So, here I am, wide awake and alive on the winter solstice 2011. Once again, however, I also seem to be lost. No worries though… I’m not lost in a physical sense. I’m well aware of my location. Longitude and latitude are completely under control. I’m also not lost in the emotional sense. There’s no doubt in my mind about who I love. Nor am I lost in a spiritual sense. My understanding of the universe may be unusual but it is sensible and sound. I’m only lost in the metaphorical sense. This winter’s wander is about to begin and I have yet to decide on a theme or destination for the journey… Hmmm… Where should I go? What should I do? I’ve already been to Timbuktu…
Right now, at this very moment, I’m at a place called inspiration point. I’m all alone. No other humans around. There are, however, hundreds of geese; and they are all screeching…screeching…screeching. There is no order to the sound. Chaotic reverberations come forth in a cacophony. It seems a strange way to begin this brand new year. I know, I’m crazy, but to my ears it sounds a bit like the multitudes discussing the great issues of the day. The world is collapsing and they want to know why? How come? What for? What can we do? Meanwhile, I sit here on a boulder beside the water, quiet as a Buddha, watching the geese and listening to them screech.
I pause my meditation to hit the joint and sip the fruit juice. I have a strange notion that there is an answer right here in front of my eyes: A lake, a dam and a flock of geese…whatever could it mean… What is the world trying to tell me? And then, believe it or not, I get it. All of a sudden, the whole scenario makes perfect sense. Water versus Energy. The Empire wants to threaten our water supply to provide itself with energy. What is the proper, proportional metaphorical response? The answer comes to me in a most remarkable way. All of a sudden, I understand what the quacking geese are trying to say. They’re giving us a strategy to take on the empire. And the strategy they are suggesting can be distilled into four simple words…. The disparate screeches come together in harmony. Their unified voices sound like a scream, a shout, a battle cry: OCCUPY THE WATER SUPPLY. They lift off from the water, join in formation and fly south…
And I personally think that’s a pretty darn good idea…
I awake at 5:30 am to my cell phone alarm. According to the internet, the solstice takes place right about now. The exact moment, of course, doesn’t really matter. I never did care much for details and I’m in this for the metaphor rather than the reality. I get out of bed, shut off the alarm, walk to the kitchen, push play on the coffee maker and begin to look around for the celebratory joint.
In case you are not familiar with my unusual universe, let me give you the basics. I work seasonally in upstate NY doing landscape stonework. But because of the snow and ice that comes in the NY winter, I only work from sometime in early April until sometime in early November. In the winter months, I go traveling. In the last 13 years, traveling for four or five months a year, I’ve been to over 40 countries on five continents. I don’t spend much money when I wander because I don’t have much to spend. I learned long ago that if I stick to local accommodation and services, I can see most of the world for a very reasonable rate.
Some years back, I started writing stories about my various adventures on the road. I don’t claim to tell the exact truth in my stories because I live in a subjective universe, not an objective one. I post some of the stories on this travelogue and save others for full length books. Right now, right here, at this moment… this year’s journey is beginning and I have yet to come up with a metaphor for my theoretical quest…
Ah, there it is. I found the joint. Ms. B. was kind enough to roll one for me and leave it on the living room table. Isn’t she sweet? As per tradition, I prepared myself for this year’s journey with a good old fashioned paradisiacal cleanse; six weeks of purity…it all began way back on the 11th of November. All things considered, I must say, it was a pretty good performance. Yeah sure, I cheated a few times on the red meat (one burger, half a bowl of chili and one filet mignon). But honestly, I swear, most of my meals were healthy, organic vegetables. And yes, I admit, I did have one cup of coffee and a single glass of wine while giving thanks with the Family. But at least I avoided whiskey, cigarettes and coca cola. Yeah, yeah, I know, I also smoked one little joint on a pilgrimage to see the Frog. But I never even considered cocaine, heroin or any wacky pharmaceuticals. Ultimately, it was a pretty good purge. Minor discrepancies are allowed in the context of my metaphor and even in the real world I’m pretty gosh darn clean and healthy.
Coffee is ready and I pour myself a cup. I add a shot of Bailey’s to complete the formula. I bring my beverage to the living room; pick up the joint and lighter and sit in my favorite chair. I click off the lamp and let darkness envelop me. The moment has come. Let the game begin. The time of deprivation has ended. The time of indulgence is here. I light the joint, drink the drink and sit quietly as the morning light starts to grow in the sky.
The madness in my personal world started back in late September; shortly after the equinox. All of a sudden…Whammo! I came up with the concept for my next epic novel. This will be my third one and I’m really very excited about it… But I’m also just a little bit scared. I went kind of crazy while writing the first two epics (1995 and 2004) and I’m slightly concerned about it happening again. The travel stories are different… much easier. Based mostly on reality, I write those books without really thinking. The epic novels, however, are pure fiction and kind of overwhelming. It’s hard to describe the extent to which the process of writing them interferes with normality. The new epic is fiction, of course, like the first two… but it deals with a topic that is very important and very controversial in the real world. And the problem I seem to be having involves separating the fiction from the reality.
I sip more coffee and take another hit off the joint. The sky gets brighter…up comes the sun. The plot for my new epic is fairly straightforward. It’s about an idyllic region in upstate NY that is economically poor but wealthy in culture and natural resources. In a very strange twist on reality, this economically poor region is also the provider of the most valuable resource to the financial capital of the world. That’s right; this extremely poor region upstate is the source of NY City’s water.
In my novel, something crazy happens. The Powers that Be, the international investors… the corporatocracy… the evil empire… discovers that the region which provides them with water also has the potential to provide them with lots of energy as well. A newly invented industrial process called high volume hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) makes it possible to get at natural gas which lies very deep down in the ground. Unfortunately, the new industrial process is also somewhat hazardous to the water supply so the investors are faced with a dilemma. Water or energy; what treasure shall they choose?
Of course, the empire makes the worst possible choice…the super greedy option. They defy rationality and believe that they can have both. The scientists and bureaucrats are sent in to analyze. After months of reflection they offer up their solution. They break the region down into tiny small parts. They compartmentalize and organize and divide and separate. If we do it correctly, they say, the water of the empire can be protected. It’s only the local people that have to get hydro-fucked… As you might expect, my novel will tell the story of the inevitable confrontation….
The sun is pretty high now, so I’m going for a walk. I take the other half joint and a jug of organic fruit juice and head out the door. I follow the abandoned railroad tracks in the direction of state land. There’s no snow yet and it’s almost Christmas. Does that mean global warming is pushing back winter? I moved out of my apartment last week. I guess that means I’m homeless again…like so many other Americans. I’m lucky though, I can’t afford rent, but at least Ms. B. will put me up until it’s time to go. She’s coming with me again. How about that? Two years in a row. She must really like me…. Our general plan is a Third World USA tour. For 13 years in a row now I’ve witnessed the calamities of capitalism in far away places. But now that the economic devastation has come home to roost, the time has come for a tour of the homeland.
The train tracks lead me to the collapsing ruin of a 19th century railroad bridge. It marks the turn-off for the trail through the woods. I climb up the embankment and onto the path. Now I enter the dark forest. The leaves are all gone from the hardwoods but the soft light of sun barely shining upon the barren branches dims the atmosphere to a gloomy grey. The trail follows a ridge and then descends down a steep hill. At the bottom, the terrain gets swampy with fallen moss covered logs and dark slimy sinkholes. The pathway meanders to avoid the tough spots until eventually it emerges on the banks of a river. I walk up the river along the rocks until I reach the bottom of the waterfall that tumbles over the hydro-electric dam. It’s a spectacular sight to visualize and gosh darn impressive as well; human ingenuity making good use of a resource. Not all hydro dams are a bad idea… The trail climbs upward on the right hand side. I follow it up and over and then I see the nice little lake. Most surprisingly, in the middle of the lake I see geese… lots of them… perhaps the most geese I have ever seen in one place.
The trail to the right leads down to Inspiration Point; a tiny rocky peninsula that juts out into the bay. As I walk closer and closer to the water, I notice that the geese are squawking. And they are squawking quite a lot. The closer I get, the louder and crazier it sounds. I finally reach the boulder on the end where I like to sit. I plop myself down and try to stay calm as the screeching all around me gets louder and crazier.
In the context of my fictional story, I have this interesting plot idea. Over and over, the incredible scene replays in my head. The date is June 21, 2012 and the location is a reservoir in Delaware County that provides the drinking water to New York City. In the middle of this reservoir there are tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) average citizens of upstate NY and they are having a big beach party. It’s an occupation…an unarmed occupation. As a matter of fact, all these people are naked…buck naked. And they are refusing to leave the reservoir until the NY state government bans hydro-fracking for the whole damn state…. Yeah, I know, not very realistic. My imagination gets carried away. In the real world, participants would have to wear some clothing. We don’t want to give the media the wrong idea. It’s a protest about resource allocation and environmental destruction, it’s not some outlandish artistic stunt…Yeah…you’re right… I guess it is an outlandish artistic stunt. But it’s also a live action non-violent peace performance that has the potential to shake the very foundations of the evil empire….
One way or another, it’s a pretty good plot idea if I can manage to pull it off. And I will spend the next several months trying to figure out if it’s possible. Meanwhile… I will be wandering around Third World America with Ms.B.. If only there was some way to combine the epic novel with this year’s winter trip. But that would be a very confusing combination of fiction and reality. What is illusion and what is the truth? And how much does that question matter… Hmmm. Wait a second. I think I have it. All of a sudden, the perfect plan comes together in my head. At that same moment the disparate cries of the geese come together into a unified scream: OCCUPY THE WATER SUPPLY. They lift off from the lake, gather into flock formation and fly south carrying their message… Don’t worry my friends, I hear you loud and clear. My plan for this year’s wander has fallen firmly into place.
I’m going to the party in Paradise
That’s where I want to be
The gathering for the summer solstice
To celebrate the land of the free
Right now it’s the winter solstice so that gives me a six month time period. At the moment, I’m on the outskirts of O’town at a place called inspiration point; very much in the real world. In between here and now and the party in paradise are the infinite roads through Third World America and the fine line which separates reality from the imagination. I have very little money for this trip because the stonework business was super slow this year. But I do have a bicycle and some stories to sell (buy my books) so somehow I will manage to survive. I also have Ms. B. She’s agreed to come with me so that should make things easier. Will we make it to our destination… the summer solstice party in Paradise (occupation of the NY reservoir)? I don’t know. One way or another, it will be a very interesting journey.