Monday, March 20, 2017

Gathering


Folks exhibit a primordial need to gather together occasionally. This fact was confirmed in my study of primitive peoples at Berkeley. I watched a lot of ethnographic documentaries about such gatherings, the most interesting of which concerned the Yanomami of South America. Even after groups of Yanomami fission into multiple tribes, headmen feel the need to reconnect and arrangements are made for reunions. Many of these get-togethers are highly ceremonial: warriors don fierce costumes; women display foods; children find fresh playmates; machetes and blowguns are exchanged.

I mused on this facet of human existence during the recent Jonquil Festival at Old Washington. Food vendors and trinket peddlers were joyous in their profitable work as strangers, potential customers, moiled about. I, even I, your humble columnist, moiled awhile and purchased a bamboo flute and a burger and fries. The burger reminded me of the county fair food of my youth. The mournful tone of the flute takes my imagination to some remote place, full of the throb of recollection.

Thousands of people attended the famous Old Washington event and Saturday the park was virtually clogged with all sorts and conditions of people and dogs. The poor animals had that “let-me-out-of-here” look on their sad faces. I admired their benign acceptance of bizarre human behavior.

But, what about the jonquils? It is, after all, a festival celebrating this wonderful flower. Well, there were still some left, maybe 30 percent. As you know, we have had a most unusual phase of weather in the late winter. The little yellow flowers started showing up in early February. I saw one vendor selling bulbs, but people were not flocking to buy them. I guess they know that there are old home places around with grown-over yards full of them.

Our yard still has a few, though they are browning a bit. Our house, built by the writer Claud Garner in 1918, is smack in the middle of everything and, as we sat on our screened-in porch for respite, watching the great variety of bipeds and quadrupeds stroll by, an elderly man (my age) saw us, came up our walk and said, “I’ll sit and talk to you all for a while.” He did so. We enjoyed getting acquainted, even hearing his heart about the recent passing of his wife.

Shortly, I saw a couple of professors, former colleagues, and I beckoned to them to come to the porch for a visit. It was great to see these folks again. We reconnected and solved all the problems of contemporary higher education in less than 15 minutes. Too bad no one took notes.

As the scholarly couple left, an octogenarian lady came up the walk. She had gotten separated from her convalescent group bussed in for the event and wanted to see our house. I gave her a tour.

After the festival, we went to a multiple-church supper and both my appetite and the human need to connect were cloyed. I want to be alone for a while now.

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