High clouds with a cool wind. Jan is packing for a field trip on another boat to find Humpback whales and help one of her graduate students get set up to do her field work, which apparently involves long poles, a ridged hull inflatable and about one jillion waterproof cases full of stuff. Another Mother's day. I did get her a weed whacker for Mothers Day, and I'm not cheap. It is Industrial strength, the kind with handlebars and even a brush cutting blade if the going gets really tough. The best part of this gift is that it comes with an operator who will attack the underbrush and the weeds while she is out at sea. It was quite a lavish Mother's day gift I thought and she's not even my mother. All her actual son had to do was call her on the phone she was in a love swoon the rest of the day, and not a weed was whacked.
Now, whacking weeds is something to which I have given considerable thought. Jan and I like our garden more or less wild. We do have what we call a "lawn." Some thirty years ago we took grass seed that the Forest Service threw on road cuts, and sprinkled it down on D-1 gravel then called it good. It sprouted up and became a lawn. Very nice. We play bocci on it. Dogs poop on it and we chase after them and throw the poop along the edges into the berry bushes. We clear out spots in the berries and plant flowers sometimes and every spring we beat back the berries with a chain saw. We have a flowering current that was given to us by Amy Johnson from our last rental house that does quiet well, and several rhododendron that refuse to die. Most of our garden you could say is indistinguishable from weeds, it's lovely and wild. The flat ground, the lawn, needs mowing and is a luxury you don't see in many yards in Sitka. Particularly this close to the water.
Thirty years ago an old boat building shed on the water was for sale with a chunk of rocky ground on the beach, for at the time of the unspeakable price of $50,000. Jan and I bought it and lived in the shed, turned the shed into a cabin. Later we built a first story next to it and had a crane lift the cabin on top and to this day that cabin is the second story. But anyway...
The lawn is the place where babies waddle around and dogs chase balls and friends can marvel at are most excellent crop of dandelions. Which brings me to the point of this essay.
After the Civil War in America and the Industrial Age began to take root so too did a nascent philosophical concept and social movement both here and in Europe first known as Anarchism. (Early Anarchists in America have a fascinating history and I've touched on this history in several of my books, The Big Both Ways, and Death and the Language of Happiness both were inspired by my readings of the early anarchists.)
Quick and Dirty: There is a ton to say on the subject but suffice to say that the early Anarchists called themselves Anarcho-syndacalysts. Or: easier than that, they did not believe in any organized economy. They believed in leaderless communal trade organizations that would bargain for what ever they needed and share equally among the group.
Impossibly idealistic? Perhaps. But remember many of these early anarchists were agricultural workers and some of them came from such communal farms. Many farms in the upper midwest were organized by extended families of farmers from scandinavian countries and in effect they operated as family collectives. This was a concept very familiar to them and very old. Why not take it to the next level?
These early Acolytes of labor freedom: Baukaunin, Kropautkin, Big Bill Haywood, Hellen Flynn, Joe Hill, the Wobblies not only saw sense and beauty in the ideas but they believed in the inevitability of a world wide adoption of their ideas. This is important, they believed that people would be convinced of the rightness of the ideas as long as the ideas could be expressed fully and allowed to be tried and practiced. Yes violence came and sabotage, (the clog in the machine) and there are endless arguments about who started it and who is ultimately responsible. But violence came on both sides, and the social movement for workers equality split off into Trade Unionism which the Anarchists said would be gobbled up by Capital and the organized Left (Socialism, Communism), which they said would become corrupted by their own leadership. So, the Anarchist movement withered. Later on, after Marx, Engels, set the remaining principles into dogma and Lenin and Trotsky put it into action, the practice of Anarchy took an evil turn, just around the corner came the Gulags, the Cultural Revolution and Pol Pot.
But for a time there were dandelions. Those early Finn's, may have seen the dandelions in their road cuts and yards as we see them. Interlopers from Eurasia, leaderless and beautiful, pressing on, no matter how many times you cut them down. Every part of them is edible and useful: leaf, flower and root. Every part of them is tough and hardy. Lovely survivors. The model of a revolution if there ever was one.
That's why I never poison them, or ever try to think I can defeat them. Even when I cut them down, and I do, I know that they will come back ten fold. The dandelions and I are part of one big Union.
Spring clouds, Mothers day,
you are packing one more time.
Off shore, the whales wait.