"Ok, time to end the pity party," says Val Kyrie. "It's not attractive."
"I know," because I do know, and I don't want to go there but it's damn hard, given my circumstances.
"I think you need to speak with the crones," suggests Val.
The crones are three old women I met while on a sacred task, at a sacred spring in the city in which I live. Protectors of that spring, I consult them when I need perspective, when I get mired in my own head. When they are willing to meet with me.
I'm meeting them today, a cool wet morning similar to that morning two years ago when I left this house for Val Kyrie and her children. They are waiting for me, the crones, already seated, three old women of three different races, each woman sitting in a separate limestone archway, in the four-square pump house surrounding the spring. I take a seat in the fourth archway. We are facing each other, our legs dangling down inside the concrete foundation, the spring emerging from under the concrete below us. The crones don't look very happy to see me.
"We've been reading your blog," says Alice.
"What's with the pity party?" asks Necily.
"Why so harsh?" adds Yemara.
There's never much idle talk when I meet with these three. Straight to the point. "I'm angry," I reply.
"So," says Necily.
"That's obvious," says Yemara. "Are you angry at the world or yourself?"
Alice - "Why do you suppose your anger is attractive to your readers?"
"Am I supposed to hide it?" I say. "Writers are supposed to be honest, aren't they?"
They just sit and stare, like they always do when I'm being petty and childish.
I continue. "Yeah, I'm angry, and yeah, I know there is no point in tearing down the system if I can't offer a more attractive alternative."
"You critique the system well," offers Alice.
"So what's the alternative?" asks Necily, ever direct and piercing.
"What do you have to say about the beauty and abundance of this Earth?" asks Yemara.
It's my turn to sit and stare.
Yemara continues, patiently, "What can you say about this spring?"
"What does it taste like?" asks Alice.
"It tastes like the city," I reply.
"Does it taste good?" asks Necily.
"No, it doesn't." I say.
This time, we all sit and stare.
"It's also the only potable fresh water for miles in any direction." I add.
"And why is that important?" Necily asks, her eyes narrowing.
"You know why." The three crones look at each other, then back at me.
"So what do you really think, William Hunter Duncan, about the culture in which you live?" from Alice, a challenge.
"I think fossil fuels are going to become scarce, fairly soon, and our species is not having an honest conversation about what that means for our standard of living; that we face a hideously violent, worldwide population contraction if we don't start questioning the ideas and social structure that have brought us to this point, especially if we don't start learning about food, fresh water, energy, technology and community. I also think the paradigm following the age of cheap and abundant fossil fuels can be a time of great healing, if we are willing to be honest about the story of this Earth and the story of our species, if we open up to the possibilities."
"So why not call for revolution?" asks Necily. All three women look at me, clear eyed and expectant.
"One, there is no appetite for revolution in America. Two, that's treason, with consequences. Three, most people think revolution requires violence, and I'm not interested in advocating violence. Fourth," I add, a little exasperated, "we are already in the midst of revolution, and hardly anybody wants to hear about it."
They sit and stare, as implacable as the breeze. Necily smiles.
"So why not call for revolution?" she asks.
Yemara and Alice laugh. Yemara asks, "How many readers do you have?"
It's my turn to laugh. "Counting you three, about six."
"Well, that's three people you might open up to the New Paradigm." says Alice. "Again, what do you have to say about beauty and abundance?"
"Where have you seen beauty lately? Where have you seen evidence of the Divine?" asks Yemara.
"Write about that," says Necily. "We know you can. Now, make yourself useful. Climb down there and fill an old woman's water bottle." I fill all their water bottles and carry the bottles to their crone car, a pristine baby blue Cadillac as old as I am. They glide onto the bench seat, all three women in the front.
"You are a builder, aren't you?" asks Yemara, from the driver's seat.
Necily, closest to the passenger door, looks up at me, "So build something beautiful with your words."
Alice, from the center: "The culture is going to tear itself down; you don't need to help that happen. We need builders. Build."
The Cadillac fires and then they are gone, and I am alone in the city again.