Saturday, October 29, 2016


Out back of the seminary,
along a warren of sandy roads,
pretty much all to nowhere,
there stood a few cabins and
actual places, deep in the pine
woods, where people lived.
Strange, South Jersey families
at that point  -  I never knew
what their kids did, schooling
and the rest. In fact, except for
the times I did see them, I
never saw them, if you can
understand what I mean. The
woods hid things. I always
used to think it had to do
with smell  -  not them, I
mean the smell of the land
and soil (sand). There was
just some enticing and
seemingly important, or
different anyway, aroma
that the seasons and the
mornings, or the rain or
the Autumn, brought up,
drew out from the soil. It
was captivating  -  and it
wasn't really 'soil'. I don't
know what 'sand' is, even
though I've read it's 'silica',
can be burned into making
'glass' and silicates. No
matter, none of that made
any sense to me. This was
not that. It was that 'other'.
Something unmistakable.
All that crap is science and
techno-talk. This was,
instead, the world
primeval. This was
the quiet beginnings
of time and awareness.
It was a very fortunate
thing, for me, I felt, to
be there. Because I
soon realized I could
'read' that. I could
sense and understand
that old slate of time,
as it presented its
ancient self before
me. When everything
else was beginning to
look hopeless, there,
it gave me a new impetus
to stay, and withstand,
and put up with, the
other junk going down.
I was still forming;
wasn't done yet.
We had seasonal workers
there too - some of the farm
fields around us had been
leased to Campbell Soup
Co., over in nearby Camden  -
fields of peppers, mostly,
but other things too.
Anyway, when harvesting
 time came they'd send
flatbed trucks of workers,
pickers and bushel baskets,
and these people, all day,
would be walking the fields.
Everything was hand-picked,
no power implements. It
was very old-school, quiet,
and spiritual too. Like the
old south, these black people
would do call-and-response
talking, chanting, singing,
and shouting. prayer and
not. A remarkable sight
and sound. Old sharecropper
women, it always looked
like, with head-wraps and
big loose plantation dresses
or whatever. They be in the
fields declaiming about
something, or singing. Or
just quiet. A few of the
field-foremen types
would be standing along
the edges, chewing straw
or just standing out. No
weapons or anything that
I ever saw, but it was
'authority' nonetheless.
The field-hands heeded
it  -  brawny black guys,
younger women, and the
old  -  the uncertain
certainty of being
watched and controlled.
It all used to fascinate
me. Some days, from
the second floor classrooms
in the main, education
building, I'd  be able to
see and watch, from
where  I sat. Very akin
to daydreaming, I'd let
it all take me away.
I think that when you're a
kid things happen to you
differently. There's more
of an 'elastic' sense to all
things  -  time and ideas
can be stretched, one can
formulate what going to
occur by reading omens.
I used to be able to tell
which way a decision
would go  -  'for' or
'against'  -  just by
picturing the result.
Whether or not I was
foretelling or predicting
it, I never knew. Yet, it
often happened I'd turn
out to have been correct.
(Of course there' were
only  two alternatives
presented, always a 'yes'
against a 'no', so failure
against success was a
1 out of 2 proposition.
Very good odds). When
young, everything somehow
seems more alive or more
electric, with possibility
or with the 'magic' of
chance and possibility.
As the grim years pound
along, it all gets more
and more dreary, over
time. I'd guess that a
person just stops
demanding a result
and instead just begins
'accepting' results. No
push back, no fighting
Those old cabins and
cinderblock houses 
out in the sandy stretches 
(I'd never seen 'cinderblock' 
homes before. They are 
just what they are called. 
Square, right angles only, 
squat, and almost boring 
to look at. Made only of
stacked/mortar'd cinder-
blocks, and windows with 
frames, of course. There 
was never much activity, 
and much more mystery). 
Broken cars, something 
like a 'driveway', if it had 
to be called such. Small
wooden buildings and 
things around too, made 
from old lumber, leaning, 
pallets, stacked. Here and
there a couch or some chairs, 
a campfire spot, always 
blackened and fresh with
recent burning. Usually a
dog or two, some chickens.
One time, my friend Leo
Benjamin and I, coming 
upon one of these, did 
make contact with the 
sweetest, most definitely 
mysterious girl, of about 
maybe 13 or 14 herself.
I was completely taken 
by storm, though I could 
hardly speak a word. It
was all about Leo anyway,
he was the talker-guy. I
just dreamed. I don't know
what they ever had or got
going, but Leo was gone
no matter, by the next 
semester. If it had anything
to do with this situation,
and if it ever had 'advanced',
I never knew. But I can still
see that place and scene, and
the girl, It's like a forever in
an instant.
It's very difficult to 'proclaim'
anything  - but in a Christian sense
on is supposed to 'proclaim' at all
times. I felt blessed and worthy.
I saw life in a slightly different
light, even though it was stranger
and more difficult. Those sandy
hills, those cinderblock houses,
a lot of that stuff was all the 
same, just repeated. The kind
of old, archetypal  scene you

imagine - a cantankerous guy
standing off in his yard, 'cussing'
and hanging onto his shotgun
or 'thirty ought six', which was
like a really large-bore serious
country boy rifle. Wouldn't want
to mess. Yes, the Pine Barrens
were sure a point off from normal.
I always felt that if I'd had to
really tell anybody the sort of
life I was leading, back then, 
1963 or so, they would have
been totally amazed. As I 
look back, even now, in the
writing of these things, it's
almost other-worldly for 
me to glimpse back into a
deep and mystical past along
paths and by-ways I actually
walked, talked, and partook. 
Yet, I tell you, this is so.

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