Thursday, June 7, 2018

Swedish National Day

        On June 6, 1523, Gustav Vasa was crowned king of Sweden. On June 6, 1809, the parliament adopted its first governing form. June 6 became Swedish Flag Day in 1916, and, later, was also designated Swedish National Day. In 2005 Sweden declared June 6 an official national holiday (taking a day away from the three-day Whitsuntide holiday to keep the work days consistent). Traditionally, Swedish National Day, aka Swedish Flag Day, includes a twenty-one-gun salute, an army tattoo, the queen in national dress, traditional Swedish folk music, recognition of new Swedish citizens, and the raising of the flag.
        On June 6, 2018, I was present at two Swedish National Day events in Göteborg, Sweden, though one, admittedly, was of less than national importance. That one took place in the old part of the city, called Haga, a walking street with beautiful eighteenth-century houses, cafes, small restaurants, and tiny shops. My friends Lasse Gunnarsson and Sven Lassbo, singers extraordinaire,  dressed in Swedish football team shirts, set up a busking site in Haga, with a guitar case open for contributions to Doctors Without Borders.
If they weren't singing traditional National Day folk music, they were playing songs familiar and loved: Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Crosby Stills and Nash, along with some Swedish songs. The music made passers-by turn their heads and smile and those of us listening across the street sway, tap our feet, and join in on the choruses. It did not, however, to our disappointment, make a great many people drop Swedish crowns into the guitar case. The speculation for the low intake this year, compared to years past, when Lasse and Sven have made thousands of kronor for Doctors Without Borders, isn't that people aren't as generous as they used to be or that they no longer care about the troubles of people in foreign places but that they have nothing to drop in the jar because no one in Sweden carries cash any more.
        After the music in Haga, we walked through the city to Slotsskogen, a large park where the main National Day events take place. To my surprise the streets were not lined with yellow-and-blue Swedish flags, and no houses or restaurants or shops had the Swedish equivalent of Fourth-of-July decorations. There were no tattoos or military salutes in Gothenburg, and among the tens of thousands of people on the street and in the park, I saw a few small flags stuck in back pockets or held casually in hands, a few yellow shirts, and a demure blue and yellow ribbon in one girl's hair. Nothing much marked the day as any more Swedish a holiday than Whitsuntide.
        We found a place on the grassy hillside among the thousands of other people – families with small children, elderly couples leaning against each other on the grass, immigrants with their families or with Swedish friends, everyone enjoying the remarkably warm sun that had chased away the morning clouds. Earlier in the day there had been a welcoming ceremony for the year's more than 4500 new citizens, from 140 different countries. Now there would be a music program with the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra, already set up in a large tented pavilion, tiny in the distance, that fortunately had a very good sound system.
       The program began, appropriately enough, with the national anthem,"Du Gamla, Du Fria," which  glorifies the country not for its military victories but for its natural beauty and for being one's homeland: Oh, you, my ancient home; oh, you, my land of freedom; oh, you, my beautiful northland, and so on. It was sung, first, by Lena Willemark, from the north of Sweden, in her native dialect, a language close to Old Swedish. Then everyone stood and sang the modern version. Hands did not cover hearts. At the same time the Swedish flag was raised to flutter high above the concert pavilion.
        After a couple of other pieces unrelated to nationhood, Lena Willemark returned to the stage for a rousing piece called "Ra Weg." No one I asked could tell me what "Ra Weg" meant, as it was presumably in her dialect, but the music, song plus orchestra, was stirring. Also on the program were some orchestral pieces by a former member of ABBA, a familiar and beautiful piece by Dvorak, and Lena Willemark's startling rendition of the traditional songs that Swedish girls would scream-sing to each other from one hilltop to another while they were keeping the cattle at the summer pastures. I felt in it the same power and communicative ability I sense in Native American songs, and something, too, of Texas ranch competitions for women calling their men to supper. 
        That evening we set the table in the garden and shared, not hamburgers and cole slaw, but a parmesan omelet and Swedish hard-tack with cheese. There were no fireworks, but, after all, the National Swedish Day doesn't celebrate the end of a war, and, besides, the sky doesn't get dark till almost midnight. A national anthem that doesn't mention war, a National Day that doesn't wave flags, music instead of the boom of fireworks, a celebration of new citizens – I think I like the way the Swedes celebrate their nationhood.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Here I Am in Sweden

     If my mother were alive and heard the following story, she would shake her head and say, as I heard her say many times during my life, "It's a good thing the good Lord is looking after you," to which I might say, "Maybe he could do a little better job."
      The first thing he could have done was warn me that my itinerary for getting to Gothenburg, Sweden, where I would visit friends before flying to Marseille, France, to meet Mike for our hike on Corsica, wasn't very smart. I had bought a cheap ticket to Seattle, which sounded smart except that it was unconnected to the flight I booked from Seattle to Gothenburg on a different airline. When I thought it through, I realized that because the flights weren't connected, I would have to go to baggage claim in Seattle to pick up my checked luggage (my backpack for the hike) and then go through security again to catch the plane to Gothenburg. That would be a drag, but if everything went smoothly, I had time to do it.
       My flight to Seattle left Medford on Tuesday morning at 5:45. At 3:45 a.m. Mike drove me to the airport, in my car, which I would leave at his house while I was gone. He had said something earlier that maybe after leaving me at the airport he would hike up Table Rock, our usual Tuesday morning routine, this time in the moonlight, but now he thought it was a better idea to go home and try to get some sleep. We parted at the airport with a cheerful, "See you in Marseille!" and I took my suitcase, my day pack, and my backpack to the Delta Airlines counter, where I got a boarding pass to Seattle and put my checked-luggage backpack on the conveyer belt. Then I went to the Alaska Airlines counter for the other boarding passes. 
       That's where things went wrong. The man at the Alaska Airlines counter asked, of course, for my passport, which, proud of having remembered both to get it renewed and to have brought it with me, I handed to him. He looked at it and said, politely, "Do you have a current passport? This one is expired."
       Panic fluttered its familiar wings, though if I had been following my mother's way of thinking, irritation might have been more appropriate. If the good Lord really were looking after me, why didn't he make sure I picked up the right passport when I left home? It would take me an hour to drive home for my passport, then another hour back to the airport. I would miss my flight. I called Mike to ask him to pick me up, but he didn't answer the phone. I rushed back to the Delta desk to book another flight to Seattle. Immediately the agent called baggage to get my backpack returned before it got put on the plane, then told me the only other Delta flight to Seattle left at 6:00 a.m. I would miss that flight, too. I called Mike. Still no answer. I rushed back to Alaska Airlines to see if they had a flight I could take. I would have to buy another ticket, but at this point the extra cost was the least of my worries. There was a flight that left at 10:00 a.m. It had one seat left. The agent said she would hold it for me until I returned with my passport.
       I had been calling Mike every few minutes. "Mike, call me." "Mike, I need you to come get me." "Mike. Pick up the phone!" (I was thinking, "Pick up the damn phone," but I don't think I actually said it.) I grabbed a taxi and headed for his house. On the way it occurred to me that maybe the reason he wasn't answering his phone was that he had decided to hike up Table Rock, after all, and that in that case he would have the keys to my car in his pocket. Maybe I could get a (very expensive) taxi to my house – except, as it now occurred to me, my house key was with the car key, and I had dropped the spare house key in my neighbor's locked mailbox when I left home. The whole journey was disintegrating in front of me.
       Then the good Lord thought the joke had gone far enough and took pity on me. My car was sitting in front of Mike's house. I pounded on the door, waking Mike up. He drove me home, I picked up the right passport, and we drove to the airport, where I made effusive thanks to him as we parted. I picked up my backpack from the Delta counter, showed the renewed passport to the ticket agent, who accommodated me by making out boarding passes for all legs of the journey: Medford-Seattle, Seattle-Portland, Portland-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Gethenburg. He checked my backpack all the way to Gothenburg. 
       I had three hours before departure. I took a long, calming walk down the street and around the block, rolling my suitcase behind me. Then I sat at the gate and knitted until boarding time.
       The rest of the journey was long but, thank goodness, without further distress. I arrived in Gothenburg the next day at 6:45 p.m. My friend Lasse met me at the airport, and here I am in Sweden, where the weather is fine and the roses just starting to bloom.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Training for the GR20 on Vashon Island, Washington

       While I was visiting my son on Vashon Island last week, he suggested that, to help me continue my GR20 training, he would take me to a trail system with some elevation gain. 
      I stuck my computer into my day pack to give it some weight but then forgot to include my granddaughter's 760-page Harry Potter book I had meant to add, so I wasn't carrying much weight. Ela downloaded a map of the trails onto my phone and used his finger to draw a red line on the route I should take, reducing the bewildering tangle of trails to a comprehensible hike up the mountain. He would ride his bicycle on the same trail system, and we would meet back at the car in two hours. Maybe we would run into each other along the way.
      Confident I could find my way with both the blue dot of the GPS telling me where I was and Ela's map telling me where I should be, I shouldered my day pack and started up the hill. 
     The trails were even more bewildering than the map indicated. The blue GPS dot was clumsy and slow. In spite of backtracking every now and then and in spite of taking an unnecessary loop, I reached the ridge, a little late, by my reckoning, and emerged through the woods to the top of the gravel pit, where I was on solid ground, navigationally speaking. 
      The scene was stunning. In a cloudless blue sky, high over the water of Puget Sound mirroring the same hue, Mt. Rainier loomed snowy and shining, comically diminishing the  line of snowy Cascade peaks on either side of it. Vegetation smoothed the rough surfaces of the gravel pit. A rusting trestle with a long arm reminded me of the story of this park: that the man who owned the gravel pit was on his way to digging billions of dollars worth of gravel from the hills, alarming the islanders at the loss of land, scientists at the loss of critical island habitat, and vacationers at the loss of beaches, woods, ecologies, and recreation; that after more than a decade of wrangling, the court ruled against the gravel pit; that the county then bought the now "worthless" property for a park, with an extensive trail system for mountain bikers, horse-back riders, and hikers. 
      Across the pit, I could see numerous route choices. As I pulled out my phone to check the map, I noticed with alarm that the GPS had eaten up my battery power. I would have to turn off the phone and rely on my generally unreliable memory. If I couldn't find the trail, I thought, I could always go back the way I had come. 
      Just as I was about to turn off the phone, it rang. It was Ela. He said he was afraid I would think I was on the wrong trail out of the gravel pit because first I would be beating my way through gorse and blackberries, after which I would go through stinging nettles and then past a patch of poison oak crowding the trail on the left with a sheer drop to the ocean on the right. "You'll be on the right trail," he said. "Watch out for the dangers!" and he was off on his bicycle again.
      Down into the gravel pit – and down and down – I went. Way down. Just before I reached the water, I found the trail with the gorse, blackberries, nettles, and poison oak. Past the various dangers, I started climbing again and came out, as expected, at a watch tower and a paved road.
       There I wasn't sure what to do. Should I cross the road and take the trail on the other side? Or follow the dirt road past the tower? A sign on the paved road pointed to Dockton, close to where Ela and I had started. I used the last of my battery power to call Ela. When I suggested that maybe, since I no longer had a navigational tool, I should just walk to Dockton, he said, "Is that what you want to do?" 
      "No," I said. "I had rather walk the trails."
      "Take the dirt road past the watch tower and up the hill," he instructed. "Walk along the top of the gravel pit. [I was hoping my phone would last through all these directions!] When you get to a gravel road, cross it to a trail into the woods. From there, take every downhill trail, and you'll get to the car."
      I quickly said thanks and shut off the phone, then started up the hill with renewed confidence. At the top, even though I was an hour behind, I detoured to an overlook to take in the stupendous view (Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound, blue sky, Cascade Mountains) before continuing along the top of the gravel pit. There were other spur trails, but I was having only vague doubts about being on the right trail when I saw a mountain biker riding towards me – Ela! After my phone call, he had figured he could meet me in just about that very spot. We chatted for a few minutes before he rode off in the direction he was going and I continued to the trails through the woods. 
      Confusingly, all trails led downhill, so there were still choices to make, but I knew I was generally right. After about twenty minutes I recognized that I was on the short steep trail I had taken out of the parking lot three hours earlier. Just at that moment, Ela came riding up behind me. 
      What a great hike it had been, full of navigation challenges, good up-and-down training for the GR20, spectacular views, great weather, triumph over dangers: gorse, blackberries, stinging nettles, poison oak, and loss of battery power  – all courageously overcome – a good time with my son, and another day of strengthening for the long trail on Corsica. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

When I Saved My Sister from a Wolf

     Last week I alluded to the time my sister was bitten by a malemute, but I could just as well have said "a wolf" because she was bitten by a wolf at the same time. Since I've mentioned it, you deserve to hear the story, so let me tell you about the time I saved my sister from a wolf.
     In the summer I turned fifteen my family made a car-camping trip from Atlanta, Georgia, to Fairbanks, Alaska, all seven of us in a station wagon. One late afternoon on the Alcan, when the weather threatened rain, my mother prevailed upon my father to make an exception to camping out and let us stay at  the White River Lodge. 
       Mom and Dad quickly made friends with the proprietor and his wife, Dan and Erica Nolan, who enjoyed showing us their place, including a pet wolf, Wolfie, on a chain in the back yard, and some eaglets Dan had rescued and was raising. Erica showed Mom some new wildflowers, and we all slept well in real beds that night.
     On the way back down the Alcan, two weeks later, we stopped by the White River Lodge to say hello to Dan and Erica. Dan and Dad disappeared into the cafe for coffee. While Mom tended to our two-year-old brother, my three sisters and I asked Erica if we could pet Wolfie again. We had already made friends with him, so she just said, "Yes."
       We were petting and admiring Wolfie when a big malemute named Cindy came charging into our small group for her share of attention. She frightened my seven-year-old sister, Laura, who, backing out of the way, tripped over the wolf's chain and fell. As soon as she went down, the malemute jumped on her with a snarl. At that, Wolfie joined the attack.
       In that flash of chaos and panic, of growling canines and screaming children, it was I, I am proud to say, who rushed in to save Laura. Nor has my memory unduly enlarged me to heroic proportions, as my mother's journal corroborates my story: "Diana, being closest to Laura, rescued her." By the time Mom, Dad, and Dan arrived, I had dragged Laura to safety, and she was no longer in danger of being torn to shreds by a vicious wolf and snarling malemute.
       She had a gash across the back of her head and claw scratches on her ear. While we doctored those wounds, Dan and Erica expressed again and again their apologies and embarrassment. It was the nature of the malemute to jump on what was down, Dan explained. The dog and the wolf were only acting as their natures demanded, but, he said grimly, Cindy would have to be shot. We said, no, no, please don't, it wasn't her fault, but Dan said he couldn't keep a dog that attacked his guests. As I remember, we heard the shot as we drove away, but here I must be corrected by my mother's journal. It says we learned later that Dan gave Cindy to a neighbor. I do remember correctly that Wolfie was sold to Walt Disney and starred in Nickie of the North, making him the only Hollywood star I have known personally and certainly the only one who has bitten a member of my family.
       After we were well on our way down the Alcan, Laura said something felt funny in her hip. Mom pulled down her pants and discovered the worst wound of all, where the wolf's fang had gone deep into Laura's flesh without even tearing the denim. The closest doctor was a hundred miles away, in Whitehorse. Fifty miles from Whitehorse, we had a flat tire. Fifteen miles later a second tire blew, and there we were, stuck on the lonely Alcan in a burned-out forest with a child who needed a doctor. Dad picked up the tire and stuck out his thumb. The first car that came along stopped for him, answering the unwritten rule of the Alcan never to pass anyone in trouble, and, indeed, every driver that passed us (there weren't many) as we waited for Dad to come back from Whitehorse stopped to ask if we needed help. 
       It seemed like an infernally hot and long wait to the six of us stranded by the crippled car. The only relief in the blackened landscape was its undergrowth of bright purple fireweed. In fact, it was only three hours before my father was back with a patched tire. Fifteen minutes later we were on the road.
       In Whitehorse the doctor told us that Laura's wolf bite should have had stitches but that the best we could do now was to keep the wound open and clean so it would heal from the inside. So, three times a day for three days, we stopped to sterilize instruments and treat the wound. The healing was quick and full, and even the scar didn't last long. Laura does still have a long, straight, dead-white scar under her dark hair, a sort of badge about which she can say, "This is where the wolf bit me." What I have is a story I can introduce with, "Let me tell you about the time I saved my sister from a wolf."

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Attacked by Dogs

            A couple of weeks ago, as I was taking my normal walk through the woods (BLM-managed public land) and up the mountain, I saw a tent in the woods with a man tying tarps around it. He was gray-haired, and his campsite was neat, with a carefully constructed wide entranceway, lined with logs, so I decided he wasn’t dangerous and approached closer, loudly crunching sticks underfoot. When he didn’t look up, I called out, “Hello.”
            Two little dogs leapt from the tent, barking hard. The man, startled to see me, grabbed the dogs and put them in the tent, then turned to greet me. He told me that friends of his ex-wife had suggested he could camp there and that he had a job waiting for him in Gold Beach, as soon as got his truck fixed. His truck was at the other end of the trail, on the old logging road. Down the path he had a kitchen site, with another tent, a firepit (carefully lined with metal), some coolers and storage bins, and a pole-constructed table with some Christian magazines. Small logs tied horizontally in the trees designated the space as a room. He had taken a lot of trouble with this temporary home.
            I pass his campsite, of course, whenever I take my walk. He’s sometimes there and sometimes not. One time I saw trash strewn around the kitchen site. Food cartons, well licked, lay open on the trail. The compost bucket and coolers were ripped open and strewn about. I surmised a bear. 
            Last week I was again taking my usual walk, passing, of course, the campsite again. The first tent looked battened down, and I wondered if maybe the man were gone again, but then I saw smoke curling from the campfire as I got closer to the second tent. Everything was quiet. Then I saw that the man was sitting next to the fire, reading, so I said, as I had before, “Hello.”
            Too late alerted to danger, the two dogs charged from the tent and onto the path. They ran at me, baring their teeth, barking their shrill barks, making feints of attack. If the dogs were doing what they instinctively do in defense, so did I. I screamed at them to STOP! QUIT IT! GO AWAY! GET AWAY!. The more I screamed, the more they thought they needed to protect their territory from this terrifying monster. The more they barked and charged, the louder I screamed, backing away, kicking at the dogs. I think I certainly could have sent a dog flying except that I didn’t really want to kick a dog, so my kicks were bluster. The man came running up the trail, snatching at dogs, saying, “You got them all excited,” as though I weren’t supposed to be defending myself, but doing what instead? I also noticed that he wasn’t saying, “Don’t worry. They won’t bite.” As soon as he caught one dog and grabbed for another, the first one jumped from his arms and charged me again. One dog was in front of me, the other behind me, both barking and snarling and showing their sharp little teeth. The man was zig-zagging around. I was backing up, screaming and kicking and flailing, and then I tripped backwards. As I fell, I was remembering the time my sister was bitten by a husky dog because she also tripped as she was running backwards, and it’s the nature of the husky, the owner told us later, to jump on what’s down. I was fervently hoping the same was not true of yappy little dogs, but I was expecting one to jump on me at any moment, so I sprang to my feet with more alacrity than any 73-year-old woman could possibly muster. The man finally got the dogs in his arms and put them on a leash at the tent. I was breathing harder than I ever do while climbing a steep mountain trail, and I had a hard time calming myself, not because I was still frightened but because by now I was pretty mad. 
            The man asked me if I was all right, and I said yes, but I was still trembling. “How am I going to walk through the woods?” I asked.
            “You got them excited,” he said again, as though the whole episode were my fault. But I had calmed down, so we chatted in a friendly way for a bit. He told me about the bear that had gotten into his food supply while he was away for a night. I said I had noticed and that he had done a good job cleaning everything up. I asked what he was going to do with a set of good-sized logs lying next to his kitchen. He said he was building a barrier for keeping his food from animals. 
            His camp in the woods is looking more and more permanent. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Preparing for the GR20

            Today I’m going to hike the Baldy Mountain trail with Mike. Both of us will be carrying 20-pound backpacks. Yesterday I started on my usual walk from my house, up the mountain and back down for about an hour, with a 20-pound pack, then stretched the hour’s walk into three hours and forty minutes by making a loop to the top of the ridge, down to the paved road, and back up to the trail through the woods to my house. When I got to that trail, instead of turning onto it and heading home, I went back up the mountain to the top of the ridge before finally heading home – just for the sake of doing it.
            The previous day, I hiked, with Mike, up Table Rock Mountain, an hour and a quarter, with a pack. The day before that, I hiked up Bolt Mountain – four hours, with a pack. The day before that I hiked, with Mike, the Eliot Ridge trail, seven hours, twelve miles, some exceedingly steep. With packs.
            All this is necessary because Mike and I are going to be hiking GR 20, on Corsica, touted as the most difficult trail in Europe. Seven hours on the Eliot Ridge Trail is still three hours short of the longest day on the GR 20, which is 125 miles with a total elevation gain of 41,000 feet and is done in fifteen days. If I’m going to do it, I had better be ready.
            Here’s some of what the guide book says about the GR 20.

“The GR 20 is a tough, steep, and rocky trail that is generally followed in a blazing sun.”
 “The GR 20 is a slow and often difficult trek, but one where the scenery is so magnificent that you wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else.”
“The first day on the GR 20 is a shock to the system. …The ascent is unrelenting, uphill all the way, climbing higher than anywhere in Britain, then climbing further, scrambling across a rocky hillside.”
 “The mountain ridges are very exposed in severe weather conditions, and sudden lightning strikes have claimed trekkers’ lives.”
“Every year there is at least one casualty along the course of the GR20 and a number of accidents.”
 “Only minutes after leaving the Refuge de Carozzu, there is a steep and rugged descent into a gorge … A steep and rocky ascent, sometimes holding snow well into the summer, leads to a high rocky gap. … The descent is very steep and rugged, taking longer to complete than some might imagine."

         On the third day, It takes five and a half hours to go three and a quarter miles. The next day it takes eight hours to go the same distance.
            Reading all that and more, I got worried. I needed to be ready! Late spring snows kept me from hiking until mid-April, but I was skiing, which I figured was pretty good keep-in-shape exercise. As soon as the snow was too thin for skiing, Mike and I started looking for places to hike. The Illinois River Trail was an easy beginning of the training regimen because it isn’t steep and we weren’t carrying packs. The next week we hiked the Charlie Buck Trail, very steep. (Mike carried a pack. I didn’t.) When I got home, I was hobbling. My feet hurt badly. They were throbbing. It was not a good sign.
            The problem is hallux rigidus (rigid big toe), an arthritic condition. A soak in Epsom salts helped, but I can’t take Epsom salts on the GR 20. Would I really be able to put my boots on day after day for yet another strenuous day of hiking, for fifteen days? If I were going to do it, I would have to up the ante for training.
            Two days later I climbed Charlie Buck again, by myself and with a pack. Three days later I climbed Stein Butte (five hours, some steep) by myself, with a pack, and the next day I did the same thing again. The next day I hiked a couple of miles on the East ART (East Applegate Ridge Trail) with some school children; then Mike and I hiked the Little Grayback Trail (with packs). The next day I hiked Stein Butte again (with a pack).
            My poor feet. The Stein Butte trail is a killer. My hiking boots are worn out. Mike went with me to Mt. Shasta so I could try on boots at a recommended shoe store. When I found some that I thought would do, I left them at the store to be stretched in the toe while Mike and I climbed Castle Crags (with packs), a very steep climb over a rocky trail, very beautiful and good training for the GR 20 except that it only took four hours, a short day on the GR 20.
            My podiatrist has suggested a foot sleeve for support on each foot. She recommended taking Advil or Aleve (“Experiment to see which works best,” she said) to counter the pain from the pounding my feet take on the downhill. She approved the foot cream I had bought and suggested that whenever possible I should soak my feet in cold water after or during a day’s hike. Armed with new boots and a supply of medical aids and well trained by day after day of strenuous hikes in the Siskiyous, I am full of determination to hike the GR 20and enjoy it to boot. And I have one last resource. Instead of thinking, as I pick my way down a steep rocky trail, “Ow! My feet hurt so bad!” I’ll be thinking, “Well, it’s not so bad. They’ve hurt worse.” I’ll be thinking about that glass of wine at the refuge at the end of the day’s hike and about the swimming hole promised by the guidebook. I’ll be thinking about Mike’s banal but wise advice: “Just put one foot in front of the other.” I’ll be thinking how wonderful it is to be on Corsica, in all that splendid landscape, doing what I love.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Citizenship, Rules, and Human Relations

            When the organizers of a music festival called Apple Jam chose, for their next venue, a piece of property eight miles up the road I live on (and two miles from my house), the residents were alarmed. We signed petitions to ask the county not to grant the permit, and we filled the courthouse at the hearing.
            That is the citizenship part: that so many of us were willing to take the time and the travel to come to town for a hearing that concerned us, and that the governmental process permitted that kind of citizen involvement.
            At the hearing, the parliamentarian explained in detail which laws were relevant and how the applicant had met those requirements. Then, one by one, people came up to speak for or against granting the permit. We residents talked about the dangerous situation with traffic on our narrow, winding, two-lane, shoulderless road, with 2500 Apple Jam people going up and down it in RVs, camping vans, pick-up trucks, SUVs, and other cars. We talked about the difficulty of getting emergency vehicles, either to the site or to residents. We talked about fire danger, drugs and alcohol use, people turning up the wrong driveway looking for the event or asking for water or gas, the creek as prime habitat for the endangered coho salmon, and so forth.
            Then things took a surprising turn, and this is the human relations part. The man who had submitted the permit and who, it turned out, had started the Apple Jam several years ago, asked, at the end of his testimony, whether, if he withdrew his application, he would get back his deposit. He said that the festival people had already listened to the community and didn’t want conflicts, so they had found an alternative venue and would withdraw their application if they wouldn’t lose their money.
            Suddenly we didn’t dislike the Apple Jam folks, after all. Suddenly they were just musicians who wanted to have a festival. Suddenly it sounded like a good idea, nothing different from hippie festivals I myself attended back in the day. But we had never thought the Apple Jam itself a bad idea, only that the chosen venue was unsuitable.
            Then the rules. The parliamentarian suggested that the applicants, instead of withdrawing their request, could continue the process and let the permit be either denied or granted, after which they could, if they so desired, not use the permit. The money, he said, was only a deposit, so the part which had not been spent already in putting forward the process would be returned. The applicant agreed to continue with the process, though it seemed superfluous now. I don’t quite understand why the parliamentarian didn’t just let the applicant withdraw the application, as he had expressed his willingness to do, and let the process be at an end.
            But the process ground on. The three county commissioners spoke to the issue, a motion was made to deny the permit, and a vote was taken: two for the motion, one against (on the grounds that the applicants had met the criteria as specified by law). The permit was denied.
               The residents were relieved. They excited to have won.
            As I left the courthouse, I met the organizer who had offered to withdraw the application. I shook his hand, thanked him for his generosity, and wished him luck with the festival. Then, as a reciprocal gesture of generosity and thanks, another of the neighbors on the road suggested that we would take up donations from residents to help defray the costs the festival people entailed for having to go through the application and hearing process. We all smiled, shook hands, wished everyone well, and went home.
            During that short time we had had to notify everyone on the road about the proposed event and to organize our protests, there were mumblings about getting a lawyer to help us stop the event from happening here if the permit had been granted, a lawsuit that, I think, would have gotten nowhere, since everything was done legally.
            No one during that time mentioned talking directly with the Apple Jam folks themselves. It seems like such an easy solution, now. We know, now, that they were receptive to community relations. It was they, not we, who looked beyond the rules.

            What I am left with is a feeling of gratitude, not just for the outcome of the citizenship process but also for the lesson the Apple Jam folks taught me: that while citizenship is a good thing and rules are necessary, human relations based on genuine respect and generosity of spirit trump everything else.