Friday, January 22, 2016

Even the Interior Dept. rep was naked

       It was all for the cause of wilderness. Really.                                        
 Subversion on the Uncompahgre (cont.)

  Water was a problem on this high plateau in western Colorado. Most people had brought their own, and a plastic container for emergencies sat next to the snake-oil table, but there were no rivers or streams within striking distance, just a spring a mile away, down a trail strewn with hot, dusty people in various stages of undress. A tiny pond had formed at the mouth of the spring, and people stood in the weeds and in the shallows, their bodies stark in the sunlight.
   I took off my clothes. The pond looked like a bio-peptic soup but proved to be icy and wonderfully refreshing. A schoolteacher from Reno was washing her friend's hair with biodegradable shampoo. She introduced me to Wildcat Annie, a robust woman ruddying herself with a towel, who worked for the BLM. Wildcat Annie was an alias she used in what she considered her real life. She worked as an outdoor recreation planner in a Western state but asked me not to mention which one, since belonging to Earth First! could cause her problems in the workplace.
    "Morale has plummeted since the 'eighty elections," she said. "The BLM has become a lot more political. There are less people at the top who have worked their way up. Now even the associate state directors are being appointed. They're changing the agency. She had given Earth First! three thousand dollars, an impressive piece of her salary, to combat the practices of her employer — e.g., chainings; tolerating trespass by ranchers, timber cutters, and pot hunters; and ignoring environmental regulations. "Right now I can do more good staying than leaving," she said. "At least I can see what's going on, and try to change things."
I got dressed and walked back to camp. The Santa Cruz contingent had hung a poster on the big aspen. "Oppression of wilderness is the same as oppression of people," it began, and went on to champion feminism and equate civil rights with wilderness values — a blatant effort to improve the EF image.
The professors were making other efforts to enlighten. The chanting session had been scheduled by Santa Cruz himself to counter less uplifting behavior by the Montanans and other rednecks. At dusk a steady drumbeat drew me into the shadows, where he had constructed an Indian medicine wheel out of fir branches, moss, a rock, a flickering candle, a plastic bowl of water, and four woodpecker feathers. He sat cross-legged before it, holding the drum.
"Choose the sign that suits you best," he said, as a dozen of us settled in a circle. "It's appropriate to begin with the Air Chant." He beat the tom tom, and began:

Fly like the eagle, flying so high,
Around the universe, on wings of pure light.
Hey hunga ho hunga hey yung yung.

We repeated it several times, holding hands and swaying. We chanted the Fire Chant. Before the Water Chant, Santa Cruz said, "Water is a little bit sensual. You may squeeze hands."

The earth is our mother, 
We must take care of her.
Her sacred ground we walk upon 
With every step we take.
Keya wale lenya lenya ma mate 
Hi yano, hi yano, hi yano.

Guitars were warming up in the meadow. A few verses of extemporaneous scatology reached us, deepening the mood. "Sage is a purifier," Santa Cruz was saying, holding some in a dish, which he tried to light with a match. "Usually I have a propane lighter."
He passed the dish around. "As you breath in the smoke, let all tensions go. Let the hurts go. Let today go. Let tomorrow go. Let those intellectual pretensions go. Stop trying to figure out intellectually how sage can purify you and let it work on your energy."
He handed the tom-tom to the widow in a serape. "Say a prayer and send it along with four beats of the drum."
Her prayer was silent, but the young man in camouflage said, "Heal the earth, and stop the oppressors."
"Nourish Mother Earth," said the journalism student from Columbia University.
Thump, thump...
I was passed the drum. I prayed silently that this would soon end, but it wasn't answered. Santa Cruz launched a prayer of stunning duration: "Grandfathers, help us. Some of our brothers have become confused." He meant the redneck environmentalists. "Others do not know how to treat the Earth Mother. Help them understand that the Earth Mother sustains us. Some of our brothers and sisters have attacked the Mother. They have cut her trees and torn the rocks out of her. Help them see the error of their ways, Grandfathers. They are many, and we are few..."
The mosquitoes were many, as well. It was getting cold. Santa Cruz was breathing now, great sonorous exhalations we had to emulate. This was the man who had joined Earth First! for fun. "Feel your power," he moaned. "Feel it flowing through your inner selves. Feel it spreading around the circle. Feel it flowing back inside you. Now we're going to get physical."
We danced around the fire wheel. The chanting switched from Native American to Japanese, then back to English. "You are an aspen tree," Santa Cruz told us, when we came to a halt. "Close your eyes and wiggle your fingers, feel the wind in your branches. Feel the animals around your thick trunk. Sense the deer running past, the wolverine digging a nest at your roots, the gophers eating — mostly forbs and sedges. Feel the sap running into you. Feel the water deep in the earth. Sense the glimmer of the stars. Sense the moon that will soon be rising..."
I stumbled off into the darkness. I had yet to meet the redneck environmentalists, but by now was firmly on their side. A big crowd had gathered around the fire in the meadow. Figures drifted between the light and the collective domicile of cars, vans, and tents tucked into the woods. I could see a wilder array of caftans and elaborate hats, and a woman with a white dove tied to her shoulder. A rail-thin figure in handmade leather boots, with beads and leather tassels, circled the group like a coyote, beaded leather pouches and a broad-bladed knife on his belt. The line between reality and parody has always been thin in the West. The real cowboy becomes the drugstore version with ease. Easterners take up Western crudeness like college degrees; mountain men buy their cocaine and TV Guide in shopping centers.
The Montanans were raising hell, off by themselves. I followed their shouts of "Rednecks for wilderness!" to a bunch of buckskin and leather, even Cat hats, gathered round an illegal campfire. Steam rose from a pot of vegetables. The women were not cooking but drinking beer and singing raucous songs and eating home-salted salmon out of a Mason jar.
"What's the slant of your book?" one asked, as soon as I had stated my business.
"I don't have a slant." 
"What do you know about public lands?" asked another. "What do you know about Montana?"
"Do you like to fish?" 
"Do you like tequila?"
What began as a fight became a determined effort to make me understand the beauty and importance of Montana, both considerable. "Montanans are different," one kept saying. He was runty but fierce, with a black beard. "We're conservative, determined, and we're going to stop the bastards from killing the griz and destroying the most important ecosystem left in America. Period!"
"Fuck Senator Melcher!" someone shouted, and the others took up the theme.
The Montana women sang of the sexual inadequacies of their state's congressional delegation; the men shouted "Drunk and sensitive!" in an attempt to improve their image with the rest of the camp, but that soon changed to "Drunk and ignorant!"

                                         (Dave Foreman)
  Walking back to the van, I passed a couple intertwined in the bushes, their clothes in a puddle beside them. The fact that they made love in the cold was not a as remarkable as their uninterrupted laughter.
  The next two days ran together in a stew of deep ecology, green politics, ecotage, and dwindling food and water. The Santa Cruz statement was ripped down, probably by the Montanans. Phrases drifted up like ecological blimps from gatherings on the grass: glamour species, bio-prostitute, Civil Disobedience (CD), Direct Confrontation (DC), animalist, specist. A specist was someone tolerant of the extinction of lesser species in the interest of glamour species like griz and woodland caribou; an animalist condemned owning and eating animals, but sinned against plants by owning and even eating them. A bioprostitute performed biological assignments for the FS and had to be subverted either through CD or DC.
There was hard DC, and soft DC. Soft DC was planned in Yellowstone later in the summer, when EFers would appear in the park hotel in grizzly costumes and sit around the lobby eating huckleberries. A large woman from Oregon offered to make five bear costumes if EF would send her the material; it would be made of synthetics, admittedly a mineralist action with animalist and specist overtones but directed toward bio- and other prostitutes in the machinist continuum.
I bought a copy of Deep Ecology off the snake-oil table. The two authors were present, taking part in workshops. I read during the heat of the day, propped against an aspen. The book was a compendium of thought on the subject, most of it from the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the phrase ecosophy — a process through which profound questions could be put about nature and man. The phrase deep ecology had a pedantic ring; but the notion that humans must practice self-denial, and that the human fate was directly related to that of grizzlies, and even spiderworts, was compelling.
A community of concerned people had become essential to survival, according to the book. "In a society famous for dystopian visions," the authors wrote, of ours, "ecotopian visions present affirmations of our bonds with Earth."
I found one of the authors, Bill Devall, during the gathering for mass guerrilla theater. "The agencies that control the public lands are anthrocentric," he said. "It goes back to Gifford Pinchot, who linked them to development. Muir originally thought of the national forests as preserves. Any change at this point to biocentrism cannot be evolutionary." We were talking revolution.
I later saw him flapping his arms and cawing, taking part in a communal game, and asked if he was a crow.
"A raven," he said, "a very different proposition," and flapped off.
The homogenization of America has been postponed by the existence of public lands, where people can pursue lives truly different from those elsewhere, or at least pretend to. There were some play-actors here, but there were also people dedicated to slowing down the systematic diminishment of the West.
"We're a tribe," Foreman told the gathering that night. "We have our own rituals, demigods, shared language, and devils. We gather once a year to get to know each other, to plan events and exchange genetic material. Basically, we're Neanderthals. We've been in a ten-thousand-year eddy, but we're about to get back into the mainstream."
Earth First! was different, he said; it would fail in the end, but the battle was worth it. He cited Aldo Leopold's vision of the circular process of death and regeneration. "We shouldn't fear death, but welcome it when it comes. Only then will we have freedom. Modern man is obsessed with living forever."
He picked up a fistful of Uncompahgre dirt and trailed it on the breeze. "This is our immortality!"

More press on the Malheur Refuge occupation:
 And : 

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