August 18, 2018

A Visit to Fiddler’s Green

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Hope for the best. Expect the worst. Life is a play. We’re unrehearsed. –Mel Brooks

As 2013 nears, nothing is really new, local gurus predict. For one thing, according Madame Blavatsky in Cornville, the world will end (again?) soon. Too, beliefs have become facts— e.g., climate change is caused by a liberal press, and if all the environmentalists would just fade away, then the Old Guard could retake control and start bulldozing the Verde River to accommodate floating timeshares. Next, they’d rip out roundabouts and return the “Y,” and a certain retiring senator would come to town to give a lecture on the values of DDT.

Welcome to the new wisdom: it is a far, far better thing to know nothing than to know how things truly are in over-run National Forest Land in and around Sedona where the homeless gather, local food comes from Chile, and few know that the Verde River might run dry. It doesn’t take another dance of the seven veils to unveil the ineluctable truth: Not nearly enough people love this special place as they should, content to blame ranchers, developers and tourists for transforming the wild earth and refusing to look in the mirror at all the true scoundrels.

What can be done? For people in love with their own rhetoric, and their photos in the paper, it is harder than grasping a shadow at night. Perhaps it will come when they see a Golden Eagle soaring over City Hall. Or it might come when the thunder rolls in the mountains or when snow rests on the pines before wandering down to the ground, and freezing also all the gossip about the fate of Barbara’s Park.

Perhaps it will come when word passes that another soldier has gone to Fiddler’s Green, where one must be a soldier to go there. So many have gone there, lately.

What? You’ve never heard of such a place. Likely then, you’ve never heard of The Pink Nectar Café outside of town; or the High Barbaree, the island that downed fight pilots found in the South Pacific. There, the beaches shimmered with white sand, beer was glacial-cold and the ladies were ever so comely; or the Big Rock Candy Mountain where bulldogs have rubber teeth and hens lay hard-boiled eggs.

Few return from Fiddler’s Green. But one man dared to share these words with your humble scrivener on the sacred ground where the Wrenwood once loomed.

Halfway down the trial to hell
In a shady meadow green
Are the souls of all dead troopers camped
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
is known as Fiddler’s Green.
Marching straight through to hell,
The infantry are seen,
Accompanied by the engineers,
Artillery and Marine,
For none but shades of cavalrymen,
Dismount at Fiddler’s Green
Though some go curving down the trail,
To seek a warmer scene,
No trooper ever gets to hell,
‘Ere he’s emptied his canteen.
And so rides back to drink again,
With friends at Fiddler’s Green.
And so when horse and man go down,
Beneath a saber keen,
Or in a morning charge of fierce melee,
You stop a bullet clean,
And hostiles come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen, and
Put your pistol to your head,
And go to Fiddler’s Green.

At year’s end, many friends and allies have gone to their version of Fiddler’s Green, or are halfway there, and many others are far from the limelight. Poets are allowed there, but no one knows whether ladies are allowed at Fiddler’s Green.

One who belongs there is poet Lane and writer Meloy who passed this way from time to time. She knew that in our town, and other struggling burgs in the Great Southwest, every toxic combination of culture and dread is available in its expanse. Writers, politicians, newcomers from Chicago can be whipsawed by outage, dread, passionate sincerity, by the beauty and by those elected officials who say they love the land, yet act as if it’s theirs and nature is their servant. All they need know is, as the Cheyenne elders say, the night of the long knives is near—especially for enemies of the arts. In the end, they will be washed up. As they say in Bumble Bee, no one is as poor as he who is ignorant.

Meantime, have sweet holidays.

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