Maw: “the opening into something felt to be insatiable”;
“the mouth, jaws, stomach,or gullet of a voracious animal, esp. a carnivore”
To the people of Howey Bay, their town was the best-kept secret in the country. They lived within an endless pristine backwoods, where just by clearing acres and digging deep dark holes and making love to their women, men had created a whole economy. Restaurants, grocery stores, department stores, laundromats, bowling alleys, bars, hotels, dance halls – all thrived on resource money. The population was too small to support a shopping mall or movie theatre. Everyone amused themselves with snowmobiling and skiing, carousing and socializing. Wedding receptions were open to the entire town, without reservation.
American tourists descended every summer and fall for prime fishing, hunting, camping, and canoeing; however, the rest of Canada stayed away. They’d heard about the mosquitoes, the First Nations poverty, racism and hostility, and the bone-numbing cold, details that deafened them to anything else: lush sunsets; soft lakes brimming with walleye and trout; superbly long summer days ending only just before midnight; pure untainted air; unfathomable showers of white stars shining in black skies; skating rinks built by fathers in every back yard using just a hose and a few two-by-fours; shimmering sheets of green, pink, and pale yellow that danced like ghosts on deep winter nights, taken for granted by local children until they went away to college and only then realized it was the Northern Lights everyone talks about, the aurora borealis, ancient spirit of the solar wind.
At times, I’ve been certain it is religion – spirituality, communalized and ritualized – that has kept human beings on a path toward knowing me. What could be more connective than making an institution out of the search for higher understanding?
Other times, I’ve surmised that being in the correct surroundings is the prescription for a proper attitude. People ought to spend time in nature, in order to appreciate my presence. They’ll find me on the breeze, or in the lean grace of a bounding animal.
Now, I have no idea. In Howey Bay I’ve witnessed purity of heart and deranged selfishness side by side; asceticism and excess; surrender and addiction; peace and hatred; white and blood red. I’ve seen a blue-black stretch of land running on forever in every direction until the ugly, irreparable bruise of Human Exploit mushrooms from the ground. Smoke and steam rise amid plain utilitarian buildings, where people sift frantically through rocks in search of money. It seems as if they’re lost to me eternally; or that, worse, they’ve excised the notion of eternity from consideration.
On the one hand, I know exploration is what human beings need to do, for survival, for interest. They need to push at the edges of life, which would be mere instinct if not for ambition. Most human vice is little more than misdirected curiosity. I understand that, above all, what people are pushing at is Me. They want my revelation.
Yet, sometimes when I’m looking down, all I can see is that vast wilderness of earth beset with souls like twinkling jewels, some illuminated and clear, some murky and still buried. From far away, nothing makes sense to me; I see no purpose in it all. There is a little white bird that flutters among the people, whispering anxious words of wisdom, and there is a little orange flame flickering in some hearts, and countless other signs of life. Everything’s a rainbow before me. I created it as a gift for myself, I suppose, made in my own image – a mirror, if you wish.
Sometimes in the confusion, what I think is my own image is obscured, and I am even more lost than the purposeful little beings running around subjugating the earth and each other. Every moment of free will is my moment of waking up, poor and naked as a mewling newborn, wailing without even a language to put to my sorrow.