observation and design

Yesterday, during a meeting, an Empire Mine State Park ranger spoke about improving the accessibility of their facility, and how she followed the wheelchair tracks where they diverged from the planned grades to discover the best routes. This was design by observation, the best kind of design. Consensual knowledge is usually better than any single person can develop and good observation can discover the wisdom of the collective.

There is the path, worn by the passage of feet that winds from the Salvation Army parking lot, up the hill to the old Grass Valley public library.  Unplanned, unpaved, and persistent, this way marks the easy and natural track. In the winter the librarians post a notice, requesting patrons to wipe the mud from this trail off their shoes.  There are tracks cut across the unnatural perpendicular corners of city streets and through gardens and weedy lots, and worn deep into mountainsides. Deer tracks, cow trails, Indian roads worn by wagon ruts and railroads and the concrete highway.  We came this way carrying our tools, our weapons, our gifts, our children, and the prints of our feet pointed the way for those who were to follow.

Self-sufficiency is stupid, if not downright impossible. Pioneering is dangerous.  We are resilient in our diversity but we know the way because others have walked these paths before.  Over time the road becomes easier, the route better marked and better served, and the pioneers have gone ahead to other, less traveled trails, because that is the way they are, the circling scouts and the wolves, living on the edge.

Our hungry egos are so desirous of recognition, of devotion.  My friend, the now retired ex-chief engineer, is missing being the HMFIC (Head mother-fucker in charge), the big man who makes the decisions.  He misses the ships, the solitude, taking a cup of coffee in the morning and watching the curling waves, glittering drops in the sunrise, separate and merge into the unity of the mother ocean.

The promise and hope of evolutionary progress is that positive change happens despite our individual efforts.  There is inspiration and brilliance. There is the bright spark that shines briefly over the campfire, and I want to create something unique and brilliant, but the best songs that I come up with are the ones that sound familiar, the ones that people think they already know; like fish, pulled on lines of deep observation, out of the archetypical unconscious.