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Saturday, October 31, 2015

FORTY YEARS ON A BACK ROAD


tom pruitt's house today
 
Forty years ago, this day, this minute, 9:20pm, I was driving on the Parkway in the densest fog there ever was. I understand some of the fog in the Pacific Northwest is thicker. Absolute white like inside a cave is absolute black. The fog that night was dense. I'm used to it now, though it is never easier to drive in than it was that night, my first experience. Could only use first gear and creep. Had to hang head out the open window and look down at the tire and hold it next to the double yellow line in dim light. The fog absorbed the headlights in a white-out. I think of those nights driving when it is so dark it's pitch black, the headlights seem to go only half as far as usual. Stay in the rhythm of keeping the tire next to the yellow lines. Until a place where a road came into the parkway or entrance/exit to an overlook where the yellow lines ended for a space of about thirty feet. I never knew if I'd find the yellow lines again. I wondered if loaded pickup was headed toward the ditch and down the side of a mountain. Then the yellow lines appeared, I'd been on track. Ten or more years ago the maintenance crews painted segmented lines through the open spaces, a welcome assist.
 
the goat rock from waterfall road
 
I mused at how interesting it was to enter my new life, my commitment to the unknown, to chance, passing through a dense fog the last five miles. So smitten by the symbolism of it, I embraced the fog as a passageway into a new life of I did not know what. I had committed by giving self no option. The decision was settled. Whatever hardship went with it, I'd learn as time went by. I knew it would be intense hardship. No running water in the house, and an outhouse. Took water out of the creek behind the house in buckets. That wasn't anything. The first month, the month of November, cold to somebody from coastal South Carolina, frequent snow on the ground in the mornings, Tom gave me a job with a bush axe for clearing an acre of saplings and briars that had grown up in a meadow he wanted to return to meadow. I realized later he gave me this job to see how long I'd last before turning around and going home. I used it for boot camp. I wanted to work myself into shape and find the rhythm of hard labor, my purpose in going to the mountains to be a caretaker of a farm with beef cattle, totally inexperienced. 
 
waterfall road the backside
 
Somehow I knew without knowing that the mountains would be the place I live out my life. Looking at living my life, the mountains are the place to do it. Looking at making a living, the mountains are not such a good place to be. I could have found work that rewards a college degree, but did not want to wear a tie, work in an office and tell people what to do. I wanted to commit to hard labor. I had fallen in with Meher Baba a year before, which turned my inner direction 180 degrees around. I see my life an arrow shot straight up, going away from its source full speed. Momentum wears itself out, the arrow stops, falls back, turns around and flies full speed returning to its source. The first year was the turning of the arrow's direction. Most curiously to me of all is that these mountains are my blood source, which I didn't know for the first 25 years, as well as what I call the home of my soul. And that's not symbolism. It is best I came here from outside. I could not live here after growing up here. Much as I love the culture, I would need to distance myself from its control. As it is now, I honor the culture without it having controlling interest in my life. I've let the culture be my graduate school.

beside waterfall road the backside

This house was the Air Bellows School house. I've known well a handful of people who went to school and have met and spoken with another handful. Altogether, I've known ten people who went to school here. I've met people who were saved here at revival meetings they had sometimes in schoolhouses in the old days of horses and wagons. I feel a reverence for the house considering what all has gone on that these boards experienced. I feel a reverence for the house as itself without any mental references. It was constructed by the people of the community, some of them carpenters. The simplest possible construction, so simple it is almost in the Japanese style. This spot of ground is, indeed, the home of my soul. After living here around twenty-five years, I had a feeling that seemed like it came from higher self, that I now have my PhD in mountain culture. Not an academic title from reading, rather experiential, first hand, listening to old people tell their lives, working with mountain people, drinking with them and going to church with them, learning their theology, incorporating what I assessed the best of it into my life. Leave off the male hierarchy in the churches and I'm all with their theology, though in different words from what they use. I am post-round earth, post-evolution, post-the science of psychology, post-the 20th Century renascence, the new classical age for the future. I regard that unimportant. I was with old man Tom Pruitt, it's all in the red letters. The rest of it is history.  

the goat rock from waterfall road the back side
 
 
 
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1 comment:

  1. I am drawn to photos (and the real things, too) of abandoned houses. Don't know what that says about me. I like what old man Pruitt said at the end of your essay. I wish more felt that way. Reading just the red letters sounds like a good winter reading for me along with reading the Gospel of Thomas. It has been a long time since I've read them.

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