|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
Part One: Chapter Nine
The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Thursday, February 4, 1988
I woke after a bare few hours sleep still feeling a terrible weight bearing heavy on my spirit. It had begun to snow in the night, and several inches blanketed the ground. Winter returned on the day of my press conference. Outside it was windy, cold and overcast with thick snow still falling. Marley's would remain covered by snow until spring, hiding its twisted, tortured condition. I wondered, "Will this affect attendance at my press conference? Is it an omen for good, or ill?"
I elected to forego breakfast and face Bruce Kenan on an empty stomach. Hunger would harden my will and tighten my attention. Instead, I downed a cup of strong coffee. As I drove to Pyramid, fluid swirled in my guts, increasing my nervousness.
The radio announced Congress voted against military funds for contras in central America, denying support for Reagan's "freedom fighters." Perhaps peace was dawning in far off central America, ending killing and war. I hoped today will bring peace and honor in central New York, too.
Parking on Erie Boulevard across from the Old Federal Building, I slogged through grey, snow filled air to Pyramid's headquarters. Ducking against the strong wind I didn't look up as I walked between massive three story columns guarding the front. Inside the brass and glass doors ornate brass light fixtures and subtle pastels on arched ceilings were warm, soft, even sensual. My snow damp moccasins trod on thick oriental carpets on a marble floor. A receptionist sat behind a round counter. I walked quietly, slowly there. Behind her a glass wall rose to a chandeliered room with antique furnishing. Obviously stories of Pyramid's lavish expenses to renovate the building were true.
I announced myself to the receptionist. Soon, an elegant lady in red dress and high heels flowed down the wide marble and brass rail stairs with the graceful, studied step of a professional model. She said she was Mr. Kenan's secretary, and I followed her up to Bruce's office.
Entering, I saw Joan Christensen was seated by the windows. Bruce greeted me smoothly, and took my cap and coat. As I slipped my coat off I recalled it was a gift from Ed Britton. As I handed Bruce my cap, I pointed to a smudge on its brim, "Grease from the top rung of the hole at Marley's."
Bruce offered coffee. I declined, saying I had an ample supply of caffeine this morning. I chose a chair and Bruce sat. himself on an antique couch across a coffee table from me.
Foregoing pleasantries, I launched into my presentation. "I'm a spiritual man, not a warrior. I'm here as a Healer and Peacemaker. My purpose isn't to harm anyone, but to prevent injury. Healer is a role I learned in the last twelve years, but Peacemaker is a new role, one I'm not yet comfortable with. As a token of the spirit with which I'm here, I have a gift." I handed Bruce a wooden bowl. "These are the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash. The Onondagas know them as the special food from the Creator to nourish humans on their journey in this world. Keep them on your desk and think about the power that is Life and our responsibility to that power."
"I asked Joan to be here as my witness to our conversation. I asked Joe Parson, but he's out of town today." Bruce nodded in recognition of the name, "Your neighbor Bill Rosbrook wanted to be here, but right now he's at his doctor's to decide whether to put off surgery a 21st year. I asked an Onondaga chief to be here, but he's ending their midwinter ceremonies today. So I asked Joan, who was kind enough to agree." I paused.
"I can't tell you how I know everything I know about Marley's, but I've learned several things about your shopping mall site which disturb me. But first I'd like to tell you about myself so you can understand why I'm here and the responsibility I've accepted. You see, I grew up on Meadowbrook Drive just one block from where they detected high levels of PCBs. Contaminated fill from Ley Creek was dumped in a public park. A known problem in a public park in a residential area, yet two years later, nothing has been done to remove the contaminated soil. What's at Marley's can't wait so long to be removed."
"Yesterday I went to my dentist. As I waited, a woman with her mother and children came in. She placed one of her children beside me. I turned and saw the child was born with birth defects, with a swollen cranium, twisted lips and stumps for fingers. As I do with any creature I looked in his eyes to see his soul. I saw he was happy and well cared for. As I looked in his eyes I made a promise to do what I could to assure in the future children won't face his predicament."
"I apologize for calling a press conference after this meeting, but I believe it's my only assurance these things will be taken care of. I'm a little man with no power. Years lobbying for food policy in Albany taught me how slow bureaucracy moves. Your neighbor, with his hips, is a perfect example how easy it is for humans to procrastinate."
"To facilitate our discussion, I made a list of Eight Right Actions Pyramid needs to take to assure success for your project. They will provide a structure to discuss this situation." I handed copies to Bruce and Joan and waited as they read.
At last Bruce looked up to say, "We're a professional organization devoted to making money. We've built shopping malls throughout the Northeast, and we bring a lot of expertise to this project. We'll make a substantial investment in the Carousel Center, so we hired the best professional consultants."
I felt my spirit tighten, and my gaze at Bruce narrowed. A startling intensity swept me, and I found myself saying in slow, precise diction, "There's great power in that piece of ground. If you do it Right, you can tap that power and you'll become very rich. I don't stand in the way of that, but you must do it Right."
As the intensity of these unexpected words echoed in my mind, I felt myself blanch white with terror. With horror, I realized I was helping a capitalist organization single mindedly devoted to money and power tap one of the most geomantically powerful pieces of Earth in central New York. In that moment, I doubted my strategy. With fear gripping my gut I continued to urge Bruce to do what was Right. Pushing doubt aside, I chose to follow my guidance.
Bruce looked uncertain how to respond to this outburst, then said, "As far as the Onondaga village, I don't know what you mean by 'the true landlords.' New York acquired this land from the Indians long ago. There's nothing in land titles to give Indians any control over this land."
I wondered if I should tell Bruce Kenan the legal issues surrounding Onondaga Nation's relationship to the City of Syracuse. I decided to merely say, "Onondaga Nation lived in this valley for centuries and has an ancestral relationship to the lake, and they did agree to share it with New York in the 18th century. I believe their last village on the lakeshore is under Marley's. I think common sense and respect suggests discussing this with them. I asked Chief Powless to be here but the Onondagas have the last day of midwinter ceremonies today."
Bruce replied, "We hired archaeologists to do quite a bit of research including digging trenches. We're confident the village isn't there, and don't plan any more investigations."
Unmoved, I replied, "I read that report, and I don't agree with its conclusions. You now have Chief Powless' phone number. I urge you to call him and discuss with him his ancestors' village."
Bruce nodded, but not in agreement, and moved on. "We're aware Marley's presents unusual problems due to its history as a dump. We hired professional engineers and geologists who bored over 100 holes into that ground. They didn't find any transformers or toxic materials you suggest are there."
Still unsettled by my eruption of unexpected words, I continued, "Your engineers only looked in areas they were interested in. They didn't look in certain areas, such as along the edges of the site. The transformers are there, and I believe there may be other dangerous materials buried there."
Bruce resisted, "Why would anyone bury transformers and PCBs? It doesn't make sense."
I spoke with tired sadness, "I don't understand why people do these things, but they do. I don't understand why people fight over a shopping mall instead of cooperating and working together for a better future. But they do."
In my peripheral vision, I noticed a man enter on my right, but I kept my eyes on Bruce, who made no move toward the intruder. Moments later, the newcomer left. Later, I learned from Joan Christensen this was Robert Congel looking in.
"Only Pyramid has the power to do this cleanly," I continued. "If I have to call in the authorities, it will be very messy."
Bruce nodded, not in agreement, but in understanding. "We haven't closed an agreement to purchase Marley's so we have no control over the property. It's impossible for us to interfere."
"I understand," I replied, "but you're in a better position to resolve the problems there than any other organization. I urge you to use your power to clean that place up. From reviewing your DEIS, it seems you underestimate the problems at Marley's. Some people suggest your organization is even trying to cover them up. I prefer to believe you're smarter than that." I had doubts, but I remained on the positive side in this first conversation. I've never enjoyed playing Adversary.
Bruce moved on. "As far as your fifth point, we're aware of unusual conditions at Marley's, including water. We're confident our engineers can develop a design to support the mall."
I replied, "If you look at maps of the area early in this century, you see a pond was there. Later it was filled in, but water is still trapped under the site. I'm no engineer, but that's quite a problem, especially given the contaminants in the water."
We came to my sixth point about a Developers' Roundtable. Bruce said, "I'm not sure what you want here. We're working closely with the City on this project."
"I'm referring to the atmosphere of war which surrounds this project." I explained. "In the last week I've talked to many people who are ready to fight about your shopping mall. I don't think this atmosphere is conducive to economic health in the city. I believe it's wise to end this destructive, wasteful warfare."
Bruce looked doubtful. "We aren't the ones firing off salvos. We've been attacked since we first announced our project. It would be best if the other side stopped battling and resisting."
I answered quickly, "In any struggle, it's the responsibility of the stronger party to initiate communication to end the fighting. Anyway, I'm more concerned about the little people—small businesses and store owners are always the ones who get hurt when the big guns start shooting. I want the war stopped." My voice sank to a low, tired tone as I thought how the hard work of my friends at On the Rise Bakery might be weakened and bankrupt by Pyramid's ambitions.
After a hesitation I offered, "If you want to talk to the other side, I suggest you call Edward Eagan. He's a friend of mine, and a gentleman who is not deeply entangled in Eagan Real Estate politics. He could arrange a meeting to discuss a truce." I was nervous to expose my association with Ed, who vigorously warned me not to. But I decided to opt for candor and hope.
Now came my seventh point for Pyramid to establish an garden on the site in honor of the spiritual man who brought democracy to the Iroquois and founded the oldest surviving government in North America. My points were now coming full circle. I didn't expect Pyramid to take me seriously, but I felt I had to present the concept somehow. Bruce looked at me questioningly and asked, "What do you have in mind here?"
"There's one corner of Marley's which is rather special. It's an area you have no plans to develop. I recommend that area be set aside as a memorial to the ancient history of Onondaga Lake and the Spirit of this land. The Peacemaker is the legendary figure who founded the Five Nations Confederacy." I hesitated to go into details of the Legend.
Bruce actually seemed curious and asked, "What area are you referring to? Here's a map of the site. Show me where this park should be." He stepped to my side with a site map.
I drew a circle in the west corner along the Barge Canal as I explained, "There's a clump of mullein here and green grass along the fence. Mullein marks what I call a sacred space. It would be wise to put a park here to the spirit of the place."
Bruce looked on patiently while I continued, "Last Sunday when I was there I knelt among the mullein and performed a simple ceremony to offer a prayer to the land. I left a piece of my spirit there."
I said a second time, "This ground is very powerful and should be treated carefully. It's not ordinary. If you want your project to succeed, I urge you to take the Right Actions. If you do that, your mall will succeed and Pyramid will become rich. But you have to do this Right." Once again, I was startled at the intense feeling which impelled me to utter this statement. And I doubted the wisdom of expressing such ideas to an organization whose sole ambition is money and profit.
I drew a large circle at Marley's center, saying, "Here's the Onondaga village—directly under where you plan to build."
Bruce took the map and looked at it. He seemed at a loss for words. Sitting down he said, "Your idea for a park is interesting. We've no plans for anything like that, but maybe we could give it thought. Thank you for showing it to me."
I was silent. Bruce seemed ready to end our talk and said, "I can't comment on these ideas right now. I, of course, need to consult our staff and engineers to review your information. We can talk again about these items."
I resisted an urge to press him for a commitment now and simply said, "I understand you're part of an organization and can't act by yourself. I'll wait." Once again I felt my thoughts tighten and I found myself saying, "Marley's is an unusual place, a very powerful place. You should be careful about rushing into this project there. If you do it Right, you can build there. But I urge you to do the Right things."
Bruce again seemed uncertain of my meaning. For that matter, so was I. Bringing our talk to an end, he said, "I'll call you for a meeting next week. Perhaps the middle of the week?"
I replied, "Fine. Tuesday or Wednesday would be best by my schedule. But remember, the reporters will be looking for the transformers, and the site where they are isn't hard to find."
Bruce got up to retrieve my coat and cap while I exchanged a warm hug with Joan. Her gesture was reassuring and her look showed respect. She stretched out her hand. I reached out and into my palm she dropped a City of Syracuse pin. I accepted her gift as token I had fulfilled my role with reasonable dignity.
I walked over to Bruce pondering whether to tell the most fantastic part of my story. I turned to slip on my coat as Bruce held it and decided to risk mention of my unusual discovery.
"When this is over you must allow me to explain to you about the power that's at Marley's. It is an unusual understanding that involves dragons and Geomancy. You see, my persistent concern is with the natural environment and studying the invisible patterns of forces that shape and mold the world we inhabit." I shrugged on my coat and turned to face Bruce.
He looked at a loss for words, balanced between amazement and confused disbelief. "This is strange to me. You speak in metaphors I don't understand."
"I understand," I responded. "It's taken me years to learn these things, but this unusual knowledge is important to our relationship to the Earth. Perhaps someday you and I can discuss these things." He nodded, we shook hands and I left.
Moments later, I stepped through the brass and glass doors out of Pyramid into a whirlwind of snow and cold. Pulling my coat tightly around me, I trudged and slid through thick snow to my car. Standing by my rusted 1972 blue Buick, I held my key in outstretched hand to unlock its door. Confronted by my rusty Skylark, I felt my own poverty in contrast to Pyramid's plush, opulent headquarters, and remembered a bit of unfinished business. Snapping my fingers, I whirled to retrace my steps.
The receptionist failed to see me as I padded softly by her to ascend the marble stairs again. Arriving at the hall leading to Bruce's office, I saw him standing by the wall with Joan showing her a 3 x 4 foot photo of an industrial behemoth of Syracuse's past. Bruce, his back to me, didn't notice my approach. I waited for a pause in his conversation, then tapped his shoulder lightly.
"Excuse me for interrupting, but I forgot one thing. I spent a bit of money to bring this information to you at a time when my own resources are low. I'd appreciate repayment for my effort."
Bruce looked startled. "What did you have in mind?"
"Just compensation for my expenses."
"How much would that be?" Bruce said with a look of relief.
"Not much, just over $100. I don't have all my receipts yet."
"Well, I don't have cash and can't write a check."
"That's okay. I spoke to my landlord last night and he can wait." I laughed, "Funny, he just applied for a job at Pyramid."
As I turned, Bruce asked a last question with what seemed genuine curiosity and concern, "How do you make a living?"
I thought a moment, then spoke openly, "I'm a healer. I teach people to heal themselves." Amid the power and elegance of Pyramid, this seemed small, simple and insignificant. I felt my thin, frail frame that held Ed Britton's heavy winter coat aloft. Turning, I walked softly downstairs and left Clinton Exchange to return to my snow covered car.
That morning it snowed seven inches, and hardly stopped for two weeks.
The previous weeks were so warm all snow had melted allowing me to see clearly what I needed to know about Marley's. Now it would be weeks before bare ground revealed again the terrible truths hidden at Marley's. As I walked to my car, I wondered at winter's sudden return on the day of my press conference.
What happened next remains the oddest experience of this entire drama. It exposes a hidden reservoir of deep, intense emotions in my soul. It hints at unseen forces lying unknown behind the facade of human history. It remains my rainbow: my hope and promise the entire complex situation can be resolved. My faith is that a great power watches and shapes events now unfolding.
I sat in the driver's seat and turned the key in the ignition. The V-8 engine roared to life. An instant later Jefferson Starship came blasting from the dashboard speaker singing We Can Build This Dream Together. And I burst into tears. Not quiet, soft tears, but great convulsing clots of intense grief boiled up from my guts and ran in streams down my cheeks. I sobbed uncontrollably like a babe in distress. Unable to see through this storm of emotion, I sagged forward to clutch my steering wheel to wait for this storm to subside and my vision to clear.
All the while Starship kept belting out "we can build this dream together, nothing's gonna stop us now, all that I need is you…" drowning my sobs in a rising crescendo of hope. The intensity of words pouring from my radio became a mantram, a call to prayer, an affirmation I'd fulfilled my mission on this fateful day. A mission whose ultimate purpose it seemed I didn't comprehend or suspect.
I shook with sobs, yet my mind sat quietly impassive, watching this avalanche of emotion overwhelm me. My thoughts were somehow unperturbed—a detached observer of my soul and body's lament. My thoughts wondered what impelled such an outburst of feeling. My mind pondered the meaning of the radio's musical message at this precise moment of coincidence. I questioned what deep unconscious knowledge lay beneath the surface of my awareness. What's the source of the affective stream issuing from my gut and down my cheeks? I worried my composure was ruined for the press conference I still faced. Unable to force the flow of emotion to cease, I allowed my feelings to rise without restraint.
After a few minutes, I gained enough self control to drive. Tears still streamed down my cheeks and spasms of emotion still convulsed my guts. Forcing my eyes open, I turned at Clinton Square onto Clinton Street which runs behind downtown. I reflected it was Colonel Clinton who led the 1779 Campaign to burn Iroquois villages and destroy their crops and orchards. Now, on Clinton's Square in the old U.S. Courthouse at the Salt City's center ,a powerful corporation is about to pounce on the Indian's sacred lake once more. The invasion continues.
I drove still sobbing through tears and snow down Clinton Street to my noon press conference. The news came on the radio. The announcer explained the unusually wann weather had melted the ice sculptures for Syracuse's Winterfest which were built in Clinton Square. I'd spent both those Sundays at Marley's.
Suddenly, my reflection on missing Winterfest was shattered. Stunned, I heard they'd built a Dragon and an Ice Castle. I wanted to pinch myself to be sure this was real. I began again to cry as the timely symbolism of this flashed in my mind.
Dragon is an ancient symbol for the power of the Earth, for the collective unconscious mind of biological life, and for the intuitive wisdom of our common sense as creatures of the planet. It's the dowser's mind. Onondaga Dragon is but one expression of the deeper power that's the very Life of the Earth.
Ice Castle is symbol for the icy intellect of Rational Mind, the cutting edge of intellectual analysis and evaluation, Mind's ability to create perfect form and manipulate the Earth to suit human ideals and desires. It also symbolizes Pyramid's mall, palace of earthly consumer delights, ultimate expression of the commercial ambition of Industrial Civilization.
Despite my emotional state as I drove down Clinton Street, I instantly recognized the symbolism of the ice sculptures. I was stunned at this synchronicity amidst the drama over Pyramid's mall. What a coincidence! They were constructed in front of Pyramid while I was at Marley's. The same weather which exposed Marley's to me also melted the sculptures. At the same time I discovered Onondaga Dragon. Now, I heard about them as I drove from Bruce's office to my press conference.
My startled mind was jolted further to hear that since winter had returned, Winterfest will be extended a third weekend and new ice sculptures built in Ointon Square. Rather than rebuild the originals, they would build a Noah's Ark.
I began to weep harder as I crept down snow slick Clinton Street. I prayed this was the metaphor to reveal the resolution of the situation I now found myself in the middle of. Dragon and Ice Castle. Onondaga Nation and Carousel Center. Peacemaker and Pyramid. New World and Old World. Intuitive Mind and Rational Mind. I thought, "I hope peace comes again as it did thousands of years ago on the Onondaga Lake shore. I hope we move beyond a dangerous confrontation between the Earth's power (dragon) and the power of our rational intellect (ice castle), but instead unite these powers into a vessel (Noah's Ark) to safely carry us to a New World."
Minutes later, I arrived at Wellspring. Fresh snow clogged the streets. It took several moments to park in the thick, wet snow. Carrying my box inside, I unpacked for my presentation. The room was cold, so I lit several stovetop burners to dump heat in the air. I felt as cold as the room, lifeless and drained, but resolved to go forward. I made an altar of candle, water, grain, and salt on a table. I lit the candle, and spent a moment silently renewing my commitment to life and God.
Rising, I taped photos and maps to the blackboard, soaked a sponge in soy sauce, and laid a brick on it. Dark water seeped from the sponge. Not satisfied, I poured the whole bottle on the sponge. Greedily the sponge soaked it all up.
Materials ready, I sat down to eat a bowl of rice. It was cold, but my stomach needed substance to churn and my guts needed a steady anchor. The first reporters arrived, and I handed out press releases as I continued to chew. More came—three newspapers and two radio stations, but no TV. My map and photos were useless for radio and newspapers. Nancy Duffy from Channel 9 promised to show. Should I wait?
A pedestrian stopped to report a car with lights on, and a reporter left to turn them off. I waited, chewing to steady my mind and emotions. No one else appeared, so I'd have to speak alone. The reporter returned, so I plunged on without TV.
"January 24, I went to Marley's to look for the lost Onondaga Indian village rumored to be there. I've studied ancient sites in central NY for years and thought I might find the village. I won't say anything more about the village today. I called this conference because of other conditions I found at Marley's."
I explained the site for Pyramid's mall was underlain by a trapped body of water. This underground pond had absorbed chemicals leaching from a city dump and industrial scrap yard for over 30 years. Many toxic chemicals were buried in the ground. Chemicals leaking from these burials accumulated in the water to create unusual engineering and environmental problems.
"I'm no lawyer, but there are violations of state and federal law here. I won't reveal all details of what I know at this time until Pyramid and authorities have an opportunity to respond."
I was interrupted repeatedly by questions. There were none about dowsing, so I was spared making evasive explanations about some of my knowledge. One reporter questioned my credentials to know about the water table and toxics. I replied I was an educated, intelligent citizen who'd done his research. Much of the information I presented was obtained from Pyramid's own DEIS. That seemed to satisfy the reporter.
I explained construction of the mall will disturb soft, porous fill at the site and force toxic water out. I placed the brick on the sponge. Slowly black fluid oozed from beneath to form a puddle. A hushed silence ensued as the press absorbed the significance of this demonstration. Breaking the silence I explained this would occur so slowly no one would notice until complaints developed of noxious odors in the mall.
A few more questions were asked, then it was over soon after it began. The press left. Walt Sheppard, editor of The Syracuse New Times, the weekly newspaper, stayed while Mike Davis took photos of me holding a milky water sample.
I decided my press conference went poorly. My statements were coherent, and my points well made, but my presence was weak. I'd planned to stand at the board to illustrate my talk by pointing to maps and photos. Instead I had to sit immobile in a chair to speak directly into microphones. My mind, dazed from the emotional storm which swept through me, plodded numbly along without spirit. I hoped my facts had an impact.
After the press conference, I drove downtown to deliver press releases to City Hall and County officials. I even drove to Dewitt and left a copy for Nancy Duffy at Channel 9.
Late in the afternoon I returned home to a dark, cold, empty house. My heart felt as hollow and cold as my house. Tired and discouraged, I began to cook, hoping warm food would put energy in my blood. After a few minutes, a reporter called. "I spoke to Bruce Kenan. Is it true you're a friend of Ed Eagan?"
"Yes," I replied, realizing sadly what was up. "I met Ed several years ago. He came to me for advice about a medical problem. I counseled him over several months and we became friends."
"What kind of medical problem?" the reporter asked.
"I’d rather not say. It's private. He was in the Peace Corps when he developed a serious health problem and returned to the U.S. for treatment. I counsel people in natural health and he came to me for advice. You’ll have to ask Ed the details."
The reporter continued to pry, "Was his problem cured?"
"Yes,"' I said. "Medically, he's officially in remission."
The call ended, but I was annoyed Bruce mentioned my association with Ed to the press. Obviously Bruce was trying to erode my credibility. Minutes later, a reporter called from the Post Standard. She, too, spoke to Bruce but she asked about another issue. "You think electric transformers and PCBs are buried at Marley's?"
|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
I decided to dodge the issue, even though Bruce spilled the beans. "I can't talk about that now. I explained to Mr. Kenan this morning there's problems with toxic chemicals at Marley's. Until there's an official investigation, I'd rather not discuss it."
"You're a dowser?" Bruce found another flaw in my credibility.
"Yes," I replied, "but I don't need dowsing to know there's water under Marley's. As I explained, Pyramid's own report has ample evidence the water is there with toxic chemicals in it."
Hanging up, I realized this will be a more arduous, prolonged game of chess than I'd hoped. Pyramid will fight rather than act discreetly to remove the danger. I wondered what will be necessary to remove the ugliness buried at Marley's.
Did I have the energy and determination to see this through to its end? What chance did I have against Pyramid's power, influence and professionalism? That evening, the possibilities for the future felt dark and more ominous than ever.
Snow continued to fall, and no one came for dinner. That night, an empty darkness tightly gripped my mind as I sat alone eating dinner. Exhausted, I flopped on my only living room furniture, a couch, to review the day. I shuddered, and the house echoed my emptiness as I slid into restless sleep.