The Transition River Lovers. New Myth #18 by Willi Paul
"The Transition River Lovers" - New Myth #18by Willi Paul

Striving to endure their first, perhaps bitter taste of the New World, pioneering Quakers awaiting the arrival of William Penn lived in caves dug into the muddy west bank of the Delaware River. Early settlers wintered in these caves in 1681; about one-third of Philadelphia's population was living underground the following year. After Penn's arrival in October, 1682, the caves continued to provide shelter while the settlers built homes close by or farther inland. In some cases, they may have been trying to stake a claim to an advantageous spot on the riverbank at which they hoped to build a house.
Quakers in Caves

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Squatters without Lords

They fell in love in a canoe two years ago and had to put out a tricky fire before hitting shore to start digging their cave house. One of the lover's favorite rituals is to strip to naked, run upstream and jump into the current holding wrapping around each other's body in a tumble weed ball and slowly rotate in a slow drift back to the dock by the cave.

Their watershed burrow is on former National Forest land. Free, chaos land now with few people attached. They are miles from the Permaculture Guild Meeting Tree and the former town garage turned Transition Assembly. Mountain bikers infrequent this zone, hunters ran out of bullets years ago. Fences are sporadic patches of poison ivy & rusty barbed wire. The river - a splashy channel for wading, rafting, washing, shiatsu, fishing, & escape.

Meet Jasmine & Ms. Commotion - nick names Jas & Como. Jas isn't a water child or a mariner, more like a corp. farm escapee from South Dakota! "How do we know where the maximum flood level of the river is?" she asked early on.

Dig the Regeneration

After digging out the interior of the cave in the dry season, the women knew they had to support the ceiling in the winter and spring when the water would seep- in. Inverse to their beaver buddies up stream, they relocated and bent small trees in a lattice work that also provides places to hook pots and pans and wet clothes. Venting the small cob stove with an old 6" tin pipe was easy until the thing pops out of the cave and into the air of the mound above. Como fashioned a circle hex of stones from the river to mark the area. She hopes an intruder will trip on a stone before tripping on the "tin hole."

The interior alchemy includes smaller chambers or ante-rooms for different uses using pieces of cloth bartered at the community flea market. The women positioned a row of dwarf fruit trees in front of the cave mouth to allow air flow while proving some camouflage for wondering spirits and animals.

Wheat grass hangs from the ceiling lattice work in recycled containers in the kitchen, a space that shares the warmth from the centralized cob stove with the living area. All sources of sustenance are sought or created and utilized: bartering, candle making, fishing, and foraging at the old landfill.

Jas is experimenting with a new way to propagate tasty mushrooms while juggling the permaculture principles of integration & setting limits to consumption. She has several varieties of 'shrooms growing around the inner edge of the cave opening, like a post-crash wreath or something, many are growing upside down. Ms. Commotion calls them "permacites!"

Is their hollowed-out river bank casa an example of biomimcry ? Perhaps just opportunistic? Or more like "survival of the transitionist"?

A River Mud Cob Love

Around the traditional harvest time, Como loves to cut and fashion an old vine into a 4' hoop. Her artistic vision wings around the river place - her waist and body in a wamo-esque whirl.

Lying on top of the mound, the ceiling of their mud hut, the tiny "Schumacherian Nature Observatory" fills with bugs and floating pollen, two holding hands as the stars get closer, a local love transition more real than ever.

Jasmine & Ms. Commotion spiral their spirits together each day & night with their Earth Mother: river - sky - soil - fire blend.