Wednesday, March 08, 2006

This Awful Place

In Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume heaven and hell are one ship carrying the partying departed -- on one side the ship’s name is “heaven” and on the other it is “hell”. Same ship.

When I was still in my teens I actually found myself in heaven one day. I’d never been attracted or satisfied with the standard version of heaven as a city of gold. After talking in depth about this with my devout Free Will Baptist mamma, I simply asked myself, “What would heaven look like to me?” and basically a vision was right there in my head -- a meadow curving slightly uphill and away, bordered on both sides with a fringe of trees, sunshine, flowers, room to gallop. A few years later when I was working on a cuttin’ horse farm, exercising a youngster on a newly acquired (by the farm) piece of ground, I found that I had ridden directly into my vision of heaven. There is was, concretely, with me in the middle of it on the back of a horse. What a mindblower.

Well, I got over dichotomous (heaven/hell, god/devil, good/evil) religions a long time ago, but still just the other day I found myself smack in the middle of hell.

I was making an exchange, not at our usual rendezvous but at a new place, a house. The directions took me up an old road with the name Mullin’s Mill, to a new road named Azure Way. That right there was a hint of traveling from the useful to the useless, from the real to the delusional. I turned on Azure Way. It was just a dirt/gravel lane really, but it had been slashed, violently, through the middle of what had obviously been a steeply rolling dairy farm pasture. Our land here in the mountains is oftentimes uniquely suited to pasturing livestock -- not fertile enough and too steep for row crops and the like, but perfect for cattle in small volumes. Where spotted cows had once chewed their cud, now there were McMansions, one after the other, to the left and to the right. I was shocked to begin with, looking at these barren yards with brick monstrosities rising insanely tall out of them, big butts of garages sticking out front. I swallowed and went on, made my stop, doubled back, on my way to work, an excursion deep into Babylon.

And finally I identified one of the pieces that was even worse than the usual anthill development -- every single driveway, on the uphill and the downhill side of the road, was paved. The road was gravel, and single-laned. With paved driveways. Only an endless supply of oil and exploitation will lubricate the lives of those who live here where no one grows a single thing to eat, where heating involves nothing more than bumping a thermostat up, where “cooking” has deteriorated to thawing and re-heating, and where something possesses people to pave their driveways off of a dirt road. No doubt they will be at the county commission meetings to demand it be paved too.

The whole scene made me sick. I realized that yes, this was hell, and people chose voluntarily to live here. In hell.

And I don’t.

I don’t live in heaven or hell. I live in a place between the worlds. More and more I’m feeling like I’m not even the same species as these other Earthlings. I could holler, “What is wrong with you?” but I am but a silent shadow to them. Fellow shadows only know me. And as a shadow, I will live.

And I will not mourn the passing away of either heaven or hell.

(note: click on the title of this post to link to an excellent article of the same title by the shade John Seymour)

12 comments:

Deb said...

ugh. That's so surreal. I can totally identify with feeling like a different species.

Great article; makes me feel even better about getting in a snit last night when my husband pulled a box of coconut shrimp out of the freezer, labeled "Product of China". Maybe he and I are different species.

Laura said...

Ouch, Deb. My husband and I went through a few days of staring at each other like we were different species, or from different planets, after he came home. Now we seem to have negotiated a point of understanding to work from ("greater self-sufficiency is a good thing"), but still he keeps coming out with comments like "It's not cost-effective to have a cow."

Strange, CG, I just commented over at Dan's about choosing a place between the worlds. But - not mourning the passing of either? I don't get that. Is it sort of a battlefield mentality - no time for mourning or even burial, just soldier on?

Eleutheros said...

Eh? Not cost effective to have a cow?

If you were going to keep her in a spare room in the basement, buy all her feed, clean up after her etc. then maybe not. But otherwise how could a cow not be cost effective?

I wouldn't be buying so much milk, buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, butter, and cheese as we eat if I didn't have a cow. But when I add up the cost of those things at the Mart, WOW!

It'd be interesting to see your husband's internal speadsheet on that.

madcapmum said...

We've got subdivisions like that springing up all over the place like mushrooms. 3 acres of lawn and snowmobile trails, no vegetable gardens, no clotheslines. Just garages with an afterthought of a house tacked on the back, a shrine to the automobile society.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Ah, well, greetings to those of the alternative species!

But to answer, sort of, your question laura, no, it is not a battlefield mentality on my part. Since I'm unconcerned with saving the world (no dichotomies, remember?), I'm not part of the "battle". You and Dan can have that. I don't see a damn thing TO mourn. It would be like missing fried Twinkies or something -- who the hell would miss a fried Twinkie? Not me. People want to live stupid lives enough to die living stupid lives. Fine. Go ahead. I don't want anything to do with you.

I'll just live this good life and welcome and help anyone else who actually wants to do something toward it themselves. Part of the contrary nature maybe.

Laura said...

I had too much to say, so I went home to post my thoughts there.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I'll check you out laura!

the Contrary Goddess said...

In washing dishes on it, I think I'd like to add that, not only is "it" a fried twinkie (not worthwhile in and of itself, & ridiculously so), but it is a CGI digital representation of a fried twinkie -- an illusion. No hell below, above only sky. Who but the delusional can miss an illusion. Being disillusioned can be difficult, but it is freeing. How can you mourn the loss of nothing?

Or, did I "lose" heaven that day I rode into it? It never again existed for me on "another" plane after that. I have to say that, nah, I didn't lose anything.

Although all this is so esoteric, it almost can't be clear.

javaseeker said...

What a thought-provoking read. I've only begun to walk this path, and cannot feel anything but loathing for what is being lost around me (a farm turning into a Walmart and a Target a mere 1 1/2 miles away). I love our little pocket of freedom here, though.

thanks for the link to the essay from Seymour. I've got two of his books I highly recommend.

the Contrary Goddess said...

java -- his how-to books are good, but see if you can find his narrative "Fat of the Land". Of course, I'm particularly fond of narratives. There's also Logsdon's "You Can Go Home Again" (the inspiration for the new Bon Jovi song?). Of course, Harlan Hubbard's "Payne Hollow". I guess I think those are probably the best ones.

javaseeker said...

thanks cg--I'll most definitely look them up.

ps your new project horse sounds so exciting...draft horses are so unique and beautiful, good luck!

LuceLu said...

I have a friend who built a similar monstrosity (exactly how many roof angles does one home need?). Their taxes are $12,000/year --school/property. They cannot hang a clothesline nor grow a garden due to neighborhood covenants. I wonder if they are even allowed to have a vehicle older than 10 years in the driveway.

Patently ridiculous. Even more... visited recently and found they purchased a new refrigerator. Their old one works just fine and is plugged in the garage. Why a new one? Bought to match the stainless steel oven.

And still, she is lonely and unhappy and acknowledges it. Her family in Lebanon all want to come here but she says it is a false promise compared to what they have there--community. Most go back after 3 months.