- BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN (front page)
- In The Time of Losing It All (blog, paradigms & observations)
- Wilderness Survival Skills Prophecy (blog, spirit & visions)
- The Lost Cache Journals (blog, life & times)
- Visions of Paradise (short stories, fiction & non)
- When The Candle Flickers (poems & vinettes)
- PRIMITIVE VOLITION (novella, fiction)
- Table Of Contents
- Author Bio
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BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN (front page) PRIMITIVE VOLITION (novella, fiction)
|Primitive Volition Chapter 1|
"When one flirts with the untamed—Beware!
For if one wanders long on that savage ground their spirit must surrender,
altered perceptions will come and strange days are upon you...
Keep your wits about you Pilgrim—
for if one truly communes with the primitive heart,
the manifest evolution of one’s spirit is not far from its awakening..."
The pale shroud of what passes for night in the land of the midnight sun had lifted hours before, yet the day lay dark and troubled--brooding its intent. Sounding more as if lecturing than talking to herself while walking the airstrip, the young woman voiced her thought, liking the karmic rhythm, "One must integrate one's lifestyle with the finite circle of Mother Earth to truly approach a comprehension of God's infinite concinnity."
"Yeah," she gaped--awed with the wild, untamed country as she switched off the recorder, pocketing her ragged little book while gazing at the wonder...
And felt small, tripping through the vertiginous void of not knowing, like her life had been pushed off the edge--but that wouldn't explain the increasingly pensive muse of the recent weeks--
Or would it? "Hmmm," she shivered snuggling deeper still into her coat, yet swept the weathered old fedora from her head suddenly wanting the wind in her hair. And even more suddenly was back to the same old funk she'd been in for days...
Well at least she'd decided the new parka was worth the money as she zipped a little tighter. It was perfect for a summer in the Northern wilderness exactly as the sales representative had said; (it being a true 4-in-1 design engineered with Frigi-Block technology, made in China by underpaid kids specifically for Alaska, the Land of Extremes, hence the enticing, Alaska Lass trademark and catchy logo phrase, As Extreme as the Land Itself); and she just loved the colors, bright lemon Super-Micro-pel outer system with a removable/zipper-sleeved convertible poly-fleece inner component in high-voltage blue.
Today as a base layer, feeling like she had to be prepared for almost anything, Doctor Pauline Erica Sanders, Ph.D. Ecological Sciences, Magna Cum Laude, UCLA, with minors in Non-Profit-Business Admin, Government Grant Writing, and another in Speculative Statistical Analysis, among the many other laurels she'd amassed in her brilliant young career, had chosen a shiny rose mallow pink vee-neck in a smooth weave acrylic and black spandex running tights with a hot fuchsia swirl streaking down the side … along with gray faux-leather trekking boots--
And of course her weathered old hat as she flopped it on, her beads and earrings jangling as she shook her head and sighed, perplexed, yet entertained as always by her kaleidoscopic thought patterns--
It was getting downright bizarre--
Everybody kept telling her she'd arrived. So what was going on?
She'd been a happy camper. She liked her job. It fit quite nicely with her idea of an integrated, spiritual existence--besides the money was good, to say nothing of the bennies and retirement. She owned her own home (or at least the illusion of saying she did with the mortgage and all). Very secure--
Fire and accident, illness and litigation--even some pre-approved acts of God could come her way, and according to the policy they'd be mere blips on the screen so seamless was her coverage. Even her SUV was still under full warranty. Life was good. She had fun--
Just six months ago she'd been on paid vacation. Another escapade with her friend, Margo--this time, a ten-day wilderness ecology retreat and personal growth seminar at Eagle's Nest, New Mexico--deluxe accommodations, daily heli-tours, evening horse rides, guides and nightly speakers, gourmet vegetarian meals--ground transportation and round-trip airfare included (first-class upgrade available). Wow, what an experience. Now that was a party!
Doing an about-face she let her gaze roll down the thirty-five hundred feet of gravel. Left behind decades before by the United States Geological Survey it’d been home to numerous projects and contingencies that felt obliged for one reason or another to come into the country. From this view camp was reduced to a collection of brightly colored Monopoly pieces scattered beyond the row of bladders for Jet-A, Avgas and regular at the end of the runway--her colleagues but wisps of motion, noise and purpose.
Here on the opposite approach, behind a sprawling monolith of empty 55-gallon fuel drums sinking and rusting into the tundra, in the gravel pit from which spawned this improvement upon the land, she could hear the ravens and whiskey-jacks loot and pillage the bone yard--
Through the years the various camps had abandoned most of their garbage, and many of the fabrications and matériels into that scabrous, waterlogged grave (having calculated it not worth the price of flying out when done with a project)--
Forlorn in the sacrilege the dump had become through the many incarnations a chronologic record of failed technology, the wastefulness of man, and as a corollary seemed to serve as a shrine to those follies, the tatters of poly-tarps and Visqueen waving as if remnants of a ghost-ship, each group through the years having dutifully left their offering to the gods of rot, rust and decay.
And now we're adding to it. "Whoopee!" she said, twirling her finger in the air, staring again at the huge mound of barrels. Through the years over 2,000 empties had been added to the towering pile of discarded drums, the huge cairn acting as a heat-sink in the hot summer sun to thaw the ancient, permafrost ground around them into an obscene watery goo of rotten, stinking sedge tussocks, decomposing rust scale and fuel-laden oily rainbow swamp sheen as they dissolved back into the tundra one travesitic layer at a time. Although to be fair, their camp was for the most part was using fuel bladders instead of the steel drums, and indeed one of their projected purposes in being there was to clean up the environment from past abuse--
Jeez, I wish the helicopter would hurry up and get here, maybe if I'm lucky, I'll come back with a new perspective--that'd sure be an easy out she almost said, but instead as she had her whole life when rattled or perplexed, bit her lower lip, swirling in her own introspection, listening on the wind...
Pounding at the silence, the twin 20kW diesel generators droned away twenty-four/seven like precise androidian mantras hummed in perpetual need--
It made her want to scream. This season had started off so good, she stomped. Why couldn't they have at least tried to understand where I was coming from she thought, but these days wasn't sure she even grasped from whence dangled that tenuous thread. And this, the most far-reaching environmental project to come by in years, the one everybody had wanted in on, was to have launched her reputation.
"Yeah, some name I made for myself," she stomped, scrunching her nose to the sky--goodness, even the weather had turned sour, yet the petite young woman was still glad she'd insisted upon coming out with the crew during the first-phase remote-camp staging. The logistics contractor had assigned the project a good bunch of guys.
After they'd gotten it through their horny little heads she wasn't interested, they'd accepted her as Project Coordinating Liaison and work had progressed smoothly.
The storage tent, along with their living quarters, had been the first to go up; an enormous blue 20x40 portable Quonset serving as the former, and beyond, in their own secluded area by the river, a 16x20 white wall-tent for their cook shack, with a collection of smaller multicolored dome tents for the crew, each one the pride of its owner, their rough attempts at civility, a clothesline here, a homemade bench or shelf there, testament to the self-sufficient, independent man that was camped there--
Her own quarters and office a beautiful 10x12 she'd decorated with wildflowers, scarves and love. It'd been the single most exciting endeavor she'd ever experienced, watching it all take shape. On the one previous project she'd been involved with, a study of the European Klööster Fühk finally appearing in North America, camp was already operational. Wow, what a different reality. And to think...
She’d been one-ninth of the energy that made it happen; and no matter what, they couldn’t take that from her.
Well almost one-ninth anyway, but what she’d lacked in brute strength had been more than offset by the contagious sense of adventure she had for it all. She was always right there, doing something she felt useful: Grooming the forest, arranging the rocks and stones along the pathways into lovely, artistic borders; gathering mushrooms and berries, picking bouquets of flowers for their fire circle and cooking tent--at times doctoring a scrape or cut--or even teaching--
The crew enthusiastically cheering her on when she gave an impromptu demonstration of how to attain a perfectly squared corner when they were erecting her personal tent platform, bending and stretching her sensuous curves as she laid it all out on the ground, explaining the Euclidean postulates--
Blown away by the insane dynamics a woman's presence in the wilderness had on men—
It was amazing. In a place fully one fifth the size of the 48 contiguous States, with over twice the shoreline of the East and West coasts combined and distance enough between extreme points to span from LA to New York City, the population was still so sparse, with the number of women to the odd lot of far Northern men even more so in a woman’s favor, it was as if winning the lottery for a girl when she came to Alaska—
She’d never been so catered to—like queen for a day—everyday—
Drinks, flowers; breakfast, lunch and dinner; gifts of all sorts, jewelry, candy and clothes; poems and songs—you name it, and in the short time she’d been in Alaska it’d probably been offered—
Yet equally amazing she hadn’t let it go to her head—the Professor didn’t have time for that nonsense! Especially after her last little fling—
Boy! What an excuse of a man he’d been she now realized--my God, he was even metro.
And she was positive the crew was enjoying the Mexican tortillas, Spanish goat cheese and Israeli hummus, along with the Maui Wowee guava juice cocktails every afternoon.
Yeah, she’d won over The Boys, as she affectionately called the crew (though most were older than her) after unconsciously blurting-out something about “Me and The Boys” during one of her satellite-phone check-ins with the Expediter—drawling the last just enough to make it sound like they were a band of outlaws—
And she was Ms. Young Jesse James.
The Boys had certainly surprised her, proving capable of startling collective reform, by the second day no longer burping and farting in front of her, and by the forth curtailing their cussing at least by half, which she definitely considered an improvement—
She’d always been taught manners were merely respect for oneself and those around you—that acquiring a few in your lifetime certainly didn’t make one some sort of sissy, snob, or bitch, but on the contrary made a man every bit more so a man, and a woman all of a lady—
“Manners are never out of style,” she was fond of saying, “no matter where you are or who you are with.” But she was certainly among some real characters this time—
Definitely the last of the wild bunch--
Even before leaving the curious town of Fairbanks she’d come to the conclusion Alaska was more like a separate country then the Forty-ninth star of the flag, the people almost a different breed it seemed—especially the sort she was with, no doubt the same ilk that tamed the Old West she presumed—
Tough, hard men not afraid to crow with the roosters to be sure--
Yet as strong as their individual testosterone charged personalities were, conversely seemed pretty much cut from the same patch of Postmodern Bushrat grass—universally, the uniform consisting of a ragged wardrobe of thick work shirts (always long-sleeved because of the mosquitos, in spite of the sometimes sweltering heat from the 24-hour sun), and pitch-stained overalls or canvas workpants, invariably worn and torn, patched and mended with the one seemingly indispensable commodity of the North, silver duct tape, the modern rawhide of the bush.
To the man—a beard, or at least moustache and sideburns gave even the youngest a harried, rather mad, hermitized sort of look. Adorning their heads, even at mealtime, an apparently mandatory ball cap, its logo deeply significant to the owner, or on rare occasion a slouch or fedora completing the ensemble. And always a pair of gloves, with all hands scarred and callused and oh so desperate for a touch—
Their knives and weapons, sunglasses, boots and other tools of the trade seemed at least a little more varied, each man convinced his “outfit” the only choice for serious bush work. Nightly they’d weigh the issue, that being their most favored topic discussed, other than women that is. She’d learned a lot from those wacky circles—all of it recorded and transcribed onto disk.
After dinner someone would pull out a bag and fire up a bowl as they sat around the fire. Far into the midnight sun the sparks would fly, the sky turning a hot crimson orange ... fading to twilight—then the brightening day—and always the endless debate going round and round--as did the pipe--
It could start off with blades, or optics, or boot soles for that matter, and from there rev-up to chainsaws, four-wheelers, or outboards, but always it came back to their guns; ballistics and different actions; the politics of freedom; the propelled velocity of a known mass…
Nonetheless, the firearms they’d brandish and brag on still gave her the absolute willies, though she had to admit, out here in the wilderness they didn’t seem quite so evil. Yet she still had plenty to say when they’d get to telling of caribou, moose and bear and how they’d hunt and kill them—but even there, a seed of doubt was forming so compelling were their tales of life on “The Last Frontier”.
With the flames tumbling down into embers a yawn would spread like wildfire as they made excuses to start off to bed after she’d announce she was doing so herself, each adamantly sticking to his guns so to speak, yet to the man insisting upon a hug as the one and only means to bid her a proper goodnight—although the poems and flowers, offers for Hawaii and such had pretty much ceased when it was determined she wouldn’t put out—
Still it never failed to make her chuckle; she had to be getting at least forty a day, each man constantly on the alert for plausible reasons so as to engineer one more squeeze, and maybe whisper a little something. She had to put a cork in it every now and then, and even slapped one when his hands roamed a little too far, yet no matter, they were all sweet guys—gentleman at heart, and so deep down lonesome she didn’t let it get under her skin, but instead studied them, fascinated with what made them tick—the contradictions—
What made them decide to live the life they did? They were all so passionate about it. Yet they all wanted girlfriends (her right now), but lived such a scattered transient existence it held little accommodation for one. It was wild. From the stories told, their relationships and various dalliances sounded more like rodeo tales—
“Alaska appears,” she’d noted one night, “to be a very difficult place as to relationships, particularly for females, the extremes as to the male to female ratio is very confusing.” She also noted one of the enduring maxims of Alaska: “You don’t loose your woman, just your turn,” was apparently based somewhat on fact. The same girls kept cropping up in many of their stories, one even variously involved through the years with three of this very crew!
At least they could laugh it off—although she wasn’t sure how—
Like bronc-riders catching up on who’d been ridden by whom, they’d relate their insane epics of meeting “Little Miss Hotstuff,” and before they even knew what hit them, they’d be trading the wild free life they’d been living for one that would keep her content. Yet the passion for adventure apparently too strong to put up with being held hostage forever, after a while they’d start to waver and finally have to quit the old 9-to-5 to make tracks for a job in the bush. Months later, ragged, yet renewed from the rough and tumble they’d run off to they’d fly back to Fairbanks, or Anchorage, or wherever she was only to find her all saddled-up with a new buckaroo. At this point the storyteller would flash a bittersweet smile, stating how great it was to be rid of the F-ing Bitc... "I mean,Brat—"
Yet in spite of such brave pronouncements she’d note the flat lonely sound of their voices and the eight pairs of heartbroken eyes—
Early on she’d come to the conclusion that the only way it could possibly work for these wild men, would be to find a mate that truly loved it way out in the woods, treat her equal, fair and square; on a homestead, or something similar—have a nice compromise of sorts—
They told her that task was most times even harder—there can only be just one chief when you're living on the edge, and in the bush that would have to end up being the man...
Hmmm, she didn't like that thought...
Yet everything about them intrigued her. She’d even inputted a comparative graph of their bush outfits, hoping to arrive at a useful correlation. Trying to make sense of the endless discussions, one night she’d thrown up her hands, “OK, at least tell me what you would list as your strongest criteria for your particular choices.
“Cause we can depend on 'em,” they all boomed at once.
Well that wasn’t much help, she thought, but was sure they judged companions in the same fashion. And felt honored when “Critter”, the jovial, graying, 300 pound camp boss and foreman, told her that when they went operational she could continue to stay with them, and not move to the Weatherport dorms they’d been setting up at main camp.
Maybe that hadn’t been such a great idea in retrospect.
Something had changed, that was for sure. She loved her work, but lately things had been getting pretty tense. A polarization of sorts. Or maybe it was just her. That was the trouble. In a flood of memory she took it all in as her eyes went misty. Wow, what an adventure. But, way too confusing…
What kept sticking in her mind the clearest was the first week when they were roughing it as they set up their quarters. It’d felt so raw and untamed, wilder than anything she’d ever experienced. A hundred miles beyond the nearest village and twice that far from town, or even highways for that matter, should any misfortune befall them, it would be hours, if not days before help could arrive—
Or as the Boys kept gleefully reminding her, trying to be mindful of their language, "You can die out here if you don’t keep your shi--stuff together, Professor.”
Hmm, I see.
What initial supplies they’d needed had been flown in with them, with no additional flights scheduled for a week. The generators hadn’t even arrived yet. Just her and the Boys building their home in the rim of boreal forest, the mountains thrusting from the horizon as if dream-catchers spun from the hand of God, the perception so intense one needed a map to ascertain the clarified vision. Throughout the day she’d walk to the river’s edge, the liquid-crystal-music rippling with the promise, giving her the cadence, flowing towards the truth—
It’d been so simple. Silence beyond measure. A contentment that let her spirit soar—
Jeez—all she’d instituted was a quiet day—no work, no flights in or out, (unless an emergency was at hand) along with a few other things—a complete shutdown of the generators, radios, sat-phone and machinery, along with the four-wheelers, track-rigs and other noisy things.
And she still thought it an excellent idea.
Was it really so much to ask?
A measly 12 out of the 168 hours we’ve designated, labeled, and butchered the week into: The a.m.s and p.m.s of the daily grind of living: Rush-hour, lunch-hour, Miller-time and prime-time; Monday, humpday--and then, Thank God It's Friday--
One half of one day a week to shut off the nonsense. Grokking the profundity of being, communing with the Mother directly. A time to celebrate the senses, to validate one’s existence. A way to see, and hear, and touch, and smell the Earth like it was at the beginning.
After all wasn’t that what they were there for? To get in touch. To find solutions. To try and save us from our wretched mess.
It seemed like forever since they’d completed the large research complex—a series of orange double wall portable structures attached to a central hub of chipboard, plywood and multicolored polymeric fabrics. It felt to her now as though all she’d found had been lost with the one single flip of a switch eleven days ago. With that, camp became a hive of noisy, ceaseless activity and conflicted personalities.
For the better part of 48 hours in a continuing schedule the Boxcars, Caravans, and Skywagons had swooped down upon them; the piles of supplies and equipment growing with the proportionate discharge of max-payloads. Empty of cargo the pilot would firewall the throttles, and with a heroically impassive nod go screaming back down the runway into the endless sky—off for another load.
Then all the people began arriving. Professors; supervisors and administrators—all strutting around—throwing their weight—the swelling sum of inflated egos crowding, arguing—haggling with her as if at a yard sale. For the most picaresque quarters; the best lab areas; asking—No—demanding the choicest supplies, and all the other extra goodies. Grad students shuffling—Coeds and TA’s huddled, mustering their peep hole of experience into a properly annoyed support for their leader; yet trying just as hard to appear unfazed by such trivialities—each group convinced—declaring their purpose in being obviously the most important towards the overall project fulfillment--
The team studying the stochastic variability of seasonal freezing and thawing at local, regional and hemispheric scales under modern and predicted climate even questioning as to who’d she think she was pitching her tent on the beautiful bend of benchland just up river from camp. Why was she allowed to have her own quarters—with a view—and an outhouse of her own?
Critter had been within earshot of the conversation, and boomed out, “Cause we said she could, Pilgrim.”
Him and the Boys were always watching out for her, at times going so far as to act as strong arms when some FNG would start in with the F… this and F… that. A couple of the Boys would nod as if they were robbing a bank and hover-in to lay a heavy hand on the shoulder of the F-ing New Guy, “Hey pard, we’d ‘preciate it, if you’d not cuss in front of the Lady.” At times it was even a female FNG they’d quiet—
Her fellow researchers would then stare as if she’d become a traitor in the weeks she’d been there without them, and treat her as a defector the rest of the day. Thankfully, once everyone had been settled she’d managed for a week to withdraw from the drama, hiding within the collecting of baseline samplings from which to begin her own studies. Then the Director along with some people nobody had ever heard of had shown up a few days back.
She’d defended her “La-La time” (as he’d put it) at the supervisor’s meeting he’d called the following morning as integral to the mindset necessary to understand their purpose completely.
Yet the way he’d berated her quiet day idea, calling it a romantic, infantile notion had been a little humiliating in front of the others. But the worst was his compromise.
That very day he’d ordered a big screen video setup with surround sound and bass boost, They’d have movies every night for their quality time to relax from the burdens of serving the greater good. The saddest part being many of the researchers were excited about the prospect.
And now as of last night the scuttlebutt was, a large contingent of additional personnel were in transit. Just what we need she thought, more people.
Not that it was that bad. The wilderness stretched for hundreds of miles in all directions, and took her breath away as she let her eyes sweep its vast stroke. “Can’t be more than two-hundred and fifty people in the surrounding seventy-five hundred square miles. Let’s see; one person per every thirty square … Hmm … and two-hundred and twenty-eight are in my camp … twenty-two into … carry the one…
“Something like one in every three-hundred and forty square miles—Wow!
“I must be getting bushy,” she giggled, without dismissing the notion—
After all wasn’t that what they were all saying—and suddenly thought of a night from what seemed lifetimes ago, the last night when they had still been in Fairbanks preparing to go afield—
The Boys had come to her hotel and literally carried her as she protested the entire time that she had work to do, to the company van—proclaiming their watering hole, The Marlin, to be the Furthest North live music bohemian bar in the world—a place she just had to experience if she wanted to taste true Alaska—
With its emergent budding beat scene, reggae-rock-and-bluegrass, eclectic swirl of poets, musicians, writers, artists, and eccentrics it was definitely one of the more interesting places she’d ever ventured, her eyes, along with her highly tuned mind darting back and forth between people and things, ideas and dreams—
She’d spotted the beaver pelt laced into a willow hoop hanging near the stage of the historic little club and was just getting ready to comment about how cruel trapping and hunting was when she saw it had words penned on the leather, so had made her way over—
Getting excited trying to remember, she ducked into the bushes along the runway to get out of the wind, pulled off the satchel and whipped out her ultra-fast, ultra-powerful, high-performance mobile solution. Dropping to her knees she opened hurriedly, fingering with soft delicate strokes till she came upon it--YES!
Grinning as she’d went from one level to the next she was convinced this new hardware was by far the hottest she’d ever used—with a database as wild and eclectic as hers it had to be—anything else would be too frustrating. This was anything but.
It’d taken less than a minute of probing; and there she was—right on the boolean edge--culture,customs,ideology,colloquial,wilderness,alaska,interior,male,sayings--
Wow! That was easy--then she flicked her button--now like that night before venturing into the bush, her breathing grew ragged, her speech deep and throaty as she voiced it once again:
To Cheechakos and other Tenderfeet
When one flirts with the untamed—Beware!
For if one wanders long on that savage ground their spirit must surrender,
altered perceptions will come and strange days are upon you...
Keep your wits about you Pilgrim—
for if one truly communes with the primitive heart,
the manifest evolution of one’s spirit is not far from its awakening...
Good luck and Godspeed—
have a pleasant sojourn in the land of the rainbow’s end…
Just stay the hell off my end of it!
Billy Shannon—Alaskan woodsman (date unknown)
For the past five weeks she realized she hadn’t been able to shake the echo of that well considered, double-barreled warning--and wondered?
Were they stepping on somebody’s rainbow around here?
Hurriedly recalculating the population density with the known data she figured the statistical probability both absolute (known integers) and theoretical (I believe, therefore, it is)--
Leaning towards the latter she put away her gadgets and shrugged on the satchel letting the wind spin her slow toward the stormy skyline. Sometimes ... she thought, her dreamy gaze dancing the horizon, I almost wish … and without even knowing bit down again and sucked just a little this time, watching the sky go hollow as the tempest took the mountains yet again.