I’ve been writing a lot lately as part of a writers workshop, mostly as an extension of my “mission,” but some fiction and poetry as well. I’m going to try branching out there by submitting some of my earlier blog posts for their input.I’ve also had more than normal difficulty keeping up with the blogs. As I identify posts I want the workshop to review, I’ll repost them here for current readers to comment on. Please do.
A Journal Entry Dated 8/16/06
My god, this a big country! And full of variety. Especially noticeable is the distinct difference between west and east.
When it got light after Salt Lake City I was already on the high plain that I assume the Mormons traversed on their way into self-imposed, but mostly others inspired, exile in the 19th century. Rough country, for sure, but not really what you’d call “badlands,” I think. Maybe, though. How little I really know about geography, history, and the American experience. Too late now, though. I’m on my own Mission.
What is most striking about the west is the unscarred nature of the land. People haven’t bothered much with it yet. Oh, there’s a mine or two. Vast holes in Gaia’s skin being carved deeper every hour by men and women driving trucks and front loaders so big as to reverse the usual image of a child with a tonka toy. You could fit a hummer into the cab of these machines. But out there in the Wyoming vastness it’s easy to see how humans can fool themselves into thinking it doesn’t really hurt.
Beyond about mid-Nebraska, though, it’s not so easy. There is virtually no part of the land from there eastward that isn’t predominantly influenced by the hand of man, i.e., “managed” in one way or another.
Iowa has the most elaborate rest stops one can imagine–sort of like little art galleries or museums. I can’t recall any other experience that has made me feel so much like an overachiever. I only intended to take a pee, but wound up learning something of value at each one. I found myself actually looking forward to the urge and, once again, regretting the schedule which forced me to pass most of these little intellectual respites by.
In the very first one I stumbled upon I read some of the earliest pioneers’ comments on the prairie. I realized I’d never gotten it before. What the prairie was, when it hadn’t yet been turned into one vast stretch of “productive land,” was a meadow. The largest meadow in North America. Hundreds of thousands of square miles of meadow! It’s beauty was awe inspiring. The diversity of life astounding. The abundance amazing. The sky would often be darkened for hours at a time as flocks of birds would pass overhead. We know of the demise of the Buffalo largely because of the amazing mass of each individual. The graphic image of Buffalo Bill and his like shooting hundreds a day for the “sport” of it, more often leaving the carcasses to rot than not, inspired the early Euro-Americans. How we pick our heros.
And now the name, “prairie”, by virtue of its weird unique anachronistic nature, has come to disguise what really happened. Now the prairie is one hell of a long, boring drive, without even many places to turn off, or anything worth looking at. It’s a farm. Tilled by thousands and thousands of individuals, each of whom doubtlessly thinks he/she is doing a wonderful thing for the country. And they surely are. But, in conglomeration, what we–you, me, our parents and theirs–have all done over these years of “conquest of nature” is turn the most gorgeous piece of earth imaginable into a hard sore on the body of Gaia. It is still breathtakingly vast, but it is no longer humblingly gorgeous. No longer a cradle of diversity equivalent to a dry coral reef. No wonder the American Indian never came to understand Europeans. What evil creatures we must have seemed to them. And deservedly so.
As I moved eastward, it became increasingly more difficult to find really good places to Trumpet in/out sunrise/sunset. One of the odd benefits of traveling under the time pressure of my deadline, sleeping in the van whenever I became just too tired to keep going, was that I virtually never missed either a sunrise or set. Occasionally I would not be able to find a spot to stop at the crucial time, but more often I took an hour or so off and did them some justice.
In the west it was humbling. In the east more frequently humiliating, for the contrast between a sunrise over a meadow, forest or desert and one over concrete, asphalt, brick or even a cornfield, is stark and solely of our doing. In addition, you usually have to watch the rise/set from some publicly transited locale, such as a street or sidewalk. Not knowing where the parks are in a strange urbanized locale puts this restraint front and center, for the sun always rises on time and never sets late. It doesn’t wait for you to get properly set up.
When I arrived in D.C. they were in the midst of the worst heat wave in decades. I’m not sure whether it was heat exhaustion or M..S. related fatigue triggered by the heat but, whichever it was, I became deathly ill. I managed to check into a hotel with air-conditioning and spent the first thirty-six hours on the east coast trying to recover. It was truly frightening, and I’m not sure to this day whether I might have succumbed to the heat had I not made it to the hotel, as a number of people apparently did in California earlier from the same eastward moving harbinger of global warming this heat wave was.
Air conditioning certainly helped (me, not Gaia), but the reason I suspect it may have been M.S. related is that I didn’t begin to feel any better until the effects of THC asserted themselves. Illustrative of my condition is that, after having thought of the solution, I spent every conscious moment for the next two or three hours in getting the necessary product out of my van, which was parked about 20 yards from my door, to the room. Movement was almost impossible. Anyone who says Marijuana, or the much slower solution of the prescription drug Marinol, which is taken orally, doesn’t have medical benefits is full of s-word. (I’m hoping to attract the interest of public radio some day, and wouldn’t want them to have to censor me to read me aloud on the air.)
One of the most interesting experiences of the trip thus far took place at sunset following my recovery. I was still pretty weak, but thought I should try to get out and see if I could keep something down for a change. It was approaching sunset, so before buying a sandwich, I first made the extra effort to cross the street to a little green space in front of an “Ethiopian Christian Church,” from which one could see the western horizon and the sunset. I began Trumpeting the sun down, which involves some Buddhist-like movements of prayer as well as the unique Trumpeting sound. Passers by definitely noticed and eventually a little clatch of people, apparently from the Church, clustered near me on the sidewalk and began chanting in Ethiopian (I assume). I didn’t know exactly whether they were joining me or what. They didn’t seem threatening in any way, so I didn’t let it stop my meditation, assuming they recognized its spiritual nature.
I was almost finished when a woman and a man who appeared to be the pastor approached and spoke to me. I interrupted my service to stop and respond to them. They were clearly concerned about me, as I had been crying some during my practice, as I frequently do. It’s one of the ways I cope with the Vision–letting the grief that knowing how Gaia passes from this planet flow out. I reassured them that I was fine and really not at all in distress. I then excused myself with assurances that I was almost finished and returned to complete the exercise. A larger group instantly gathered around the couple and began the chant again, this time much more vigorously. “He Heyah Bagha dema! He Heyah Bagha dema!”
When I had finished, I rejoined the conversation. It soon became apparent that they were chanting in an effort to drive the devil out of me, or at least to fend him away from their church. I apologized for disturbing them by performing a ritual they apparently felt to be threatening on their doorstep. The woman and her cohort, for it was clear she had motivated the intervention, invited me to participate in their Wednesday night meeting, which was about to begin. The pastor actually seemed quite friendly, and I was tempted to accept their offer, but I wasn’t too sure how I would be received when they fully realized that my God now is Gaia. I also didn’t trust myself to avoid offending their sensibilities if pressed on my opinion of the ancient religions, including Evangelical Christianity, which the Ethiopian Church appears to be, so I declined. Besides, I had been thrown way off schedule in prepping for the talk, just four days off, by the unexpected infirmity.
At the send-off party, I was asked what I expected the role of Trumpeting to be in this weird endeavor I’ve set out on. I didn’t know. I’m beginning to think that, for me, it is a kind of covenant with my Vision. A way of maintaining a distance between myself and anything anyone might think I am. If nothing else, Trumpeting establishes who I am and what I am attempting to do as truly unique.
I realize my Mission is extraordinary. Others need to recognize that as well, or else they will too easily dismiss me as being merely peculiar. Peculiar doesn’t even begin to describe it. If one wants to accomplish the extraordinary, one has to attack it with extraordinary tools. Trumpeting is an extraordinary tool.
The Ethiopians were frightened and tried to drive the devil out of my soul. They should be. I intend to drive the devil out of us all.