“The City” – An Excerpt From The Dandelion Insurrection
© 2013 Rivera Sun
Just past the Portsmouth Bridge, the river of humanity began to swell, growling and growing with every mile. The scattered houses of Maine gave way to a mountain range of urban buildings; rising slopes of suburbs, foothills of concrete industrial buildings, peaks of coastal districts, and finally, the summit of New York City.
Zadie tucked the car away and pulled Charlie down the city blocks. He tried not to gawk as he hustled after her, half-running to keep up with her longer strides. The buildings towered over them more densely shadowed than the pine forests up north. The roar of traffic flooded his ears. Zadie grabbed him by the elbow and hauled him behind her like a trout on a fisherman’s hook. He hesitated on the street corner. She plunged into traffic. The lifeline of her grip snapped loose. Charlie floundered in the stream of people, bumped and pummeled without a word of apology. The current of the city throbbed and ached like a churning snowmelt flood, dark with dissatisfaction, ripping at the shores, pulling the muck of the river’s underbelly to the surface. Swift-flowing bodies rushed past Charlie. Their unspoken roar deafened him. Desperation stung the whites of their eyes. Hunger gnawed gaunt hollows into their cheeks. Anger tightened lips and tensed shoulders. Hands begged like barren tree branches, uprooted and clawing for a foothold.
Charlie drowned in the river of humanity.
The city heaved ceaselessly, throbbing and clattering. The air tasted like bitter anxiety. A sharp yearning burned, the scent of souls longing for escape as the city tore itself apart in its frantic self-devouring. The urban behemoth ripped itself to shreds, pounded itself into pulp, smashed itself into paper, wrote down its story, incinerated every word, swept up the ashes, tossed them in the howling winds, and lodged the seed of its own fertility back into concrete cracks.
Somewhere in this madness, dandelions grew.
“Loving the World” – An Excerpt From The Dandelion Insurrection
© 2013 Rivera Sun
I hear your despairing rain of cries, Charlie wrote. I sense the burning fury in you, that lustful ache for retaliating lightning strikes. In the distance, I hear the thunder rolls of violence. Remember; weapons never built a house, fed a child, or planted fields. We must turn to tools of nonviolence to build a chance for life.
“Times are changing,” the old men of the valley muttered as they watched rural people in other parts of the country get forced off their land by tax increases, mortgage failures, and denials of farm loans for seed and tractor repairs. Agribusiness took up residence, owned by the Banker, dependent on the Butcher’s surplus chemicals from the war industry, and fueled by the Candlestick Maker’s cheap oil. Out moneyed, out subsidized, out gunned in the courts and Congress, the local farmers despaired.
On top of it all, the weather defied everyone’s predictions. Early frosts threatened the late summer crops. A heat snap surged for a week before giving way to pouring rain. Fall floods turned fields to mud. Rot and blight proliferated. Charlie’s grandfather and granduncles slid deeper in their chairs, depressed as only old farmers can be as the earth turned wild against their claims of wisdom. As the winter whipped from blizzards to heat waves, they burned their old almanacs, solemnly feeding the pages into their woodstoves, conceding to a changing climate that the National Weather Service refused to report on.
Times are changing, Charlie wrote for the Dandelion Insurrection, and we must change faster, growing in our hearts and souls, embracing our diversity as our saving grace as we work to stop our corporate politicians from waging this destructive war upon humanity and the earth.
Midwinter, when the high school band kicked off the basketball season, Charlie discovered the national anthem now made him queasy. He could no longer believe his country was the greatest nation in the world. He could not wave the flag or sing along with its slogans. Yet, as he watched the students trumpeting out the anthem with heartfelt effort, he loved them all. They were lambs on the way to the slaughterhouse, playing homage to a government that cared nothing about them.
His heart broke a thousand times a day.
He took long walks over the hard cold earth as the clouds spit out flakes of snow. Charlie felt stretched across two realities; the beautiful curves of his valley and the starkly brutal landscape of his nation. He paused on the crests of rolling hills, patched with fields both fertile and fallow, and let sorrow and love sit quietly together as he watched the snow tremble earthward.
It is our love that calls us into action now, he wrote. Our respect for life and our compassion for creation require us to stand up to the forces that cause oppression, suffering, and destruction.
Everything mattered, not just this valley, but every nook and cranny of the earth; every stand of trees; every cluster of children in the school yard; each block of the teeming cities; every language that cried out on the tongues of immigrants; every joy; every sorrow; everything mattered. Charlie knew the heartbreak of his grandfather’s God, watching over the preciousness of all creation and weeping at its suffering. He felt the apathy his own pain sometimes drove him to, and the coldness with which he silenced his compassion when it became too much to bear. But, he also sensed, before long, the tenderness of love reaching out to him again.
Each day, this love penetrated further into his bloodstream, pulsed in his veins, rewrote his cells, his muscles, even his genetic coding. In the heat of writing, he would look up in wonderment, feeling tears prickling the corners of his eyes. It was all precious; the snowflakes, the deep night, his grand-père’s snoring in the room next door, Zadie’s voice long distant on the telephone, the scrawl of ink running across the page, the people waiting for his articles; everything. It had been a lonely winter full of the heartache that comes from loving the world too much.
“The Sheeple” – An Excerpt From The Dandelion Insurrection
© 2013 Rivera Sun
Author’s Note: there has been a lot talk about ‘sheeple’ lately. For many years, I have found this term to be quite insulting, frankly. It is also divisive. So, I tackled it in my novel, pulling apart the layers of meaning and metaphor to find the hidden beauty of sheep. As a youngster, I had two sheep, which I never ate, but used the wool for spinning and weaving. So, enjoy this ‘sheeple’ excerpt for the layers of understanding it might open up for you.
Crawling across the American landscape were thousands of people who went about their business, swallowed the television’s lies without blinking, and showed up to work day after day. Jesus called them lambs; the anarchists labeled them sheeple; both terms described the great flock of followers that huddled in a frightened cluster while the wolves picked off the sick, the oddballs, and the weak. Charlie felt such frustrated affection for them. On their plump and wooly backs grew the comforts of society. They fed the nation. They clothed the people. They were kind to their own. They respected their leaders, maintained order, and brought up wonderful children.
For the Man From the North, they were more dangerous than wolves.
They were so frightened of stepping out of line that they would trot to the slaughterhouse with a self-satisfied baaahh. If you tried to warn them, they kicked with their hooves and butted their stubborn heads. They feared the unusual more than familiar tyranny. Charlie shook his head at such folly. Couldn’t they see that the shepherds trained the dogs that nipped them into line? Couldn’t they understand that the wolves were at the door because the shepherds let them in the gate? Charlie sighed. Couldn’t they see that shepherds raised sheep for the butchers?
Come on, he urged silently to the invisible masses. Before fences and shepherds, leaders of flocks came from the flock. They led toward better pastures, toward safety, toward life. Even the tender shepherds want to eat you, he told the people silently, and the cruel ones abuse you until you are roasted.
Charlie laid his forehead on the truck window and tried to picture this unimaginable flock as a collection of distinct human beings. He had seen them in the supermarket, at the bank, the gas station. He could picture them, one by one; the fat man on the treadmill, the pair of bony legs at the coffee shop, a sweating brow under a hardhat, that pudgy baby clutching his mother, the teenager with acne . . . one of them would be the death of him.
“Everything Insha’Allah” – An Excerpt From The Dandelion Insurrection
© 2013 Rivera Sun
Author’s note: In light of all the posts and comments around Islam and Muslims, I thought I would share a phrase I learned that has been a balm to my soul for many years. I put it in the Dandelion Insurrection to honor the uncertainty of our times and the faith that we all live on, no matter what religion or philosophic belief we call our Faith. Special thank you to my friend who introduced me to this term … you know who you are.
She laid her head on his shoulder and tried to tell his heart all the myriad emotions that suddenly flooded through her: love, sorrow, longing, loss, excitement. She felt the aching pulse of his heart.
“It’s not forever, Charlie,” she murmured.
Charlie shook his head.
“Don’t make promises, Zadie.”
Uncertainty had become a way of life. Charlie would rather live by that truth than believe in a lie. Anything could happen to Zadie, to him, to the world. It was better to accept the unknown.
“Just love me now,” Charlie told her. “If there is meant to be a later, it will come.”
“Everything Insha’Allah,” she replied. “It means if God wills. The Muslims use it to take the sting of arrogance out of making plans, such as, I will see you tomorrow, Insha’Allah.”
“I’ll stand here all night with you, Insha’Allah, if God wills?”
“Exactly. That’s how it is with everything; you, me, the Dandelion Insurrection. Everything Insha’Allah.”
Charlie stroked the bright curve of moonlight on her cheekbone then kissed her, hard, heartbreakingly, longing to capture the taste of her before she was gone. She matched his hunger, devouring the sensations of the touch of his hands, the press of his mouth, his scent, the way his body fit against hers, tucking the memories away to savor during the separation that lay ahead.
Please God, if you will, let this night last forever, Charlie prayed.
“Remember when you asked me how to write about the Dandelion Insurrection?” Zadie whispered.
His lips parted against hers, smiling as he remembered. A cool strand of air slid between their bodies. There’s only one way to write about it, she had said. Write like you’re on fire. I am, his body had answered. Write like the love of your life is on the horizon and every word hurtles you toward her. I’m coming, his thoughts had cried out. Find your passion, Charlie, Zadie had urged him. I’m looking at it, he had silently replied. Build a fire of it, she had told him. I’m incinerating in it, he thought. Write from there, she had said.
He had written a million words since that day. He had hurtled across the horizon toward her and, still, words could not help them now. In his mind, he tore up every page he had ever written. He tore up his past. He ripped apart the future. He set his memories on fire, his triumphs and failures, his pinpricks of heartaches, losses, and joys. This moment was burning like there was no tomorrow. Everything Insha’Allah. His lips were inches from hers. The scalp of his hair was running with fire. Their bodies blazed like a pair of human torches against the dark coolness of night. He leaned. Their torsos brushed.
“Zadie?” he croaked.
He froze. It was not a question. It was a command. He shut up, crossed the last half-inch of separation, and ignited the bonfires within them.