Coming home last Monday after spending time with my beloved niece and nephew, I read my last post and was taken aback by the anger of it. Where is my joy? I thought. I've been exhorting my friend over at Epiphany Now (the musings of an ex-EMT, who is possibly even more angry than I am), to find his joy. The synchronicities have been piling up, and it seems he has found it. In his last post he talked about the archetype of the fox, and how it pertains to his recent resignation from what he describes as the Matrix, the American Hologram. I failed to mention to him, that among the archetypes I am most accustomed to embodying, or attempting to, are the dragon and the green man. As such, my energies tend sometimes toward the intense, and I temper them liberally with coffee, beer, mead, wine, hard cider*, tobacco and cannabis. Looking back on nearly two years of this blog, I think I've said something to alienate just about everyone in America. I've tried too to temper that with the reminder that we are all divine, and existence is sacred.
I bought this house with my father, in the spring of 2006, or as I like to say, about 12 minutes before the market collapsed. I was living with my sister and my niece at the time, but our relationship had deteriorated, and I wanted a house and some land of my own. I owned my own business remodeling houses, and I knew the market was inflated, but I reasoned that this house, on a lot-and-a-half, near downtown, the freeway, the airport, light rail, lakes and small businesses, would level off and sustain it's price. Though the information was available, I knew nothing of the shenanigans going on within the banks and wall street, the now renowned credit default swaps and securitized bundling of mortgages they knew to be bad.
In 2008, working a doomed job at the headquarters of a Fortune 100, with a small mountain of debt and little cash, I walked away from the house, in love with a woman. I lived with her and her children in a neighboring state for two years, while my father, unwilling to walk away, or sell the house at a loss, sure in his boomer faith in the market, continued to pay the mortgage. In the spring of 2010 I returned to the house and started this blog. I have payed the bills since, while my father has paid the mortgage, and I have attempted to secure employment. It looks now like the house will be for sale April 01, as I have not found employment sufficient to pay the totality.
The house is in rough shape. It is an artifact, really, of an age when heating a house was not such a financial concern. There are 28 single pane windows in this 750 sq ft house. It is entirely 2x4 construction, with vermiculite asbestos insulation. The interior walls are painted with about five layers of lead paint. I revealed and refinished all the old hardwoods, and reconstructed a collapsed ceiling in the sunroom, but the kitchen has no foundation nor heat source of it's own except the sun. The bathroom is partially disassembled. The furnace just turned on, though it didn't at all yesterday.
My intention when I bought the house was to remodel it, maybe tear the kitchen off and put a real one in its place. I can do all that work myself. The resources never arrived, however, and now, the house is realistically $50,000-$100,000 under water. If you count the money my father has spent maintaining the house since 2008, my father stands to lose $100,000-150,000 on this house. As I have less than $4,000, and no real employment, 38 years old, that makes me the rich man's son who could never get his shit together.
I had hoped the national mortgage settlement might mean something for my father, but if that all-out lie of an agreement ever helps anyone but the banks, I will be amazed. Because my father is current on the payments, there is no chance for a reduction on the principle, though we bought the house at a price that this house will never see again. And because we signed a 5-year ARM that matured last spring, we already pay a lower interest payment than the banks would prefer. Hell, if you lost your house through no fault but the bank's “robo-signing” foreclosure documents, this agreement that is not in fact a written agreement may only give you $2000, maybe. Because there is not an actual written agreement, I suspect there never actually will be, or whatever is inked at some later date, probably immediately following the next election on a Friday before Christmas, will be so watered down it will probably end up steering whatever money is taken from the banks back to the banks, and then some. Is there a bath deep enough to drown the banks and the Attorneys General in?
Why is the onus entirely on the homeowner, for what was done to the housing market? The banks help inflate a bubble, and then get to draw interest payments on all those grossly inflated mortgages? Sweet deal. I realize they had to eat all those foreclosures, but they signed them and they got bailout money and zero-interest loans more than sufficient to make up the loss. They are bigger now than they were, remember. We're going to need a bigger bath, to fit the Fed, Fanny, Freddy, and really, the entirety of Congress.
None of that excuses me, for my failures, which go well beyond my inability to pay this mortgage. Had I really wanted to, of course, I'm sure I could have found employment sufficient to pay my bills. But something else has been happening to me since I first walked away from the credit financed life I was leading up to 2008. I have been studying economics, the market, the mythology of progress, the story of our culture, and I find myself alienated almost entirely from it. To be a cog in a machine that is remorselessly devouring the Earth, is no longer a thing I can be. To participate actively in policies that are clearly leading humanity toward economic and ecological oblivion, is no longer a thing I can tolerate for myself. To sleepwalk in the faith of salvation from the outside is no longer a thing I can do.
Though I had dreamed of taking this house off the grid, I've dreamt mostly of late of tearing it down and building a passive solar, straw bail house, or one entirely out of hemp. What is the likelihood my city government would allow me to build such a house? Really, if I want to grow hemp, to turn it into a house, where in America do I get to demonstrate that?
I may have failed this house and my father, but I turned this yard into a garden. I might plant fruit trees yet, just to continue what I started, what I would do if I were keeping it. Then leave it up to the universe to decide - if I am not to keep it, then whom? It would make me happy to transfer stewardship to someone who could, and do to the house what I have not been able to do. That's a rare one, I expect. More likely is the developer who returns the yard to sod, tears down the house and builds an inefficient 3000 sq ft stick-frame rectangle. And all the neighborhood can rejoice for the increase in relative property values.
I think I might even leave my country for awhile. Decouple myself as much as possible, from the system that sustains us. A decade ago, looking ahead to 30, I spent half a year in the Boundary Water Wilderness and Quetico Provincial park, on a solo canoe tour. Looking ahead to forty, I'm grateful for what this house has been for me. It has been a kind of energetic cradle, along with the yard, nurturing me on my path of healing. It was in the fall of 2006, in this house, that I reached the nadir of my adult life, when I could no longer fathom going on living as I had been. I put myself on a path of healing, and I could not have fathomed how much things would change, for me, for all of us. I've come to a similar nadir now, but this time it's not so much about me, as about my species. Its clear to me now that on the trajectory we are on, unless there is some inconceivable shift, we are going to turn this planet into a wasteland. And I think we could see that, either the shift or the wasteland, before my niece and nephew are old.
I'm sometimes at a loss, as to whether or not I have healed, whether or not the path I put myself on has been healing for me. In many ways, I'm not that much less estranged or alienated or isolated, than I was in 2006. I'm much closer to my sister, and my niece and nephew are like an anchor, holding me steady. I'm much more clear than I was, about what this life is about. Otherwise I'm mostly alone. The house across the street was built in the 1880's, and the streets plotted, to entice the people to settle the wilderness. I might as well be in a wilderness, for all the connection I have to my neighbors, for how distant are my friends. I thrive on solitude, but the distance between me and any kind of community isn't healthy. I've written two books, I'm writing a third, I've been maintaining this blog, but sometimes I despair, that the way I tell the story of my life is of any kind of value. Lately, I've despaired, that if I am to be the measure of my world view, then no one should be recommended to view the world as I do, that I should walk away from books and writing and let the world fall to ruin, which it is sure to do whether I write or not.
I named this blog Off the Grid in Minneapolis, because I meant it as a kind of venue for me to describe living without utilities, and the process of taking the house off the grid. Instead, it has been more a vehicle for my lifting of the veil, for the process of my disillusionment with the mainstream view of the world. It has been an exploration of ideas, an act of articulating and clarifying. I haven't always been right, and at times I may have been near delusional, but I have ever tried to be honest.
So what is this post? I may very well be homeless by the summer solstice. In which case, the premise for this blog will be at an end. I'm ready to move on. Waking up each morning to a 45-50 degree house has been rude, and it takes a long time to gather my head. I will continue to write. Where this blog will go from here, I cannot say. I have never known where I would go with this blog, week to week. Nothing about that is likely to change. Basically, if I am going to take such strong positions on the topics I do, there needs to be a regular reality check. If you are going to read my writing, you should know what I am. I'm still working that out.
I love my country. I love what America was meant to be. But more these days, I think of myself as a biological entity, in a biosphere that is increasingly degraded, by the exponential growth of a species that is not yet awake to its role on the planet, and may never be. I have no hope whatever that American Empire can be sustained, and I am wary of a people who do not know any other way.
*I'm fond of hard cider, in small amounts. Too much cider I find stupefying, literally. I've wondered at times, if the reason for the apple as the forbidden fruit wasn't the exasperation of the ancient Israelites, at the stupefying effect hard cider had on the community (if it has that effect on others besides me, and they had access to it.) It was surely a cause for prohibition in America. The most common alcoholic beverage in America, in the last half of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, was hard apple cider. It's no easy thing to follow the path of empire if the men of the aspiring empire are perpetually stupefied. Anyway, I'm going to be pulling back a bit from intoxicants for awhile, and focus again on healing. Because I can't heal the world but by first healing myself. And this Earth is very much in need of healing.
(BTW, I'm mulling a post on Rick Santorum, based on his statement that the Earth doesn't matter - this week)