Arcata, CA – “Ancestors”- Cafe Tomo – July 7, 1999

“DO NOT FEED THE BEARS,” read a placard on our picnic table—as though we needed to be told. If I’d seen a bear, giving it a little turkey club on rye would be the last thing on my mind. The Red Wood Forest was an emerald marvel to behold. The sunlight, a mosaic on the ground, was broken up by 600-year-old trees branches on its way to Earth.

Standing under a 2,000-year-old redwood is a lesson in humility. I couldn’t help but imagine that maybe my many-times-great-grandfather encountered this tree as a young sapling. Perhaps he was strolling with Jesus, who also walked the earth when this tree first broke through the soil. I pictured my ancestor (80 generations removed) gazing at the tiny tree, pondering what it would look like in 2,000 years, wondering if some distant granddaughter—me—might one day stand beneath its towering branches and wonder back at him. This thought made me feel profoundly connected and exquisitely small.

At our roadside rest stop we set our beefy red cooler on a beefy bench and made beefy sandwiches with flimsy plastic knives from cold cuts we bought at a crunchy co-op this morning. At that crunchy co-op, we’d witnessed (for the first time ever) a real live “dumpster dive.”

We were just finishing breakfast in the parking lot. Moby’s double doors were swung wide to let in the Northern California sunshine. Kenny, disgruntled by a poor choice of a dill-heavy egg salad sandwich, had gone outside to throw it over the ledge of a deep green dumpster. Seconds later, a large band of hippies drove up in a brown Scoobie-Doobie Mystery Mobile. What seemed like 30 (but was probably only 5) dreadheads rolled out of the vehicle wearing layers of loose hemp and macramé beaded necklaces. The biggest and burliest hoisted the rest over the ledge and they dove like vultures into the big mouthed belly of the putrid dumpster. Less than 30 seconds later, all divers poked their dreaded heads back above the trashy lip of the container.

As they clamored out of the pit, wouldn’t ya know it, one of those dirty hippies had the remainder of Kenny’s saran-wrapped egg salad sandwich! We watched them dash back to their mystery wagon, close the door and peel out of the parking lot as we stared, open-mouthed, in disbelief. Before that moment all five of us were sure dumpster diving was a thing of urban legend. As we wrapped up our own meal, we laughingly imagined the divers, between tokes, divvying up Kenneth’s tinny scrappy doo sandwich, singing “Sugar Magnolia” on their way to their next dumpster dinner.

The show last night was utterly fantastic. Lincoln, the promoter, called before we got there and asked if we wanted him to book some natural hot spring tubs for us after we finished sound check. That’s an example of the brand of hospitality on offer at Café Tomo. At the venue, the staff fed us fresh sushi and poured us strong drinks on the house. Café Tomo put us up in a grand hotel, The Hotel Arcata, on the town square. It had fancy marble floors, bathrooms with claw foot bathtubs, and dark sturdy, wooden furniture. The hotel manager left us a handwritten note next to a bowl of fancy fruit and the rest of the staff offered us hearts on their sleeves. We felt so welcome.

Each of us took turns scrubbing the road off our tired legs and arms in the luxurious bathroom. The rest of us watched a Lynyrd Skynyrd VH-1 Special on an enormous TV in the air-conditioned room.

Café Tomo was packed when we arrived for our show. The woman opening for us was an acoustic act who enjoyed teaching the audience the chorus to her songs in hopes they’d sing along. She sang about butterflies and gypsies and saving the trees. I felt right at home the whole night.

People were dying to dance. They swirled and twirled doing the dances we refer to as: “The Chicken” distinguished by flailing bent arms moving in and then away from one’s sides, and “The Making Boxes,” come on, you know it…you’ve done it too….It’s the dance where you make little boxes in the air with your hands in front of you and then you push them away behind you. If you’ve ever gone to a Dead Show you know what we’re talking about.

Our music was fueled by the audience’s dancing and loving smiles and the end of the night came too soon.

Now we’re packing up our picnic and headed out of the forest on our way to Oregon. But before I leave the redwoods behind, I would be remis if I didn’t say one last thing. If you, dear reader, ever find yourself in a lonely or disconnected state, I strongly recommend a trip to The Redwood Forests in Northern California. After forest bathing in this ancient grove, I can’t shake the feeling of being part of something much larger than myself. Standing under those ancient trees, imagining the countless generations that have come and gone, is a humbling reminder of our place in this world. It’s a connection that reaches back through time and forward into the future, linking us all in the shared experience of life. So, as you go about your day today, I ask that you take a moment to think about your ancestors who’ve walked this path before you and the descendants who will follow.

We’re all part of this continuous story, and it’s one worth honoring, respecting and reflecting on every now and again. Safe travels, and may your journey today, and every day, be filled with wonder and connection.

Reader interactions

3 Replies to “Arcata, CA – “Ancestors”- Cafe Tomo – July 7, 1999”

  1. Sally,

    Guess where I am? I’m here to see someone pretty famous do a show at RED ROCKS!!

    Had to tell you – was waiting at the airport to get picked up by my cousin. Suddenly someone else’s ride pulled up with “Carolina in my Mind” blaring on the stereo. A whole bunch of white haired boomers got in – they were very excited!

    I don’t think I’m *quite* in that demographic but maybe I am? Anyway – I am back home, looking at the never ending prairie and the beautiful Rockies straight ahead. I, too, feel connected to something larger.

    Rock on! -Cindy

    1. Have a great night at Red Rocks!!!! Wish I were there. Such connection.

      1. I was thinking it would be AWESOME if you were here, but I didn’t want to approach glom-ness so I didn’t say it! 😀

        Off to Boulder today to eat on Pearl Street and take my husband on a “memory lane” tour on Campus! 🏔️

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