After the Ohlone folks had finished their dye-making, fishing, and berry gathering projects we all settled down to a spot of relaxation and recreation in the late afternoon sun. A big-eyed girl I took to be about twelve years old marshaled three younger children into a sort of impromptu performance of different kinds of animals.
The littlest girl, probably three or four, was adept at bouncing of her haunches and wiggling her nose like a rabbit. Of course she got got the loudest murmurs of appreciation. The two other kids, both boys, switched back and forth between pouncing like a cougar, or maybe a bobcat- onto the rabbit, swiping down fall berries - that was obviously a bear, and yipping and howling like a coyote. The also put on quite a very credible show involving a Western fence lizard (I recognized those push-up motions), and what was obviously a rattlesnake surprised in the act of devouring what I thought might be a gopher. The gopher, in this case, won. It had to win since it was the tiny girl doing her best. Nobody in her clan was going to sit idly by and watch her be turned into rattlesnake fodder. Even the rattlesnake seemed relieved when she got away.
Then the older girl began to emit a kind of buzzing noise and began to flap her arms about a cleared section of the creek. She did a lot of dipping and diving in on the older of the two boys who sat in mock stoic silence, giving every impression of an animal at his wit's end, unwilling to give in to persecution. At this point, I was starting to have a little trouble following the story line, as dictated in a sing-song voice by grandmother.
I suppose my confusion was obvious because the small band took pity on me and the director stopped her humming to give a direction to the older boy. I'm pretty sure she told him something along the lines of, "Let's move it along, Bud."
The boy came to life and began to snap, yip and growl at the irritating creature who was clearly making his life a misery. Before she'd had a chance to respond another buzz, pitched much higher than the big-eyed thespian, began to sound just above our heads.
When the jewel-toned throat of the Anna's hummingbird came into view everybody began laughing, pointing back and forth between the tiny bird and the oldest girl, who had resumed her darting, buzzing dance.
By the time coyote had consumed the pesky hummingbird, who of course didn't let that stop her fun, dusk was beginning to settle creekside.
It was time for me to hop into the closest time portal and head home.
Having slid through the time portal on the seat of my pants, I dusted the leaves off and greeted the small group working along the edge of the creek. Though busy fishing, foraging for late berries, and cutting sedge, they still seemed glad to have a visitor drop by.
Though the creek is low it had produced a few steelhead trout. Have you noticed that fish tastes better when somebody else cooks it? Somehow the berries tasted sweeter than the modern ones too. I'm pretty sure that if you add a beer that would be a nutritionally complete meal.
Some of the women were gathering up oak apples( which you maybe call oak galls) and smashing them with pestles, using a big flat rock to pound them against. About the only thing I've ever seen anybody use oak apples for, was the time my friend Suzanne painted a bunch of them as ornaments for her holiday craft booth. She never made those again, after she hung the leftovers on her warmly lit Christmas tree and the gall wasps started hatching out of the little manager scenes. I don't think she ever went back to that particular craft fair to hear what happened to the ones she sold either.
Turns out the people by the creek weren't making manager scenes. They cooked the busted up oak galls in a very tightly woven basket of water and rocks made intensely hot from their fire. When I saw the clan grandmother begin to stuff dried sheaves of sedge into the deep black liquid that emerged from the galls, I finally understood how they were using the galls.
Grandmother saw me looking, smiled back, and pointed at the dark design on the container holding the last of the blackberries. She said something in Rumsien that was as clear to me now as English, even if I didn't understand the actual words she spoke.
Did I think the gall dyed sedge make pretty baskets?
I've read that the term Indian Summer had to do with the land of India, but Wikipedia says it's a Native American reference.
Wikipedia's not always right. So everybody can decide on their own, or read something academic and let me know, eh?
I do know that Indian Summer is on full display right now in Edgewood Park, a county park nature reserve five minutes (driving) from Cañada College where I take classes.
The Ohlone tribe were the first people who lived and gathered food in this area. If I slide down the bank of this creek into it's time passage, I might meet up with a few Ohlone. Could have still been a few fish down in this creek 300 years ago,
I'm a big fan of the biodegradable approach to Halloween decorating. I've already put out several pumpkins, big and small in the garden. I've tried growing them myself, but I don't have the light, heat, soil or something* to get them going. The little kids who walk past with their parents, by the way, don't realize that they aren't growing out there. They have been happily checking out my pumpkin garden for the last couple of weeks.
Funny though, the mini pumpkins started disappearing. Were they just walkin' off?
Turns out they weren't. Somebody's been getting their trick or treating in early this year.
Whatever's leftover after the kids and the raccoons move on, I'll dig the reminder down into my adobe soil. It'll help out with the salvia blooms next spring.
. . .
* Tired of adding compost, redwood soil amendment, and gypsum to my adobe soil, I finally decided to figure out what likes to grow there. Salvia, is one good answer.
I took the pedestrian time portal over to the downtown Palo Alto Apple Store yesterday. It's a nice walk past the library and park fields on a long path of trees that runs alongside the Caltrain railroad track. At the end of the path, I cross San Francisquito Creek a time portal that has occasionally taken me back to visit with a local Ohlone tribe, back before 1769 when the Spaniards arrived.
Yesterday, however, I continued past the temptation to drop back a few centuries and gather fall berries with a few of my early California sisters, and headed out along Alma Street on the path to more recent times.
No matter what time of day I've walked past, since Steve Jobs death, there's been a crowd of people gathered at the window of the downtown apple store, writing postits, dropping off flowers, taking photos, or simply reading the notes that others have left. I found at least six different languages yesterday, two of whose origin I couldn't even make a guess.
We all need heroes and heroines so that we can go forth with a touch more heroism ourselves.