Disclaimer: This unedited, rough draft material is a year-long project in response to our 2004 theme: pilgrimage. It is meant to be a dialogue between myself and my fellow Mammoths and any of you who happen along. It is intentionally not polished, nor is it finished. Charlie Buchman Ellis
One third of the year has elapsed. Weíve discussed the two books weíd take on pilgrimage, had television appearances, had an evening on alternative currency, a cabbage and corned beef feed at the Broderick home on top of old Tara, and met with Gyatsho, a friend of the Dalai Lama.
Our second Monday meeting place has moved half a block to das Schwarzwald where we meet in an atmosphere filled with German baroque rather than Greek contemporary.
Mark is still in recovery from his surgery though physically he feels mended, save for the need for a little blue pill now and again. Heís also selling real estate and graphic design services. Both he and Tom have over six months in on their marriages and both, as of this writing, remain together.
Tomís work flourishes, graced now with Stefan Helgeson and a new image crafted by Mark. Tomís generous ways have helped many in the community: MPR and the DFL I know for sure.
Scott has a new partner, his step-daughter, and has attended a conference at Naropa on alternative currency, and has had a good deal of chicken soup for his soul.
William jets around the country fixing and writing code, helping American business manage its server farms. Heís also created a Woolly Mammoth website.
Stefan has taken up the pencil again in the service of art, not only architecture anymore. He says he survives as his kids go through adolescence, a tough ride. His homes yard looks as if it were designed by a landscape architect. Oh, wait a minute...
Charlie Haislet has Malta under his belt now; if I know this gourmet, you can take this comment literally. His new digs in the warehouse district are almost ready for occupancy and heís got a regular dock installation date with compadres at his cabin in Wisconsin. He must deliver some wee ones once in a while.
Jimmy Johnson has cowboy boots, a black leather belt with silvered ornaments, a Stetson, a bola tie, and he works with Dolly Lama. He came to the last meeting at Stefanís after putting the cattle and sheep out to grass. Iím not sure if itís the same thing, but I imagine this is when the old winter grazing fields get left behind so they can recover and a higher elevation finds fresh grass and a new vista for the animals...and the cowboys.
Frank planted a thousand trees at the Dwelling (now firmly in the woods after Frankís weekend.) and has plans for another trip to the auld sod where he will participate in the 50th anniversary party of his genealogical advisor.
Warren and Sheryl have created their own Monday evening meetings where they discuss important matters and eat. Warren has also continued to work on the material from the Landmark series. Iím not sure whether heís still doing that.
Paul Strickland continues to ride the waves of personal and political change stimulated by his trip to Syria. Heís learning the wily ways of ecclesial politics, again, and working hard for peace, justice and a Democratic President.
Iím writing these diary entries, learning how to see and then how to draw what I see, working on the garden, getting ready for my trip to Southeast Asia, and exercising my neurosisówhich needs to get out for a walk now and then.
These diaries have, as I told Odie and Tom last week, a double purpose. I want to share my experience of pilgrimage with you, but I also want to reflect along the way on the Woolly year, sort of a journal of our mutual pilgrimage. Iím not sure what might be useful for archival purposes, so I throw in stuff now and then. Eventually, when I edit all this down to a hundred and fifty thousand or so words, I hope to have the two threads clean, yet woven together: my path and ours.
The website will open up opportunities we havenít considered, I hope.
Along the way, if there are things you think I should write about, let me know. Iíll putter around with them, see what they amount to through my lens. A while back I got written responses from several of you and I enjoyed that, a real dialogue...we can make this a mutual work in that way if you want.
Iím committed to 52 entries, then an editing and perhaps an illustrating phase to produce a Pilgrimage Year book. At this point Iím imagining it as a volume either like a Victorian travel journey or a medieval tour guide, but who knows where Iíll be, weíll be in another 34 weeks. Somewhere, or nowhere, no doubt.
Kate left yesterday AM for Hilton Head, a CME conference. She needed the break after a long siege of work. I miss her when sheís gone. The opportunity to order my own life does appeal to me, but only for a while, and it pales soon in the wake of missed sharing and hugs. Also, Kate and I serve as emotional barometers for each other, by now we can each sense the inner weather changing in the other, often before we notice it ourselves. Without my barometer I can get into heavy weather before I know its coming.
Today, Iím in the opportunity phase of her week plus trip, weíll see how long that lasts.
Again, I find an analogy here with the pilgrimage. We may well walk alone, even most of the time, yet even when we are alone we are together, our shared time (Woollies and Kate and Joseph for me) shape my perceptions and, most important, provide a safe haven from lifeís buffeting.
It is this interdependence that Gyatsho pointed to through his comments on shunyata, the no-self, or the emptiness of the self. I view it as a cautionary rather than absolute, we experience a Self, the Jungian kind, yet we must not become confused and imagine that that Self is anything more than a way of expressing our oneness with other Selves and the whole context necessary for the various selves to flourish.
Alfred North Whitehead called this the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, the imputation of solidity and stability to a thing always in the process of becoming, reification of the unreifiableówhich, it turns out, is everything.
Or, as the Hinduís and the Buddhistís both say, all is maya.
Yet, I learn of mayaóI learn. Even so, I cannot separate my knowing from yours, nor can I separate it from the experience of maya Tor and Orion have, or the newly transplanted hemerocallis. Why? Because we are all participants in the same illusion, apparent enduringness.
To finish off this thought I quote Shelley:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
A day of rain, the comfort of home, a good book, the dogs and the season finale of Alias...a good Sunday. I have the urge, itís getting stronger, to start on another novel, yet, as I think I wrote earlier, I have so much research to do, work I want to do. A mind game: do I want to do the research to avoid writing, and, then, do I avoid the research with second level priorities like gardening, filing, shopping, family matters, even writing these diary entries? Or, am I truly not ready yet, and the research is necessary because I want to write a solid, good long interesting story? In this case Iím not getting to the research because I have prioritized the purple garden, my trip to SE Asia and learning to draw to illustrate my trip.
In this latter perspective the novel(s) grow richer with the life I engage and this writing keeps my hand loose, the word coming. It also fits in the Jungian seminar (ah, a magical world) and the learning to see. Also, it gives me time to take in thoughts on structure as well as detail.
An e.g. The Smithsonian came this week and it has an article on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Hmmm. Seven. A magical number. Ancient history and wonders. Things that spark peopleís imagination, yet also things few people know in any detail, possibly not even what most of them are. I could name six. The statue of Zeus at Olympia eluded me.
So, my magical journey could have roots in seven ancient wonders, places that could provide the backbone of the novels. Journeys to them. Their ancient history and construction. Magical items secreted in them by the original Magi and their apprentices. Pythagorean magic. Itís influence on the Celts. Hermes Trimegistus. The museum at Alexandria and the gnosis of Egyptian religion. Hmmm. Feels fun to me.
In the end Iím not avoiding, I can feel it just from this text. Writing does clarify, illuminate the occult, especially those matters occluded from the ego by processes Iím willing to call archetypal, processes Iím also willing to name as divine. The gods at work call to me, but the i, not the big I, the ego i, puts a shadow over their messages.
My anxiety about stewardship, about vocation, about being as good as I can be (it came from German psychological culture, not the Army marketing team.) raises the literal spectre of doubt, a haunting that can debilitate, lead astray, confuse.
Yes. The same i occludes our true pilgrimage, sets us out on false paths, toward false gods, ones whose worship lead us away from our authentic selves, who would pretend to offer what even gods cannotóimmortality, lasting fame, ongoing pleasures.
I have followed those paths: one toward power and influence, one toward money, one toward fame, oneóthe most seductive for meótoward knowledge and I know they are false paths, and false not only for me, but surely for me.
These pilgrimages lead to sacred places: toward creativity, toward compassion, toward wisdom, toward love, toward care for the earth and those living creatures who depend upon it. Each of these and the multiple other paths, as many as there are individuals, has a god or goddess who will travel with you, give you nurture, remove obstacles from your path.
Divinities may or may not have names, may or may not be known to you, but if you offer yourself to them with humility and sacrifice they will come; and, they will help.
Take care though. To walk on holy ground has its benefits, but it also has its dangers.
Still at the transplanting. Digging, dividing, planting, root nourishment, pack the soil, move on. Daylily after daylily. Hemerocallis. A bit of geranium and finally some castor beans Kate started under lights in her hydroponic setup.
I punctured the bottoms of the containers sheíd used, placed them in the ground and tucked them in when it struck me. What would it be like to plant for the purpose of killing?
This was not a random thought, but occasioned by the realization that the castor bean itself was a favorite of militia and super patriotsóit is the primary ingredient for ricin, a deadly, easy to make poison.
I realized for me planting is so much about horticulture, latin hortus-garden and culture, in fact, only about horticulture, caring for plants that the idea of planting to kill made shudder, hesitate as I placed that particular castor bean plant in the ground.
Iím afraid I donít see much difference between that and raising cattle for food eitheróor pigs, or sheep.
Later, after that unusual dark thought, gardening primes the practical and aesthetic me, or, said another way, in the garden I worship Pan and Flora and Tailte and Bridgit and in turn they fill my heart with green thoughts, rooted notions, leafy ideas...not sharp, pointed, explosive moods or thunderous emotions, another thought surfaced. I get those, but not from the garden.
Here I am, I realized, hands in the soil of the Great Anoka Sand Plain, an outwash of the ancient Mississippi, an oak savannah if not disturbed by gardeners and farmers and road builders and developers. This is a real place on earth, not imaginal; it has its geodetic location and I even have an aerial photograph of our property. This is about as local as local gets.
All I need do is step inside my glass sliding door, walk two yards and I can reach all the way to Singapore, Bangkok, Moscow, London, further, I can see the moon, access photographs from the surface of Mars. Mars! I can see photos taken as a mechanical device created in this country flew by Io, flew into a comets wake, or I can look at underwater camera.
In many instances if I want, I can click a button and see real time shots of the highway system in Singapore, the locks in Sault St. Marie, the Tower of London, Tokyo.
In other words I can go from the local, as local as local gets, my hands in the soil of my home, to the interstate, the international, interplanetary, to the cosmic without being more than twenty feet shifted in either direction. To me, this is a miracle.
A miracle in an age of miracles. I had polio, an epidemic disease in 1949, now almost eradicated. I read Buck Rogers in the comics; then, I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. How cool was that?
I remember punch cards and the wonders of IBM computers and now I routinely, even casually use, daily, a computer vastly more powerful than those early machines.
The internet...who could possibly have imagined it? It surfaced on the back of a far different technology, like so many a technology originally designed to facilitate military preparedness.
Cable and satellite TV and the visual access to multiple channels.
Movies I can buy at the store, take home, see on my TV and on a media a sixth of the size of the 33 1/3 rpm records I played as a kid. Even smaller than the 45ís which we bought to have access to one song. One song!
E-mail. We can speak to so many people at the same time, no matter where.
I love technology.
And, I love my garden.
The local to the galactic in twenty feet. I donít know about you, but Iím glad to be alive in this time. Itís so damned much fun.
Of course, there are those guys growing castor beans to kill federal bureaucrats, and Bush, and poverty and racismóyes, indeed there are. But these things, political passions, murder, oppression are not new and they are problems each generation must tackle, but the miracles of our ageóthey are new, bright, shiny. Even hopeful.
Do you ever look at parts of your body and wonder how they could possibly be yours? I do. My hands, the body part I see most often, have changed. Somewhere along they line they got wrinkled. I also notice bumps and scars, feel the pain from my broken hand last January. I say, can these be mine? Yet...they look familiar. A pair of friends Iíve known since childhood, with whom Iíve grown up, come of age..
Their change surprises me, from time to time, yet there is also a consolation in them; the wrinkles and bumps and scars mean they know me well, that they have had intimate presence at each stage of my life; they have traveled the same pilgrim path I have and the wear is no more than I might expect. Yes, my hands are my hands.
Then, thereís my face. I see it less often, much less often, and so itís changes are not so usual, not so familiar. Like my hands my face has changed: wrinkles, gray hairs, thinning hair, the need for work on teeth and eyes. A Ď47 model with many, many hours of use.
The face youíve earned. At fifty, is it? You have the face youíve earned? I try to squeeze my face into different expressions to see which ones have dominated over the years, shaping my face as they appeared time and time again. I canít tell.
Some of the lines come from smiling and laughing. I can see those, but where did that creased brow come from? I canít tell. Yet there they are, the geologic evidence of facial tectonics, evidence of muscles moved by the heart, the story written in skin.
No amount of treadmill work, right diet, or clever medical care can extend the human life much past 120 years, even these days. Perhaps, sometime in the not so distant future, 150 years. Even so.
Ozymandias. What if he had lived 150 years? Would his claim have any more ironic force?
No, the body and its gradual decline simply is. It is the steely grip of entropy, working against our coherence, our homeostasis. And entropy always wins.
I cannot truthfully say I find this depressing. Not any more. I canít quite say why. It has something to do with acceptance. Not resignation, a pale emotion, but genuine acceptance. Death is authentic. It belongs to us as surely as life; as surely as the bassinet and the grave. I cannot say no to what is.
I embrace it. I love death. It makes this moment so sweet; these hours and days and years so precious. It makes each wrinkle a victory, a lesson in life and its persistence, even in the face of negation.
My attitude toward death also has something to do with shedding fame and fortune for the here and now. The more I can do this, the less the future, and any event in the future, including death, can squeeze joy out of my life.
In fact, the opposite. As I move more and more into the here and now, joy multiplies. The simplest things become occasions for a smile.
The lick of a dogís tongue. A hug from Kate. Feeling a real bicep on my arm. The hyacinthís purple cone of flowers. Sun. Rain. Heat. Cold.
Ah, well. Iím on a gratitude kick again. Seems to be a thread here this week. Maybe thatís my pilgrim path for this period of time. Gratitude.
My dad, a journalist and World War II vet, loved Ernie Pyle. Ernie, in case you donít know, was a war journalist who died in battle. His columns were called The Home Front and gave a picture of what it was like to be a GI in WWII. Ernie was from Indiana.
JANUARY, 1943: While bad weather stymies the ground fighting in Tunisia, the
air war on both sides has been daily increasing in intensity until it
has reached a really violent tempo.
a day passes without heavy bombing of Axis ports, vicious strafing of
cities and airdromes, losses on both sides and constant watchful
at one of our airdromes, all of us can assure you that being bombed is
no fun. Yet these tired, hard-worked Americans jokingly decided to send
a telegram to Allied headquarters asking them to arrange for the Jerrys
to stop there each evening and pick up our mail.
am living at this airdrome for a while. It can't be named, although the
Germans obviously know where it is, since they call on us frequently.
Furthermore, they announced quite a while ago by radio that they would
destroy the place within three days. ....
LOVE OUR air-raid alarm system. It consists of a dinner bell hanging from
a date palm tree outside headquarters. When the radio watchers give the
order the dinner bell is rung. Then the warning is carried to the far
ends of the vast airdrome by sentries shooting revolvers and rifles into
the air. At night it sounds like a small battle.
the alarm goes the soldiers get excited and mad, too. When the Germans
come over the anti-aircraft guns throw up a fantastic Fourth of July
torrent of red tracer bullets. But to the soldiers on the ground that
isn't enough, so they let loose with everything from Colt .45s up to
the Germans don't kill us we'll probably shoot ourselves."
I canít prove it, but I think he was the author of the famous WWII quote, ďThere are no atheists in foxholes.Ē
I came to this not because of the approaching invasion of WWII the Good War films about to hit our cathode beach-heads.
It came to me as I paraphrased it this morning in the garden. Just as there are no atheists in fox holes; I donít think there any monotheists in the garden.
A credible argument can be made that the great monotheisms, though they didnít intend it, ended up being inimical to nature. The argument is a bit tortured, but sound, I think.
Itís not only, ďSee. All this is yours. Exercise dominion.Ē Thatís in Genesis, for sure. Well, a paraphrase again.
Here it is in the influential King James Version:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the
air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every
creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him;
male and female created he them.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply,
and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish
of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing
that moveth upon the earth.
This starts things off in a man (sic) against nature, over nature tone. As a direct result, ecological and environmental issues came very late to Christian theological discussions, even among liberal Christians. By very late, Iím talking the 1980ís or so before they began to appear regularly and even then you have to stretch to find Biblical warrant.
The problems go deeper. As this disregard for nature, or rather, this propensity to see nature as a resource rather than a living partner, wove its way into Judaeo-Christian culture, unfortunately for the planet and the world, this same culture used this instrumentalist/functionalist view of nature to create a technological civilization.
If fact, you can argue that this instrumental view of nature arises directly from the worship of a single God, transcendent and all-powerful, high and lifted up, a glorious one who awaits us in heavenónot on earth and far away from it.
We are beholden not to the web of life which reaches from our front door to the depths of the sea and the vastness of the plains and the heights of the rain forestís great trees, rather we are beholden to the God who created it all, who does not reign in it, and, in fact, who gave it to us to subdue and to have dominion over.
I could go on, but Iíll stop here. The point is that our culture is human over nature, rather than human in nature, part of nature. And this, my friends, is deeply fucked.
Anyhow...back to the garden, as Adam once said, no doubt. With your attention focused on mother earth, you cannot see the world through these particular monotheistic glasses. It just doesnít work. Who wants to have dominion over a tulip, or a daylily, or a dogwood? Well, aside from Bachmanís and the fact that we create an artifice when we plant plants outside their native habitats, but I happen to think that falls within the caring for the Eden we inhabit.
Let me say this another way. I donít believe we must leave nature as we find her, otherwise no food. I donít believe gentle alterations like horticulturists normally engage to be much different from birds dropping spreading seeds far and wide. I say normally here because some horticulturists have done silly things like introduce buckthorn, but, hey, we all make mistakes. And at least they now admit their mistakes. Mostly.
I know the positive application of ecological principles is complex and that the world we live in, the real one, has needs that gentle ben, meek and mild, canít always handle. And Iím not trying to be simple minded.
Mostly, I want to say that mother earth and the plants and animals she supports (yes, us, too.) call out divinity on a smaller scale. A goddess of flowers. A lord of the animals. Aurora, the goddess of the dawn. Flora, the goddess of horticulture. Pan, a great god, reputed to have gone to sleep during the Christian era and now awake once again and stamping his cloven hooves through suburban lawns. You may not, as I said before, know their names, it may be just a whisper on the wind, the scent of another in the earth, the wonder at mushrooms here, full grown, not there an hour ago. Perhaps theyíre not divinities at all, but those of the Faery, who are after all, said to be ancient gods of the Irish forced underground.
Now, I donít say there isnít a Brahma or a Yahweh or an Ahura-Mazdaóin fact, Iím pretty sure there is one. And only one. But not one we can name, or know very well. I prefer the Hindu, Greek, Celtic approach where the ways of the Animal powers and the ways of the Vegetative powers as Campbell calls it become personalized, localized, divinized. And we can erect small altars with appropriate offerings.
We can worship them as we work in our gardens, play with our children and our pets, make decisions about the welfare of the planet and the city and the neighborhood. We can worship them by honoring the things they honor, not seeing nature as an instrument for our direction, but as a living partner, who will share, but who needs a living partner who will reciprocate, not dictate.
Anyhow...there are no monotheists in the garden. You heard it here first.
Every once in a while something comes back to me with such force. Africa is one of those things. The particular stimulus: the movie Lumumba. Not a new film, but new to me. Itís an excellent rendition of the rise and abrupt fall and assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Congo. He had the bad fortune to be a communist in the heated middle of the cold war; plus, he wanted a Congo for the people of the Congo, while the Belgians and other resource extractors like the Katanga Mining Company (see the above) wanted a Congo for capitalists and oligarchs.
The movie is hard to watch. Lumumba may have lacked some politesseí; but his vision, at a time when the Pan-Africanism of Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, and Americaís own WEB DuBois was still very much in play, was of a strong African nation among other strong African nations.
This did not fit well with colonial minders who agreed to independence to look good in the community of nations, but who wanted nothing changed in terms of untrammeled access to resources and influence.
In the end Lumumba died. He died at the hands of fellow Congolese and Belgian accomplices according to the movie and it makes sense given the politics of the era.
When I was in college, it was, as for many of you who read this, a time of civil rights struggles in this country. Growing up in a KKK strong hold, I understood the dangerous side of racism, and the arrogance of the white manís burden (Kipling).
Anthropology fascinated me in part because it was a way of understanding other cultures without judging them. The anthropological method worked very hard at removing bias from the investigation of culture. Of course, we now know that was a more difficult task than we imagined at the time, still I preferred to be part of the effort.
Since much of the work in paleo-anthropology focused on Africa, Olduvai Gorge and the Leakeyís for example, Africa figured prominently in an Anthropology curriculum. I got interested and studied the pre-colonial history of Africa, its ethnography, later I took both a geography and geology course on Africa and I took a course in contemporary Africa.
I canít say I ever caught African fever, which many did, though in a way I wish I had. I might have gone. I havenít, at least not yet.
What I did get from this study, almost enough for a major if I clumped the classes together was a strong sense of the majesty, and therefore the depth of the tragedy, of Africa. In ancient times there were complex legal systems among the Ashantióeasily as complex as our own, with judges and precedents and trials; there were long caravan routes which traversed the continent north and south and east and west, reaching all the way across the Sahara and up the Nile, and down to the furthest tip of the continent at Cape Horn. Monarchieís rose and fell; empires developed, spread, and disappeared. This was not an uncivilized heart of darkness, rather it was the cradle of humanity and therefore a place where much of human history had played itself out and started over again by the time of the Dutch and Portuguese traders.
Yet... By the late 50ís and early 60ís the plague of colonialism would wreak its final and worst blow. Country after country in Africa demanded and got their independence. 16 in 1960 alone.
But, and the Congo is a good example, these independent countries had boundaries drawn by the colonialists, boundaries which often crossed tribal territories, ceded natural resources to one nation and denied them to another, or, as in the case of the Congo, created one province, Katanga, which had the bulk of the Congoís wealth, and the rest of the country had little. In the end it was this reality that tore the Congo apart only two months after it declared independence.
The nation-state has worked well for European and North American countries, not so well in many other parts of the globe.
Well...anyhow. I loved those African studies, but I have put them away and hardly ever dusted them off. Lumumba reminded me.
It may well be that your pilgrimage has had destinations like Africa for me: spots where youíve stopped a while, embraced an idea, a continent, a performing art, a sport, a woman, a man, a book. When they resurface, as they will, take note. These destinations, these pilgrim journeys of our younger selves are not done. Why? Because you are not done, not in this lifetime, and, if Gyatsho is right, not for the next either.
Whoa. Talk about things coming back with force. Took Joseph to a five-week stay at the UofM Biological Station at Itasca State Park today. We went up Highway 10, then 71 to Park Rapids and onto Itasca.
Highway 10, then up 64, was the route to the Peaceable Kingdom, my farm with my first wife Judy. I worked in the city while Judy took care of the garden. I made the payments while Judy made out with the guy who plowed the fields we rented. On the weekend I would drive up Highway 10, passing through Big Lake, St. Cloud, Royalton, and, my favorite, beautiful downtown Motley.
Iíd stop at Morey Fish Company, buy cheese curds and smoked salmon and a six pack. This was provisions for the next two hours. By the time I got to the Peaceable Kingdom I was often quite unpeaceable. No wonder Judy left me, though her father was an alcoholic and her mother, too. Johnny Lampo, the guy on the tractor, was a drunk, too, plus he brought domestic violence to the mix. Hmmm.
He was, his own words, a Jack Pine Savage. Apt, I think.
As I drove into Motley this morning, Joseph had gone to sleep. He stayed up late in the city watching the Timberwolves and drove out here around midnight. Heíd just finished 21 days of work in a row, so he was tired.
I counted back to my divorce in August of 1974. Almost exactly 30 years. 30 years! Geez, where does time go when youíre getting married, getting divorced, getting married, getting divorced, getting married? I realized I hadnít traveled this route since 1974 when I filed for divorce in Park Rapids, county seat of Hubbard County, got the farm in a quit claim deed, then sold it for the payments to Ed Dessert, the county attorney who handled my divorce, and, by the way, hired Johnny Lampo to farm rented land. A bit southern gothic I know, but we northern folk have our poí white trash stories, too.
Anyhow, here I am, taking my twenty-two year old son up a route Iíd last traveled when I was still married to Judy. Set the heartstrings twanging.
The bright blue sky, the slant of the sun and the change in terrain and fauna all spoke to me, called out, said, remember. And I did.
I remembered days of hope and nights of pain. I recalled the day in September when I left the city behind to move up to the Peaceable Kingdom full time. I fished that first night, a small lake, glacial, in a scoured out bowl. The aurora borealis was magnificent, flashing reds and greens from horizon to horizon on the upturned bowl of the sky, which, reflected in the lake, became an inverted down turned bowl, and the confluence, sky and lake, up and down, grew amazing enough to disorient me.
In retrospect the whole next year was played out in the Van Allen radiation belt and that small nameless lake. Fiery streaks of passion shooting, coursing high, then coming down low, moving from atmosphere without oxygen to water without oxygen, who can live in those places? I suffocated, a self-inflicted wound, got desperate, and finally left altogether.
The Peaceable Kingdom.
But today. Joseph rides into the Park. An accomplished scientist though not degreed, yet not at the top of his class and uncertain about the future, and with some self-doubt I can see, yet I cannot touch it, for it burns with a flame too close to my own. All this stirs among the fields of white trillium and yellow trout lily, the wonderful stands of Norway Pines like the Preacherís Grove, where I always felt strangely affirmed.
This is after all a place where you can walk across the Mississippi, jump across it. There is power here, amazing power and beauty.
I am happy for Joseph. He needs a rest, some relaxation and I think heíll get it. I hope, in the back of my mind, he will come to love this place as I do, a sense of the beauty in its just so ness. He wants to ride his bike, fish, read, study birds and ecology. And I imagine he will.
This land can be cruel. Lonely. The pines may whisper as the winds blow through, but about what? It can be a place where the crucible of your own soul breaks you and remakes you. It happened to me.
It might happen to him.
Saw a weasel or a fisher running, sinuous, a chipmunk clasped firmly in its jaws. Iíve never seen either a fisher or weasel in the wild and seeing it reminded me of the wildness, the untamed reality here.
In such a place our mother can speak to us of things we may not hear anywhere else.
This all sounds a little more down than I feel. I feel, taken back, taken aback, brought back. I love my boy and want him to move through these years with no pain, clarity, ease. But, in the end, why should he get through any easier than the rest of us?
Synchronicity. I found the Skeptic magazine website when I googled this term to pick up a quick definition. They didnít think much of Jungís idea. A bit heavy on the ratiocination it seems to me.
Here it is from my vantage point: I watch Lumumba and it powers back through my past, dredging up classes, feelings, yearnings, hopes, fears. Each of those explodes into another linked series. Then, I pick up the Economist and, voilaí, read about Africa, the Congo; I walk through the African gallery at the Museum and my senses click on, the trail picked up a couple of days ago is still hot. Connections, concepts, perhaps never juxtaposed thoughts and feelings come together. Fusion. Power. Energy. Synchronicity.
Or, I drive up Highway 10, my whole body and soul dragged back to the mid-70ís, the decade of peace and love; drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Joseph. Adoption. India. So much later, yet the evocative energy of those days is so present, who is this, this parent driving along here with a 22-year old son? How can this be?
Then, when I come home tonight, I pull out a movie to watch. Laurel Canyon. What is it? A film about fidelity set with a 70ís folkie sensibility played with wonderful angst by Frances McDormand. The energy of the rock scene, music making, drugsóI would have added radical politicsóthe tendency of it all to overwhelm the intellectual, the rational (the pretty fiancť of Frances McDormandís son is writing her Ph.D. dissertation after Med. School on the sexual behavior of fruit flies and gets drawn to music like a fruit fly to, well, fruit.)
The tortured feelings, turning away from your bed partner at night, not sure of their faithfulness, or your own...I lived all that for, what, 8 or 9 years? 1966 to 1980...hmmm, more like 14 years (oh, well, how time flies when youíre having fun.) I remember the desire to cut loose, the times I did, usually under the influence of one drug or another; the difficult, no, impossible time I had sorting out what fidelity was, if it meant anything in a time of owning your own lust (yes, Jimmy Carter, we all have lust in our heart.) and feeling guilty for repressing it. Or, sublimating, as Laurel Canyon suggests.
To have those raw feelings exposed on the screen the very day I came back from this trip back down Strawberry Lane. Synchronicity. I donít believe the meaning comes from out there; Iím sure itís invested from in here, yet the events are out thereóthis is back to phenomenologyówait, a minute, I take back the totality of that statement the meaning comes from inside, I impose meaning on the apparently unconnected events creating synchronicity. I do impose meanings, but the events, the experiences themselves carry meaning; it is a dynamic process, a feedback loop.
That this creates important data for a personís self-understanding seems silly to deny.
So, on that pilgrim road, keep your eyes and heart open. The bird that flies in front of you may have something to say. If you listen.
Rested, wondering if the above is too dark, despairingóbathed in the melancholy of days gone by, but not gone away. Thought about cutting them out, then decided, this is a rough draft, an edit comes later. Editing
now without a sense of the whole will change the document, perhaps for the better, but perhaps not, too. So, Iím leaving it in.
After nine hours of driving and some of those spent in time travel, others in saying good-bye to my boy for five weeks, I exhausted myself, left little to regenerate myself.
It may be that with Kate gone, these pages are my evening and morning talks with her, the place where the feelings and thoughts get sorted out, purged, condensed, recalled. Whatever, itís there to stay until that great editing day(s) in 2005.
The days have gone by and it has come near to Memorial Day which means only one thing to this Hoosier: Gentlemen, Start your engines. You, too, Sarah. I wrote about this before so I wonít belabor it today, but each Memorial Day my Hoosier upbringing roars back to life, and, in this case, in a positive, warm sense.
Indiana. I still canít believe, in retrospect, that I grew up there. Though I did. Minnesota feels like home to me, yet thereís those missing years...whereís my hometown? Not here. My high school? Not here. College. Same. The bodyís of my parents and my relatives. Far away. I have no relatives buried in the soil of Minnesota. When childhood comes up, so does Alexandria, Indiana. Morristown. Anderson. Muncie. Marion. Kokomo. Clifty Falls State Park. Spring Mill State Park.
And the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The greatest spectacle in racing. And who knows, maybe it is.
We donít choose where we grow up, just like we donít choose our parents. Those are quests given to us by the accidents of reproduction and the physical location of the reproducers, or, as in Josephís case, our adopters.
I guess heís a good example of what I mean. Heís a Bengali. As Gyatsho told me, ďTheyíre the intelligent people of India, you know.Ē Bengal is a center of the humanities and the arts, long famed for the artistic vision and intellect of its residents.
Yet he is not there, not among those who share his genetic patterns, but here, among us. Us white folks. On the other hand, when Joseph is in St. Paul, he is home. His pre-school, elementary school, high school, and university are here. His trips with me to various parts of Minnesota when he was a boy. His mom, his dad, his extended family(s), his boyhood friends and new friends heís made at the U.
For Joseph, no matter where he roams, this will be home.
What an odd world.
Last day of my second drawing class this AM. We met at the 8000 Building off Highway 100 just south of 494. Normally, business towers are too cookie-cutter to interest me, and this oneís not a lot different, though it does have a nice water sculpture and an atrium with a glass curtain wall that creates a nice space. Itís upscale: wood, marble, a little art sprinkled around and hip furniture in the courtyard.
None of these things would catch my notice, the equivalent of a dolled-up upper-middle-class woman hunting for a husband, very long on persona and make-up.
This building, however, has a concierge. Now, this may be old news to most of you acculturated suburbanites, but to us folk from Anoka county weíre lucky if the buildings have janitors. Hell, most of us canít even spell concierge.
Seriously though. What are they thinking? These guys canít buy flowers, make lunch and dinner reservations on their own?
I asked the concierge on duty whether many building have their own concierge and she said, ďOh, yes. Quite a few.Ē
She smiled with very white teeth, contrasted with her brick red lipstick. I could have planted landscape flags in her hairdo.
I suppose somebody can explain this to me in a way that makes some kind of sense, my guess is it is the building tower developers equivalent of bling-bling in an overbuilt market. Even so.
Still, it provides employment. Even so.
Guess up here beyond the pick-up line we donít know what happens south of the concierge line.
Although. Coming home today road construction made me travel through parts of Blaine Iíd never seen before. Hmmm. Pretty upscale. And lots of it, too. Do any housing developments have a concierge? Now that I could use. Somebody to be at home for Minnegasco and the irrigation guys.
I imagine office towers with concierge, personal trainers, garage mechanics, and masseuse canít be far behind. Opulent Blaine. Luxurious Ham Lake. Has an odd ring to me, but heh...Iíve lived here over ten years now. When I first moved here, there were no conciergeís in the concierge belt either.
Iím gonna stop and send this out. Kate will be back on Sunday and perhaps I wonít find so much to say here, or, perhaps Iíll find more. Who knows?
Anyhow, I apologize for the length, but thatís what you get sometimes on the pilgrim road, a path stretches on and on, takes longer than you thought it would. This week has been such a path for me.
Even though it may seem repetitive, let me say this again: Iím grateful for each of you who read this.
Iím also aware on this, the last day of the drawing class, how grateful I am for Sheila Asato, Stefan, Carolyn, Carol, Michola, and Patriciaóa new, important, affirming element in my life. Since this is an MJA function, it also reminds me to say Iím grateful the MJA folks have created a summer reading group; the folks in the seminar have become important to me, too; as have the MIA guides and the small community of the skeptical gathered together in St. Paul as Groveland UU Fellowship.
Let this be my celebration of Memorial Day. I remember each one of you, each time I write here and Iím glad I can.