Monday, August 11, 2008

Quiet Place

In a quite hidden place, a place just barely missed by white padres and Spanish soldiers on their excursions in search of a new home for yet another one of their adobe Missions, which they planned to introduce throughout that great hot oven called California with the same zeal as those that would come later to fill it up with golden arches and Wal-Marts, crispy French fries, greasy slabs of processed meat product on white buns drowning in maroon pools of salty tomato render, matching short and T-shirt sets in hideous floral patterns with a few loose threads left dangling because Ming was very distracted as she worked, worrying that the pennies she was earning would not be enough to prevent her husband from selling their daughter into prostitution- in this quiet hidden place, the water sparkled, birds fished in the reeds and antelope grazed along its warm shore.
When white people talk about a place, we talk about its beginning as the moment in which we, the great white race came along and began the tedious work of defiling and reducing it to nothing more than a series of plaster cubes and parking lots. If we are extra gracious, we mention that there were some other humanoid life forms dwelling in that place before we rode in, Injuns, and that is what we commonly consider prehistory. However, this quiet hidden place had a history before the Pai ah che were a people, before they left the banks of the Colorado river and wandered into a little valley, circled by purple mountain ranges with a wee little puddle sinking down at its center, and decided to stay. Before this place was Etengvo Wumoma, its only name was that uttered when a breeze passed through and sent the leaves of cottonwood trees a’ shivering with delight. It was defined only by the eerie wailing of coyotes in the foothills, or the occasional scream of a puma. The sun baked dirt and dried grasses held still and silent, offering no utterance to define themselves. Occasionally though, the wind had her fun with them too, and then the parched dusts would be lifted up from the rock hard terra like a lady’s night dress lifted up and off, and the wind would whirl it round and round until she had made a devil of it, setting it free to spin like a top, knocking tumbleweeds aside like marbles before it was at last spent and allowed to settle back down on the hard body of earth.
Void of the chattering of three brained apes of any color or degree of spinal erectness, this place had a life of its own. It was ruled by spirits of an unruly and completely incomprehensible nature. Neither you, nor I, who can decipher, understand, and dream dreams inspired by the ideas conveyed through this assemblage of symbols, (whether we see them in print or digitized upon a liquid crystal screen) can even begin to grasp at the existence of such spirits. Their motives are entirely unlike our motives. They will never be released in death. Therefore they have none of the fears or concerns that dominate the minds of beings which must struggle and strive to exist and self perpetuate. No, these things will endure, and their fears, if they could fear, would be different from our own.
If they could dream, they could fear. If they could dream, perhaps then they could have imagined or foreseen what would become of their very body, their corporation of earth, fire, wind, and water. If they could have imagined a future, then they could have had a moment for fright. But they can only know the present in intimate detail. They can only find themselves channeled into the fiber optics of massive glowing arches and fluorescent tubes of light. They can only feel themselves flowing from rusty faucets into waxy paper vessels that touch monkey lips before they go coursing down into the belly of a beast, where at last they can take some revenge before eventually finding themselves expelled into a porcelain bowl to be sent spiraling down into dark pipes and into a vat somewhere where they can meet and mingle with chlorine and some limited filtration before being sent to another rusty faucet. They can only feel the weight of asphalt and tons of steel rushing over their skin.
Once mighty, once free, now subjected to tortures inflicted upon them by lesser beings than they, these spirits can know no end to their woe. As we white men go about applying for loans and slapping up mini malls and tracks of residential housing, and writing down the history of a place we have named and regarded as our own, it is entering our systems in ways so subtle that few of us would dare to imagine it. Beware the land that has endured the humiliation of domestication. Those spirits will be ever making the careless monkeys pay for the silence that they have swallowed up with their chattering. They make us pay for the quiet hidden place that we have erased from existence with our banter and banknotes.
Our greatest enemy is that one which we have just conquered. Now that we have digested our rival’s flesh, how do we intend to protect ourselves from it, now that it has become a part of us? How do we intend to combat the inevitable experience of indigestion that accompanies the consumption of an unwilling party?

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