Friday, August 23, 2013

Listening to Lake Margaret

Lake Margaret from my campsite

I just spent 2 night and 3 days up at Lake Margaret in the Sierra near Kirkwood, CA.  By myself.  Mostly.  My teenage daughter and her 3 friends were about a 5 minute walk away but I could see nor hear them (according to plan).    What I could see or hear was Lake Margaret.

I'm procrastinating right now writing a paper for a course I just took called Mind in the Cosmos taught by Dr. Christian de Quincey.  The course has inculcated in me a very real sense that there is consciousness and choice in every single particular particle of the universe, all the way down and all the way out.  de Quincey presented some astonishing material about how ancient shamans had "conversations" with different plants which revealed to them a detailed level of information about the plant which presaged by 100s of years in some cases, the discovery of DNA and the double helix.

So, as I sat there in the protracted thunderstorms Tuesday and hours of smoke and falling ash from the Yosemite fire Wednesday, I was shown to have a conversation with Lake Margaret herself.

Lake Margaret speaks softly as it turns out (and carries a lot of big sticks).  She is gorgeous and is made up of many constituent parts--in fact, on some level, Lake Margaret as an organism functions as sort of an elected representative in "the cosmic democracy" (as de Quincey puts it) of the trees, rocks, water, sky, clouds and animals that inhabit her district.   However in nature there is no carpetbagging.  Lake Margaret is both a representative of her many parts and she is herself the constituent--so perhaps I will call her a natural constituency.

As a recovering lobbyist, I am not used to listening to elected representatives.  They usually listen to me.  However, out of respect for her constituency, I went against type.

She said that she was happy to have me there.  She had no problem with any of my camping equipment except my Deet and my antibiotic hand stuff.  She didn't like the Deet but she was apoplectic about the antibiotic.  We had quite the dialogue about that.  I said that I couldn't wash my hands in her water (after certain events) without polluting her and the water that I would drink.  I said that I wanted to remain alive and well.  She guaranteed that while I was in her district if I would not use the antibiotic or the Deet, she would keep me mosquito free and safe from bacteria that could harm me.

This made me very nervous.  Why should I trust what some small high altitude lake was telling me over what modern science and medicine suggests?  What if our interests weren't the same?  What if it just wasn't that important to Lake Margaret that I be unharmed?  What if she cared more about her constituency than she did about me?  In short, what if Lake Margaret was lying?  Moreover, what if I really don't have ability to adequately discern what a lake was telling me, let alone rely on the promise to my possible detriment?  Where is a good shaman when you need one?

I frankly stated these concerns to her.  She listened and she said that I was right, there was more to this equation than just whether I stayed healthy.  She said that she had a lot of constituents but that I was now one of them and I had a vote too.  She reminded me that I loved her and that I visited her many times and that I would probably want what was best for the rest of the constituency too.  She said that the antibiotic ointment was like a very frightening weapon to them.  She asked me to vote for rubbing my hands in dirt vigorously and then washing my hands in water.

So that's what I did.

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