A Christmas trip to Florida links Oregon and the World.
The Unexpected Universe
The universe is a funny place when fantasy becomes reality and people's faces look like masks. A quiet voice drifted into Kered's head, "You are going to save the southern forests." Kered lived in the Pacific Northwest and was flying to Florida for the Christmas holidays. USAir had become more intrusive by forcing passengers to hear ten minutes of ads during pre-flight takeoff. Kered turned on his CD player and listened to Mongolian Tuva throat singers. As they lifted off, a quiet young lady and her cat sat next to Kered on one side. His wife sat on the other side, already beginning to absorb the New York Times. He had recently taught a blind student who navigated using her sixth sense. Not as strange as it sounded, recent advances in neuroscience were developing a parallel processor theory; the hardwired biochemical part of the brain had a feedback system linked to the hippocampus. Information coming into the neo-cortex frequently exchanged measured downloads with the hippocampus as though the two parts of the brain were comparing notes during dreamtime. The hippocampus had the largest concentration of biogenic magnetite and was hypothesized to interact with an amorphous field external to the brain.
Kered became inspired during the flight. He chose three CD's. After the Tuva throat singer CD began to skip, he put on one of his own Sitar improvisations and then one by Ravi Shankar's daughter, Anoushka, playing Sitar. He began to consciously move his chi through his body in a circular motion. Entering trance induced by the music, his intent was to meld with the Schumann resonance at 30,000 feet within the ionospheric cavity. There was some fairly well developed science that suggested the Schumann resonance at 8.63 Hertz acted much like a biological clock for those organisms sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies. Complexity theory advocated that nature was organized in a similar manner at different orders of magnitude. James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis had proposed a theory that earth was an integrated ecology with biota and geochemical elements providing feedback to the other. Kered was simply extending this premise in an analogy comparable to the human brain. If the biota and geochemical elements were the hardwired portion of the brain, then it followed that the ionospheric cavity might provide the electromagnetic feedback to the whole system.
When they landed in Phoenix, Kered came out of trance refreshed. The next portion of the flight developed into a long conversation with an Arizona State professor whose doctoral dissertation linked early Greek philosophy with America's founding ideals. Kered had a book by Loren Eiseley, 'The Unexpected Universe' that nicely confirmed Kered, the scientist, and Judson, the social scientist, in their search for meaning with the context of a global village.
The plane landed in Atlanta. Kered and his wife drove to Tallahassee, Florida arriving in the wee hours of the morning. They spent the next day recuperating. On Monday morning their thoughts turned toward last minute Christmas shopping. They drove down to the Progressive Center, to a fair trade store - The Living Wage Store. Kered heard his wife Susan talking to someone as he came out of the men's room. Spying Adrien, he briefly connected and mentioned that Greg Wilson was in town.
"Who do you think that is that's talking?"
"That's Greg?" Kered seemed surprised. He walked into the Living Wage office. Susan, Greg, and a third person were visiting. "Hey Greg, I heard you had been here for about three months."
"Well, sort of. I just got back from a buying trip to Peru. This is Allen Joseph, the owner."
They shook hands. Allen was a stocky, fit-looking man, casually dressed, in his mid-forties. Greg was a cyclist, and appeared even more fit. Greg continued, "Allen does Southeast Asia buying, mostly Viet Nam. I am developing contacts in South America."
"Neat. What sort of background do you have?" Kered looked at Allen.
"I was an economist with a political science degree in Washington, D.C. My wife is an attorney. We moved down here and consulted for the state in economics and education. I felt we had to re-invent ourselves with globalization. My wife supports us, and I have been developing this venture for about three years. Environmentalists don't get it. We have to have global regulatory standards to avoid outsourcing and to create a sustainable economy. That's it in a nutshell.
Another woman, Bobby Jo, walked into the store. Turns out she and Susan knew each other from contra dancing. Bobby Jo was also a friend of a Muskogee-Creek shaman that loosely knew all of the assembled. As the conversation drifted between shopping efforts, it came out that a Sierra Club group was arriving that evening to stay in the Progressive Center.
"What's that about?" Kered questioned. "I was just speaking with the program coordinator for the local Sierra Club."
Allen answered, "A corporate group wants to build a coal-fired power plant right in the middle of the Everglades. Some environmentalists and their attorneys are meeting with the governor's cabinet tomorrow at 9 A.M."
"Coal-fired? - even with scrubbers and coal slurry that's a nasty business - especially with global warming reaching critical thresholds. My local Sierra Club friend is bringing in a scientist and the city councilwoman that supports the Taylor County plant. His idea is that science will publicly refute the councilwoman. Are the two groups coordinating their efforts?"
Allen shook his head. "It's a last minute thing. I doubt it."
Kered pulled out a pad. "Give me your number. At least, maybe, we can get them together for lunch after the cabinet meeting."
Adrien walked in from his café next door. "Speaking of lunch, I've got cornbread, and Hoppin' John leftovers."
"Hey, great." Kered said.
They all trooped next door and had some good southern cooking. Kered realized that his vision of southern forests under assault was likely being played out right here before his eyes. Interesting, this unexpected universe.
Kered got back home and placed a call to Ed, the program coordinator for the local Sierra Club. Ed called Ben Fusario, the president of the Sierra Club. "Ben, this is Ed. You got a minute?"
"Sure, I've finished grading the finals for my calculus class at FSU. How can I help you?"
"Do you know about the cabinet meeting tomorrow with Governor Bush's cabinet?"
"I've been called to present as an expert witness. Somehow they forgot to give me a contact number, so I don't know how to get in touch with them once they arrive up here in Tallahassee."
"I have it right here - 850-262-1805"
"How did you get the number?"
"An old friend of mine - Kered - you remember the fellow that helped me install the butterfly garden? He is here in town for the holidays and stopped by the Progressive Center. That's where the group is staying tonight and they'll probably have lunch there tomorrow. The contact person's name is Allen Joseph. You can reach him by email as well AllenJoseph@hotmail.com."
"Ed, tell Derek thanks for me when you see him again." After Ben hung up, the phone rang. It was Kered.
"Hey, Kered. Good timing. I just hung up the phone with Ben. He says to tell you thanks. Call back tomorrow around noon and I'll give you the details of the meeting."
Kered finished up wrapping presents around noon the next day and remembered he was supposed to call Ed. "Ed? Learn anything?"
"Kered? Yes, the meeting went fine as far as Ben's testimony. There was a presentation by the Audubon Society to Jeb Bush as the most environmental friendly governor."
"What?" Kered exclaimed. "That son of a crook."
"The same. I know. That's what Ben said. Apparently, the Audubon Society inferred our concern about a coal-fired power plant did not consider all the evidence."
"That's a bunch of hooey. I bet Jeb Bush is going to run for U.S. President. He has a group of Christian fundamentalists up in South Carolina that have developed an exploratory committee since three years ago."
"How'd you learn that?"
"Wayne Madsen, my Washington, D.C. source - Bush just wants to appear environmental because his brother has suppressed the science around climate change and ignored the Kyoto protocols."
"Figures. Anyhow, thanks for your help getting the two Sierra Clubs together. See ya."
Christmas Day came and went. The southern forests continued their measured pace, unaware that danger from coal-fired power plants had been narrowly averted. Ed and Kered planned a kayak trip to the salt water marshes off Wakulla Beach. Nearing the turn-off, a white Subaru approached them on the sand road. When the unexpected occurs, people recognized in context, often fail to recognize one another. It is true that Kered had just given Ed an article about Jack's wife, Ann, recovering from cancer, attributing her recovery to Buddhist meditation practice and release of ego attachment. Jack and Ann Rudloe were in the car. Nearly certain, Kered had Ed pursue them to no avail.
"Must have been my imagination." Kered surmised.
When they got to Wakulla Beach, the tide was near low. They decided to lug their kayaks along a narrow spit to save wading out onto the exposed flats. The solitude was surreal. Oyster bars were only distinguished from islands by the occasional palm. A virtual menagerie of seabirds was picking their way along exposed flats for succulent gastropods and flatworms. Putting in, they set out for Shepherd Springs, only accessed from the salt marshes. Hurricanes and other events had shifted much of the landscape and landmarks were unrecognizable that Kered had used five years before. The outgoing tide made the markers all the more alien.
The seven-foot kayaks were barely manageable against the outgoing tide. Better for maneuvering in narrow streams, the shallow bars often required more poling than paddling. Ed followed one branch toward the creek. Kered turned toward the Gulf, seeking another entrance around a point. At last Kered extricated himself and slopped against sucking mud toward a lone tree island. Just as he reached shore, he saw Ed returning from his search. Both concluded that low tide made access impossible. They decided to return to Wakulla Beach. One more adventure awaited them. Kered was almost certain he recognized their launch point. The outgoing tide made it unreachable. They approached a nearby landing, but had to slog through sawgrass. Kered led the way. Both were in shorts and their knees were bloody by the time they got to a recognizable path.
Ed called out to Kered, "Watch out for gators." Salt water gators were more aggressive and often sought refuge in the sawgrass. Kered kept his paddle beating the unmarked way ahead. Fortunately, the cooler weather kept the gators someplace beside where the two were headed.
Back at the car, Ed suggested, "Let's go down to Panacea and check in with Jack, then we can go to Colquitt and see Steve Cross."
"Sounds good to me. I'd like to know if that really was Jack that we saw, since it would be an unusual coincidence."
They pulled into the Gulf Specimens Marine Lab. Imagine John Steinbeck's Ed Ricketts from Cannery Row. Jack Rudloe was the Gulf Coast version of Ed Ricketts. In fact, when Jack was a young biologist just getting started, he had corresponded with Steinbeck. Steinbeck had encouraged Jack to follow his dream. Finding Jack repairing a Styrofoam salt water tank, Kered approached, "Hey, Jack, How come you didn't say Hi this morning at Wakulla Beach?"
Kered being from Oregon, and only seeing Jack once a year, this caught Jack a little by surprise. Used to such things, Jack admitted, "Ann and I were hoping to hike the Florida Trail, but hunters had already staked out the area, so we returned home. Nice to see you again."
Kered mentioned Phil Callahan to Jack, since both knew the former scientist. Kered went on to explain his insights on the plane from Oregon about the ionospheric cavity. Jack responded with some anecdotes about Phil being considered either a kook or way ahead of his time by fellow scientists. Both Kered and Jack preferred to think of Phil as one of the latter. Jack was busy, but said, "Check out Phil's research with a tachyon detector using a fig tree."
Ed thanked Jack for his time. "We'd better be off if we're going to get up to Georgia to see Steve. Thanks, Jack. I'll see you next Thursday."
Southern Forests: the meaning of that dropped word in Kered's meditation before leaving Oregon was soon to take on an unexpected depth. Ed and Kered caught up on events of the past year as they took the hour long drive north to Colquitt and Iron City. Steve was another character equally as colorful as Jack or the Muskogee-Creek Indian shaman, Sakim. Again, all three were inextricably linked through past history in the Florida Panhandle region.
They took the turn-off to Iron City and drove north toward Colquitt. Cross AXE works: a VW bug painted like a beetle upended - doors open like wings outstretched - two machine guns for antennae. Into Steve's driveway, Ed skirted ruts from the front-end loader. Junk cars lined both sides of the twenty-acre mill site. A pile of sawdust obscured the mill itself. Nine flatbed trailers formed the platform. Eight forklift parts held the contraption together. A set of rails allowed the dolly to carry cypress logs toward the band saw. Logs moved precisely toward the one inch wide saw, tensioned at 100,000 psi, and cutting at a rate of 6,000 rpm. It was run by a diesel engine mounted on a floating box frame.
A light mist drifts back toward the operator, Steve Cross. The band saw is water-cooled. Steve occasionally sticks his head inside a cut-off five gallon bucket painted black. Inside is a piece of high tech equipment. It is a Sensotronic device that reads digitally to a thousandth of an inch. Steve exactly jiggles controls to set the saw at the correct height for the next cut. The saw is fitted around two truck wheels that have been machined for $10,000 apiece into perfect circles.
A permanent magnet and a sensor below allow Steve to make his measurements. As Kered and Ed climb up to stand next to Steve, he grins from a weathered face. In his mid-forties, Steve's eyes are clear and luminous. His shakes hands like an Indian - soft. His accent is deep South Georgia. Stephanie, his wife, lives in the two-story cabin built by Steve from rough-cut Old Growth pine. It is a work of art and stands behind all the mess next to a pond where Steve has his art studio. He has received international recognition for his wood sculptures. He takes inspiration from the grain of water soaked persimmon. Beautiful and fantastical creatures of nature emerge from his efforts. Primitive soft-shelled turtles swim in the pond. There used to be a pet gator until three-year-old Steve Jr. was born. "Couldn't take no chances on Steve being had for dinner." Last year Stephanie gave birth to a little girl. Both were born in September. "Another one is in the cooker, due out in July. The stork just keeps droppin' by." Steve grins.
As the conversation goes on between adjustments, Steve teases Kered about them Spotted Owl folks in Oregon. "They use toilet paper too, don't they?"
Kered comes right back, "One of my closest friends in Oregon is Larry Scofield. He did some of the original research, living with four families of owls for fifteen years. There is a town in Oregon, Sweethome, where they would shoot Larry on sight if they could. He helped get the Spotted Owl listed as endangered."
As the conversation continues, Steve suggests that the silvaculture guys from the university keep the forests healthy. It doesn't bother him that soil science has been suppressed or that profs might have been bought off. The weather in South Georgia doesn't appear to his watchful eyes to have changed like it has off the coast of Oregon. A bunch of buzzards appear overhead. Steve adds, "If they see you workin' slow, they think yore dead." That's why he stays busy, even while visiting. It's cold for southern Georgia. Steve prefers working in 100 degree weather. He does ceremony with Sakim at the Muskogee-Creek ceremonial grounds a couple of times a year. The overcast and chill are more like Oregon weather.
The problem of a disconnect between university researchers and the mill doesn't bother him. He's thought of hydrogen, but is more impressed with the new fuel-efficient, non-polluting diesel engine that is supposed to be out in five years.
Later, Kered leaves Florida and visits his sister in Atlanta. Able to go online once again, he researches the tachyon reference that Jack Rudloe made about Phil Callahan. Like drifting pixels coalescing into a high definition image, words stand out in an article called 'The Field' by Lynn McTaggert. Current theories can't explain a measurable substance to bridge matter and 'the field'. "That's easy," Kered reflects. "It's biogenic magnetite in the hippocampus and its smaller supraparamagnetic cousin. Paramagnetic soil, brain waves and the Schumann resonance, paramagnetic and diamagnetic, water acting like a tape recorder, Kunio Yasue, Fritz Alfred Popp - author of DNA biophoton emissions, Callahan's tachyon detector for a fig tree, Kered remembers Jack's final question, "Is my Buddhist wife right? Is memory stored in the air?" Quantum memory stored in the Zero point field - another thought from McTaggert - David Boehm and Michael Talbot's Holographic Universe - can all diseases that originate with a problem in the DNA be corrected? Kered reflects on the possibility of mind over matter. He remembers the words of his friend Jeanie, "Discern how to love." Kered realizes that intent carries the power to transform. "Wow, all this from focus on a single phrase, You are going to Florida to save the southern forests. Wow!"
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