|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
Part One: Chapter Twenty Seven
The Crack into the Deep
Sunday, March 13, 1988
My leather moccasins padded softly and slowly down the aisle to the empty front pew. I down sat heavily with a low, deep sigh. My coat collar was turned up to protect my neck from a cold wind which stormed outside. I shuddered from the frigid wind which pursued me into church, and at the emotion of my position that morning. I sat alone in a seat usually filled by the family of a man who had died of cancer on New Year's Day.
That afternoon I planned to go to Marley's to take a sample from the cavity we'd punctured February 21. Doubt and fear settled on me like a dark shroud. The responsibility to prove a danger at Marley's loomed over me like a threatening beast. I saw no alternative but to walk straight into the maw of this creature.
The congregation sang a hymn as I sat silent. Voices filled the church, but emotion clogged my vocal cords, choking any song in my throat. So I sat erect in deep meditation, and no joyous melody of praise issued from my lips. My heart and mind were unfilled by song, lost in a vast inner emptiness. My ego's thin shell had cracked from emotional traumas of recent days, and I plunged through like a lost soul into a void. From this deep well of darkness tears flowed out in silent streams.
The day before I had driven to Ithaca for the annual Natural Organic Farmers' Association of NY (NOFA-NY) conference. On my arrival I discovered my Buick's starter was broken and couldn't restart my car. When I turned my key in the ignition all I heard were clicks and chatters. Rather than miss any workshops, I left my car in the parking lot and plunged into the day's activities. But worry nagged me. I could barely pay rent, how could I pay to fix my car 75 miles from home?
At the annual dinner I found myself sitting at one side with newcomers and outsiders. I looked around the room at farmers I'd worked hard to organize for five years sitting together in friendly conversation. I felt isolated and an outsider.
After dinner NOFA's President gave out awards to people for their special work to forward the growth of NOF A. I listened as the list of names and awards grew, wondering if mine would be called to recognize my contributions. But mine never was.
After that my good friend Dave Stem talked about NOFA's future. His talk was a litany of needs punctuated at regular intervals with, "We need more organic farmers. And we need more money." Finally he said, "David Yarrow, you have a hat. Pass it around for everyone to make a donation." At last someone said my name. I walked up and down the tables with my Miller High Life hat watching bills fall silently in.
Five of the hardest years of my life came to this: an empty moment devoid of recognition. I'd sacrificed my time to:
- organize the Founding Members Meeting in Syracuse,
- file incorporation papers, by-laws and tax exemption.
- serve on the State Council, never missing a meeting.
- help plan the first two annual conferences at Cornell University,
- organize three other statewide conferences on regional food and organic agriculture called Closing the Food Circle.
- successfully lobby to create and serve on the Organic Food Advisory Committee in the NYS Dept. of Agriculture.
- represent NY on the Interstate NOFA Council.
- initiate the first NOFA-NY on-farm workshops.
- write a NY Organic Food Labeling Law.
- form NOFA-NY's Organic Certification Program to assure and set standards for authentic organic foods in the market.
- obtain NOFA-NY’s first grant: $15,000 from NYS Dept. of Agriculture for market development.
- assisted the formation of a marketing cooperative of organic farmers called Finger Lakes Organic Growers.
Then, after an unexpected change in leaders, I came under heavy political challenge. Cooperation changed to fighting, communication gave way to bickering, trust collapsed to jealous suspicion. Meetings were brutal confrontations as new officers took away power I'd created by hard work and sacrifice.
In herbal medicine yarrow is a catalyst which enhances the effect of other herbs. I'm no farmer and never tried to hold power in this farmer organization. I saw myself as a catalyst—performing a service to create an essential element of a sustainable food system. So I took my licks and yielded to adversaries. It's always my role to create power, but not own or possess it. By hard work I created power, and it was taken away by ambition, competition and suspicion.
Five years of extreme effort and sacrifice, including living on the road out of my van for fifteeen months, for which I was paid only $7,000. I gave my time because I knew the tasks had to be done and it was time to do them—now only one person recognized me.
So, that night I got drunk on wine and drowned my sadness in brew. It seemed appropriate, since the wine was made by the very people who politically attacked me, assaulting the power I'd created to take it from me. What better than to drown in their sweet wine? After dinner, two farmers took me to my car. Miraculously, it started on the third try. My head spun from wine, so I laid my head back to wait for my spinning brain to slow enough to begin my trek. I dared not shut off my motor, since it might not start again. After long minutes as my lonely heart heaved in pain and disillusionment, I set off.
The road wavered too much as I rolled through darkness, so after a few miles I pulled over to wait more lonely minutes. I'd never driven drunk before, and never will again. Somehow I made it home, driving 75 miles from Ithaca alone. Safely home near midnight, I fell immediately fully clothed on my bed in a deep, stuporous sleep.
In the morning the phone roused me heavy and groggy from sleep. It was Barbara. In recent weeks she'd become intensely agitated over the situation at Marley's. Her anxiety and doubt caused regular arguments, and the turmoil tore us apart. Twice in that time she "ended" our relationship, and refused to attend NOFA's conference with me, so I went alone.
The previous weekend she left me alone while she went to visit her family. Saturday a woman came to see me who I'd seen a year before when she injured herself, and her doctors recommended surgery. She was a single mother raising children while working a physically and emotionally brutal job. Using acupressure, compresses and diet I'd helped her heal her injury and avoid surgery. Now she came once more for aid, but that evening she wouldn't reveal the nature of her need.
But my intuition and compassion aroused to a peak, and I found my heart reaching out to her in intense involuntary love. We shared dinner with Ed Britton and two macrobiotic friends from Rochester. Later we gave a compress and acupressure on Ed's aching back and hip. Her hands were soft, sensitive and gentle, and Ed deeply appreciated her healing touch.
Then we talked through the night. I brushed her hair and massaged her scalp. In the dark night hours I learned her secret: she'd been sexually abused in prior relationships. Her rigid arms, tight fists and clenched eyes spoke powerfully of the physical and emotional wounds she'd sustained. We spent the night together as I caressed her body and troubled heart.
The next evening Barbara returned and I made a mess of confessing what happened. She erupted in anger, and for the third time in as many weeks, terminated our relationship.
Now, a week later, I struggled up from a groggy, disconsolate mind and tried to communicate with Barbara. But it was no use, and once again our communication tumbled into argument. Our phone call ended in harsh, angry words.
I lay in bed numbly reviewing events of the last week. At last I focussed on my plan to return to Marley's that day to sample the punctured transformer. A friend had forged an apparatus for me to re-enter the cavity to extract a sample. My car was disabled, so I called a friend to bring the equipment to me.
Rising from bed I stumbled through my house changing clothes, washing and cooking. I felt physically weak, hungover and emotionally empty. At 10 am Joan arrived, and we drove to service at St. David's. I sank deeply in the passenger seat, laid my heavy head on the seatback and said little.
Now my aching soul sat at the front of St. David's—a sinner come for salvation, in the seat of a dead man's family. Details of what happened are dimly obscure, a confused remembrance of scenes that flashed by in a dark whirlwind. Without warning I was swept in an inner rapture which carried me deep into my soul, around the Earth and out into space to glimpse the whole planet. Many details of the sermon and my vision remain dim, but the impact was intense, and the meaning sharp and clear.
St. David's minister introduced a guest speaker, a Bishop from California, who would deliver the sermon. A slight man with gray hair stepped to the lectern to announce his lesson would be on Daily Bread. He began, "When I was a boy I worked in a bakery. Each day I entered the warm bakery to be enfolded by rich moist aromas of bread browning in ovens. On racks round loaves of emanated appetizing odors as bakers clattered pans in and out of hot gaping oven mouths. Rotary mixers bumped and thumped loads of dough and leavening chambers hissed yeasty steam as loaves rose in pans."
I was immediately captured by this imagery, for years earlier I, too, had worked in a bakery. For three years I'd baked bread, pastries and granola to establish Syracuse's only whole grain bakery. The sights, sounds and smells the speaker portrayed evoked a reminiscence which swept me away to forgotten memories of my past. In silence my meditating mind found me enfolded by sights, sounds and aromas of the bakery.
I heard the Bishop speak of the Last Supper when Christ served bread and wine to the Apostles. He spoke of this holy communion as symbolic of the brotherhood of man, and of the final meal before the eventual suffering and death of Jesus.
I recalled I sat in the seat of a deceased Indian man's family, and my mind's eye saw his long suffering and eventual death. I saw him lying alone in his hospital bed gasping for breath, fighting against his death, struggling to stay alive. I felt his pain and trauma, and wept as I re-experienced his final ordeal. For lack of good, holy, wholesome bread, he died of cancer.
Not only his physical distress, but also the emotional turmoil of his two lives as an Indian in an Anglo world, and the division of his heart and soul this created. A division which trapped his spirit and prolonged his suffering. Sobs convulsed up from my body as I wept for this departed Indian man.
Then the Bishop spoke of the Thanksgiving feast which the Indians shared graciously with the Pilgrims. Their special gift was com, the grain which to native Americans is Mother.
My mind's eye looked more deeply into the Indian's ordeal and I saw the long history of abuse endured by his people and nation. Invasion of their homelands by Europeans, long wars between French, British and Americans, destruction of their homes in 1779 in a war they never entered, loss of their lands to greedy Gov. Clinton, gradual shrinkage of their land base.
Weeping welled up again for the suffering of the Iroquois and all native people of America. Today their land is covered by com fields, but Com Mother is fed to animals to make milk and flesh to feed an industrial society which has laid waste their land. Tears coursed my cheeks as sobs convulsed my body.
I heard the minister speak of Lebanon and the Middle East. My mind was flooded with livid images of the devastation and war which today afflicts Beirut and the Old World Holy Lands. I saw death and mangled human lives and bodies as Christians, Jews and Muslims fight. I saw landless refugees crowded in camps guarded by soldiers as a once sacred land visited by ancient prophets and holy men is now a scarred battleground promising to drag the whole Earth into nuclear Armageddon.
The Bishop told how 2000 years ago in this same Middle East Christ performed the miracle of feeding the 5000 by Blessing a few barley loaves and fish which multiplied to feed a multitude. The Bishop spoke of bread and fish, but my macrobiotic mind translated his words to grain and fksh, the biological worlds of plants and animals which are our food.
The Bishop conveyed the plight of millions on Earth who suffer starvation for lack of "loaves and fish." He dared the congregation to take this human plight to heart and, like Christ, feed the multitude. With skillful rhetoric he took my vision on a journey from Africa across Asia and into America's gut.
Led by the Bishop's words I repeatedly plunged into a grim inner vision of global suffering. Each time I rose out of dark insights I heard the Bishop detail the physical and spiritual importance of Daily Bread. Each time I found myself led by him to comers of the planet where war and bloodshed shatter the brotherhood of man and wreck the land and ecology: South Africa, West Indies, Central America, Vietnam, Cambodia.
The Bishop's sermon that day was the most remarkable comment on the biological and spiritual significance of bread I've ever heard. It was moving even without the heightened inner perception and emotional sensitivity into which I had plunged. Not only human tragedy paraded before my mind's eye that morning. I also saw the planetary ecosystem staggered by a growing burden of overpopulation, waste, contaminated water, soil depletion, air pollution, acid rain, deforestation, desertification, climate change, and species extinction.
Then I heard the Bishop lead the Lord's prayer: "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name....
"What about the Earth Mother?" I asked in my mind.
"thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as in Heaven..."
"Where's God's Kingdom on our battered Earth today?" I asked silently. "Where is God's will amid all the ambition and suffering? When will we also remember our Earth Mother?"
"Give us this day our Daily Bread..." he continued.
"Grain," my own thoughts replied. "Bread is grain ground into flour, mixed with water and salt, and baked. For lack of wholesome whole grain and bread, countless people on Earth suffer sickness, hunger, disease, and death. Modem humanity replaced grain with fat, meat and refined foods, and so we've replaced true health and vitality with physiological decline and cultural decay." In 15 years I'd seen the healing power of a diet based on grain. I knew if I made it through my ordeal over Marley's my work would be to teach the importance of grain.
"forgive our trespasses as we forgive they who trespass on us..."
'Trespass," I echoed, and recalled my intent to return to Marley's and face arrest, or at least ridicule and folly. In doubt and fear, I wondered what awaited me that day.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..."
I saw the site beside the railroad and felt the terrible dark evil which lay waiting there. Not just transformers, PCBs and threat of fire fed by the scum of oil, but the consuming fire of human greed and ambition empowered by material technology that was creating a planetary holocaust of humanity and ecology.
"For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever. Amen."
Where on Earth today is God's Kingdom? Where's the path to Heaven on Earth, to One Peaceful World? The virgin forests, rushing rivers and clear lakes have been hacked and filled and contaminated until it no longer resembles the splendor which Creator bestowed on his children on Earth. In 400 years a thick veneer spread over America as industrial society exploited the natural beauty of a virgin continent. As the original land on Onondaga Lake's south shore is now obscured under 40 feet of industrial fill, So too, modem society blankets North America.
As I traveled this terrible path in my mind, I saw a vision of what is trying to unfold here and now. In my vision I saw a crack has appeared in this thick crust of industrial civilization that's spread across the Turtle Island of native America. A tiny fracture has developed in the terrain of fill and waste which now smothers the land. I knew the tip of that crevice lies beside the transcontinental railroad on the south shore of Onondaga Lake.
And I saw my responsibility is to pound a pipe into the crack and pry it open to expose the many secrets, some very dark, which have been covered and forgotten for many decades, lost to our view and understanding. But the Earth was asking to be split open to expose those lost secrets to light again.
The first item I'd uncover would be a transformer, a word with a double meaning. To a material mind's hard logic, it's just a physical object. But to my metaphorical mind, it's a symbol of deeper events about to unfold. As Peacemaker transformed the wizard's mind, it's time to comb snakes from the hair of modem civilization, to straighten the mind of man.
I knew far more than transformers lies buried in that crack by Onondaga Lake. Deeper still is a stagnant water pool poisoned by wastes of white gold and black gold which provide chemical energy to power industrial civilization. These wastes hidden in the earth are about to rise from their grave like Marley's ghost to challenge us to change our ways. Or suffer retribution.
Deeper than the residues of industry lies Kaneenda, the last lakeside village of Onondaga Nation, capital of America's oldest surviving government. Onondaga Nation's story is a missing truth of the real origin of freedom and democracy. For Europeans didn't invent democracy, but learned it from New World "forest diplomats" whose land they claimed to discover.
Below that lies the Peacemaker Legend, story of the founding of that oldest democracy by a messenger from Creator. He taught if mankind would adopt Creator's Mind war and killing would cease and Peace would prevail. Is it time to resurrect this Legend and expose it to the modem humanity? Could I pry the crack open wide enough to bring this ancient legend to light?
Deeper still limestone bedrock runs down under lake and mountain into the Earth to the dragon's lair. Is it time for this myth to rise up from the past? Is the power in the Earth, dormant for centuries, to awaken and walk the land again?
'Would we meet it as friend or foe? Would this bring peace? Or a final war?
And what of the cave beneath that limestone bedrock? Is it there? Could my crack reach that deep? What secret lay in that cave? Was this where Peacemaker had the warriors cast their weapons? Was it time to unearth them, too?
I knew it was time for the crack to open. I had to drive a pipe into the Earth at Marley's and pry Her open to try to bring all that's buried in it to the surface and expose it to the light of the modem world. Not just transformers, but the village, the story of democracy, Peacemaker Legend, and dragon—the power of the Earth Herself, now asking for recognition, care and respect. I realized the crack had the potential to run around the Earth to split it open, revealing the forgotten truth that this planet is Heaven on Earth. But only if humans chose to treat it that way.
What I saw that morning was long, complex, vivid, and intensely emotional. What I've written here is a dull, shallow rendering of the sights and emotions which flared in my mind.
The sermon ended. To somber organ notes people quietly came for communion of grain transmuted to flesh and wine to blood. Numb, unable to move, I sat musing on the awesome inner journey I'd just traveled, and the one which lay ahead. Gasping to recover my mundane awareness, I struggled up from my inner depths. In doubt, I feared I'd lost my mind. Several times I slipped and fell back into tears.
After long minutes, communion was over, and the assembly united their voices in a closing hymn. I sat numb and dumb, unable to sing. The minister closed with prayer. In a sudden eruption of conversation, the congregation rose to leave.
I sat with eyes closed and head bowed. A hand grasped my shoulder, and I heard Joe Parson ask if I was okay. I nodded, and tried to speak in a few words what had just swept my heart and mind. All I could say was, "Barbara left me." Joe stood silent behind me to grip my shoulders with both hands. Warmth flowed to me through his hands, giving me the human contact and compassion I needed. I was grateful, then he left me alone.
A semblance of self settled on me as the flashing visions and intense emotions faded. I wondered at my sanity, searching for a path back to normal awareness. I knew I'd just plunged into a spiritual vision, and was grateful I had St. David's for it to erupt in my psyche. But I knew the difference between psychological crack-up and spiritual awareness is thin. The first leaves its victim drowning in overwhelming awareness—the latter finds you swimming. Was I drowning? Could I swim out of the deep to a solid island refuge to reflect on my new awarenesses?
|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
At last I got up and slowly, almost stumbling, walked to the social hall which buzzed with talk and laughter. I leaned against the wall watching. I felt like I was in a dark cave peering at a motion picture projected on its walls. One lady tried to speak to me but soon gave up. My thoughts and emotions lay puddled deep below my mind's surface, and it took great effort to formulate words and project them out through my throat.
After a few minutes no one came near me. A ring of empty space formed for fifteen feet on three sides of me as I leaned heavy on the wall. I felt sorry to darken these good folk's Sunday worship with my woes, yet I didn't regret having this refuge in my storm.
So, I stood silently watching. Movements of people seemed quick and darting. I was acutely aware of the human energy which swirled about me. I sensed these people were meat eaters, and their activity expressed the tight, sharp nature of animals, and lacked the soft serenity I expected of grain eaters who follow Christ's prayer to "give us this day our Daily Bread." I recalled my insight to teach about grain, the Staff of Life, but on one here seemed interested to learn.