Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Felt Presence of Immediate Experience

I catch myself channeling ideologies; letting them hijack not only the movement of my typing fingers, but also whatever facility I have for clear explanation and lucid communication. These are the faculties that I prize most highly in myself. That said, they are the faculties that I have, in the past, ended up renting to the service of some corporation or another for my economic subsistence. I hate that.

In the service of not channeling an ideology let me tell you about the physical state of KMO. I'm bug-bitten. The ETC permaculture apprentices (the first group of whom has recently left the ETC while the new group trickles in) live in fear of ticks. I have not yet found a tick attached to me this year.  I've caught a few on their initial reconnaissance, before they found a campsite to their liking. I have, instead, become the favorite food for mosquitoes and chiggers. Chiggers are the worst. A cursory check of my left leg just now revealed 27 bites. A mosquito bite, if left un-scratched, will fade in a matter of hours. A chigger bite takes days to run its course.

It's been many years since I last had a tan anywhere except on my forearms, the back of my neck, and those patches of the skin on the tops of my feet that showed through my summer sandals. I recently started wearing a black tank top in an effort to get a bit of sun. My soft, pale upper arms (“post-athletic” is probably the kindest description one could ascribe to my physique) contrasted glaringly with the black tank top.

A couple of days ago, I got a bunch of sun when I rode with Cliff, our designer of constructed ecosystems, to a Home Depot in the town of Franklin. Franklin is basically a suburb of Nashville, and I spent the better part of two hours in the front passenger seat getting an Australian trucker's tan. Or I would have if my skin remembered how to tan. It certainly remembers how to burn, but whatever chemical trick my skin used to employ in order to go brown in the shirtless summer months of my youth it has forgotten. Now it only knows how to go from Irish pale to boiled lobster red.

I slathered it night and day with goo from freshly harvested aloe plants and have, thus far (touch wood), prevented wholesale peeling. My skin backed away from its fiery crimson precipice, eased into a period of strawberry pink, and is now fading, hopefully not all the way back to baseline.

On Wednesday of this week now past, the day each week that I record, edit, and release the C-Realm Podcast, I injured my back while folding a shirt. In recent weeks I've helped move a heavy iron stove, lifted an oversized motorized tricycle into the back of a pick-up truck, and performed other fetes seemingly more perilous than bending slightly at the waist to fold a shirt lying on my bed, but it's always those seemingly innocuous little movements that trigger the muscle spasms that render me pretty much helpless and useless.

Merry, the inn-keeper here is a formerly-licensed massage therapist, and she worked a minor miracle on my back last night, but I still can't sit in any one spot for too long. If I wait too long to stand up, then the muscles in the middle of my back cry, “Enough!” before I've reach my full upright stance. In fact, I'm going to get up now, and not for the first time in this writing.

I'm back. Nothing new in the fridge, and I stopped short of walking to my truck and driving to a nearby store where I know they stock the muscle relaxant known as beer in varieties ranging from the affordable and quite drinkable for those with indiscriminate palates like mine to the $10 a six-pack varieties that I used to drink in my days of abundance and abundant excess and at which I now sneer.

Bug-bitten, sunburned, bad back flare up. And it's hot. No air conditioning at the ETC. It's a slow adjustment to this non-office-cublice life that I pined for and have been granted.

The last few phone interviews that I recorded for the C-Realm Podcast were start and stop affairs. When I recorded a recent conversation with Frank Aragona of the Agroinnovations Podcast, I was standing in the middle of the gravel road at the top of the ETC driveway. It's the nearest place where I can get any cell phone signal, and the sound of a car approaching on gravel translates as a blanket of white noise when picked up via the tiny microphone in my cell phone earbud jack and fractured into innumerable digital packets, transmitted down miles of fiber, re-assembled and piped into the earpiece of Frank's phone in New Mexico. (Imagine what an educated speaker of the English language would have made of that last sentence in 1950.)  Again and again, Frank had to find the thread of his rap and get back into his flow before the next slow swelling of white noise forced him back into silence.

The next day I drove to the Farm Frisbee golf course to find a place with cell reception that does not lie on a heavily trafficked gravel road. I tried conducting a conversation with Tara Holtse from the bed of my pick-up truck, but I had to halt the conversation and flee the site when the mosquitoes discovered me there in the shade of the trees. I ended up parking by the Farm front gate. A continuous stream of cars passed by as I recorded the interview, but at least they were driving past on pavement instead of gravel, and the direct late afternoon sunlight kept the mosquitoes at bay long enough for me to capture enough audio to comprise a C-Realm segment.

“I never knew doing a podcast could be so convoluted,” said Tara.*

Tomorrow, I'm driving to Nashville to collect a C-Realm listener turned ETC permaculture apprentice from the airport. I don't have to be there until 4 pm, but I'm leaving before lunch so that I can record an interview segment with [subject to remain un-named until the interview is in the can] in air-conditioned comfort at the home of the person who has foolishly offered her place as big city crash pad. I intend to arrive early and soak up as much AC and wireless high speed internet (with no bandwidth cap) as I can before forcing myself back out into the sticky heat and discomfort of this so-called Real World that I've taken to comparing so favorably to the disembodied comfort of cyberspace.

G'ah. Ideologies.

*Or words to that effect.


  1. Poor KMO! I totally feel for you. I've been there with the mosquitos and the chiggers and the heat and the humidity. Lived without air conditioning, in fact lived without electricity for eight years. Imagine not even a fan in the middle of the woods in central Mississippi. Real life can be really uncomfortable.

    Are the advantages of living at the ETC sufficient to keep you there, do you think, in spite of the many disadvantages?


  2. It was 128 degrees in Bombay last week....and I doubt there's much AC to be had over there.

    Could always be worse KMO...

  3. You forgot about my smoke alarm going off in the middle of the conversation as well. But that sounds like about what I said.

    I wear the no air conditioning thing like a badge of honor! When people complain about the heat I say, no, I didn't have air conditioning in GEORGIA. MD ain't nothing.

  4. Janet, yes indeed. I'm staying here for the time being. The ETC keeps me in daily face to face contact with really excellent people.

    Jacques, I know that's right. I saw the DVD of The Road a couple of nights ago. Things could indeed be MUCH worse.

    Tara, it all worked out though, didn't it? :)