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September 1, 2001: Leaving the shadow of Katahdin in my rear view mirror, I drove eastward along the Penobscot and toward the sea. Millinockett is a much farther drive than I thought, thirty-eight miles from Big Eddy where clear water flows. Gas and a convenience store, paper mill workers and Bud Lite signs line main street. The brick legal aid center (once a bank) is a reminder of a more prosperous time. Now the attorney that haunts this place files disability claims and settles domestic disputes or child custody battles. Piles of logs lie in wait at the paper mill.
September 2, 2001: Clear air, mountain air - cool and filled with the promise of autumn, I drove by the fields. These fields, once awash in the sweet smell of strawberries now offer up the sour breath of potato blossoms. Days pass, crops rotate. Berry, potato, corn, squash and pumpkin. The sun falls in the sky and its light changes. Another year gone and I can only mark its passage by the images I've taken neatly filed in their plastic sleeves. My head is cloudy as I try to shake off summer as though it were a cheap wine hangover.
September 3, 2001: This business of rock climbing is a strange way to spend one's time. The focus required tends to make everyday concerns and pre-occupations fade away. The world becomes but a three-foot square outside of which nothing else matters beyond the safety of you and your partner. Field and farm fade away beneath you; ravens circle and falcons dart from above. It is their place and you are a privileged visitor here. Linked together by the rope it is a vertical dance - weight over the feet and fingers moving over warm granite. Two as one move skyward.
September 4, 2001: The summer has ended and yellow buses slow, then stop. Wide eyed, some cling while others swagger through the rite of autumn as they board - small hands letting go of all they know, eager to embrace their destiny. The innocents smile, or cry. The parents kiss and wave as a lone driver checks beneath the chassis for a straggler. The arm of the stop sign folds inward, slowly the bus moves forward, parent and child retreat. It is too soon to press red autumn leaves between sheets of waxy paper; they are too green for saving.
September 5, 2001: The clock deceived me again and an hour of sleep was stolen. Maybe it was the wind rushing through the high pines that woke me, maybe the moonlight against the cliff. The wind races through the Valley like some wild river hungry for the ocean and slams into the faces of these hills with reckless abandon. Suddenly, there is quiet surrender and silence. Retreating, the moon hides behind the clouds and the Valley is wrapped in pre-dawn silence. Perhaps the wind simply tired of swirling and slamming into hillsides, perhaps she found her way to the sea.
September 6, 2001: You spot them when the streets are empty, even in this town. Every morning she sits, wearing castaway clothes, drawing the smoke of discarded cigarette butts deep into her lungs. He walks briskly, brushing his teeth with an imaginary toothbrush, his index finger. A young man, reeking of perspiration and urine kicks a trashcan as if trying to challenge it for a deposit. Defeated, the young man struggles to retreat on his bicycle. He seems to be missing a leg, or perhaps it is lame – hard to tell through the folds of someone else's old gabardine trousers.
September 7, 2001: We've been tricked. By now we all should have known better. Just because the moon was so bright and clear, just because you pulled the sweater out of mothballs and aired it on the rack. Wool stocking feet tucked tightly as the river rushed by at 3 AM. Arms tightly folded for the short night's bivy in the truck bed. Darker than dark the moon hid from the morning. Shadowy pines rise from the river's mist. When will ice cover these banks? Just because Summer retreated for a day and Autumn was a bright cool, dry tease.
September 8, 2001: Weeks come go, marked only by nebulous deadlines that I move around like chessmen. All of the meetings, schedules, faxes, emails, and returned calls are quickly fading from view. The insignificance of all these things is becoming alarmingly clear - how transparent the events, how meaningless and mindless all of the effort. All the years of defining and measuring against quarterly projections mean absolutely nothing now and never did. I was once told that those who hoard haven't any confidence in the future; they stockpile and protect their wears like so many treasured memories. I simply discard.
September 9, 2001: The Swift River is bony bare today. A pathetic trickle moving seaward with little enthusiasm for getting there, it is as though it has given up the ghost – white rocks lying like bleached relics in the sun. Smooth boulders, polished by the flow stand naked like so many Henry Moore sculptures. There is little green in this place now, just dry sandy grit. Exposed roots line the banks hoping to draw what little moisture is there – pine needles fall, too dry to fill the still air with their scent. Bored insects buzz and dart with little direction.
September 10, 2001: They were trying to prepare for winter, too. Hiding in the attic and hoarding their food they have made one a hell of a mess of the place. They are building shelters and awaiting the snow. But, they are unwelcome tenants - squatters, transients, they simply must go. No eviction notice from the housing authority, no notice from the court. Pack it up and get out with the food in your jowls. No time for discussion or compromise. All winter long through the steel wire mesh they will stare with eyes wide, empty stares – hopeful, cunning refugees.
September 11, 2001: At about nine o'clock this morning we lost our innocence, again. Our vulnerability exposed, we watched as buildings fell and smoke billowed into New York Harbor - all the time wondering how this could happen to us. We are not isolated from the ravages of war, hatred and violence, we never were. Our hideous denial and false sense of security is pathetic and laughable, our belief in our own sovereignty dangerously naïve. Our response will be telling and on it we will be measured. Violence and hatred only beget the same.
September 12, 2001: Clear blue skies, cool nights. The surreal week continues to unfold. Lower Manhattan is rubble and chaos - smoke, ash, and twisted steel. Deer graze in the empty fields. NPR reports. Deer graze in empty fields. Talking heads speculate and spew opinions across the airwaves. W has found a reason, an excuse. Powell must be respected for his statesmanship even if you disagree with him. W, a moron. Now the talk is unity….among who? These lost souls have found a cause, and an excuse to fly flags, to pound their chests. They can now rationalize their hatred.
September 13, 2001: It seems as though this terrible event has been turned into a perverse sort of Flag Day - ribbons, flags, and bunting. The media says that the flag companies are working overtime - in China? Rudy Juliani has order more body bags and Bush is contracting tanker fleets to ferry jet fuel, and diesel - the curtains are yet to rise on future theaters of war. I guess OPEC profits coming and going. The refineries with be working overtime soon. All thoses flags, proudly, arrogantly displayed are soon to be draped caskets, the once proud bunting, black.
September 14, 2001: Are these seven pm vigils for the dead or the living? Holding bits of light, ten thousand points, just as George the father promised. These Americans stand before their iconic SUV's in the shadow of their shopping malls and Comfort Inns. When will this end so that we can consume as before?, they whisper. "We what it all and we want it now" is their impotent cry. They are blind to the enemy lurking, each and every one. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us. The symbols of power have been reduced to dust.
September 15, 2001: Colbalt blue sky, again. Light dry breeze. The body counts are rising but most will never be accounted for; their cremains for ever a part of New York. The evidence of their lives scattered like so much confetti on Broad Street. Wallet photos, cancelled checks and pay stubs. Broken coffee cups, keyboards, and toner cartridges. Telephone receivers still smelling of perfume lie amid the rubble. Dry cleaning tickets, memos, post-its - ink still bleeding, are stuck to fire hydrants. The chairman of the board smiles from an annual report to shareholders now soaked and covered with ash.
September 16, 2001: Sunday, and almost a week has passed since the loss of innocence. The body count has risen but most are burnt or buried deep beneath the wreckage. Concrete dust and the acrid smell of burning wire and plastic fill the air in every photo. On NPR the experts continue to comment and the pundits posture. I paint my house brown, like the richest of soil. Small birds light on the railing and cock their heads inquisitively. They sit for a moment and watch. As quickly as they come, they fly off, then return again for some reassurance.
September 17, 2001: Monday, and the sun still shines bright in the east. The consistency of these mornings makes it difficult to doubt tomorrow. The river is low and bony but still flows seaward with fierce determination. Today the sky is silent and the leaves do not rustle. They are dry but green without a hint of crimson anywhere. Somewhere amid the carnage, a search dog's snout is clogged with dust and ash. A rescue worker drinks from an Igloo cooler with a Dixie cup and tosses it to the ground without thought. Where do these people rest at night?
September 18, 2001: Debate, discussion, lots of flag waving. Pick-up trucks fly enormous flags from their beds as though they were part of some cavalry brigade headed for battle. Frustrated little boy soldiers with hatred they need to focus somewhere, on someone. Every shop and fast food place seems to have something to say along with the daily specials and sales. DD's, McD's, and Wal-Mart. Have these become our icons? Round up the SUV's and campers in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Circle the tractor-trailers filled with useless goods manufactured in the sweatshops of the third word. Are these the united?
September 19, 2001: The war now has a name – Operation Infinite Justice. I wonder which public relations firm developed that one? Who will be the judge? Surely there will be no jury here. Attack planes and naval might gather now to cross the Western Ocean. All of the country's resources thrown at this act of revenge with reckless abandon in the name of security. All of this power to destroy. Imagine if the same resources were thrown at feeding the hungry and healing the sick. Freeing the oppressed, sheltering the homeless. Saving lives. I guess that is bad for business.
September 20, 2001: For the first time in weeks the sky is slate gray. There is a damp chill in the air that has not been felt since last autumn. Today warships steam eastward toward an unknown enemy – fighters fueled and missiles armed. Last night I learned that the prophet Mohamed walked unarmed into Mecca to meet his fate.. Jesus went without struggle to his death on the cross in the name of peace. How is it that we fail to learn from this and continue to lust for the blood of our brothers? Our violence will always beget violence.
September 21, 2001: Clouds float by the cliff like strolling ghosts moving northward. All morning long rain and fog hung in the Valley filling the River and covering the field. I am weary from the week and wish that I could sleep. These will be long days with troubled times ahead. Hatred fueled by confusion and misunderstanding will cloud our minds, hope fading with the autumn light. The days grow shorter and shorter. Will we still be courageous enough to face our future and plan ahead or will we be left paralyzed and impotent by the events of the day.
September 22, 2001: The beginning of another year of my life. Dreary and damp here, but the rivers and fields desperately need the water. Fog floats in and out of the Valley lingering above the riverbed before finally moving on. There was a story on Scott Nearing in the paper today written by my AP friend Clarke. The Nearing's message is timely. In the afternoon I happened upon a collection of Nearing's more political work in Gorham bookstore. Books always seem to find there way to me when they are most needed. Like friends, books should be good and few.
September 23, 2001: Today has been a quiet day. All the papers are recycling the week's news and the pundits have had little to say to that is of any consequence. Church bells ring and voices are raised. Prayers are prayed and life goes on. Magazine and newspaper ads all seem vulgar in their placement, especially the New Yorker; a powerful black cover and a diamond watch ad on the back. All of this consumerism is so perverse. Americans continue to buy useless things and believe the party line. More and more flags fly and bunting drapes porches and windows.
September 24, 2001: Fog and rain. Today the talk is of biological attacks. Crop dusters are grounded in Florida as we contemplate a new silent threat. Anthrax, smallpox, odorless, deadly - terror against which there is no real defense. Hatred and fear are the enemies here as they lie in wait, quietly licking their festering wounds or rubbing salt into their neighbors. In the government halls the Houses debate newly proposed legislation, the airlines are bailed out and business is compensated for its greed. Over sixty four hundred souls gone, and still we honor the beast. How short the memory.
September 25, 2001: Today the rain fell hard. It was not the cool rain of early fall but the warm rain of late summer, at times even balmy. In spite of it all the sugar maples and yellow beeches were showing their color. Together they flirted among the pines and birches, peeking out here and there. How they teased; their colors appearing here and there without reason. They are youthful in their random display, hopeful dancers in the mist. The river swelled and the day ended as it began - silent and gray, white mist marking the cool river's path.
September 26, 2001: Plenty of work this week, and grateful for it. The rain continued to fall through the morning soaking the fields and flooding the all of the unpaved roads. It will take a lot more rain than this (especially in the North) to compensate for this drought. There seems to be a lot more deer on the roads these early mornings, especially along the river road. Mostly young and flighty, they are moving from field to field. Caught in my headlights they stop for an instant than retreat back into the cover of the birches waiting for dawn.
September 27, 2001: A cool low cloud hanging over the Valley for another day. Again, more work than I can keep up with but a welcome opportunity. There will be many dry spells in the months ahead and I need to be more comfortable with the uncertainty of the projects that come my way. Security in employment or otherwise is such an illusion. Our culture leaves us clinging, to things and others for judgment and approval. There is little trust in things, unseen, and virtually no confidence within. Instead, we blindly place our faith in hollow institutions and empty promises.
September 28, 2001: Another full day of work and my eyes bleed from looking at the screen. The cliff is quiet as it rises from the mist. High on the Prow a party aids the last few pitches in the cold drizzle then raps down into the trees. Their voices are muffled and little is heard except and occasional clatter of hardware. I try to project myself to their perspective and gaze down, as they do, coiling rope, racking gear. Once they gear is racked and stowed they will silently walk to the road, smile with satisfaction, and drive away.
September 29, 2001: There was an inch of wet snow on the mountain yesterday. Tucked here in the Valley I was unaware that it fell. It covered boulder and lichen, krumholtz and fern. An early snow this next to last day of September. By mid-morning the hint of white was gone leaving only browns and grays against the sky. Today I'll drive North to the headwaters of the River. Through struggling mill towns, past crumbling triple-deckers, northward. The river is dry here, too. The dam has not released yet and the slick black rocks look naked in the bright sunlight.
September 30, 2001: It is hard to believe that September has ended. Its glory stolen by the events of the day, it's gone - gone for this year? Forever? We are told that the world has changed and will never be that same again; isn't that the case with every new dawn? How quick we are to reach for the comfort of times past. They say that the world has changed; our perceptions of it will never be the same, our false security challenged. But, today there was a light in the east, and the crows called in the field.
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