Yes, Earth Day has come and gone. And the Earth still does her best to support us. I was invited to an open mike Earth Day event on Friday night, and asked to read a story of mine. I chose “The Trees of Taylor Camp”–which I had to rewrite from the original, and to which I have added pictures!
About writing, telling stories or otherwise engaging the attention of others:
Lesson 1: It’s OK and sometimes necessary to junk big wonderful pieces of created work, to make the whole even better. So I did.
Lesson 2: Sometimes, one is better than two. And it is.
Here is my story, first published in its original form in the late, great Circle Magazine.
The Trees at Taylor Camp, Kauai.
by Kate Bowditch
You can take the road north out of Kapa’a, on the Island of Kauai. The island is round, so the road doesn’t go north for long.
Follow it anyway, to its very end.
You will pass through tiny, wonderful towns. You will see jungle. You will see the ocean off one shoulder, with mountain vistas off your other shoulder.
You will pass through a great, arching tunnel of trees, cross one-lane bridges, and marvel at the roosters.
You always see roosters, in Kauai.
When the road ends, you have arrived at a trail-head, on your left. If you are willing to walk thirteen miles of trail with an open invitation to your early death on the ocean rocks below, you will get to a magical place called the Kalalau Valley.
I didn’t go there.
I lost interest at “thirteen miles,” let alone at “early death”…..so, I looked to the right.
Stretching along the beach, just there, is a deeply tree-filled place once called Taylor Camp.
The sunset is perfect every night here. This space has a history all its own.
This beach and the land behind it were purchased in the 1960’s by one Howard Taylor, resident of Kauai and brother of Elizabeth Taylor. His original purpose was to build himself a home there. That was thwarted by the state, which had other plans for the area.
In anger, Mr. Taylor invited a small group of main-landers who had been jailed for vagrancy, to set up tents on this property.
The group quickly expanded to a fairly large, unrelated population who were part of what was known then as “Hippies”, or “Flower Power” people.
A mostly young, free-thinking group of people grew there. As building permits were denied for any permanent structure connected to the ground, their houses, made of plywood, bamboo and plastic, were built up in the trees that still fill the land near the beach.
The trees held them, sheltered them, and became home to them all.
The place became known as Taylor Camp.
The campers lived there. They worked or didn’t work, gardened, set up public showers and toilets, and had meetings and babies. In general, they lived together in a normal way. They had no police; they did have a non-denominational church.
Apparently, they did not do much fishing. There were orderly trash-pits, and a school.
There weren’t very many clothes…
They lived there, got stoned there, swapped stories there, made music and love…all up in and around the trees. These trees, in turn, shaded and protected them.
It was a strange and glistening moment in our history, when this type of community could happen, and did happen, in Kauai and other places in the US.
The campers are all gone now. The land was turned into a state park, and the people were ousted. Many went back to society and now have kids and grand-kids, barbecues and 401K’s. Some have retirement homes.
Some didn’t return to “proper” society, preferring to float away on its edges.
I could almost hear the sound of the campers from back then as I walked under those trees. Distant voices, too faint to follow.
Those sturdy trees remain.
The ocean’s waves have sucked the sand from under the trees nearest the beach. The trees now perch high on their roots. They link their root-arms for support, dancing like Greek men, just there, on the beach.
I could almost hear a different sound, too. A low laughter, coming from those dancing tree roots.
I felt watched by someone I couldn’t quite see; someone who remembers good times of no care, good humor, and a gentle way of life.
There were Tree Spirits alive in those roots. I could almost hear their voices.
Three of them have become like old friends since that first visit. They have names now.
There’s Grouch, with his patched eye and general disapproval of life.
There’s Snort, stoned and sucking on his coconut juice.
And Mr. Hilarious….
More have revealed themselves to me over time:
Charge (the Elephant),
and Little Bird
All, revealing themselves in these roots. Alive and dynamic, they watch us in good humor as our quick lives flicker before them.
Will there be a reunion of the Taylor Camp members? What would that look like?
Who, returning, would call each tree by name?
Who would know exactly where their house had been?
Who would not be sure?
What grandchild would know her way, the first time, to Grandpa’s tree?
And what would the Tree Spirits do at such a reunion?
They would probably laugh, remember when, gather new memories, and continue dancing there, just there, on the beach.
***Happy Earth. Day, week, year, eon….
P.S. Get your copy of my drawing of these Tree Spirits, to download and color!, and see my other drawings to color at: www.etsy.com/shop/adultcoloringhotspot