The original "Ocean-O" dream of Franis' …
It’s night. I’m walking up the hill where Bolinas does its Sun Festival through the eucalyptus trees, hearing drums. Two people are carrying bulky stuff together on the path behind me, so I have to stand aside to let them pass. They look familiar, but something about the woman was odd. Then I realize that I am dreaming, because she has oriental features and red, curly hair. The combination is racially impossible, so that’s when I realize that I am dreaming.
She was dressed in festival costume, with feathers and a mask as some sort of indigenous forest primitive. As I looked around at the other people who were behind me, they too had a racially impossible appearance, a crazy genetic mixture of all races, but with none of the traits recessive. There was even an albino child.
I followed the woman and her partner, helping to carry some of the burden of the people behind me. The grass was wet, but the temperature was warm, very unlike Bolinas weather. It was even tropical weather. Rarely Bolinas will feel something like this - on a night in the middle of January after a warm southern storm blows through, pushing a cold front aside. But now the climate had actually changed, it was really hot.
We walked for some time. The people behind those I was walking with sang as they walked, beautiful weaving, harmonies, like the vocals of South Pacific Lifou tribe. Then I saw where we were going in the moonlight - a large building, the barn on Evergreen Road. There were lights dangling from the walls, teensy little lights like Christmas lights on the ends of strings.
As I passed the threshold, someone was leaving and touched me as I was pushing past them to get in. I spotted a moving picture bracelet on the their arm. It was a tiny video communicator. The screen was on and they were talking to someone by putting their mouth close to their wrist as they were walking away. This put the time of the dream in the future, but that notion was soon challenged.
I looked around the large space. It seemed to be a barn. Half of the barn had been sectioned off into a very large room where music was coming from. I could hear people were singing inside. I could see the sound vibrating the walls. I had to walk around to find the doorway. It was full of people who momentarily parted, inviting me to peer in. Inside, it was wall to wall people, but many people were dancing in place so it was easy to get them to move aside and push through to see what was happening in the inside of the circle.
The drummers, who turned out to be playing drums that sounded more like huge tablas than congas, were against the walls. The crowd had left an empty part of an oval shaped circle in the middle, where a small person in a bird costume whirled around. A poem was being recited by a group standing together at the end of the crowd in a Greek chorus sort of way, but I couldn't make out the words. The phrases seemed to be English words, but the syntax was all mixed up, as poetry often is. As I listened closer, I heard a language that had a different syntax from the one I knew, although the words were in English. It was as if they were talking in poetry all the time. The person whirling in the middle was a child who was acting out what the poem was illustrating, which seemed to be a fable, complete with a moral.
Someone in the crowd repeated a phrase that the talking chorus had said. Evidently the ongoing poem was a part of an epic that everyone seemed to know. The person next to them with a stronger voice echoed it, putting in their own variation to the musical phrase, but singing the next line of the words that everyone else seemed to know. It was pretty easy to sing along with the people nearby. I seemed to know the words. Everyone was here to participate. Soon the people nearby were repeating these musical variations on the same phrase until a handful of people were singing together on the same rhythmic cadence.
On the other side of the group another person is now answering with a harmony in a completely different rhythm pattern, out of sync with the first. The drums on the walls were now playing a calypso type beat, very happy and bouncy but quiet so people's voices could be heard.
As the people close by each other started a phrase, only those near them would pick it up and repeat it. After six or so people were singing together, someone else would start another variation of the phrase, developing a rhythm, cadence or sound …and building on it to take it somewhere. Like a remembering game, the cadences would get more complex. If you couldn’t follow, you could just sing the notes that you could and leave room for others. That's how everyone could sound as if they were singing different parts; they were singing “outline” parts. Those who could handle more musical complexity had support. Other cadences would start up on the opposite side of the circle, so soon there were more than three "factions" of harmony sounding out of phase with each other in beautiful poly-rhythms.
It was quite complex, but nobody seemed to be overwhelmed. Evidently, the singing was being improvised purely by ear. People joined in at whatever level they could handle. If you had a louder voice, you were pushed by others to be up closer to the center of the group. But even the people who were in the back were dancing and singing.
Somehow I got closer to the inside of the circle. Maybe now I could see what was going on. How could fifty people improvise together like this, was it some kind of signaling they were doing?
Then I saw how anyone could get the attention of the group... There was a juggling game going on that the people in the front of the circle were playing. They had a light staff - almost five feet tall with pompoms on the end of it - people spun it in a vertical plane, just in front of where people were standing, everyone reaching out, from hand to hand everyone kept it spinning in the air. Evidently the staff wasn't heavy or it was made out of something that couldn’t hurt people. When it dropped, someone would run into the circle to easily pick it up and started it moving again.
In a way it was an enormous "talking stick". At the moment someone had something special to perform, they could grab the staff when it came to them or pick it up when it fell. People would pre-prepare a special performance and wait to do it when the group came to that part of the poem. When they were done, they would produce the staff that had been hidden during their prepared part and toss it back to the group. From the surprise and delight on the faces of the people when someone would grab the staff, nobody knew which parts of the passion play someone had prepared a special performance for until that part in the epic happened.
But that was nothing next to what was being acted out in the center. Many things happened out of sequence in the circle, leaving me to make sense out of what had happened after I woke up… so I’ll try to put them into a different perspective here. Or maybe I’ll just tell them how they happened and later you can make your own sense of them…
People moved out of the way. They revealed a pile of dancers who had crouched together in a huddle; the circle moved over to shift those huddled people could be in the center. Someone tossed out enormous rolls of black so that the crisscrossed strands covered these huddled dancers; the crowd played with the black material, billowing it like a giant parachute until it rested down over the dancers again. Everyone sang a hypnotic song, making me resist falling back into a lull of unconsciousness and sleep.
Some other things happened out of sequence. I can’t recall all of it, but it made me believe that a great deal of time had passed in the story. Water was sprayed on the crowd and people pretended as if they were dying en masse. The drums stopped suddenly; there were more doors that burst open and people, dripping with water in wetsuit fish-headed costumes. Squishy, they pushed their way through the crowd; people scrambled to get out of their way. Many more people crowded into the center, covered with sand from the ocean. Evidently these people had become a Polynesian maritime culture that followed the dolphins when a geological cataclysm had hit. It was “Noah's Arc” all over again. Most of the world had been destroyed when the poles had shifted.
People and instruments made a zzzzz sound with their teeth together, turning it into an eeeeeeee noise, then going up the scale in thirds. They mouthed the vowels so the harmonics came forth on top of the simple harmonies as voices staggered up the scale. It sounded a little like the Tuvan throat singing, but done it a group the whole effect was hypnotic and mind expanding.
“So this was how they learned to talk Animal language!” I thought in the dream.
Unexpectedly, the fish-headed people sprang into action. I looked at them and saw that they weren’t fish masks, but dolphin people. They tore open the black trap, freeing the dancers who were still huddled inside. The dolphin people began to dig the dancers out of quick sand that had formed in a hole in the wood floor of the barn!
The huddled dancers slowly began to emerge from the pile, coming to life; slowly unwinding their limbs from each other. The dolphin people unwinding the gray wrappings of the huddled dancers, spinning them as the wrappings came off… revealing brightly colored animal costumes that were underneath the coverings. Somehow, when the people were buried in the sand, they became possessed by the spirits of mythical animals. Strangely…the tigers were considered to be just as fantastic as the unicorns.
One by one these dancers spiraled up to take their place in the crowd. Each one had a moral or fable that continued the story. Each animal they portrayed had some wisdom to offer humanity to keep the world together. The dancers handed out shells with fortunes in them that were sayings from the different species of animals. After reading one the these fortunes, I walked out of the doorway to mark how I was going to remember everything that I had seen. The fortune had said, “An upward and forward movement, initiated in time, can counter-act fate. “
…and I woke up. I thought, Oh my… I put myself into the same position that I had been dreaming in and fell back asleep again.
Almost immediately, I was back out side the doorway at the same place where I’d left off and the passion play was still going on…the longer it went on, the further back into the past the stories seemed to be from.
A previous story began to be acted out in front of me. It was a creation myth. The earth was once attached to the sun. In fact all the planets were a part of the sun, thrown off from it with incredible force when they were separated. But the earth didn’t want to leave the sun. It didn’t want to feel separated, but there was nothing the earth could do faced with explosive forces. The earth cried, and that’s where the seas came from.
Suddenly I got the understanding that all of this had happened before. Meaning, humanity had come to a certain level of civilization and been absolutely wiped out back to the Stone Age by a flood many, many times. What I was seeing before me had been played out so many times that it was beyond the capacity of any evidence of history, even in rock and fossil. We were doing the passion play to preserve this knowledge that led to humanity’s downfall so many times before. This time, because of the cultivation of art, civilization’s knowledge wasn’t going to be lost again. We were going to beat jealousy, war and conflict in the human race through the study of our arts.
I walked out again to take a breath of what I was seeing. I knew that I couldn’t sustain the dreaming state much longer because I was so excited about what and how I was seeing. I calmed myself down and entered the room again to see another story going on. (Later I found this story, or something very much like it in a myth of dreamtime stories from the New Zealand Maori. I must have been told the story as a child but had forgotten it completely.
A female dolphin “Queen” spent quite a lot of time listening to the tales of the world from the ocean floor. Her “King” dolphin was peeved that she wanted to be being under the water compared to playing with him - dolphins have sex ten times a day. Instead, she was down on the sea bottom with her storyteller, inside his shell, telling tales about the world being a shell itself. The shellfish species called the world Ocean-O. Each shell next to its’ neighbor preserved the news of everywhere, with nothing better to do, tied to each to each other by neighborliness all over the seven seas.
The “King” dolphin felt insidiously jealous. He plotted to get rid of the particular shellfish that his “Queen” spent her time listening to. He had no idea that shellfish were the gossips of the sea and any of them would have done the same for the "Queen".
The “King” dolphin got his other dolphin friends to raise some trouble. At first they merely rooted up the offending shellfish that had been talking to the “Queen”. But then it was a war of dolphins everywhere rooting up the homes of the shellfish. But there were many more shellfish than dolphins, so the word went out. The sharks decided to take advantage of the situation and cornered the distracted dolphins. The sea became a bloodbath Soon all of the dolphins were killed by the sharks.
…All except the female who had swum down to comfort the remaining shellfish that had lost their relatives the dolphins were throwing around on the surface. The shellfish were the first to know how the sharks had set out to take advantage of the dolphins. They moved their shells over the “Queen” dolphin to protect her, giving her air the keep inside their own shells. Covered by the shells, she was the only dolphin who lived – to bear the male child inside her.
It seems that people souls were the same as the souls of dolphins of a previous lifetime. People were born on land to work out lessons that the dolphins couldn’t learn. Jealousy was the beginning of the idea of war and conflict, taken to the extreme of nationalism.
This is why dolphins wanted to help out people when the cataclysm hit and the poles shifted on the earth as it was split apart, because they were helping their own relative’s souls. They knew that all animals were related from the wisdom of the lowly shellfishes.
Then I woke up again… I turned on the tape recorder that was sitting next to my bed, and I sang what I remembered…
We all come from the Ocean-O
In the day we see the light come up
In the night we see the sun go down
And as I walk along the cliff
I see the gulls so high above
And as I walk along the sand
I scatter birds the cry of
They cry Ocean-O Ocean
They fly by Ocean-O Ocean
They ride on Ocean-O
Ocean-O, Oh, Ocean-O, Oh
We all come from the Ocean-O
We come from the Ocean-O
We ride on the Ocean-O
We swim in Ocean-O
We sing of Ocean-O
Take chances, Celebration
Be in motion
Like the Ocean-O
At festival everything goes
We let go all our woe
Time become a joyous high
Like a bird we can learn to fly
What do you do, where there’s time
Work and play all can rhyme
Life become a joyous high
Like a bird, we can learn to fly
Everybody here we feel the same
We just start with a different change
We just all have a different pain
We just all have a different gain
We just all have a different place
We just all have a different face
We still are the human race
Same face, we have the same face
We are the human face
We share the same place
Same pain, we feel the same pain
Just a different face
Same rain we feel the same rain
Just a different place
Same change, we fell the same change
We are the same race
With our animal face
We are the same race as
Our animal traces
With animal faces
This can be
Time from now
Time when you will
Find out how
You can be
Who you want
When you remember
When you wake up