EcoPunk #66

    The desert is the punkest of all ecosystems. From the spikey, bristly, leathery plants that grow forth from the harshest, most bitter of soils to the odd assortment of nocturnal wildlife, there isn’t a punker place on Earth. There also isn’t as solemn or desolate a place...    Although I love charged punk plants with all my heart, it was really the latter two things I was seeking as I climbed towards the black night sky, up into the very bowels of the Sacramento Mountains.     It was an odd combination of Death and Fate that had brought me down into the Northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert. My grandfather was dying a dignity-less death in a nursing home for the terminally ill and needed some family support for he and my tough ass grandmother. Ordinarily I would have been too distracted by the events of my own life to even contemplate moving myself down to the desert to be with him, but events in my life had transpired in such a way that escape not only seemed necessary, but a matter of life or death. Afterall, there arises a point in every person’s life where the number of muddy burdens keep piling up, clouding perspective and threatening to dry into unbreakable walls. Between internal holocausts and outside pressures from law enforcement and people I had once considered friends, escape was necessary. Escape was essential. And just as every good bandit and horse thief knows, there is no place of refuge quite like the desert.    As the sky changed from jet black to a dark blue to a light pink with the rising of the sun, I finished my climb up the steep walls of limestone and was standing halfway up the Southern side of Dog Canyon. To my rear, the gray shapes of the San Andreas Mountains rose in sharp contrast from the high desert plains, a thin streak of white gleaming across the base. That white marked the White Sands National Monument; a combination tourist attraction and high security military missile range. In the 1940s the military had tested nuclear warheads on the far end of the almost translucent sand dunes, fusing gazillions of sand grains together in an unbroken sheet of glass several acres wide. Being surrounded by nothing but starving Indians, native Hispanics and poor white trash, it was still the home of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons of every make, model and consistency: The dark underbelly of Uncle Sam’s arsenal.    Feeling the powers of the Earth fill a void in my chest created by 1,500 miles of highways, byways and gas station mini-marts, I wound my way into the mouth of the canyon. A thin trail twisted and snarled its way through the broken topography of those ancient old mountains. This trail was more than 6,000 years old, the as of yet unimproved remnants of a trade trail stretching from the Sonoran Desert to the West, through the San Andreas range, across the Tularosa Basin, up over the Sacramentos and into the Guadeloupe mountains beyond. The people the Dineh call the Anasazi, the ‘old ones,’ used this trail, as did their mysterious predecessors the Jornada-Mogollon. Everything about this trail, indeed this whole area just reeks with the vast passage of time, of ancient wisdom.    Using my sense of smell and the intangible but very real promptings of the spirits as much as my eyes, I navigated a course through the miniature jungle of chaparral and mesquite. With every change in elevation or sun exposure a new community of plants greeted me. The silent towers of agave and yucca gave way to vast networks of prickly pear cacti and fuzzy old growth junipers no taller than your average sixth grader. They in turn gave way to the writhing thorned arms of the desert’s own Kali the Destroyer, the savage but beautiful ocotillo. For most of the year the ocotillo is a solemn, menacing plant, silent and gray. But with every rain, her arms come alive in blood red flowers sometimes stretching 20 feet towards the heavens. This is another reason the desert reminds me of punks; they might seem dangerous and impenetrable, but given the right conditions, are actually the most beautiful humans on earth.     The path trailed off behind my crunching boot soles in a twisted monument to places I had been and things I had known. My eyes scanned the sheer cliffs, brown with age and oxidation. I sometimes feel like I’m being watched when passing through certain mountains, but here I felt damn near chaperoned. The hundreds of caves and crevasses lining the mountain walls stared down relentlessly while thousands of voices silently serenaded my steps with tales from the past and visions for the future. This Northern corner  of the Chihuahuan desert is a decidedly powerful place and has been for thousands of years. It was here that humans built massive monuments to long forgotten forces and here that millions of people had voluntarily lived, even when more hospitable ecosystems existed mere miles away. Though it is almost always sunny, the sky seems to have a dark tinge to it, an ominous testament to the wounds of the past. There is something exceedingly somber and powerful about this desert.     When the US Calvary and Mexican Army began their all out war to rid the new world of Natives, the tribes who survived most intact headed straight into the vastness of desert where the blue suited soldiers feared to tread. It was in this desert, indeed in this very canyon, that some of the most valiant and effective resistances to European hegemony were fought. In 1859, the Agua Neuva Apaches fled into Dog Canyon pursued by Mexican mercenaries and an entire division of the 8th infantry. After engaging their attackers in battle for more than six days, the apaches vanished into the desert, leaving the military with a number of dead soldiers and a bewildered look on their faces.    In the early 1890s, Warm Springs Apache chief Victorio and his people were forcibly removed from their treatied lands by the rancher/military tag team and sent to the Mescalero Reservation. After nearly starving to death over the winter, Victorio and 200 Mescaleros escaped from the reservation and headed into the protective womb of Dog Canyon. Within a matter of hours, the H and L companies of the 9th Calvary charged into the canyon along the same trail I was hiking on that day more than a hundred years later. They had made it more than 2 miles into the canyon without resistance when suddenly the canyon walls rained down on the invaders. The toppling boulders were joined by arrows and spears and before long, more than 90% of the soldiers had been killed without a single Apache casualty. The surviving soldiers fled the canyon and refused to return, even when three more companies of reinforcements arrived.      The claustrophobic walls of the canyon open up into a wide ‘belly,’ flat and covered with a golden grass.  Clumps of manzanita and hedgehog cactus peered out from their homes in the shadows of rocks, while whole armies of little brothers, cane cholla, stood guard over their secrets with dangling arms and yellow fruit. As I approached the end of the canyon, where the ancient walls would climb their way out of the high desert chaparral-juniper-cacti ecosystem and into the snow covered forest of pine and fir, I started thinking about my life and my politics.     Until a couple of months ago, I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. Nothing I have done in the past ten years has had any success whatsoever and after venturing to the North American Anarchist Gathering and seeing exactly how ridiculously disattatched our movement was from reality, I was ready to retire. But then my ‘teachers’ began illustrating to me how what we are doing now isn’t a struggle in and of itself, but part of a much longer struggle stretching back to the early days of the Roman Empire.     My march into the Sacramento Mountains ended when I hit the cervix of Dog Canyon. Cottonwoods three feet thick and five hundred years old, limbs contorted with the effects of environmental torture, stood guard over the small trickle of water flowing out of the cracks base of the canyon. I waded through waist high families of sage and mesquite before reaching the point where water wept from stone. Like approaching a new lover for the first time, I shyly touched the aged stone wall with my open palm, settling my chest onto its rough curves. I delicately licked one of the rocks before me, to get a taste of the land and probability some vital nutrients my vegan diet was lacking. My mouth traced the trickle of water up the wall to a small fissure and softly sucked mouthful after mouthful of heavy water from the stone. It tasted old and flat.    I sat down on a huge chunk of rock with hundreds of fossils in it and surveyed the area before me. For hundreds of years, this was a place of asylum for travelers and warriors. Within the memory of some people in this valley, this was where the Apaches based their guerrilla war against rancher and railroad. This was a stopping ground for all the various men the US government called Geronimo.  This was where Mescalero leader Santana hid after faking his own death so that he might escape execution and rise once again to fight the white invaders destroying his Earth and his people. My eyes scanned the muddy periphery of the stream. Judging from the veritable zoo of tracks, this was also a place of refuge for our silent warriors, the bobcat and the cougar, the coyote and the ringtail cat, the jackrabbit and the mule deer.     I lay back on a bed of dead crustaceans, ten million years extinct, and watched the clouds sail overhead. So where does this all fit together? What can we do ourselves in our own all too short lives, to push the struggle onwards?     In my own mind,  I resolved to spend the time between my meditation on the rock and the moment when the spirits call me forth to sacrifice my own life on worthwhile actions that inspire happiness while driving blow after blow into the bloated body of Imperial Christian Civilization. I would do my best to influence human interactions around me towards the good, towards love and respect, rather than the divisive shittalking competition put in our heads by televisions, priests and the model of desecration heaved onto our shoulders. I will tell my friends that I love them more and give praise to those worthy of praise. I will keep my senses open for the influence of the Unseen who walk among us and prepare myself for the inevitable battles of the future. I will consult with sunsets and moonrises more. I will try and recruit a small army of wonderful people interested in revolting not only against a political system, but against an entire civilization to come together in the mountains, deserts and seas to avenge the wrongs of the past and carry on the struggle on a hundred new fronts. I will resurrect the memory of those who came and died before us in this Great Struggle. I will remember the Zealots, the Celtic Tribes, the Apache and the Sioux, Tupac Amaru, Pancho Villa, the maroons of the Caribbean, and the spirits who influence everything. I will remember those of my own tribe who have been lost to a War they may or may not have recognized. I will remember Frank’s poetry and Danarchy’s theories and Erin’s smiles and Nate’s laugh and Jason’s strength and Julia’s compassion and Eric’s passion, and Kerri’s innocent heart and Stevie’s warmth. I will think of my family in prison and petition the forces to grant them a safe release back to us. I will look at the sky and see Free and Karen and Rob and Chris and Jonathan and Dan and Harold and Leonard and the million or so I don’t know but are comrades nonetheless. I will always remember to see the connections in everything and never forget that no matter what happens, we are never alone.

mike antipathy
pob 11703, eugene, oregon 97440