Nestled within Jackson State Forest is the area of the Mendocino Woodlands – a WPA project built during the Great Depression – comprising three separate campgrounds complete with cabins, eating & meeting lodges, and tent camping areas.
(At left, 2008's stripey canopy, and look at Mitch's beauteous butterflies... definitely the best-looking C2CH of all time! And yah, this is really a lark week here at the green tiger lounge...)
The cabins are rustic, most with stone fireplaces, bare wood floors, tiny closets and metal-frame spring beds with thin mattresses covered in oilcloth. Getting anywhere in camp requires a good deal of walking, most of it on uneven ground, often using switchbacks to scale seventy or more feet of elevation between places.
A stream runs through the valley, wending its way among second- and third-growth redwood trees, many arranged in ‘fairy rings.’ The fairy rings are actually new growth of trees springing out of the radiating roots of trees that have been cut down. All along the seven-mile tortuous road leading from the end of Little Lake Road to the Woodlands, fallen trees and burned-out stumps (some eight or ten feet high, most about that diameter as well) line the forest on either side of the road.
The family camps are few, since there aren’t that many families who mount summertime rendezvous of 100-500 people. Most of the other camps are pretty ordinary, but the music camps are best.
Mickie Zekley, captain of a cohort of loyal musician/volunteers, hosts the week-long Lark Camp, which occupies all three of the Woodlands’ camps to play temporary home to about 800 campers, and a bus runs twice an hour from one camp to the other taking campers to music classes and jams.
Over there a very funny raconteur plays 300-year-old French tunes. And a little way beyond is a wacky Armenian American jamming on accordion with some Tunisians playing old tribal music. A dance class down by the creek shakes the dust from a stage built in a few hours by that cohort of volunteers, and a jazz band is cooking in a rehearsal at the striped pavilion for the swing dance on Friday night.
That coffeehouse was for years my domain. I managed Camp Two Coffeehouse, also known as C2CH and called by many the best of the three simultaneous versions of the Inn of the Mullah Nasrudin’s Donkey. I ran the joint like it was my own. Which, in a way, it was.
But the dust did me in. The dust ended my carefree camp days. That dust on the road – the stuff boiled up from the tires of hundreds of cars – contains spores from the bark of the redwood trees. And amid all the things I am not allergic to, among the very few things I am allergic to, those spores are the most virulent.
I was fine for years – I guess my youth and naturally tough constitution helped me out. But then I started getting sick after camp. For several years, my week in the redwoods confined me to three weeks in bed once I got home. I suffered through terrible bronchial attacks that kept me from any sort of healing sleep and tortured me almost to the point of regretting my time at Lark. Almost.
But not quite. I missed camp in 2010, when I was living in Greece. I’d been sick the year before that, quite badly. And the year before that. And the year before that one. So when I came back to camp in 2011, I tried going for just four days. That four days was not enough to let the spores get into my lungs with any strength, and I’ve been making that curtailed journey into the forest ever since… until now.
Now I’m missing camp for the first time since Greece. And my life this year has evoked much more of a need in me to go to camp – but unfortunately events conspired to keep me in Los Angeles (adding insult to injury). So I pulled out some pictures and started posting them on Facebuchenwald. And they got a lot of notice, much of it from other would-be Larkers who are stuck away from their preferred summer rendezvous. And that got me thinking.
So I brought those pictures over here. Here, where I could tell more of a story than merely giving a gallery of pictures with some cute captions. Where I might be able to find a way to say why & how I miss Lark.
I miss the sounds day & night – of music floating on the breezes coming through the trees, of songs sung for centuries in scores of languages, telling stories, recounting romances and heroic deeds and country humor.
I miss the dueling marching bands, each coming from a different direction, each playing beautiful ancient songs from far-off places, coming this close to clashing as they try to drown each other out – then the sudden shift as both entire groups play first the one song, then the other.
In the music is the history of our people – all our peoples. In the music is stored our aspirations, our loves and our dreams, the ties of family and of loyalty, the emotions and intentions that make us human, that raise our spirits and give us our power, that send us into flights of hope and longing, that temper our hot blood and soothe us in our fatigue & sorrow.
And I miss how, in the late chill of the night, the sound of sweet musical notes comes faintly wafting like a melody woven only of smoke or fog, a welcoming, the music reminding you of home, as a curtain lifted by a breeze might reveal the warm glow of a fire on the hearth within to the traveler returning after a long journey…
|We never close. Last call!|
(Artwork at left copyright 2014 Geonni Gray Banner - thanks, G!)