To One in the Dark IV

(Please read this series of entries sequentially…from the bottom up.)

Context: The Bowers of Halandri
For several days M had meetings in the center of Halandri, a suburb on the slopes above Athens. When we walked there we often detoured a few blocks off the main avenue, Pendelis, to skirt behind rows of high-rise cells, an abandoned mansion, an empty hospital, along a footpath above the loosely forested, green belt banks of a shallow coulee. When Halandri had another one of its several different names, when there was still space between this village and Athens, and more trees in the coulee, Oberon and Titania were said to have bowers among them. Today they are refugees and they’ve owned that status for a long, long time. From what I know of those two, I’m sure they stand aloof of maps.

When slipping through the flux of what’s palmed-off as civilized, when everything starts to look alike and the kaleidoscope is broken and just revolves through tightening repetitions of fabricated patterns and spin-offs and cultural icons sold by license, then there is no need for a map. One needs nothing of the sort to bypass a Starbucks and the cross-street back to Ave. Pendelis passed us by the patio of Starbucks and then by Banana Republics and Zaras and Gaps and Secrets of Vicky and Mickey D’s; each a finely developed, contagious cultural template in its own right, each developed to pull its own cart in the evolutionary diaspora, each developed by those within the framework to pull on forever and never fall by the way even though, as all outside the circle know, development always segues through entropy, the universal predator, into deterioration and death. (A flight of fancy on this subject is found at Sidebar to Well Log Integral)

There are only a few well defined categories (such as organized sports) in the more complex and abstracted levels of civilization where a predator is held in anything but low regard. One can speculate that civilization increases in civility on some discreet level in proportion to its ability to identify and neutralize sources of depredation against its valued holdings. As complexity and abstraction increase, the increasing measure and worth of The Stash, the Personal Stashes, the Collective Stash (the latter including, ouroboros-like, the imago of the collective itself) has to be more vigilantly guarded and pinched inside the lines, yes, and these can even be the provincial Stash and the boundary lines of a philosophy state—those simulations of sovereignty generated by their maps. And the media that lies too within those lines cultivates its Stash by continually reminding the civilians of both the Stash-value and the danger of predation from inside and out, from the meta-threats of the Brutish Antithesis and the identity-challenged raiders from Nomadland to the subtlies of the seldom seen, the refugees and vagabundos. Without fail the former are always on the take for prey, but the latter two stay on their feet with an obscure, consistent inconsistency of practice for they see the value of predation as strictly a matter of utility with swift, improv issues of odds and costs and benefits; take it up or put it down as circumstances warrant (like ravens in that regard, opportunistic). Raids are never worth the risk, and nothing is lost by keeping it slight.

Context: The kid learns how…
I discovered predator medicine when I was 11. I found myself making it while hunting a man, a friend of mine, through the tangled, rocky brush-land along the river that cut through the ranch. Time was running, but I was running faster in an intense hurry to see this man at his work. It was sundown, a January evening in the middle of the mid-50s Rocky Mountain drought. The ground was frozen solid, but there was no snow. The man left no track for a mile, but I found I could tell exactly were he walked. I could see his footprint on the moss of a rock, although on close examination that moss looked no different than than on the adjacent rock. And I could see the willow and juniper branches he had brushed against had a just barely noticeable glow, an aura that faded on scrutiny. And the air through which he had walked felt different than the air from off his trail. I was not astonished by any of this. I thought it a little bit funny and it gave my sensibilities this brassy edge to which I’ve always sought to keep close. Further, I took it all for granted; this is the way the world really works and I like it this way.

But I was not risking any time to think about it. I wanted urgently to find this man before night fully fell, something that would happen within minutes. Then I heard him and crept up past a couple of willows and dimly picked him out from the background only by dint of his movements. He was squatting at the river’s edge rinsing his scent from a mink trap he had just set. I was not surprised at all at this point in the hunt. He was, however. When I casually walked up and said “hi,” he wanted to know how I found him. I told him, leaving aside the details, that I had followed his trail. He said it was impossible, he was certain he had left no tracks on the frozen ground. But I told him where he had been, where he had set two other traps. He said I must have better eyes than his and on the spot he made me a partner in that trap line.

I never thought the experience strange or talked it up in the years that followed. I just thought I was running on instinct with no middling mediation to translate that which needs none. In that environment it was not so out of the ordinary that it was worth examination. I assumed it was what any of the higher creatures would do, could do, though no one had ever told me it was a possibility. Then again no one to then had ever bothered to tell me that it wasn’t. But for all of that, no one had ever told me that maps weren’t needed either.
Predatory medicine serves well such vagabundos as M and me as long as our styles stays obscure; being one so to know another. From the perspective of the practiced vagabundo, no need to mention that of the refugee, the collective guardians of the Stash look just like those collectives they guard against. So to keep our sense of who we are and what, and to stay aloof of all tangles except those we set out to make for our own, we stay below the radar. (Footnote re: La Migra (Immigration)—M, who could at one time travel on five different legitimate passports, used to be detained for serious questioning by la migra at every port of entry through which she ever passed. It was theorized that it might have something to do with her disdainful attitude toward not only the process but the officials in the booths. I suggested that she deplane looking rumpled, sleepless, disoriented and timid and that she should only take a fold-away, cloth shopping bag for carry-on luggage. La Migra hasn’t looked at her twice since she made that her habit.)

Context: On one’s own
It was at least 10 years, it might have been 11, before Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote of the incredulity toward meta-narratives and I was turning over in my mind portions of Orwell’s unmatched essay “Politics and the English Language,” in which he plays a fine riff off a passage from Ecclesiastes. I had just read Ecclesiastes for no other reason than this suburb stylist had read it and vamped so well. I was driving west on some county road in southeastern Wyoming and I was probably quoting out loud, “Vanity of vanity, saith Koheleth, all is vanity.” Suddenly I saw every one my own. They appeared in an all-inclusive semi-visual conceptualization in the way such things appear in dreams. And next that vision was compounded by the collectives vanities…the “all” that Koheleth saith. I had to laugh out loud at the fool I had constructed of myself from illusions of significance, lies that the culture had piled on to me and lies I had piled on to myself; all the profoundly important definitions, accolades, missions, preoccupations, essentials, obligations, fundamentals, personas, histories, expectations, significations and urgencies were instantly unmasked by the eruption of kundalini adrenalin to be, in my vision, straight jackets, cells without doors and contracts of indentureship that I shouldn’t have signed. They might have been righteous, noble and humane and decreed as the required uniform of life by every authority from the Godhead on up, but nonetheless, a sentence to slavery without reprieve. This was the 360–degree apprehension from the Whole of Being just seconds into the vision. It stayed like that until I understood and then the constrictions failed and fell away and I was left on my own in infinite nullity, abandoned by every last shred of significance, adrift toward only death. All the Continentals to that point said this was the abyss of anguish and despair. But Sartre had never been a cowboy and neither had Camus.
The abyss to me was the briar patch. I was home. The significance lost was nothing against the liberty I had gained in the realization there were absolutely no tracks to follow any more. And no particular place to follow them to except some attraction of my choosing. I could find that place through the only blind guidance I trusted, that by which I found my trap-line partner and how I found elk in the mountains, strays on the open range and witnesses who wanted to be lost or absconded defendants who needed to be served or my own way through the wilderness that had never been put together coherently enough in the first place for any theorist to deconstruct it except in his dreams.
Here we were 15 seconds into the revelation. I was ecstatic, pounding on the steering wheel with delirious joy.
About that time the turbo kicked in when I realized that I alone would be responsible for my choices and their consequences even tainted as they would be by my culture, a bounded, integrated and mediated province in its own right to which I would always have to answer. But I figured that if I paid it no more attention than it paid to me, that if culture and I regarded each other as mutually insignificant, mutually absurd in all respects, then the relationship could be one of light entertainment and nothing more.Vanities. (I have yet to find either one of us rising to the slightest degree above these, the entertaining vanities.)
The ecstasy of that vision stayed with me for almost six weeks.

Coming Next: To One in the Dark V—Conclusion


About Steven Nickeson

I've been a cowboy and a hobo and a truck driver and a newspaper reporter and magazine editor. I've written two text books on Native American property rights and been awarded national prizes for investigative journalism. I've ridden horses, all named Alpo, damned hard in the Westerns. I was once a range detective for Santo Domingo Pueblo and a private investigator for 18 years. I've also been a manuscript physician and writing tutor and journalism teacher and consultant to a literary agent. I've been a fencing contractor, and a welder in one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world and read Nordic Runes as a contract oracle on several psychic hot lines. My occupation for the last 19+ years is "Artist/Blacksmith" and I've done better at being an artist than any other calling. For nearly half of my life I have had an address along The Pan American Highway (Carretera Panamericana) in five cities/towns/villages, five counties, four states, two nations, two continents. I am in some way wedded to that road. View all posts by Steven Nickeson

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