November 2010

Life, the universe and one thing

By David Feela

A hammock is a time machine. I purchased mine cheap at the Waba Sabi Thrift Store in Moab, Utah. Some guy named Eddie Bauer had his name stitched into the fabric, but that was all right with me. I have no problem traveling on Bauered time.

It feels like years since I first hitched up the contraption between two sturdy trees, the sun burning high above me in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. I grabbed my pillow before climbing in, and I would encourage other time travelers to do the same.

Pillows help tremendously when dealing with the impact of time. The promontory where I camped overlooked an undeveloped and uninhabited canyon. Far below over a scramble of steep, rocky terrain I heard a rush of water, at a distance I did not plan to hike. I did, after all, own a time machine.

Sunlight filtered down through the leaves, so the light flickered, almost like the same pillar of transporter energy that I’d seen Scotty engage on countless reruns of Star Trek. I closed my eyes and I was gone.

Perhaps my molecules were reassembled in another place, perhaps not, but my consciousness came to rest before the ruins of a settlement. Real estate of a different time: The Home of Truth. The year was 1933.

I had driven past the ruins of the settlement on many occasions while driving into Canyonlands. The place looked like one of those themed dinner ranches where tourists pay to taste the smoke of barbeque while partying in the Old West. You know, cowboy songs and cowboy poetry, that sort of West.

This time, however, I had done a little research.

A crimson veil fell across my eyes and I saw a colony of devout believers and their messiah, Mary Ogden, settling into the Dry Valley. Mrs. Ogden claimed to receive revelations directly from God through her typewriter. These revelations included a dogma that advocated reincarnation, resurrection, and a form of spiritualism involving vibrations, spiritual planes, soul language, conversations with the dead and other astro-esoteric notions.

Nearly 100 followers joined her by 1935, living communally, the same way developers today design eco-friendly gated communities. Mary Ogden’s Home of Truth was off the grid, but in an entirely different way.

Then I woke, understandably disoriented.

The pleasure and the trouble with hammocks is that confounded rocking motion, which must also imitate the way we settle on the places where we decide to live.

It’s like a huge cosmic pendulum, back and forth, back and forth, never arriving or staying at a happy medium. Either we lull ourselves to sleep, believing any spot on the earth is ours for the taking, or we wake up with a thud, having fallen from grace and our visions of Eden, in a subdivision organized around a maze of shopping outlets.

Mrs. Ogden, I learned, organized her colony into three portals: The Outer, the Middle, and the Inner Portal – the one where she resided. She served as financial director for the colony, controlling all its decisions. She offered her followers eternal salvation if they handed over all their earthy possessions.

The wind stopped blowing, my time machine stopped glowing. I sat straight up and a revelation came to me. I didn’t even have a typewriter.

The key to living a good life is simple.

Buy a hammock.

David Feela writes from rural Montezuma County, Colo.