“We came for the serenity, not the wine,” said Mr. Featherstone. His wife, a plumb, light skinned redheaded woman with a few thousand freckles showing on the little bit of skin that was not covered in clothing, smiled in agreement. “We don’t drink, or smoke,” she practically sang out. I had come across the Featherstone’s a few times between their check in and now, as Maggie and I sat with them in a corner of the lanai, just before sunset on another beautiful Northern California evening. It seemed everything Mrs. Featherstone said sounded like a song trying to be sung. She had greeted the desk clerk with a song, asked for a short tour with a song, and made many positive comments about the retreat with a barrage of songs. She especially liked the sculpture Fortuna had encouraged me to finish and promptly place in the courtyard, perfectly viewed from the center of the lounge area of the lobby. I had started it as a piece to grace the relaxed atmosphere of the property, but world events at the time stressed me and caused my energy to focus on an answer to religious suppression by a certain group of men in power towards the female gender in a certain part of the world. So many women in the world give up their potential to contribute to the human society by submitting to the pleasures of a certain kind of post neanderthal man who has nothing more to promise them than a life of servitude; men who gloss over all their personal failures by blaming circumstances they subject themselves to through their blatant slothfulness.
The piece was constructed of various sized rocks, cemented together and leveled at their tops to form a series of steps, each step having jagged, small strewn pieces of crystal imbedded into the horizontal areas extruding from the polished parallel structure I had constructed to support it all. The steps were obviously impossible to step on without serious pain. The torturous display was duplicated, but not exactly, on all three sides, the sides forming a pyramid shape. The glistening steps on each side led to a flat plateau from which a sprout of water gushed out. The water represented life, and it was left up to the admirer as to whether it meant the life that a man gives a woman to procreate or the life a woman attains after struggling past the dominations of man.
Apollo had helped me build the plumbing for the fountain at the top, wiring a pump strong enough to push the water up seven feet from it’s base. He had also taught me how to run the rock polishing machine, a slow process, but when set to the correct frequency and left for the right amount of time it produced exactly the kind of smoothness I was looking for. After compiling my crate of smooth rocks, I chipped each of them, giving them the scars that would represent the flaws of those certain kind of post neanderthal men, who, with a long list of un-named fallacies, practiced the greatest fallacy of all, that of re-scripting their manufactured God’s words to validate their demented practices.
Upon it’s unveiling one quiet night, the retreat empty of guests, with only Maggie, Fortuna, Apollo and I in attendance, and without any opposition, it was dutifully named by Fortuna. “We’ll call it ‘I AM.’”
“I just love it!” Mrs. Featherstone had sung. “All those beautiful rocks!”
“It’s a peaceful place,” Mr. Featherstone spoke of the retreat. “One that our gentile friends spoke highly of.” Mrs. Featherstone seemed uneasy with the word her husband had just used and attempted to explain, or better well put, sing and dance her way out of it for both of them. The “gentile” phrase had skipped over Maggie and I so we just sat and tuned out of the show Mrs. Featherstone was orchestrating to define something we cared nothing about.
Clearly sweating under her layers of clothing, and not getting through to her glassy eyed audience, Mrs. Featherstone made the smart decision to plop back down into her chair. It was now Mr. Featherstone’s turn to wash away the previous few minutes and get the four of us on a clean, new deck.
Maggie had dropped some recent history on them earlier, mentioning our quest to find a home. “We built ours,” Mr. Featherstone offered. “We built it out of rock. It took us seven years, but it was worth it.” “Every day,” his wife now empowered with a welcome case of short term dementia, “he and the boys,” the Featherstone’s had eight sons, “went to the site and did a little work. One of our boys was always gone on a mission for our church, serving God and taking our family morals to the less fortunate. But we managed with seven strong young men.” She looked down and away to her right for a moment, then with eyes bright she did her best to look excited about what Maggie and I both felt and shared with each other later was an obviously real but regretted memory based in loneliness, “I stayed home and canned food for the family storage, crock-potted for the hearty evening meal, and made little yard signs to remind my church sisters of their homemaking responsibilities!” Then she sat erect and went on, “We paid for the materials as we went, so by the time we finished, the house was paid for!”
Mrs. Featherstone gleamed toward me. “Now you know why I love your sculpture so much, It reminds me so much of my family's faith!"
I began to do the math in my head. Had Maggie and I married at twenty-one and nineteen, which the Featherstone’s had done, and had given birth to one boy every twenty two months, which the Featherstone’s had also done, then when the youngest was seven, and old enough to pitch in on building a house, which their youngest was, then the ages of the eight boys would range from seven to twenty-one, give or take a few months. That is fourteen and a half years of baby making, and another seven for the youngest to reach his age. I’m obviously off by six months, since the oldest is twenty one and not twenty. The crew, then, took twenty one years to build, and the house took seven more. The entire project took a conservative twenty-eight years. The couple had planned this home for their family from the beginning, spreading out the cost over twenty eight years of interest free payments, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have gone to the bank in the form of a mortgage had they purchased a home like the average middle class family does. At the ages of forty-seven and forty-nine, the two could finally stop building.
“The home is in what is now a very exclusive area outside of Salt Lake City,” Mrs. Featherstone went on. “We were kids when we bought the land,” she reached over and touched her husband’s hand, “it was cheap and there were very few people living there. We wondered if we would like living out in the boondocks,” she sang in a tapered off voice. Mr. Featherstone could see his wife was losing steam. Must be all that singing, I thought. “She probably does a lot of ‘singing‘ to her teenage boys,” Maggie said to me later that night over a glass of Fortuna’s favorite drink, pomegranate beet juice, with just a pinch of very low THC Cannabis mixed with honey.
“The area we chose is very sought after now, and it is no longer rural. The rural charm is still there, but so are the big retailers, the theaters, restaurants, and of course, good schools.”
After this comment both of the Featherstone’s seemed to puff up a little, their countenances pushing the karma of equality and humanity out of our cozy little circle on the lanai, leaving a void to be filled with the mental stench of geographic superiority many people cling to as validation of lives they consider were well thought out, which thus erroneously empowers them with a claim to admittance to a coveted, much fabricated, higher level of in-humanity.
The mantra Maggie and I hear over and over again as we search for a home is “Location,” repeated three times. I suppose the repetition is for affect. It certainly has been bought into. So much so, that sadly, one’s status in humanity is predicated on his or her GPS location pertaining to his or her home. The GPS location of your abode is a direct reflection as to your worth or worthlessness in the family of humanity, on a worldwide level, then a national level, then a regional level, and finally a local level. Within the local level are levels within even more levels; low, high, beach, downtown, desert, freeways, and railroad tracks.
“We can view our charmed world from our perch on a hill,” smiled Mrs. Featherstone. Smiling even more so now, she went on, “We feel so privileged to be above everyone else.”