Vaudevillians, Advance!

A bus makes it 30 miles from Bellingham, WA — and sputters to a stop. A backpack is left by a driveway in Blue Lake, CA, complete with the Kitchen Manager’s clipboard. The person drafted to write a tour journal (that’s me, Revolva) did not pack a laptop.

In Reality-ville, any one of these situations might raise alarm. On the roads leading to Occidental, CA, they hardly raise an eyebrow.

“Welcome to Chautauqua!” has become a familiar refrain, just a few days into the 2010 Redwood Tour. Said with gusto and a huge grin (at moments of crisis), this phrase seems to be a reminder that surrendering to the unexpected is all part of the fun.

Suffice to say, the Bellingham crew switched buses and caught up with the rest of the tour by Saturday morning, Ben Farrell snatched the missing backpack on his way down to the San Francisco show, and well — there are so many laptops at this gorgeous, vineyard-side campsite in Occidental, CA that the only trouble with keeping you posted will be finding the resolve to sit at a computer instead of diving into the pond.

Chautauqua's first campsite, in Occidental, CA

Speaking of fun, on Saturday morning, Chautauqua 2010 rolled down to San Francisco’s Cowell Theater for “Keep the Faith,” a special show honoring Faith Petric. (See the first blog post on this page for more details). Approaching 95, Faith couldn’t tour this year — but also couldn’t shake her tribe of devoted vaudevillians, who brought the tour to HER. At a luncheon, Faith was celebrated for decades of loving guidance and also lauded for the impact her music has had on American consciousness.

The house was packed for the evening show, and everyone from longtime Chautauquan Tom Noddy (our intrepid MC) to first-timers Poetic Motion Machine (holy passing patterns!) wowed the audience. Not to mention how incredible it was to share the stage with Faith.

By the next morning (Sunday), we were itching to do it again. Insert a journey over to Sebastopol for a teaser show and a special parade through the local Whole Foods.  Jugglers in the produce section: Fantastico!

Mr P and Clever Trever tease the Sebastopol audience

The Fighting Istruments of Karma marching through Whole Foods in Sebastopol

Sunday and Monday were a new-to-Chautauqua retreat known as “The Advance.” The Advance basically evoked every emotion in the human spectrum: frustration, surprise, giddiness, extreme love. Parts of it were tedious (yet normal, if you’ve ever lived in intentional community). It took several hours and lots of strong feelings to realize that the only problem with the “Code of Conduct” agenda item — was that it just needed a new title like “Our Core Values” instead of “Code of Conduct.

Other parts of this two day retreat nearly made me explode with pride to to be a part of the tour. I cried a bit, in a good way, during what I’d consider the most poignant part of The Advance: hearing the history of New Old Time Chautauqua. As it turns out, this isn’t the first year a bus has broken down. Or crashed into a booth at the Canadian border.

Marie, Brinn and Sid tell act out the story of Brinn's wedding on Chautauqua

Through all the unexpected moments, though, I heard tales of people banding together, healing one another, reconnecting through laughter. Sid relayed the tale of the year Seiza was pregnant with Jasper, who decided to lounge around sideways in the womb. Everyone on Chautauqua gathered in a circle to send love to Seiza, and baby Jasper quickly shifted into a more healthy state.

“I heard you guys!” Jasper joked, as Sid finished his story. It struck me then that this tour has been going on for so long that some of the present-day members were literally born into Chautauqua. There are elders, adults, children; it really is a tribe.

And then, there is Rebo.  I never met “the heart of Chautauqua,” but I heard story after story of her musical talent, crazy toy collection and generous heart. She was so present in the collective memory, I couldn’t help but to feel that she was still on tour – and that no one will ever really leave this community. Even the ancestors are still here in spirit. Four days in to my first tour, I was already welling up with tears, feeling beyond lucky to be included. It’s magic. It’s reality. It’s how things should be.

So as we exit The Advance – and prepare to advance upon local communities (we’re going to entertain the socks off of Pt. Reyes tomorrow), I can sense that “Welcome to Chautauqua” signifies something special. In a kind-hearted community of wacky vaudevillians, it means that no matter how many things seem to go awry, everything will be alright. It means, “Welcome home.”

— Revolva

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One Response to Vaudevillians, Advance!

  1. howard says:

    As I recall, we all chanted “turn, baby, turn!”. He wasn’t sideways, he was all the way upside down (that is, right side up) and had no intention of ever coming out of there. We talked him into it, though…

    I love you, Tribe! I’m having a fantastic time being a Professional Environmental Scientist! Today I surveyed species for a riparian restoration project; before that I did a forestry survey for a project to improve the health of the forest. I’m saving the planet, personally, habitat by habitat – a foot soldier in the battle for Mother Earth. Have a great tour, and hooray for the blog!

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