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Giger’s Harvest Tradition at Root River

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    Giger, former Prep Cook and L.A. Antiquer, now the ageless handyman at the “last resort” called OddFellows Park, cited between Forestville and Guerneville, Sonoma County, CA. Son of Merle and Biff Stormgate, he was born in 1958 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Besides a broken-down stop sign and a shady grey 25 cent wash’n’dry, this Redwood bend in the road offers a boat dock for the tourists where Giger launches his annual fall trip to the family ruin on the Root River.

    A pontoon boat decked out with Grateful Dead stickers and a propane stoked kitchenette and a blow-up sleeping pad; an oar and a tiny outboard propeller to navigate the flood prone Root.

    It’s time-off for Giger, 3 miles downstream at the old Stormgate summer Mansion, a food forest and berry batch is weighted with apples, peaches and blackberries. His rituals dance in a submerged dock; the fire pit and the river’s shoreline. All give face to the Harvest Tradition.

    A tradition, weaving time:

    “The River is the future. Water is the one thing we count on around here for the crops and wine.” He calls to the Black Bird on this bow. But the NorCal drought of the last 7 years and counting has almost killed what little farming forecasting he has culminated.

    “I love that fire pit.” Giger is a grass burner, in more ways than one. “Fire is now.”

    Mumbling, he dribbles out something like: “That fucking old House.” These days Giger’s past is more akin to a barn yard rummage sale running down his paint peeled heart.

    * * * * * * * *

    Please understand that this is a symbol-fueled redneck who lives in the “The in between” spaces like the morning fog; the semi-yearly rising and climaxing of the Root flood water; like the sticky smoke from his fire pit; the cries of the old boards falling off the house; and the curvy dirt-spray on the shore line.

    Giger knows all about this nature / conscious – unconscious border stuff.

    His Symbols? “River – Shore / Bank – Fire Pit – House.”

    He dreams about his geography. He would explain what he thinks is his calling: that his life’s Journey is also his Tradition. And throw in a few easy rituals for glue.

    * * * * * * * *

    In many ways, Giger is like his old boat dock, sunken and decaying. A nice, old riparian growth. He loves to tell tour guests how the River is more akin to Time Travel – she gives us escape and shadow; a cool dive into mystery. He claims that the Root is the real Hero and a Human / Nature Interchange. Don’t we all get that the River is multi-channel; a wildlife corridor?

    But you must know that wondrous feeling from jumping off the edge of the boat and hitting the shore? One second of suspended life. Understand the transition between River and land. This is Giger’s personal bioregion.

    The pontoon party of one bangs all birds and beers to the bottom of the vessel.

    Let the rituals begin.

    * * * * * * * *

    Traditions are usually built on the backs of short-term, often seasonal rituals. Nature powered, often fire started.

    Giger throws his fresh fish on the bank and ties up the boat with an old blue plastic rope. Over the next two days he will be busy with the harvest ritual: picking the fruit from the food forest and the berries from the co-starring thorny bushes. All are sealed in large ziplocks while the stems and leaves are piled next to the fire pit.

    Evenings feature the burning ritual: the fire pit as caldron and alchemist. Dried grasses, leaves, old house debris and fish bones are up in flame and smoke. Giger gives thanks and sleeps next to the coals.

    Fire Alchemy is the binder or spirit glue between “The Artifact, the Archetype and the Human.” The burnt and crusted Fire Pit material is delayed compost – next year all these elements create a potent soil compost which Giger takes home to his garden.

    Last year’s pit coal ritual is this years’ soil – bagged prize for the return. In the final ritual, Giger lights a candle in the old house to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and renewed spirit with a prayer for another safe river run next year.

    He mutters: “Tradition is Hope is Connectedness is Binding Nature with Human Kindness…”

    * * * * * * * *

    The Root River pontoon outboard engine wails. Giger? Refreshed.

    Preserving a little Spiritual Echo until he repeats this Harvest Tradition Circle next year.

    * * * * * * * *

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