How the Ocarina came into my Life

My first ocarina was given to me by Ed Jackson in 1984; he bought it for me at the Himalayan Fair in Live Oak Park in Berkeley. It was a little round doughnut affair with finger holes on the top. In retrospect, I believe he made some sort of prophetic remark about the ocarina becoming important in my life.

The second time the ocarina appeared was a few years later, after a week-end retreat at Slide Ranch. Slide Ranch is perched on a sliver of land between two ridges in the high hills along the coast of Marin, where as you cross that ridge you can look to the right to the shining Pacific ocean stretched out beside you, as far as you can see, and to your left are the hills and valleys of Marin County deep below you, a breath taking panorama.

And, in that retreat with maybe 18 of us, really lovely people, I might add, held in a geodesic dome with a lovely wood floor, sitting on that little slice of land next to the ocean, I experienced a profound week-end retreat in waking up, with musician Paul Winter.

Paul started talking about the desperate state of the world, and what was pressing most on his mind was thinking that there must be some MUSIC or sound—somehow or somewhere - that would surpass all the words and conversations—and awaken us all!

And what made his words so amazing to me is that I had been thinking and mulling over in my mind the same thing! Mind you, this was just at the beginning of my journey.

So that was the beginning of this extraordinary week-end where each of us eventually performed in small ensembles, maybe three or four people, for each other, sitting in the center of the room. All improvised in the moment, of course. The instruments could be an old tin can being struck . . . or a voice or a single string of a stringed instrument. It was all open . .there was no beat. We just responded to each other. And, at the end of two days of these amazing experiences, we went to a party in someone's home nearby, and we played our music for them!   I have a recording of some of that workshop, which I'll share one day.

At the end of the retreat, after most people had left, Bob Boyll, also a workshop participant, and "holy man" and ritualist of the Native American Church, showed two other people and me, as we sat in a circle next to the ocean in the evening light, a set of ancient huacas that he had brought with him. And he talked about them . . . .how originally they came in sets of four and each instrument played just two notes. And, so four people would play together. We did play them together and they were amazing sounds that seemed to circle right down into my body.

Bob said it was thought that these sounds contain all the languages of the world, from the beginning of time.

Oquawka, 2014