~ It seems like a relevant post for this day.
When I was in High School, and just after graduating from High school I did a little “mine exploring” in the hills of Nevada. I had a four-wheel drive vehicle at my disposal; first an International Harvester Scout, later one of the first Ford Broncos made. Add to this a few friends that had a few trucks with 4-wheel drive too.
The exploring was not for new mines, but old. We would get out (meaning purchase) old USGS topographic maps that showed the location of the old shafts and tunnels of the old mines from the Comstock Lode days (or later) and then go out across the hills where only four-wheelers dared to go and eat dust for what seemed like hours just to find our treasure.
The gold was gone of course, all of the silver, the other metals too were gone – meaning the picks and shovels and drills and drill bits used to bore holes into the earth in an effort to try to find something that simply put, “often was not there.” The deserts and hills of Nevada (and elsewhere) are filled with the holes and tunnels and glory holes of lost dreams, often salted, and not always just salted with the tears of regret, loss, wasted time and remorse.
The names of the “successful” miners you may know. Sutro, who brought baths to San Francisco, famous for his tunnel, now a tower, was one. Hearst (William Randolf’s father) was another. Mackay (of transatlantic cable fame) was still another. And everyone remembers Sandy Bowers, his wife, his mansion in the valley.
There were others of course, men of wealth and fame. The mines we searched for, dropped into, climbed into and around in were dug by lesser men. The urge to dig in the dirt for wealth, not shelter, is as common and universal as the urge to join the army when “your” nation is at war. It may be a fool’s errand, but at least you’ll stay in shape.
Nevada is very cold in the winter and quite hot in the summer too. The mines were always a respite, a refuge, a sanctuary of sorts – the point being they were quiet, as silent as you’ll ever “hear” ensconced in the earth maybe 500 feet below earth and solid rock, 1,000 feet under a mountain (as measured from the opening of the tunnel). We had the topographic maps to prove it, if you don’t believe me.
Then deep inside (sometimes) there would be a shaft that went up or down. Down was always the favored course, as if wealth was always deeper, imitating knowledge.
This is where the ropes and ladders would come in. We brought the ropes, the ladders were almost always already there. A hundred year old ladder, or even eighty, won’t hurt none (unless it breaks). Then there is (or could be) the fall for maybe 100 or 200 feet (to the bottom), if there WAS a bottom to what often seemed as if it were a bottomless pit. We tied ropes around us for safety. We did not have the fancy climbing ropes that REI and others sell now. We used clothesline ropes mostly. They were affordable, would stretch, would “let you down” more easily that a fall or a freefall. Our trust was mostly in the ladders, nails and metal strips holding them together. In the warm dry earth metal seldom rusts.
Actually, while the earth always was dry, the weather inside the mines was never “warm”, nor was it “cold”. It was always like a perfect 68 or 72 degrees, rain or shine, summer or winter. What a way to live. No heating or air conditioning was ever required, no fans to circulate the dust. Sure it was dark inside. A darker dark you’ll never “see”. Keeping ones eyes closed was the only way to see any real light (really true).
We brought candles, good for detecting gas (but we never found any gas in any mine). Flashlights were of lesser use, the batteries were heavy and would go dead, the bulbs would fail, dropping one was unforgiving. Everything went better with a wick, a bit of wax and a tip of sulfur for the fire. And candlelight in a “cave” is so nice, it takes one back into the recesses of antiquity to where we lived for at least 10,000 years, a million, maybe less or more.
The Planet of the Apes (first movie) came out in 1968. The movie depicted the apes living underground, in caves, in places not so unlike the mines, but modified. By this time I had been in the habit of paying rent for far too long. The apes didn’t pay rent (in the movie), didn’t have utility bills to complain about, didn’t even have cellphones either. They just chatted among themselves and took human hostages of the gun nut from the past (or future). I digress. But that Statue of Liberty head on the beach was an eye-opener.
I experimented around (in my mind) with living underground, in a modified mine, like in a missile silo (but “natural”) when abandoned missile silos were NOT yet available as we were still in the nuclear cold war. The mines were available and I knew where they were. Which brings us to location, location and water.
Nevada is dry (mostly). A desert (in a lot of places). I never found a mine with water. Which brings us to baths and bathing and drinking water and all those things that water can do that are nice. Every spring was marked on the USGS maps. Many were dry. Others were seldom wet. Most were a fairly long walk from the nearest mine, like often “over hills” and “miles” (as in away).
So this is where I remind you that my mother was an architect (almost), greatly admired Frank Lloyd Wright, took me to see the Maiden Lane Bookstore (in SF), the (Old) Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and a few other places by Frank Lloyd Wright, but NOT Falling Water, although the Old Imperial did have a waterfall right inside or onsite.
By now (meaning maybe 1969), a little privacy was becoming an issue. I was against the war, knew that the government was coming to get you, get me, get everyone eventually and there were not a lot of places to hide – except maybe under water.
So I came up with the perfect plan, for a house, for a place to live. “Falling Water” was built OVER a waterfall, my idea was to carve out a house, out of rock or solid rock (maybe) UNDER a waterfall. Actually, the house would be made in the streambed in a mountain stream and the water would flow over the house after the house was finished. The ‘front window’ (round) would look out through the waterfall to the valley beyond. The rest of the house would be totally hidden. A few trees on rollers and the whole house would totally disappear.
Needless to say I never build my Frank Lloyd Ape house, or is it “Mine Frank Lloyd Ape House”? I never had the time, the money, maybe not the topographic maps. All the good streams were in national forests. The feds would get me there “for sure”. Now they have ‘bunker buster’ bombs so I guess even now I would not be safe. There is no place to hide, not really.
Is this post a metaphor, a warning, an admission of failure or just a comment on the changing times? The best of us, the best in us, wants to live simply. We are tired of four square walls, regardless of the number of rooms. We want to be closer to the earth, the water, to be able to see the sky and to breathe air that is pure and clean like in the mountain tops of our childhoods. We want to go back. The future holds no hope for us, or little hope. It’s all water “over the dam” or “under the bridge”, or something. The electric world has brought us little light. We miss the sun sparkling on (or through) the water.
I ran into a few posts the other day about “human” mermaids and a few mermen (probably, correctly “mermasters”). They are people that want to go back to the sea, not stay crawled out of it. They (internally) long for the water, the waters, the spikes of sun, the glint of day and daylight in a 24/7 overlit world where so often there now is never a difference. They wrap up their legs to make them useless (except as a tail). Everything else is made to sparkle. So I guess that maybe I’m not alone. The only place to hide is in plain sight. Now maybe I need to work on the “sparkle”, or is “everything” just 9-1-1 and an economic emergency with no emergency number and no Homeland Social Security to save us all.
Really, Where is the water, and when will it fall?
2011.09.12 – 18:12.