|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
Part One: Chapter Thirty One
The Right of Spring
Sunday, March 20, 1988
At 6am, my alarm went off. Finally, at 6:30 am, I rolled my heavy head up off the bed. With its help, I dragged my body into the bathroom. I called Rich to rouse him from his own warm bed. Looking out, I saw snow clouds scudding overhead, promising snow showers. A light snow had fallen overnight, but the ground was barely covered with this new white blanket.
Rich lives on the ridge on the City's westside near Hiawatha Lake in Onondaga Park. As I drove to his apartment, the sun broke through to flood the snowy morning landscape with brightness. From Rich's, we went east down into Onondaga Valley. As we drove down the sunswept west ridge, we could see north down the valley the few miles to downtown. It was a beautiful, almost magical sight I hold clearly in my memory like a treasure.
A thick bank of dark grey clouds hung low over the mouth of Onondaga Valley, almost touching the tops of downtown's office towers. Their shadow cast an ominous darkness over the heart of the city. Thick snowfall from the low riding clouds veiled the near towers in a soft, grey fuzz, while the towers at the north side of downtown were completely engulfed. Onondaga Lake was totally obscure behind this veil of dark gray.
The image was almost unreal, or surreal. In bright morning sunlight, we stared north as a winter snow squall swallowed the city. Early on a Sunday morning, the city streets were empty and quiet. The scene was like a still life painting designed to convey a somber, magical mood. Or like a miniature landscape—a backdrop on a Hollywood movie set. It was as beautiful as any sunset I'd ever seen, and I wanted to frame it as a wonderful memory of this fateful day.
We had to drive into that dark storm to get to Marley's. I wondered what awaited us on the other side. My soul found inspiration in the image, and darkness lifted somewhat from my mind. I thanked God to provide a clear expression of my feeling that day—the mood of Marley's—a black storm vortex hanging over the city. Right or wrong, I was ready to step into that dark cloud. I'd had enough of Marley's oppressive mood.
We crossed Onondaga Valley and climbed the east ridge of Syracuse. There, a darkness of snow and clouds engulfed us. Large, fast falling flakes quickly covered streets with a white film of wet, slick snow. My rusted blue Buick cut a lonely pair of tracks through this fresh white sheet on silent empty streets.
We stopped to get Brian, a photographer who wanted to shoot our mission. No one stirred at his house. I assumed he was warm and safe in bed, and I was reluctant wake anyone.
We hopped on I-690 and plunged west into the storm center which gripped downtown, then turned north on I-81. As the white oil tanks of Oil City rode by on our left, I reflected again on how odd this area of the city was. Amidst all the square blocks of buildings here were these round white oil tanks. The circle and the square—the spiritual and the material worlds. There was something about Marley's that had that aura of 'betwixt and between'—a place where matter and energy converged and collided in transformation.
Suddenly the sun burst out! We drove from beneath the cloud cover as we reached the Hiawatha St. bridge. The storm was a small vortex which covered only the heart of Syracuse. My heavy mood lightened more as sunshine warmed my face.
We parked under the I-81 overpass beside Ley Creek. Shouldering our equipment of pipes, shovel, and sledge, we set off for Marley's. We hid in the grasses as engines of a freight train rolled east out of the Dewitt Yard. Once the droning diesels were out of sight, we resumed our rapid trot to Marley's.
Immediately another freight rolled through from the west. We hid again in the swamp grass along the tracks. It seemed a good omen: one train from the east, another from the west. As the last westbound railcars rolled past we slipped across the mainline tracks and approached the burial site.
The hole was still there, undisturbed, probably unnoticed. Oily water still stood 28" deep in the hole. A pipe stuck up from the hole's bottom. My first task was to remove it, which called for much twisting, shaking, grunting, pulling, and cursing. Finally, it lay by the hole glistening with dark gray mud.
Rich and I made a careful survey to determine the location of the recumbent transformer. It had been blind luck to puncture it on our first try a month earlier. We would need more than luck today. In fact, our luck seemed to have run out. We talked little for the next few hours as the job I planned for half an hour dragged to a back breaking four as we encountered obstacles.
First, I widened and deepened our hole. As I shoveled Oil City soil on this first day of spring, I thought of my garden, and longed to be digging in fertile soil to grow herbs, food and flowers. The soil here was anything but fecund. Any vegetables grown here in this poisoned soil would be unfit to eat. It would be a long time before a garden would grow here again.
With a heavy sledge I pounded a seven foot length of three inch iron pipe into the hole's bottom. Within a dozen strokes my plan was in danger. Heavy blows from the sledge quickly bent the lip of the pipe end. If it curled inwards very much, it would close the open end of the pipe and I wouldn't be able to insert my three inch copper pipe into the iron sleeve.
As I worked I kept a careful eye on the surrounding terrain, alert for intruders. I doubted any authorities would intervene to stop us, but I wanted to avoid a confrontation. But no one else was about early on this sunny, snowy Sunday morning. Except for mild nervousness, I enjoyed the quiet solitude of bright sunshine and newly white snow. This ley center—this vast vortex was quiet, almost tranquil on this first day of spring.
Trying to control the placement of my blows, I pounded the iron pipe down. It wasn't easy to swing a heavy sledge onto a three inch pipe chest high, aiming at a point out of sight six feet deep. After a few minutes of heavy labor I realized I'd missed to penetrate only solid ground. Rich and I dowsed the transformer again and agreed the pipe was angled to the right. Then I couldn't remove the pipe. Sweating from the strain, I took off my coat.
I took another large iron pipe, tried a different angle and began pounding. After seven feet, I knew I'd missed again. My early mood of detachment was shattered. Suddenly it mattered if I was right or wrong. Breathing hard and sweating, I had to take a break. Sitting, I tried to recreate the scene on February 21 when Lee had inserted the conduit. Where was I sitting? What angle did he point his pipe? How far down in the hole was the tip inserted? How could we have been so lucky on the first try?
I switched to smaller one inch conduit—it would be easier to pound.
Once I punctured the transformer again, I'd then pound a three inch iron pipe down and extract my sample. First I pulled both three inch pipes out of the hole. More grunting and cursing for several sweaty minutes, but at last they came out.
Rich and I had a long discussion about the proper angle for the pipe to penetrate the transformer again. We swung the tip more to the south, and raised the angle with the ground. I pounded nearly three feet below the hole, when I hit a large, hard object. Repeated sledge blows produced little movement of the pipe. Finally, the pipe moved forward again. After a few more blows, I paused to test the rod. Twisting it, I discovered the end was bent. Dejected, I searched Marley's for more straight conduit.
I pounded four more lengths of conduit into the bottom of the hole. Each time I hit the hard obstacle which bent the pipe. I began to doubt the events of February 21. Maybe we hadn't punctured anything at all. Maybe in the cold, tiredness and fear, we had concluded our investivation too quickly. My will hung poised between faithful persistence, and surrender and retreat.
At times Rich relieved me at the hard work swinging the sledge. But he has a twelve inch stainless steel bar in his back fused to his spine, so I did most of the work. This was more physical exertion than I'd had since moving in November. I was hot and sweaty. At times trains rolled by and we hid in the tall grass.
In fatigue and dispair, I sat above the hole, straddling it to look down into the murky, smelly water. I wanted to give up and be done with this situation. Maybe there was no transformer or PCBs. Maybe there's no Onondaga village. Maybe it's a fool's errand. If I gave up and disappeared, no one would remember.
Gathering my will and energy together once more, I pounded an eighth pipe into the hole at a slightly different angle. It slid smoothly down with each blow, and kept sliding past the rock at five feet. Suddenly, the pipe slid down several inches. Water bubbled up into the hole. I pulled my next blow up short and the momentum of the heavy sledge swung it wildly past the pipe. I let the sledge fly to the ground and grabbed the pipe.
"We're in," said Rich, watching his crystal pendulum gyrate. I twisted the pipe. It turned freely. I pushed it forward easily with light pressure. Elated, I sat down to rest.
The next step went smooth and quick. Within minutes I had a three inch iron pipe pounded down and punctured the beast again. Now came the risky part of our task.
Rich and I donned rubber gloves. Using one inch conduit, I reamed mud out from inside the iron pipe. Then I inserted eight feet of one inch copper pipe into the three inch sleeve. It slid down nearly its full length before hitting solid debris at the bottom of the cavity. Capping the copper pipe's end with a gloved hand, I pulled it up and out.
Rich, lying on the ground, held a quart jar beside the end of the iron sleeve. As the tip of the copper pipe left the iron pipe, I swung it over to the mouth of the jar and in. Then I released my hand on the other end. Dark grey watery sludge oozed and swirled into the jar.
Rich wrinkled his nose at the assault on his nostrils. "Gawd, this stuff smells worse than shit!" he exclaimed.
It was awkward holding one end of the copper pipe while hauling its 8 foot length up with the other. Then, still capping its end, I had to maneuver this long rod over and into the jar. Half of the time I lost my grip on the upper end and the sludge poured uselessly back into the iron sleeve. Other times I missed the opening on the quart jar and the gray muck ran over . the jar and into the hole. Gradually the quart jar filled. We repeated the procedure several times until we had a full quart.
We continued this operation until we had four quarts. The last two quarts contained less muck and more water. The entire lower length of copper pipe became coated with a slick of oily gray sludge. Both of my gloves shone with the noxious slime. As much as I tried to work cautiously, little spots of it got on my exposed wrists. Rich got a little on his own wrists, too.
Hurriedly we stripped off our rubber gloves and tossed all our equipment into the marsh grasses beyond our hole. I wrapped each jar in a plastic bag, dropped all four into a larger bag inside an enamel tray. Gathering up sledge and shovel, we made haste up the railroad to my Buick. All the while I kept a sharp lookout for anyone watching us. I saw not a single soul.
Back safely at my car we packed our gear in the trunk and climbed into the front seat. Inserting the key in the ignition, I turned it and nothing happened. I tried again, and knew the battery was dead. Driving through the early morning snowshower on the way, I had turned on my headlights. But a few minutes later, when I parked under the overpass, it was bright sunlight, and I had left my headlights on.
I looked at Rich and said with a tired smirk, "So much for our 'Mission Impossible.'" Rich laughed and suggested we call a friend to give us a jump. I was beside myself with frustration, embarrassment, fatigue and hunger.
We hiked up Park Street to a diner. In the men's room we washed the residue from our hands and wrists.. Rich called his former housemate to come out and give us a jump. Four hours of hard physical labor yielded a big appetite, so Rich treated me to coffee and a bowl of beef stew. It was hot, thick and greasy.
After several minutes our friend arrived and in a short time we had my Buick running again. I dropped Rich at his apartment and headed home. Inside, I made my first call to Irving Powless, the Secretary of Onondaga Nation.
"Irving, I got four quarts of bad smelling stuff from 6 foot underground at Marley's this morning," I proclaimed.
"Oh yeah! You did it? Is it PCBs?" I could hear noisy sounds of many children in the background and assumed Irving was having a family gathering that day.
"I think so. I don't know what this stuff is, but it sure smells toxic and unnatural. I'll try to get it tested tomorrow. I'm not sure how but I have a few options."
"'Well, Paul was in the office this week. Paul, Paul...." Irving tried to remember his last name.
"Paul Norman," I supplied.
"Yeah, Paul Norman with the railroad police. He was making photocopies of the newspaper article about you. Now, I didn't ask him about what he was doing—that's his business. But it stands to reason that he wasn't making photocopies to tell himself what was going on. Must be he was trying to get some other people's attention to the situation."
"Sounds reasonable. Hope someone pays attention." Irving had more to report, "Later, he came over to me and said, Irving, you know this guy David Yarrow?' I said, 'Yeah, Paul, I know him. He's come out to our village many times to cook natural food dinners and teach natural health. Even had a woman from NY City come to teach a class in my house.'"
Irving's little tale continued, "So I said, 'As a matter of fact, four years ago he came and taught my wife to dowse for water. They went out beside my house and found a water vein he said was 80 feet deep. Well, a year later I got a driller to come in. He drilled right where they told him and, by golly, he punctured water in limestone bedrock at 80 feet just like David said. Guess he knows what he's doing, huh?'"
I chuckled at the humor of this. And silently thanked God for placing another friend at the right place at the right time. "I hear quite a crowd at your house, so I'll let you get back to your family. I just wanted to let you know I got stuff out of the ground at Marley's. Also, I want to thank you for your wise counsel through all this. Other people have tried to get me to take sides for and against, but you've always had good advice on how to avoid anger and keep the Good Mind. Thanks for keeping me steady. Have a good afternoon."
That evening I paid a visit to my landlord. He had bad news: he was going to put my house on the market after April. He apologized, but I understood his position. He'd invested much of his limited capital to acquire and renovate the house. Now he wanted to buy a home for himself, but his capital was tied up in the house I lived in. I moved in with the understanding that come spring the house would be put on the market. I had to either buy it or move out. Now that I had my sample, maybe the transformers would be taken care of and I could give my attention to my own problems.
John looked at me wryly, "I was at a play last weekend with Joan Christensen. We got to talking about Oil City so I told her I knew you. She asked me about you, so I told her you were one of the more unusual but intelligent people I knew. I explained how you helped me with my allergies and that we'd lived together two different years."
I smiled. "Isn't this a small city. No matter where I turn I cross paths with friends. Seems the world's getting so small we'll have to start a new one, "said with extra inflection to hint at my double meaning. "What does she think of my escapades?"
"She didn't really say, but she seemed impressed with the intensity with which you took on Pyramid. She thinks the mall will be built. Anyone who opposes Pyramid and the Mayor on this will be opposed in the next election. Anyone."
As I sat at the dining table talking I noticed a magazine whose cover featured a faded brown antique photo of a 30 foot high dinosaur skeleton. Fascinated, I opened it to the cover article. It proclaimed: Dusting Off America's First Dinosaur"
Skimming, I noticed the word dinosaur was first coined in 1841 by a Frenchman. Only seven years later the first complete dinosaur skeleton was found by a New Jersey farmer. Dinosaurs, of course, are geology's dragons. I was surprised they were such a recent discovery in geology. My interest was captured and I asked to borrow the magazine.
Later that night I found my way to Lucy's apartment to visit Blake Gould, a dear friend and Director of Northstar, the macrobiotic health center in Vermont. Blake was in Syracuse that weekend to teach macrobiotic health care at Wellspring.
Over four years earlier, I'd invited Blake to visit me and teach at Wellspring. At that time Blake had his center in Burlington, Vermont, the only city to successfully stop a Pyramid shopping mall. On Sunday after his workshop I drove Blake to Onondaga Nation to meet the midwife. We then drove west to Pumpkin Hollow so I could show Blake the Indian mound at its center.
Our adventure that October afternoon was exciting, almost magical. When we arrived at Pumpkin Hollow a dark cloud was passing overhead, dumping cold rain. Undaunted, we hiked out to the mound, hiding in the brittle, rustling of dry cornstalks. Climbing to the mound's low 60 foot summit, we inspected its topography, geometry and geomancy.
It was obvious the mound wasn't a perfect circle, but a rounded triangle with three ridges running north, west and southeast from its peak. I dowsed each ridge to confirm that a channel of earth energy descended along each, headed for the highest spot of the distant horizon of ridges. We found what seemed to be a rock outcrop on the north ridge.
I then located the water column which rose beneath that same peak, counting off the nine veins which radiated out from the rising vortex of fluid. I explained to Blake that each vein split into three subveins as it passed out beneath the edge of the mound, so the entire knob was ringed with an orderly rosette of 27 water veins. This met my definition of a sacred space: an balanced pattern of heaven and earth's forces meeting at one place.
As we discussed, dowsed and shivered atop this mysterious earth knob the rain stopped, the sun came out and a bright rainbow appeared in the east highlighted against the dark clouds. It seemed a blessing just for our adventure, an omen we were in the right place at the right time.
We sat down atop this Indian mound in Pumpkin Hollow and began dowsing. We asked wide ranging questions beyond mere location, construction and geomantic configuration of that one mound. That day, from our dowsing, was when I first learned of another Indian mound 30 miles west. A year passed before I went looking for this second mound. It proved to be in Auburn: Fort Hill, or "Osco" Mound, just west of downtown.
That same day we also learned that near Blake's house in northwest Vermont was another Indian mound. But this one was not a geometric form, but was an effigy mound in the shape of a serpent. It would be nearly like the famous Serpent Mound in southwest Ohio, which is only four feet high, but nearly 300 feet in length.
That October day we tried to discover through dowsing what purpose motivated the erection of these tens of thousands of Indian mounds which dot North America. The answers we arrived at through dowsing were extraordinary. At an earlier age in history a great civilization existed which had caused a great deal of damage to the natural world of the Earth. That civilization had eventually collapsed, and in the centuries which followed, people constructed these mounds and placed stones at certain places to heal the injury to the environment. In order to restore harmony and vitality to the Earth's geomantic web, these ancient people found the natural centers of terrestrial energy and built mounds, erected stones and performed other acts in order to intensify and stabilize the Earth energies.
After we left Pumpkin Hollow Indian mound I took Blake to Disappearing Lake, which is five miles further west in the same valley. That day, Disappearing Lake was half full of water.
Now, years later, we renewed our friendship as we sat in Lucy's living room. Together we recollected our adventure that October day. Sadly, Blake moved away from Burlington and never looked for the serpent mound. I excitedly described the day's events and all that led up to it. Mostly I talked of the history and legend of Marley's and Onondaga Lake, including the Legend of the Peacemaker and the Onondaga Dragon.
|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
144 pages, 8.5 x 11 soft cover
available from Turtle EyeLand
It was then Blake told me about the Champlain Dragon. I knew reliable observers had reported sighting a monster in Lake Champlain. I'd read reports in news stories that found their way into national press. Blake confirmed the reports are of a creature like the famed Loch Ness monster in Scotland.
Then, Blake told me the earliest reported sighting was by none other than the first white man to ever see the lake, the very man after whom the lake is named: the French explorer Samuel de Champlain. Samuel wrote in his own journal that he saw a monstrous creature swimming in the lake.
In 1615, Champlain led Huron Indians in a raid on Onondaga villages in this area. Champlain was injured in one battle near Cazenovia, NY and the Onondagas drove the Hurons out. If the Onondagas had lost that battle, we'd all be speaking French today—another little known contribution to our own history of the oldest surviving government in North America.
Now, the idea of a serpent mound on the shores above Lake Champlain—home of "Champie"—seemed perfectly possible and meaningful. And it added deeper meaning to the idea that there were once dragons which inhabited the land around Onondaga Lake, the eastern gate to the Finger Lakes.