Summer Colors: Shadowslo of Murray Valley

Wren on February 18th, 2010

Seasons spiral. Playful, clever kittens become standoffish cats, parsnips become stirfry. People spiral, too. After a year of traversing the wilds of The Ozarks and Kentucky, I came full circle and landed where I started, at Heathcote Community. And Iuval spun out too, landing in Atlanta, answering his son’s call.

In the same, transient way, things come and things go. Shoes become air-conditioned foot coverings, nations become archaeology.

About a month ago, my ex-partner let me know that he gave away his bio-diesel schoolbus, Shadowslo. Just gave it away. In the same moment I felt like someone had died and I was impressed. I was also confused. Didn’t he need the bus for housing at his new Intentional Community? Why give away such a basic resource, just when he was launching his project?

“I’m in this meditation group and we were given an assignment to give away something of value. Most people were giving away rings or things like that. But then I met these people and they said they’d always wanted a veggie bus. It just seemed right.”

Wow. I wonder if I could do that. I also wonder if it’s smart, but mainly, I wonder if I could do it. This gift is no kidney, but it’s certainly on the order of Pay It Forward. I wonder what the people who accepted his gift thought of his act. I notice my shelfishness in wishing I could have seen Shadowslo one last time, to remember our shelf on that mountain in Murray Valley, Arkansas and say goodbye.

When I ponder my relationship to my possessions, I’m fond of saying, “If my house burned down tomorrow and I lost everything in it, as long as the pets got out, my quality of life would be the same.” I don’t know how deeply I mean that or not, now that I realize it’s not the same as saying, “Come on in and take anything you like. I won’t miss it!”

Iuval’s a big Howard Zinn fan and since Zinn’s recent death, I’ve been reading his A People’s History of the United States. Zinn makes a clear point of American Indians’ relationship to possessions, how they gave of them freely and seemed to lack attachment, and how most resources were communally held. He notes also how, although Europeans sometimes wrote of this with admiration, they universally went on to exploit it.

Even so, I believe that simplicity, especially in turning away from material things, is the path to be desired. It’s what will serve us now. If we can lighten the demands we make on the planet and begin to conceive of resources as communal, we might make it.

So, dear readers, I knew the departed well. Shadowslo never traveled when I knew him. He stood firm where Iuval had planted him, on a densely wooded mountain. He got his water from a spring and only took what he needed. Tents  and cars came and went around him. Sometimes he was alone on that mountain for weeks at a time, ready, solar batteries charged, waiting, for Iuval to return.

I heard the stories of Shadowslo’s adventures, trips to the West Coast, rock festivals with Iuval’s son, Zac, tours of Intentional Communities with his previous partner, Christina, Saint Christina to some.

Legend had it that no state trooper could lay eyes upon this organically painted hippie house rolling down the interstate at the speed limit and resist pulling it over.

The mountain folk of Murray Valley will no doubt tell the tales of Shadowslo, driving onto the mountain, on that dirt road laid out using plans designed by a kitten with string. And then, 2 years later, Shadowslo repeated the feat, taking an entire day and several shouting matches to go six miles.

Now there are the Atlanta legends, in which Shadowslo and Iuval, seemingly together to stay, landed in a friend’s yard as the leaves changed, and Iuval’s life changed, bringing one last change to our faithful steed.

Shadowslo could be said to have heart and soul and a kitchenette. He sheltered and carried and rested. He obeyed Iuval’s every command, unless his fuel was rancid or his headlight popped out. He kept out the rain, wind, ice and snow, but not mice.

But despite his motor and mobility, and his fold down solar shower, Shadowslo was an object, a possession, a parcel that could be bartered, sold or given away.

Even more than this, Shadowslo was a gift to those who knew him. And so, let us offer him into his next service, a gift of some randomness and shock value, which is always interesting, maybe even poetic.


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