This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville, and a long time advocate for the cannabis community in Mendocino Co; more of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
As I travel through this journey of life, I form relationships with family, friends, community. We share in the joys and tribulations, the great happenings and the tragic sorrows. We hold each other up, supporting and holding the burdens and reveling in the good times. I spent the weekend in a beautiful place, camping with community, sharing in food and drink, music and revelry.
After two years of pandemic, gatherings have an additional special feel, catching up with folks I haven’t seen in far too long. Changes have happened for all of us, young people have grown, beloved elders have passed on. Life continues with the inevitable passage of time, and I take a moment to reflect and feel the gratitude of human relationships and the beauty of nature.
There is something so precious nestled within and among us, so subtle that it often slips by in the hustle and bustle of busy lives. We see in each other the strengths and weaknesses of mortal, human creatures, and we make each other stronger by recognizing the shared places in which we find ourselves. We experience smiles and joy, the trickling brook, the crashing waves, the sun and sand on our skin, and we are changed for the better.
So often I fail to take the time to get out, but when I do make the effort I’m always glad of the results. I draw energy from interactions with others, sharing meals, telling stories, catching up where we left off when last we crossed paths. I see the children growing older, the young people becoming adults, my peers stepping into middle age. I treasure the elders, and seek the wisdom and lessons that they offer.
Life is precious. Within the stress and intensity of the daily journey I lose sight of the depth and magic within, yet it is always there, just below the surface. Taking time out to gather reminds me of what I value, showing me a mirror so that I can assess my choices and practices.
It’s been far too long since I played much music, and I found deep joy in bringing out my box drum and brushes around the campfire. I realized this weekend that I’ve been playing percussion instruments for more than 25 years, and yet I still feel like I have so much to learn about music.
I had the chance to play drums with other drummers and with players of string instruments and flutes. We shared in the joy of music, the improvisation of it within the structure of rhythm and cadence. We sang old songs and made up new ones, reveling in the shared experience. Music is like life, both routine and unique, mundane and special. We find ourselves in the spaces between, looking for the pocket within the beat.
There is a trance state that comes with deep percussion, especially when combined with cannabis, mushrooms or other mind altering substances. Playing deep into the night, switching up the rhythms, leading and following each other through the beat brings a depth of soul and feeling that I value.
Music ebbs and flows in my life, sometimes a strong force that has me enjoying the group effort of practice and playing shows, and sometimes a background that I listen to but don’t participate in. Sometimes I go long stretches without playing, but every time that I return to the music it is there like an old friend, ready to pick up where we left off.
Over the years I’ve gotten more comfortable, able to play different types of music with the enjoyment that comes from presence in song. All else drops away, there is little thinking, just the present moment and the sounds of the instruments. That feeling when it all hits right and everyone starts smiling and nodding is one of the biggest joys in my life.
Every time I have a proper session I think to myself “I want to be more regular with music, not to set it aside until the next camping trip months later.” Sometimes I even stick with it, playing and practicing for a while until it slips away with the busyness of farming. This is one of those times when I feel refreshed and excited, wanting to continue playing more often. To the teachers, the players of instruments, the singers of songs; thank you! May the rhythm find you well, and as always, much love and great success to you on your journey!