|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
Part One: Chapter Six
In the Path of Progress
Sunday, January 31, 1988
It was another warm day like most in Syracuse's winter—gray and overcast. Heavy clouds hung low over frisky 450 wind gusts. After meditating in the front pew of St. David's I drove to Hiawatha Blvd. and Park St. Irving Powless was already there in his compact car. Clutching maps and my aerial photo I crowded in his front seat. Irving smiled brightly from behind dark glasses and we chatted about gardens and dowsing wells.
Irving was Secretary of the Onondaga Nation Council and an acquaintance for many years. Years earlier I'd dowsed a well for him. Water from his handdug well was full of sulphur and often went dry in summer. I taught his wife to dowse and together we dowsed a vein beside their house 85 feet deep.
Now, Irving explained a year later he had the well drilled. The driller bored through limestone at 80 feet and drillings came up white. Suddenly the limestone turned black, a sign of sulphur, and at 85 feet, the drill punctured a vein. But the water was sulphurous. Still, the water was cleaner than his dugwell, with a steadier volume.
Tim Atlanta appeared shortly and climbed in the back seat. For introductions I explained Tim's globe traveling hobby. Irving was fascinated and they discussed ancient sacred centers for many minutes. I sat in silent discomfort as they shared their interests.
Finally, I began. My voice, wired tight as my guts, forced words out through a narrow throat. "One of central NY's most powerful corporations is about to unleash its most ambitious project on a site which has the last Onondaga village on the lakeshore buried under it." I felt wrinkles knot my brow. Word by word, talking began to unravel the ball of tension coiled in my gut, loosening its grip.
"Tim and I were here last Sunday and looked around with dowsing. Two Onondaga villages are buried at this end of the lake. One, perhaps 500 years old, lies at the west edge of the sewer treatment plant. The other, called Kaneenda, is only 250 years old and buried directly under the site."
"Besides the archaeology, the place may be a toxic waste dump. It was used as a city dump in the '50's and has been a dump for industrial scrap metal since then. For at least 40 years this ground has absorbed all kinds of wastes. No telling what might be buried there. In the '50's and '60's there was little awareness of hazardous waste and few regulations."
My tension mounted as I wound through the tale towards its inevitable crossroad of decision. Irving, hidden behind. sunglasses, listened carefully and radiated a relaxed calm in sharp contrast to my own tension.
"Since 1900 as much as 50 feet of fill was dumped there," I said. "lt seems there's a water table that's ten feet deep. So whatever toxic wastes were buried probably collected and concentrated in this stagnant water table. It's one engineering problem to build on a swamp. It's much different when the swampwater's toxic."
Tim spoke, "Last week we saw many new piles of metal shavings. Cutting oil saturating them was seeping into the ground. One new pile of this stuff was smoking in the warm air."
"Smoking?" Irving inquired with wide eyes.
"Yeah, smoking!," I exclaimed. "lt was spooky! The water puddle at its foot was ugly green with oil seeping from the pile. Today I'm going to photograph them."
"That's astonishing," agreed Irving. "What could cause smoke like that? Hints at spontaneous combustion."
"Don't know," I said with a shrug. "But in the last week two people told me Marley disposed of ten electric transformers by burying them on site. These are huge industrial transformers, each big enough to service an entire downtown building. They probably contain PCBs. We're going back today to locate where those beasts are buried."
Irving's eyes narrowed, "We've had experience with PCBs up at the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation on the St. Lawrence. The Mohawk Tribal Council is working with State Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone to trace industrial contamination in the river. We found a snapping turtle with incredible PCB levels. Ward thinks the PCBs come from the General Motors foundry next to Akwesasne but GM denies it."
I had read the tale of the Akwesasne snapping turtle and I knew from Jeannie of the sickness and birth defects in animals and humans at Akwesasne. Tim commented, "I just read about PCBs in Time magazine. Four years ago a Pacific Gas & Electric transformer caught fire and spewed PCB-laden smoke into a San Francisco highrise. PG&E had to pay $22 rrtillion to cleanup the building. Since then PG&E has voluntarily replaced all equipment that contains PCBs, to the tune of over $100 million. Seems PCBs are mighty powerful poison."
I shook my head. "Well, I'll tell you, this is the ugliest, most tortured piece of Earth I've seen in Syracuse. Or anywhere. Why a bunch of Indians would want to live there I can't figure," I said with a sly smile.
Irving smiled grimly back, "The land's changed a lot since we lost it. What was done to determine if the the village is there?"
I described Pyramid's archaeological study. "So Friday I opened my moutl.t at a Common Council meeting to ask if anyone studied environmental conditions here. I told them I was working with an engineer to develop a new remote sensing technology. We tested it at Marley's and detected unusual conditions underground. I said I wanted to see more data."
Irving smiled in charmed amusement, "Remote sensing technology, huh? That's clever."
With a little pride, I replied, "Yeah, that's the best I could come up with on short notice. Figured I could avoid questions about dowsing. If anyone asked, I'd say I had to consult my engineer before revealing technical details."
"That's because some people don't understand the power of the mind." Irving shot me a penetrating look. "I talked to Oren about this. When I told him how you found the village he asked, 'They can do that?' 'Oh yeah,' I said, 'and other things!'" We shared a chuckle over this.
"Anyway," I continued, "I made enough noise to leave City Hall with a copy of the DEIS. I spent hours yesterday studying it and.... well, if the village is there, no one's ever going to excavate it. It's too deep and there's several feet of toxic water above it. Even if they drain the water, no archaeologist will ever dig through that toxic mess just to uncover a fishing village."
Irving was silent a moment. In slow words, he said, "Why is it, no matter what us Indians do, no matter where we go and what we do, we always get caught in the path of progress. We get stampeded, we get railroaded, we get beat up, and run over, we have what's ours taken away, and then we're blamed for it all." Irving spoke with sad humor unmarred by bitterness or pity. It was simple, honest assessment, not angry accusation.
Irving looked out silently across Hiawatha Blvd. to Marley's. "I'm not sure, but I think somewhere there is the place mentioned in the first treaty between Onondaga Nation and NYS written in the 1790's that gave the early settlers permission to start salt industry. It read something like: 'from the place where the creek enters the Lake, proceeding 3 miles east, so many miles south, then west, then north until a line east shall strike the place of beginning, then to the place of beginning...' I can't remember it. Another part about all lands within one mile of the lake. But maybe that was a different treaty."
It's called the Salt Treaty. New York still pays Onondaga Nation several ton of salt each year for the treaties. In Sept. '87 National Geographic ran a story about the Iroquois entitled The Fire That Never Dies. I remembered the photo of Onondaga chief Vince Johnson unloading salt from a trailer.
Irving continued, "In 1779 George Washington sent General Sullivan up the Susquehanna with 4000 soldiers to destroy us. General Sullivan was killed so Colonel Ointon took command. The Clinton-Sullivan campaign broke the Confederacy. But not because of a military victory. It was the first time many whites had seen the Finger Lakes. Clinton saw the Iroquois heart land: the Finger Lakes. And he wanted them. After the war as NY's Governor he set out singlemindedly to get them."
Irving went on, "Our nation was weak after the Revolution.
We'd never had our villages and crops burned. Sickness took many elders those harsh winters. After the war some Iroquois splintered off to Canada to be under British protection. So we were divided and on our knees in distress and loss."
He continued, "After the war Governor Clinton came at us in our weakness and tried to get the Lake away. But the Onondaga chiefs were steadfast and refused to give it up. NY's Commissioners got us to sign an agreement, a contract, but they didn't get what they wanted and they didn't do it right."
"So a few years later they came at us again to get more land. We were still weak and divided, struggling to rebuild houses, fields and families after the wars. Again we refused to give up the lake, which by then was producing tons of valuable salt for NY. Two years later Governor Clinton came at us a third time. This time he got the lake. But he didn't do it right."
We sat silent for several minutes. Finally, I made my intent clear, "I'll make you a promise. I'll do my best to take on the environmental problems here without your help. Your people didn't create these problems and shouldn't have to get bloody and muddy fighting about them. I won't talk about the village until the Onondaga chiefs meet to decide your interests."
"If Tim and I locate the transformers," I said, "I'll call a press conference in a week or two. I don't know if or how this will happen. I'm going to take this one day at a time."
Irving stared at me intently and said, "In a situation where you are outmuscled, the only solution is to get more muscle." Irving said this lightly. He shot me another penetrating look. "We have friends in EP A in Washington. If we call and say we have an ancestral site endangered because of development, the feds will put a lock on the situation until a proper study is done. And they have federal money to pay for the study."
It sounded so simple. "I appreciate your offer to back me up on this," I replied. "Even if you can't be beside me at my press conference, I'll feel better knowing you're behind me in spirit."
"Big deal. Now you have a bunch of Indians behind you."
"Yeah, Lone Ranger and Tonto ride again. It's funny, the idea
the federal cavalry will rescue the Indians and corral the settlers." We laughed as more of my tension melted away. I felt good to laugh amidst this fearful, tense situation. This talk with Irving was medicine for my heavy heart and I told him so.
Irving checked his watch. "Well, I have to be at the yard soon for work. What else do we need to discuss?"
"Where do you work?" Tim inquired.
"Conrail Dewitt Yard. Been there 25 years."
I chuckled, "If we get stopped today at Marley's, we can mention your name and say we're doing Conrail survey work."
Becoming serious I suggested, "Let's drive west on Hiawatha across the bridge. From there we can point things out to you."
Within a minute we were creeping along the bridge. Irving stopped as Tim and I pointed out various spots on the huge Marley's site. The January thaw assured there was no snow cover to hide the landscape or scrap metal.
I explained to Irving, "When I dowsed the location of the village I tried to imagine how it must have looked. I figured it was a small camp with only a few longhouses surrounded by a wooden stockade."
Irving looked at me amiss. "Oh, no. There was no stockade. Kaneenda was there before the French invaded our lands and began the long history of wars. Kaneenda was in the heart of our lands and we had no need for defensive forts then. We lived in peace at that time and ruled by diplomacy."
I pondered this bit of information in silence. Sadness crept over me to realize how tragic the last 300 years of history had been for the Onondagas. It seemed a miracle that Onondaga Nation had survived at all.
After our look at Marley's I said, "Let's drive across the Barge Canal to the other village. I want a look at water levels there."
Before we crossed the Barge Canal a large granite stone beside the road caught my eye. This was an official Onondaga County historical marker memorializing Kaneenda, the lost last village of Onondaga Indians on their lakeshore. Curious, we stopped to read the inscription on the copper plate.
|KA NE EN DA
The only pre-colonial
Iroquois village site on
located on lake front north
of this place.
Iroquois pottery with human faces
1670-1690 found here but not
elsewhere around Onondaga Lake. Landing place for canoes.
First barbeque held here in what is
now Onondaga County June 29
1758 by Sir William Johnson
Webster Trading post 1796
Newkirk the Trader died here
Onondaga Historical Society
Here was a definite public statement an Onondaga village had been here. Hardly the place to find an Indian village. The marker was squeezed beside an industrial roadway. On our left dark, smelly, stagnant water in the Barge Canal separated us from the Metropolitan Sewage Plant. At our backs rose the white tanks of Oil City. Before us chain link fence guarded green oil tanks and snaking maze of red and yellow pipe of the Hess Oil Company tank farm. Beyond these loomed twisted metal piles at Marley's behind which rose the bed of the transcontinental railroad. Half a mile away lay Onondaga Lake.
It was about as un-Indian a landscape as you could get. Much had changed in 300 years since Kaneenda was abandoned. In my mind's eye I tried to imagine how this land looked to Irving's ancestors. If legendary Onondaga Hiawatha returned to stand on the street now bearing his name, he would be stunned. I couldn't believe how much fill now smothered the lakeshore to raise this level landscape. Shaking my head in disbelief and sadness I climbed back in Irving's little car.
We continued west on Hiawatha to the west edge of the sewer plant. Our dowsing told us somewhere beneath the fence was another Indian village site over SOO years ago. Again I imagined the landscape at that time. If there had been a village, there must have been dry land here then. The lakeshore must have been here too, to provide a landing site for canoes. Yet now it was several hundred feet north. How did the lakeshore recede so much?
After brief discussion we returned to Park Street. Irving suddenly asked, "By the way, Helen wanted to know if you know what Promalt is. A railcar of bulk grain broke open in the freight yard. Thousands of bushels were going to be dumped so I shoveled a lot into garbage bags. I can't tell what it is but it's a seed. The car was headed for the brewery, so it must used in beermaking. Helen puts it in soups and it imparts the richest mellow flavor. I've still got a bag in the trunk."
We walked to the rear of Irving's compact. He removed a bag into which he thrust his hand. Small brown seeds trickled from his hand to mine.
After a moment of study, I announced, "It's barley. Promalt is unhulled barley. The seeds are still clasped in papery husks. From its look, I'd say it's been soaked in water to germinate the seed, then dried. Soaking releases enzymes which convert barley starch into malt sugar. This sweet barley is boiled and filtered to extract the sugars. This becomes malt, which is then fermented with yeast to make mash for beer."
Irving looked enthusiastic. "Would you like some?" he asked.
"Sure." I laughed and pulled a plastic bag from my coat to offer Irving, "I'll give you my Celtic sea salt in trade—an unusual salt from Brittany in France. It's made by hand from deep ocean water in natural clay beds by a centuries old process. It isn't manufactured, it's grown—cultivated the way farmers grow grain. They expose it to sunlight and rake it by hand to grow the highest quality of salt for biological use I know of. Look at the large, well formed crystals. This salt has strong energy."
Irving questioned what I found funny. I explained, "You know in Britain the saying about 'carrying coals to Newcastle'? Newcastle was the heart of British coal country and no one took coal to Newcastle. Well, here I am trading salt to an Onondaga Indian on the shore of the Salt Lake."
Tim and Irving sensed the historic humor and geographic irony and smiled. But my mind moved on to the greater irony that last year salt industry on Onondaga Lake had shut down. Trading grain and salt beside an ancestral fishing village had more than a historic ring to it. It resonated deeper into metaphor and myth.
In the Old World beside the salty Dead Sea Christ had said, ''Ye are the salt of the Earth." In the New World on the shore of the Salt Lake Peacemaker taught The Great Law of Peace, a way to end killing and warfare. Here we were trading grain and salt on the now nearly dead Salt Lake shore while in the Middle East the Dead Sea is about to be poisoned with human blood.
As Irving left for work my somber mood returned. Tim and I drove down Park St. and parked again under the I-81 overpass.
We hiked in silence down the Conrail tracks through the piles of trash and swamp. Reaching Marley's, we crossed the tracks and stopped at the edge of the railroad bed. "Let's look for the transformers first," Tim suggested.
"Yes," I agreed, "that's our most important chore. Let's just ask for the nearest buried industrial transformer."
We talked about what to look for, then pulled out our rods to silently pose our question. Our rods swung left. Comparing their directions I saw they weren't parallel.
"Stay here," I said and walked several feet down the railroad. From there I repeated my question and watched my rod's response. Comparing this new angle with Tim's several feet away, I plotted their course across the land. They intersected hardly 50 feet away. Beckoning to Tim, I stepped over the last line of rails and approached the site.
Following our rods, we approached a small earth mound along the edge of the railroad curving around Marley's. We met in front of this obviously man-made pile, I looked at Tim and said, "That was easier than I could have ever imagined."
"Almost unbelievable," agreed Tim. "Obviously something big was dug in here. The ground shows clearly without dowsing where the hole is. Let's look around for others." Separating, we
began dowsing for more. It was a piece of cake. Along the railroad bed were 3 other distinct mounds of dirt, each marking a transformer burial.
I commented, "From the look of the weeds growing on the mounds, they were dug in at least 5 years ago. Several years for these perennial weeds to become so well established."
Pointing, I noted, "See that stand of trees on the west? Then another cluster on the east? In the middle all the trees except those few were dug up when they buried the transformers. I
think we've got a real burial site here." I didn't feel elated at all.
"Let's get more information about the site," suggested Tim.
We fell silent to search the site. I dowsed with my rod around each burial site. Tim remained along the railroad tracks.
"Tim, I'm confused. I get there's four burial sites along here.
But I get there's five transformers. They're nearly four feet in diameter."
"Well, I was studying just the one over there. David, they buried it deep—20 feet deep." He sounded particularly concerned.
Nodding I said, "According to the DEIS, 20 feet is as deep as the backhoe will dig a hole here." I stepped over to Tim's site. "That's how deep the archaeologist and engineers went. So they buried these toxic bombs as deep as they could."
Stopping at the hump, I dowsed its depth and came up with ten feet. "I only get ten feet, Tim. Why the difference?"
"Were you looking for the top or bottom?" Tim asked.
"Oh, just, 'how deep to the transformer?' That would be the top... Oh, OK." Silently I dowsed again. "Yes, its foot sits at 20 feet.
So this beast is a real monster, maybe ten feet tall. Is that possible?"
I checked the other humps to discover all the transformers were similarly buried, feet at 18-20 feet and tops 9-11 feet deep. So Marley's buried them as deep as possible, believing they would never come up again. "If they buried them that deep, they must contain something they knew was nasty," I said to Tim.
"David, how many transformers are buried here at Marley's?"
"Well, the story was there were 10 in the shipment."
"But did you dowse that?" Tim persisted.
"No. Let me check now." Silently I faced south to scan all of Marley's and consult my dowsers mind. "I get 14 altogether." "So did I," Tim responded.
After another silence I reported, 'There are ten very large ones like the ones buried here. Then there are four other different size ones." Tim confirmed these numbers.
After a few minutes we headed for the northwest comer. We crept slowly along south of the railroad bed. A few yards west of the burial site a ditch opened between Marley's and Conrail: This ditch rapidly deepened and widened until entire bushes and small trees grew in its bottom.
"Look at that!" I exclaimed. "The transformers are buried at the head of this ditch. If the oily PCBs in them comes to the surface, water will wash it right into the Barge Canal up ahead."
"They sure did a perfect job choosing the worst possible place to bury them," Tim agreed.
I made several excursions down the steep, rocky railroad embankment to examine the bottom of what had become a deep trench between Conrail and Marley's. This trench was 12 feet deep and at its widest 35 feet. Some areas of its bottom were logged with water. An eastbound freight rumbled by while Tim and I stood in this deep ditch.
"David, did you feel that vibration in the ground as the train went by? It was most unusual" Tim was obviously excited. "If there's a water table close under here, it would change the way the ground's response to low frequency vibrations from surface movements like a train. Next time one comes by, notice that."
As we worked our way along the railroad we stopped at intervals to dowse the depth to original soils. I made notations on my map. As we worked our way west, the fill thickened. Far below us the original land sloped downwards towards the old Onondaga creekbed. We dowsed 35 feet, 40 feet, 45 feet, then over 50 feet of fill dumped on this site in 200 years. This seemed impossible.
As I looked from the railroad bed's height across Marley's and Hiawatha Blvd. to Oil City, I was staggered at the amount of earth which had been piled on the lakeshore. Actually, at that time on the last Sunday of January, I found it unbelievable.
Eventually our depth sensings settled to a steady 55 feet, then began to rise. We had passed over the original creekbed. I backtracked to find the area directly above the creekbed. Near here, according to Irving's account, would be the "place of beginning". Over 50 feet of fill sat between the original soils of the creekbed and the surface of the railroad embankment in 1988. How could there be so much fill here?
A rock on the ground caught my eye. Bending down, I picked up a jet black stone that fit snugly in my palm. "Look at this," I called to Tim, "a piece of coal."
Tim looked at the rock. I turned it around in my hand, studying it's shape. I said, "There's no coal deposits in central NY. The closest coal beds are 100 miles south in Pennsylvania. My father's hometown is Montgomery in the center of West Virginia. As a boy visiting my grandparents in Montgomery I watched the mile long coal trains rumble through town. Later I saw the strip mines and chemical plants, wasted land and polluted, foul smelling air. Coal was the source of energy to drive the engines of industry. From this black rock came fiery heat and light to power America's industry."
I wondered, "How did this lump of black come to be beside Onondaga Lake, so far away from its home?" Its blackness spoke to me, expressing the deep emotional darkness which hung about this day. This mere rock became a symbol of the corruption and devastation which now blights this once idyllic Finger Lake. I dropped the lump of blackness in my pocket, symbolic reminder of the darkness I now faced.
As we entered Marley's, I snapped photos of the railroad, the trench and Marley's. Several new piles of metal millings had been dumped. Heavy equipment used to dump the metal had gouged deep tracks in the soft ground and rains had filled these depressions, leaving puddles everywhere. Oil leaching from the new piles discolored the puddles unearthly shades of green, red, orange, brown, and white. White foam floated on several. A modest problem last week was now growing acute.
I snapped photos of the piles and puddles to show oily water trickling towards the Barge Canal. Beside one new pile two huge 4" thick metal plates lay flat on the ground—each several feet square. The edge where they met was serrated like teeth of two gears meeting along a straight edge. Heavy equipment had pulled the plates slightly apart exposing a hole in the earth.
Stepping to the edge I saw it was a manhole lined with brick and iron rung ladder. It seemed to descend quite a few feet into the ground. However, dark oily water stood only three feet in this hole just below the second iron rung. Here was visible evidence of the subsurface water pond! Excited, I snapped photos.
I located a wide mouth beer bottle in weeds along the Barge Canal. Removing my gloves, I rinsed it in a cold puddle and returned to the wellhole. Ground all around the hole was covered by metal shavings. A small avalanche disturbed by my feet slid into the hole. In the overcast light of late afternoon, dim rainbows of oil swirled on the water surface.
Squatting for a closer look, I saw thick grease on the iron rungs visible above the water. The old brick lining the hole was thickly coated with glistening red slime. The thought of touching it was repulsive but I resolved to take a water sample.
I appreciated being thin and taking yoga. The gap between the metal slabs covering the hole was barely wider than my body with nothing but oily metal cuttings to grab onto. Getting onto the first rung was difficult but stepping down to the second seemed impossible. Inches below my feet was dark oily water. If I fell in, Tim would be hard pressed to pull me out. .
Holding the greasy first rung with my left hand, I tried to stoop down and reach into the water with my right. This proved nearly impossible and I almost slipped. I found myself staring close at a wall of red slime. After several attempts my right hand finally reached and water gurgled into my bottle. Then I began an equally awkward struggle out of that repulsive hole.
Tim and I continued carefully down the drive. I took photos of the old piles of metal shavings. Today none of them sported a volcanic vapor plume but there were many large sickly green puddles. I located several boreholes from Pyramid's groundwater sampling. I wanted to get the cap unlocked and off to peer down and to sniff. I settled for studying the borings deposited in a ring at the foot of the pipes. I saw a light colored, fine grit brought up from the bottom of each hole.
We slowly crept along the drive to check once more for the Onondaga village. Once again our dowsing located Kaneenda directly beneath the proposed site of the mall. Its center lay further ahead beneath the cleared land. I looked for evidence of the archaeologist's work but saw no sign of 21 feet deep trenches.
Tim had to leave, since he sang in church choir every Sunday evening. "I've one more thing to do in the southwest comer," I entreated. He agreed to stay a few more minutes. With
nervous eyes roving the terrain, we set off for the Hess oil tanks.
I returned to the mullein in the sacred space I had found a week before. I stepped carefully into the center of the plants and knelt facing south. Before me was a patch of green grass, the only expanse of turf on the site. Beyond the green grass curved a fence to mark Marley's southwest border.
From DEIS maps I knew this curving fence preserved an original topography of the site: the last westward bend of Onondaga Creek before it emptied into Onondaga Lake. The creek was diverted west into the Barge Canal in the last century and over 30 feet of fill has been dumped in the old creekbed. But despite 200 years of history and many feet of fill, the last bend of the creek is still preserved as this curving property line.
Beyond this fence lay the green tanks of the Hess Facility. It's curious those tanks are green, while all other tanks in Oil City are white.
Strangely, on topographic maps of Onondaga Lake a patch of green marks this little area of grass. Green on topographic maps usually marks woods, yet here it's a patch of grass.
Sitting amid the mullein in this sacred space I saw green grass, a curving green fence and green oil tanks. Amidst the twisted, tortured and contaminated environment of Marley's
Scrap Metal Yard is a little island of green, serene peacefulness. As I sat there I prayed for strength, guidance and protection to do what was right. I reached out with my mind and promised that piece of tortured Earth I'd do what I could to assure its healing and restoration.
While I performed my simple ceremony in my mind, Tim circled around me, sensing the invisible energy channels we'd learned to detect. As I stood up, he said, "Six energy lines intersect here in an upward vortex."
Lost in a deep corner of thought I merely grunted my assent. I walked stiffly as we hurried back to the northwest corner. There I retrieved my beer bottle and we made off down the tracks into the deepening gloom of January twilight.
The sky was dark when I arrived home. Inside, the house was dark and cold. Turning a light on and the thermostat up did little to render my mood warm and cheery. My mind disappeared down a dark hole of brooding. I was really in a pickle now. Why do I get into these things?
I thought long and hard about the situation I had uncovered and what I could do. Uncounted minutes passed as I sat in deep contemplation. Finally, after almost 2 hours, I needed to talk to someone, so I dialed Ed Eagan. "Hello, this is David."
"Hi, David. How are you?"
"Not very good. My heart and mind are overwhelmed. What I'm thinking has me depressed. I went to Marley's today. I found the transformers. It took less than a minute. They were right in front of me when I began to look. It was a set-up like never I've seen a set-up. No effort was made to obscure the burials. Even without dowsing it's easy to see something was buried deep there."
"Wow! That's incredible!" Ed said in excitement. "Of course, no one will believe you and your dowsing."
"I understand," I responded in mild annoyance, "but I know those beasts are there. Well, I'm not 100% sure about this. But I tried different ways to approach the situation and be sure. I'm convinced several large objects are buried there as deep as possible. I believe they're transformers which contain PCBs. But even if they aren't transformers, they buried something nasty there they hoped would never see the light of day again."
"So what are you going to do?"
"I've decided to get them removed," I said heavily. "They have to come out of the ground. I know little about PCBs but I understand they're oily. When they come to the surface, they'll spread into Onondaga Lake. Once in the ecosystem they'll cause genetic damage for generations."
"Sounds noble, David," Ed said, "but how are you going to do that? You can't go dig them up."
"Of course not," I said with annoyance. "I don't have a complete plan yet but sometime soon I'll call a press conference. Probably in a week or two. I'd appreciate your help, since I'm inexperienced at this."
"I think you'd better get people to attend the co.nference with you," Ed replied. "It would look more credible if you had people with credentials to support you." Ed seemed to doubt my capacity to be believable. With good reason.
"I agree," I answered, "but I'm the only one who's actually been to Marley's and seen what's there. It would be hard for someone to stick their neck out without first hand knowledge of the situation. And I spent the last several years all over the state and don't know many people locally. I wouldn't even know who to approach." I began to doubt my plan.
"I'm not sure how much my family can support you. If the press finds out we even know each other, they'll write you off as our paid assassin. I'll have to talk to my father."
"Look, I want to be clear about this. I'm not going to oppose the shopping mall. My concern is to remove the transformers and clean up the ground. All my life I've carefully avoided taking positions against things. I won't start now."
"David, these guys are ruthless and ambitious," Ed's voice became sharp. "They won't let you get in their way. If they can ignore you, they will. If that doesn't work, they'll walk over you."
"Then I'll have to convince Pyramid it's to their own advantage to remove the PCBs and look at Marley's more carefully. They should be smart enough to understand the danger transformers present. My position isn't opposition, and by not opposing them, I have some protection."
"I think you underestimate Pyramid," was Ed's response. "Don't underestimate how arrogant and powerful they are. No matter what you do they treat anyone in their way as enemy."
My frustration was increasing. "I realize your family wants to stop this project, but I spoke to a lot of people in the last week. You can't stop this mall. These guys have too much power. I don't think you can stop it. However, what I'm about to do may buy you some time. If I succeed I will slow Pyramid up a few months while they remove the transformers and do more studies. But I seriously doubt you can stop this mall."
Ed's reply was, "The force is with us." He was dead serious.
I laughed, "Well, I'll see what I can do." I was amused at his Reaganesque reference to Hollywood myth. But more deeply I sensed unseen spiritual forces were afoot in this situation. My intuition knew this was more than a power struggle over a mall. In one week there had been far too many coincidences. in the last two weeks. "Coincidence" is a mask we put on meaningful events influenced by invisible forces we do not understand.
I turned to another thought. "I want to tell you this now, before all this happens. I've thought about this for several weeks now, before any of this. So I'd better speak now. I'd like your help to buy this house. For nine years I ran around New York doing difficult, unpaid jobs to teach self healing and macrobiotics, and develop sustainable food systems."
"Now I feel myself getting old and I need a place to settle down," I said. "My plan is to find a home where I can teach and counsel people who face a healing crisis. I think I can do that here. I need two feet under me for a change. One foot means a steady home to gather resources and live an orderly life."
Going on I said, "You've been here so you know what a pleasant house this is. It has the positive atmosphere needed for a healing place. You commented that yourself when you were here last week."
Ed was hesitant but offered, "I don't know how I can help. I'm newly married and just bought a new home myself. With my new responsibilities I'm working for my family but it's not what I want to be doing. Maybe someone in my church would buy the house and rent it to you. Would that be ok?"
"Sure," I replied. "I feel no great need to own the house. I need permanence and stability, something I've never had."
"Let me know. I'll talk to you later this week." We hung up.
I sat alone in silence another hour thinking over my plans.
My decision's weight and Ed's negative comments slowly bore down on me. A dark mood wrapped itself tight around me like a shroud. I tried to turn aside anxious empty feelings and apply my mind to charting a course. I allowed my mind to be preoccupied with practical details and began making lists. How do I call a press conference? Where? When? Who will come? What would I say? Gradually an plan took shape in my mind.
Suddenly, the phone's chirp interrupted my thoughts. I picked it up. "Hello, David Yarrow."
A hoarse, raspy voice gasped, "Stay away from Oil City. Oil. City don't mean nothin' but trouble for you."
Waves of numb shock swept through me from ear to toes. It stopped to grip my kidneys in dark, cold fear. "My God," I thought, "what is this?" Adrenaline took hold—my mind began to race. After a brief pause I spoke, "Listen, I don't mean to harm anyone. There's things at Marley's which threaten all of us. This danger must be removed." I tried to keep the tense shock in my body out of my voice.
Inside my mind exploded with questions and reactions. "Who's this? How'd they find out so fast? I told one person an hour ago. Did they tap my phone? But how'd they know to tap my phone? How do they have enough power to tap anyone's phone? My God, just how powerful are these people? How much do they control? What have I innocently gotten into? Is this really happening? Is this day really taking place?"
Jerking my mind from its inner scramble, the raspy voice continued in relentless intimidation. "Forget it. You could get hurt sticking your nose in other people's business."
Bracing myself I continued to attempt calm reason, "But something must be done. I can't walk away with what I know."
"You don't know nothin', and if you're smart, you won't do nothin'. Stay away and nothin' will happen you might regret."
"Something must be done. What do you think I should do to remove the danger?" A strong ache rose up my spine from the small of my back as my kidneys contracted in fear. I struggled to remain calm.
"Why don't you talk to Karen Silkwood. She would have some good advice for you. Talk to her about what to do."
I blanched at this reference to Karen Silkwood, who had died 10 years ago in a mysterious car accident on her way to meet a reporter to expose safety violations at a plutonium processing plant. But a tiny light came on in my mind and I wondered if this was a clue to my caller's identity.
"That's hard to do, since she's dead. Since you seem to know about Marley's, perhaps you can suggest how to prevent a disaster for Pyramid." Confidence flooded my voice as I maneuvered the voice to say more.
"Don't worry about Pyramid. Worry about yourself. Fooling around at Oil City could be bad for your health."
I pried for another glimpse at my caller's identity. "Health is the right word. The health of many people is threatened by the situation at Marley's. The wisest course is to clean up the situation. Don't you agree?"
"The only thing getting cleaned up will be you." This ended with a long, deep macabre laughter suitable for the Friday Night Fright Night movies. More light poured into my mind but before I was sure my caller shifted voices.
"I really had you going. Haha!" The voice was the deep boom of a client and friend.
"Yes, you did! What a lousy joke! Of all my friends, only you would play such a trick." My voice was annoyed and amused.
"I heard from a friend today you burst in on the Council meeting Friday asking questions about Marley's. I knew you had to be up to something."
"Well, you certainly gave me a jolt. Now that you've had your fun, how about some advice. What should I do?"
"My advice is stay away. The boys at Pyramid are in another league from me. I wouldn't touch the situation. These guys are tough and they play hardball. They eat little guys like you."
I explained what I found at Marley's. His response was discouraging. "What's it to you? So what if big boys build their mall on Marley's? They don't care. They just build them. They make their dough building them. If the mall fails they already made a bundle as contractor. My advice is leave it alone."
"At least I can tell them about the danger in front of them. If they ignore me I'll decide whether to pursue this on my own."
"These guys paid big bucks for engineers to study the place. How can you tell them what their engineers can't?"
"Because their engineers aren't dowsers and they didn't look for what I did. Nor did they look where these transformers are. If I'm right maybe Pyramid will pay me, too." I was more playing than serious.
This amused my caller and a deep booming laugh rolled out. "Robert Congel doesn't pay people, he buys them. The guy has so much money he owns two mansions, one on Woodchuck Hill Rd., the other on Skaneatles Lake. He gave his wife millions to renovate the old Federal Courthouse on Clinton Square into the fanciest headquarters in town. You're dirt to him."
He droned on, "They bug their own offices. They have TV cameras hidden in rooms so they can video all their meetings. They'll review your performance and pick you apart. I'm telling you, these guys are a different league. I wouldn't touch them."
|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
144 pages, 8.5 x 11 soft cover
available from Turtle EyeLand
"Well, it's late. Thanks for the good advice. I'm encouraged.
If you get any bright ideas how to help, give me a call."
"You got my best advice, baby. You're really going in way over your head on this one. Good night." The phone went dead.
I didn't sleep much that night. I lay awake thinking, reviewing, writing, talking to myself, turning, tossing. I woke a few hours later and the same thoughts cycled endlessly through my mind, looking for clues, signs, intimations. It was the first of many restless nights of reduced sleep.