19 January 2010

Weapons, Money and a Good, Quiet Place


The sound of gunfire and cash registers often intrudes upon my dreams, and I wake with a shudder. A choked whisper, to whom I don't know: That is the sound of America. "Bullet The Blue Sky" by U2 echoes in my head, that breathy part at the end where Bono sings about the women and children running into the arms of America.

Guns and money. Power and influence. I try not to be cynical...but I can't escape those feelings about life in these United States. The constant media chatter, money politics, Global Enforcer and Savior, the pressure to "be productive" (whatever that means), the pressure to conform (ironic in a country that prides itself on being free), the pressure to be a income node. Jump the hoops, climb the ladders...and sometimes seems like one big Ponzi scheme. This constant noise of a competition society, where every thing is a game, or gets treated like a game. Gotta stay sharp, be the leader, stay ahead of the competition, always be in first. Must Be A Winner. And if you don't agree, You Will Be A Loser and therefore persona non grata to the rest of the True Americans.

I'm tired of being told I need to be on a power trip, to always be outdoing my peers, because that's "healthy". What's the reward for all this? Money. Or the opportunity to keep making money, which I have been hearing for quite some time is what keeps us all liquid, safe, and free to consume. You have to spend money to make money to get money to spend money because if you don't then the natural order of the universe is upset and the people above you who make money off your effort won't be able to make even more money and you will become Suspect in the Eyes of Society.

Power and influence: the manifestations of guns and money. I'm exhausted by it all.

I bring this up because I want to know: whatever happened to just wanting to be content? To do ones' own thing without the constant need to acquire and consume?

Saturday I had the luxury of about four hours' outdoors, camera in hand and backpack loaded with maps and books on birds and trees. The weather was warm for January in these parts, partly sunny and comfortable. Even the wind cooperated. I spent this time traipsing around two of my favorite nearby state parks, taking pictures and looking for birds and animals. The leaves are all down, so plenty of vistas were there, not usually seen later in the year. It is the first time I have seen these places in the middle of winter, and it was beautiful, and calming. I could hear water rushing over stones, crows and songbirds calling out and the faint whisper of leaves tumbling over one another in the breeze. Far off on the other side of the river, I heard at least three or four passing freight trains rumbling alongside the water. Believe me, a train horn heard while deep in the woods is a sound well worth waiting for.

I heard a large pileated woodpecker, banging out a solemn drumbeat on the side of a tall poplar or hickory tree. I was blessed to see a small herd of deer, about ten of them, ambling through the woods. I think I disturbed the deer, they heard me lumbering about and didn't seem to want to know that I held a camera and not a gun. We peered at each other across thirty yards of bare underbrush, until they scampered up the hill to look for cover and keep an eye on me.

Later in the day, while taking pictures of ice and reflections alongside the river, I realized I had overcome my dreams of gunfire and cash registers. My gut had unlocked, my breathing was easier and I felt content to stand there on the riverbank, inhaling the scent of stone and water. Peering through the viewfinder, the black outlines of trees on the obsidian mirror of water that reflected the sky, I could see that better, quiet place. I pushed the button...

It is there, just on the other side of the pressure to make us what others want us to be. It can be seen, it can be accessed, if we know to look and where to look. My experience has taught me that it isn't to be found through the latest whiz-bang technology, or hidden in haystacks of money, or in 'free market competition'. I find it in the sound of water over stone, the cry of a hawk, and in light, reflected. It fills me when I breathe deep of the green good air along the course of a stream in the bottom of a ravine. This is my country, my good, quiet place.

With a little luck, we might be neighbors. Where is your good, quiet place?


  1. I loved this. And yes yes YES!!!! It pisses me off to be told that I must consume as much as possible, preferably beyond my means so that the world will go round. Grrrrrr! I'm too old to fall for that crap any more.

  2. I expect I am just down the trail from you. Great post.

  3. My good quiet place is on the sofa, alone, with a good book and a beer and some funky tunes.

  4. I suspect the money, money, and more money lifestyle is incredibly prominent on the East Coast, particularly close to New York or D.C. California is seamy, especially Sacramento—nothing but lawyers, politicians, guns and money. Fifteen years ago, my wife and I fled corporate jobs and $120,000 a year, and moved to Humboldt County. For many years we lived content on $28,000 a year, and anywhere we went among the redwoods was a quiet spot. Money arrived in Humboldt and things changed, so now we’re in the Willamette Valley. We’re content on $30,000 a year, and anywhere we go is a quiet place.

  5. Lawyers, guns & money, my friend. Sometimes when I'm out and about I feel a need to buy something, almost like a hunger, and that is some scary shit. Still, if you could point me to the haystack I'd be much obliged.

  6. I have found mine, here is central Florida (south). Having retired a few years ago, my only scheduled events are tee times and the rare doctor's appointments.

  7. well, i guess weapons and money make a good quiet place easier to obtain
    not sure where to get it without them in some form
    a few bad apples will poison a barrel
    thats just the way it is

  8. Irish, I had to share this with my fiancee. I guess all I can say is: we know exactly how you feel.

    That's why we're moving to the farm in the summer :)

  9. The greatest joy is in having what you need.

  10. Fantastic observations Irish and I'm with you all the way.

    Luckily, with my job, I get my balance and need for my wide open spaces.

    Along with my musical soundtrack, its the soundtrack of nature itself which also often soothes my soul.

  11. I used to conform much more than I do now. I have always had an independent streak, not following the crowd but my own conscience.
    My favorite place to be is either at home which is surrounded by beautiful woodlands and acreage--we have a small estate on an island--or on my boat where I get away from just about everything--it's my equivalent of a tree house.

  12. That sounds like a great four hours. I need to do that more. I so appreciate the outdoors but forget to enjoy it. You have inspired me!

    Regarding the ladder climbing, etc., I work in a very competitive business yet I refuse to compete! I do okay, pretty good actually but I try not to work 10 hours a day 7 days a week like so many of my colleagues. Often I find myself saying "I'm just not that hungry" or "I'm at a different place in my life than you are" when what I think it really is is that I'm content!


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...