Saturday, February 20, 2016

Blood at the Graves

In morality befitting the modern Islamic State extremists who have famously destroyed countless antiquities, St. Augustine encouraged Christians to destroy all symbols of ‘paganism’ with the exhortation “that all superstition of pagans and heathens should be annihilated is what God wants, God commands, God proclaims.”  Pope Gregory I was credited with the recommendation to “tear down temples and shrines from their foundations.”  And last week, a property developer in Albemarle County, less than one mile from my home, likely violated 25 U.S. Code 3001-3013 by bull-dozing and crushing giant quartz mounds which were reportedly the final resting place for First Peoples in what is now called Virginia.  In a few short months, half million dollar homes will sit atop the desecrated remains of those who were inhabitants of very different woodlands in very different times. 

I took scores of people to the mounds over the past 10 years.  Heads of State, scholars, seekers, friends, lovers all took solace in the sanctuary of the giant oak, maple and sycamore trees that were the cathedral befitting those great souls who danced in the light breezes.  Late in the night, the starlight piercing the frigid winter would glisten off the quartz as if to provide a homing beacon for the souls who were physically present and whose energy lingered.  Peace pipes, prayers, chants and cries all marked this precious spot on earth.  The timeless nature of all souls seemed, in a moment, to pause, intermingle and then move on as if to say that WE are all ONE – just inhabiting individual experiences of sense and place which are not ours but ours to share. 

The mounds are now gone.  As I left the spot, I was perplexed by how mindless and thoughtless one can be when operating a giant Caterpillar earth mover.  Did the hollow sound of crushing crystal boulders reverberate in any part of consciousness or was the stereo in the cab on loud enough to deaden the consciousness that has been seared by a few pieces of silver?  Which led me to the deeper question: can one desecrate or defile in the physical realm if one is devoid of a sense of the sacred?  Can one reverence or ignore what exists beyond the edge of the capacity to comprehend? 

As my thorn-torn hands offered blood to the ground that had been ripped open, I reflected on how many places, social institutions, consensus beliefs and other human actions are defiled and desecrated in the minds of one or many only to be seen as land befitting development by another.  I know that in my life, I’ve held many things sacred and have stood aghast at the way in which what I valued most evoked indifference or neglect in others.  What I thought were some of my most precious attributes were deemed to be utilitarian expectations by others.  “Of course Dave does…,” this or that was the justification for many moments of deferred or neglected gratitude for true effort.  And I am not alone.  I know many healers, carers, stewards, and the like who have become so much an accepted utility as to make them devoid of human interactions in the common realm.  Because they don’t articulate their “need”, the logic goes, they must not “need” gratitude, love, care, compassion, companionship, etc.  The more one evidences the capacity to “give” or offer service, the less others anticipate the genuine longings of the offeror. 

One of the buried chiefs reportedly visited a dear friend of mine.  He was buried under one of the mounds that had blood red quartz on it and was covered in beautiful moss.  He asked the friend to tell me to make sure that I protect the water here because one day that would be important.  I remember that night and that dream.  The night was filled with lightning and the ponds swelled to overflowing in the morning.  On other occasions, other friends told me of visits from the spirits that were represented in the graves.  All of them told me of instructions for me to protect the environment and care for others.  I don’t need an explanation for this phenomenon other than to say, on this day when their quartz markers have been desecrated and crushed, I will remember.  And I will still walk in the woods listening for the quiet prayers that seek for kindness, stewardship, and love.  You are not forgotten.  While your physical markers have been erased, your spirit lives in the memories of people from many lands and many nations who once stood in your land and drank from its goodness!



  1. Speaking of dreams, and appreciating the awareness of reciprocal interdependence throughout time, I'm reminded of an autobiographical letter I'd written to a friend born in Leningrad, a letter that Daido Roshi at Zen Mountain Monastery used in the training of monks. Here's an excerpt: "Spring of '81. A friend invited me along for a kind of pilgrimage to Paradox, Colorado. He claimed that a vision, of all things, compelled him to make this trip. I was in no position to dispute this after seeing coincidence after coincidence unfold as we prepared and departed. The wonderful, synchronous ease with which, maybe by which, we got to Paradox, was punctuated with what felt like the ominous pressure of a once-in-a-lifetime test. Arriving on the road that passes through Paradox we came to the First Annual Spring Gateway Music Festival. From this three day event we were given a lift to Paradox. It was the eve of the date given in my friend's dream. The man at the wheel of the pick-up was thoroughly drunk. He had us steady his fifty gallon drums of gasoline as he sped along the darkening dirt road that wound above a ravine with no guard rails. This ride into the night became a dive off all suppositions of safety. A white hot spot light thrown on personal mortality, the rushing wind interrogating, the grinding spin of tires pealing away any grounds for comfort, security, and promise. The elements of this circumstance were not auspicious. Alcohol and adrenaline stirring in the driver's blood, our lives apparently in his impaired hands, gas splashing against the steel to our backs, loose gravel erasing whatever traction the breaks could grip, two stories of air and too few feet of shoulder between us and the riverbed we flew beside. All this at the brink of a destination chosen mysteriously. As spacial relations were a flood of rumbling chaos awareness gathered into one siren accelerating, enforcing, my prioritizations. We are centered be reaching the edge. Our mind is incubated by the initiation that brings whoever we were to an end from which we can begin new. A hurricane has a calm eye. That hub of tumult is more thoroughly at rest than any ordinary weathers.

    The road straightened. The truck coasted to an intersection. We leaped out, ready for whatever demon or angel dare confront us. Naive, alive, silent, receptive, the roar of the truck fading beyond the mesas, we stood staring up the twin hills drawn from a dream. My friend went to the hills, and I, to the valley. By dawn our improvisational shamanism offered answers to why we were there. Our working cosmology was the view of phenomena as 'symphonic', beings as 'instrumental', harmony as the responsibility of beings toward every level of being which participates in their existence. Paradox Valley was the site of a massacre one hundred years prior. The mesas that flank the central rivulet had recently been mined of uranium. This friend's father was an engineer working on military satellites, developing the precursors to the SDI 'StarWars' hardware. His mother had played the hostess to Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors to publicize the evils of mass weapons. -So- The sense of geological karma and the person/planet relation gave credence to our consensus that the individual can open to and act on behalf of the planet, in detail and accuracy with appropriate placement of one's presence and intentionality in order to fulfill cooperations with the whole of life, without knowing how. Naive enough to immerse in mystery without explanation, I believe that we engaged the cycles and circuits of life which precede and survive us, and played some unprecedented, irrepeatable role.


  2. (continued...) History is an interactive medium. One's body is access to the terminal. We are not sealed off by height, weight and lifespan. We left Colorado with powerful satisfaction, as if congratulated by the air coursing through us, as if recipients of the gratitude of Arapaho ghosts, as though the combination of my friend's family karma, (Russian-Americans, by the way) his 'vision' and action, and my reflective, amplifying role, - the chemistry of our foray into faith had healed and this healing was appreciated, this appreciation expressed in incomprehensible communion. We were edified that whatever happened worked."

  3. Hi David, I just found a typo in my comment, and if it's a bit long for this comment section I'd be glad to put it up as a linked note on facebook instead. Thank you for your dedication to sharing the love of life!


Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave