Chris’s. They were in the middle of sorting through their possessions. The threat of the fire had made people identify what belongings were truly important. What we heard over and over was, when it all came down, people had found out that not many of their possessions were worth packing up. Chris and Jerri were clearing out the things they had discovered were not important to them. I wanted Rosie to feel and see this lifestyle, and few embody it as well as these two. Jerri is as packed full of talent as anyone I have ever known. You name it she can do it. She is a true artist. Chris is a master builder and an artist, as well. Their home is built of job site treasures. Old doors and windows from Pebble Beach remodels. Put together beautifully!
In the middle of construction, Chris fell from a roof and was badly injured. He had to have Jerri do a lot of work she didn’t know she could do. She could . . . and well! There was Ric’s work here too! He had helped back in the time he was able. I am sure it brought him much joy.
Jerri gave me some photos that she had been saving for me from back in the old days. I didn’t remember any of them. It was nice to have them to add to my collection of memories, though I know I have much stuff of my own I could release.
We had our dinner date with Norm and Theresa coming up, so we hurried down to Billie’s so that Rosie could meet her and get a look at the house. Billie was lying in bed and watching television. She said she liked to watch the house shows. “White People Do Wood”, I call them.
We chatted briefly and then I took Rosie out on the decks to take in the view. I think she got it.
We went down to Cotton’s and had our surprise dinner of tasty fish and vegetables, fish from Costco and the vegetables from the farmer’s market that was held at the entrance to Norman’s driveway. A perk being that he was offered produce that didn’t sell.
Theresa told us the story of how she and Norm had come to know each other, through contra dancing and asked us how we met, not knowing our relationship. “He’s my dad!”, was Rosie’s response, which opened the door to our telling the story.
It was all the more fun because it was so unexpected for her.
After dinner, I felt a need to let my friends Ron Cook and Deborah Streeter know that we were around, so we gave a call and they ask us to hurry on down. They lived in the house I first lived in, back in 1973. I had helped to build it, beginning in 1969 and lived on the foundation that first fall until the rains washed me out. Cooking on a camp stove, with a kerosene heater and a garden hose for my water. Living on roast beef hash and eggs and Ovaltine.
We drove down the dirt road and parked on the side of the road behind their cars. They had warned us not to go all the way down because we probably would need Norm to pull us out.
We walked in on the trail to their house. It was light enough to see our way in, but Rosie grabbed her cell phone and iPod for light coming back. We entered and Deborah greeted us. Cook came up from downstairs and we proceeded to have a lovely time telling stories and filling them in on the “Ongoing Odyssey of Rosie and Bob”.
Rosie asked Ron how he knew me and he went back to the beginning, when I was around 8-10 years old and his connection with my parents, mostly my mother, at the family camp we used to attend at Asilomar. Ron told stories about the building of the house and who had lived in it. I noted that there were still many stories untold and I looked forward to many more visits to that house on the side of that canyon where I used to awaken to the sight of the red tailed hawks hunting the steep ravines.
It was another precious evening in a line of precious days and nights.
I want my daughter to know who I am. These relationships are important in that understanding. As is this place!