I talked to a friend that had returned to his childhood home for a ten day visit. He felt anxious about the journey because his mother has problems with his spiritual beliefs and he intended to talk with her about those issues. We did not talk about that when he returned, we touched on the economic and social depression he saw while there. Black lung and respiratory disease are part of the fabric of life there. Poverty and dying towns are at the end of an extractive industry in an area. People remember the good old days, but I find it hard to reconcile the political and economic bigotries that lurk in the shadows of the mines. His past is still available to see, in failed promises for a better life scattered in the debris of the need for more energy, while mine is a ghost town, scraped clean but for my memories and those memories of others that lived there. In my memory mined, empty shells, hollowed by time, much a mine as the dark holes ground out, leaving debris, tailings, tailing us where the rivers go. I know I can’t step in the same river twice, and downstream from my childhood backyard, the river changed its color, and composition, until, for some reason the government made mining companies stop throwing their trash in the river, just like miners were trash, to be thrown away when they broke.
I know most of us are infected with the idea of progress, the flowering of humanity, everything’s getting better, and having a science fiction world as my future is part of my past, as it connects the Manhattan Project with the Peaceful Atom, the town of my dreams growing to be a hub of the new energy future, with atomic trains and vicious spies, double agents, and something like the empty facade of Central City, full of casinos and a new freeway exiting from I70, over the mountain, passed the other ghost town I once inhabited, Russell Gulch, the land of Independence and Maybe, an empty mine shaft now used as an outhouse, and the newspaper insulated tarpaper shacks of the previous inhabitants. They all came to make it rich, while I came to escape all that.
It takes work to be free, especially of the fatalism that easily reaches our poverty, whether of wealth or of the soul, what takes root in the depths of our being should be a joy to live, like the juncos at my bird feeder, or the mix of music aiding my writing, or the stark bare trees that really use their leaves to feed the creatures that feed the trees. From the moment we learn to walk, balance has to be a part of our lives, and the responsibility of freedom always demands balance, and where the center is.