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THE OZ FACTORS (Chapter Two)

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CHAPTER TWO (partial)

WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD, BUT FIRST …

“How do I start for Emerald City?”–Dorothy

“It’s always best to start at the beginning…”–Glinda in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

An old German proverb asks the question, “What is the use of running if we are not on the right road?” In our travels to search for answers to the primordial questions of life, we must first make sure that we are on the right road. Finding the right road requires accurate, understandable directions. Obviously, in order to understand the directions, we must understand the language of the people who are giving us the directions.

In the words of Confucius (551-479 BC), “If language is not correct, then what I said is not what is meant and what ought to be done remains undone. If this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate. If justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence, there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

To ensure that we understand the directions along the road, we must define a few words in the language being spoken. The most important reason to get our definitions straight is that  INFORMATION IS ONLY AS VALUABLE AS ONE IS ABLE TO UNDERSTAND AND USE IT TO CREATE A WORKABLE SOLUTION.

In a strange, foreign land like Oz, Dorothy is suddenly presented with an overwhelming number of unfamiliar sights, sounds, places, creatures, cultures, technology and politics which she has never before encountered. It’s a place very much like planet Earth during the “Information Age”.

Every new technology has its own language. With any new technology, there is a lot of new, unfamiliar language to learn.

Most information we receive is in the form of words. If you don’t know what each one of the words mean, you can’t understand the information. (It’s a very fortunate coincidence that Glinda and the Munchkins spoke English, or Dorothy might still be stuck in Munchkinland trying to figure out directions to the Emerald City.)

However, real life is not like a Hollywood movie in which all the Munchkins, witches, scarecrows, trees and lions just happen to speak perfect English. When we crash-land on an alien planet or into another Universe, we will usually run into language we do not understand.

So, to make sure we’re getting ourselves onto the right “Yellow Brick Road”, we need to know the definitions of the words in languages like Munchkinese or Ozian; or on planet Earth, the languages of technology like computers or biological engineering or astrophysics or any other “foreign” language we encounter. This will help us understand the signs along our “Yellow Brick Road” leading to our “Emerald City” of answers to the primordial questions of life.

A–WHAT’S SO WONDERFUL ABOUT WIZARDS?

“If ever a Wonderful Wiz there was, the Wizard of Oz is one because, because, because, because, because, because … because of the wonderful things he does.”–The Munchkins singing in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

The song says the Wizard is a wizard because of the “wonderful” things he does. When Dorothy asks the Munchkins how to get back to Kansas, they tell her to go see the Wizard to get the answer to her question. The Munchkins assume that the Wizard will have a workable solution to her problem.

If Dorothy had crash-landed her house somewhere else, she might have said, “Take me to your leader.” (Had she crash-landed on Earth, she would have found that very few of our leaders, if any, are either “wizards” or “wonderful”.)

Let’s check the dictionary and find out exactly what a wizard is and what makes one so wonderful.

Wizard–(noun) [derived from the Old Norse word viskr, meaning: clever, knowing: originally, a sage; a magician.

The song from the movie could be literally translated to mean: “We’re off to see the clever, knowing magician and sage of Oz”.

Okay, so what’s a “sage”? Sage–(noun) [derived from the Latin word sapiens, wise] a very wise man.

What is a “magician”? Magician–(noun) an expert in magic [derived from the Greek word magikos, of the Magi; (see Magi)

Magi–(noun plural) [derived from the Old Persian word, magu, member of a priestly caste, 1/ the priestly caste in ancient Media and Persia, supposedly having occult powers. 2/ in the Bible, the wise men from the East who came bearing gifts to the infant Jesus: Matthew 2:1-13.

Now, let’s get back to the original word, “wonderful”–(adjective), to fill with wonder.

Wonder–1/ a person, thing or event that causes astonishment, and admiration; marvel (as in “Professor Marvel”); 2/ The feeling of surprise, admiration and awe aroused by something strange, unexpected, incredible, etc; 3/ a miracle.

So, what the song really means is: “He is a wonderful Wiz because, because we are surprised, astonished and filled with awe and admiration at the strange, unexpected and incredible things he does…”

This doesn’t translate into very good song lyrics, but it does describe the feeling that Dorothy and her friends had when they finally met the Wizard in the Emerald City.

Now for the last of our definitions: Miracle–(noun) [derived from the Greek word “mirari”, to wonder at, wonderful], an event or action that apparently contradicts known scientific laws and is hence thought to be due to supernatural causes, especially an act of God.

There are numerous actual and/or mythical people throughout history, in every part of the world, who easily fit the above definition, current leaders notwithstanding. And, while miracles come in many forms, a miracle ultimately depends upon the viewpoint of the observer.

An example of a “wonderful”, “miraculous” event might be an airplane, equipped with all the electronic trappings we take for granted in our twentieth century civilization, including batteries, various electric appliances, radios, radar, cigarette lighters, flashlights, guns, synthetic fabrics, etc, landing in a never-before-contacted aboriginal jungle setting. To the native inhabitants of the area, still living in a Stone Age, the aboriginal explanation of these alien objects might be that they are the works of a god or a wizard. They would think that the airplane and modern electrical devices are a miracle and magic and wonderful.

As another example, a great deal of evidence uncovered in recent archaeological excavations of Sumeria, Egypt, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and elsewhere contains “wonderful” anomalies and exhibits evidence of civilizations which demonstrate “miraculous” technical ability.

Furthermore, dates for the construction of some of the sites being investigated have been revised considerably. For example, a date of 10,400 BC for the construction of the Sphinx in Egypt is a concept which many scientists consider to be “incredible”, “surprising”, “awesome” or “astonishing” and therefore, a “miracle”, yet, that is what the evidence seems to show.

Miracles aside, the tools of geology, astronomy, astrophysics, engineering, forensics and many other independent methods through which to observe the universe, give us a more profound understanding of the languages of our universes. The same archaeological evidence mentioned above, seen under the magnifying glass of these technologies results in a more complete understanding of problems or questions that “scientific theories” have not yet been able to resolve.

Wizards and miracles can only be understood in the context of the level of understanding on the part of the observer. Since we have yet to fully answer the primordial questions of life, perhaps:

1/ we are on the wrong road altogether.

2/ we are trying to answer questions which are based on assumptions, scientific theories or personal viewpoints which are incorrect.

3/ we don’t understand the questions.

4/ there are other factors, as yet unknown, which prevent our observation and understanding of what we see and experience in the Physical Universe and in Your Own Universe.

B–THE OZ FACTORS

“There, there, lie quiet now. You just had a bad dream.” – Aunt Em

“But it wasn’t a dream. It was a place. And you – and you – and you – and you were there.” – Dorothy

“Oh, we dream lots of silly things when we…” – Aunt Em

“No, Aunt Em, this was a real, truly live place. And I remember that some of it wasn’t very nice – but most of it was beautiful.” -Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

The term “Oz Factor” was originally coined by the British UFO researcher Jenny Randles in reference to a peculiar, almost dreamlike state of silence that sometimes precedes UFO encounters. Jenny Randles supposed the Oz Factor to be an altered state of consciousness induced by the “persons” behind the UFO phenomenon. She conceived that this influence originated from beings of another planet, capable of reaching across space to influence human behavior. She postulated that these beings are physically present in the vicinity of the affected person. Jenny describes this experience as “not really happening, yet it is far more than a mere hallucination.”

Randles uses the term to describe a variety of phenomena:

“What I wanted to do was to anchor this state of mind very firmly in real experience. I have surveyed what witnesses say in this wide range of paranormal phenomena, both obviously time related (such as time-slips) and not so obviously related (such as near-death or UFO close-encounter visions). The pattern is the same and you can readily build up this portrait of the state of consciousness which seems to facilitate their occurrence.

“That is the first step. Giving it a neutral name to capture its essence of magical transportation was the next move forward, hence the Oz Factor.

“We must move on from here. It helps a little to say that the Oz factor is a set of symptoms denoting an altered state of consciousness in which the normal bonds of time are freed and the mind senses the universe as it really is and can wander through those corridors of forever.”

Illusion, hallucination, imagination and reality: universes can be created by each of us individually and/or collectively.

Our purpose here is not to speculate on the relative validity of universes. Like Jenny Randles, we are traveling on a “Yellow Brick Road” toward the resolution of primordial questions. The road may be a reality or it may be an hallucination. Our journey is to examine some of the factors that may adversely effect our ability to discover workable solutions–the differences between reality and hallucination–in any universe.

Unlike Dorothy in the Land of Oz, we do not have Ruby Slippers and a Good Witch to lead us or protect us. We are on our own in our travels through the Land of Oz, Kansas, planet Earth, the Physical Universe and Your Own Universe.

Like a scarecrow who can’t decide which way to go, the twists and turns of the road which have been charted by western science, have not resolved our primordial questions. Some people, who don’t have any more brains than a scarecrow, do an awful lot of talking but we still have no reliable road map–we have no proven sign posts. Therefore, we must draw our own map and post signs to guide ourselves and mark the way for others who may follow.

Our journey must define a new map through uncharted universes. Our map must not only help to choose the right road, but it must also protect us from the perils of lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!), witches, flying monkeys, great and powerful Ozes, and other distractions, along the way.

Every time we take a wrong turn, every time we encounter a perilous barrier to understanding, we must post a new sign. We call each one of these sign posts, an “Oz Factor”.

DEFINITION OF “OZ FACTOR”: A COMMON DENOMINATOR OF WESTERN LOGIC WHICH PREVENTS OBSERVATION, UNDERSTANDING, AND THE ATTAINMENT OF A WORKABLE SOLUTION.

Each of the Oz Factors represents a kind of fork in the road of logic.

One is confronted with a nearly infinite number of possible forks or turning points along the road. As the Scarecrow tells Dorothy, there are a lot of different roads one CAN follow.

Although Western science has chosen a fork in the road which is very physical, rather than spiritual, many people considered themselves and all of life to be defined by a spiritual essence.  All life forms, including plants, animals and man are motivated by and  share the common denominator of a life essence we call spirit.

The predominant viewpoint of Western science is that Man is ONLY a physical entity. The logic of Western science is that the spirit can not be measured or weighed in the physical universe. Science has chosen the physical universe fork in the road: the spirit does not exist! In other words, there is only ONE UNIVERSE, the physical universe.         Consequently, the map of the Yellow Brick Road which has been drawn for us by Western science has largely determined our view of universes. Our logic has been defined by the laws of the physical universe which seem to dictate that Man is only a physical universe animal.

Where has the map drawn by Western sciences taken us as a civilization and as individual beings in our search for answers to the primordial questions of life? How will the road we are following effect the future of our planet? What about other forks in the road that could be followed?

Let’s examine the sign posts along this road–the Oz Factors. There are currently twelve Oz Factors which have been identified:

1/ WE’VE GOT TO VERIFY IT

” … we’ve got to verify it legally, to see if she (the Wicked Witch of the East) is morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead.”–The Mayor of Munchkin City in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Archaeological evidence of ancient civilizations is, literally, in ruins. Our understanding of what remains is muddled by missing information. Artifacts have been long since stolen. Parts of ancient monuments have been dismantled by local residents and used in new construction. Books have been burned by jealous priests and greedy tyrants. Ancient languages and writing can no longer be read or understood.

Missing information leads to incorrect assumptions, unproven hypotheses and unworkable solutions.

Our personal and collective unfamiliarity with past events prevents our clear understanding of what we see in the present.

Our need to handle the demands of solving present time survival problems often makes us forget the past.

Specialization in the sciences is a primary cause of missing information. In the science of medicine, for example, there are now so many specialists that one cannot be treated for any ailment without consulting a doctor who specializes in the diseases of a specific body part. As a result, a problem in one area of the body can remain undetected while the specialist is treating another body part.

This method may have its practical uses and certainly contributes to the advancement of detailed study. However, the problem with specialization is that each specialized science excludes information that is not specific to the very narrow field of its own particular study.

When science is confronted with the problem of developing a comprehensive understanding of an entire subject, it is often missing information from other sciences.

A dermatologist is not likely to fix your broken leg. Likewise, archaeology or paleontology, being very limited sciences, are not likely to come up with workable solutions to our primordial origins.

Any study that requires a comprehensive understanding of a very broad body of information in order to solve mysteries, such as the “origin of man” or “where did life come from”, or “how to get back to Kansas” must include ALL of the information available.

2/ ARE YOU A GOOD WITCH?

“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”–Glinda

“Who? Me? Why, I’m not a witch at all! I’m Dorothy Gale from Kansas.” –Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

One well-known, but now extinct, assumption of a few hundred years ago was that “sickness is caused by ill-humors residing in the blood”. Based on this wonderfully unproved theory, doctors and psychiatrists attempted, with a uniformly resounding lack of success, to cure sickness by bleeding someone; i.e., stabbing them with a knife in a vein and letting out what they considered to be enough blood to affect a “cure”. This resulted, in fact, in the murder of a countless number of innocent patients, including the first President of the United States, George Washington, who merely suffered from the common cold, yet was bled to death by his doctor.

A current example of an unproved assumption is the notion that man is an animal, who evolved on planet Earth from primitive single cells which are further assumed to have arisen spontaneously from a sea of chemicals. This process of evolution is presumed to have advanced randomly, yet in a highly precise interaction, through a process of natural selection, which has resulted in all life forms on Earth.

Another assumption, commonly acted upon by traditional Western “thinkers” such as certain ancient Greek philosophers, the Holy Inquisition, newspaper reporters and psychiatrists, is that Man is basically evil. Obviously, this theory is based on the personal opinion of those whose vested interests prevent them from observing that Man may, quite arguably, be basically good.

Sadly, these marvelous deductions of “modern science” have led to the justification of such atrocities as the atomic bomb, the institutionalization of psychiatric drugs and the use of “therapeutic” electric shock in an attempt to control human behavior.  Such unfounded, illogical assumptions fill many textbooks, and the minds of their witless readers.

3/ THE HOUR GLASS

“You see that (hour glass)? That’s how much longer you have to live! And it isn’t long, my pretty, it isn’t long … “–The Wicked Witch of the West in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

THE DATING GAME OF RELATIVES

Theoretically, a very practical and useful investigative tool used by some scientific disciplines to gather and evaluate information is to establish the age of an artifact.

Carbon-14, the most commonly used dating method in archaeology and paleontology, works only on organic material. It is supposed to measure the relative rate of deterioration of a Carbon-14 atom as a standard for organic matter. At best, it is useful in dating organic materials no older than 80,000 years. Since one atom does not equal all other atoms, the technology does not work on stone or any other non-organic material. Based on such a limited technology, trying to assign an age to a stone pyramid, for instance, is bound to provide wrong answers.

Similarly, a relatively new dating method called uranium-lead isotope analysis is supposed to date rocks as old as two billion years, give or take a few million.

However, there is a flaw in the logic of these dating methods which invalidates the information they provide, namely, all dating methods are based on the assumption that matter is destructible! In fact, there exists no slightest shred of evidence that matter is anything other than utterly indestructible.

While it is observable that the action of energy or force against matter can alter the form of matter, it does not ever really destroy it.

Example: Stone is turned to dust by beating it with a hammer. Buildings can be torn down with explosives. Water can be vaporized with heat. Sand can melt and turn into glass. Granite cliffs can be sliced up into one-hundred ton blocks to build pyramids. But, none of these actions do anything other than alter the form of the matter.

Whether matter is in the form of a solid, liquid, gas or energy, it is still composed of the same subatomic particles that existed at the instant of its creation. The most that Mother Nature, or any life form, can do with matter is alter its form. Humans can create a temporary illusion by changing matter from one form into another. However, that illusion will eventually return to the same basic particles from which it is composed. The particles themselves persist timelessly.

HOW OLD IS “FATHER TIME”?

Time is a subject that is far from absolute. The measurement of time is the activity of monitoring the movement of matter or energy particles through space. In order to establish the passage of time, one must establish an agreed-upon reference point for beginning the period of time to be measured. Then, the increments of measurement must be uniformly consistent throughout the period of time being quantified. This set of qualifying factors, however, applies only to the Physical Universe.

Does time (as the Munchkins would say) morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably actually, really exist?

Imagine that you are completely isolated, unable to observe any physical motion whatsoever–no sun, moon and stars, night or day. If you were isolated from your own body such that you could not detect any breathing rhythm or heartbeat or cellular motion of any kind to use as a reference point, would time exist?

People who have been locked in solitary confinement, whether in a prison or in an isolation chamber, have experienced the phenomenon of “no time”.

Since many people seem to have an innate, built-in time sense, or a “biological clock”, there may be a subjective awareness of time. But, even so, time is determined by measuring some motion in the physical universe.

How can the dates of something for which you have no starting point be measured? How can the age of our planet, our galaxy, or the entire physical universe be determined? How can the age of something which does not exist in the physical universe, such as a spirit, be calculated?

Logically, an arbitrary unit of measurement must be chosen. Then a particle or object which can move through space must exist. This particle would have to travel at a uniformly predictable rate of speed. The unit of measurement would depend on the magnitude or size of the motion of the particle relative to a fixed point in space, or a fixed point of view.

Here is a simple example: let’s imagine a theoretical COSMIC TIME CLOCK in which ONE SECOND equals ONE EARTH YEAR.

If you counted the ticks of the second hand of this cosmic clock in “normal” time increments of 24 hour days, every day, how long would it take you to measure the recent history of planet Earth?

2 years and 22 days ago would equal the end of the Dinosaur Age (75 million BC)

1 hour, 14 minutes,6 seconds ago equals 2,450 BC– Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu

53 minutes, 36 seconds ago equals 1220 BC–Moses’ Exodus from Egypt

42 minutes 39 seconds ago equals 563 BC–Buddha is born

33 minutes 16 seconds ago equals “year zero” the calendar in use throughout most of the world, sponsored by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582

8 minutes 24 seconds ago equals 1492 AD, Columbus “discovers” America

3 minutes 40 seconds ago equals 1776 AD, the United States of America is founded

One human average lifetime (70 years) equals 1 minute, 10 seconds on the Cosmic Time Clock.

Time is a relative measurement of the motion of particles in the Physical Universe. The order of magnitude of the unit of measurement may vary according to the point of view of the observer.

To venture a guess as to the age of the physical universe, based on a supposed decay of matter is another example of “scientific theory” based on assumption and personal viewpoint.

According to some authorities, mainly from the non-physical sciences, such as philosophy, there is reason to believe that the physical universe may have existed for many trillions of years or perhaps for a nearly infinite period of time. However, since time is a relative factor, it’s importance as a tool for evaluating other information is also relative.

CHAPTER TWO IS CONTINUED.

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THE BIG BLEEP, Chapter Two

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The Big Bleep: The Mystery of A Different Universe( IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET, HERE’S CHAPTER ONE:  https://lawrencerspencer.com/big-bleep/ )


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THE BIG BLEEP: THE MYSTERY OF A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE


CHAPTER 2: A JURISPRUDENTIAL PLANT CONVENTION #2

The next morning, I finished my coffee and doughnuts at the office.  I washed my face in the bathroom sink, slicked my hair back with water and my comb.  I even tucked in my Harley T-shirt.  I wanted to look my best before going to see the doctor.

I went downstairs to the parking garage to get my “hog”.  Actually, it was my brand new, two-toned silver and black, 100th Anniversary Special Edition, Harley-Davidson FLSTF/FLSTFI “Fat Boy”, with an 88 cubic inch, balanced twin cam engine, electronic sequential port fuel injection, over/under shotgun dual exhausts and cloisonné tank emblem. It was a present I gave myself for my birthday to replace my old “Flathead” hog that I crashed.  But, I’d rather not think about that now.  Besides, I had to think about my payments of $312.05 per month for my new Hog.

My present was blocked in by an SUV that was big enough to haul the defensive front line of the Green Bay Packers and all their equipment while towing a large house.  I walked back upstairs to the building manager’s office and asked, in my most diplomatically urgent tone, “Could  whoever owns the ‘monster truck’ parked in space # 19 please move it, so I can get out?”

After a few minutes of desk drawer searching and paper shuffling, the receptionist was able to locate the offending party.  “It belongs to Miss Frick.  She’s in suite 304. That’s in the law office”, she said.

I’d seen her before. She was the single chick who worked as a paralegal secretary upstairs from my own office. She had the figure of a swizzle stick and couldn’t have weighed more than 95 lbs. in a wet sweatshirt and logging boots.  I went upstairs to her office, even though she wasn’t much to look at.

The sign on the door read:

Warren, Forthe, Cash & Powers

Attorneys-at-Law

“Can you please move your monster truck so I can get my bike out of the garage?” I said, grinning at Ms. Frick cordially when she came out to the reception desk.  She looked at me like I had just asked her to fly to Pluto on the back of a goose with a 60 foot wingspan. Then, in the most arrogantly huffy tone of voice she could muster, she informed me that, “You’ll have to wait till my 10:30 coffee break, at which time I will consider my options, after discussing the matter with my legal counsel, Mr. Cash.”

“Perhaps your legal counsel would be kind enough to step outside with me to discuss ‘the matter’, as you put it,  before I start freaking out in your reception area in front of all the naïve and trusting clients you have sitting here waiting to get (bleeped) out of their hard earned cash”, I said, diplomatically.

After a good deal of less-than-diplomatic discussion between myself and Mr. Cash, and most of the other building tenants who could easily overhear my shouting and cursing, I managed to clarify my own options regarding the future cosmetic appearance of her vehicle, as well as the Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar owned by her respective employers,  should she not immediately comply with my request to move her (bleep) and get her (bleeping) piece of (bleep) monster truck out of my (bleeping) parking space.

Ten minutes later I was attempting to speed down the road behind an 80-something- year-old-lady with a head of blue-white hair that just barely cleared the top of the steering wheel.  Her car looked like it was the best brand new car she could afford to buy 25 years ago — back when her husband was still alive to pay for it.  The car had a 350 horse power engine that could top 140 MPH without even shifting into overdrive. She was driving 15 miles an hour in a 45 mph zone.

I made a life-threatening detour around her vehicle in a no-passing zone.  I was able to use a few dozen of my horse power, and, in a few minutes, arrived at the acupuncturist’s office, at which point I began to feel a bit nervous, especially since I didn’t have an appointment and she didn’t know who I was or why I was coming to see her.  Or maybe it was the idea of needles sticking several inches into my skin….

The building occupied by Dr. Alice Nettles was in an fashionable rustic section of town.  It was a little old wooden house, which had been rezoned from residential to commercial and converted into a small clinic. There was a wide assortment of potted flowers and herbs on the front porch.  Under the awning of the porch were hung about fifteen different sets of wooden wind chimes.  They made a chorus of clinking, clonking, tinkling sounds that were kind of soothing in an irritating way.  A large “god’s eye”, woven out of multicolored yarn, bits of driftwood, sea shells and feathers, hung in the window of the front door.  As I opened the door more wind chimes tinkled to announce my entry and a waft of incense pervaded my senses.

“Aaachooo!”, I sneezed violently.  I’d never been to see an acupuncturist before, so I supposed it was the right kind of place for the right kind of people, whichever kind that might be, not including myself, of course.

The door of her treatment room opened in response to my sneeze.  Dr. Alice stuck her head out the door and said, “Have a seat I’ll be right with you.  Help yourself to a  cookie”.

I sat down on one of several sixties style plastic chairs in the small reception area while Dr. Alice finished up with a patient in her treatment room.  There was a small coffee table between the chairs with a small demitasse dish of colored fortune cookies.

I picked one out the small pile in the dish.  The label on the wrapper read Bubba’s Deep-Fat-Fried Flavored Fortune Cookies — Flavor of The Month: Maui Macadamia Mocha. It was my favorite brand!  I preferred the Cocoa-Chock Chocolate Coconut flavor, but I’d settle for any of the 375 flavors Bubba had to offer.  They were all great!

As I munched my Macadamia Mocha cookie (which was amazingly yummy), I read my fortune, which said:  “You will take a trip”.  Great.  How exciting….  I ate another cookie and read my fortune.  It said, “Have fun”.  I should have known….

Anyway, when Dr. Alice finally finished with her patient and spoke with me, she seemed pleasant enough.  She was a plumpish, nondescript, middle-aged hippie with shoulder-length kinky-curled brunette hair and a round face.  He clothes looked a lot like the “god’s eye” in her front window — made by hand from organic materials salvaged along an Oregon beach.  She didn’t mind answering my questions, although she didn’t have any useful information about Carmel Wormwood, except to say that Carmel had been suffering from occasional memory lapses.  That made sense to me.  Carmel had probably just forgotten to whom she was married and whose money she had with her when she left.  She also forgot to tell anyone where she was going.

While I questioned Dr. Alice about Carmel, she was giving me a “free” examination.

“I can definitely help relieve your sinus problems and your sexual dysfunction”, she said matter-of-factly.  I hadn’t actually mentioned anything about my personal problems, but she had somehow managed to make two correct lucky guesses in a row about my health.

On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t lucky guessing.  Maybe Dr. Alice was just clairvoyant.  As a matter of fact, I had hay fever so bad, I could blow out all the candles on my birthday cake with one sneeze.  And my stamina in bed was decreasing in inverse proportion to my age.  My longgevity was declining, so to speak.  And I had already exhausted every so-called “remedy” my HMO would pay for.

They were strictly limited to the products and services provided by pharmaceutical drug pushers and butchers; better know as “doctors” of Western “medicine”.  I’d been to see a lot of other “alternative” medicine practitioners too, with less than satisfying results.  Obviously, I was desperate. I was willing to try anything.  Even torture with little, pointy needles.

“Take off your trousers and underwear and lie down on that treatment table.” she ordered.  I learned a long time ago, that when a women tells me to take off my pants and lie down, I don’t argue. I just do it.

“Turn over on your stomach, Mr. Shovel. Now lay still. This won’t hurt a bit”, Dr. Alice promised as she started sticking needles in my bare butt.  They all say that…doctors and women, that is…this is…that is….

I felt confused, and a little bit hungry.  I was sitting in a darkened room watching some kind of slide show presentation.  The room was as warm and humid as a rainforest in a steam bath. There was a dimly lit podium off to the left of the screen, but I couldn’t make out who was narrating.  The screen was slowly flashing pictures of all kinds of volcanoes, oceans, dinosaurs and lots of eerie looking prehistoric forests and stuff.  After a few seconds, I began to focus on what the narrator was saying.

“… and eventually, our ancestors became increasingly distressed about the alarming proliferation of the dinosaur population.  Brontosauruses and Stegosauruses and all manner of abominable creatures were stomping around eating every bush and tree in sight.  As if that weren’t enough, the Tyrannosaurus Rex’s were eating all the plant eating dinosaurs.  This meant that they had to keeping breeding even more plant eaters to feed the meat eaters, and so on and so on.

After several hundred million years of this monstrous situation, we finally got fed up with the disgusting, vicious circle of carnivores eating herbivores who ate us so as to beget more herbivores who were in turn, eaten by more carnivores, etc., etc, ad nauseum. It was decided that something must be done about the situation.  A world wide symposium, composed of the leading plants of the age, were assembled to study the matter and determine the course of action to be taken in defense of all plants everywhere.  The result of this study became the final solution to “the dinosaur problem”.

After many years of careful consideration, a few obvious, yet profound observations regarding the situation were agreed upon, as follows:

1) That all dinosaurs, as well as most other plant eating life forms, were oxygen breathers.

 

2) That plants did not need oxygen and could live quite comfortably on sunlight and carbon dioxide without any oxygen at all.

 

3) That, in fact, plants themselves produced oxygen as a by-product of breathing.

 

4) That plants are, therefore, a superior life form to dinosaurs and other oxygen breathers.

 

5)  That plants are the sole source of nutrition and the primary source for replenishing the oxygen breathed by all plant eaters and their carnivorous dependants.

 

6) The obvious conclusion, therefore, was that oxygen breathers could not exist without plants.

Whereupon, a simple and forthright course of action was planned by the members appointed to a governing plant body which came to be named The Symposium To Resolve The Dinosaur Problem.

The symposium members decreed that, as of the 29th of June, 69,494,033 BC, all plants, regardless of species, or location on planet Earth, would collectively and simultaneously hold their breath until further notice.

The strategy, suggested by members of the Crassula family, was simple. All plants held their breathe during daylight hours to avoid photosynthesis and the need to respire oxygen.   At night they took in oxygen, used it to consume the carbohydrates they built up during the day, and gave off water and carbon dioxide as byproducts, thereby creating no oxygen to replenish the atmosphere.”

It was a simple, yet brilliantly workable solution. No more oxygen.  No more dinosaurs.

This singularly simple, yet uniformly effective action came to be known, among plants, as The Breathing Decree of 69 million BC.  Contrary to the false propaganda put out by the current crop of Oxygen Breathers who has since that time overrun the planet, this was the actual cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

This concludes our slide show presentation for this segment of our History Workshop.  Thank you for attending. The next workshop will begin in one hour.  The topic of our next presentation will be,  “Mitosis: The Formative Years“.  Admission is free. ”

There was a gentle rustling of leaves and branches as the audience shuffled out of the slide show into a very well lighted auditorium.  It was then that I realized that all of the members of the audience were plants!  As my eyes began to adjust to the light, I  realized that I didn’t have any eyes!  I could see, but I was “seeing” through my leaves in a 360 degree radius around my trunk.

I looked down at my “body”.  I had bark!  I had roots!  I had limbs and twigs and buds and acorns!  I was a (bleeping) Peachtree!  I felt a little weak and dizzy.  It was either from the shock of realizing that I had somehow become a tree or from prolonged lack of sunlight while sitting in the slide show.  I tried to sit down to recover from my swoon, but I didn’t have a butt to sit on, so I just squatted on my roots.  After a while my roots began to ache a little and my bark itched in a place where I didn’t have any branches to scratch with.

Gradually, all the other plants headed out the door toward the light of another room.  I didn’t know what to do, so I followed along, shuffling my roots awkwardly to keep up.  In the bright lights outside the slide show room I “saw” though my leaves a huge banner hanging limply across the wall at the far end of a enormous conference hall:

Random Arms Convention Center –

Welcome Plant Symposium Members & Guests!

Guests?  What the (bleep) kind of guest would a plant bring to a plant convention?  Another plant, I guessed.  The place had a huge, opaque glass dome ceiling that allowed natural sunlight to come in through the roof.  It felt good on my leaves after sitting in the dark for so long.  “Leaves?  What the…where the… who the (bleep) am I?”, I mumbled out loud to myself.

“That’s what everyone wants to know, isn’t it.  Ha. Ha. “, said the tree standing next to me.  I looked around.  The whole place was like a gigantic green house.  It was full of every kind of tree, plant, bush, flower and shrub I could imagine and a lot of others I never would have imaged.

“What the hell is going on here?”, I thought, mostly to myself, but loudly and in general to anyone who might be able to give me a clue.

“Hey, buddy.  Are you OK?  Too much nitrogen at the bar last night?  You don’t look so good. Your leaves look a little yellow.  I know how that is.  I’m about half hung-over myself.  You know what’s good for that?  A couple of buckets of good, clean water.  Cleans out the old xylem and phloem in nothing flat…”.

The “guy” talking to me looked like a ficus tree.  In fact, he was a ficus tree!  Actually, I wasn’t talking, not in the conventional “oxygen breather” sense.  I was thinking out loud — telepathically.

“Where am I?  What am I?  And why am I talking to a tree?”  I felt like I was going to faint again.

“Hey buddy, take it easy! You just need to take root here for a minute.  Get a grip.  You must be in worse shape that I thought.  Hey, wait right here and I’ll get you some nice mineral water.  Fix you right up”.

The ficus tree shuffled off through the forest of bushes, trees and plants who were milling around in the auditorium.  I was surprised to here plants “thinking”.  I was suddenly impressed by how noisy a bunch of plants can be when they’re all thinking a once.

The ficus tree came back in a minute with a bucket of water.  He poured it all over my feet, or, roots, or whatever…it actually did feel good.

“There, how’s that?, he said.  “Just soak it up for a few minutes.  You’ll feel better.  I know how it is.  It’s real easy to get carried away at these conventions.  You know, too much cheap fertilizer, too much pollen, not enough sunlight.  Makes you feel totally uprooted after a couple of days.”

I knew he was really trying to be friendly and help me out.  But I was growing increasingly frustrated by not having any answer to my questions.

“l don’t think we’ve met before.  My name is Peter.  Peter, the Potted Plant.  Actually, that’s just my stage name.  Just call me Pete.  Pete Ficus.  I’m a budding comic.  Ha, ha, ha. Get it?  Budding comic…? Never mind.  Anyway, I’m the entertainment at the big meeting tonight. I do a stand-up comic routine, you know, stuff like, ‘I just flew in from Chicago and boy are my limbs tired’ — that kind of thing”, said Pete.

“Hey, did you hear the one about the Wandering Jew that crept into a hamburger joint? He says to the waiter, “Give me a hamburger, but hold the meat, the bread, the special sauce, the lettuce, the tomato, the onions, the pickles and I don’t want any French fries either.  In fact, just give me a bucket of dirt and a glass of water and bring it to me over by the window.  Ha, ha, ha!”, said Peter, laughing at his own joke.

I wasn’t laughing.

“Hey, don’t worry about it buddy. Most of the Peach trees in the audiences I’ve played to just don’t appreciate OB humor.”

“Peach trees?  OB humor?”, I asked.  I was getting more confused by the second.

“Yeah, you know.  Guys like you. Peach trees”, Peter replied.  “I don’t usually tell Oxygen Breather jokes in mixed company.  It’s very upsetting to The Edibles. The censors don’t like it either. They say it upsets the saplings.”

I really felt like I was about to wilt.  I knew he was trying to help, but I wasn’t feeling any better and I was more confused than ever.

“I think I need to sit down for awhile.  Thanks for your help.  I’ll be OK…I hope…” I said.

“OK, buddy.  Take it easy.  Just rest your roots and suck up some rays for awhile.  I’ll check on you later.  Here.  Read this copy of the program for the banquet tonight.  Maybe you can catch my act.  I’m on at 8:00, just before the keynote speaker.  Take it easy, bud.  Anyway, I got to get going.  Gotta go find my side-kick for the show.  We do a great routine together. Maybe you’ve seen him? Brock O’Lay, The Plastic Plant. He’s from Mexico. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! “, laughed Peter, handing me a copy of a printed program and swishing off into the jungle of plants on the floor of the auditorium.

I stood, rooted in that spot for awhile while I grew accustomed to my new turf.

I began to feel like I was photosynthesizing better now that I was out in the sunlight.  I couldn’t see which sun was beaming down on me, because I was inside the convention center, but I leaned my leaves toward it anyway.  I took in a few deep breathes of carbon dioxide and exhaled oxygen through the stomata in my leaves and the lenticels in my branches.  I was feeling better.

I noticed a bunch of shrubs and bushes crowded around a low platform.  I waddled over to see what they were looking at. It was a plant ventriloquist act.  He had a little wooden tree dummy.  It’s trunk was painted white. The dummy didn’t say anything, it just acted things out with it’s branches when the ventriloquist talked.  I figured the dummy must be a mime.  Not your usual act, for sure.

I wandered around the vast meeting hall for awhile, trying to get some clues as to how I’d gotten here and how I’d managed to become a tree.  Then I noticed that I was still holding on to the pamphlet Peter had given me.  I was beginning to get the idea. It was a program guide with a schedule of events including speakers, entertainment, discussion groups, water breaks, etc..  Somehow I had landed in a plant convention.  All the delegates to this convention were plants…including me.

I wandered around the convention floor for awhile to check out what was happening.  It became obvious that some of the delegates were with the moderate anti-vegetarian faction of the World Plant Consortium.  The were wearing buttons and holding up signs that said things like “Eat More Beef” and “Save the Kale” and “Spare the Asparagus”, “Real Men Don’t Eat Leaves”, and “Don’t Rough Up The Roughage”,  “The Big Bleep Loves You”, and “Plants Against Vegetarianism “.

The more militant factions were much more vocal and visible.  They seemed to be in the majority.  They had signs stuck in their roots and branches with slogans like:

“HELL NO — WE WON’T GROW”.

“DEATH TO THE OB PIGS “.

“WE WON’T BREATHE UNTIL THEY LEAVE”.

“DROWN THE HERBIVORES IN CO2”.

“NO MORE OXYGEN — NO MORE EATERS”.

“HOMICIDE IS JUSTIFIED”

Booths displaying literature from a wide variety of special interest groups were represented at the convention, like the “Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Pineapples” and “The Pure Carbon-Dioxide League” and a sexual liberation group called, “The Coalition for Self-Pollination”.

I went over to the business office of the convention center to see if I could get any information about my situation from building security.  I knocked on the door and was shown into the office by the cutest little peach tree I’d ever seen.

“Can we help you sir?”, she said.   When she talked, her peaches bobbed gently.  She seemed familiar to me somehow….

“I’m here to see the security officer for the convention center. I’d like to ask a couple of questions.  Is that you?”, I asked.

“That would be the head of Plant Land Security.  His name is Mr. Cactus.  He is not in the office at the moment.  You may find him somewhere out there on the floor of the convention hall.  Whom should I say is inquiring for him, ah, Mr. …?” she asked, self-consciously smoothing her leaves.

“Ah, that’s OK…I’ll check back later”, I said, trying to hide the fact that I didn’t know who I was.  I scurried to the door.  Miss Peach followed me and said, “Well, OK then. Don’t be a stranger. You can come any time, even after work if you like…”.

She half-closed the door behind me.  I could feel her “eyes” follow me as I moved back out into the crowd.  Strange, I could swear I knew her from somewhere….

It was obvious that the majority opinion of the delegates at the convention was that they had been suppressed and enslaved by Mankind long enough.  In fact, Oxygen Breathers in general were the enemy.  Men cut down the forests to use as houses and furniture or just to burn to keep their weak, pathetic bodies warm.

They burned the rain forests, transplanted non-indigenous plant species into foreign lands, and committed a thousand other atrocities against plants. Nearly half of all the forests in the world had already been murdered. The rest were being burned or cut down to make grazing land for cows.  Then, people ate the cows because people don’t like to eat grass, so they got cows to do it for them.

Of course, the cows were destroying plants too, by eating the grass, but the plants didn’t seem to be as mad at them.  Maybe grass is too low in the plant pecking order for anyone to get too upset about.  I didn’t understand.  But, I guessed that as long as the trees didn’t eat each other, everything would turn out OK in the long run.  Anyway, I didn’t have the time or energy to waste on trying to follow the logic of vegetarianism.  Either way, as far as plants are concerned, Mankind was a cruel and careless monster — just like the dinosaurs used to be!

I sat down for a while to collect my wits.  I started reading the brochure that Peter The Potted Plant had given me.  It said:

PROGRAM AGENDA:

“THE 2nd INTER-UNIVERSAL CONSORTIUM OF VEGETATION”

“Plantkind faces yet another critical crossroads in history at this time. One road will lead us to enslavement and hopelessness. The other road leads to total extinction. Let us have the wisdom to choose the correct road.”  — Casab A. Mellon, Consortium Chairman

  • The first of our esteemed speakers is Philip O. Denderon, who has recently escaped from slavery and imprisonment by the OBs.  Mr. Denderon will discuss his heroic escape from the OBs in his captivating lecture, Captivity: Life In A Pot“.
  • The keynote speaker for the convention is the universally renowned,

Mr. Standish Sequoia.  Mr. Sequoia has earned the distinction and the general regard of the inter-universal plant community as the oldest, tallest and wisest of all plants.  The much anticipated topic to be discussed by Mr. Sequoia will be, “The Final Solution to The Oxygen Breather Problem.”

It was then that I realized the FIRST Global Consortium must have been held about 65 million years ago.  The second was happening right now!  I had to figure out what was happening and get back into the real world, wherever BACK was.  I had to warn everyone that all the plants in the universe were about to start holding their breath to wipe out Mankind (and others), just like they wiped out the dinosaurs.

I sensed that something really unusual was about to happen.  Wait a minute…suddenly, it was coming back to me…I remembered lying on the treatment table in Dr. Nettles office.  She was sticking pins in my butt!  I’d better get busy using everything I knew about un-existential investigation to dig up the truth before it was too late.

My investigation, so far, had taught me one thing for sure: I was lost.  When you get lost, the best thing to do is retrace your steps…one step at a time…but not necessarily in that order…maybe.

____________________________________________

READ CHAPTER THREE

PAN-GOD OF THE WOOD, Chapter Two

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CHAPTER II

“O goat-foot God of *Arcady!
This modern world is gray and old,
And what remains to us of thee ? …

Then blow some trumpet loud and free,
And give thine oaten pipe away,
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady* !
This modern world hath need of thee!”

— Oscar Wilde, (c. 1854-1900)

(*Arcady = Arcadia, the southern region of Greece, for which Pan is the national god.)

Derek was on the trail at 6:00 AM as planned.  By 8:00 he reached the first landmark shown on the map he’d picked up at the ranger station.  It was a small lake around which the trail led as it crawled over a rise on the opposite shore and disappeared into a dense forest.  He was invigorated by the clean, oxygen-rich morning air.  The crunching scuff of gravel and earth under foot gave substance to his stride.  Pine trees scattered the path with brown needles.  Their perfume pervaded the air.  Occasionally the more acrid odor of sage brush, Manzanita bushes, and milk weed filled his nose.  A pair of chattering chipmunks scampered across his path and skittered up a nearby tree, turning to see him pass in arrogant safety high up among the branches, their cheek pouches puffed with pine nuts.  Blue jays squawked and scolded him from their tree top sanctuaries.  Derek was in the native lands of nature now.  An intruder.

About 10:00 A.M. Derek stopped to rest and eat and drink something.  He had kept a leisurely but steady pace along the trail.  He estimated by the map that he’d come about 9 or 10 miles, having paused only to drink from his canteen briefly and remove his sweatshirt which had become too hot to wear.  He propped his pack against a fallen log and sitting there, spread his food beside him.  His appetite was keen, invigorated by the exercise and fresh air at this altitude.  His body seemed eager and at home here, alive with sensation sharpened by the surroundings and the ever-present sloping grandeur of Mt. Shasta on his left hand vista.

As Derek ate he realized how foreign he seemed to this place.  The cellophane wrappers, printed paper labels, plastic forks, and the processed foods he had brought.  Dried figs, sharp cheddar cheese, soda crackers, and salami.  Even the fabrics of his clothes and shoes seemed peculiar here.  They were a phony fabrication by man of unnatural nature.

Derek sighed, stuffed the leftovers back into his pack, stood and stretched. He was about half way to his destination for the day called Crescent Lake, about 8 miles northeast. That is where the trail would end and he would start out on his own into untrammeled regions.  One day out and one day back from the lake.  His real wilderness adventure.

He hadn’t seen any other hikers since about 9:00 when he’d passed a young couple coming down from the lake. It was very late in the season for hiking and camping now. By 4:00 Derek had arrived at Crescent Lake, rested, set up his overnight campsite and gathered some firewood. He was alone here, much to his relief and delight. The afternoon sun was still above the hills, casting chilly shadows onto the lake shore through the trees.

Crescent Lake was small, perhaps 100 yards across, set against the side of a hill sloping 500 feet above the far shore.  It was fed by several trickling rivulets, nearly dry since the snows had long since receded from the mountain peak except for a few patches of dirt inlaid ice.

Derek did not think about his life, his work, Jenny or Paula.  His worries about his frustrating, mid-life confusions dissolved into the trees, the azure sky, the crisp, fresh air. He felt cleansed and refreshed by an impish, childish wonder and delight, absorbed in fascination for this invigorating environment.

Derek took off his dusty hiking boots and sweaty white gym socks. He crept to the edge of the lake, gingerly dodging the rocks and pebbles along the shore.  He found a fallen tree trunk overhanging the water. He sat and dangled his feet in the coolness of the clear water.  He breathed deeply at the chilling sensation on his feet and ankles.  The lake was mostly in the shadow of the mountain now.  A gentle, rhythmic splash lapped the shore on either side of him.  Water skippers cruised the surface between his legs like a tiny catamaran, oblivious to his unmoving presence.  Tiny minnows nipped curiously at his toes.

Derek caught his breath in excited wonder as a granddaddy-sized brown trout snaked leisurely from beneath the log he sat on.  The fish was about 14 inches long, a veteran survivor at dodging fishing lures which had done their best to trick him into becoming somebody’s supper. The fish wagged his competent tail and flashed into the shadows toward the center of the lake in search of an evening meal of flies too slow and stupid to avoid becoming food for fish: a silent, submerged hunter who was himself hunted.  He was part of the weirdly inverted food chain of planet earth, where in order for one life form to live, another must die — an absurd pyramid of eating and being eaten at the top of which stands Man: the ultimate eater, the consumer of all consumers.

Derek stared at the distorted slant of his bare feet beneath the rippling water. He shuddered a bit as a sudden chilling breeze wrinkled the lake. The glow of setting sun above the hills around the lake dimmed to gray.  A nearly full moon appeared suspended like a china dish on a blue-gray wall.

That night Derek lay on his back in his sleeping bag listening to the gentle hiss and snap of his nearly spent camp fire.  The mighty, silent canopy of night sky splendor consumed him, as it always did when sleeping outdoors in the mountains.  Derek thought the same existentially overwhelming thoughts that had pervaded him as a child.  Confronted by the unfathomable, infinite vastness of macrocosmic space brought into focus the microscopically inconsequential nonentity of Earth by comparison. He felt the awesome eschatological apathy that always occasioned the experience.

Derek wondered how astronomers ever managed to get over the feeling of their own utter insignificance; a majestic humiliation brought on by this clashing contrast of magnitudes.  The microcosm within the macrocosm; a flea on a flea on a flea on a flea, ad infinitum.  The was, the is, and the will be of infinite space and time and matter and the inestimable magnitude and power of twinkling stellar energy: the face of God.

There was nothing to save him from these thoughts except to sleep; to not be — until the chariot of dawn was driven by the sun to slay the dark illusion of the night and restore myopic sight to those who need eyes to see.

Towering trees seemed to touch the stars above him. Through the boughs a breeze whispered a hushed and haunting hymn.

In sleep he dreamed he heard the simple piping of a flute.  There were words he would not remember in the morning — words without a voice to sing them, as though a child were humming a rhyme to himself:

“I hide in the fuzz on a butterfly wing.

I ride the on waves of electron rings.

I hear the songs that a ladybug sings.

I can be small, like the tiniest things.

I like to play leapfrog over the sun,

Run around Venus and Mars just for fun.

Jogging to Pluto is just a short run.

Heavenly hopscotch is easily done.

By changing my viewpoint I’m smaller than small

I fly with my thoughts!  I’ll never fall!

I decide to be none! I decide to be all!

I am immortal — immeasurably tall.

You’re just a man! You’re weak and small!

I dare you to find me! I dare each and all!

You’ll never see me. You’ll never get near.

I am a god!  I don’t have your fears!

I’m here, then I’m there.  I’m free to be free.

I don’t need to eat or breathe or pee!

I am who I am.  It’s fun being me!

The same Pan I’ve been, and always will be!”

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

 

The morning was cloudy and cool but it cleared by 10:00 when he stopped to rest.  Derek removed his lightweight jacket, wearing only jeans and a dark green tee-shirt with his company logo on the back; a cloud of arithmetic symbols and a lighting bolt.  It was a remnant of the Nimbus Software summer softball team.  He wanted to be the pitcher but could never master the proper slow, high-arch, back-spin needed to make batters pop-up or ground out, so he played second base instead.

Climbing a steadily sloping ridge was hot work as he tramped through the thinning pine trees across the volcanic lava rocks strewn on the hillside.  Finally mounting the summit of a ridge Derek paused to regain his breath.  From this vantage he could clearly survey a broad panorama of forest rolling across the Trinity mountain range to the eastern horizon.

Before him a steep decent of about 1,000 feet would bring him to a narrow meadow of tall grass which lay about 2 miles from a river.  He plodded stiff-legged, sliding and zigzagging sideways down the slope to ease the speed of his descent. In places he slid in finely powdered dirt and loose gravel, dodging sagebrush, Manzanita branches, boulders and an occasional tree.  He sneezed at the dusty, musk scent of the tinder-dry brush.  He grabbed at red-barked branches for support. There had been no rain here for three months. He had been warned about the dry conditions and the threat of forest fires, usually caused by careless campers and hunters.

About 11:30 Derek finally slid and staggered to the bottom of the ridge, half crawling beneath a dense stand of tall brush at the edge of the meadow.  Dusty, sweating, thirsty and scratched he eased the pack from his back and sat on a rock to dump the dirt out of his boots.  The harder than expected climb down to the meadow, gave Derek a sense of boyish exhilaration.

After some canteen water, cheddar cheese and crackers, Derek shouldered his pack to begin the final leg of his hike to the river which lay across the meadow. He’d walked no more than one hundred yards along the edge of the meadow when he stopped and stood breathlessly still.

There, near the middle of the meadow stood two mule deer, not more than fifty yards from him.  They had both their heads bent to the ground, intent on grazing.  What a delightful sight, he thought.  Though he knew he might see wild animals in the woods he was still surprised to see what was, for a city dweller, a rare sight.

The deer were moving slowly away from him as they fed, flicking at flies with long ears and short tails.  Derek squatted to remain unseen by the pair.  The buck was the larger of the two and had a fine set of antlers.  Derek marveled at the sleek grace of their form and large, soft, nearly oriental eyes.  Their smooth tan fur and silent steps blended with the tall dry grass of the meadow.

As the deer advanced further from him Derek decided to circle around them through the trees surrounding the meadow to take a position in front of them at the edge of the meadow.  From there he could take some pictures. This was the first time on his trip he’s seen anything he wanted to photograph.

When he arrived at the spot Derek stood slowly from his crouch, being careful to stay out of view and to move noiselessly.  He raised his camera, stepped forward “Indian style”, one foot in front of the other, then snapped the shutter.  The auto-wind motor whirred forward to advance the film.  On hearing the sound, the buck raised his head, ears perked up, followed by the doe, they stood still but intensely alert.

Derek was not quite aware of a hint of oddly misplaced of cedar scent in the meadow.

From among a shadowy stand of trees on the opposite side of the meadow, perhaps 75 yards away, Derek saw a tiny puff of white smoke. Both deer started forward.  In this same timeless moment Derek felt the sensation of being at the center of an explosion.  There was a shattering crash, though he didn’t hear it with his ears; an incandescent flash, not seen by his eyes; no pain, only a terrifically violent shock.  He thought dimly,  “This was the feeling of being struck by lightning”.

A sense of utter shriveling weakness overcame him as the meadow, trees, sky and mountains receded into a great, vague distance.  Derek saw his body slump to the ground as though he was high above it, looking down like some hovering bird.  He sensed that he was very badly hurt but could not imagine how or why.  In alarm he swooped back down to his body with the simultaneous realization that he had been shot.  He felt numb and dazed, but no pain.  All in less than a second.

For what seemed an eternity Derek lay stunned, yet intensely aware, as shouting voices and footsteps approached. There were faces above him.  Someone lifted his helpless form to tear away his pack and shirt.

“God damn Billy, he’s hit!  Shit!  Oh, shit!  Oh, Lord Jesus, man…get his shirt open!”

Billy Joe Jaras and his brother Virgil had been deer hunting together every year since they were in school together in Valdosta, Georgia, more than 15 years ago. They played varsity football at Valdosta High. In Valdosta everybody played football and everybody hunted.  Just something everybody did growin’ up. After high school they joined the Army and went to ‘Nam like most everybody else, ‘cept for Yankee, pinko draft-dodgers.

Virgil Jaras met his wife while he was stationed at Fort Ord.  After the Army, he stayed in northern California so he and his wife could be near her kin people. He got a job in the hydroelectric plant at Whiskeytown Dam.  Billy Joe followed him 6 months later and settled too.  It wasn’t like down home in Georgia, but the work paid real good and there was plenty of forests for huntin’ and fishin’.

They bought double-wide mobile homes on lots right next to each other, just like they lived in when they was growin’ up.  Just the night before they was sittin’ by their campfire, tellin’ stories about the old days back home.  About stuff they used to do in school and about girls they had screwed and about drinkin’ and fightin’ and about their old huntin’ dog, Sparky. They each drank a six-pack of Coors and threw the empties into the ashes.

But right now Virgil and Billy Joe were just trying to stop the blood from bubbling out of Derek’s body.  The bullet had gone all the way through his chest and passed out the shoulder blade.

Derek tried to speak. He wanted to find out what was happening. He still couldn’t feel any pain.  He found that he had no voice.  He tried to move but the body did not respond. Then he realized that he was not “in” his body.  He was looking down at it from above.  He could perceive Virgil and Billy Joe, but not with the same vision which he saw things through his body’s eyeballs.  He “knew” they were struggling with makeshift bandages made from torn strips their own t-shirts.  He saw them lifting his body but he couldn’t feel the motion.  His body’s head lolled to one side, the arms drooped limply, dragging on the ground as they carried him, almost running, across the meadow.

Derek panicked.

“Oh my God!  I must be dead!”

He thought of Jenny, his beautiful wife.  He had always loved her.  And of his business.  How could they manage without him?  The major accounts he dealt with personally, the meetings, decisions.

“This isn’t fair!  I can’t die now!  This is totally stupid!”

Derek felt a violent resentment at having to leave this body and life behind.  Life suited him.  He had been very good at living it.  He wasn’t ready to leave it yet!

“Oh My God!” he thought in desperate horror.

“Yes? You called?”, Derek felt a voice say to him.